There’s a new breed of eaters out there in the world of gastronomy. You may see them chowing down on a Portobello burger. Or licking their fingers clean after some barbecue parsnip ribs. Or even diving into a Maitake mushroom cheesesteak "wit." Who are they?
Restaurateurs, chefs and diners are all digesting the concept that, despite their bad reputation during our childhoods, vegetables -- especially fresh, grown-with-care ones -- actually do taste great. Innovative chefs are preparing meatless meals based on the seasonality of vegetables, serving up dishes that are not only lower in calories and cholesterol than meaty meals, but also don’t compromise flavor. Whether you’re a die-hard vegan or just someone looking to cut back on red meat, there is a lot of delicious meatless inspiration out there.
From coast to coast, these dishes may just turn you into a vegivore, too:
East Coast: Cauliflower and Waffles - Dirt Candy in New York, New York
Nothing beats comfort food. There’s just something about fried anything that can make a bad day good, and a good day fantastic. Dirt Candy appreciates this food fact, and has since created the ultimate southern comfort food dish using vegetables (AKA “dirt candy”) as the star. Featured in New York Magazine, this fluffy waffle is topped with “buttermilk-battered florets and a pool of horseradish cream.”
West Coast: Artichoke “Oysters” - Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles, California
Pioneer of the Raw Food Movement and birthplace of the California Roll, Los Angeles has always been a hot spot for food trends. It’s no wonder, then, that the city is home to several innovative restaurants that are making vegetables more than just a side dish. At Crossroads Kitchen, expect to find everything from “crab cakes” and “calamari” made with hearts of palm, to this unexpected dish: artichoke “oysters.” Made with artichoke puree, crispy oyster mushrooms, yellow tomato béarnaise and kelp caviar, this decadent dish is 100% vegetarian.
South: Tomato Basil Dog - Arlo’s Truck in Austin, Texas
Gourmet food trucks are sweeping the nation, upping the ante on your next lunch or late-night snack. Arlo’s Truck in Austin, Texas is hoping to make vegetarian fare more appealing to a southern appetite with menu items like soy BBQ burgers and street tacos with veggie crumbles. But the most innovative item here seems to be the Tomato Basil Dog, a vegetarian take on an all-American staple. Served with grilled slaw and spicy chipotle sauce, this meat-free tube proves that veggies don’t need to be prepared in upscale restaurants to take center stage in your meal.
Midwest: Roasted Cauliflower "Steak" - Boka in Chicago, Illinois
Without showing vegetable favoritism, it would be tough to consider a veggies-in-place-of-meat article without featuring multiple cauliflower dishes. The roasted cauliflower at this Chicago hot spot is more of a steak than a cauliflower; grilled and served with quinoa, grapes, pine nuts, and chili, this cauliflower is a “meaty” favorite at Boka.
Best in the summer and autumn, cauliflower is a great vegetable to try featuring in your next dinner at home. Searing cauliflower follows a similar protocol to meat: season with a little salt and pepper and heat in a hot skillet until golden brown. This recipe from Food52 suggests also baking your cauliflower steak to add tenderness, and using an Electrolux induction free-standing range makes it easy to transfer from stovetop to oven.