Really? Kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts

Farmers markets and the push for local produce have redefined the three most misunderstood vegetables as what can only be described as a Garden Trinity. The case for a more vegetable-forward menu approach is strong. This is not to say proteins are being reduced, but the fact is that vegetables and the farmer are the new celebrities.

Kale (the weird leaf that used to decorate buffets as “edible garnish” — thankfully, we have moved on from that), cauliflower (the white mush previously only seen covered in cheese and cream) and Brussels sprouts (those little cabbages that divided dinner tables into passionate protest and lonely nights with the command “you can’t leave until you finish your plate”) have all become mainstream menu items and often the star of small-plate dining.

Kale chips are easy to make and a great way to incorporate this trend into the bar as salty snacks or carb-free alternatives. We see these tossed with Parmesan and garlic, nori and sesame and even chilies and cheese in almost a nacho approach — without the fried corn tortillas.

Cauliflower takes center stage as a grilled “cauli-steak,” is handled schnitzel-style with brown butter and lemon or is even roasted and tossed Buffalo-style for a veg-only spin on a typical wing. And Brussels sprouts? All you have to do is try Momofuku’s with fish sauce vinaigrette to realize things have changed. 

Moving to a more diverse vegetable offering, especially for appetizers and bar snacks, makes sense to the next generation of traveling diners — the Millennials who are truly the first “foodie” generation — the “flexitarian” in search of more plant-based options and the baby boomers looking for a balance to the burgers and bacon. There is great opportunity here for profit AND guest experience. 

Quick Kale Chips

½ lb kale, torn into 3-inch pieces

2 T olive oil

Kosher salt

½ Tsp crushed red pepper flakes

2 T grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Wash kale, dry completely. Toss kale in olive oil, salt and pepper flakes. Lay out on sheet trays, but don’t overcrowd. Sprinkle with the cheese, bake at 325 F (160 C) until crisp and lightly browned, about 4-8 minutes. Cool. Serve the same day.