“Do I dare to eat a peach?” J. Alfred Prufrock famously asks in T.S. Elliot’s poem.
When it comes to the new fruit and vegetable dishes that chefs are serving up, there’s no resisting.
From chains to independents, chefs are giving produce the treatment it deserves. Carrots covered in fat and roasted to sweetness. Seared bok choy. The options are endless.
Buffalo Wings & Rings, based in Cincinnati, now offers cauliflower wings that the chain hand breads, fries and tops with roasted garlic sauces and some parmesan.
New York City’s B.B. King’s Blues Club & Grill has a Brussels Sprouts Succotash with sautéed onions, garlic, peppers, scallion, bacon bits and parmesan.
These dishes are not for vegetarians, although I’m sure they appreciate them (minus the bacon). These dishes are about celebrating a food group that has somehow became associated with obligation. The phrase “Eat your vegetables,” after all, is often used to describe tasks that are good for you, but unpleasant.
Just think of steamed broccoli with no salt — choking it down can be downright unpleasant. Why have so many restaurants fallen into that bland trap when a little oil and salt and a few minutes in a wok can make broccoli something exciting and wonderful?
The best part about having deliciously prepared fruits and vegetables is that diners feel downright wholesome about eating them. If restaurants are going to grow traffic, they’re going to have to find a way to offer convenient, tasty food that diners feel good about consuming — and even serving their children. Rotisserie chicken has been a top seller at supermarkets for years for just that reason.
Summertime is a prime example of vegetables and fruits being the highlight of the meal — with no feeling of sacrifice involved. Think of perfectly ripe peaches sliced over yogurt. Sweet corn with butter right off the grill. Watermelon slices dripping juice down your chin.
You don’t take a spoonful of that tomato salad with basil, oil, vinegar and mozzarella and a twist of pepper because it’s good for you; you want it because it looks good.
It’s time for all restaurants to find their signature vegetable dish.
Jenna Telesca, Editor-in-Chief
E-mail: [email protected]