Some chefs in the nation's capital are tweaking their normally meat-heavy menus to offer flavorful dishes of fresh, seasonal vegetables to woo not only the vegetarian crowd, but omnivore diners searching for healthier options. "It's really important to use healthy fats and high-quality oils, vinegars and herbs for seasoning," said Ethan McKee of Urbana in Washington, D.C. "It's also especially important to cook with the seasons for vegetarian dishes because you're locking in produce at its peak freshness and flavor. Finally, when you add in legumes and grains like quinoa or farro, you can create a very interesting, satisfying dish."
Expand your vegetable repertoire by picking up unique varieties at the farmers market and experimenting with them at home. Veggies such as kohlrabi are great for slaws and salads while mizuna can be cooked into stews and stir-fries.
A small study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that 64% of preschoolers said they liked a vegetable when it was served with a low-fat dip, while only 31% of participants said they liked the vegetable by itself. Researchers also found that pairing celery or squash with a flavored dip resulted in greater intake among children, compared with the vegetables eaten alone.
Chefs and restaurants will get more creative with salads and vegetable dishes next year as more consumers discover the benefits of going meatless at more meals, Technomic predicts in its trend list for 2013. Chicken and a wider selection of grains are also likely to show up on more menus next year, the report says, along with smaller dishes that feed our growing hunger for snacks.