Vegetables As The Main Course
Today, however, things are so much different. Chefs, overall, have become very sensitive to food allergies and people with lifestyle dietary differences.
I probably cook for vegetarians more than the average person, so it’s been out of necessity that I come up with delicious vegetarian entree options. Not only do they have to be eye-appealing and nutritional, but they also have to be as delicious as possible. Think of vegetarian dinners as an opportunity to show your skills instead of a nuisance, and this will open up our culinary repertoire that much more.
One can easily prepare a vegetable as the main course, in some cases, simply by roasting it whole. Cabbage and cauliflower, for example, make amazing centerpieces on the dining room table, especially during the holidays. This can also be plated during a busy dinner service at our restaurants.
Think of vegetarian dinners as an opportunity to show your skills instead of a nuisance and this will open up our culinary repertoire that much more.
One of the best ways to offer up an entree that gives a sense of inclusion instead of exclusion is making butternut squash steaks. You can treat a thick slice of the top part of the butternut as any other piece of meat. Nicely seasoned, you can sear it in olive oil on a cast-iron skillet and butter baste it as if you would chicken or beef. The best way to do this is to simply lob off the longer, seedless section of the butternut and peel it. You can then slice it lengthwise into ¾–1 inch steaks. Season with salt and pepper and place gently on a preheated cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Allow the squash filet to sear for about 3 minutes, flipping it over and over until the tip of a paring knife slides in with little resistance. The squash should not be cooked until it falls apart yet should not be too firm in the center. About two minutes before it is done, plop in a healthy tablespoon of soft, unsalted butter into the pan. The nob of butter should be in the pan area closest to you. Toss in a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme and, after the butter melts, baste the steaks with the thyme-scented butter by carefully heaping hot, melted spoonfuls of it, covering the flesh with the bubbly butter bath. We are building flavors, folks! The squash takes on a slightly nutty flavor with a hint of fresh thyme. This center-of-the-plate vegetable will make even the most cynical vegetarian smile.
A long, reflective trip down the produce aisle at your favorite market will open up so many possibilities, you just have to experiment and maybe make a few ugly mistakes. We have all been there.