December 29, 2018
From Plant Waste to Plant-Based Menu Items
from Chef Christopher Britton
We know that our customers are asking for more plant-based menu items. We also know that there’s a tremendous problem with food waste in this country. It occurs to me that these two subjects seem made for each other.
As a restaurant chef, I always threw carrot, celery and onion remains into a stockpot, or stems from broccoli and asparagus into a pureed soup, but I never gave much thought past these dishes. Nowadays, items like broccoli slaw, beet greens and mushroom burgers have become ubiquitous on both grocery shelves and restaurant menus—which gave me inspiration to research saleable menu items that would satisfy not just vegetarians and vegans but anyone who wants to make plants a bigger focus in their diets.
Much like the tail-to-snout movement, a “root-to-stem approach” utilizes the entire vegetable in very creative and healthy ways.
Here are some pretty cool uses I found:
- WastED– Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill restaurants has been instrumental in bringing together members of the food community to call attention to the grotesque amount of food waste in America. Two years ago, Barber started a movement when he and other chefs transformed his New York City restaurant into a three-week pop-up dining experience called WastED, creating a menu based on vegetable trimmings, meat scraps and recycled products. One of his standout dishes was the “Dumpster Dive Vegetable Salad,” made of bruised bok choy, fennel peelings and aquafaba (the nutritious liquid leftover from cooking beans).
And the WastED cooperative did it again in London in 2017, serving the greens from rapeseed (which is grown for animal feed, fuel and vegetable oil) with rapeseed mayonnaise as a small plate, and carrots cooked in “intercepted waste lemon compost” with caramelized whey and curd cheese. These plant-protein specialties are proof that one chef’s garbage is another chef’s nightly special.
- Fig + Farro–This trendsetting restaurant in Minneapolis is a self-proclaimed “mission based restaurant” dedicated to “educating guests on the enormous carbon footprint created by livestock production.” Their plant-forward menu is evident not only in their dining room with items such as jackfruit masala and beet carpaccio, but at the bar as well, with a drink made from avocado and jalapeno scraps and lime bitters.
Plant proteins such as cashew cheese, tofu and seitan are featured prominently in such creative fare as Chanterelle Ravioli with celeriac, cashew cheese, arugula, balsamic reduction and truffle oil; Tempeh Tacos with chipotle black beans, salsa verde, pico de gallo; and a Banh Mi with plant based pate, cucumber, tofu, spicy aioli, cilantro, Thai basil, pickled veggies. The appeal of these dishes to diners who aren’t necessarily vegans or vegetarians is inspiring, and a great reminder of how global influences can make plant-based proteins more exciting.
- One Green Planet– onegreenplanet.org is a website dedicated to “making conscious choices that help people, animals and the planet,” including creative uses for vegetable trimmings such as carrot top chimichurri and roasted buffalo cauliflower bites. Peels from carrots, potatoes, zucchini and apples root veggies can be added to quinoa, used instead of shredded veggies in carrot cake, or used to garnish salads.
The Food Monster section includes all kinds of features and recipes that would be inspiring for any chef looking to add plant-based proteins to the menu. For example, suggestions for plant-based burgers include Kimchi Mushroom Burgers, Veggie Sliders with Cashew Mustard Cheese Sauce, and Smoky Black Bean and Beet Burgers.
With such focus on rising ingredient costs, environmental footprints and increased food waste, the concepts above are more relevant than ever. Plus, I learned some pretty creative uses for vegetable trimmings in the process that would have otherwise been thrown in my stockpot.
• Cook quinoa and other grains in a pot of stock made with a Minor’s Vegetable Base, instead of salted water, for rich, roasted vegetable notes
• Fold Minor’s Mushroom Base or Fire Roasted Poblano Flavor Concentrate into plant-based burgers for a hint of umami or heat
• Instead of using chickpeas, make hummus from lentils, lima beans or edamame for extra uniqueness, then stir in Minor’s Roasted Garlic or Chipotle flavor concentrate as an on-trend upsell