Baking flavor into vegetables

Turn taste up a notch with fresh spices and cooking techniques.

fauquier veggie stack

The normal rules for roasted vegetables need not apply. Turning a staple into a standout can be as simple as turning down the oven—or turning it off altogether.

When developing a new cauliflower dish, Colt Varney, executive chef at Denver-based DaVita HealthCare Partner’s corporate headquarters, ditched the super-high oven temperatures that many roasted-vegetable recipes call for. Instead, he found that roasting the florets for 15 minutes at just 350 F helps them become silky and creamy on the inside without burning or getting tough on the outside.

To pump up the flavor, Varney added sriracha and garlic. “When you combine the two, the flavor is so spicy and strong that you don’t need to add butter or cream,” he says.

The bold taste and slower roasted preparation have been a hit at DaVita. Varney serves the dish at its Vitality Station, which offers items with fewer than 500 calories, up to four times a week. “We do it so much now, I buy at least 12 cases of cauliflower a week,” he says.

Preserving texture also was the goal for Executive Chef James Wedderburn of Fauquier Health in Warrenton, Va., when developing a vegetable stack with eggplant, asparagus and squash for the hospital’s Bistro on the Hill restaurant. To avoid the eggplant becoming tough and waterlogged, Wedderburn salts the eggplant slices and weighs them down with a plate for at least 20 minutes before grilling them along with the other vegetables. This first step makes the eggplant tender and creamy, he says.

To play up the natural sweetness of the eggplant, summer squash and asparagus, Wedderburn makes a roasted red pepper and tomato vinaigrette. He purees the roasted red peppers and tomatoes with parsley, basil and chives. But instead of using the standard red- or white-wine vinegar, Wedderburn opts for rice-wine vinegar. Though it’s more often found in Asian-style dishes, Wedderburn likes the rice-wine vinegar for its lighter, cleaner and inherently sweeter flavor. “It goes well with the roasted peppers and tomatoes [in the vinaigrette], and since it’s on the sweet side you don’t need as much sugar,” he says.  

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion
Richard cousins

Compass Group confirmed this morning that CEO Richard Cousins was killed on New Year’s Eve in a small-plane crash off the coast of Australia. He was 58.

Cousins was scheduled to step down as CEO in March, after leading the world’s largest foodservice management company for 11 years. His planned successor, Compass COO Dominic Blakemore, has agreed to assume Cousins’ duties immediately.

“We are deeply shocked and saddened by this terrible news,” Compass Chairman Paul Walsh said in a statement. “It has been a great privilege to know Richard personally and to work with him for...

Menu Development
to-go meals

Drew Allen didn’t hesitate when asked what he expects of noncommercial dining in the future. “Change,” he says. “We have to change with the times and what our guests are looking for.”

Allen, the director of culinary services at Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices in Lebanon, Ohio, says the more the residents and guests at Otterbein change, the more diverse eating habits his team has the chance to explore. One of those changing habits, he says, is diners’ growing desire for portable, made-to-order items . That’s a theme borne out by data, too—and is true across dayparts. Roughly 67%...

Ideas and Innovation
trail mix

We’ve added fueling stations in our units for our workers who didn’t have time to eat or just need a snack. We have areas set up with trail mix, crackers, cookies and water. It helps us avoid people feeling or getting ill, especially when we get closer to exam periods and student workers are studying and not taking the time to eat.

Ideas and Innovation

Communication is key, and [managers] are busy too. One tip I picked up from another director was to label my subject line with the header “action,” “information” or “response” followed by a brief description of the email contents. That way they can filter through their inboxes during their busy days to know which emails need their attention immediately and which they can save to read later.

FSD Resources