40 The NaTioNal CuliNary review • Sep Tember/oCTober 2018
dayparT hitting on all cylinders
Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are undoubtedly the trendiest
vegetables to “crunchify,” with plenty of ways to approach them.
Big Easy Winebar & Grill, Miami, includes mini cauliflower samosas
on its bar menu. Peas, diced carrots and roasted cauliflower are seasoned
with a mild Cape Malay curry, encased in a samosa wrapper, fried, and
served with green chutney similar to chimichurri with oil, fresh cilantro
and parsley. The entire menu is inspired by the Western Cape region of
South Africa (with its “Big Easy” nickname).
Bret Hessler, director of culinary operations for Miami-based Grove Bay
Hospitality Group, which owns and operates the restaurant, says he includes cauliflower
on the bar menu because that’s what the market wants. “You put your signature on it.
Cauliflower is popular. What can I do with my name on it or my concept’s name on it and
stay tied in with what’s going on and what other people are doing?”
With the rise of heirloom tomato salad and fresh mozzarella salad, Hessler also
notices the high demand for tomatoes in his market. He made a fried green tomatoes
appetizer with tomato chutney, pork belly and chevre. Atop the panko-crusted fried
tomato slices, he includes the tomato chutney, similar to a compote with brown sugar
and vinegar, as a bridge between the tomato, pork belly and goat cheese.
The earthiness of Brussels sprouts calls for flavor-balancing creativity as a fried-vegetable appetizer. Alex Becker, creative culinary director for Seminole Hard Rock
Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, developed a Brussels sprouts with pear salsa and
soy vinaigrette appetizer for Kuro, the property’s new-style Japanese restaurant. Rather
than serve the Brussels sprouts whole or halved, he pulls the leaves off, allowing the tops
to get crispy while the bottom half has more chew. He tosses them in a honey/soy glaze
with a bit of fish sauce. “That glaze brings out a deep smoky/savory flavor,” he says. He
fries them in a tempura-style fryer to golden-brown, squeezes out the excess oil with a
paper towel and tosses them in the dressing.
He tops the leaves with yuzu-marinated Asian pear bits and chives. In the end,
the appetizer has a dry-salad look presented in a shallow bowl with green and brown
Survey all vegetables
All vegetables can be approached through different lenses. Consider the sweetness of corn, the
slender fry-like shape of asparagus, the upscale reputation of artichokes and the popularity of avocados.
Kuro serves corn kakiage with furikake and ichimi spice. Becker describes the house-favorite
fritter that combines corn, herbs, spices and sweet onions as a light and airy tempura-battered
approach that brings forward the sweetness of the corn and onions. Its seasoning garnish of nori,
black sesame seeds, salt, sugar and a little ichimi spice adds a savory element.
He thinks of fried vegetable appetizers as a way to bring something fun, lighter and more
colorful to the table with an approachability not usually achieved by a side of vegetables. “In
coming up with offerings, don’t count on protein as the workhorse on the menu,” Becker says.
Tempura asparagus is one of the top-selling appetizers at Temple Bar, Cambridge, Massachusetts,
says executive chef Richmond Edes. “I’m pushing more toward plant-based dishes and eating as
healthfully as possible.”
above: Fried green tomatoes are part of this bar-menu dish at brennan’s of houston.
oppoSi Te: New-style Japanese restaurant Kuro at Seminole hard rock hotel & Casino in hollywood, Florida, serves corn
kakiage with furikake and ichimi spice.