10 All-Star Vegetable Dishes in New York City

How the supporting players are moving to the center of the plate
April 21, 2014
by Patty Lee

Vegetables are no longer just sidekicks. Long considered extras to protein-heavy entrees, carrots, cauliflower and other produce are finally getting their time in the spotlight. Big-time chefs like Einat Admony and John Fraser, who brought Meatless Mondays to Dovetail in 2010, have introduced a new wave of creative dishes - both with and without meat - where vegetables are the true stars. From a whimsical, vegetarian spin on beef Wellington to one of New York City's most complex salads, we guarantee these 10 dishes will be devoured long before anyone has the chance to say "Eat your vegetables."

Carrots Wellington at Narcissa

Why We Love It: To create this veg-centric take on the classic British showstopper, chef John Fraser gives its main ingredient the boot. In place of beef, the Michelin-starred toque uses a bunch of tightly wrapped carrots that are brined, roasted and finally coated in chopped walnuts, bitter coffee and cocoa nibs. Once cooled, the sweet sticks are bound in puff pastry, baked until the crust is buttery and golden-brown, then served as three hefty slices with Blue Foot mushrooms, pickled pearl onions and a silky sunchoke purée.

Price: $20

21 Cooper Sq.; 212-228-3344

Everyday Cauliflower at Bar Bolonat

Why We Love It: Inspired by the foods of her Israeli upbringing, Einat Admony does to cauliflower what she did for falafel at Taïm - elevate a humble ingredient to something bold and addictive. Battered in rice flour, the florets emerge from the fryer crunchy, their natural nuttiness deepened by a lush peanut tahini and puffs of Bamba, a peanut butter-flavored snack popular in her home country.

Price: $9

611 Hudson St.; 212-390-1545

Parsnip “Steak” at Rosette

Why We Love It: At this cozy Lower East Side bistro, Nick Curtin is giving parsnips the steakhouse treatment. The long, ivory-colored root is slow-roasted until tender, then finished on a pan just like a hunk of meat. Curtin bastes the parsnip with butter, garlic and herbs to caramelize the exterior and plates it with a whimsical spin on two steakhouse sides: spinach and mash. A well of creamy potato purée - spiked with mustard and folded with chard - holds lightly sweetened hazelnut butter, and the entire dish is finished with wisps of fried parsnip.

Price: $16

171 E. Broadway; 212-933-1176

Charred Broccoli at Skal

Why We Love It: Former Noma chef Ben Spiegel has no trouble getting diners to eat their vegetables, thanks to his stellar plate of De Cicco broccoli. Charred on one side and left raw on the other, the smoky, crunchy stalks are layered atop a deliciously funky emulsion of duck eggs, fermented green garlic and fish sauce, then dusted with crumbled panko and schmaltz-fried anchovies.

Price: $11

37 Canal St.; 212-777-7518

Grilled Whole Eggplant at The Cleveland

Why We Love It: It's not often that a restaurant's vegetarian entree can stand up to its meatier offerings, but that’s exactly what Max Sussman has accomplished with this hearty eggplant platter. In keeping with the NoLita hot spot’s Mediterranean leanings, Sussman adds traditional ingredients like feta and cucumbers, but in highly nontraditional form: the cheese is whipped till fluffy and the cucumbers are cold-pressed for juice. They’re plated with the eggplant on top of a coarse almond-stuffed bulgur salad and crowned with yet another classic Mediterranean ingredient: crisp grape leaves.

Price: $22

25 Cleveland Pl.; 212-274-0900

Grilled Hearts of Palms at Annisa

Why We Love It: Meaty pucks of lightly grilled hearts of palms stand up to the fiery, mouth-numbing heat of Anita Lo’s housemade Sichuan peppercorn sauce. Because they’re bigger and sweeter, Lo opts for the Hawaiian variety and shaves the thin ends of the stalks into a salad that’s tossed with blood orange, raw lily bulbs and a rice-wine vinaigrette to temper the spice.

Price: $17 for appetizer; $34 for entree

13 Barrow St.; 212-741-6699

Market Vegetables at Piora

Why We Love It: Chris Cipollone’s colorful salad isn’t your average dinner starter - it’s a work of greenmarket art. Featuring a rotation of 17-plus ingredients, the vibrant dish is a true representation of locavore bounty. Each vegetable - the current spring lineup includes snappy fava beans, English peas and grassy fiddlehead ferns - is prepared in a different way (fried, dried, grilled or blanched), then delicately covered with a powdered Thousand Island dressing that won’t wilt the ingredients.

Price: $18

430 Hudson St.; 212-960-3801

Stuffed Sweet Red Pepper at Snack Taverna

Why We Love It: Adam Greene's intimate West Village taverna is known for blending soulful Greek flavors with French technique, which shines through in this spin on gemista, or stuffed vegetables. Lentils are stewed in traditional French mirepoix - carrots, onions and celery - and tossed with rice, then packed into a red bell pepper. More vegetables pop up in the dressings: a yellow split-pea purée and a smoky, guajillo-spiked tomato sauce.

Price: $22

63 Bedford St.; 212-929-3499

Crispy Chinese Watercress Salad at Sripraphai

Why We Love It: Despite having “salad” in its name, this Thai appetizer doesn’t feature a pile of bright, fresh greens. Instead, expect watercress leaves that are lightly battered and deep-fried to counter the vegetable's bitter notes and add crunch to a side of shrimp, chicken and squid. Each forkful holds a perfectly balanced mix of textures - crispy leaves and slightly chewy proteins - along with tartness and heat from a chile-fish sauce dressing.

Price: $11

64-13 39th Ave., Queens; 718-899-9599

Green-Asparagus Risotto at Tessa

Why We Love It: Keeping this vegetarian risotto simple lets its main ingredient shine, says chef Cedric Tovar. As the grains are cooking, Tovar adds in chopped raw asparagus, allowing the rice to fully absorb its distinct grassy flavor. The risotto is topped with two heaping spoonfuls of asparagus coulis, along with a few crispy asparagus heads and ricotta cheese to add a light tang.

Price: $14 for appetizer size; $22 for full size

349 Amsterdam Ave.; 212-390-1974

john fraser