Don't bore us with your vegetables

Written by Melissa McCart on

dirtcandyA couple of weeks ago, New York Times food critic Pete Wells acknowledged that vegetables "conjure their own brand of humorlessness, the tight-lipped officiousness of grim nutritionists that is captured in the phrase, 'Eat your vegetables.'"

He was reviewing Dirt Candy, Amanda Cohen's vegetarian landmark, a four-year-old restaurant that makes vegetables capitvating. 

I thought of Ms. Cohen's graphic cookbook that came out this season as I perused restaurant menus every night last week, looking for a vegetable dish that didn't seem obligatory.

I almost was heartened at Up Modern Kitchen, which I reviewed this week. Though much on the menu is satiating, a beet salad offered cubes crunchy and unadorned.

Vegetables can be better than this. 

Is there a restaurant willing to tartar beets? Roasted and chopped, blood-reds or golds would be layered with caramelized shallots, Dijon, capers, lemon and Worcestershire, served with a tangle of greens and parmesanphoto toast.

I wish there were kale somewhere on a Pittsburgh menu, dotted with persimmons, sugar-poached cranberries, apples and maybe candied pecans. Even pancetta, if need be.

Does this exist? Please tell.

In the meantime, I likely will resort to making vegetables at home, courtesy of "Dirt Candy," a favorite cookbook of this year -- if only for the effusive reminder that beets, greens, rutabaga and the like need not disappoint. 

Melissa McCart photos

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