Is 2016 the year of the vegetable?

 Roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad

It's been several years since Michael Pollan told us to eat food, mostly plants. Since that time vegetarianism has been on the rise and countless new restaurants have switched their focus from meat to plant-based dishes. This trend continues to gain traction, as NPR's The Salt reports.

The article relates that "as another year begins, it appears that plants are the new meat. Bon Appetit magazine named AL's Place in San Francisco the best new restaurant of 2015. Meats at AL's Place are listed under "sides." The rest of the menu features vegetable-centric dishes sometimes featuring animal protein as an ingredient - pear curry, black lime yellowtail, persimmon, blistered squash. The hanger steak (with smoked salmon butter), however, is a side dish."

Restaurants are also using the whole vegetable, finding uses for peels and scraps that were formerly discarded. NPR calls this approach "stem-to-leaf" and likens it to the "nose-to-tail" movement of a few years ago. Concerns about food waste spurred the new focus on using all of a plant's parts, as estimates show that in the US nearly one-third of all food goes to waste at some point in the food chain.

It appears that concerted efforts by government agencies coupled with consumer and environmental activists has finally trickled into the mainstream. It's never been more popular to be vegetarian or vegan. Vegetable-centric chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi became stars seemingly overnight, and long-time vegetarian cookbook authors like Deborah Madison are finding new audiences.

Photo of Roasted cauliflower & hazelnut salad from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

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