Change Up Your Veggie Routine: CIA x ONP
At The Culinary Institute of America, we believe that plant-forward eating is one of the biggest culinary trends underway in America and in global foodservice. That means cooking and eating in a way that emphasizes and celebrates, but is not limited to, plant-based foods. We find inspiration for plant-forward menus from farms and chef-grower collaborations. And one of the most interesting facets of my job is the exposure it affords me to chefs, ingredients, and recipes from around the globe. I’m always learning something new, and gleaning recipe inspiration, and this latest project is no exception.
The Tokita Seed Company recently contracted The Culinary Institute of America’s Digital Media Group to help raise awareness of, and develop recipes for several Japanese heirloom vegetables: fioretto, negi and zuccuri. My research started with meeting farmer Chris Brigantino, who showed me some of the Japanese vegetables he’s growing on his organic farm in California using Tokita Seeds. We talked about what vegetables grow best in the various microclimates, and growing conditions on his farm.
I then headed into my kitchen. Through the recipe development process, I discovered that the versatile flavors and textures of fioretto, negi, and zuccuri offered a vast canvas for creativity.
Fioretto is cauliflower’s delicate cousin, and has a balanced, sweet flavor. Its tender, coral-like florets and slender stems make any dish look beautiful. It’s easy to use, has a great yield, and can be enjoyed raw, steamed, grilled, stir-fried, sautéed, or roasted. The dishes I made with fioretto are Citrus Marinated Fioretto Salad; Roasted Fioretto and Negi with Shaved Parmesan; and Spicy Fioretto Chipotle Tacos.
Negi closely resembles a European leek, but has a long, sleek white stalk, hollow green tops, and a layered core. Fun fact: they can grow to more than 3 feet long! Negi brings a garlicky aroma and sweet, earthy flavor to recipes.. It has a tender, almost-creamy interior, making it ideal for grilling as well as low and slow cooking. The dishes I prepared with negi are Charred Negi with Mexican Corn Salsa; a Negi and Turnip Galette; and Negi Confit with Whole Grain Mustard Vinaigrette and a Poached Egg.
Zuccuri is a variety of kabocha squash that has a cake-like texture and rich, sweet flavor . This versatile winter squash has vibrant, orange flesh and edible dark green skin, so adds a nice pop of color to any dish. I found that zuccuri pairs well with warming spices like nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon, as well as sage, thyme, and cilantro. Zuccuri can be added in cubes to soups, stews, curries and casseroles. It can also be enjoyed sautéed, fried in tempura batter, or roasted. The recipes I made with zucurri are Zuccuri and Prosciutto Frito Misto; and Roasted Zuccuri and Kale Salad with Chickpeas, and Tahini Yogurt.
To learn more about the Oishii Nippon Project and how you can bring Japanese heirloom vegetables to your menu, visit https://www.ciaprochef.com/oishiinippon.
Written by Toni Sakaguchi
Executive Chef - Strategic Initiatives Group
The Culinary Institute of America