What’s a Vegetable?

rhubarb

 

Even the most hapless of cooks can take comfort in their ability to distinguish vegetables from fruits. Or can they? Maybe they already know about the tomato, the most famous crossover produce item. But we’re not sure if they’d correctly label eggplant (botanically classified as a fruit), rhubarb (a vegetable), or corn (every individual kernel, a fruit!). Even in this kale-cultivar-fluent era, our basic crisper-drawer taxonomy is still pretty out of whack.

 

What makes a vegetable a vegetable? There’s no hard and fast rule, but fruits are easier to define. The giveaway is seeds: botanists say that seeds are ripened ovules (i.e., eggs), which nest in ovaries that ripen into fruit. Cucumbers, bell peppers, avocados—all fruit.

 

Of course, the field guide should never dictate the fate of flavor. (Salty rhubarb? No thanks.) In the kitchen, good taste always rules.

 

 

About the author: Anna Mowry is senior editor at the James B... Read more >

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JBF Honored with 2014 Spirit of Hospitality Award

 

We would like to thank the Destination & Travel Foundation, a complementary organization to Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), for selecting JBF as the 2014 recipient of its annual Spirit of Hospitality Award! This honor—"the highest recognition presented annually to individuals and organizations that show exceptional dedication and commitment to the travel and tourism industry"—was bestowed last week at the annual Destination & Travel Foundation Dinner & Dream Auction at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

 

On top of a multicourse tasting presented by acclaimed chefs and winemakers, the event also presented the below video, which highlights our work and stars our friend and JBF Award winner Ted Allen. You can watch more clips from the award ceremony on DMAI's YouTube channel.

 

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Daily Digest: February 25, 2014

cheddar cheese

 

Everything you need to know about cheddar, the most popular cheese in the world. [Boston Globe]

 

Buddha's hand: it looks freaky, but actually has many uses in the kitchen. [Smithsonian]

 

Los Angelenos, you now have a chance to eat a cronut without hopping on a plane to New York. [LAT]

 

How is California's drought affecting the state's grass-fed beef industry? There's not very much grass to eat. [SFGate]

 

Five beers to sample... Read more >

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Valuing Vegetables

The James Beard Foundation reports on the rise of vegetable cookery


No longer sidelined, produce is having its moment.

 

“Pretty disheartening” is how Amanda Cohen described the limp, bland roasted vegetables placed in front of her at some of New York City’s top tables in the early aughts. Though at the time farmers’ markets and Whole Foods were busy making kohlrabi and rainbow chard mainstream, most restaurants had yet to embrace plant-centered cooking.

 

“If someone was a vegetarian,” recalls New York–based food critic Ryan Sutton, who was a waiter during this same period, “you either gave them pasta or the chef put together a couple of side dishes, called it a main course, and charged $18.”

 

Fast-forward directly to 2014 and vegetable menus aren’t just for vegetarians anymore. Among adventurous epicures, cauliflower steaks are as much in demand as aged rib-eyes, and you can blow your paycheck on a vegetable tasting menu at any number of the country’s top re... Read more >

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Join Us at the Kids Food Festival This Weekend!

 

Kids Food Festival

 

 

The James Beard Foundation is a proud partner of the Kids Food Festival, which takes place this Saturday and Sunday at New York City’s Bryant Park. Presented by the Creative Kitchen, the weekend will be full of delicious activities dedicated to educating families about making balanced food choices that foster lifelong wholesome eating. Little epicures and their parents can attend hands-on cooking classes in the James Beard Foundation Future Foodies Pavilion, where renowned chefs like Carla Hall, Jehangir Mehta, and Candice Kumai will share their recipes, skills, and love for all things culinary. Our own Izabela Wojcik and Victoria Jordan will host a class and demonstrate the recipe for James Beard’s Orange and Almond Cake Parfait.

 

The festival also includes free activities like the Balanced Plate Scavenger Hunt, where kids bounce between exhibitors and activities to samp... Read more >

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Daily Digest: February 24, 2014

beer

 

Everything you need to know about the various styles of hop-heavy IPAs. [LAT]

 

Using ice cream licks and electronic sensors, these musicians are making some sweet music. [Wired]

 

From a Chinese public-health conference to dinner tables worldwide: the history of the Lazy Susan. [Smithsonian

 

Proposed regulations of common farming practices have organic growers angry about potential new expenses and limitations. [LAT]

 ... Read more >

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The Bookshelf: Vedge

Vedge

 

If there’s anyone who knows his vegetables, it’s chef Richard Landau. His mission to make vegetables that appeal to a carnivore’s palate has been wildly successful—he cooked the first vegan dinner at the Beard House and, along with wife Kate Jacoby, opened the acclaimed vegetarian restaurant, Vedge, in Philadelphia. The duo’s new cookbook, Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking, offers innovative recipes, behind-the-scenes anecdotes, and useful tips to help any cook extract the most flavor and satisfaction out of a plant-based diet. Below, Richard shares his advice for taking the veggie plunge.

 

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JBF: What are some essential pantry items for a vegetarian or vegetable-focused home cook?

 

Richard Landau: A great olive oil, fresh herbs, quality spices, and a great stock are essential. But most important, all of your ingredients should be high quality. When cooking without animal products, you don’t have meat fats, but... Read more >

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Sustainability Matters: February 21, 2014

 

Exposing food waste, a photographer documents "defective carrots" that are deemed too ugly to make it to supermarket shelves. [Treehugger]

 

In response to widespread consumer concern, meat-industry giants announce antibiotic-free chicken. [NPR]

 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations sees small farmers as key to the development of sustainable food systems and food security. [The Guardian]

 

Consumer Reports investigates arsenic in the food system and what you can do about it. [... Read more >

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On the Menu: Week of February 23

Photo taken by Max Flatow

 

Here's what's on the Beard House calendar this week:

 

Monday, February 24, 7:00 P.M. 

Charm City Common 

It's not called Charm City for nothing. Baltimore is home to a thriving and beguiling restaurant scene that features rising star-chefs like Espuma alum Cyrus Keefer. His menu at Fork & Wrench is rooted in the Chesapeake Bay region but inspired by global techniques and ingredients.

 

Tuesday, February 25, 7:00 P.M. 

Bay Area Bounty

San Francisco Bay Area chefs are famous for taking their farmers' markets seriously, and Kim Alter of Daniel Patterson's renowned Plum restaurant is no exception—she's been known to make five trips in a single day to get the freshest ingredients. Join us at the Beard House for a taste of Alter's masterful, market-driven California cuisi... Read more >

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JBF on the Air: Atera's Matt Lightner

Matt Lightner on Taste Matters

 

On this week's episode of Taste Matters, JBF's Mitchell Davis took a field trip to lower Manhattan to interview chef Matt Lightner at his Michelin-starred restaurant, Atera. Offering only mysterious tasting experiences (diners eat over 20 courses but are not given a printed menu), Matt encourages his guests to let their imaginations run wild and guess the ingredients and composition in each dish. Mitchell and Matt discussed the interactions between the kitchen and dining room, how Matt is inspired by Basque cooking, and the new glut of tempting ingredients that's spoiling New York chefs. Click here to listen to the full episode.

 ... Read more >

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