Are vegetables the new “it” ingredient? You bet! Not only that, they are the lead character on the culinary stage. According to John Placko, the Culinary Director of Modern Culinary Academy, and Culinary Consultant to Canadian Prairie Garden (CPG), “Vegetables are not restricted to only one part of the menu anymore. Chefs and product developers are using a variety of techniques and cooking methods to include vegetables in dishes from appetizers to desserts. I’m observing trends such as roasting an entire head of cauliflower for an appetizer, using puréed butternut squash as a dip, vegetable leathers for snacks, and carrot sorbet for dessert.”

In my consulting business, I’ve been seeing the trend of creating meals using vegetables first, rather than starting with the extra large piece of meat. The vegetables are prepared in more creative ways and the rest of the meal is built around them. This is a delicious way to get the recommended 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Another trending item is smoothies. John agrees: “Many of CPG’s clients use their purées, including pumpkin, carrot and beet, to create nutritious and appetizing smoothies for their customers.”

Innovating with Vegetables
John has been busy demonstrating the versatility of Canadian Prairie Garden’s purées for a number of clients and at culinary events. He explains, “We are innovating and utilizing vegetables in different ways that no one has thought of. Recently, we demonstrated how to make a Panna Cotta from our puréed corn. The client was thrilled with the scrumptious results.”

People are always wowed by the smooth, creamy texture of the parsnip purée. John explains, “It’s the perfect lower fat replacement for the cream in pasta sauces, casseroles and even desserts.” Then there is my personal favourite—pumpkin. For years, I’ve been encouraging my clients to think beyond the pumpkin pie. And John agrees, “We are creating interesting sauces, soups and pastas with our pumpkin purée. It adds a wonderful colour and great nutrition to the final product.”

Igniting with Vegetables
Often consumers want new taste sensations as well as nutrition. John says, “At our culinary events, it’s fun to see the surprised look on the client’s face by the fresh and natural taste of the puréed vegetables. The CPG process locks in great flavour and nutrition with a shelf-stable product. The purées add a rich moistness and creamy texture to all the recipes. One of the most popular is the cauliflower purée because of its neutral flavour and colour.” John is thrilled to be developing recipes with onion purée. He says, “It ignites such a sweet flavour that including it in dessert items is a must-taste sensation.”

Final Thoughts
Do you remember the saying, “No dessert unless you eat your vegetables”? Well, it’s no longer compelling with these delicious, flavourful vegetables throughout the meal, from appetizers to desserts!

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Jane Dummer, RD (, known as the "Pod to Plate" Food Consultant, collaborates with the food and nutrition industry across North America.