An insight by Chef Doris Fin.
Waterfront Awards for Culinary Arts winner, Chef Doris Fin, is breaking down preconceptions about ‘plant-based’ cooking. An avid demonstrator at local foodie spots from markets to festivals and cooking classes, she has been inspiring foodies, chefs and students around Toronto. Chef Doris shares with us a deeper level of her passion about plant-based eating and her list of top 5 enhancements to include in any plant-based dish. Here we go….
Photo credit: Robert Skuja
A different definition of “plant-based”
As a Chef and someone who values sustainability, supporting local and seasonal ingredients, I do my best to give clients what they want, while educating their palates and going beyond labels and trends.
For over a decade I travelled the world offering cooking classes, catering events, retreats, and private dinners using majority of ingredients from the native land, which consisted of mainly plants.
Plant-based doesn’t mean plant-only and I don’t believe it needs to be categorized into a box (like vegan, paleo, keto, etc.). Plant-based is not a euphemism for the “v” word, or an alternative way of eating. Eating what naturally exists in nature makes sense and before the bastardization of food, it was the only way to eat. Before our teeth adapted to eating animal products, we ate plants. Now we eat everything, including edible food-like substances.
The reality is that perceptions of health are shifting thanks to our knowledge about food and its relationship to our bodies and our planet.
Plants—including cultivated and wild forgeable edibles, fungi (e.g. mushrooms), vegetables, fruits, seeds (nuts, oilseeds, legumes, grains), herbs, spices, flowers, sprouts, leaves, roots, and stems—are beneficial to the palate and the plate, and for chefs, plants provide more than just garnish—rainbow colours pop and add vibrancy and aliveness to meals that might otherwise appear dull and bland. Plants have the ability to add fresh and earthy tones to overcooked dishes that beg to be saved from mindless eating, or worse, the landfill.
Making plants the essential ingredients in your plates
Customers crave to be taken care of, especially today, in a world of overwhelm, intimidation, pressure, and all sorts of unnecessary stresses. Is it any wonder chefs are considered heroes? But on the other hand, it is common for chefs to be heroes to everyone but themselves. This is relevant because like anyone, how do we expect to have quality and longevity in the industry (and thrive in life, rather than just survive), if we don’t care for ourselves? This is where plants can make a huge difference.
Adding more whole, unadulterated plant food options to your menu, (as well as to your own personal diet), benefits yourself and your customers greatly and that can make all the difference—especially for everyday emotional, mental and physical functions. Whether being the highlight next to a steak, in an omelette, pizza or other animal based dish, or making up the entire meal in a buddha bowl, burrito, stir fry or other strictly plant-derived dish, discover the plethora of the plant kingdom and think outside the box.
5 top plant-based ingredients to take your dish to the next level
5 of my favourite plant-based enhancements that go well with just about everything, including my wallet also happen to be local, sustainable, and easily accessible:
- Raw sunflower seeds: Anywhere from $1.50-$3/lb, store airtight away from heat (like any oil based ingredient: seed/nut/spice/herb). Soak in water for 4 hours, rinse, strain and blend into creamy dressings, creams, lightly toasted for garnish, and the list goes on. Versatile, healthy, and delicious. Also great as a nut alternative.
- Cruciferous stems from kale, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, etc.: Like many scraps (peelings, tops and bottoms), stems can be repurposed to add bulk, flavour, and colour. Grate into salads/sautés/omelettes, or freeze airtight and add to a house broth, use in juices and soups, and get inventive with various dishes in general (tarts, dumplings, etc.). Cruciferous veggies are leafy and add loads of fibre, as well as many other health benefits. Stock up this autumn.
- Greens: Whether fresh or on the verge of compost, find ways, similar to repurposed stems, to use them up. For example: Sauté onions/shallots with beet tops or wilting herbs (cilantro, parsley, basil, etc.) and optional garlic (roasted), and blend with melted butter (at least 1lb) into a green, yet flavourful butter that you can freeze into cubes and use in sautés and stir-frys.
- Sprouts: Whether you can make the space to grow your own, and/or if you can afford to buy from a local grower, adding sprouts to meals adds more than just garnish—they are alive and add nutrients that help aid in digestion and other health benefits.
- Forgeables: When the season permits, the forests are filled with free wild nutritious edibles that add loads of earthy flavours to meals. These can also be purchased fresh, dehydrated, preserved, or frozen, but the added bonus of gathering your own ingredients, breathing in the fresh air, recharging in nature, and getting to know the direct source of where your ingredients come from, is priceless.
And what is your definition of “plant-based”? Share your thought in our comment below…
Chef Doris Fin’s social media: @chefdorisfin