“Eating your greens” suddenly seems so old-school. These days, produce is covering the rainbow with a variety of intense hues. “Colorful plates are increasingly popular, including everything from carrots to cauliflower,” says Robert Schueller, Director of Public Relations at Melissa’s Produce and “Produce Guru” for Cooking Light magazine. The color of the moment is purple, as chefs race to incorporate jewel tones to their entrées, sides and desserts. Here are a couple of the hottest new ways to add a touch of violet to your menu.
A common ingredient in Filipino cuisine, especially desserts, ube (pronounced OOO-bay), is a type of purple yam that’s become a photogenic social media darling, with violet-hued ube dishes popping up on Instagram feeds and Pinterest boards with increasing frequency. The frenzy’s ground zero might be Björn DelaCruz of Filipino restaurant Manila Social Club in Brooklyn, New York. (He has since opened an outpost in Miami Beach). He caused a sensation with his Golden Cristal Ube Donut, filled with ube mousse and champagne jelly, glazed in icing made with Cristal champagne, and covered with 24-carat gold, sold for $1,000 a dozen (he sells a gold-less and champagne free version for $40 a dozen).
Right now, the only thing stopping widespread ube use is a lack of availability. Even DelaCruz uses frozen, grated ube because he can’t rely on a regular supply of fresh tubers in New York. Powdered versions, used in baking and sauces, are available online.
Purple sweet potatoes
Another way to get that sweet, starchy and purple combo is by using purple sweet potatoes, which are grown domestically in the U.S. and are more widely available. “Even though we think of sweet potatoes as a fall item, they’re available year-round,” Schueller says. “They’ve been steadily growing in popularity since we introduced them three years ago.” They are also a more budget-conscious choice, costing only a little more than the traditional orange-hued garnet or jewel sweet potato. Somewhat starchier than traditional sweet potatoes, they require a longer cooking time. They not only hold their color during cooking, but turn an even darker shade of purple after being baked, roasted or boiled.
“They can be used as fries, in baking, and in sweet potato pie,” Schueller suggests. “I’m especially fond of them in a mash – you can swirl white, orange and purple colors together and get something really special.”
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