Ah, the luxurious experience of a carving station…the attendant greets the customer and slices off a juicy, delectable slice of…eggplant? That’s right. This year, Rutgers University’s Thanksgiving feast will feature a cool new plant-based carving station, created by Kris Solt, assistant director of dining services at Rutgers.
“Students will just walk up and ask for whatever they want,” Solt explains. “The carving station will have butternut squash, split, peeled and seeds removed. We will grill cut-side down so we can create grill marks, then roast the halves until tender. For display, the seed cavity will have a kale and white bean relish with more relish available for students to add as requested.”
The same procedure will work with a good-sized zucchini, also stuffed, but with a wild-grain tabbouleh for a Mediterranean flavor profile. Eggplant will be filled with garlicky sautéed broccoli rabe and red pepper hummus. Portobello mushrooms will take on a Southwestern flavor profile, with a filling of black bean and corn salad.
Rutabaga, purple, green and white cauliflower and broccoli will be grilled and roasted and served alongside the other dishes, served with warm sauces such as sun-dried tomato pesto, chimichurri, marinara, romesco and Sriracha gravy.
To amp up flavor even more, Indian tikka masala, carrot and ginger puree, pico de gallo, cilantro-chili chutney and date-tamarind chutney are also available to add to any of the veggie combinations.
The dining team has tested the veggie carving station a couple of times already, as a vegetarian alternative at a Texas barbecue-themed event and also at catered event, serving the carved veggies alongside a traditional turkey breast carving station.
Solt shared his veggie carving station idea at last summer’s CIA (Culinary Institute of America) Menus of Change Conference, where it was received very well, and he says there are plans to incorporate this innovative station into everyday dining life in the future.