Vegetable hero Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy is not only the chef/owner of the very few upscale vegetarian restaurants in New York City; she turns humble vegetables into gastronomic works of art. It's even more impressive to watch her run her tiny East Village kitchen, where it's a miracle that the single cook and the dishwasher don't trip over each other. Seats are packed, orders fly in, and every plate must be perfect.
Dirt Candy's dishes use single vegetables as their themes; they seek to deliver the most tomato-y tomato flavor and the most intense version of mushroom. A dish cucumber and tofu is anything but ordinary: it absolutely screams cuke (the fried pickle nest topping certainly helps); a savory tomato cake uses tomato three ways. We got a chance to see the process of how a few of these dishes come together. In the slideshow above: cucumbers, tomatoes, cauliflower and waffles, jalapeno hush puppies, and even sweet pea ice cream sandwiches.