For many of us, the winter months represent more time thinking about and trying new foods.
Some researchers theorize we tend to be hungrier in the winter months because of primitive impulses urging us to stockpile calories until warmer weather. Others say simple logistics play a bigger part in our greater interest in food.
“Our winter eating habits are likely born of opportunity,” writes Allison Aubery on NPR.org. “There is more holiday feasting, better leftovers, more grazing in the kitchen and fewer opportunities for playing and exercising outside.”
Pinterest has conveniently compiled a list of the top 10 new food trends for 2017. If you’re a restaurateur or caterer, consider how you might incorporate some of these trends into your food preparation over the coming months.
This homely fruit native to Southeast Asia has an unusually textured green skin, while its inside contains multiple bright yellow bulbs. Enthusiasts compare the taste to a blend of pineapple, banana and mango, but it’s versatile enough to be used in either sweet or savory dishes, while its seeds can be roasted or boiled on their own. Ripe jackfruits are sweet and ideal for use in smoothies, yogurt or ice cream, and the fibrous nature of the unripe version makes it a great substitute for shredded meat in vegan dishes. When purchasing jackfruit, make sure its exterior barely yields to thumb pressure, since it’s highly perishable.
Sous vide cooking
French for “under vacuum,” this methodology involves closely controlling the texture of cooked food by enclosing it in vacuum-sealed bags, then immersing it in temperature-controlled water baths. It’s most often used to prepare meat, seafood, eggs and vegetables, and can be conducted with ziplock cooking bags and a standard cooler or with specially designed utensils like vacuum sealers and precision cookers. Foodies like its ability to cook meat so it’s tender, juicy and neither underdone nor overdone. Chefs appreciate that its results are easy to replicate, and it’s less dependent on exact cooking times when a kitchen gets busy. “The defining feature of the sous vide method is not packaging or vacuum sealing, it is accurate temperature control,” advises ModernistCuisine.com. “It allows you to cook food to an even doneness all the way through; no more dry edges and rare centers.”
It’s not surprising these tasty treats are coming into their own, given Americans’ love for crispy, salty snacks and the relatively healthy nature of these veggie varieties. Manufacturers have come a long way in reducing unhealthy ingredients in grab-and-go varieties, but chefs and other purists often prefer to bake their own to maintain control over additives and calories. Expect to see more restaurants serving up these options instead of fries or potato chips as a side with soups and sandwiches. Aficionados are also embracing chips derived from green beans; kale and Parmesan; parsnips; Jerusalem artichoke; cabbage, taro, rutabagas — even sliced garlic cloves. Concoct your own versions, and don’t forget the dip or ranch dressing. “If you haven't had a veggie chip epiphany yet, it's tough to describe the curious mix of gluttonous joy and health-food smugness one feels as one power-eats a sheet pan of hot, crackly kale or crispy carrot chips,” writes Christine Gallary on Chowhound.com. Overall, the market for dried fruit and vegetable snacks is projected to increase 1 percent annually through 2021.
Hearty grain bowls
These mixtures of various grains, vegetables, protein and condiments have gone mainstream after originating in health food restaurants. Picky eaters appreciate their easy customization, budget-conscious consumers like how they accommodate leftovers, and chefs like their versatility. The adventuresome can experiment with a wide range of grains (rice, quinoa, kamut, farro, freekeh, wheat berries, barley, grits, etc.) combined with myriad vegetables, spices, meats, fish, seafood, eggs, tofu, tempeh, seitan ... whatever sounds good. Last year, Business Insider pointed to an industry study reporting a nearly 30 percent rise in the entree category over the previous five years. “Eating your way around a bowl is a little like tai chi,” chef Geraldo Gonzalez told the New York Times. “The perfect bite doesn’t mean you have all the components together on the spoon. It’s about getting the balance of acid, sweet, salty. Every bite is a surprise, a little different from the one before it.”
Though some people can’t get past the idea of the suckers and tentacles, others contend the flavor and buttery soft texture of octopus meat is addictive when cooked properly. Demand for octopus is growing in the U.S., such that some agriculturalists are experimenting with octopus farms. In 2014, for example, the U.S. imported 26 million pounds of the seafood, a 16 percent increase over 2013. “As more ethnic populations move into the U.S., restaurants, especially white tablecloth establishments, continue to diversify their menus with alternative protein options,” reports Savingseafood.org. “Buyers say octopus has offered restaurants a lower-priced seafood menu option akin to squid.” To cook the cephalopods for adding to other dishes, experts recommend blanching it in boiling water for 30 seconds before baking it at 200 degrees in an uncovered dish for four to five hours. An alternative is slow-braising it in liquid for one to two hours. Deep frying or grilling might follow. Consider adding the protein-rich meat to salads, soups, pasta dishes, paella, or just simmer slices with a little onion, garlic, tomato and vinegar. When buying fresh octopus, avoid any with a fishy smell. Note that previously frozen octopus grows tender more quickly than fresh.
Beer that has an intentionally acidic, tart or sour taste can be challenging and somewhat expensive to produce, with some processes taking two to three years, but aficionados reckon the extra cost is worth it. Foodies recommend pairing it with tangy, stinky cheeses and fresh fruit, seafood, egg dishes or salted meats, and serving it in a tulip-shaped glass to optimize the flavor. “If you've never ventured far from pale lagers and wheat beers adorned with an orange slice, this category would be a daring leap,” writes beer reviewer David Flaherty on drink.seriousseats.com. “(But) over time, I've come to crave sour beers like one does the endorphin rush from a hot sauce bottle adorned with skulls and crossbones.”
These delicious, portable packets of baked or fried stuffed dough can be served up for breakfast, lunch and dinner or as appetizers or snacks, with or without dipping sauces. They’re usually made with savory fillings, but sweet varieties can be a treat as well. They present a great opportunity for chefs to demonstrate their skill and creativity. Concoct the dough of wheat flour, corn flour, almond flour, corn meal, mashed plantains, potatoes, yucca, cassava, sweet potatoes, etc., adding in complementary spices. Add your choice of fillings: savory favorites include a range of meat, cheese and vegetables while sweet choices tend to feature fruit, chocolate, caramel, pumpkin and/or cheese.
Someone decided to try naan as the dough base for their pizza, it was delicious, and it took off from there! Naan is an enriched dough, containing dairy which gives you a much softer texture. With a simple brush of olive oil, top it off with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella for a delicious, and easy naan margarita pizza. Experiment with savory and sweet, get creative with toppings, pair with your favorite wine and make it a great addition to any menu.
Your German uncle may have relished this fermented cabbage condiment for years, but now that it’s considered a superfood, foodies of all ages are enjoying its crunchiness in grain bowls, guacamole, pot roasts, soups and stews and as a topping for hot dogs and corned beef. One inventor even devised a sauerkraut martini. Chefs whipping up their own might add shredded carrots, beets, garlic, onions, caraway seeds or even apples. Health benefits of the low-calorie, high-fiber food reportedly include better digestion.
The world’s quest for the perfect cooking oil has recently transcended olive oil to land on the less expensive grapeseed oil, a by-product of wine making. Proponents says it smokes at higher temperatures, and its polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) content is anti-inflammatory and good for hormones, brain health, heart health and tissue fibers.
Learn more about the best equipment for serving up great restaurant food by logging on to TriMarkUSA.com or calling 508-761-3605.