Everything old is new again. At least that’s how it seems with some of the latest food trends nationally as we return even more to heritage cuisine and knowing where our food comes from. Even traditional macaroni and cheese is getting a healthier makeover.
From plant-based proteins to pastas made from lentils, from charcuterie to single sourcing olive products, here are a few more food product culinary trends, with photography from John Ivanko, based our trip to the annual National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago or popping up at grocery stores or in restaurants nationwide. This is the second article, following up our post last week.
Charcuterie and Salumi
While charcuterie and salumi has been used historically as a form of meat preservation (and for many homesteaders it still is), it’s experiencing renewed interest at restaurants around the country. Today, it’s often a regular menu item, usually listed as an appetizer, but sometimes featured as a main course. With continuing interest in knowing your farmer and, in this case, rancher, charcuterie is hot. Just as artisanal cheese first came onto the market twenty-five years ago, charcuterie is the next “new” thing from a traditional form of preservation.
At its core, charcuterie is a collection of techniques that in different ways aim to limit the growth of the bacteria that then causes food spoilage. Typically, this means taking away oxygen and moisture so bacteria can’t grow and make the food go bad. Salt, the world's oldest preservative, is, therefore, also one of the main tools in charcuterie. Salt draws moisture out of foods, which makes it more difficult for bacteria to thrive. It also draws water out of the bacteria themselves, which kills them.
A quick vocabulary lesson: “charcuterie” refers to cured meats in the French tradition while “salumi” describes cured meats in Italy. Therefore, salami is salumi if it’s made in Italy. Different cultures and regions have various traditions of such meat preservation. The tasty news is that in today’s globally connected world, we can increasingly experiment, sample and learn from these various techniques.
Nduja Artisans leads this revival with a menu of products that celebrate this historic art of meat curing. Their Salame Di Manzo is a beef salami made from 100 percent Wagyu cows, a Japanese cattle breed, and seasoned with fresh thyme, black pepper and Cabernet wine. They also make a spreadable pork salumi, historically made in the Calabria region of southern Italy. Blending rich unami flavor with a kick of heat, the soft and spreadable texture make it quite versatile in your kitchen and works great added to pasta or a pizza topping.
Single Sourcing of Olive Products
Interest in single sourcing of products continues as a culinary trend, too. While we touched on coffee in a previous article, olives are another agricultural product we discovered following this trend toward authenticity. TRE Olive, a fourth-generation family-owned olive oil enterprise based in the Calabria region of southern Italy, features several tasty olive-based products, including TRE Olive Black, an intense and super green extra virgin olive oil made from Carolea olives, and TRE Olive Spreads that include olive tapenade, chili pepper spread and bruschetta Calabrese. To experience how traditional table olives are served in Calabria, they’ve come out with their TRE Olive. TRE’s extra virgin olive oil is never blended or diluted, a practice that boosts profits at the expense of flavor. TRE Olive’s olives are grown, picked, pressed and poured in Italy.
Plant-based Proteins for Meat
While on one end of the culinary spectrum, charcuterie has become a staple on farm-to-table restaurants, often alongside meticulously sourced artisanal cheeses, a growing number of plant-based proteins have also found their way on the menu, often having nothing to do with soy beans or black beans. First, there was Beyond Burgers. Now, Beyond Sausage, turning peas, fava beans and rice into tempting substitutes for animal-based proteins.
A Food and Beverage Innovation award winner from the National Restaurant Association, Beyond Sausage from Beyond Meat, looks, tastes and actually sizzles like traditional pork sausage. Available in Bratwurst, Sweet Italian and Hot Italian flavors, Beyond Sausage is wrapped inside a 100-percent plant-based casing derived from algae.
The Beyond Sausages have 2 grams more protein than pork sausage, 43% less fat and 38% less saturated fat. They’re GMO, soy and gluten free. Best of all, they’re deliciously satisfying, so much so that from a couple Wisconsinites who have been known to enjoy a traditional pork brat on numerous occasions were sold.
While you currently won’t find an Impossible Burger from Impossible Foods at a supermarket, you may find them on the menu at a growing number of restaurants around the country. With a focus on food service, Impossible Burgers are going head-to-head with the traditional meat patty burger, using a soy plant-based compound to mimic the meaty texture and a coconut oil for that fatty, juicy sizzle.
The “meatballs” made from the Impossible Burger are gloriously delicious; we, and many others at the National Restaurant Association Show, couldn’t stop sampling them, one after another. While it’s true, they were created in a food lab, their taste is winning customers hand-over-fist and by so doing, reducing carbon emissions and solving a host of other ecological issues associated with animal-based meat production. Eating just one Impossible Burger saves the equivalent of one half tub of bathwater and 18 miles of emissions in a car.
Macaroni & Cheese goes Protein-rich or Vegan
A childhood favorite is now a nutritious, healthy and organic comfort meal with Chickapea Organic Lentil Pasta and cheese sauce, packed with 19 grams of protein. Chickapea recently came out with their first-of-its-kind Vegan Mac, pairing Chickapea’s organic chickpea lentil pasta with a creamy sweet potato and pumpkin sauce. All their pasta are NON GMO Project certified. A certified B Corporation, Chickapea also produces penne, spirals and shells pastas and donates 3-cents of every box sold to provide nutritious school lunches to children in need.
“We are thrilled to once again expand the availability of innovative pastas that serve the desire and need for healthy, convenient, plant-based products that everyone can enjoy,” says Shelby Taylor, Founder & CEO at Chickapea. “We’re excited to be an industry leader with the launch of our Vegan Mac which is not only a great alternative to traditional pasta but to animal-based proteins and one that packs a one-two punch with its nutritious content of high protein and fiber.”
Another newcomer in the plant-based protein pasta is Ancient Harvest, with three varieties of their POW! Mac & Cheese, also loaded with 16 grams of protein but without any fillers, gums or stabilizers (read: fake ingredients). They also have a line-up of five POW! Pasta shapes which include black bean elbows and red lentil linguini.
Lisa Kivirist, with her husband, John D. Ivanko, a photographer and drone pilot, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef cookbook along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by renewable energy. Kivirist also authored Soil Sisters. As a writer, Kivirist contributes to MOTHER EARTH NEWS, most recently, Living with Renewable Energy Systems: Wind and Solar and 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son, Liam, and millions of ladybugs.
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