It's not quite move over kale yet, but cauliflower and even Brussels sprout are emerging as the next hot power food item in American restaurants.
"Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are definitely starting to make their way into the same place kale was four years ago with the way chefs are using it and we're starting to see it," says Kimberly Egan, CEO of CCD Innovation, a California-based food and beverage product development company. "Restaurants are cutting [cauliflower] like steak and treating it like steak in the center of the plate."
Yes, leading the way is cauliflower, which is featured a lot in vegetable butchery and is becoming a darling of chefs, Egan says. It's even showing up in soups and as purees instead of mashed potatoes, she says.
"It's being used in a lot of different ways and showing up on appetizer menus as roasted or grilled, many times with an Indian spice that's highly favorable," Egan says. "It's such a neutral vegetable that you can put a lot of different flavors and treatments to it. It's being used all across the menu, which is fascinating. I haven't seen any cauliflower pudding yet but it's definitely being used in the savory part of the menu."
Egan says Brussels sprouts, which are showing up on a lot of menus, are being roasted and grilled and highly sautéed to where they're almost caramelized. Both are popular with those over 50, she says.
"I would need to see cauliflower and Brussels sprouts made into a crispy chip before calling it the new kale, but it's a restaurant darling and has a health halo that kale had," Egan says. "There are a lot of things they're sharing with kale right now. But as far as chips showing up, I haven't seen that yet. Could it go there? I think it could."
Even so, don't worry about kale, Egan says. It hasn't been forgotten.
"Never. There is such a big driver behind it. Health and wellness. Eating more vegetables and eating more greens. Because of the smoothie. One of the reasons why I'm hesitant about saying Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are the new kale is because of the way kale has been used in the smoothie world, the chip world and the salad world. I'm not quite there yet in seeing it with smoothies. Soups? Absolutely," Egan says.
What else should people keep an eye out for in 2015 in the food world?
According to Egan, beans.
Beans are branching out and finding a lot of different forms like bean flour. If you think about beans in some of their new incarnations, that's definitely happening with bean-based chips and beans being paired with heritage grains. Bean flower is used for bread, crackers and chips, she says.
"They're almost getting a lift because of their benefits from protein and the way they're being used differently," Egan says.
It's showing up not only in restaurants but also in specialty stores and some grocery stores, Egan says.
"If you look at the continuum, we have baked beans, plain beans, refried beans, hummus, but all of those have all been wet," Egan says. "Now we have bean flour manipulated into dry foods. It's the evolution of where beans are going. The world is the bean's oyster right now. There's such great health around it, and it's easily ground and dried so you can incorporate it into lots of different places."
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