As the plant-forward movement continues to build momentum, innovation is coming in the form of new applications of parts of the plant that haven’t previously made it to the menu. As Technomic’s recent forecast of 7 Key Trends for 2020 predicts, waste-averse chefs are finding uses for such ingredients as beet greens, sweet potato leaves and avocado blossom, as well as snacks, desserts and drinks made from seaweed and sea beans.
Interested in offering more plant-based proteins but can’t quite get past the texture problem? As technology firms attempt to make a burger or steak that replicates the experience of the real thing, they are experimenting with some futuristic ways of delivering it. The Spoon reports that such methods as 3D printing – Novameat and Redefine Meat are two companies using this approach – are being used to print plant protein into fibrous strands that imitate the texture of animal protein. Other companies, including Atlast Foods, Prime Roots and Emergy Foods, are using mushroom roots made through fermentation. But what seems to have the most promise in delivering meat-like texture is gelatin, which melts when cooked and more closely mimics the texture of a steak. Harvard scientists recently reported success in growing cow and rabbit cells on a scaffold made from gelatin.
Plant-based proteins, to this point, have largely been branded as a nice-to-have option for flexitarians. But a looming pork shortage (or what some may consider a bacon emergency) could make plant-based proteins a more urgent need. An NPR report estimates that by the end of this year, China’s pig population could be cut in half, which will result in high pork prices in the U.S. The Spoon predicts that the conditions will be good news for the growing number of producers of plant-based pork products – and bacon, in particular. Restaurant operators should also have sufficient bacon alternatives to offer on their menus.
If your guests enjoy Mediterranean flavors and diets, consider adding up-and-coming condiments like ajvar to your menu. Ajvar (pronounced eye-var) is a red-pepper and oil-based condiment from the Balkans that is just beginning to appear beyond Balkan restaurants, Flavor & the Menu reports. It works well as a marinade for skewers or as a dip option when paired with bread in a shareable appetizer platter, and its color and aroma can help to bring appealing and accessible global flavor to a menu.