Foraging for food — in the woods, not the back of the fridge — is digging its way to the top of the 2014 food trends.
Other food trends? Tea is the new coffee. Eclairs are the new macarons.
Cauliflower blooms as a new year new favorite, perhaps not yet pushing kale and Brussels sprouts off the stove, but at least to the back burner. And we’re not talking just plain, snow white cauliflower, but heads in colors that pop on the plate.
Eating out more than eating in? The National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot culinary forecast predicts menus trends for 2014 that focus on local sourcing, environmental sustainability,and nutrition - children’s nutrition in particular. Items gaining in popularity: nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking, pickling, dark greens, and Southeast Asian cuisine. Items on the downward chart: Greek yogurt, sweet potato fries, new cuts of meat, grass-fed beef, and organic coffee.
About foraging: pick and pluck (wild blackberries, ramps, morels, etc.) only where allowed, such as your own backyard, not a stranger’s property. Always obtain permission to forage on someone else’s land. Note, note: keep your paws off of plants in protected areas. The Metroparks of the Toledo Area has a “take nothing from the parks” rule. “We do not allow foraging,” Metroparks spokesman Scott Carpenter relayed in an email.
A growing trend: healthy eating, focusing on organic and local. This has been trending for some time, but watch for this to continue and to become more of a lifestyle, a social movement, in 2014 and beyond.
Folks want to know the name of the farmer who raised the chickens that laid the eggs that end up in the cartons and then in the skillets in family kitchens. Customers want to “look you in the eye and shake your hand,” said Kurt Bench, a full-time farmer in the Elmore area.
More people are paying closer attention to the personal responsibility to eat smaller portions, to purchase locally produced food, to cook meals at the home, and to educate children about food. Teaching children to cook is another trend.
And such trends forge a human link in the food chain, strengthening and developing bonds between farmers and customers.
A founder of Slow Food Maumee Valley, Paula Ross of Toledo said a major trend is “more and more awareness of potential problems and more and more desire to really understand what we are buying, what we are cooking, and what we are serving to our family.”
Consumers are becoming increasing uncomfortable with each publicized food safety scare or scandal, including many international stories such as related to fraud or risky production practices, she said.
At their Shared Legacy Farms in Ottawa County, Mr. Bench and his wife Corinna are part of the movement to bring “your local farmer back to your kitchen.” Customers can stop by to see the progress of plants during growing and harvesting seasons.
Ms. Ross agreed with Mr. Bench: food customers want to “look the producers in the eye.” Not just one time, but every week, such as from June to October, from spring peas to fall pumpkins.
The region has “very strong farmers” who offer quite a few opportunities for local residents to buy directly from the farmer, Ms. Ross said. She’s also seeing a trend in what are called “value-added products,” such as locally made breads.
It’s still a tiny fraction of the population buying food directly from producers, she said. However, there’s a definite upward spiral as the practice becomes much more mainstream. Demand from customers is growing faster than the supply, she said.
Ms. Ross pointed out how CSA-operations are forming relationships with large employers where food products can be delivered to many customers at one location, such as at a university or hospital. Community Supported Agriculture, commonly known as CSA, is an agricultural model that re-connects people to their local food source.
For 2014, Mr. Bench sees CSAs trending upwards, but said “we still have a long ways to go.” There’s plenty of room for growth, especially in Toledo, he added.
Customers can become members of Shared Legacy Farms’ CSA by purchasing a “share” of the season’s harvest, making a financial commitment to the farm and developing a personal sense of ownership with their food source for such items as vegetables, fruit, and eggs.
Harvested food is packaged into members’ individual boxes for local pick-up, but it’s more than handing out boxes of food. Because many people are generations removed from farms, there is a lot of food disconnect, he said. “People do not know what to do with real food.” Education is a key component, he said, such as sharing with customers details on how to store and prepare fresh foods.
He networks with area farmers for CSA items he doesn’t raise on his farm, such as eggs. That means the CSA movement isn’t just helping customers, but it is supporting local farmers.
For Mr. Bench, who grew up on the Bench farms, started by his grandfather, Charles Bench, in Curtice, Ohio, in the early 1940s, returning to the farm was “always in my heart.”
This isn’t just an adult-only food movement. To help children connect to food sources, several area farms provide hands-on activities beyond corn mazes.
Near Easter time, Shared Legacy Farms will offer something akin to an egg hunt, but kids will search for spuds. Then, kids can plant the potatoes. “It is great when those kids plant and then see the fruit of their work,” Mr. Bench said.
Mr. Bench, who has more than 15 years of experience growing plants and managing large-scale horticultural operations, works closely with wife Corinna who spent 12 years directing programming and adult volunteers for a large student ministry program.
They love growing vegetables, but what motivates them is growing people and building connections and relationships. They like to get to know their customers, learn their stories, befriend their families, and see how their local product enhances lives.
Pork Chops with Pear Maple Sauce
Cook’s note: Mrs. Bench serves the chops, pears, and sauce over couscous; rice or noodles would work fine as well. Or, yum, served over smashed taters.
Trim fat from pork. Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper. In a 10-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook chops 8 to 12 minutes or till chops are done (160 degree F.) and juices run clear, turning once. Remove chops from skillet; cover to keep warm and set aside.
For sauce: In same skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in maple syrup, peach preserves and basil. Add pears. Cook, covered, about 3 minutes or just till the pears are tender and heated through, occasionally spooning sauce over pears.
Place couscous in a mound in the center of four dinner plates. Top with a chop and spoon sauce over pork.
Yield: Makes 4 servings; Source: Corinna Bench of Shared Legacy Farms, Elmore
Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup
Cook's note: Paula Ross made her soup using cabbage, onion, and potato from the Toledo Farmers Market, vegetable broth from the Phoenix Earth Food Co-op, and the rinds of good Italian Parmesan that she buys locally.
First make the soup. Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a big pot and sauté the onion on medium heat until soft but without much colour (about five minutes). Add the garlic and caraway, and cook for two minutes. Remove four of the outer leaves of the cabbage, shred finely and set aside. Roughly shred the rest of the cabbage, then add to the pot along with the diced potato, and stir for two to three minutes. Add enough stock just to cover the vegetables, add the Parmesan skin, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the potato is tender. Remove the Parmesan skin, taste the soup and season accordingly. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for a few minutes, then blitz roughly, such as with a hand-blender. Add more stock if it is too thick. Adjust the seasoning.
For the croutons, preheat the grill to high. Put the bread on a baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Grill for two minutes a side, or until golden brown. Grate the tomato. Rub the croutons with garlic, brush with tomato and finish with a sprinkle of salt.
To serve, heat two tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and sauté the reserved cabbage with the chilli and salt. Cook for three to four minutes, or until the cabbage softens. Spoon the hot soup into bowls, add grated Parmesan (if using), top with the fried cabbage and finish with a few extra caraway seeds scattered over the top.
Source: Adapted from the Guardian
For the dressing:
Cauliflower Salad, Additions, Subtractions, Multiplications
Cook’s note: We're sharing many options for this salad. You can dress it up, dress it down, depending on what you like or what your guests, family, etc., would like. It's a terrific dish for potlucks, and goes well with sandwiches for a casual meal, no matter the season. You can chop vegetables fine; you can chunk them, depending on your preference. You can toss in other vegetables, such as finely chopped celery or frozen peas, thawed of course.
Whisk dressing ingredients together (double the dressing recipe if you want more on the salad and depending on amount of ingredients used); adjust taste to your liking by adding a bit more sugar or a splash or two more of vinegar; pour onto salad ingredients, you can chill or serve pronto. If taking to a potluck, for instance, you can wait and add the cheese, bacon, Craisins, and sunflower seeds when you set out the dish, stirring some in and leaving some on top for a pretty presentation.
Source: Janet Romaker