Now that everyone is kaled out, health-conscious consumers and trend-watching chefs are on the lookout for the next superfoods superstar. Here are five likely candidates.
Barton Seaver, Washington, D.C. chef and sustainable seafood evangelist, has declared kelp, or seaweed, the next kale. Kelp and other types of seaweed serve up iodine, potassium, calcium and other micronutrients along with protein, soluble fiber, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Seaweed is also a sustainable choice as well as an umami powerhouse. Found extensively in Japanese cuisine (especially sushi), seaweed grows in many forms and lends a salty, earthy taste to salads, soups and vegan entrees. David Burke’s newest restaurant, Tavern 62 in New York City, puts seaweed at the center of the plate with seaweed-brined and roasted chicken.
The ultimate chameleon, cauliflower displays a wide range of talents, allowing it to stand in for other foods. It’s especially popular among carb avoiders, who eat it riced; pureed with milk to replace alfredo sauce; steamed and mashed with butter and milk to replace mashed potatoes; mixed with cheese and rolled out into pizza and calzone crusts; and sliced, then roasted to act as a satisfying vegetarian “steak.”
3. Wild blueberries
Wild blueberries and other purple foods have an assumed health halo among consumers. According to Technomic, two out of three associate better-for-you benefits with purple foods such as eggplant, beets and purple kale, which are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers.
Wild blueberries are especially rich in anthocyanin, a flavonoid that has potent antioxidant capacity and that contributes to their complex flavor. One of the most popular and versatile of the purple foods, wild blueberries lend themselves to multiple preparations, from desserts to smoothies, sweet and savory sauces, chutneys and salads.
4. Fermented everything
Fermentation adds a welcome flavor complexity to foods, and often, a little goes a long way. Fans of fermented foods appreciate their beneficial enzymes, B-vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and probiotic qualities.
While yogurt is arguably the most widely consumed fermented product, there are many others. Kimchi, for instance, has found its way onto scores of menus, but its cousin sauerkraut is finding favor among chefs as well. Tempeh—fermented soybean and other legumes molded into cakes—can take the place of meat for vegans. Miso, a Japanese staple, adds a strong umami note to soups, sauces and dressings. Fizzy and refreshing, kombucha has a distinctive tang that can boost smoothies and cocktails.
5. Broccoli rabe
With its pronounced bitter taste and somewhat homely appearance, broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, isn’t for everyone. Closer biologically to turnips than to broccoli, it’s considered one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, packed with potassium, iron, calcium and vitamins A, C and K along with lutein, which benefits eyesight.
A traditional Italian ingredient, rapini is typically blanched, then briefly sauteed, roasted or pureed. It’s often paired with pasta or sausage. Boston’s Taranta Restaurant serves it in Gamberi e Rapini—gulf shrimp sauteed with garlic, extra-virgin olive oil and rapini over a crostini. The namesake sandwich at DiNic’s Roast Pork, a restaurant at Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, is piled high with slices of pork, provolone and broccoli rabe.
Some of the more senior members of the team smile at the junior staff who are excited to uncover an interesting trend in “eatertainment” or the latest single-ingredient concept. We try not to be condescending when we suggest they do some research by looking at past issues of Restaurant Business or old Technomic top chain reports before calling it the next big thing.