Blendability is a concept that can be explained in the form of a mushroom patty: when chopped mushrooms are blended with ground beef, the result is a more healthful—and still delicious—burger.
From a nutritional standpoint, “to reduce calorie consumption, the goal is swapping low calorie foods as a replacement for those higher in calories, not eating more,” writes dietitian Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, on her blog Smart Bytes. “Take a mixed dish that is typically focused around meat or something starchy, within the same portion, give those a smaller role and non-starchy vegetables a larger role…you’ll eat fewer calories even while consuming your usual size portion.”
Blending meat with mushrooms enhances the nutrition density of a dish, lowers cholesterol, decreases calories and adds Vitamin D, potassium and antioxidants.
That’s the concept at the core of a Compass Group initiative, Mushroom Blended Favorites, a set of menu items and marketing that’s a starting point for Compass chefs in healthcare, B&I and higher ed segments.
Work on the initiative began three years ago with a research alliance that partnered the Culinary Institute of America-Greystone, the Mushroom Council and the University of California-Davis. They engaged in culinary brainstorming to determine the best mushroom-to-meat ratios and flavor profiles customers would go for in popular ground-beef-based items like meatloaf, tacos and hash.
Blending allows for increased vegetable consumption that at the same time reduces the amount of meat without taking away the volume of a slice of meatloaf, say, or reducing the number of meatballs on spaghetti. In many all-you-care-to-eat operations, value does still equate with volume, says Deanne Brandstetter, MBA, RD, CDN, vice president, Nutrition and Wellness, Compass Group North America.
“The idea is not to take meat away, but to naturally enhance the nutrition profile while not giving up taste,” Brandstetter says. “From a consumer standpoint, adding mushrooms to a burger could be perceived as adding juiciness and umami.”
The alliance focused on research delving into the food and branding preferences of Millennials, the group that’s not only on college campus accounts, but also entering workforce cafeterias, high food expectations in tow.
“They’re a growing consumer group who are looking for a nutritional win-win,” Brandstetter says. “They want food that enhances energy, that’s not artificial and it has to taste great.”
Consumer research shows Millennials seem to favor transparency over stealth health, so the initiative doesn’t hide its blended identity.
Menu items in the Mushroom Blended Favorites selection include: Blended Beef and Mushroom Burger; Blended Turkey and Mushroom Meatloaf; Blended Green Pork and Mushroom Chili and Blended Lamb and Mushroom Kofta (see recipe below)
Lamb and Mushroom Kofta
YIELD: 24 servings (portion size: two 2 oz. skewers)
2 2/3 Tbsp. Moroccan spice blend (cumin, paprika, coriander, cinnamon, brown sugar, allspice, cayenne pepper, ground black pepper)
¼ cup olive oil
3 lbs. mushrooms, fresh, sliced
1 lb. onions, fresh, finely chopped
2 2/3 Tbsps. minced fresh garlic cloves
2 ½ lbs. ground lamb
1 ¼ cup mint bunch, fresh, chopped
1 ¼ cup parsley, fresh, chopped
1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp. kosher salt
6 eggs, fresh, beaten
1. Heat olive oil in a hot skillet and sauté mushrooms, onions and garlic. Do not overcrowd the pan. When finished cooking, the mushrooms should be tender, slightly browned and liquid evaporated. Remove and chill. When chilled, place in a food processor and blend until finely minced.
2. Add mushroom mixture to ground lamb; add Moroccan spice blend, fresh mint, parsley, egg whites, breadcrumbs and salt. Mix well to combine.
3. Rest in refrigerator for 30 minutes so that crumbs can absorb some of the liquid and filling stiffens.
4. Place 2 oz. onto each skewer. Cook on flat top or char broil until browned and cooked to 165°F.
Photo and recipe: Compass Group North America