SPONSORED BY BUSH'S BEST
Spring is the season of plants blooming, so it’s the perfect time for foodservice operators to introduce new menu items that focus on plant-forward ingredients. After a difficult year of pandemic-related issues, not to mention a relentlessly cold winter, consumers are ready for refreshing, colorful and delicious foods. Few meals fill these characteristics better than salads, which showcase healthful ingredients such as produce, legumes and seeds. Salads also provide the perfect dish to highlight another trend— flavorful globally inspired foods.
According to the Datassential 2021 Trends Report, healthful eating ranks as the top food and beverage trend (58%) that consumers are looking forward to in the year ahead. Also ranked among the top trends are spicy foods and flavorings (42%) and global foods and flavors (31%). Also, according to Datassential, consumers say global cuisines are more healthful than American cuisine (71%).
One way to add a nutritional boost to any meal is by including beans. “They are a low-fat option that allows for healthy consumption of proteins and fiber and completes a meal without added calories and fat,” says Ken Oakley, senior brand manager of foodservice for Bush’s Best. “They also add the benefit of antioxidants, promote heart and stomach health and stabilize blood glucose.”
Here are some ways to dress up salads for today’s foodservice consumers who are seeking global flavors in their favorite healthful dish.
Start at the top
Beans are a great salad topping because they add texture, color, flavor and protein. Chickpeas are especially on-trend right now, having earned a spot on 2021 Top Food Predictions lists from Whole Foods, Food Network and food AI (artificial intelligence) company, Spoonshot. “Seasoning and roasting chickpeas gives them a fantastic crunch and flavor that works perfectly in salads,” Oakley says. “Simply toss them with olive oil and generously season with your choice of global flavors such as za’atar, chile-cumin, curry-garam masala or soy-ginger.”
For Middle Eastern flair, use roasted chickpeas as a falafel topping. For Tex-Mex or the more plant-forward Cali-Mex, bean salsas provide a good addition. “Whether it's a simple corn and black bean salsa or a flavorful salsa made with Bush's Best Easy Entrées®, salsas can add a layer of flavor and freshness to salads,” Oakley says.
Look to other regions
Different spices offer various global flavors. Incorporate spices such as turmeric for a southeast Asian focus, Baharat for Middle Eastern flavor, or the spice blend ras el hanout for a more Moroccan direction. One condiment that is gaining popularity is chile crisp, oil infused with peppers and used in Chinese foods. Other emerging global spice blends include Xawaash, a Somali spice blend of cumin, coriander, cardamon and cloves. For Asian slaw, try miso, garlic, soy, ginger and other Asian-themed ingredients. Then top the salads with legumes.
“Beans have great versatility to work in hot or cold dishes,” Oakley says. “They can take on a range of flavors and change up the texture of a dish easily.”
White beans are often found in Italian dishes such as panzanella, a Tuscan bread and tomato salad. At The Nest, a new Aramark-operated eatery at the University of South Florida’s Saint Petersburg campus, one of the dishes offered at the vegetable-themed station Vegetabull is a combination of fresh spinach, white beans and sun-dried tomato served over orzo and topped with fresh basil.
Redefine what salad means
Salad does not necessarily have to consist of lettuce and tomato. Other leafy greens, including the still-popular kale, can substitute for lettuce, and pasta or grains can stand in as the base. For a heartier dish, try roasted vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, squash, broccoli or cauliflower, and toss those with lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas or other beans.
Bowls are on-trend now, and they can easily be reconfigured into salads. Vending machine company, Farmer’s Fridge, operates salad machines on college campuses and other locations, and includes a burrito bowl in its offerings. The bowl features black beans, a brown rice-quinoa blend, fire-roasted corn, roasted fajita vegetables and guacamole.
Salad can even be served at breakfast. Buffalo General Medical Center in Buffalo, New York, serves Quinoa Breakfast Salad made with spinach, quinoa, basil pesto, sriracha roasted chickpeas, avocado, poached egg and tomatoes.
From a familiar bowl of leafy greens updated with global spices to an innovative new take on everyone’s favorite better-for-you menu item, salads can answer consumer demand for plant-forward menu items and fresh, exciting flavors.