We talk a lot these days about what's trending in pop culture. Of course, health will always be trending. And, as we move into 2016, we are going to continue to focus on improving our diets, and to seek out nutritional wellness in almost everything we eat.
Okay, so we're not always totally successful, and I'm a firm believer in the "everything in moderation" approach, but I think, for the most part, we want to make the right choices and be sure that the ingredients in our foods are clean and simple.
"When I look at the word health, I see another word: HEAL. And when you eat properly, you're healing your body." -- Chef Brian Sullivan, CPK
Vegetables are a huge key to that goal. More and more I'm seeing that vegetables are becoming the center of the plate. I call veggies the hero dish. And one of the heroes that we can look forward to as a standout rock star this coming year is Bok choy.
This 5,000-year-old Chinese vegetable -- it's sort of like cabbage -- is the cool new food trend, and you'll be seeing it on a lot of menus. Because it's super healthy (and delicious). Bok choy is really low in calories, high in fiber and contains a terrific amount of vitamins A and C. It's also ranked number two (just behind watercress) for its nutrient density.
I use the whole Bok choy in my recipes, from the tender white, juicier portion on the bottom, to the beautiful leafy green portion on top. I chop it, slice it and toss into different salads. I also do a quick stir-fry with Bok choy and serve it with a seared Ahi tuna and roasted Italian farro in a sesame ginger chili sauce with shitake mushrooms. There are really a ton of things you can do with Bok choy!
There's another trending food hero that I see picking up a lot of steam on restaurant menus and in the home, and that is, pickling. People have been doing this forever to preserve food. This method also brings out amazing flavors that you might not have anticipated, so adding pickled ingredients to your dishes is a great way to add a jolt of flavor, without adding fats or many calories.
All kinds of things can be pickled, so let your imagination run wild: pickled rhubarb, baby broccoli spears, baby turnips and heirloom carrots all work fantastically, just to name a few. You can also pickle many different kinds of foods beyond vegetables, including fish, meat, eggs, fruits, etc. And it's really pretty simple to do. The basic ingredients are vinegars, salt and a few spices that are easy to find. Plus, pickling is a great way to use extra stuff from your garden for eating months later down the road. Check out my recipe below to try some simple pickling techniques on your favorite foods at home.
Of course, ethnic cuisines and spices continue to be a big trend. Anything that's authentic and ethnic, such as foods and flavors from Africa and Asia, are really popular. You're going to see exotic things like Piri-Piri chilies from Africa, Gochujang chili paste from Korea, and Togarashi from Japan. Ingredients of that nature play into the health and wellness area of our lives and our foods, because not only do they lend a lot of flavor to what we eat, but also, spices are good for us.
On the subject of beverages, sangrias are certainly trending big time, and I'm seeing a lot of creativity with the way they're made, utilizing top notch California wines and in some cases premium spirits. I make sangrias fresh and flavorful with fresh juices and herbs and whatever fruits are at their seasonal peak. The sky is the limit on flavors; check out your farmer's market for what's freshest this time of year, such as bright citrus like blood orange, in peak season through winter.
Eat well, be well in 2016!
QUICK PICKLED CAULIFOWER AND ROMANESCO
YEILD: Makes about 2 ½ cups
ACTIVE COOK TIME: 15 minutes
TOTAL COOK TIME: 2 hours 15 minutes
1 ½ cups Cauliflower, 1" Florets
1 ½ cups Romanesco, 1" Florets
¼ cup Red Onion, 1" Julienne
2 each Garlic Cloves, Thinly Sliced
Place vegetables in a heatproof re-sealable container or jar.
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
½ cup Cold Water
¼ cup Sugar
2 Tbl Kosher Salt
1 Tbl Black Peppercorns
1 Tbl Mustard Seeds
½ tsp Dried Oregano
½ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1. Combine all ingredients of the pickling mixture into a small pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally.
2. Immediately pour mixture into container or jar containing vegetables. Cover and cool to room temperature.
3. Once at room temperature, refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.