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New Year, New Food Trends

By Chef Judi Gallagher –

Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s to a 2012 that’s filled with family, friends and food.

While I certainly have a reserve of favorite recipes and restaurant dishes that I make and order time and time again, I also find that there’s nothing more exciting than plotting out new culinary trends. So here are the items that I and other food experts are predicting will be big in 2012. Share your own thoughts in our Flavors And More comments department.

Top 5 Food Trends for 2012

1.  Round finger foods. Think arancini (fried risotto balls) and meatballs of all kinds, in particular. Meatballs, specifically, are gaining traction in the culinary world. There are already several restaurants and food trucks throughout the U.S. devoted to serving completely meatball-centric dishes. As The Daily Meal notes, meatballs haven’t quite reached bacon status yet, but they’re on the rise.

2.  Moroccan cuisine. Warm, full of spices, and – best of all – healthy, Moroccan food is having a moment, thanks to a surge in Moroccan dishes on restaurant menus and several Moroccan cookbooks by big-name chefs, and I couldn’t be happier.

3.  Wild greens grown on rooftop gardens. Fiddleheads, a kind of fern, had a big 2011, and so did other greens and herbs like collards, garlic scapes and purslane. In particular, a bevy of restaurateurs began growing these greens in rooftop gardens atop their restaurants, giving new meaning to the term farm-to-table. I’m excited to see more of this in 2012.

4.  Food halls. Thanks in large part to Mario Batali’s epic Eataly in New York City (with five more expected to open in the next 10 years), food halls are becoming de rigeur in other cities. I like to think of them as the food equivalent of IKEA, a one-stop place to shop.

5. Nordic cuisine. Noma, Rene Redzepi’s Nordic restaurant, just won the title of “world’s best restaurant,” signifying the rise of Nordic cuisine in the food world. Look for cured fish, foraged beach plants, reindeer and lingonberries to start making an appearance on other restaurant menus as well.

In keeping with the meatball revolution here are two recipes I especially like.

Asian Style Meatballs

1/4 cup whole milk

1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs

3/4 pound ground pork

3/4 pound ground veal

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup canned sliced water chestnuts, rinsed, drained, and finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus 1/4 cup sprigs

5 tablespoons soy sauce

4 teaspoons Asian sesame oil

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons sugar

Accompaniment: steamed white rice

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 500 degees. Pour milk over bread crumbs in a large bowl and stir until liquid is absorbed. Add ground meat, egg, water chestnuts, salt, chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons oil and mix with your hands until combined well. Shape 3 tablespoons meat mixture into a ball and transfer to a 13- by 9-inch glass baking dish. Make more meatballs with remaining mixture, arranging meatballs about 1/2 inch apart in baking dish. Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together lime juice, water, sugar, remaining 4 tablespoons soy sauce, and remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a bowl until sugar is dissolved. Transfer meatballs to a serving dish. Stir sauce, then drizzle meatballs with 1 tablespoon sauce and sprinkle with cilantro sprigs. Serve meatballs with remaining sauce.

Mama Mandola’s Meatballs

(Damien Mandola and Johnny Carrabba know their meatballs and how fortunate am I to have the recipe. This amount of meat balls is for one quart of tomato sauce if making spaghetti and meatballs.)

Olive oil for the baking sheets

1 cup course chopped onion

2 scallions, white and green parts, coarsely chopped

¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

½ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

1 garlic clove

1 large egg, beaten

½ cup homemade plain breadcrumbs

½ cup freshly grated Romano cheese

4 teaspoons Kosher salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1 11/2 pounds ground round beef

1 ¾ pounds ground pork

Position rack in top third and center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees Lightly oil 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Pulse the onion, scallion, parsley, basil and garlic together in a food processor fitted with the metal blade about 8 times, or until very finely minced. Add the egg and pulse a few times to combine. Transfer to a large bowl. Add ¾ cup of water, breadcrumbs Romano cheese, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add the ground meats and mix well. Using hands rinsed under cold water, shape the mixture into 36 meatballs. Arrange the meatballs on the baking sheets. Bake until the meatballs are browned, and show no sign of pink when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 25 minutes.

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