Is hummus the new salsa? Plant-based foods are what’s for dinner in 2018.  That’s my prediction and I’m sticking to it. Venerable restaurant consultant Michael Whiteman predicts that plant-based dining will be the restaurant trend of 2018. What’s taking restaurateurs so long?  Home cooks know to eat their veggies.

Here’s my take on vedge centric food trends in 2018 and beyond.  I cannot wait to get cooking.

Mighty Mushrooms

Delicious and complex plant-based cooking will save our waistlines and the planet that’s why I’m always looking for ways to use vegetables that truly satisfy. Mushrooms are not new but using them in ways that exploit their meaty character may be unfamiliar to some of us.

The James Beard Foundation partnered with the Mushroom Council to sponsor an initiative to help reduce the consumption of meat. Their Blended Burger Project recommends that restaurants combine finely chopped mushrooms into ground meat mixtures for their burgers.  The blend reduces the overall consumption of meat, one of the leading causes of green house gas emissions. It brings umami-rich mushrooms  into the diet.  And it tastes delicious.  You can cook up this mushroom meat blend in place of a regular hamburger or add spices and flavorings.  Or make lamb, pork or poultry blends.

My grandmother taught us to sear canned sliced button mushrooms to bring out their savory flavor. (Long gone B in B brand–Broiled in Butter–was her staple.) Her trick works even better on fresh sliced mushrooms. Sear up any type of thin sliced fresh mushroom in a blend of butter and olive oil.  Then use them on top all manner of things such as polenta, black bean chili or poached eggs.

Seeds of Change

For many, quinoa and chia are go-to replacements for a side of rice or other starch.  But what about seeds for flavor?  Great condiments like zhug (cardamom seeds with cilantro and green chili) and za’atar (toasted sesame seeds, thyme, sumac and salt) are seed based. Toasted pepitas (pumpkin or squash seeds) are great in salads and use up something most of us just toss.

Look for seeds in many forms in dishes in the coming year.  Here are some seeds you can use at home as toppings on salads, seared foods and in cookies and muffins.

Nigella or black sesame seeds are popular in Indian cuisine. Try them sprinkled over baked vegetables like eggplant or chicken thighs.  They are delicious with fresh goats’ cheese.

Mustard seeds add a burst of hot flavor to relish and give bread and butter pickles their pop. You’ll be surprised how much they add to salad dressings and simple sauces.

Brown It

French-Canadians brown the flour used to thicken their rich beef stew. It adds a layer of unexpected smoky flavor.   Stella Parks earned a James Beard Award nomination for her writing about roasting sugar to enhance its flavor. Look for more ingredients that are browned and roasted before using. I’m going to roast sugar for holiday sugar cookies this season.

Food manufacturers are taking our love of brightly colored fresh foods to new lengths. Beet or carrot hummus are being touted as new products for the new year. Figs, grapefruit, sweet potatoes, cracked pepper are flavors I’ll be looking for in new products and recipes.

Time to clean out the spice rack and get cooking.

Happy New Year.

Kitchen Notebook:

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