Move over Meat: Vegetables Take Over the Center of the Plate

It’s apparent that customers want vegetables on the menu for health, ethics, or simply just to indulge in a delicious vegetarian recipe.

Meatless doesn't mean "less"!
Meatless doesn’t mean “less”!

Demand for vegetarian dishes are on the rise.  The National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot 2014 Culinary Forecast” says meatless or vegetarian menu items are a growing trend.  Why are vegetables taking a more central role on the plate?  Conversation in the industry suggests that an increased price of proteins have given chefs the opportunity to introduce new vegetable dishes to the menu while Technomic reports the total menu incidence of vegetables has risen over 11% in the last three years.  It’s apparent that customers want vegetables on the menu for health, ethics, or simply just to indulge in a delicious vegetarian recipe.

Bread & Butter is a simple, satisfying vegetarian side.
Bread & butter is a simple, satisfying vegetarian side.

How do you meet this demand? Try an easy crowd pleaser like Mediterranean inspired Hummus served with pita chips or toasted bagel chips.  This smooth, delicious bean based appetizer has long been a staple in a vegetarian menu for its universal appeal. A second appetizer idea is Bruschetta with Italian Salsa. Fresh basil, minced Kalamata olives, red onion, green pepper, and buffalo mozzarella cheese on top of sliced French baguette bread gives those wanting a heavier appetizer a vegetarian choice.

Soups and sides are another great area to innovate. Beer Cheese Soup is a nice menu item to feature especially if you have your own in-house brewed beer or regional preference. Our recipe includes cheese sauce, diced onions, BBQ sauce, pretzels, and works with an ale of your choice.  Serve this with pretzel bread or sticks and you are sure to have a crowd-pleaser. Want a lighter soup? Pair a grilled cheese sandwich with Tomato Basil soup. This soup is easily made with our Instant Brown Gravy Mix, tomato paste and fresh or dried basil.

Corn salsas are easy vegetarian sides
Corn salsas are easy vegetarian sides

What about sides? Think roasted vegetables topped with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce and you’ll be thinking deliciously!  Broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus all become the “center of the plate” stars topped with this easily prepared creamy gorgonzola sauce.  This sauce is so versatile it can be used with your choice of vegetables, prepared in any way desired: grilled, roasted, pan seared, or broiled.  Let’s not forget about Mexican vegetarian side dishes, always popular on the menu.  Charro Beans and Corn & Black Bean Salsa are both a great venue for vegetables and are made of pantry staples which are easily kept on hand.

Vegetable Stir Fry with Asian Stir Fried Rice
Vegetable Stir Fry with Asian Stir Fried Rice

Round out your vegetarian menu with vegetarian entrees. Asian inspired dishes like Vegetable Stir Fry with Asian Stir Fried Rice are good choices because of the variety of vegetables and sauces that can be combined and served over rice or Asian noodles. Italian pasta dishes also fair well for vegetarians. Try offering a Vegetable Lasagna with White Sauce or cheese tortellini tossed in cream sauce with peas and mushrooms.

Vegetables are moving from a side dish to the center of the plate:  make sure your menu is ready to move, too!  Vegetarian diners, or those simply wanting meatless options, are broadening out this formerly niche market.  Bringing new vegetable dishes to the table will keep your food menu on trend and customers coming back for more. Foothill Farms® offers vegetarian recipes you can easily prepare for your guests:  just search “meatless” in our recipes.

 

It’s Time to Dress It Up For Business: Is Your Salad Ready?

New research shows that opening the door to the thriving soup and salad market can bring in additional sales. Technomic, a leading research group for the foodservice industry, found that 43% of consumers chose a certain restaurant based on their salad options alone. It is important for us in the foodservice industry to recognize these emerging trends so that we stay informed and offer what today’s consumer is demanding.

Fast casual restaurants, the fastest growing segment of the restaurant industry, have profited from offering “Signature Salads”. Salads encompassing exotic lettuces, meat or seafood toppings, nuts and berries, and a wide variety of cheeses suggest higher-quality ingredients; giving off the aura of nutritious and satisfying. Another key part of the emerging demand for salad is for the flavorful dressings that compliment them. Dressings are no longer relegated to “on the side” but instead have become the cornerstone of a salad.

Asian Chicken Salad
Asian Chicken Salad

Ethnic offerings entice tired palates to try an alternative twist to a safe favorite. For example, Foothill Farms® Avocado Ranch Dressing elevates the ever-popular ranch to a more complex, gourmet offering. This dressing compliments the Mexi-Cali Cobb Signature Salad, a blend of fresh baby spinach leaves, black beans, grilled shrimp, and pureed avocado. A second signature salad utilizing Ranch Dressing as a base is the popular Asian Salad. Our Wasabi Ranch Dressing gives romaine lettuce, grilled or smoked chicken, cilantro, wonton strips, purple cabbage, and sesame a spicy kick (another trend for 2014)! If peppery makes you cautious, chefs use our 1000 Island or Honey Mustard Dressing mix to create an Asian Dressing that gives taste buds a sweeter, honey-ginger fix. Another “Signature Salad” that pleases the less adventurous eater while still encouraging the desire to branch out is a steak, ham, or bacon topped salad. These salads draw guests looking for lower carb options but who aren’t ready to sacrifice the “meat” on their plate. Foothill Farms® Blue Cheese Dressing drizzled atop mixed herbs, roasted red peppers, provolone cheese, red onions, seedless cucumbers, and sliced cherry tomatoes, adds just the right amount of hearty and tangy to satisfy the inner lumberjack.

Steakhouse Blue Cheese Dressing
Steak Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing

Last but certainly not least, especially with the growing trend of vegan and organic-demanding consumers, is the vegetarian garden salad. Fresh from the farm rules the day when salads offer a variety of lettuces, herbs, peppers, mushrooms, berries, fruits, onions, and squash. Our Lido Italian Dressing & Seasoning mix allows you to create your own “Signature Dressing” by adding your choice of vinegars – wine, balsamic, or white. If your goal is green (no pun intended), adding “Signature Salads” to your menu is a sure way to tempt your patrons’ taste buds and keep them coming back for more! Using dry salad dressing mixes like Foothill Farms®, allows foodservice professionals to create multiple varieties of gourmet. For more salad recipe ideas, please visit http://www.foothillfarms.com/recipes.

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
Raspberry Vinaigrette served atop fresh strawberries on a bed of spinach leaves