Leave the Lettuce. To Infinity and Beyond Iceberg.
The side salad and salad bar don’t satisfy today’s health conscious diner. Consumers are wanting something beyond iceberg lettuce. They’re asking for salads with superpowers for health and taste. They want really fresh ingredients (preferably locally grown) with lighter dressings and healthier greens. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, 2014 has been a big year for salads because of the new summer salad trends for restaurants. What’s on your salad plate?
According to menu research firm, Datassential, kale is in 248 per cent more salads than it was just one year ago. Kale is the most popular new green on the salad menus—it’s a super green—high in iron, calcium, vitamins K, A and C, and also can brag anti-inflammatory properties.
“Little things can make a big difference,” says David Schneider, CEC, executive chef, Univ. of Mary Washington as reported in Food Management for new salad tricks Simple Tricks to Upgrade Salads. Restaurants should be seeking ways to offer different summer salads. New trends in summer salads include:
- Pairing kale with field greens, fruits and nuts
- Adding marinated, grilled vegetables (which concentrates flavor)
- Incorporating grains—quinoa, brown rice, couscous, kamut, faro, and other ancient grains to add texture and increase protein
- Creating unique house vinaigrettes with smoky flavored, fruit infused, fresh citrus, tahini or tzatziki or sesame oil in the ingredients
- Tossing in unique crunchables (not just croutons) such as fried wontons, seeds, and candied nuts
- Using fresh herbs. Food and Wine Magazine suggests herbs like mint, chervil, lemon balm and basil.
There are other superhero greens to inspire your salad menus—all absolute powerhouses with anti-oxidants and vitamins. Here are six greens to explore for your summer salad offerings:
- Chard is a slightly bitter, salty green. It’s a great antioxidant, has more than 1/3 daily value of Vitamin C and E, and has anti- inflammatory effects
- Beet Greens have a mild flavor, boast protein, ¼ daily supply of vitamin C, has 253% of vitamin K, has many healthy amino acids that regulate mood and sleep cycles, particularly tryptophan
- Endive or escarole, has a hint of a bitter flavor, and is a powerhouse of Vitamin A and Beta Carotene (antioxidants), folic acid and minerals (manganese, copper, iron and potassium)
- Frisee, also called curly endive, is in the chicory family has a slightly bitter, nutty taste. Mighty in folic acid, vitamin A and C, and K and source of manganese.
- Pea shoots have 7 times more Vitamin C than blueberries and are packed with Vitamins A , C and folic acid and taste delicious
- Collard Greens (like kale) are chewier than arugula, but contain anti-cancer properties and super vitamins (222% RDA of Vitamin A, 426% of RDA for Vitamin K and contain iron, calcium, copper, manganese, selenium and zinc).
Restaurants should buy from local sources whenever possible. Most commute times for vegetables, greens or fruits are at least 1500 miles. Local foods are fresh. They taste better, retain more nutritional properties, and support local economies. Localharvest.org has information on how to support local harvests. Community supported agriculture is not just for consumers wanting to fill their refrigerator with the freshest options. It’s also for restaurants wanting the freshest ingredients for their menus. Consumers like to see that restaurants are purchasing fresh local ingredients.
Summer salad trends for restaurants won’t likely be wilting any time soon. Consumers’ preferences have switched to fresh super salads with alternate greens, fruits, vegetables and grains. Have you launched new salads for your menu?
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