10 Food Trends Worth Watching in 2014

For its annual food trends predictions, the Sterling-Rice Group commissioned an independent culinary council of more than 125 chefs, restaurateurs, supermarket analysts, food media experts, and consumers and asked what we can expect in 2014.

By Perri O. Blumberg
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine February 2014
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    Travis Rathbone for Reader's Digest

    Lemons

    These citrus fruits will be everywhere: You’ll find ’em preserved, in yogurts, and starring in pastries. “They evoke memories of lemonade stands and Grandma’s lemon bars,” says Kazia Jankowski, associate culinary director of the Sterling-Rice Group, a leading global food consulting firm. Try it: “Use lemon juice to give heavier sides, like braised kale or couscous, a lighter feeling,” says Jeremy Leech, executive chef at the restaurant chain Fresh & Co. Or experiment by adding lemon zest to pancake batter for a fun breakfast twist.

    Travis Rathbone for Reader's Digest

    Egg Yolks

    Don’t toss your yolks after making meringue or an egg white omelet! Yolks bring richness to dishes that previously relied on cheese or cream. Says Lucas Billheimer, executive chef of New York City’s Writing Room, “There’s a resurgence in using egg yolks, instead of thickening with refined chemicals like xanthan gum.” Try it: Instead of cheese sauce, make a sauce (like hollandaise or béarnaise) that uses egg yolks as the thickener. Drizzle over vegetables like asparagus and broccoli for a dose of creamy lusciousness.

    Travis Rathbone for Reader's Digest

    Pastas

    New varieties are flooding the market, due to the demand for gluten-free products and people’s desire to cut back on white carbs. Large retailers now offer quinoa elbows, Kamut spirals, and seasoned options like basil fettuccine; specialty shops have fun variations like chocolate spaghetti. Try it: “Flavored pasta makes cooking an impressive meal easy: Sauté garlic with olive oil, mix it with the pasta, and finish the dish with a drizzle of melted butter,” suggests Tessa Stamper, executive chef of Noodles & Company.

    Courtesy of So Delicious Dairy Free

    Nutty dairy

    It’s not for just the lactose intolerant or vegan anymore: Last year, an estimated one in four Americans purchased dairy-free milk alternatives like soy, almond, and coconut milk, says Mike Murray, vice president of marketing and R&D for So Delicious Dairy Free. This year, expect more nondairy yogurt, ice cream, and cheese substitutes to hit the market. Try it: Cook oatmeal in almond milk, or make an Alfredo sauce with cashew cream.

    iStock/Thinkstock

    The Return of Poaching and Steaming

    Restaurants will upgrade these classic French techniques by using wine, beer, coffee, and even smoky liquids rather than water to poach or steam proteins. Try it: “For a cozy comfort food, try bratwurst poached in beer,” suggests Tom Ryan, founder of the Smashburger chain and holder of a PhD in flavor chemistry. “Or poach a chicken breast in water seasoned with champagne vinegar and tarragon to add a dimension of savory flavor.” Tip: Try Chinese bamboo steamers, which make steaming anything less of a chore.

    iStock/Thinkstock

    Middle Eastern Flavors

    Chefs have long praised Mediterranean cuisine for its healthy, aromatic dishes. In 2014, tastemakers will embrace the cuisines of Turkey, Israel, and others in the region. Expect to see TV chefs and restaurants alike incorporate fragrant seasonings like sumac, za’atar, Aleppo and Marash peppers, and harissa into recipes. (How does steak with sumac rub or Marash slow-roasted lamb shoulder sound?) Try it: “Seasoning vegetables and fish with Middle Eastern herbs is a low-effort way to boost your food’s intensity without adding calories,” explains Jankowski. You can also pair new tastes with familiar foods. “Give a dip like hummus a lift with a sprinkling of za’atar, a blend of Eastern Mediterranean spices,” shares Kyle Frederick, director of food and beverage at the restaurant chain Zoës Kitchen.

    Alexandre Champagne, 3 fois par jour

    Tea Beyond The Cup

    Looking into 2014, black, green, and other leafy brews will lend their earthy notes to a variety of dishes without relying on butter and oils. "Tea is extremely flavorful and can be added to almost anything to help elevate taste without adding a lot of calories or added sweeteners," says Jill Lawrence, director of cafe marketing for Argo Tea. Try it: "The cupcakes [pictured here] use our Choconut Oolong winter tea," says Bradley Grill, spokesperson for DAVIDsTEA. "Tea is also great in marinades, rubs, or infused into cake batters, and alcohol," he adds (Try infusing drinks like White Russians with chocolate tea). Matcha, a popular ground Japanese green tea for cooking, can be used in everything from salad dressing to panna cotta, says The Republic of Tea's Minister of Commerce, Kristina Richens. For simple rice or noodles,"Try steeping tea, like jasmine, in your water first, then adding the grains," says Ahmed Rahim, CEO and chief alchemist for Numi Organic Tea.

    iStock/Thinkstock

    Refined Classics

    Milkshakes and hot dogs? Pfft. Refined American classics like wedge salads with creamy bleu cheese dressing and steak tartare will resurface as the Americana eats of choice. Perhaps Ina Pinkney, Chef and Owner or Chicago INA'S sums it up best by saying, "Is there anything more appealing than a perfectly roasted chicken? Try it: "For an impressive roasted chicken, here's my secret: Kitchen Bouquet Browning and Seasoning Sauce [available at grocery stores nation wide for around $4]! You'll get dark and crispy skin and incredibly tender and juicy meat every time," offers Ina.

    iStock/Thinkstock

    Seaweed

    Sushi may have introduced the culinary scene to the wonder of paper-thin sheets of earthy seaweed, but next year will teach foodies to think beyond the California roll. Seaweed will be asalty snack, an umami-rich seasoning, and a light, crispy finisher that’s sustainable, nutritious, and full of deep, salty flavor. Try it: In the grocery aisles, look for Annie Chun's Seaweed Snacks which come in a variety of flavors ranging from brown sugar and sea salt  to cracked pepper and herbs. “[Try seaweed] as a secret ingredient in sandwiches. The wide variety, textures, health benefits, and the seasoning of seaweed make it my fave [trend] of the year!” — exclaims Hosea Rosenberg, winner Top Chef season 5; owner, Blackbelly Catering and Farm. Blogger Nami of Just One Cookbook recommends using it in salads and soups, "It adds unique texture and umami flavor to the dish, as well as great health benefits!"

    Courtesy of Bareburger

    Alternative Proteins

    “As consumers turn their backs on industrial farming, they’ll seek more sustainable alternatives, such as free-range poultry, grass-fed pastured buffalo, and even rabbit and pigeon,” says Jankowski. She also expects vegan protein options, such as those made from soy and pea protein, to become rapidly mainstream. Try it: “Even less adventurous eaters, in an effort to be more efficient meat consumers, can broaden their horizons, such as by switching from chicken breasts to thighs. For these diners, thighs offer new, dark, meaty flavors and are akin to experimenting to more exotic meats, like goat,” adds Jankowski. Chains like BareBurger already offer diners options like wild boar, elk, bison and ostrich burgers (their beef, elk and bison burger trio is pictured here), and expect more restaurants to follow suit.

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