Food is like fashion. Each year new foods catch on like wildfire and spread through the industry, while other foods fall out of favour. Often these trends are driven by new research into health and nutrition as we continually strive to become more aware and take better care of ourselves.
On this year’s list there are some foods that have been growing in popularity but continue to be ‘hot’, like tahini, for example. A staple in Middle Eastern cooking, most people are aware that tahini is an important ingredient in hummus. In the last few years we have seen this wondrous ingredient make an appearance in everything from beverages to desserts. We love to use tahini in dressings, or bake it into cakes, and this year we encouraged Pascale from Pascale’s All Natural Ice Cream to make a tahini ice cream, and it was delicious! Ask for it when you see her at the Lansdowne Farmer’s Market. Our current supplier of tahini is a Syrian family run business in Toronto, where they are making regular tahini, smoked tahini, and a beet tahini.
Another hot food trend sweeping across the Europe and North America is Food Hubs. The concept is like a food court, but specifically to hold small, locally owned, healthy and often veg-forward pop up shops. I have visited them in a number of cities, operating indoors at the bottom of office buildings like Toronto’s Assembly Chef’s Hall, or under the train line arches in London at the Maltby Street Market, or in our own lovely city at Queen Street Fare. These venues provide small business with an opportunity to test out their concept, or allow small existing restaurants to open a second location. The food being offered tends to be healthier, and has a much larger local ingredient component. It sure beats fast food chains!
Vegetarianism, veganism, and eating to lessen our environmental impact are all huge trends that should not be ignored. More than 12 percent of millennial’s identify as vegetarian, but other generations are also trying to eat less meat, eat only ethically sourced meat, or are moving towards a more plant based diet. Vegetarian, vegan, and Veg-Forward restaurants are popping up everywhere and have become popular even with omnivores.
Fats are no longer bad for you and this is a good thing. We now know that over-consumption of simple carbohydrates and refined sugars and grains are the real culprits and fats are not only good for you but necessary for proper brain function, among many other things. This includes foods like avocados, cheese, dark chocolate, whole eggs, fatty fish, nuts & seeds, and good oils like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and full fat yogurt, which also carries the benefit of being a fermented food.
Rounding out my list for 2019 is Cannabis infused foods like cookies, ice-cream, and beverages. It’s still early but after April it will be possible to make and buy foods infused with cannabis, but it’s still too early to say how this might impact the local food scene this year. We will all have to stay tuned on this one.
In February we celebrate Valentine’s Day and there are so many different ways to enjoy this annual tribute to love whether it be with your partner, your friends or your family. Many restaurants in our community are offering special menus for dining in or taking out. If you enjoy cooking, and have the time then I am including a few recipes here for you to test out on this occasion. The Red Apron will be offering our 4 course Valentines Special for pre-order and pick up on the 14, featuring Latin Inspired flavours and spices. Visit our website for details.
Duck Leg Braised with Fig & Lemon
4 Fresh Duck Legs
150g Dried Figs – chopped
2 Fresh Lemons – sliced
1 Medium Onion – chopped
1 cup Dry white wine
Fresh Thyme – 1-2 sprigs
Salt/Pepper to taste
Season the duck legs on both sides with salt and pepper. Sear the duck legs skin side down on medium high heat in a frying pan until the skin turns dark brown and some of the fat has melted away.
Transfer to a casserole dish and add remaining ingredients. Cover and cook in a 300 degree pre-heated oven for 2 hours. Remove from oven, ladle sauce and juice over duck legs and check for doneness. The meat should easily pull away from the bone – almost fall off. If they are not quite ready, cover and return to the oven for another ½ to 1 hour.
Remove duck legs from liquid. Discard the thyme springs and lemon slices. Reserve the liquid and let sit until the fat rises to the top (at least ½ hour or overnight). Skim off the fat and reduce remaining liquid until you have less than 1 cup – just enough to spoon over the duck legs before serving.
This recipe can be made the day ahead and then re-heated to serve. Serves 4.
Garlic Mashed Potato & Parsnip
Medium to Large Yukon Gold Potatoes – peeled & cut into large cubes
Small bag of Parsnips – peeled and cubed
3 Cloves of Garlic – peeled & chopped
1/2 cup Whole Cream
4 tbsp Butter
Bring potatoes to boil in a large pot of salted water. Reduce to simmer and cook until tender when pierced with a fork. In a separate pot, bring parsnips to boil in a medium pot of salted water and reduce to simmer, cook until tender. Drain thoroughly.
In a small saucepan, melt butter & cream, and add chopped garlic. Simmer on low for 5-10 minutes to infuse the cream with garlic.
Pass potatoes & parsnips through a ricer mash with a potato masher. Slowly add garlic cream & butter mixture and mix until incorporated. Transfer to a covered casserole dish and re-heated in 400 degree pre-heated oven when you are ready to serve. Serves 4.
Fair Trade Chocolate Torte with Berries
8 oz. Fair Trade bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 oz. (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
6 large eggs, separated
1 C. sugar
1/4 C. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
1 pint of raspberries or strawberries, washed
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 9” pan with parchment paper that has been cut to fit.
In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate and butter and heat, stirring constantly, just until melted. Immediately remove from the heat; set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour, mixing until thoroughly incorporated. Gradually add the cooled chocolate mixture, mixing until thoroughly incorporated. Set aside.
In a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the egg whites and the salt just until foamy. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat just until soft peaks form, being careful not to overbeat. Gradually fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and mix just until incorporated. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the torte in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan and carefully invert the cake onto a platter or a 9-inch cardboard circle; the cake should be upside down. Using the bottom of the cake pan, gently press the “top” of the cake to flatten it evenly.
If desired, dust the top of the torte with confectioners’ sugar and serve with macerated red berries.