Strolling the aisles of my favorite supermarket looking back at the gustatory highlights of the year, I then gaze at my culinary crystal ball perched in the child’s seat of my shopping cart to predict what’s ahead for 2020.
This has been a year of imposter foods — cauliflower impersonated everything from mashed potatoes and rice to pizza crust, breads and gravies. Plant-based proteins and molecules (like pea and heme iron) made mock meats taste, smell, chew and even “bleed” like the real McCoy. Shredded Jackfruit doubled for crab cakes, while spiral sliced zucchini and other squashes disguised themselves as noodles, aka “zoodles.”
Kale emerged “King of the Greens,” while romaine got kicked to the sidelines with another “tainted” season.
Here are my thoughts on what to expect in 2020:
Refined sugar — as addicting as heroin, and the most energy-depleting food on the planet — is being phased out by more natural, healthier options for sugar, like granulated or syrupy reductions from fruit, plant, grain and nut sources. Coconut, date, maple, brown rice and monk fruit (a melon-like gourd called Luo Han Guo) sugars add a mild, caramelized flavor and color to baked goods of all manners, smoothies, hot cereals, as well as sweet and savory sauces. While sucanat and rapadura (from whole food cane juice) metabolize at a slower rate than their refined cousin, avoiding that sharp sugar rush makes these great substitutes in hot and icy beverages, and other delights.
Gluten-free flours and pastas continue to give wheat the shaft. A variety of nut flours add an oomph of fiber, and heart-healthy dose of plant-based fatty acids. Almond flour has a lovely sweet flavor, nice soft chew, and can be substituted one for one with white all-purpose flour. As an added boon almonds have a rich store of Vitamins B, E and zinc, bone boosting calcium, and the same anti-inflammatory resveratrol found in red wine. Hazelnut flour has an aromatic flavor and indulgent richness; macadamia nut flour lends an exotic taste and texture to cream pies like coconut and chocolate; pecan meal has a buttery richness; gorgeous green pistachio flour with a load of prebiotics dials up digestion, while walnut flour gives an earthy twist to apple pies.
Those sensitive to nuts can try mild-mannered hemp flour, sweet tropical coconut or banana flour, or sustainable (and caffeine-free) coffee flour from the delicate coffee fruit with floral and citrus notes that surprisingly resembles the flavor of tea. Or try hearty grain flours for a nuttiness without the fat like quinoa, brown rice, teff, oat, or mineral-dense buckwheat.
Pastas have come a long way from durums and whole-wheats. There’s Technicolors of red and green lentils, dark purple mung beans, yellow chickpeas, and golden brown quinoa, amaranth, Jerusalem artichoke and rice varieties.
Protein-dense novelty nut and seed spreads keep shoving notorious peanut butters to the bottom shelf. Some interesting options include, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, and stone ground watermelon seed butters; walnut, almond, macadamia, hazelnut, and pecan, along with nut and seed power blends tossing selenium-rich Brazil nuts, and anti-inflammatory chia seeds into the mix. Sweet tooths can indulge in dark or milk chocolate nut spreads, as well as cookie dough, and cinnamon granola flavored delights.
While mock meats seem to be here to stay, diehard carnivores need more bite to their burger. Real meat and plant-based blends provide a more robust mouthful. Mushrooms of all types give a meaty texture, flavor, and color complementing beef and lamb, while roasted roots like beets and squashes add an earthy chew.
As far as pescatarians go, there are plenty more fish in the sea than the endangered or threatened species of Bluefin tuna, orange roughy, Atlantic cod, halibut and salmon. Intrepid chefs and fishmongers are embracing “trash fish” — a complete misnomer. These sea treasures deprived of a high-priced PR firm are still tasty, healthful, and high in heart-healthy omega-3s, like gooseneck barnacles with a taste and texture reminiscent of lobster, Spanish mackerel, wolf eel, catfish and southern stingray that resembles sea scallops in flavor. Small fish will also be big this year. So go anchovies, sardines, mackerel and smelt!
Recipe: Linguini with Anchovies and Tomatoes
• Ingredients: 8-ounces linguini (pasta type of your choice); 3 anchovies, chopped; 2 garlic cloves, minced; 1/2 cup teardrop tomatoes, halved; 4 tablespoons virgin olive oil; juice from one lemon; 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino cheese, shredded.
• Method: Cook pasta in salted water to desired consistency. Drain. In a large skillet, heat oil on medium, and add garlic and anchovies. Cook until golden. Add lemon juice and tomatoes, and cook another 3 minutes. Toss pasta in oil. Add seasonings to taste. Top with cheese. (Serves 2)
— Catharine Kaufman can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and see more recipes at freerangeclub.com