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Spring means more salads on the menu

0069_Gray_Flav Spring 2014

Shredded, chopped or diced, a signature salad that gets people gushing can make your competition green with envy.

By Jack Kohane

When he’s tossing ideas around for sensational salad recipes, Chef Juriaan Snellen says he always looks for what is new and exciting. “Consumers are demanding more selections, more flavours from the salad menu in foodservice,” says the corporate chef for Renée’s Salad Dressings, a division of Heinz Canada. “They want more vegetables, fruits and meats added to the mix. Diners looking for a healthier option to start their meal turn to a variety of salads offered at Canadian restaurants.”

Today, super-sizing the plate is out; so-called super-foods are in. “It’s about quality, not quantity,” asserts Chef Juriaan, noting that playing on the theme of traditional salads is de rigueur. “I see kale, spinach, chard, arugula, açai berries, and brussels sprouts as part of a big trend in salad preparations, as well as the addition of ingredients like pickled radishes and beets, faro, quinoa, black rice and red rice.”

Ethnic-inspired salad recipes are more popular than ever. “People are travelling more often and discovering taste sensations they want to have at home too,” says the chef from his Toronto test kitchen. He points out that Oriental salads, particularly Thai and Korean, are becoming mainstays for many menus. Salads that include noodles, shredded bok choy, cooked rice, bean sprouts, all topped with a fried egg, have a huge appeal for diners who expect something different when dining out, he points out.

The latest salad trends, according to market researcher Technomic Inc. (from its Canadian MenuMonitor report) shows a focus on signature salad preps. Simple house/garden salads are the most prevalent type offered, but signature/specialty salads that feature house-made components (including dressings) can help selections stand out and create a stronger freshness perception. It is estimated that salad is the second most popular type of appetizer offered on current Canadian menus.

Salad days are here to stay

At Feel Good Guru, salads are both holistic and almost wholly why customers keep coming back. “Our menu focuses on all vegan, all organic and mostly raw items with a strong emphasis on local and hyper-local,” says Moira Nordholt, its founder and operator. She grows her own micro greens on site. “These micros are added to every dish on the menu,” she says. From May through October, she buys many of her salad ingredients from a local farmer at the food market right across the street from her shop, located in the trendy Queen West village in downtown Toronto.

“Our menu contains a salad & noodle section in which there are six items that we encourage people to combo up any way they like,” Nordholt explains. In the Guru’s ‘spaghetti and nut balls’ dish, the noodles are spiralized raw butternut squash and zucchini noodles, served with a sundried tomato marinara sauce and ‘meatballs’ made from spiced walnuts and sunflower seeds. “This goes well with our ‘make kale not war,’ which is our version of a hearty kale salad, with our local kale and about a dozen ingredients that make it a protein-filled meal with a hempseed dressing,” she says. 

Foodservice salad solutions can be as wide as the imagination, affirms Chef Juriaan. To help operators spice up their salad menus, he travels the globe, attends food shows and international chef seminars and workshops to shape ever more original taste profiles for Renée’s expanding line of dressings. “It’s the taste, texture and appearance of prepared and ready-to-use salads crowned with just the right dressing that impresses those looking for authentic and healthy salad solutions, even at the restaurant,” he says.

Tips for Greens Greatness

  1. Add a little bitter. Consider giving your salad some spice by adding bitter greens like mustard greens, endive, radicchio, arugula and dandelion.
  2. Good sprouting. Think about increasing protein content and antioxidant value by adding sprouted grains, beans, lentils or chickpeas.
  3. Dress it up. Add some new flavours and textures with crunchy nuts and seeds or dried goji berries, cranberries or dates.
  4. Watch your timing. The greens and dressing should meet only seconds before the salad is served as the oil can make the lettuce limp and dark.
  5. Create your signature. Kale is a healthy option, and it grows year-round. Massaging with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon and adding a sprinkle of mineral-rich Celtic sea salt will set this salad apart.