For Unilever Food Solutions Corporate Chef Kyla Tuori, summer is a time to get your grill on. It’s also a great time to try out new flavours and add a global vibe to your menu. Here she offers her tips on making the most of Canada’s global trends.
By Kyla Tuori
As Canadians, with such dynamic cultural backgrounds, we are consistently including strong ethnic influences in our menus. An easy way to keep light, seasonally appropriate menu items strong in trending influences is by using unique spice blends, fresh herbs, and specialized cooking techniques.
With the summer season approaching, and with Canadians’ affinity towards grilling, there is a great opportunity to be inspired by the grilled and fire-roasted recipes from South American and African countries.
We already saw strong authentic Mexican and Korean cuisines populate menus in 2014. I believe we will see a continuation of those influences, with additional flavour profiles and cooking techniques, from South American, African, and Southeast Asian countries. Cooking techniques, which are heavily used in these cultures, include pickling, fire roasting, and fermenting foods.
For instance, using asado-style cooking with woods that are native to Canada and creating beef dishes with inspired sauces like chimichurri are a great way to incorporate different cooking techniques and feature a flavourful sauce to enhance the menu item.
There are some easy ways for chefs to tweak their menus to be more on trend with global influences. Chefs can choose to integrate these influences through flavoured condiments, selectively using specialty ingredients, and emphasizing certain preparation techniques.
Using a mayonnaise compound with ketchup, oregano, pimento, and cumin, for example, makes a salsa golf, which is one of the most popular Argentinean condiments — and great for Canadian summer menus.
Also, adding tamari, a gluten-free soy sauce substitution, for marinades and sauces in Southeast Asian cuisine is not only great for grilled meats and vegetables but also for menu items that are suitable for the ever growing demand for gluten-free offerings.
A number of spices and flavours should be top of mind for summer menus. Flavours that will become more prominent are sour and spicy profiles. There is a great opportunity here for chefs to include chilies, and subsequently, pickled items to cut the heat.
In some Southeast countries, like Malaysia and Singapore, it’s traditional to pickle chilies, shallots and even fruit like pineapple, which are excellent pairings for summer foods to create balance in a dish. Another great use of the pickling technique is for proteins with seasonally available seafood (ceviche), or even meat, common to some Latin American countries. The combination of pickling with seafood or meat can create a ‘freshness’ on a summer menu and encourage a preparation technique that lends to an extended shelf life.
For me, summer is a great time for grilling, whether it’s protein or vegetables. Either way, I like a lot of spice and highly flavourful condiments. I tend to focus on adding simple, fresh, ingredients that take advantage of the seasonally available produce.
I really enjoy marinating great pieces of protein with strong flavours, like chilies and fresh herbs, but balancing with sweetness – like the Canadian staple of maple syrup.
The summer is an excuse to give the oven a break and cook as many things as possible on the grill: proteins, veggies, cheeses, and even fruit for dessert. The cooking style adds another dimension to the flavour profiles which are balanced nicely with the acidity and creaminess of the accompanying condiments.
Kyla A. Tuori is a corporate chef – Canada with Unilever Food Solutions.