Spice Up Your Menu!

Big_Thai_Hot_Peppers_SeedsMarket research firm, Technomic, released a Consumer Flavor Trend Report which found that a majority of Americans (54 percent to be exact) prefer hot or spicy foods, sauces, dips, and condiments.

And from our vantage point in helping to create innovative, enticing menus for our clients on a daily basis, we can attest that this trend is only getting hotter! End of summer and early fall are a great time to explore using more spices, herbs, and exotic flavors in your menus.

We turned to one of our resident foodies, formally known as our ‘R&D Specialist’ – Amanda Webb, for her take on all things spicy: what does she see as the top trends? What are her favorite spices to cook with? As well as tips and suggestions for adding some heat to menus to encourage more adventurous dining for your guests.

What’s Defined as “Hot?”

Since Amanda is currently working on a project involving a Southern Asian and French concept, (not fusion!) she’s had her fair share of spicy foods lately. She’s found that the flavor forerunners this season are red and green Thai peppers; they’re easy to work with since they require no heating for use, and they’re great for the bottom line as they’re relatively inexpensive. Also, she’s experimenting with creating new flavor components for spicy mayos, creamy sauces, salad dressings, and barbeque sauces featuring the popular Sriracha sauce (i.e. sun ripen chilies ground into a smooth paste with added garlic).

Great Cooking Spices

Amanda loves creating dishes that inspire diners and expose them to new spices and flavors. For example, she has recently experimented with developing various spice blends using dried peppers, such as finger chilis, guajillo and arbol chili peppers, by oven-roasting them until the aromas are released, then grinding them to a fine dust. She also favors mixing the chili powders with salt, sugars, and other dried spices to create great meat and vegetable rubs.

Innovative Dish Ideas

The creative flavors process inspires Amanda and our entire R&D team to try new recipes and pair unexpected ingredients. Some of the latest concoctions have included adding a few sprinkles of cayenne pepper to a mango smoothie (sounds crazy, but she promises it’s delicious, and addicting!); creating new takes on sweet & spicy flavors, such as pairing the vibrant heat of roasted jalapeño peppers with sweet, juicy summer corn; and adding fresh, red and green Thai peppers to vinegar-based salad dressings and dipping sauces or even thinly slicing and tossing the peppers over fresh fruit salads of green papaya, cantaloupe, and melon.

Whatever approach appeals to you, consider adding a bit of heat and intense flavor from spices, herbs, and peppers that will excite the taste buds of your guests!

*photo from: Reimer Seeds based in Saint Leonard, MD