Chefs’ challenge: predicting the next big ingredients of 2015

Cronuts, cupcakes, quinoa, pork belly... while no one can precisely predict what food trends will overtake our palates, it's fun to guess what vegetable will inspire as much fervour as kale. (Seriously, who saw that coming?) So we asked some of the city's best chefs to create a dish using an ingredient they think will be popular in the upcoming months.


Ingredient trend: Bitter flavours

CHEFS Curt Martin and Cory Vitiello

WHERE THR & Co. (97 Harbord, 647-748-7199, thrandco.com) and The Harbord Room (89 Harbord, 416-962-8989, theharbordroom.com@TheHarbordRoom)

THE DISH Dandelion pesto 

Chefs Martin and Vitiello from sister restaurants THR & Co. and the Harbord Room teamed up for this challenge, saying that bitter flavours will reign over your taste buds in the next months. 

“Curt and I like assertive ingredients that can stand on their own, and I find bitter foods pair better with cocktails, which are a very important component of both of our restaurants,” says Vitiello. 

“A bitter ingredients like dandelion also lends itself better to rustic-style cooking – salads, pastas, pizzas.” 

The two came up with a creamy pesto sauce that uses bitter dandelion leaves rather than basil, tossed it with spaghetti, chilies, white anchovies, ricotta salata and their other bitter ingredient, Meyer lemon zest. The pesto is creamy and nutty, with a grassy, bitter freshness punctuated by the chilies, a hint of sweet lemon and the tartness of the anchovies. Simple to make but complex in flavour.

CHEF’S INGREDIENT TIP Vitiello’s quick way to serve dandelion leaves is to sauté them with

garlic, olive oil and lemon zest. Pair them with roasted fish or even a grilled steak the bitterness of dandelion can stand up to stronger flavours like beef. As for Meyer lemons, the cooks favour these over regular lemons because the Meyer, a rounder lemon native to China, has a sweeter and less acidic flavour as well as a thinner pith, which means more of the fruit is usable.


Ingredient trend: Fermented foods

CHEF​ Wayne Morris

WHERE Borealia (59 Ossington, 647-351-5100, borealiato.com, @Borealia_TO)

THE DISH Seared cod with split pea miso and apple cider vinegar broth

Chef sees fermented foods continuing to appear on menus. 

“It’s been a growing restaurant trend, as we’ve seen with kimchi. My mom, for one, is making kombucha and kaffir, so you know it’s getting popular,” he says. “Fermented foods last longer, they make vegetables like beets and cabbage look more vibrant, and they have that umami factor that adds a salty, tart accent to dishes.”

He sears black cod and grilled celeriac and sautées black trumpet mushrooms in butter, finishing the dish with a light broth of celeriac, apple cider vinegar and whey. A light dusting of miso powder made from split peas completes it.

CHEF’S INGREDIENT TIP Miso, whether in paste or powder form, goes excellently with a mild whitefish like cod, while apple cider vinegar cuts through the miso’s saltiness.


Ingredient trend: Kohlrabi

CHEF Dinesh Butola

WHERE Pukka, 778 Saint Clair West, 416-342-1906, pukka.ca@PukkaToronto

THE DISH Kohlrabi curry

“Cauliflower was last year, and this time it’s going to be kohlrabi,” says Pukka co-owner Harsh Chawla. “It’s actually related to the cauliflower, is rich in vitamin C and tastes like a sweeter version of broccoli. Where I’m from in northern India, it’s a staple ingredient.” 

For this dish, chef Butola started with a vibrant curry base of onions, tomatoes, cloves and fennel and mustard seeds and then added lightly roasted kohlrabi, sweet potatoes and squash.. Crunchy, sweet and lightly spiced, this vegetable curry is like no other you’ve had. Want to try it? It’s been added to the Pukka menu this week.

CHEF’S INGREDIENT TIP To cook kohlrabi at home, cut off the hard stems and save the leaves. Peel off the root’s tough surface and chop into small pieces. You can eat the root raw (Chawla says it makes an excellent coleslaw) or blanch it lightly and sauté or roast it. Treat the leaves like spinach: sauté them or treat them like salad greens.


Ingredient trend: insects

CHEF Michael Hay

WHERE O&B Canteen (330 King West, 647-288-4710, oliverbonacini.com/canteen)

THE DISH Jiminy Energy Bars

Insects have been mentioned every few years as an upcoming North American food trend and occasionally appear on eclectic tasting menus, but chef Hay thinks now more than ever, bugs will creep onto mainstream menus. 

“It would be a disservice to just have insects in high-end restaurants when they are such a nutritious food,” he says. “They’re already a common ingredient in other parts of the world. We have a very diverse kitchen staff, and a few of them were telling me about their families’ insect recipes. 

“Insects are full of iron and protein and low in fat. They’re also a more environmentally friendly option compared to beef, since raising them requires much less land and water.” 

With help from Next Millennium Farms, a commercial edible insect farm east of Peterborough, Hay added ground crickets to his energy bars containing walnuts, goji berries, almonds, coconut flour, cocoa nibs and honey. Thrown into the mix, the cricket flour is absolutely undetectable. Let us know what you think: Hay is making a few extra bars at the restaurant this week.

CHEF’S INGREDIENT TIP On their own, crickets have a crispy, nutty flavour that’s perfect with beer. Resist finding them wild in the backyard and buy them from a reputable farmer like Next Millennium (NextMillenniumFarms.com).

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