MenuDirections 2013: Health is Top of Mind on Day One of Conference

Healthy seafood, desserts and reducing sodium and sugar get the spotlight.

Chef Todd Downs prepares mango raisin chutney in
the Lowering Sodium & Sugar workshop.

The first day of FSD’s 11th annual MenuDirections 2013 kicked off in Tampa, Fla., with a focus on health and wellness trends and cuisine.

The first general session put FSD’s editors in the hot seat, answering questions about the latest news in health and wellness in the non-commercial markets. Moderated by VP of Content Peter Romeo, Editorial Director Paul King, Editor Becky Schillling and Managing Editor of Online Lindsey Ramsey each had his/her say on topics such as the new school meal patterns, the Lesley University settlement with gluten-free and allergen-free foods for students and other general health and wellness hot topics.

The three Culinary Workshops for the day focused on Health on the Menu and featured sessions on desserts using fruit, sustainable seafood, and lowering sugar and sodium. Here are some observations from each of the sessions.

Dessert Inspirations with Fruit
Chef Rick Perez, corporate chef, Dole Packaged Foods
Chef Dieter Preiser, corporate chef, Dole Packaged Foods

• If you don’t want to put "healthy" tag on menu items, just take a little sodium out and a little sugar. If you lower sodium, you don't have to add as much sugar.

• Chefs offered four dessert recipes. The first was a healthy milkshake made with frozen Greek vanilla yogurt and Dole frozen mango Chef Ready Cuts. Can be made with tofu and rice ice cream too.

• Chefs showcased a new product, shelf-stable fruit purées, which was developed with North Carolina State University.

•The second recipe was a very easy dessert made with Greek plain yogurt, crystallized ginger, honey, grated orange zest and Chef Ready Cuts frozen strawberries. The chefs encouraged attendees to bring in savory elements in desserts too, items like basil work well.

• Parfait tip: If you keep strawberries on bottom of parfait and yogurt on top, it can stay an extra day (past first day) in refrigerator

• Chefs advised attendees to think about fruit as an ingredient in desserts rather than the entire dessert. Third recipe was Strawberry Coconut Drops, made with coconut flakes, dates, strawberries and almonds. To make the dish savory, add balsamic vinegar and shrimp with strawberries.

• Mashed dates rolled in crushed almonds and coconut makes for a great bit of dessert.

The Next Great Catch: A Discussion of Underutilized Seafood
Chef Barton Seaver, National Geographic Fellow and Sustainability fellow, New England Aquarium

• Bottom line to sustainable seafood is it is all about the sustainable mechanisms by which food comes to our plate. It’s not only about the environment of the food. There is no such thing as sustainable fish. It’s more about sustainable demand.

• National Geographic Seafood Decision Guide deals with mercury data, sustainability ranking, Omega-3 content, etc. The guide takes all into account to make choices. Natgeoseafood.com.

• Cooking tips: Cook fish with vegetable to get more out of it. Then the fish will hold better on the line. If using strange species of fish to customers, plate it with familiar ingredients or sauces. Make a bed of vegetables and broth and cook fish on top of it. Chef Seaver used Alaskan pollack for one dish with a romesco sauce.

• Pink salmon is another innovative fish option. Seaver recommended cooking very slowly in the oven on a very low heat. That way maintains integrity of the flake. Seaver made a pink salmon "melt" by topping with cheddar—great alternative to tuna.

• Domestic fisheries are better managed than foreign fisheries because they usually provide better traceability.

• Burden is on the industry to educate consumers about diversity of seafood available and provide culinary expertise.

• Quote of the session: "We sell catfish, why can't we sell dogfish?"—Barton Seaver

Lowering Sugar and Sodium
Chef Todd Downs, founder, Food Sense, Inc.
Dr. James Painter, Ph.D., R.D., professor, school of Family and Consumer Sciences, Eastern Illinois University

• Chef Downs: Eliminating some if not all sugar in recipe is doable and in a natural way with raisins.

• Dr. Painter: Raisins concentrate the nutrients in grapes to pack a bigger nutritional punch. Practice nutritional seduction. Put items like raisins in dishes to make healthy and people taste it and are seduced.

• Chef Downs: Raisins add balance to spicy dishes because they help bridge gap b/w sweet and savory.

• Chef Downs: Look at Asian sauces, curried products and prepared items, as they are known for having "hidden" sodium. Think of how your mouth responds to sodium, and its role in the dish when considering how to reduce it or replace it.

• Chef Downs: Look at Asian sauces, cured products and prepared items, as they are known for having "hidden" sodium.

• Dr. Painter: Increase potassium in your body to decrease sodium. Decreasing sodium reduces blood pressure.

• Chef Downs: Replacing brown sugar in the mango chutney recipe with raisin paste and reduced sugar by 34%.