Greens beyond lettuce

Kale, arugula and other leafy greens are adding color to menus.

Published in FSD Update

By 
Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

You know you’ve hit the big time when there’s a commercial about you during the Super Bowl. Such is the case with kale. In magazines, on restaurant menus and in non-commercial foodservice operations, kale and other leafy greens are upping the nutrition factor of many dishes, especially soups, salads and sandwiches.

Kale

At Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tenn., the dining services department has moved beyond serving the traditional collard and mustard greens. Kale is the star of several dishes, including a lentil, kale, sweet potato and sausage stew.

“It’s really good,” says Executive Chef Bill Claypool. “A lot of the seasoning is taken out of the preparation of the sausage. It gives the stew a lot of that caraway and chili spice. That, plus the kale and sweet potatoes play off each other very well.” The department also offers an Indian-style kale and chickpea salad, which is flavored with a curry that contains cumin, red peppers, coriander and garam masala.

John Williams, executive chef at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, in Madison, thinks kale is a great ingredient because of its nutrition factor.

“We’ve been using it a lot lately because it’s hearty and holds up well in the winter,” Williams says. “We’re using it in salads with acidic dressings so the kale breaks down a little bit. The salad almost has to sit for a little bit to let that acid attack the greens and make it a little more palatable.”

One example is the department’s grape and kale salad, which has a citrus poppy seed dressing. Williams likes this salad because the citrus and sugar balance the acidity, which works well with the kale. Kale also finds its way into a spicy vegan quinoa and kale soup that includes chickpeas, carrot, onion, celery, black quinoa and lemon juice.

“There’s zero nutrient value in lettuce,” Williams adds. “Your stomach is a machine. Lettuce breaks down very easily in your digestive tract. Kale and other greens like arugula and spinach take a little work to digest, which creates more energy for your body.”

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
kale quinoa salad

With all the hype around probiotics, we decided to create a daily dish that incorporates probiotics in addition to prebiotics. You rarely hear about prebiotics, and this was a great way to highlight how the two work synergistically to maintain a healthy gut. Our chefs have developed menu items such as roasted salmon with yogurt and mint vinaigrette; kale and quinoa salad with warm maple dressing; and leek soup with pickled cucumbers, to name a few.

Ideas and Innovation
packaged meals

While the multiple-choice questions on FoodService Director’s annual census surveys are a great way of gathering data on trends, I’ve always been rather partial to the open-ended queries. We can’t possibly think up every answer operators might have to a particular question, and it gives respondents a chance to show some personality as well. (A special nod to one cheeky operator’s not-quite-safe-for-work response to how they’re tackling shortened lunch periods—you made my day.)

So this year, for the first time since I’ve been at FoodService Director, I chose to include a very open-...

Menu Development
ramen bowl spoon chopsticks

Asian noodle soups are a popular lunch option at YouTube’s San Bruno, Calif., campus, says Trent Page, the GM at Bon Appetit Management who runs the company’s three corporate dining venues. But Page noticed an increasing preference for customizable dishes and vegan preparations among the 1,000 customers he feeds daily. Inspired by a recent visit to Japan, he introduced tsukemen to the menu—a dish that features most of the traditional ramen ingredients (noodles, eggs and vegetable garnishes) served separately so diners can mix and match. “Separating the components makes it more customizable...

Ideas and Innovation
chicken dinner

For the last three years, we’ve hosted an event called Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner. We sponsor the local chapter of Future Farmers of America to raise the chickens, and we have to arrange all the transporting from farms to the distributor, which keeps the birds in a freezer until we’re ready. We build hype by having students vote on the proprietary spice blend they would like on the chicken. It helps the nutrition team get involved in the educational process and showcase local food purchasing.

FSD Resources