Braised tilapia from Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut.With its rich flavors and general health factor—foods rich in protein, fiber and antioxidants—the Mediterranean diet continues to satisfy customers’ demand for authentic ethnic cuisine. Though loosely defined, this cuisine features foods from the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea, including Italy, Spain, Greece, Egypt, Syria, Slovenia, Morocco and Turkey. Many operators report Mediterranean items to be among the most popular in their operations, pointing to the versatility afforded by pasta and flatbreads.
Healthy for healthcare: At Morrison Management Specialists, Norbert Bomm, research and development chef, offers various Italian items on his Flavors 450 menus in retail outlets, focusing on items with 450 calories or less, such as a roasted eggplant with fresh herb flatbread and plum tomatoes topped with mozzarella, which is then baked until the cheese melts.
“We do a Mediterranean pasta station,” says Bomm. “Pastas and flatbreads are big sellers. They’re very trendy right now.” Bomm serves pasta with tomatoes, basil and baby spinach and tops its with Alfredo sauce and lemon-braised shredded turkey. He says Mediterranean cuisine gives operators a lot of opportunities.
“We do veggies or chickpea hummus with Moroccan flavors,” Bomm says. “You can produce awesome flavor profiles without loading them with calories and fat. We keep it simple and let the flavors come through. We do a great penne with cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs with some pepper flakes.”
Risotto, he adds, also is a big seller for Morrison. “We make risotto with seasonal veggies,” Bomm says. “It’s best to use good Arborio rice and a good chicken or vegetable stock. Put a little good Reggiano cheese on it and roasted chicken breast. We do things with all the grains, beans, mushrooms, legumes and tomatoes. A good cooked tomato sauce goes a long way. Ours has reduced sodium and we use fresh herbs.”
Morrison’s senior living facilities also have a new Mediterranean menu that includes Moroccan meatballs with couscous and stewed tomatoes. Another Morrison account, Norwalk (Conn.) Hospital, recently introduced a Mediterranean Diet program complete with a rooftop garden as part of its emphasis on locally grown fare.
“We decided our standard hospital fare of meatloaf and mashed potatoes was missing the boat,” says Trina Muro, patient services manager. Popular dishes include a Caprese sandwich of fresh mozzarella with sliced tomato and basil pesto on a whole-wheat ciabatta roll; a Mediter-
ranean lentil and Israeli couscous salad with fresh arugula, mint, lentils and feta cheese, served with a housemade vinaigrette; roasted chicken with herbed quinoa and fresh squash medley; and a hummus and tabouleh sampler plate with fresh tomato, cucumber and pita triangles.
“Instead of traditional heavy hot lunches, we’ll do a bean soup with pasta in it or a Greek salad plate, though the hot option is available,” Muro says. “We’re very excited by the response.”
David Willard, senior director of culinary services for Sodexo, sees rising interest in the foods of Northern Africa and the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean in the company’s healthcare accounts.
“We do a fattoush salad with lemon-based dressing, shaved hard cheeses and toasted cumin-seasoned flatbread triangle croutons,” Willard says. “Smaller, lighter dishes are natural fits.” Willard adds that Sodexo is looking to do more with Moroccan cuisine.
Mediterranean foods, he adds, are a linchpin in the effort to make healthier choices.
“There’s a big buzz driven by consumer interest in living healthier, and healthcare is well aware of the consequences,” Willard says. “We are seeing more interest in dishes from the south of Spain. To do Mediterranean cuisine well, it’s important to understand the ingredients and use authentic flavors.”
Small and authentic plates: Every other week at the University of New Hampshire, in Durham, Ralph Coughenour, director of culinary services, converts the deli area to a Mediterranean concept for the day. Among the dishes served are swordfish puttanesca, linguini Milan, chicken Calabrese and fettuccine Alfredo. UNH also offers a Mediterranean bar with dips, tabouleh, baba ghanoush, marinated feta cheese, and a hot artichoke and feta spread and pitas.
At Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Wash., Mark Freeman, senior manager of services, offers a new Small Plates concept based around freshly prepared Mediterranean tapas. Designed to give guests smaller portion sizes and price points, Small Plates includes such favorites as shawarma, kefta kabobs, falafel, baba ghanoush, hummus and stuffed grape leaves. Freeman says they also feature gyros. The gyros are served in a pita wrap with onions, tomatoes, lettuce and tzatziki sauce. Microsoft also serves kebabs, such as lamb, which are grilled with spicy or sweet peppers. Regional foods from other parts of the world are rotated regularly. Freeman estimates the program has increased station participation by 6%.