Beans star in the center of the plate

From Bush Brothers.

Taking cues from cultures that hold legumes in high regard, noncommercial operators are choosing bean dishes as key planks in lighter, healthier meal platforms that appeal to the taste buds.

On Lean and Green Monday at Oceanside Unified School District in Oceanside, Calif., beans, whole grains and fresh produce take the spotlight from meat dishes for a day. It is one of the ways Nutrition Services Director Vino Mitra introduces low-calorie, low-fat fare to the K-12 students in his 23-school district.

Given the ample protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber and vitamins that beans provide, constructing nutritious meals with them is a simple matter. Take a typical school lunch of vegetable tamale with refried beans, steamed carrots and a serving from the salad bar.

"The first component is the veggie tamale, which gives you protein and carbohydrates, the refried beans also give you protein, carrots and salad give you fresh fruit and vegetable components and milk or soy milk gives you the milk component," said Mitra.

Oceanside's Lighthouse Salad Bar is a daily fixture in the school cafeterias. It offers a tasty mix of iceberg lettuce and spinach leaves plus eight fresh fruit and vegetable items, including the Bean of the Day. For the latter, garbanzo beans, black beans, kidney beans and great northern beans are among the choices that rotate daily.

For practicality and labor savings, canned beans, rinsed to reduce sodium, are a staple. "If you have 500 or 600 meals to serve in a school and only two or three people working, your labor is pretty limited," Mitra said.

Mitra said his aim is to gradually expose students to healthier foods and influence their habits over time. "We are making a little dent, I guess," he said.

By the time young people reach college, many are practicing—or just discovering—healthier eating. That's when light and flavorful bean dishes fill a need.

"Students tend to push themselves harder these days, so it is important for us to give them lots of healthy options," said Pierre St-Germain, executive chef and associate director of dining and catering services at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I.

Beans add nutrition and flavor to dishes that appeal to the significant number of students who choose plant-based meals on occasion as well as the committed vegetarians among the 1,350 meal-plan participants on campus.

Popular choices include orange, white bean and wheat berry salad, made with nutty-tasting toasted wheat berries tossed with white beans, orange juice, cider vinegar, jicama, peppers and fresh oranges, organic black bean and sundried tomato tacos and channa masala, a spicy curry dish made with chick peas that is part of a sampler with other traditional Indian dishes.

"If one of my chefs suggests a grain or bean dish, we work to introduce it to our students," said St-Germain. "Whether it is traditional or something kind of funky, we want them to be exposed to it."

An example is lentil loaf, made with cooked lentils folded together with onion, spinach and eggs and baked "like a lentil soufflé," St-Germain said. It can be sliced, pan fried and served with mushroom gravy or chilled, sliced and served as lentil pate.

Also popular is fresh tomato and lentil salad, featuring lentils are cooked until tender but not mushy, mixed with chopped fresh tomatoes, parsley, extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper.

"That is a great accompaniment for a protein, but it can also be served alone as a vegetarian dish," said St.-Germain.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Labor secretary nominee Andy Puzder has officially bowed out of consideration for the cabinet position, according to the Associated Press .

Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants—the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.—was tired of being under fire for hiring an undocumented immigrant as a nanny and being accused 26 years ago of physically abusing his wife, an unnamed source told CBS News . The agency reported that Puzder was unlikely to show for the start of his confirmation hearings tomorrow.

Puzder has also been attacked by organized labor for comments suggesting that...

Industry News & Opinion

Risley Dining Room at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has just become 100 percent gluten-free, 14850.com reports.

For the past two years, the university has slowly phased out gluten in the dining hall’s menu by eliminating it in its stir fries, biscuits and brownies.

Instead of offering gluten-free versions of typical college fare, including pizza and pasta, the dining service team aimed for more sophisticated restaurant-style items.

Along with being gluten-free, Risley is also peanut free and tree-nut free.

The dining room is the second college eatery...

Industry News & Opinion

James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., recently hosted a weeklong program called Weigh the Waste, which aimed to show students how much food gets wasted in dining halls, The Breeze reports.

Throughout the week, students placed food they were about to throw away on a scale located near the trash bins at one of their dining halls. At the end of the week, the school tallied the waste and saw that 817 pounds of food had been wasted.

School officials hope that the annual program, which it’s hosted since 2015, will remind dining hall patrons to only take as much food as...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

Read the full story via...

FSD Resources