Move over, salad bars

Fruit is making its way onto the center of the plate.

blueberry-peach-salad

Messiah College’s Blueberry Peach Salad.

Fruit might be sweet, but it’s also right at home in savory dishes, where it offers depth of flavor plus beneficial fiber and antioxidants for relatively few calories. Here’s how operators are working more of nature’s candy into the main meal.

Adding fruit to savory dishes makes them more appealing to children who prefer sweeter tastes. In K-12 schools working with Sodexo, it’s not unusual for cafeterias to serve up grilled cheese sandwiches with thinly sliced apple or fish sandwiches with fresh pineapple slaw and spicy sriracha mayonnaise. Placing fruit in an entrée also makes it easier for students to meet per-meal produce requirements. “As kids go through the garden bar, they only have to take a partial portion to balance out the fruit and vegetable requirement for the rest of the meal,” says Director of Culinary Services for Sodexo Lisa Feldman.

Kids aren’t the only ones who like fruit’s sugary boost. During the summer months, Jim Roth, executive chef at Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare, in Illinois, often livens up meat with his Summer Berry Salsa. Equal parts blackberries, blueberries and raspberries, the saucy condiment gets a sophisticated, savory touch from balsamic vinaigrette, diced plum tomatoes and chopped green onion. Roth says the salsa is always a hit when drizzled over grilled Angus flank steak, but the versatile flavor pairs well with other proteins.

Topping proteins with fruit-based sauces can also be a healthy alternative to heavier, cream-based sauces. Rather than serving its panko-crusted salmon cakes with high-fat tartar sauce, Kettering Health Network, in Ohio, piles on a tangy cranberry mango relish flavored with fresh cilantro, soy sauce, cumin and fresh ginger. “I used mango and cranberry because I was looking for a balance between sweet and sour and the ginger helps bring both together,” says Executive Chef Matthew Cervay. “Making this lighter fare with accents of spring and summer was the goal, and I feel it accomplishes that with nice plate appeal.”

Fruit’s ability to lighten the overall feel of a dish is welcomed by health-conscious eaters. “We have a certain percentage of our guests that strive to have healthier choices, and they love seeing new fresh items available for purchase,” says Jay Heiple, food and nutrition supervisor at Carbondale Memorial Hospital, in Illinois. There, one of the hospital’s recent dietetic graduate students helped kitchen staff create the Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Mango Chutney that’s currently running on the menu. Made with frozen fruit that’s simmered with onion, jalapeño, ginger and apple cider vinegar, the chutney is a more economical alternative to condiments such as salsa, which usually require fresh fruit. 

What’s more, protein isn’t the only savory partner for fruit. Raw or grilled, fruit also adds creativity to salads and can help chefs cut back on higher calorie ingredients such as cheese, nuts or croutons. At Messiah College, in Mechanicsburg, Pa., Chef Drena Doran combines pears with feta or blue cheese in green salads, as well as grilled pineapple with mint and lemon dressing in pasta salads. “Grilling keeps the fruit healthy, plus it caramelizes, which gives it great eye appeal,” Doran says. 

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
management team

Last week’s NACUFS National Conference proved to be a treasure trove of management and staffing takeaways. Here are a few we noted at the annual event , held this year in Providence, R.I.

1. Make it scalable

When explaining something new to staff, instead of asking, “You got it?” or “You with me?” have employees rate how well they understand the new material on a scale of 1 to 10, said Ron Paul, a senior consulting partner for Partners in Leadership, during a session on building accountability in the workplace. People are likely to say yes even when they don’t fully grasp what you’...

Ideas and Innovation
song break

Once per month in a daily huddle, we dedicate a few minutes for the staff to sing a short song. The staff has responded so positively to this. They now bring costumes and other props. It's a few short minutes, but the payoff has been tremendous.

Photo courtesy of iStock

Ideas and Innovation
plastic straws

An item about the size of a pencil has become the latest target in foodservice operators’ sustainability plans. Though small, plastic straws are said to have a large impact on the environment, with Americans using approximately 500 million straws each day, according to a release from Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, which temporarily ditched plastic straws as part of an Earth Day promotion this year.

In recent months, a growing number of eateries and cities across the United States have scrapped plastic straws. In July, Seattle enacted a ban on plastic straws and utensils, requiring...

Industry News & Opinion

Medford High School in Medford, Mass., is looking to add an orchard to its campus, Wicked Local reports.

The idea for the orchard was brought forth by students looking to help combat food insecurity. They are working with the school’s nutritionist to make the orchard a reality.

If planted, the orchard would be located inside the school’s courtyard and would grow fruits such as apples, paw paws, blueberries, peaches and plums. It would also include an outdoor classroom space.

The school committee signed off on the project last year; however, some administrators are...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code