Cooks Exchange

A look at local food trends from 2016

A dollop of House Smoked Tuna Dip is served to each customer at Brackish Seafood Restaurant in Long Beach.
A dollop of House Smoked Tuna Dip is served to each customer at Brackish Seafood Restaurant in Long Beach. Sun Herald

Food trends come and go, but some stick around and become staples.

In 2016, more Coast restaurants featured fish and shrimp taco nights, certainly an increase from 2015. These spicy entrees follow a healthier trend by using fresh greens, cabbage and flavorful slaws.

Farm-to-table offerings continued to grow in popularity. Restaurants, some old and new ones, gravitate to only what foods are the freshest. For example, if flounder is the freshest, then that night’s menu features that fish.

One Coast restaurateur’s menu is on a chalkboard. What he serves depends on the freshest meats, seafood and product. Others are doing similar things with the menu, which is subject to change due to the freshest ingredients.

It is encouraging for Coast diners to be able to enjoy fresh foods that are grown or caught on the Coast.

Smoked tuna dip has made a resurgence to several Coast menus. Before Katrina, the now-closed Barnaby’s served smoked tuna dip.

Veggies

Two vegetables saw a change in status for 2016: cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Cauliflower is a weighty vegetable that can replace meat or be a beautiful accompaniment. Chefs are experimenting with that veggies to surprising and palate-pleasing results. Brussels sprouts are paired with some interesting combos from bacon to pomegranates, which is a fruit that also coming into its own. Pomegranates, pears and greens make wonderful salads.

Speaking of salads, a Coast restaurant added smoked sun-dried tomatoes to its Caesar salad, which smacked of flavor. What a difference an ingredient makes.

Smaller portions

Small plates came on strong in 2016. These dishes are smaller portions, more like appetizer portions, and allow patrons to try a couple of different dishes.

At Brackish in Long Beach, the small plate menu items are good size. Paired with a salad or soup, the small plate item makes for a satisfying meal. I love the Caesar salad and crab cake that contains little breading.

For 2017, let’s hope this creativity and the increase of fresh foods and use of less-processed foods continues.

Readers, what changes did you see in Coast restaurants in 2016 and what would you like to see more of in 2017? Share your thoughts with me. Shoot me an e-mail or send me a letter.

Oh, what a bird!

Before this holiday season, I thought the easiest way to cook a turkey was with white wine or apple cider in a slow-cooker. While that is good, especially for boneless turkey breasts, I found a new way that I loved, even my 90-year-old father-in-law did, too.

The day before I was to cook the turkey, I did a mixture of butter, rosemary, thyme and sage. (Sounds like a song of sorts.) I slathered the turkey with the butter mixture, put cheesecloth over it and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. Next morning, I heated 1 cup of butter and 2 cups of white wine in a saucepan. I pulled out the turkey, stuffed the cavity with halved oranges, sliced lemons, carrots and even apple slices. I basted the cheesecloth with the butter/wine mixture and put it in the oven to cook. About every 30 minutes of the 4-hour roasting time, I basted the turkey with the butter-wine sauce. When I ran out of sauce to baste with, I used the pan drippings. Thirty minutes before the turkey was done, I pulled off the cheesecloth and let the breast brown, all the while basting with the pan juices.

The result: a moist, delicately flavored turkey with a hint of citrus flavor.

I share this because it would work well for those New Year’s Day or weekend ballgames. Place the turkey on a buffet and let the guests help themselves.

Another holiday find

A recipe in my e-mail struck my fancy. I had some leftover hot chicken salad from a church luncheon, but wanted a different type of side. As I have said, my daughter is a picky eater, and my granddaughter is worse.

This recipe from The Hungry Waitress was for a mushroom-orzo risotto that was low in fat. I knew I was safe with this recipe. Elyssa loves mushrooms, and Lilly likes rice. Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta that tastes more like rice than pasta.

Orzo is a staple in my pantry, as were the ingredients for this recipe. It is a quick-cooking pasta that goes with meats, sauces or as a salad base. This dish takes about 30 minutes from start to finish, and would make a good main dish paired with a fruit and mixed greens salad.

Per usual, I changed the recipe a bit. I used low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth and lime zest instead of the lemon. I was out of lemons, but had limes. Necessity and all that.

I really liked the brightness the lime zest gave the risotto. I will share the original recipe, but wanted readers to know how I changed the recipe.

Two of us loved it, one not so much. The “rice” looked funny.

Candy booklet

A reader with the initials H.B. wanted to find a candy booklet by the late Bertha Sadowski, who had a bakery, taught cake decorating classes at Biloxi High and taught candy classes. That reader also said she produced a cookbook and a candy booklet.

After several weeks of requests, Ann Schuck of Ocean Springs found the candy booklet.

“I’m not an old-time Biloxian, but I am an old-time Ocean Springsian. I do have the candy cookbook ‘Sweet Treats’ by Bertha Sadowski,” Schuck said. “If you can give the lady wanting the booklet my phone number, I’ll be happy to make her a copy and mail it to her.”

See how nice Cook’s Exchange readers are? H.B. give me a call or shoot me an email. I have Schuck’s number.

MUSHROOM-ORZO RISOTTO

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup onion, diced

2 cups mushrooms

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 heaping tablespoon garlic, minced

2 cups orzo pasta (1 box)

6 cups vegetable broth (I used chicken broth)

2 cups grated Parmesan

Zest of 1 lemon (I used lime)

In a medium sauce pan, heat up the 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium high. Add the onions and mushroom, and stir for 2 minutes.

Sprinkle in the salt, pepper, garlic, and orzo into the pot. Stir constantly for 2 minutes to toast the pasta. Pour 2 cups of broth into the pot and continue to stir making sure nothing sticks to the bottom.

After the liquid has been absorbed, add 2 more cups (it took around 2 minutes for mine). Keep stirring occasionally until the liquid has absorbed (around 10 minutes). Add the last 2 cups of broth and keep stirring occasionally until the liquid has been absorbed by the pasta (another 10 minutes or so).

Mix in the Parmesan cheese and lemon zest to the risotto. Taste for more salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley. (I didn’t; fresh out of parsley.)

From www.thehungrywaitress.com/

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