Way to start off with the obvious, huh? It’s true though. Chefs all over the country are firing up their grills now that the warmer months have arrived. “A grill is always a grill, whether you rock a two-foot kettle charcoal number of a gas-fueled beast with more knobs than an airplane cockpit,” said Boston Phoenix writer, Cassandra Landry, in her article, “Six Local Chefs Serve Up Quick Summer Recipe Tips.” Customers enjoy the grill, especially when the weather is nice and there is outdoor seating. There are also customers who simply enjoy the taste of foods that have been cooked on the grill. So if you’re a novice chef eager to learn more, check out Forbes’ “Summer Grilling Tips From Top Chefs” to help get you started.
Food on a Stick
Food on a stick has moved ahead in the world—we aren’t only seeing skewered chicken or shrimp kabobs; restaurants and bakeries are getting creative. One of the biggest trends is the cake pop. The word “pop” makes you think of something like a Popsicle or a lollipop, which is where the idea stems from. It’s literally cake on a stick.
“The cake pop is a mixture of a lollipop and a delicious cake, which creates a classy dessert for everyone to enjoy,” said Lianne Khatcherian in the blog, “Cake Pops: Delicious Dessert Trend.” And as a side note, cake pops can provide great portion control and will also help your customers not ingest as many calories (unless of course you make them otherwise). However, while cake pops seem to be a huge trend, you can do all kinds of things with different foods on sticks. The big idea here is to be creative. In the blog “12 New Ways To Use Toothpicks & Fun with Finger Food,” while they provide many other uses for toothpicks, the end of the blog has neat pictures with different ways people have put food on sticks. They make for great appetizers, side dishes and desserts.
Grain salads aren’t anything new, but according to Bon Appetit, they are a summer menu trend for 2012. “This summer, we’re loving whole grains. Not just for the nutritional boost they bring to the table,” the site said, “but for the backbone they give these bright, toss-together salads.” When it comes to grain salad recipes, they vary. There are all different kinds. Do a quick Google search on “grain salads” and each result will be different. Some include grains with lettuce, while others add grains in with fruit or nuts.
Want to try a grain salad out and have some fun? Check out Fine Cooking’s Create Your Own Grain Salad. It’s kind of like a virtual version of a “make your own salad” restaurant, only with grains. You pick and choose your ingredients, and then it provides you with a recipe to try it yourself! So if you’re looking for ways to change up your restaurant’s salad menu, grain salads may be the way to go.
One of the ways chefs can get creative is taking advantage of what’s in-season and creating menus specifically from those items. Fruits & Veggies More Matters lists over 65 foods that are in-season this summer (as well as fall, winter and spring too), with some of those being casaba melon, champagne grapes, chayote squash, endive, edamame, honeydew melons, peas, sapote, watermelon and zucchini. There are all kinds of items you can add in for summer you wouldn’t be able to use in the other months. Get in touch with your distributor or a local farmers market to see what different items you can get in your restaurant.
Stumped for ideas? Well first off, going back to the second idea in this blog, could you put any of the items on a stick? There’s more than that though, check out some of these recipe ideas in Food Network’s article “In Season Now, Taste of Summer.”
Move over ice cream, frozen yogurt and custard, there are many other items that are perfect for the warm weather and provide diversity in a menu. We’ll only go over two, but do your research, you’ll find tons of ideas. First, there’s frozen Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt isn’t anything new, but seems to have gained in popularity lately over the last few years. “Greek yogurt has much lower lactose than regular yogurt,” said Rajan Jolly in the article “The Health Benefits of Greek Yogurt and Frozen Yogurt.” Also, the article said, “…the removal of whey removes a lot of sugar and in effect, calories, while increasing the amount of protein which is almost double due to it becoming denser as compared to the same volume of regular yogurt.” While many say they can’t tell a difference in taste, Greek yogurt does have its differences from regular yogurt, and can be a good way to change up a menu.
For the second idea, there’s frozen kefir. Kefir isn’t something glaringly popular (many probably haven’t even heard of it), but it definitely has a distinct tart taste that sets it apart from frozen yogurt. “It contains beneficial yeast as well as friendly ‘probiotic’ bacteria found in yogurt,” explained Kefir.net. They continue to say it is loaded with valuable vitamins and minerals, along with easily digestible complete proteins. And, as an added bonus to fit the needs for lactose-free customers, “for the lactose intolerant, kefir’s abundance or beneficial yeast and bacteria provide lactase, an enzyme which consumes most of the lactose left after culturing process.” So adding either of these, or any unique frozen dessert item, will be intriguing and can add some variety to the menu.