Innovative ingredients

Though heat may be the norm, there’s plenty of room for innovation in non-spicy toppings. Both savory and citrus combinations are proliferating in the category.

Formulators are looking beyond lemon, lime and orange, according to Frederick Heurtin, chef, Golden State Foods, Irvine, Calif. They are discovering such fruit ingredients as Buddha’s hand, orange blossom and preserved lemon.

Greek yogurt and citrus avocado dressings
Blending avocado and citrus as well as Greek yogurt bases are trending in dressings.

Citrus fruits may amplify flavors without adding sodium. At the same time, they add a subtle layer of flavor. For example, citrus melds well with avocado, which is trending in refrigerated dressings, according to Benjamen Woodbridge, marketing research manager, Litehouse Foods, Sandpoint, Idaho.

So is Greek yogurt. Citrus complements Greek yogurt, which is increasingly being used as a base for condiments because of its lower fat, higher protein nutrition profile.

A trend that has caught the eye of Michael Gunn, director of culinary, The Schwan Food Co., Marshall, Minn., is barrel-aged flavors, which includes soy sauce, vinegar and maple syrup. This complements the blurring of the line between kitchen and bar.

Barrel-aged soy sauce, vinegar and maple syrup
Several companies are introducing barrel-aged flavors of soy sauce, vinegar and maple syrup.

“Chefs are incorporating hand-crafted, small-batch bitters, whiskeys and other cocktail components into their dishes,” said Mr. Gunn. “This is an opportunity for a developer to bring a degree of localism and artisanal flair to their products.”  

Chef Michael Lachowicz of Restaurant Michael and George Trois, both in Winnetka, Ill., has seen the circular trend of classic sauce work come and go at least a half dozen times during his 25 years as a saucier.

“Each time this has occurred, an interesting twist has been a part of the resurgence,” Mr. Lachowicz said. “This time around I am noticing classic meets modern in regards to the alcohol being used in base reductions before the addition of stock or demi-glace.

“While in my early training using alcohol in sauces was very standardized, with the common list being red or white wine, dry vermouth and maybe cognac,” he said. “Now there are bolder alcohol reductions that incorporate contrasting tastes, such as a sweet port wine and absinthe, or dandelion wine and Calvados.”

The contrasting tastes function synergistically. They play out like yin and yang in the mouth.

“This awakens the taste buds for the next bite and can be very refreshing,” Mr. Lachowicz said.

White sauce with vanilla and lime
Ms. Cantelaube creates a white sauce with fresh vanilla and lime.

Marie Cantelaube, head chef, Blue Osa retreat and spa, Costa Rica, who recently authored the cookbook “Eating Clean in Costa Rica,” said, “One of my favorite secret kitchen tricks is to use fresh vanilla. It has to be fresh. It works so well in a white sauce with a little lime. This combination is exotic, rich and smooth to the palate. 

“Another is honey when making marinades for chicken,” she said. “The combination of honey with hot or sour just works. Honey is so sweet and beautifully caramelizes the meat.”