It’s a new year… but Brendan’s eating habits are pretty much the same. Peanut butter toast for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, and then for dinner it’s hummus and a bottle of wine. But if you’re looking for more of a thrill, Bon Appétit magazine’s new year’s issue is full of new trends emerging in the food world.
In fact, the other day, Brendan stopped by their office and met with their Food Director Carla Lalli Music. Find out three major takeaways about this year’s food trends below, including a less-than-thrilling trend: the oatmeal comeback.
1. Oatmeal goes beyond brown sugar in the New Year
Carla Lalli Music: The new stuff in oatmeal is really connected to the grain bowl phenomenon, the rice bowl phenomenon. Instead of having sandwiches, now we wanna build this healthy plant-based diet with grains and grain salads. And I think chefs really love to take something familiar and make it weird as a way to entice you.
So, taking something like oatmeal, which everyone has an idea of what that is… But then putting a fried egg on top of it, or stirring cheese into it at the end, or making it spicy.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So what kind of stuff have you guys…?
Carla Lalli Music: I mean all of those kinds of things and beyond oatmeal sort of combining different grains. So, oatmeal and quinoa cooked together. Or barley and, you know, farro as a breakfast cereal. Really thinking of oatmeal as one of those oats, as one of those grains, and taking it in a more savory direction.
Brendan Francis Newnam: My problem with oatmeal is, unless you have protein in it, it doesn’t really give you much fuel. You just eat it and then you’re hungry in like an hour.
Carla Lalli Music: I mean, there is some protein in oats. But, if you add dairy, or an egg, or even some sweet and salty bacon, you will stay fuller longer, for sure.
Brendan Francis Newnam: I thought we learned last year we’re not supposed to eat that much bacon.
Carla Lalli Music: Oh, yeah. We’re not. One or two slices. I’m not saying every day. It’s just an option.
2. Koji: the mold with just the right touch of umami
Brendan Francis Newnam: What is koji?
Carla Lalli Music: So, koji is Japanese rice that’s been inoculated with a very specific kind of mold.
Sort of like the way blue cheese has been inoculated with mold, similarly the rice is inoculated with this mold.
It changes the flavor [of the rice] and it gives it what is known as “umami,” the 5th taste. Which is like, savory, or [the rice is] often described as having a depth or some kind of complexity of flavor.
Brendan Francis Newnam: A rich parmesan taste.
Carla Lalli Music: Parmesan, mushrooms, aged meat. Those are usually… tomatoes have a lot of umami.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So this infuses rice with that kind of flavor?
Carla Lalli Music: Exactly. But it’s not… It sounds like because you’re saying “mold” and most people think, “Ew, mold!” You know, mold has such a strong, gross flavor. Blue cheese can be so strong, but it’s actually like a sweet and light flavor.
But it’s the backbone of all these other basic Japanese seasonings that everybody’s familiar with. Like, miso and mirin, and even soy sauce all have koji behind that.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So can you buy already koji’d rice?
Carla Lalli Music: You can buy the koji’d rice. Which I really, honestly, I think most people at home wouldn’t know what to do with it. And I certainly wouldn’t myself. It’s labeled “Shio Koji.” S-H-I-O koji. And it’s kind of like, more liquidy miso, the texture of it. And that you can buy and you can add it into soups. You can…
Brendan Francis Newnam: …Marinade for chicken.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, you can marinade chicken in it. It’s really nice as a way of curing fish. And so it’s sweet and it’s salty, but it also has that depth of flavor. That umami flavor.
Brendan Francis Newnam: The mold of my bathroom…?
Carla Lalli Music: Not the same.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Not the same. But are we going to discover in a year or two that I could’ve been rubbing my scallops in there?
Carla Lalli Music: It’s very possible.
3. Turmeric is on the rise
Brendan Francis Newnam: So you guys have, like, about a dozen trends. What’s one that kind of caught your eye?
Carla Lalli Music: A favorite of mine is actually this turmeric trend. So turmeric is a rhizome like ginger… It’s a root. But I think technically… I just like the word rhizome.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Rhizome is a good word.
Carla Lalli Music: So it’s got that same kind of shape as ginger and, actually, a similar flavor, but it’s sort of much more earthy and it’s got this brilliant, tense, beautiful, bright orange color.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, traditionally it was dried and added into curries. Right?
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah. l like any Indian yellow curry, even some Spanish rice would get color from turmeric.
Back to the all this healthy stuff, [turmeric is] touted for its anti-inflammatory properties. Now you can go to juice shops and you’ll see it blended into smoothies and it’s being juiced fresh. If you have a carrot, turmeric juice is just going to have this, like, kryptonic orange color.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And what’s the flavor profile over there of fresh turmeric?
Carla Lalli Music: It’s not spicy, like, ginger. It sort of tastes — this is not going to sound good — but in a way, it tastes like… earth.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Sounds like a big claim. I used to eat mouthfuls of that when I was bullied as a child.
Carla Lalli Music: So you’ll be brought back…
Brendan Francis Newnam: Sends me right back to Duke Elessi kicking me in the head.