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September 10, 2020

The Mighty Legume

It’s no doubt that Legumes are indeed “Mighty”, offering an array of healthful benefits when included in a well-balanced diet. They are a rich source of fibers that have various beneficial health effects. Due to their high fiber and protein contents, legumes help you feel full and may thus reduce food intake and lead to weight loss over time. They have an impressive nutritional profile which makes them one of the very best sources of plant-based protein. They are linked to a host of other health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. There is also much research to suggest that regular consumption of these plant foods may reduce blood pressure and triglycerides.

Yes, indeed, there is no doubt that Legumes are a “Mighty” and healthful choice of nutrition in a healthy diet. That said, I’m a chef, and albeit nutrition is important to me, so is flavor. As legumes are a staple in many countries, offering unlimited versatility and international inspiration, are widely available and very inexpensive, from a chef’s perspective they are a must have offering in recipes and on menus. So how about this…….  “The Mighty Legume, A Delicious & Healthy Source Of Nutrition”, …I like that much better.

protein_blog_11-14.pngLooking at the subject of versatility, legumes offer chefs and restaurateurs the opportunity to offer highly delicious, highly craveable and highly profitable creations that span the menu from Bar Snacks to Desserts – yes, I said desserts.

One of my favorite local eateries offers simple $1.00 bar snacks. The top choice from my pallet’s perspective are their Indian Spiced Crunchy Fava Beans. Their business strategy works well. You stop in for a quick libation, order a bowl of these and enjoy them so much you end up ordering an additional cocktail or two and then stay for dinner. PS: if you don’t offer bar snacks on your menu it’s a great way to pull in incremental sales.

As far as “appetizers” go, if you have never actually enjoyed a bowl of freshly prepared Hummus, you are truly missing out on an elegant culinary experience. One of my favorite hometown restaurants, Mezza Mediterranean in Livingston, NJ offers a wide variety of super healthy, craveable and delicious Mediterranean eats. My favorite section of their menu is their Mezza Section from which they get their namesake. The word Mezze refers to a style of dining in the Mediterranean and the Middle East which resembles a collection of Spanish tapas and other small plates meant to stimulate your appetite. But unlike those appetizers, mezze often makes up an entire meal, combining both cold and hot, vegetarian and meat items.

Now I am not a habitual diner by any means. As a chef I make it a point to try as many different things on a menu as possible to broaden my perspective. That said, I have literally dined at Mezza Mediterranean over 20 time since it opened a few years back and have ordered their Hummus every single time. This simple combination of chickpeas, olive oil & fresh lemon juice begs the question, “How could it be that much better?”. Trust me, served with freshly baked house made pitas it has become one of my all-time favorite destination items. As Escoffier said, “Simplicity is the Essence of Elegance”. It’s sort of like Morimoto’s Sushi, it’s just that much better.  But that’s a whole other discussion.

Now I mentioned desserts starring, “The Mighty Legume”. The center of attention there, utilizes Aquafaba, the brine from soaked legumes and found in cans of beans like chickpeas which has caught the world’s attention. Its combination of proteins, soluble plant solids and starches can be used for a variety of cooking processes including thickening, binding, gelatinizing and emulsifying. It’s also the perfect egg-replacement.

Delicious desserts ranging from eggless Meringues to Chocolate Mousse and Ice “Creams” can all be created from this far too often discarded gem. I recommend you do some research on Aquafaba as I’m certain you will find use for it on all parts of your menu.

As always, your culinary support team at Custom Culinary® is here to help. Utilizing a wide range of our products like our Passport Global Flavors™ Thai-Style Vegan Broth or our Custom Culinary® True Foundations™ Vegetable Liquid Stock Concentrate can assist you in creating your own signature eats featuring legumes.

Now I could go on and on as Legumes are, as I said versatile and great components to utilize across all sections of your menu during all day parts. I HIGHLY recommend you have some fun creating signature offerings which incorporate this truly Mighty Healthy, Mighty Delicious set of ingredients as I’m confident it will reflect positively on your bottom-line.

One final thought- I was not belittling the importance of nutrition in my opening comments by any stretch of the imagination. As chefs and food service professionals we have a great responsibility to ensure we offer clean, safe, healthy, well balanced nutritious food to our guests. It is a Great Responsibility that should go without saying.

So as The Great Satchmo, Louis Armstrong once sang, "Red beans and ricely yours."

Michael Smith, CEC, AAC
Corporate Executive Chef 
Custom Culinary, Inc.