If you are looking for ways to enhance your restaurant menu post-COVID-19, look no further than using everyday spices and herbs. We all know that seasonings add ‘the spice of life’ to cooking and baking and can transform any dish from bland and boring to flavor-filled, fabulous, and unforgettable. They are also a great way to make food taste better without the addition of fat, salt, or sugar, and are compatible with almost every type of diet (vegetarian, vegan, Paleo, Keto, gluten-free, dairy-free, salt-free, and more).
Better yet, many spices and their sister herbs are everyday common staples currently in high demand due to the coronavirus, wherein ‘back-to-basics’ has become the recipe to success in foodservice as well as in home cooking.
Spices and Herbs in Short Supply Due to COVID-19
But that’s not all. As the corona pandemic ushered in an era of uncertainty, it also gave rise to international border closures and food and supply shortages. On the ‘chopping block’ were many popular spices and herbs that are typically procured from leading international spice trade countries such as India and China. For example, according to industry sources, the demand for turmeric and ginger from India increased by 300%. At the same time, factory closures in China, the world’s leading producer of garlic, almost crippled the industrial garlic industry. Also affected were the supply of Indian cardamom, Vietnamese pepper, and other favorites.
The good news for food industry workers is that despite the higher retail prices, consumer demand for spices and herbs has remained high and buying has not slowed down. These versatile seasonings continue to work their magic in kitchens around the world and are featured in post-corona recipes.
How to Spice Up Your Restaurant’s Reopening
As the pandemic subsides and restaurants begin to reopen for business, let’s take a walk down Spice-and-Herb Lane to learn more about the standouts, their health benefits, their cooking and baking characteristics, and how you can add them to your customers’ favorite dishes for maximum and delicious effect.
If chefs are extraordinary artists who create delectable masterpieces, then spices are among their favorite paints, allowing them to create, transform, and infuse new life into almost any food or dish. At the same time, some of the most commonly called for spices in recipes have been around for millennium, making them comforting ingredients that can be relied on in a pinch. If you work in foodservice, use them to satisfy the cravings of all your customers: from the adventurous Millenials and GenZ’ers, to the nostalgia-loving Baby Boomers.
Here’s what spices can do for you:
How to Use Spices to Offer a Global Cuisine
And there’s more: In the wake of the coronavirus, international travel has essentially been banned. Spices allow you to offer a global cuisine that is synonymous with specific cultures or that allows consumers to indulge in local flavors. In fact, providing your customers’ taste buds with the opportunity to travel the world while they eat is yet another recipe for post-corona restaurant menu success.
Recommended Spices for Creating a Global Restaurant Menu
Here are some recommended ways to use spices and herbs to take your customers where they want to go:
Herbs and Spices: What’s the Difference?
As a foodservice professional, it’s paramount that you know your ingredients. Here’s the official dish: Both herbs and spices come from plants. Herbs are derived from the leaf of a plant, i.e. basil, dill, mint, and parsley. Spices are derived from plant roots, stems, barks, flowers, pods, or seeds. Examples include coriander, paprika, turmeric, and cinnamon. In general, spices tend to be stronger in flavor than herbs.
Common Spices, Herbs, and their Health Benefits
Did you know that throughout the ages, spices and herbs have also been used for medicinal purposes? Natural immune-boosters, they are chock-full of compounds that protect from acute and chronic diseases and may help keep the coronavirus at bay as well. In the words of Monica Moreno, Dietitian and Adjunct Professor of Nutrition at the University of Miami: “Herbs and spices fight inflammation and reduce damage to your body’s cells. That’s because each one is rich in phytochemicals, which are healthful plant chemicals.”
More specifically, there is ample evidence that herbs and spices are endowed with anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and antioxidant properties, as well as cholesterol- and glucose-reducing activities.
Here is the dish on some chefs’ favorites:
Tips for Cooking and Baking with Spices
For some more chef’s tricks to add to your post-corona restaurant repertoire, follow these tips:
- In most recipes, you can freely interchange fresh and dry spices
- When adding spices to dishes that are not cooked (i.e. dips), use their dry, finely-ground versions, which are more likely to blend with the other ingredients
- For maximum aroma and flavor, purchases spices in small quantities and use them up quickly
- For enhanced flavor, buy spices whole and grind them using a mortar-and-pestle or an electric coffee grinder
- Store whole and ground spices for six months to one year in an airtight container in a cool, dark place
Featured Spice Recipe for Your Post-Corona Restaurant Menu
Finally, enjoy the following recipe that uses spices to turn any can of plain beans into a delicious meal or snack.
- Rinse beans and pat dry (If you are using dried beans, soak first and pat dry)
- Toss with olive oil, salt, and your choice of seasoning
- Suggestions: Add allspice and chili powder to kidney beans; add chili powder, cayenne, and cumin to black beans
- Bake for 25–30 minutes at 425 degrees