Food For Thought

No matter the year, what is on our tables and in our glasses is a universal topic of discussion.

Let’s go back 25 years to 1999, when Ocala Style was first published. The most popular dishes were Stuffed Red Peppers, Tortilla Soup and Chinese Chicken Salad. That year also brought us Pillsbury One-Step Brownie Mix already prepared in an included plastic pan.

The television show Sex and the City premiered in 1998 and by 1999 the Cosmopolitan was the most popular cocktail as many wanted to emulate Carrie Bradshaw, who sipped the pink concoction at lunch and dinner and while out clubbing. Give my Perfect Cosmopolitan Cocktail a try and see for yourself that this remains a tasty beverage option.

By the ‘90s, the artisan food industry was flourishing, supplying restaurants eager for free range chicken and meats, fresh pasta, special varieties of produce and organic products. Time magazine declared low carb the “it” diet and that somewhat continues, but we now hear a lot about intermittent fasting, and keto, paleo, caveman and gluten free diets.

Going forward, I see global cuisine with more fusion as well as local cuisine that uses more organic and handmade ingredients. The larger cities are already sourcing more foods from local farms, and I think supermarkets will move into more prepared and semi-prepared foods so people can get something on the table easily. 

Jill’s Italian Stuffed Peppers, previously featured in “The Secret is in the Sauce” from the August 2020 issue, photo by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery.

I believe we will see more farmers’ markets, public markets and high-end grocers offering local foods. The population will travel more, eat more eclectically and, I predict, have healthier diets. And I think a growing demand for ecologically raised foods will make them more affordable.

Get ready for culinary combinations in 2024. Food enthusiasts are experimenting with mashups of their favorite dishes, creating hybrids like burger quesadillas, and I feel we will be getting the “plant” back into plant-based, which will include popular proteins like mushrooms, veggie burgers, legumes and walnuts.

I think people will have fun with spices, peppers in particular, especially those with some “heat,” served in a variety of dishes. Ramen noodles were a popular fun ‘90s food and now are being elevated to gourmet level. A new pasta shape, meaning “crest of the rooster,” absorbs sauces well, so be sure to check out my Creste Di Gallo with Creamy Mushroom Sauce recipe.

Sake will be the “it” drink in 2024, as well as sparkly syrups, espresso cocktails (Carajillos) and we’ll see the return of tomato-based cocktails and mocktails.

You can expect eye-grabbing packaging and little luxuries, like tiny tins of caviar at affordable prices. And charcuterie boards aren’t going anywhere—I think they will expand to more restaurants offering “grazing” meals of meats and cheese, fish boards and dessert boards.

Some of the classics are back, like rich and tasty Lobster Thermidor, while new offerings will include innovative salads like my Cucumber Ribbons Caesar.  

Whatever the year, or your preferred menu of classic and nouveau, enjoy! OS

Creste Di Gallo with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

12 ounces Creste Di Gallo pasta
8 ounces gourmet mushrooms 
2 tablespoons butter 
2 tablespoons garlic, thinly sliced 
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1-2 teaspoons salt, to taste
½ teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
Parsley, chopped 

Cook pasta according to package directions. > Drain, toss with a drizzle of olive oil and set aside. > In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter and sauté the garlic and mushrooms for 2-3 minutes.  > Sprinkle the flour over the garlic and mushrooms and stir briskly for 1 minute. > Gradually whisk in the chicken broth, then the heavy cream. > Bring to a boil, then reduce to a high simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until the sauce becomes thick and creamy. > Season with salt and pepper. > Stir in the pasta. > Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. > Garnish with Pecorino Romano and parsley, and serve. 

Cucumber Ribbons Caesar Salad

2 medium cucumbers
1⁄2 cup tricolor cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated 
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄2 medium clove garlic, grated
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon ground pepper
Organic croutons
Lemon wedges for serving

Peel cucumbers to leave alternating green stripes. > Using a wide vegetable peeler, cut lengthwise into very thin “ribbons,” alternating sides as you reach the seeds. > Plate the ribbons on salad plates and garnish with tomatoes and croutons. > Combine the Parmesan, lemon juice, mayonnaise, oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a jar with a lid. > Shake until well combined. > Drizzle the dressing over the salad and top with extra Parmesan if desired. Serve with lemon wedges.

Perfect Cosmopolitan Cocktail

1/4 cup unflavored vodka (I prefer Chopin, which is very smooth)
1 tablespoon Cointreau
1 tablespoon + 1 ½ teaspoons cranberry juice (I prefer a diet variety)
1 ½ teaspoons fresh lime juice
One 2-inch lime peel/twist
1 lime wedge for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then add vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice and lime juice. > Shake for about 30 seconds, until well chilled. > Strain into a martini glass and garnish with lime twist and wedge.

Posted in Living, TableTagged

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