What's the forecast for flavor this year? The answer lies not in the Farmer's Almanac (a handy, helpful guide in its own right), but in McCormick's Flavor Forecast.
Since 2000, the international flavoring company has been bringing together industry experts to predict what U.S. palates will experience in the coming year. This year, the company went global in scope, bringing together a team of McCormick chefs, sensory scientists, trend trackers, marketing experts and food technologists from Asia, Australia, Europe, Africa, Latin America and North America.
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What they found is that when it comes to food, people around the world are more alike than different.
"While developing the Flavor Forecast 2012, our global team was excited to find so many similarities in the trends inspiring diverse cultures to cook, eat and innovate," said chef Kevan Vetter for McCormick United States. "And," added chef Mark Garcia for McCormick United States, "if there's one thing the food lovers of the world have in common, it's that we approach eating with greater curiosity than ever before and really celebrate the enjoyment of it. We can now spend an entire evening immersed in the flavors of a meal."
For 2012, look for foods to honor heritage flavors with fresh approaches, as with Korean pepper paste with sesame, Asian pear and garlic which reinterprets Korean barbecue.
Showcasing vegetables at the center of the plate is another predicted trend. Look for such worldly combinations as eggplant with honey and harissa and squash with red curry and pancetta.
To learn more about future flavors and to get recipes that draw on these predictions, head to flavorforecast.com.
Cuckoo for coconut milk: I had to buy coconut milk for Karen Inman's brisket, but I didn't need the whole can. So I searched out ways to use it.
But first, I needed to know a little more about coconut milk. Turns out it's not the liquid that runs out when you crack a coconut in half; that's coconut water. Coconut water recently has been lauded as a no-fat, low-carb, electrolyte-rich drink for athletes.
Coconut milk, on the other hand, is made from simmering fresh, shredded coconut with water until it turns into a rich, creamy liquid. Cream of coconut takes that a step further, adding sugar to the pot for a sweet mixture that's most commonly found in pina coladas.
Coconut milk has a variety of uses. You can blend it into a mango smoothie, stir it into oatmeal, simmer it with rice pudding mix.
Or, try this recipe for Cod Braised with Gingered Carrot-Coconut sauce that comes, not coincidentally, from McCormick's Flavor Forecast.
Note from the Test Kitchen: If you read Karen's brisket recipe, you'll notice that you don't use all of the coconut milk-spiked sauce. Do not discard it!
I used to it make Santa Fe Turkey Chili.
I heated the bold sauce on the stove and added some shredded turkey and canned black beans (rinsed and drained). I had the turkey in the freezer from Thanksgiving; you could use meat from a store-brought rotisserie chicken as well.
I topped the chili with light sour cream and had dinner on the table in 15 minutes.
Cooking with Kevin: Join former Chicago Bears place-kicker Kevin Butler as he cooks up recipes for a Super Bowl party alongside Meijer Healthy Living Advisor Maribel Alchin Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Rolling Meadows store.
The cooking demonstration starts at 1 p.m. and will be followed by an autograph session from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Due to the popularity of the event, wristbands will be handed out to the first 150 customers in line before 1 p.m.
Meijer is at 1301 Meijer Drive (at Golf and Algonquin roads).
• Contact Daily Herald Food Editor Deborah Pankey at firstname.lastname@example.org or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at Facebook.com/debpankey/dailyherald or follow her on Twitter @PankeysPlate.