Menu Development for Healthy Cooking
Culinary Institute of America
Before you can develop healthy recipes, you need to create a menu for your operation. The number and type of healthy offerings will depend on several interrelated factors that center around the type of establishment and your clientele.
Chefs today work in a variety of non-restaurant venues. You may work at a spa, on a cruise ship, at a resort hotel, as a caterer. You may be the director of food service at a school, office complex, hospital, residential facility, or chain of upscale supermarkets offering home-meal replacements. Even restaurants can vary widely: Do you work at a small, casual bistro or for a large chain of family restaurants?
Where you work determines who your clientele is and the type of food they will expect. Factors such as the number of meals you prepare in a shift, the availability of ingredients, and the amount of storage and equipment you have will affect your menu.
The menu is the medium through which your customers learn what your kitchen is able to offer. Making good nutrition the focus of the menu or offering health-oriented dishes in addition to the more usual fare provides a new level of information to your customers. A menu that places an emphasis on nutrition, no matter how small, tells your customers that your establishment cares about offering them choices to meet their needs.
Sometimes customers’ needs may not be the driving force behind creating a healthy menu. Knowing the basics of good nutrition and having the desire to provide foods that have healthful components (that are low in trans fats, high in antioxidants and fiber) may be all the impetus you need.
Selecting and Preparing Appetizers
Perfectly fresh clams and oysters, shucked as close to service time as possible and served with sauces designed to enhance their naturally briny savor, or a classic shrimp “cocktail,” served with a cocktail sauce, salsa, or other pungent sauce, are perennial favorites in any appetizer category. And as long as you are confident that your seafood comes from a reliable source, these simple appetizer foods are fresh, flavorful, and healthy. Foods you might ordinarily try to avoid in other menu categories are appropriate here as long as you are very careful about portioning and presenting the foods.
Smoked fish, meats, or poultry; sausages, pâtés, terrines, and galantines; air-dried hams and beef sliced paper thin—all of these items can be used to create appetizer plates, on their own with a few accompaniments or garnishes or as a sampler plate.