Issue link: http://magazine.progressivegrocer.com/i/689994
39 SOLUTIONS JUNE 2016 on U.S. menus. Datassential fnds hummus (chickpea puree) is now included on 11 percent of all U.S. menus and has experienced 43 percent menu growth during the past four years. By comparison, falafel (fried chickpea balls or patties) is found on only 3 percent of all U.S. menus but has also experienced robust growth of 32 percent since 2010. Flavor of the month Beyond the health halo, Eastern Mediterranean food de- livers on big, bold favors. Kamen explains that the same depth of favor and complexity that have made Sriracha and gochujang sauces popular infuences from Asian cuisines are also at work in Eastern Mediterranean sauces and spice mixes. Harissa (hot and sweet red chili paste), zaatar (fresh herb paste), chermoula (garlic-lemon-oil blend), North Africa's Ras el hanout (chili-dried spice mix) and preserved lemon deliver a similar complexity. In Chicago, the growing chain Roti Modern Mediter- ranean serves clean-labeled "food that loves you back," while also introducing fans to some of these emerging favor elements like sumac (spice) and sauces that range from a mild dill-yogurt to a medium roasted red pepper and spicy s'hug. "Condiments and favoring elements are ofen the frst parts of cuisines to emerge," says Kamen. "Sauces make the dish and are great starting points because they can easily dress up any grilled meat or vegetables." Likewise, Mediterranean sauces and spreads make excellent addi- tions to salad bars, either on their own for toppings or for dressing chopped salads or cold grain preparations. The communal table Tis region's way of eating is as appealing as the favors and ingredients, says Kamen: "It's communal, shared and presented on big platters and baskets. Instead of plated, formal eating, meals are a social event, with people tak- ing food from big dishes onto small plates. Ofen, bread is a way to carry other foods, like fatbreads or herb salads, or [is] used for dipping hummus and other spreads." Tese kinds of vegetable-laden plates are popular on the menu at the emerging mid-scale chain True Food Kitch- en, based in Phoenix, where a starter of crudités is served with tzatziki dip and a black olive spread. A roasted sea- sonal vegetable board is accompanied by Avocado Green Goddess dip and pimento cashew cheese spread. Communal vegetable dishes are also well-suited to prepared food programs, where pre-roasted vegetables or grilled meats can be a starting point for a meal of veggies, greens and grains selected from the salad bar. Customers can fnish of their DIY meal with sauces from an exten- sive selection and some freshly baked bread. G Traditional Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors are found in (clockwise from top left): chile and lemon, cucumber raita, onion and garlic, baba ghanoush, tabbouleh, and hummus.