Innovative produce and seafood pairings can bring texture and creativity to your dishes and in turn build your brand and reputation. In addition to unlimited opportunities for flavor, pairing seafood and vegetables can lower food costs and make your menu more manageable through cross-utilization.
Produce is versatile, accessible, and affordable, making it an ideal ingredient to differentiate your seafood dishes from the competition. According to Technomic’s Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report, 54% of consumers would like to see more variety of seafood entrées at restaurants, and 50% said they wanted restaurants to offer a wider variety of seafood
and vegetarian dishes. This proves that there is both a demand for more interesting seafood dishes, as well as vegetable-friendly menu options. Consumers also perceive seafood, vegetarian, or vegan entrées as healthier options than beef, pork, and poultry causing them to opt for more seafood and produce-based dishes in an attempt to eat better, according to Technomic research.
Purée and Simple
With such high interest in vegetables and seafood, a smart menu offering is to serve seafood with vegetable purées utilizing both fresh and frozen produce, for example our Herb-Basted Swordfish Steak, Spring Vegetables, and Edamame & Sweet Pea Purée. The meaty, steak-like swordfish complements the creaminess and freshness of the purée and the seasonal morels.
The best thing about purées is that they can be made with virtually any vegetables you have on hand. For example, capitalize on the popularity of cauliflower with a robust, yet mild purée that’s as simple as chopping it, steaming with butter and salt and then tossing it into the blender with some lemon juice. Traditionally, fat in the form of cream or butter adds richness and creaminess to purées, but it can also overpower the natural flavor of the vegetables. Try forgoing the fat in favor of xanthan gum as an alternative thickener that will allow your purée to celebrate the innate qualities of the vegetables.
To add more complex flavor to a vegetable purée, onions are an obvious choice. Diced shallots, leeks or yellow onions can all help balance sweet and savory flavors in a purée. Homemade stocks will also ensure your purées are not mediocre. Vegetable or a white chicken stock (prepared with unroasted chicken bones) will work best or you can use brown chicken stock (prepared with roasted chicken bones) with anything but green vegetables. A splash of dry white wine will add acidity if you prefer that over lemon juice.
Another great way to enhance your purées and an area where you can get very creative is with aromatics. Add smoked paprika to a sweet pepper purée or vanilla bean to celery root. Asparagus and lemon zest make a classic pairing that you can’t go wrong with – especially in the spring when asparagus is in season.
Purées can also be made a day in advance, making prep a breeze. Just cool, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. Then, simply warm up and plate with your seafood when ready. Purées have a reputation as a fine-dining meal accent, but their ease and versatility makes them a valuable asset to complement any seafood menu.
Seafood & Seasonality
Spring produce varieties may have short seasons so make sure to take advantage of what’s available. Pairing seasonal produce with seafood can make for exciting limited-time offers during the spring. Some ideal pairings include:
- Fiddlehead ferns, a grassier version of asparagus, can be sautéed and incorporated into many dishes including pastas or served on the side of pan-roasted fish fillets.
- Ramps, a colorful wild leek that’s not only extremely versatile but also incredibly flavorful, can be sautéed, pickled, or grilled.
- Nettles, which were more well known as an herb but now finding their way into more culinary applications, can be a good base for pestos, sauces, and broths to serve with seafood.
- Meyer lemons, with a rounder shape, smoother skin, and sweeter, less acidic juice than typical lemons, are perfect for use in aiolis, vinaigrettes and pan sauces.
- Asparagus, a member of the lily family, shines in a soup garnished with shrimp or crab, or simply shaved for a salad alongside seared scallops.
- Green garlic, a young version of garlic with a slight grassy flavor, adds a hint of freshness to a seafood risotto or compound butters for fish or seafood.
- Rhubarb, which is technically a vegetable with an intense tartness, can be used in sauces or jams to complement milder fish such as halibut, snapper, or trout.
- Morel mushrooms, with a smoky, earthy and nutty flavor, are best simply sautéed in butter with shallots and seasonings served with prawns, or paired with asparagus, ramps, and scallops in a pasta dish.