Rockstar Ingredient 2009 - My Top Picks

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Last year we were all about the ramps and rhubarb, these two classics that many people knew of but were unfamiliar with took over food blogs. It seemed everyone was trying to use them in one way or another. Still, their time has passed and it makes me wonder what the next Rockstar Ingredient will be. Below are my guesses in no particular order.

Sumac: I'm seeing it everywhere recently. It's a fairly underrated and unused spice in my opinion. Its tart and subtly piney flavors come from the ground berries from a special kind of plant that produces bright red and purple berries which when ground up produce a flavorful spice. You can use it in place of fresh lemon juice or add it for an extra bit of tang in a dish. Often found in Turkish cooking, but the spice grows all over North America as well.

Buddha's Hand: Now that a few green grocers and supermarkets carry them (though very, very poor examples not worth buying) and a few farmers are planting a tree or two, it's now something that you might be able to find. Its floral and sweet lemon flavors make it great for zest, and since the pith is sweet the fingers can be chopped and eaten on their own which are often dipped in sugar first. Plus the name and appearance are more than enough to sway a few people to give it a go.

Wattleseed: With a flavor that's a bit like coffee, hazelnuts, and chocolate this Australian spice is up on my list. More of a dessert spice, it may take a while before people really start to play with it. Mainly because the stuff is still hard to get in the U.S. unless you buy it online.

Cheese: I know I'm being general but I have a hunch that more people are going to start getting into cheese the way some people do about wine. Profiling regions, countries, type of dairy, and developing pairings and dishes utilizing only the best kinds of cheese possible. It's a dairy revolution.

Figs: When the season comes back people will be all over them. All the recent more popular cookbooks have all had figs featured in them; The Perfect Scoop, Urban Italian, A Platter of Figs, etc... It seems that once the season comes back people will probably scramble to them to start learning how to utilize this honey-sweet fruit.

Any other theories or ideas?


  1. I am betting the offal movement will continue, as people are even more interested in being thifty -- and trendy -- at the same time. But, it takes some doing to make some of the Nasty Bits taste good, so home cooks are still figuring it out. Of course, they could ask their grandmothers, but hey...

  2. Hey, a dairy revolution sounds good to me!

  3. Interesting ideas, some things I've never seen in the stores but would love to. Now how about a list of trendy things that need to go away? My own nominations: cilantro and cumin, both of which are way overused and have come to make me slightly ill at just the thought of the taste/smell.

  4. Buddha's hand - also fabulous to chop off a finger and drop down the neck of a bottle of Mexican beer. Fits better than a lime!

  5. First, I love the concept of "rockstar ingredient." Now, when you say Sumac, are you talking about the berries of regular ol' Sumac trees? I don't know how common Sumacs are in California, but here in Ohio they are very common. We have a small grove just across the road. I will have to do some research into use of their berries as spice - I didn't know about that!

  6. I'm thinking non-traditional pasta products, i.e. whole wheat, lentil pasta, etc.

  7. Chimichurri is starting to hit the grocery stores here in Seattle. A dab of that seems to make a lot of dishes perk up and learn new tricks, so it's my bet for the Next Big Food Thing.

    Wattleseed hasn't arrived here yet, but I'll be on the lookout for it now.

  8. Smoked paprika, I think, if it's not already on your menu, will soon be making an appearance there. Or am I so provincial that SP has already come and gone and I didn't notice it?

  9. I think, since saving money has become increasingly PC, inexpensive cuts of meat have become more popular.
    I hope that TEA will thought of in the same way that wine is today - because it does vary by region, producer, process, etc


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