On the 2015 Menu: Smokiness, Bitterness and Pistachios

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By Frances Largeman-Roth

Here's a glimpse of healthy foods and trends I think we'll be tasting more of in 2015:

1. Riffs on Hot Veggies

For the past couple of years, people have been asking me what the "next kale" is going to be. Cauliflower gave it a solid try this year, but it didn't quite have the crowd appeal that kale has commanded.

But perhaps in 2015 we'll get another sizzling hot vegetable in the form of kale sprouts, also known as kalettes, BrusselKale and lollipop kale. Kale sprouts are a cross between red Russian kale and Brussels sprouts, and look like a tiny head of kale. Their flavor is peppery and their texture crisp. You can use them like you'd use kale -- in salads or sautéed with olive oil and garlic.

We're also set to see more availability of vegetables, like rainbow carrots and broccoflower -- a cross between cauliflower and broccoli -- that have previously been limited to farmers markets.

2. Up in Smoke

According to "Supermarket Guru" Phil Lempert, we'll be seeing lots more smoked foods in the coming year. Smoked salt made its debut about five years ago, and the trend has been gaining steam ever since. Lempert says we'll be seeing smoked vegetables, butters and even cocktails in 2015.

3. Bitter Beckons

Americans seem to finally be getting over their love affair with all things sweet and are experimenting with the alluring bite of bitter. From craft IPAs to Negronis and straight up bitters, we've been getting our acerbic on at the bar. According to restaurant consulting firm Baum and Whiteman's annual trend report, we'll be seeing bitter chocolate, more bitter greens and bitter coffee used in savory dishes. Plus, turmeric -- the ancient anti-inflammatory spice with a strong flavor and deep yellow-orange color -- continues to show up in teas and other beverages.

4. 50 Shades of Green

Baum and Whiteman declare that pistachios are the "nut of the year" for 2015. Perhaps it's due to those wacky Stephen Colbert commercials or their Mediterranean origins, but pistachios are definitely going to be having their moment. Look for the little green nut in sauces, on pizza, mixed into guacamole and even folded into pancake batter.

We'll also be seeing matcha everywhere, says Baum and Whitman's Michael Whiteman. A vivid powder that's produced from finely grinding up green tea leaves, matcha has a sweet, earthy flavor with a high antioxidant content. Whiteman has been seeing it in pesto and doughnuts, and I included it in a panna cotta recipe in my cookbook, "Eating in Color." And yes, hipsters, there's even a MatchaBar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Time to get your green on.

5. Plant Protein Gains Strength

I'd say 2014 was definitely the year of pea protein, fueled by a growing number of vegans and a distrust of soy protein. The coming year will usher in food companies offering more ways to get your plant protein on in the form of ancient grains such as freekeh, barley and farro. We'll also see more sprouted grain products, as they boost the protein content of breads, wraps and flours. Kashi will debut a new sprouted grain cereal in March.

We'll also see an increased use of nuts to boost protein content. And even the big fast casual chains will go plant-based. Chipotle (CMG) just finished rolling out tofu-based sofritas.

6. Ingredient Delivery 2.0

New Yorkers and other urbanites have been spoiled by services such as FreshDirect and Peapod for some time now, but 2015 will be the year delivery services spread far and wide -- and get even faster. Lempert and others confirm that we'll see the expansion of same-day delivery from companies like Peapod, FreshDirect, Amazon Fresh (AMZN) and Instacart. And the meal delivery service Blue Apron will spread to all 50 states.

Frances Largeman-Roth is a registered dietitian and author. She has also been food and nutrition director at Health magazine, part of the editorial team at the Discovery Health Channel and managing editor at FoodFit.com.

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