IKEA's Test Kitchen Unveils Bug Meatballs and Algae Hot Dogs

Kasper Kristoffersen, SPACE10
Kasper Kristoffersen, SPACE10

In 2015, IKEA released a series called "Tomorrow's Meatballs" visualizing what the Swedish chain's signature delicacy might look like 20 years in the future. The campaign wasn't meant to be taken too seriously, with concepts like "The 3D Printed Ball" and "The Lean Green Algae Ball." But now, one of the more out-there dishes from the series, a meatball made from bugs, has been reimagined into a real-life dish. As Grubstreet reports, mealworm meatballs and burgers are two of the items IKEA's Space10 test kitchen has developed for its menu of the not-too-distant future.

"To change people’s minds about food, to inspire them to try new ingredients, we can’t just appeal to the intellect — we have to titillate their taste buds," a Medium post from the lab reads. "Which is why we’ve been working with our chef-in-residence to come up with dishes that look good, taste good, and are good for people and planet."

"The Neatball" swaps out the traditional beef and pork for more sustainable ingredients. The first version features mealworms, which pack 20 percent of your daily protein in 100 grams. The second Neatball iteration, made from root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots, and beets, is completely vegetarian. And in case those recipes stray too far from your comfort zone, they're served with the same mashed potatoes, gravy, and lingonberry sauce that come with the classic meal.

Bug meatballs aren't the only futuristic foodstuff IKEA is cooking up in its R&D lab. Their experimental menu also includes "The Dogless Hotdog" with baby carrots, beet and berry ketchup, and mustard and turmeric cream on a micro-algae bun; "The Bug Burger" with a patty made from four-fifths root vegetable and one-fifth darkling beetle larva; and the "LOKAL Salad" featuring greens grown hydroponically in the lab's basement. And because no meal would be complete without dessert, they've also concocted a nutrient-dense ice cream made from herbs and microgreens.

Sadly for adventurous eaters, these items won't be appearing on menus in IKEA stores any time soon. They're strictly conceptual dishes meant to demonstrate what a modern, sustainable diet could look like. But that doesn't mean that IKEA isn't serious about branching out beyond meatballs—last year, the company hinted at the possibility of opening stand-alone cafes.

IKEA's vegan hot dog.
Kasper Kristoffersen, SPACE10

IKEA burger made from bugs.
Kasper Kristoffersen, SPACE10

[h/t Grubstreet]

Scientists Built a LEGO 'Electrospinner' to Improve the Texture of Lab-Grown Meat

iStock.com/Ekaterina79
iStock.com/Ekaterina79

A group of food scientists who are working to create lab-grown meat have found inspiration in an unlikely source: LEGOs. According to Food & Wine, researchers from Pennsylvania State University and the University of Alabama used LEGO components to create a device capable of improving the texture of the meat they were cultivating. Their findings were recently published in the journal Food Hydrocolloids.

Any protein that comes from “stem or stem-like animal cells” that are cultured in a lab can be considered lab-grown meat, according to Penn State. While lab-grown meat can be labeled a meat substitute because it requires far fewer animals for its production, it remains to be seen whether vegans and vegetarians will be willing to eat it.

Lab-grown meat is still very much in the development stages, and scientists are working on ways to improve the texture. Because cultured muscle cells don’t have any particular structure when they grow, the meat generally comes out resembling ground beef. That’s fine if you’re hoping to make more humane tacos, but it presents a challenge when trying to create, say, a lab-grown steak.

This is where the toy bricks came in. Researchers used LEGO Power Functions to create an electrospinning device that was capable of turning starch fibers into a structured meat “scaffold.” The plastic pieces were ideal because they weren’t conductive, which was crucial because the researchers were working with water and ethanol.

Unlike scaffolds that produce plastic fibers for biomedical purposes, the LEGO device was capable of spinning corn-derived fibers. In other words, what's going into the meat is entirely edible. “The idea is we could make a nice, edible, clean scaffold for our clean meat,” Gregory Ziegler, a Penn State professor and director of graduate studies at the university's Department of Food Science, told Food & Wine.

Scientists are now looking for ways to improve their equipment in order to churn out larger amounts of starch scaffolds.

[h/t Food & Wine]

This Macaroni and Cheese Meatball Recipe Is Easy Enough to Make in a Dorm Room

iStock.com/LauriPatterson
iStock.com/LauriPatterson

It's hard to make creative meals when you're working out of a dorm "kitchen," but Daniel Holzman, the chef/co-owner of The Meatball Shop in New York City, proves that college students don't need to limit themselves to energy drinks and instant ramen noodles. Using just a coffee maker and a toaster oven, he's found a way to prepare an easy recipe for macaroni and cheese meatballs.

The video below is the fourth episode of "The College Try," a new series from Food & Wine and Spoon University that challenges chefs to create meals using dorm equipment and ingredients. Holzman starts by "brewing" his macaroni in a coffee maker. Once the pasta is cooked, he stirs in one tablespoon of butter and transfers it to a plate. To start making the cheese sauce, he adds two cups of milk and two tablespoons of butter to the coffee pot before retuning it to the warm burner.

Holzman prepares the meatballs by mixing ground beef, breadcrumbs, cheddar cheese, salt, and the cooked macaroni in a bowl. After he shapes the meat mixture into 2-inch balls, he bakes them in a toaster oven preheated to 450°F for 12 minutes.

The last step is the sauce. The chef whisks a packet of cheese powder from a box of macaroni and cheese into the milk and uses that as the base for his plate of meatballs. In about half an hour, he makes a meal that looks a lot better than what you can find in most college dining halls.

From microwaved omelets to mug cakes, here are some more cooking hacks for dorm life.

[h/t Spoon University]

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