Flavour Pairing: Yuja Pomegranate Truffles + The Food Movement

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As a lifelong lover of cooking, I have always been passionate about food and food culture. I realize now how lucky I was growing up to have had information about healthy eating practices, access to fresh farm produce and an environment where food actually tasted like something that was plucked from the ground. My desire to cook and make flavor come alive was born from being around food that actually tasted like food and from being embedded in a community culture where food and its origins mattered.

America has always been known as a land of abundance. Unfortunately, where there is great abundance can come great ignorance. We do not have to deeply think about food because its abundance is embedded in the American consumer culture. We shop at supermarkets full of individually wrapped products, pumped full of preservatives to maintain longer shelf life. We see uniform produce, shipped during any season from around the world, stunted of true flavor and lacking nutrients. Ready-to-eat meals are pre-prepared to satiate our assertion of independence from the kitchen. Hefty cuts of meat are laid out in packages designed to make us forget that it was once part of an animal, while undesirable cuts are disposed of. What would it look like if our culture were designed to have us question our food and even beyond that and be genuinely curious about where it comes from and how it might help or harm our health?

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Michael Pollan, author of The Food Movement, Rising says, “The food movement gathers around “the recognition that today’s food and farming economy is unsustainable.” Vast expanses of fields containing a single high yield crop saps valuable nutrients from the soil. Our inability to stop the momentum of the system of supply and demand has left our once vibrant and nutrient rich land an assembly line of fast food catering to the needs of the masses. Our bodies have responded to our high sugar, high salt, and bland diets with chronic disease, obesity, diabetes and weak flavor palettes. As a chef in training, I cannot abide.

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Pollan aptly defines the food movement by stating that it reflects our “attempt to redefine, or escape, the role of consumer.” This can be seen in the small farms, businesses and markets popping up around the country. Farm-to-table dining was started with the realization that the best ingredients can be found close to home. Chefs are working with local farms and only seasonal produce to achieve the freshest meals possible. Huge growth in Do-It-Yourself (DIY) community has developed as well. People are actively learning how to make food products on their own in small batches with simple techniques. There is a strong urge to take part in the process of making food rather than just purchasing and heating it. The food movement is like beautification for our taste buds and our communities.

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To celebrate: truffles!

Korean Yuja (or Yuzu in Japanese) can be called citron in English as it doesn’t have a direct translation.. It is often used in honey teas, desserts and liquor infusions in both countries. The flesh of this citrus is quite tart and an excellent flavour booster for just about anything. I was clever enough to bring a small jar of yuja honey tea back to the States with me. Like all citrus, it compliments the bitterness of chocolate perfectly. And when the whole pomegranate kernels burst in your mouth, you know you can die happy.

 Yuja Pomegranate Truffles

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 3-4 tablespoons yuja honey tea (order here)
  • 1 pomegranate
  • ½ cup of heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • pinch of salt

Directions

Heat the cream, yuja honey tea, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a soft boil. Stir continuously.

Turn heat off and add coconut oil. Stir until fully incorporated.

Add cocoa powder in small batches and mix until thick and smooth.

Let cool to room temperature.

Form teaspoon sized balls by hand. Poke a small hole in the center and put in two whole pomegranate kernels. Envelope kernels and re-form the truffle into a ball. Dust with more cocoa powder. Repeat.

Store in the refrigerator. They should keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. If removed, they will only last a day.

Makes 20-24 truffles.

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Vegan Passion Fruit Truffles + Motto For 2015

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Well, I did it. I made it through 2014, just like the rest of you. Big deal, right? Sometimes life is tough. We all have to trudge through the shit, but we don’t always come out clean on the other side.

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2014 was a devilish year full of chaos (read: threats), discovery, challenges and love. The threats seem like a distant memory now, as I suspected they would, but there is nothing better at turning one’s life upside-down than being in a far away land and feeling unstable. I won’t go too in depth on that subject. Instead, click here. It may give you a vague sense of what I experienced in my final year of working at a Hagwon in Korea. I will say that I left Korea in the fall of 2014 with my sense of trust deeply shaken and my nerves shot, but thanks to Love, I felt hopeful. My support system was, and has been, so solid that even in the thick of the crises, lies and sleepless nights, I never fell. I stood tall, held my ground and was able to see the light ahead.

So, thank you Love. You saved the year and so much more. I dedicate this post, this year’s motto (see below) and my love, to you.

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The most common variety of passion fruit is small and purple. Creatively named “Common Purple”, this thick-skinned, tropical fruit contains pleasantly crispy seeds and yields small amounts of juice. But, that yield is dazzling. Passion fruit is mouthwateringly fresh and the flavour is absolutely seductive. Tart, sweet and delicately strong: a little juice goes a long way in any recipe. I am appalled to acknowledge that I have not tried the entire range of passion fruit varieties. This will now go on my bucket list.

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This year’s motto: Stepping Out Clean in Twenty-Fifteen

Passion fruit is a good place to start. And chocolate helps a lot. These truffles are deliriously decadent and will help you find strength to defeat all your foes.

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Vegan Passion Fruit Truffles

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 juiced passion fruits, separated from seeds
  • ½ cup of coconut cream
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • pinch of salt

Directions

-Heat the coconut cream, passion fruit juice, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a soft boil. Stir continuously.

-Turn heat off and add coconut oil. Stir until fully incorporated.

-Add cocoa powder in small batches and mix until thick and smooth.

Optional: If you like the texture of the passion fruit seeds, add some or all into the mixture.

-Let cool.

-Form teaspoon sized balls by rolling them in the palm of your hand and dust with more cocoa powder.

-Store in the refrigerator. They should keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. If removed, they will only last a day.

Makes 20-24 truffles.

Homemade Salted Caramel with Vanilla for Holiday Gift Giving

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I have just moved to Asheville to begin the newest phase of my life as a student of the culinary arts. With the madness of moving back to the country and then moving again shortly after, I’ve been too busy to prepare for the Holidays. This recipe is perfect if you need to produce a special DIY gift on the fly for a bunch of special people.

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The exact origins of caramel are unknown, but can generally be traced back to the 17th century. The word itself is from French, meaning ‘burnt sugar’. This came to us via Old Spanish, ultimately from Medieval Latin, traditionally from Latin, possibly from an Arabic origin. Either way, this gorgeous goo has been around for a while. If it has never lived in your fridge, perhaps now is the time.

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I first tried making caramel for molten lava cakes. I had a bit left over which was used to top pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. These pies were the best pumpkin pies any of us had ever eaten. And since I’d made a lot of pie filling, we were happily having repeat pie every night. This caramel is very versatile and makes everything really, incredibly decedent and delicious.

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Drizzle it on top of your ice cream, stir a dollop in your coffee, spread a little on toast, or eat it with a spoon. Soon, you too, will be as infatuated as I am.

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Homemade Salted Caramel with Vanilla

(yields about six cups!)

Ingredients

  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups/500 ounces unsalted butter cut into pieces
  • 2 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

salted caramel ingredients

Directions

-Heat sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously with a rubber spatula to avoid burning. The granules will clumps and eventually melt.

-Once the sugar is liquefied, add all of the butter and stir rapidly until the pieces have melted completely. The sugar will not combine with the butter, but stirring will ensure a smooth end product.

-Using a whisk to stir, slowly pour the cream into the mixture. Due to the coldness of the cream, the hot mixture will splatter as the cream is poured in. Continue pouring and rapidly whisking the mixture until the cream is fully incorporated and the caramel is smooth.

-Stir in salt and vanilla and let the caramel boil for one minute. Remove from heat.

-Let the caramel cool before distributing into gift containers. Small mason jars worked very well for me. Discard any chunks of sugar that may have hardened.

-Keep refrigerated for 3-4 weeks.

Share with friends and loved ones. Happy Holidays!

homemade salted caramel

Candied Ginger Week: Candied Ginger Cocoa Nib Cookies with Nuts

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Cocoa nibs can be found in more and more places: chocolate covered cocoa nibs, smoothies, protein shakes and various baked goods. They are broken pieces of cocoa beans that have been prepped all but to the point of being processed into cocoa for chocolate.

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They are rich in vitamins and nutrients and are considered a raw superfood. Cocoa nibs are pleasantly nutty, delicately earthy and they have a wonderful, crunchy texture.

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They also perfectly compliment ginger. Especially candied ginger. In cookies. THESE cookies.

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Ginger and cocoa strike again.

 

 

Candied Ginger Cocoa Nib Cookies with Nuts

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • ½ cup candied ginger pieces (recipe here)
  • ¼ cup cocoa nibs
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

 

Directions

 

Preheat oven to 375ºF/190ºC/Gas mark 5.

Sift flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside

Combine candied ginger, cocoa nibs, coconut and chopped nuts. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in a bowl with mixer or whisk. Add eggs and vanilla and continue to whisk until the eggs are well mixed.

Slowly combine flour mixture a bit at a time. Add some and mix well. Then add a bit more. Repeat until the flour is fully incorporated and there is no trace of dry powder.

Now stir in the candied ginger mixture.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and place a tablespoon-sized dollop of dough evenly spaced along the pan. Leave about two inches between the dollops so they have enough room to expand without being crowded.

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Bake for 8-10 minutes. Keep an eye on them as they bake quite fast. They are done when the edges are brown and the middle is still a little raw looking.

Remove from heat and let cool. Devour immediately or freeze. Share with friends. Bring to a potluck. Or a brunch. Replace cookie for spoon with you ice cream. Dip in milk. Or milkshake. Anyway you do it, enjoy.

Makes about 24 cookies

 

Candied Ginger Week: Cocoa covered candied ginger

 

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When one finds oneself with an excess of candied ginger (I seem to have mountains) one must find ways of using the spicy nuggets creatively. Here are a few simple steps to help support this endeavor:

 

Step 1: Place some cocoa powder in a container.

Step 2: Add about the same amount of your leftover candied ginger to said container.

Step 3: Place a lid on said container.

Step 4: Shake contents until evenly coated.

Step 5: Sprinkle on ice cream, use to decorate your next cake, mix with hot water and make some sort of weird (but probably delicious) tea, add to trail mix or just eat as a snack.

 

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Candied Ginger Week: Candied Ginger Truffles

 

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If I were to anthropomorphize the flavour profile of ginger, I’d tell you all about her snappy, sassy character. She is difficult not to notice and constantly demands your attention. But, oh, you want to give her your attention. She is intoxicating. As soon as she enters the room, you cannot help but take note of her fiery energy. She is quick of wit, sharp of tongue and hot of head.

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She is so good for you. She makes you feel warm and comforts you when you are tired, down or ill. She reminds you of all the good things you’ve got going on in your life. Ginger has friends everywhere. She can mix with all sorts of crowds. Though she can never hide her fiery nature, she can be sweet when she wants to.

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Ginger is in love. She found Cocoa, who calms her down and keeps her level headed. He envelops her with unconditional love and makes her feel like queen that she is. They make an awesome team and bring out the best in each other. The rest of us can benefit in their union.

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These truffles were produced under the warm glow of Ginger and Cocoa’s love. What teamwork.

Candied Ginger Truffles

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • ½ cup cream
  • 4 tablespoons ginger syrup
  • 1 tablespoon candied ginger
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • pinch of salt

Directions

 

Chop the candied ginger into very small pieces. Set aside.

Heat the ginger syrup, salt and cream in a saucepan and bring to a soft boil. Stir continuously.

Turn heat off and add coconut oil. Stir until fully incorporated.

Add cocoa powder in small batches and mix until thick and smooth.

Stir in candied ginger pieces. Let cool.

Form teaspoon sized balls by hand and dust with more cocoa powder. Try not to purposely make defective pieces just so you can eat them right away.

Store in the refrigerator. They should keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. If removed, they will only last a day.

Makes 20-24 truffles.

Candied Ginger Week: Ginger Syrup and Candied Ginger

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Most children have difficulty eating very sharp and hot flavours. There are some foods and flavours that I remember despising when I was very young and later grew to enjoy, such as cilantro, arugula and mustard. I never had that problem with ginger. Though I could only handle it in small doses when I was child, ginger has always had a special place in my heart.

ginger syrup prep 6.jpg Ginger root belongs to the Zingiberaceae family and is closely related to turmeric, cardamom and galangal. It was first cultivated in parts of Southern China and is now used in cuisines around the world. It is quintessential to Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Southeast Asian cuisine and also shows up in many Caribbean dishes. From kimchi and curry to ginger beer, tea and cookies, ginger makes all kind of appearances in your cup, bowl and plate.

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Ginger is also a boss in the medicinal foods category. It can be used to suppress nausea, has been proven to have hepatoprotective qualities and has even been promoted by the American Cancer Society as treatment to keep tumors from developing.

Ginger syrup prep 3.jpg Hot and spicy in flavour and aroma, ginger can overwhelm a gentile or unfamiliar user, but it is certainly worth pushing through the burn for flavour like that. Ginger adds so much to any meal.

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Since ginger knows how to bring the goods to the table so hard, it is Candied Ginger Week here at Turmeric and Twine. I’ll be featuring sweet uses of the spicy rhizome. Every week should be ginger week.

 

Ginger syrup and candied ginger can, luckily, be made at the same time. It is extremely easy and satisfying to make.

 

Ginger Syrup and Candied Ginger

 

Ingredients

  • 14 ounces (375g) fresh ginger
  • 16 ounces (450g) light brown sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • pinch of salt

 

Directions

 

Ginger root can be found in varying degrees of dirtiness. In Korea, sellers make no attempt to clean the dirt off their roots, so mine was really filthy. Scrub the outside very well or you will find your syrup has an unwanted earthy flavour. Peel only if absolutely necessary.

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Cut ginger about 1/8 inch slices. Then roughly chop in small pieces. The smaller the pieces are, the more flavour will be extracted.

 

Place ginger, sugar, salt and water into a non-reactive skillet (non-stick or stainless steel work best) and heat to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about an hour or until the liquid is thick and syrupy.

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Pour the syrup and ginger pieces into a jar, cover and refrigerate for 3-4 days. This simultaneously infuses the syrup with more flavour and candies the ginger pieces.

 

To separate the syrup from the candied pieces, simply strain in a stainless steel strainer. Candied ginger can be refrigerated for up to a month and frozen for several months. Use them to get fancy with baked goods or nibble on their own (like I enjoy).

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Strain the syrup further with a fine mesh strainer so there is no fibrous material left. Drizzle on ice cream, use as a cocktail mixer or make spritzers. Ginger syrup keeps very well and can be refrigerated for 3-4 months.

 

Makes a great gift if you divide in small jars.