Flavour Pairing: Yuja Pomegranate Truffles + The Food Movement

yuja pomegrante truffles.jpg

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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Homemade Salted Caramel with Vanilla for Holiday Gift Giving

homemade salted caramel bite

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.

 winter canopy homemade salted caramel in jars

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.

 winter berries homemade salted caramel in jars 2

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.

salted caramel pumpkin pie

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.

winter berries 2

 

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

DIY Halloween: Spiced Rum Sea Salt Tootsie Rolls and Oriole Costume

Like most North Americans, I love Halloween. The history, the nostalgia and the excitement all jump-start us into Do-It-Yourself action to where we can’t help ourselves but to dress-up and party. It’s a very special annual event and I try to pay my respects by putting effort into costumes, candies and parties.

Having spent my previous three Halloweens in the massive metropolis of Seoul, this year’s quaint Berkshire retreat center Halloween just didn’t get my heart pounding. Though Korea doesn’t traditionally celebrate Halloween, the large ex-pat community (composed mostly of English teachers) and a general love of partying have made certain areas of Seoul a fountain of pure Halloween joy. A few Seoul neighborhoods, such as Itaewon and Hongdae, have become foreigner hot spots, so there is an endless stream of bars, people watching, parties and costume contests.

My Halloween this year was very, uh, … quiet. Many of the people I was surrounded by didn’t dress up or acknowledge that a special occasion was occurring. I, on the other hand, was possessed by the idea of a homemade DIY Halloween and fully allowed the spirit to blow through me like a hurricane (speaking of Sandy, we were extremely lucky in the NY Berkshires. We had very few power outages and little damage. A few weak trees were loosened and are threatening to fall, but haven’t yet. Hopefully, they will be removed soon. Other than that, it was just a very windy storm).  

My costume this year was of an Oriole. I was inspired to make this for two main reasons:

1) I’ve had a ridiculous bright red-orange gown for years and have always wanted to alter it into something I’d actually wear.

2) I found this fun, easy and fabulous DIY wing tutorial that made me want to be a bird of some kind. A quick Google search of what birds fit my colour criteria told me that an oriole made perfect sense. Voila!

 

And, for obvious reasons of delciousness and awesomeness, I had to make some spiced rum tootsie rolls, too. They’re very easy and extremely satisfying.

Homemade Spiced Rum Sea Salt Tootsie Rolls

Ingredients

  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 cup icing or confectioners sugar
  • 2 cups nonfat milk powder
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp spiced rum
  • A pinch of sea salt (coarse is preferable)

tootsie ingredients

Directions

In a bowl, mix the cocoa, honey, molasses and vanilla together. Once smooth, add the butter, powdered sugar, salt and rum.

tootsie mix

Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix the milk powder into the mixture. Knead the tootsie mix with your hands, if you prefer. It should form a smooth looking lump when finished.

tootsie lump

Let it rest and further merge into tootsie-ness for 20 minutes.

tootsie lump cut

Using a knife or pizza-cutter cut the giant tootsie into strips. Then into one inch chunks. The chunks should be malleable and not sticky.

tootsie chunk

Cut some wax paper into pieces large enough to wrap your tootsie chunks in.  Wrap them.

tootsie wraps

Bring them to a party and watch your friends devour them.

tootsie rolls

Makes 40-45 pieces.

tootsie costume tray