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Posts Tagged ‘wasabi’

Recently I had a couple of encounters, not the alien kind but the kind of encounters that you don’t expect after 30 plus years! We were meeting a friend up on Bloor at our local pub for dinner one night and this gentleman stops me on the street and calls me by name. He was so happy to see me but I had no idea who he was; it turns out that he was in my grade school way back before dinosaurs and he recognized me! I didn’t recognize him because he was a very skinny and short kid with a crazy ‘fro and he became quite a tall and portly adult with close cropped hair.

Later that same week we ventured to our local Home Show to walk around and day-dream about our next renovation when this woman approaches and asks if I had gone to U of T (University of Toronto) and as soon as I looked at her I recognized her from way back in the mid 80’s! Two totally unexpected encounters in one week. Has this ever happened to you? I’d love to hear about it.

I was trying to find a way to use the wasabi pearls without being too predictable and this salad was the perfect solution! The lightly dressed salad plays up the subtle sweet and sour Asian flavours in the cucumber pickle combined with the luxuriously creamy soft poached egg yolk. The cucumber pickle was so tasty, I would have it on its own too!

I’m still at odds about the use of the other two pearls, so if you have any ideas, I’d love to hear about them.

CucumberPicklePoachedEggSalad_2046

A refreshing Asian flavoured salad

Cucumber Ribbon Pickle and Poached Egg Salad with Wasabi Pearls

Serves 2 as a light meal or 4 as a starter

Ingredients for the salad:

  • 4 handfuls of mixed greens (I used spinach and arugula)
  • 20 grape tomatoes cut in half
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp green onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 heaped tbsp wasabi pearls (click here for recipe)
  • 1 cup English cucumbers, sliced into very thin ribbons (see note)
  • 1 soft boiled egg per serving

Ingredients for the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce

Directions for the cucumber pickle:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing and heat either in the microwave or stove top until just about boiling. Pour over the cucumber ribbons in a non-reactive container and allow to sit for 15 to 30 minutes.

Directions for the salad:

  1. Put equal amounts of the mixed greens into each of two or four bowls, top with equal amounts of the cucumber pickle (reserve the dressing) and tomatoes.
  2. Add one poached egg per bowl and garnish with the chopped green onion and cilantro.
  3. Distribute even amounts of the wasabi pearls into each bowl and drizzle with a tablespoon or two of the dressing into each bowl.
  4. Serve immediately.
CucumberPicklePoachedEggSalad_2048

The pale green wasabi pearls are a burst of flavour

CucumberPicklePoachedEggSalad_2051

Breaking into the yolk to make a delicious, creamy dressing

CucumberPicklePoachedEggSalad_2049

No, they are not some weird green fish eggs, they are wasabi pearls!

CucumberPicklePoachedEggSalad_2052

I just needed a bit of colour on a dreary winter’s day

Tips:

  • Use your vegetable peeler to make paper thin cucumber ribbons.
  • Don’t peel the cucumber to give it some substance.

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BalsamicPearls_1867

Perfectly formed balsamic spheres

Are you an experimental cook? What I mean by that is, do you instinctively gravitate toward unusual recipes, perhaps ones that push you out of your comfort zone? Using ingredients and techniques that are new to you and perhaps don’t always work out the first, second or even third time you try it? You may have guessed that I am, to a fault. Like a dog with a bone. I won’t stop until I get it right and even then, I may likely never make that recipe ever again! You will wonder why and to that I say, why not? I simple check it off my list and move on. This might be such a recipe.

I cannot recall where or when was the first time I saw Balsamic Pearls or caviar but I do recall being instantly smitten, my only problem was that I was not able to find the jelling ingredient Agar Agar, until recently! And I found it in the most unlikely place, my local health food store! It was an arm and leg to purchase, but fortunately it’s a big enough bag that I can make several batches.

What reminded me of these little gems was one of my shopping trips for Food Styling Assisting at a very fancy (read expensive) organic food store in north Toronto called Harvest Wagon; they temptingly have the most gorgeous display of vinegars and oils directly beside the cash desk…no time to even give it a second thought, unless you look at the prices! I suspect people who shop there really don’t look at the prices anyway! It is there that I spotted the balsamic pearls and it was there and then I decided that I HAD to make them!

My dear friend and Inspiration of All Asian foods, Sissy from With a Glass has used Agar Agar for many desserts she allures us with over the years. It is a seaweed based jelling agent that does not liquify when heated up (unless it’s boiled); unlike gelatine which melts (like in my French Onion Soup Pillows).

Pre-directions for all flavours:

  1. At least 30 minutes (but not overnight) before you wish to start making your pearls, fill a tall, thin glass with vegetable oil and put into the freezer to cool. It’s best to have a tall glass so that when you drop the pearls into it, the pearls have a long way to fall through the super cooled oil before they hit the bottom. This is very important because if the pearls don’t have sufficient time to cool down, they will fall to a puddle at the bottom of the glass. Trust me. You can strain the oil and reuse it, so don’t worry about tossing it.
Slightly larger than caviar, these tiny pearls pack a to of flavour.

Slightly larger than caviar, these tiny Balsamic pearls pack a lot of flavour.

Balsamic Pearls

Makes a generous table spoon or more of tangy balsamic pearls.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar (not glaze)
  • 1 tsp agar agar
  • 1-2 cups of vegetable oil in a tall glass

Directions for balsamic pearls:

  1. In a small saucepan mix the water with the balsamic vinegar then add the agar agar and place on medium to medium low heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil.
  2. Cook this mixture on a very gentle boil for 4 minutes, stirring often.
  3. When the 4 minutes are up, remove the pan from heat and allow the liquid to cool to about  50° C (122° F), but try not to let it fall below 41° C (105°F), if it does, you can reheat, stirring constantly until it melts again.
  4. Remove the chilling oil from the freezer and place in a comfortable working area. Using the culinary syringe, draw up the balsamic liquid (try to get most of it), and drop by single droplets into the chilled oil. They will sit slightly suspended on the surface and then fall gently through the chilled oil to the bottom. If the pearls are cooled enough, they will have set and be beautiful little pearly jewels, if they did not set you will have a puddle at the bottom of the glass; strain the puddle out, put the oil back in the freezer and re-melt the puddle in the saucepan.
  5. When you have used up the liquid, strain the pearls out of the oil into a fine sieve and rinse with cold water. It’s best to store the pearls in the liquid that they were originally made from, so top off the storage jar with balsamic vinegar.

These Wasabi pearls are not as green as I had hoped.

Wasabi Pearls

Makes a generous table spoon or more of wasabi pearls.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp agar agar
  • 1 tsp wasabi paste (the powder does not work well in this case)
  • 1-2 cups of vegetable oil in a tall glass

Directions for wasabi pearls:

  1. In a small saucepan mix the water with the agar agar and place on medium to medium low heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil.
  2. Add the wasabi paste and mix well (try not to breath too close, it’s a very strong and stinging smell).
  3. Cook this mixture on a very gentle boil for 4 minutes, stirring often.
  4. When the 4 minutes are up, remove the pan from heat and allow the liquid to cool to about  50° C (122° F), but try not to let it fall below 41° C (105°F), if it does, you can reheat, stirring constantly until it melts again.
  5. Remove the chilling oil from the freezer and place in a comfortable working area. Using the culinary syringe, draw up the wasabi liquid (try to get most of it), and drop by single droplets into the chilled oil. They will sit slightly suspended on the surface and then fall gently through the chilled oil to the bottom. If the pearls are cooled enough, they will have set and be beautiful little pearly jewels, if they did not set, you will have a puddle at the bottom of the glass; strain the puddle out, put the oil back in the freezer and re-melt the puddle in the saucepan.
  6. When you have used up the liquid, strain the pearls out of the oil into a fine sieve and rinse with cold water. It’s best to store the pearls in the liquid that they were originally made so mix a scant teaspoon of the wasabi paste with water and store the pearls in it.
A lovely sweet flavoured pearl.

A lovely sweet flavoured pearl.

Pomegranate Pearls

Makes a generous table spoon or more of pomegranate pearls.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup pure pomegranate juice (don’t use syrup here)
  • 1 tsp agar agar
  • 1-2 cups of vegetable oil in a tall glass

Directions for pomegranate pearls:

  1. In a small saucepan mix the pomegranate juice with the agar agar and place on medium to medium low heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil.
  2. Cook this mixture on a very gentle boil for 4 minutes, stirring often.
  3. When the 4 minutes are up, remove the pan from heat and allow the liquid to cool to about  50° C (122° F), but try not to let it fall below 41° C (105°F), if it does, you can reheat, stirring constantly until it melts again.
  4. Remove the chilling oil from the freezer and place in a comfortable working area. Using the culinary syringe, draw up the pomegranate liquid (try to get most of it), and drop by single droplets into the chilled oil. They will sit slightly suspended on the surface and then fall gently through the chilled oil to the bottom. If the pearls are cooled enough, they will have set and be beautiful little pearly jewels, if they did not set you will have a puddle at the bottom of the glass; strain the puddle out, put the oil back in the freezer and re-melt the puddle in the saucepan.
  5. When you have used up the liquid, strain the pearls out of the oil into a fine sieve and rinse with cold water. It’s best to store the pearls in the liquid that they were originally made from, so use pomegranate juice.
These are very smoky indeed. I wish I had given them a bit of heat with sriachi

These smoked paprika pearls are very smoky indeed.
I wish I had given them a bit of heat.

Smoked Paprika Pearls

Makes 2 table spoons or more of smoked paprika pearls.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp red pepper paste (I used sweet)
  • 3/4 tsp liquid mesquite smoke
  • 1 tsp agar agar
  • 1-2 cups of vegetable oil in a tall glass

Directions for smoked paprika pearls:

  1. In a small saucepan mix the water with red pepper paste and smoke, then add the agar agar and place on medium to medium low heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil.
  2. Cook this mixture on a very gentle boil for 4 minutes, stirring often.
  3. When the 4 minutes are up, remove the pan from heat and allow the liquid to cool to about  50° C (122° F), but try not to let it fall below 41° C (105°F), if it does, you can reheat, stirring constantly until it melts again.
  4. Remove the chilling oil from the freezer and place in a comfortable working area. Using the culinary syringe, draw up the red pepper liquid (try to get most of it), and drop by single droplets into the chilled oil. They will sit slightly suspended on the surface and then fall gently through the chilled oil to the bottom. If the pearls are cooled enough, they will have set and be beautiful little pearly jewels, if they did not set you will have a puddle at the bottom of the glass; strain the puddle out, put the oil back in the freezer and re-melt the puddle in the saucepan.
  5. When you have used up the liquid, strain the pearls out of the oil into a fine sieve and rinse with cold water. It’s best to store the pearls in the liquid that they were originally made from, so mix a small amount of water and smoke (2 tbsp water and splash of liquid smoke).

Tips:

  • I used Mitoku, Kanten Flakes (Agar); the package instructions indicate that 1 tablespoon will set 1 cup of liquid. As fyi, I also tried 2 tsp of Agar Agar into 1/4 cup liquid and found the pearls way too stiff, reducing the Agar Agar to 1 tsp worked out perfectly.
  • The Agar Agar binds with your liquid only when it is added to a boiling liquid and for the pearls to cool sufficiently you must wait until the temperature falls to  50° C (122° F) and then you must act quickly because it starts to set at 41° C (105°F) so there isn’t much time to drop the little droplets (it sets at room temperature, refrigeration is not required). Work in small batches so that your liquid doesn’t set before you have time to use it up to make the pearls.
  • I used a culinary syringe, but an icing bag fitted with a very small end could work too, although I did not try it.
  • Not every liquid can be turned into pearls because there are other things to consider which are far beyond my chemical knowledge so if you are interested in turning something not listed here into pearls, I would do some research.
  • It’s important to follow the directions closely otherwise your experiment will fail, I tested each one to make sure it works. This was my third attempt with Balsamic, second attempt with wasabi and on from there with the other flavours.
  • Don’t drop too large pearls because they won’t have time to set in the oil. My best pearls were about 2 mm (1/8 inch) in diametre, ones that ended up being about 5 mm (1/4 inch) became deformed because they didn’t have time to set as a pearl.
  • My glass was was 12 cm (4.5 inches) high with about 10 cm (4 inches) of oil, so if you have a taller glass with more oil, your pearls can be larger.
Aren't you curious about how I plan to use these little pearls?

Aren’t you curious about how I plan to use these little pearls?

our-growing-edge-badge

My friend and fellow bunny lover Genie from over at Bunny, Eats, Design suggested I post this in Our Growing Edge, a monthly blogging event to encourage us to try new food related things. Kindra from California Cavegirl Kindra is the host for this month’s event. If you have a blog and you are eating or cooking something new this month, click here to join.

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