Tapioca 'Faux Caviar'

Inspired by a technique I recently saw (over and over) on this season's Top Chef, I decided to try a little experiment today involving a 'faux caviar' made using tapioca pearls.

To begin, I needed some uncooked tapioca pearls (not the instant stuff that usually populates grocery store shelves) and my local Sun Harvest had just the stuff.

Before treating the tapioca to an assortment of flavorful baths, I added 1/2 cup of the pearls to 2 quarts of boiling water and cooked about 25 minutes (until the pearls were mostly translucent with an opaque center.)

When the pearls reached my desired level of doneness, I transferred them to a strainer and rinsed them in cold water. Once they had drained, I took approximately 1 Tablespoon of cooked pearls and added them to 2 Tablespoons of liquid. For this experiment I decided to test soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, chili oil and pomegranate juice. I let the pearls soak in their respective liquids for several hours at room temperature, before draining and tasting.

All of the liquids delivered beautiful color and the pearls look amazingly like caviar. While the soy, both balsamics and chili oil were delicious, I would change the pomegranate recipe from juice to pomegranate molasses in the future to achieve a more potent, sweeter flavor that the juice did not impart, although it did give them a lovely color.

These 'faux caviar' add nice flavor, gorgeous presentation, and could be used in many applications. They hold their shape and texture quite well and could be made and stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for several days.
Clockwise from top: pomegranate juice, soy sauce, white balsamic, balsamic and chili oil (center.)


Trailer Tacos

I recently had the absolute pleasure (thank you Jaime) of partaking in what is fast becoming a new Austin landmark, Torchy's Tacos. While many might be a little concerned about the quality of food coming out of an Airstream trailer, fear not. With a highly varied menu, an exquisite line of sauces and reasonable prices, it's no wonder they have expanded to four downtown locations.

As it was my first time, I decided to go for the gusto and try a few different tacos. After a quick look at the menu, I chose the Green Chili Pork, The Republican, and the Fried Avocado. While all three were in fact delicious, my new personal Favorite Taco Ever, the Fried Avocado Taco, with 'hand battered fresh avocadoes fried and served with vegetarian refried beans, lettuce, pico, and cheese with poblano ranch on a corn tortilla', was out of this world. I will definitely be back to enjoy amazing tacos in a great atmosphere at a great price.


This Chef's Dilemma

Michael Pollan did a number on me.

I just recently finished reading the terribly interesting (and terrifying to boot) Omnivore's Dilemma, and this hard line meat eater and sometime vegetarian abuser is a little softer and more sensitive because of it.

I won't get in to the details of the book for those of you who have yet to devour Pollan's work, but I will say this, I finally understand the vegetarian argument. I've seen the 'kill floor' videos, I've witnessed the slaughter of various species for consumption, and I've even done my own share of dirty work, but "It tastes damn good" was always enough of a reason to me. I now find myself actually considering limiting my consumption of meat, unless I can attest to it's origins and sustainability. It won't be an easy feat, but as a chef and a lover of food, I really identified with a quote from Pollan, "You are what you eat eats, too." I just find it hard, knowing full well the impact and cost of our current industrial agricultural system, to ignore the facts and continue to eat the way I have in the past. While I can't see myself going the way of the herbivore, I do foresee a difference in the way I view what I put into my body.