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.