Truffle Hunting

Truffles are as old as dirt, at least when referring to the prized fungus known worldwide for its heady umami aroma. Chocolate truffles, fashioned after this rare prize, are a relatively recent innovation. Legend has it that the rich confections we know and love were originally created by accident, sometime between 1890 and 1920. French chef Auguste Escoffier is often credited as the first to mistakenly pour hot cream over chocolate chunks instead of sugar and eggs, intending to make a classic pastry cream. Personally, I have my doubts about the veracity of this claim, but his renowned patisserie certainly did kick-start their astronomic rise in popularity.

The word “truffle” comes from a Latin word tūber or the Vulgar Latin tufera, meaning “swelling” or “lump.” Especially when rolled in cocoa powder, evoking a fresh coating of dirt, their striking likeness to mushrooms easily explains the name. While I’ve previously worked to bridge the gap between candy and spore, I now have a new secret ingredient in my arsenal: Sugimoto Shiitake Powder.

Foraging for Flavor

As autumn paints the world with its warm hues and Halloween approaches, it’s the perfect time to forage for mushrooms and indulge in sweet treats alike. Bringing together the richness of chocolate, the nuttiness of walnuts, the earthy sweetness of dates, and the unique umami notes of shiitake powder, these mushroom-shaped truffles are the epitome of fall charm, both in taste and presentation.

Sweet, Salt, and Savory

At the heart of these exquisite truffles lies Sugimoto Shiitake Powder, a secret ingredient that elevates the flavors to a new level. Made from carefully selected shiitake mushrooms, this powder infuses the truffles with a subtle umami taste, without inherent mushroom-y flavor, adding depth and complexity that’s both surprising and pleasing to the palate. It harmonizes with the delicate touch of miso paste, lending a subtly salty finish, punctuating the whole mouthful with a bold flourish.

Easy and Adaptable

While the novelty of having a mushroom-shaped chocolate truffle is a large part of the visual appeal, you could certainly keep it simple and make traditional, stemless rounds instead. What’s more, you can use this basic formula as your palate to paint with a wide range of complimentary flavors, such as:

  • Orange zest
  • Mint extract
  • Pumpkin spice
  • Instant coffee powder
  • Powdered raspberries

To infuse your truffles with a touch of fall and Halloween spirit, consider lightly dusting the mushroom caps with cinnamon or powdered sugar. These subtle additions evoke the essence of autumn leaves and festive celebrations.

Smarter Sweets for Halloween

These wholesome treats aren’t just a delicious indulgence; they’re also a healthier alternative to store-bought Halloween candy. Perfect for serving at parties, these truffles are bound to bewitch the taste buds while keeping sugar in check.

Each little bite packs in immense chocolate flavor, with the caramel-sweetness of dates for body. They’re easy to sink your teeth into thanks to their genuinely fudgy texture, set off by a satisfying crunch from your “stem” of choice. Both elegant and whimsical, decadent and wholesome, umami truffles are the best of all worlds, sweet, savory, and salty alike.

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Corn-ucopia

If you haven’t yet gotten your fill of fresh summer corn, it’s time to start shucking and husking, pronto. While you could make the case that corn has become season-less, a perennial staple in both the freezer aisle and canned goods section, the most advanced preservation technology still can’t capture the full bouquet of flavors, nor the sheer sensory experience, of sinking your teeth into a fresh, crisp row of sunny yellow kernels.

How Long Does Fresh Corn Keep?

Don’t wait another minute. Aside from dwindling harvests, timing is critical once you bring your haul back home. Sugars begin converting to starch the moment each ear is picked, making it more bland with every passing day. That’s why “fresh” corn in December doesn’t have the same magic as August; it’s already been in transit for who knows how long, shipped in from warmer climates on a slow boat.

Need More Ideas For Fresh Corn?

Make the most of your haul with these fool-proof recipes. From appetizers to desserts, classic to unconventional, there’s nothing that quality corn can’t do.

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No Cook? No Sweat

When it gets hot enough to bake cookies in the car, a considerable portion of the day is devoted to simply staying cool. Just flipping on the AC will never be an effective line of defense against this unstoppable foe, finding every crack in the foundation to slip right through. That’s assuming the increasing demands on electricity don’t cause power outages in the first place. Each summer is only getting hotter than the last, so we need better ways to stay cool.

Step Away From The Stove

The key is to generate as little heat as possible. There’s no need to adopt a fully raw diet, but who wants to eat a boiling vat of thick stew right now anyway? Still kissed from the chill of the fridge, no-cook recipes are the refreshing, re-invigorating ways to beat the heat.

Eat Well With Ease

Stay far away from the oven, put away that saute pan, and embrace a fresher approach to summertime meals. Fortunately, with such a wealth of incredible produce waiting in the markets, they don’t need extensive prep work to be transformed into unforgettable seasonal treats.

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Talk Of Tomatoes: 10 Best Fresh Tomato Recipes For Summer

Nothing in the world compares to a ripe summer tomato. Taut skin gleaming in the dappled midday sunshine, it beckons with a ruby red blush. Firm, meaty, and substantial, it needs only a pinch of salt to erupt with savory flavor, naturally sweet, acidic, and subtly peppery. If you’re really lucky, it will still be warm, straight from the garden, the green aroma of its twisted vines still lingering like fading perfume.

For a fruit that’s been around for over 80,000 years, you’d think the novelty would have worn off by now, but humans and animals like simply can’t get enough. At least, I know that’s true for me, especially if we’re talking about heirloom varieties. The more gnarled, colorful, and bulbous, the better. Those beauties never see the heat of the kitchen, too perfect to bear cooking. For the rest, however, I have more than a few winning recipes to make the most of the season.

Maximize your own fresh tomato intake with a few of my favorite recipes:

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Sushi For Sakura Season

Spring in Texas means vast fields of bluebonnets, rippling in the wind like waves in the ocean. In Japan, all eyes are on a different sort of flower, turning the air itself into a sea of petals. Sakura are reaching peak season right now across central Honshu, the main island which includes the hot spots of Tokyo and Kyoto. It’s the most popular time to visit either metropolis, heralding in a crush of tourists from around the world.

Why Are Sakura, AKA Cherry Blossoms, So Important?

Their aesthetic attraction needs no explanation, but there’s a deeper meaning that strikes at the core of Japanese culture. Their fleeting beauty illustrates that nothing in this world is permanent; blink and you’ll miss it. This philosophy is called “mono no aware.” Translated as “an empathy toward things”, or “a sensitivity to ephemera”, it’s also a vivid reminder to live life in the moment, or else it will pass you by.

Don’t let another sakura season pass you by. This spring, even if there are no blossoms to be found near you, host your own personal hanami and watch as sakura sushi blossoms on your plate.

Ingredients You Need To Know

I’m going to assume everyone understands the basics of sushi by now. Aside from the usual suspects, these pretty pink rolls call for a few specialty items:

  • Sakura powder: Many so-called sakura snacks cheat and use cherry flavoring with red dye. Real sakura blossoms taste nothing like their namesake fruit. Instead, the petals have a delicate floral taste, subtly sweet and lightly sour. Dried sakura blossom powder can be found online or in Japanese markets. If you want to replicate the experience with more accessible ingredients, you can swap 1 cup of the water for beet juice and add 1 teaspoon rosewater instead.
  • Umeboshi: Most people simply define these shriveled fruits as pickled plums, but there’s so much more to them than that. Unripe green plums are first fermented, introducing beneficial cultures and probiotics, then gently sun-dried, and sometimes infused with red shiso leaf. They’re powerfully sour, salty, and slightly bitter. It may be an acquired taste for some; I hated them in my early years but can’t get enough now. The best umeboshi will be sold refrigerated, as shelf-stable options will undoubtedly have added preservatives.
  • Shiso: Also called perilla, ooba, Japanese basil, or beefsteak, there’s no substitution for this unique green herb. The broad, jagged leaves are a member of the mint family, although if you ask me, they have a flavor reminiscent of toasted cumin and sharp citrus.

How Do You Make Sakura Sushi?

The unconventional shape may throw you at first. Don’t overthink it! Rather than taking a complicated mosaic approach to building a whole new art form, these sushi rolls take shape exactly the same way as your classic hosomaki.

  1. Use a thin layer of rice to cover only the bottom 1/4 of the nori. Layer three leaves of shiso and three pitted umeboshi on top.
  2. Roll it up as tightly as possible, taking care not to rip the nori. Seal the end with a light dab of water across the edge.
  3. Use a very sharp knife to cut the roll into pieces. Six is ideal; you only need five to make each flower, so consider the messiest one a mid-prep snack!
  4. Take each individual piece of sushi and use your hands to model it into a rough heart shape; pinch one end into a point, and press a divot into the opposite side, forming two bumps.
  5. Repeat with all the pieces.
  6. Arrange your sushi on a plate with the points facing inward in a circle. Garnish with an extra leaf of shiso and pickled ginger if desired.

Naturally, the best way to enjoy sakura sushi is outside on a picnic blanket while gazing skyward towards the pink petals, falling like snow. I’m happy to report that they taste every bit as good eaten inside on a cold, gloomy day, too. No matter what spring looks like for you, it’s worth taking a moment to celebrate, revive your spirit, and begin the season with a full stomach.

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