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Black Sesame

My friend and her brother asked me to make this flavor a long time ago.  They love this flavor because it’s light using soy milk (no dairy) and it has that familiar asian peanut butter-like flavor using black sesames.  I should write another blog about the holy trinity of asian dessert flavors (black sesame, red bean, green tea).  Anyway, it took me months and a trip to Spain to crave this quintessential asian flavor.  A month of eating a lot of rich jamon, seafood and eating out everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner made me crave something lighter.  So I came home and ground black sesame to a powder and mixed in soy milk and some coconut milk to add a little creaminess.  You can taste the coconut but instead of crunching on dry coconut flakes your teeth find the fine nuttiness in the black sesame.  It’s nice to be home!


Once upon a time we made Kulolo….

Mention kulolo and immediately people’s eyes light up and they are transported to small-kid times.  “I remember when Grandpa used to be in charge of making the kulolo for luaus…”  my Aunty says.  Kulolo is a Hawaiian desert that is made by laboriously grating taro and coconut meat and squeezing the liquid out of the coconut.  Taro while raw, oozes a sap that makes you itchy, so while you grate the taro and your hands are burning, you think about all the people who are gathering for the luau and how this treat is a Hawaiian tradition.

Anytime you make something with kalo (taro), it is special because it has a story.  It’s a humble food that Hawaiians have eaten as part of their main diet for centuries, but it takes skill, patience and hard work to produce it.  A taro plant takes about a year to mature to the point where you can harvest the root and during that year you are literally nursing your patch; cleaning the water, weeding, making sure the water is flowing, protecting it from pigs that want to eat your crop, and building mounds over the root to keep it healthy as it grows.

Land is scarce in Hawaii and even scarcer are the people who build their lives around tending traditional taro patches or lo’i.  The people at Kako’o ‘Oiwi have revived a piece of land and a community in Kaneohe that was once ancient taro patches.   These taro patches that once fed A’li’i (royalty), were turned into rice paddies, then became overgrown with grass, then was up for possible bids to build houses, but saved by dedicated Hawaiians, now built back into a traditional taro patch.  Around this patch of land stories are blooming:  Liko is tending a patch that his ancestors tended.  Kristi is teaching children and adults about what it means to be Hawaiian and proud of it.  Kane has brought his pi’i a’li’i once only found in his taro patch on Kauai now growing in this patch that once grew thousands.  And everyone is working together to produce kalo to feed their community.

Kako'o 'Oiwi

With a story like that, I created this kulolo gelato to express the beauty in how many hands and hearts have gone into growing this kalo.  Once upon a time we made Kulolo… Aloha mai kakou!

Ahhh Lemon Ice

In Brooklyn, when it is 90 degrees and sweaty humid, the best thing to do is drag yourself up Court street to Court Pastry where they make the best lemon ice.  It’s like the New York equivalent of shave ice in Hawaii.  White, fluffy, and complete fantasy when it’s so hot out you are drenched in sweat.  Here in Hawaii, it’s Meyer lemon season.  They are the best lemons to make a sweet lemon ice with.  I top it with some candied lemon sugar for some sparkle and extra zest.  

Haupia Macadamia Chocolate Truffle

This truffle celebrates Hawaii, made with ingredients that can all be grown here.  I love Ted’s chocolate haupia pies; chocolate and haupia are a match made in heaven!  Buttery and crunchy mac nuts just take it over the top.  It’s not the fanciest flavor, even in photographs, but it is one my faves because it is just like home, it’s familiar and beautiful in its simplicity.

Ginger Chocolate Truffle

Bringing this collection back home to Hawaii!  This one is for those who claim they don’t like desert because it sits too heavy.  This ginger chocolate truffle is made from a chocolate sorbetto base so there are no eggs or milk.  And the dark chocolate is offset by the bright spicy flavor of fresh Island ginger.  It’s happy and soothing at the same time.  The chocolate triggers serotonin chemicals in the brain and the ginger is a digestive so it’s the opposite of heavy in your stomach.  Yet, it is still decadent and bright on your tongue.  I top it with shards of thinly sliced candied ginger for crunch and heat and for the fun of candy.

Orange Allspice Truffle

No truffle collection would be complete without one based on fusing a fruit with chocolate.  The problem is keeping that fruit flavor as bright and fresh as possible without making it taste like lemon pledge or orange glo.  Leave it to my friend gingerroot on Food 52 (check out her recipes they are AMAZING!) to suggest pairing the orange with allspice.  The allspice gives the bright local oranges a base note to shine on.  Topped with an orange sugar that is shiny and crunchy like candy it’s the perfect fruit addition to the truffle collection.

Mexican Chocolate Truffle

I am so lucky my friend’s husband’s family is from Guadalajara Mexico and they taught me how to make the foods that they grew up with:  Green enchiladas, tamales, tacos, salsas, guacamole.  Her mother-in-law even made a step by step tamale video:  How to Make Tamales if You are a Gringa.  A party with them is not complete without first inviting your entire family and all of their friends then making enough food to feed everyone for two dinners and a lunch in between.  And the secret to amazing Mexican food is the mix of chiles and how you prepare them.  For instance, guacamole:  toast chile arbols in hot oil, pour hot water over that, let it soak, zap it in a blender/food processor then add your onion, cilantro, and avocado salt and lime.  The earthy spicy chiles give it a flavor that is unreal.  This Mexican Chocolate Truffle uses this toast and zap method with Pasilla and Guajillo chiles.  It is earthy and spicy just the way it should be and it tastes even better with lots of great company.  Viva

Dulce De Leche & Salted Cashew Truffle

I have to say, this is my fave of the truffle collection.  It hits a bunch of sensations at once:  sweet, salty, crunchy, creamy.  It’s why candy bars are so addicting. To make dulce de leche you can throw a can of condensed milk into a pot of boiling water and let it simmer for an hour or two; when you open the can, magically the milk inside has turned into contained dulce de leche.  Or you can do it my way and simmer milk and brown sugar a tad of baking soda until it reduces down after a couple hours into a lightly salty caramel.  Either way it’s sooo addicting.  You can eat it straight, smear it on a banana, pretend you’re Cuban and put it in your coffee, use it in a Puerto Rican flan or smear it on cookies.  If you ever wanted to go to the Carribean, close your eyes, eat this with its crown of salty cashews and you’re there.

Spanish Hot Smoked Pimenton Truffle

Smoked pimenton or paprika is one of the defining spices in Spanish foods.  Everything it touches tints it red with a smoky sweet flavor.  It is most ubiquitously recognized in Spanish sausage chorizo.  Here, instead of meat, I am using it to flavor chocolate which imbues this truffle with smokiness that reminds me of spicy sausages and bacon.  I read in a magazine that bacon is the most attractive smell to men far above any floral or citrus fragrance.  That you’re better off attracting men with bacon than dousing yourself with perfume.  I wonder if that partially explains the recent craze towards bacon and chocolate; aphrodisiac with an aphrodisiac.  Well, V-day is coming up! xo

Black Anise Dark Chocolate Truffle

Growing up, I used to accompany my mom to Chinatown every weekend because there was no such thing as a babysitter for my mom.  Chinatown for me was home to lots of public displays of spitting, pig heads, goat carcasses, thronged vegetable markets and mysterious Chinese herb shops with snakes and roots that looked like bones.  I went back to Chinatown this week to pick up some star anise for my truffle collection, and it’s definitely cleaner than I remember it but, the gist is still the same.  I put the sealed bag of stars in the car and creeped through the traffic of red lights, jay walking crowds and lazy police cars.  Within minutes my mom’s Camry stuck in traffic smelled of ancient China with silk robes and smoky dens.  When I got home I decided to pair the deep licorice anise with a bright spicy floral ingredient and dark chocolate sorbetto.  It’s dark, sensual and oriental (in all connotations of that word).   It does exactly what I want these truffles to do:  transport you to another world.