Since I've been experimenting with my latest obsession, making risotto in the crockpot, I started thinking about flavors that one finds utterly irresistible and then imagining whether they could be used for a risotto. Over the weekend I was online looking for spices that I wanted for creations I have planned and I began thinking about why some flavors are just so irresistible, why they have such appeal. I'm sure everyone has their own list -- and I'm willing to bet chocolate is on a lot of them but aside from chocolate this is mine.
#1 (with a Bullet!) - Maple Syrup!
I don't know what it is about the flavor of maple but I think I love it more than chocolate! In recent years, since I'm trying to keep the carbs down, I don't often indulge in real, pure maple syrup but I've found I can get my maple fix by purchasing a good quality organic maple flavoring (Wild Harvest makes a great one) which can be stirred in to apple sauce or added to ricotta cheese with a little stevia powder and raisins for luscious maple pudding. Celestial Seasonings makes a delicious Vanilla-Maple Tea that is maple-rich. But every now and then drizzling some real, first quality maple syrup over fruit or a piping hot buttermilk biscuit can send me into Maple Heaven. Mmmmmmm - maple!
#2 - Passionfruit
The first time I ever tasted one of these homely little fruits was in a Mexican marketplace. We were having lunch and they served us a tiny little flan-like custard floating in the most succulent sauce. When I asked how it was made they told me it was a blend of passionfruit and mangoes pureed together. Thus began a lifelong romance. The actual fruit can be hard to find outside of urban areas but the syrups and concentrates can be found in South American markets or the ethnic food section of many grocery stores. Passionfruit iced tea has become an obsession. The puree can be added to fruit salads, made into succulent mousse and for the treat to end all treats add some puree to a fresh peach pie or crisp. Lusicous!
#3 - Chicory (with Coffee)
Well, the only way I've ever had chicory is in coffee but that's good enough for me. When I lived in the south every restaurant and market had coffee with chicory. To me nothing smells better on a cold winter morning than hot coffee and if there is chicory added it is so much better. Recently I discovered the local Market Basket carries French Market Coffee with Chicory and I buy 3 or 4 cans at a time. Can't start the day without it.
#4 - Black Truffles
Again, the first time I ever tasted the exotic, thoroughly addictive flavor of black truffles was in an Italian restaurant where they served fresh pasta flavored with olive oil, garlic, shaved black truffles, and asiago cheese. That is still my favorite way to have it even though I'm not a pasta lover. Now I buy the powdered truffles and add a spoonful to crockpot risotto - with some garlic and shaved asiago cheese. Delicious. Also amazing with scrambled eggs!
#5 - Smoked Paprika
Once you start using Smoked Paprika the addiction takes hold and it is powerful. Put it in chili, pasta sauce, sprinkle it over steamed cauliflower or mashed potatoes. Try it on sweet potato french fries or a hamburger or scrambled eggs. Luckily it is cheap and easy to find. Delicious.
#6 - Hazelnuts
I am generally not a nut lover but hazelnuts have such a distinctive taste I make an exception. If you can find hazelnut butter (which you can online) you'll find many uses for it. The chunky is the best and is ideal for tossing with pasta or adding to a risotto. Hazelnut coffee is second only to chicory. Chopped hazelnuts add a delicious taste to chopped salads and hot veggie dishes. Try them in a squash casserole.
So there are some cooking ideas for fall that use some delicious flavors. I'm sure you have a list of your own.
Thanks for reading.