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What's Cooking?: Bittersweet

Do opposites attract?  It certainly does in the culinary world.  It is the pairing of opposite ingredients such as sugar and vinegar as in strawberries and balsamic vinegar, salt and sugar as in chocolate covered pretzels, or spicy white pepper and vinegar in hot and sour soup.  Exploring combinations of the six basic tastes of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent, and umami  opens a palate of sensations.  The cooking trend is combining these contrasting flavors resulting in a complex layering that bursts and surprises the taste buds.  The outcome is never subdued or tepid.  There is a welcomed nontraditional bite that makes you wonder how and why these pairings come to work together so well.

The culinary scene is so exciting these days as flavors that seem mismatched result in foods that are bold and unexpectedly harmonious.  Mexican recipes have for centuries combine chocolate with their meat dishes.  It doesn’t make it sweet but rather deepens the richness of the particular meat. Coffee or espresso does this as well when added to chocolate baked goodies.  Recently, I found a recipe combining strong coffee and tomatoes as a marinade for a beef brisket.  Many Asian dishes have often combined spicy, sweet and sour to create a multilayer rush to the senses. Although I do not care for anchovies, the addition of it in certain dishes gives this umami taste that is not fishy but uniquely savory and flavor enhancing.  Unable to identify this mystery ingredient, it makes you crave for more to find out what it is. I love salt added to sweets. It actually elevates the sweetness. That’s why I love adding a sprinkle of salt to my watermelon.  A combination I am partial to is bitter and sweet.  My favorite is bittersweet chocolate chunks in chocolate chip cookies with a sprinkle of sea salt on the top which is the icing on the “cake.”  A perfect contrast of flavors amplified!

The final contrasting pairing in this cooking blog is “bittersweet.” Food brings people together. Thank you for allowing me to share ideas, tips, and fond family memories since this blog began seven years ago. My journey with you has been wonderful and I have learned so much.  Now I will look forward to creating new combination of flavors of a different kind in my retirement.  My future culinary endeavors include making dim sum dishes, fresh pasta and finally the time to bake some bread.  Of course, reading a good book is never far away!  Nevertheless, my retirement is bittersweet for I will truly miss you all.  Happy baking and cooking!

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