Last week I mentioned that I had entered in a minor contest to win a cookbook via saucemagazine.com, and I won! I get Cooking with Chocolate: Essential Recipes and Techniques, nominated for a James Beard Award for last year.
The first few times I attempted to make meringues they tasted ok but I despaired of ever making them beautiful. The ones I had created were lopsided, inconsistent in size and despite the best of efforts and the lowest of temperatures still managed to brown in the oven. I stuck with them, however; whenever I had some extra egg whites would whip up a batch and practice my piping skills. Now the ones I make can be much prettier—although my favorite thing to do now is to deliberately misshape and stick candy eyes in them for Halloween monster meringues.
I had never really thought about it before but I ran into a recipe for this...
...the other day, and it looks amazing. Not at all what I had imagined tapioca looked like. For some reason, the color gray comes to mind.
Anyway, so what is tapioca? Well, it's a kind of starch derived from the cassava plant. Cassava is originally native to the Americas, although now it is grown widely in Asia and Africa, and its name derived from the Tupi-Guarani (native people to South America, also originated the word Jaguar, which is cool) word tipioca. To get it you take the roots, which look kind of like potatoes, and grind them up. The water is drained from the pulp, carrying along starch and presumably other small particles of stuff, and that residue is dried up to produce tapioca, which can be in the form of flakes, seeds, or pearls.
Other uses for tapioca besides pudding? Apparently it's popular in Brazil to make tapioca pancakes, "buttered and rolled". I have an idea of what to do with the any leftovers I might have...
Also, there exists what sounds suspiciously like a tapioca cartel.