How black food is lighting up the culinary world
When food takes a dark turn, it can really benefit your diet.
What happens when you let garlic ferment for a couple weeks? It turns black. What happens when you burn coconut shells and add the ashes to ice cream? It turns black. And people go crazy for it.
As food trends go, this one's pretty enticing – and rather mysterious. We all know how beneficial it is to eat foods that are green, but what's so great about black food? What happens to food when it turns black that propels it to superfood status?
That depends on the food you're starting with. So we've decided to break down a few of our favorite blackened foods and find out exactly what this black magic is made of.
Black garlic is actually fermented garlic, made by letting whole bulbs of garlic sit for several weeks over low heat, spurring a chemical reaction that creates those distinctive black cloves. Taste-wise, you're left with a combination of molasses-like richness and tangy garlic undertones. Texture-wise, it's a soft, melt-in-your-mouth consistency similar to dried fruit.
And then, there are the benefits. In ancient Taoist mythology, black garlic was thought to bring immortality to all who consumed it. In modern science, it was discovered that this stuff's got nearly twice as many antioxidants as raw garlic. It also contains S-Allycysteine, a natural compound that's been linked to cancer prevention.
From cakes to dips to soups to noodles, there's a whole litany of ways to use black garlic in your cooking. Check out Sarah Berkowitz's recipes in our Israeli Kitchen channel for black garlic chocolate cake and black garlic tahini, as well as a simple black garlic noodle dish from White on Rice Couple and a black garlic lentil soup from Nick Balla of Bar Tartine restaurant in San Francisco.
Black ice cream
The black ice cream frenzy has officially gone global. This dark-as-your-soul confection is all the rage in scoop shops from around the world, but why?
Perhaps it was a counterprotest to the everything-unicorn craze, but we're not complaining. It actually started last year, at a shop called Morgenstern's in New York City. They used ashes of a coconut shell to turn ice cream black, so while it tastes like coconut ice cream, it looks like the tar used to patch potholes – with sprinkles, if you so choose.
More recently, Buza, a cozy shop in northern Israel, started making its black ice cream flavored with peanut butter. Their secret to achieving that signature charcoal color? Zinc.
Between ice cream and this crafty black lemonade (Instructables recipe here), you can truly turn your summer into a goth-food paradise. This drink is made simply by adding activated charcoal to regular lemonade. You can buy activated charcoal in capsule form and just dissolve them into the drink for the lemonade of your jet-black dreams.
Seafood and pasta go together like hummus and pita. But what if the seafood was actually inside the pasta? That's the idea behind black pasta. Instead of your usual shrimp scampi or lobster mac & cheese, someone had the brainy idea to inject squid ink – or cuttlefish ink, since both creatures excrete ink – into the pasta itself. It's used frequently in Asian dishes, and it's also really fun to make around Halloween.
Serious Eats has a recipe that, of course, hinges on your ability to find squid or cuttlefish ink (some gourmet food stores stock it, probably close to their caviar section). Failing that, you can also find it on the menu at several restaurants in the Los Angeles area, including Bestia, a restaurant owned by Ori Menashe. The chef, who grew up in Israel, was named Food and Wine magazine's Best New Chef in 2015.
Goths need caffeine, too. A new trend in lattes counts activated charcoal as a key ingredient in achieving that black color, somehow almost blacker than black coffee. Activated charcoal is said to have detoxifying properties because toxins in the body bind to it. WebMD says it helps rid the body of unwanted substances and is sometimes taken to treat drug overdoses. There are also claims that it can help cure hangovers and lower cholesterol, but science has yet to validate this.
What we love about activated charcoal, though, is that it's tasteless. So you can add it to virtually anything. This was the genesis of the black latte, which popped up at a cafe in Melbourne, Australia, a city already known for its deep-seated cafe culture. The cafe's called White Mojo, but clearly its expertise lies in just how black its drinks can get.
Owner Ben Luo says he perfected the latte for its burgeoning vegan customer base. “While the black latte looks great, our point of difference is that it actually tastes delicious and sweet, too," Luo told The Herald Sun.
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