Fallen leaves, earthy and bright colors, fruity and mellow flavors are all around this month. Those are the sources of inspiration for the color palate, the scents and textures of my new fall-inspired salad. It will take your senses on a stroll through the nostalgic and sweet feeling that this season often leaves us with. Crunchy and juicy asian pears are complemented by sweet, lightly cooked butternut squash, carrots, parsnips and purple brussels sprouts. The red shiso leaves balance the softness of the salad adding a nice minty flavor to the plate. The seasoning is an unusually soft aioli made with caramelized apple puree.
If you were to guess what the wafers are representing, I am pretty sure that you would guess right – dry leaves. Now, the noteworthy element about the wafers is the ingredient that allowed me to achieve their toasty, light chestnut flavor and and mimic the crunchiness of a dried leaf. We used acorn flour.
Acorns are mainly known as wildlife food in areas where oak trees occur. It has not been immediately appealing to cooks because it contains large amounts of tannins that are very bitter, astringent and potentially irritant in their raw form. This is why it was first added in meals during difficult times to overcome a food crisis by Native American or Korean cooks – during World War II. Today though, thanks to different steeping and soaking processes acorn flour is much more subtle and pleasing to the palate and it adds a nice nutty twist to a dish.