Sunday, December 18, 2011

Caviar Not the Kind You're Thinking, Part Two

The previous post contained the recipe for Samurai Caviar. This one will include the original recipe for Cowboy Caviar, the inspiration for the Asian version.

Friends from Texas knew what this was when I made it for office parties. It may be found in other parts of the South. If there's anyone reading this who knows, please tell me?

A local friend gave us the original recipe, to which he adds lots more hot sauce. (Hot sauce and items with lots of salt encourage drinking!) The only fellows who avoided eating this were Dennis, who doesn't eat vegetables (but these are beans!) and Nate, who doesn't eat cilantro. Here's the recipe:

Cowboy Caviar

  • 2 cans black-eyed peas, drained
  • 10 ounces corn – frozen or canned – drained
  • 3/8 to ½ cup Newman’s Balsamic vinaigrette (lowfat is just as good)
  • ½ cup cilantro (leave this out if you don’t like the taste)
  • optional: 2 cloves garlic, cut into large slivers or finely minced
  • 1 small firm avocado, peeled and diced
  • ¼ cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1 firm tomato, diced
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Combine all ingredients and serve with Tostitos scoops.

Optional but good: peeled, seeded and diced cucumber – a good substitute for the avocado – or green and/or red bell pepper. A splash of vinegar. ½ teaspoon of cumin for a zestier taste.

Note: I can no longer find canned black-eyed peas in ANY of the markets I go to (and I refuse to go to Safeway). So, I’m forced to buy a bag of BE peas and COOK them. You can use black beans instead – different but still good. And BE peas are NOT peas, rather beans.

Further note: I like this better than Samurai Caviar because I love the nutty taste of black-eyed peas. And I love cilantro (Chinese parsley). I know that cilantro is both loved and hated. It can taste like soap, and always does to a certain segment of people. They may be supertasters, with an aversion to the bitterness of coffee and the heat of chili peppers. (So glad I'm not a supertaster!)

Caviar Not the Kind You're Thinking, Part One

If you're like us, you have holiday events to attend, and are scratching your head over what to take as your contribution. In Hawaii, the buffet table at potluck events groans with food: everything from homemade to takeout, from home-baked creations to trays of bought noodles and garlic chicken.

If I took some of each thing on the table(s), I'd need more than one plate, and afterward, I'd lapse into a serious food coma! So, I'm pretty selective about what I put on that plate, and I'm always on the lookout for something green (as in vegetables) to eat.

At the library potluck, my plate held small pieces of teriyaki beef, makisushi, finger jello, and a pile of wonderfully bright green spinach salad with grape tomatoes and tofu cubes tossed with a slightly spicy shoyu/sesame dressing. What I brought to the table was the following dip, which is pretty healthy, and several groups of ladies later asked me for the recipe (which is mainly an assemblage of ingredients - I'm better at assembling than cooking!):

Samurai Caviar

  • 2 bags shelled edamame (soybeans), cooked in salted water until tender. Drain and rinse to cool
  • 1/2 ounce hijiki seaweed, soaked in 2 to 3 cups water until reconstituted. Drain.
  • 8 ounces whole water chestnuts, drained and cut into ¼ inch pieces
  • 3/8 to ½ cup Angelo Pietro salad dressing - shoyu or miso types
  • optional: 2 cloves garlic, cut into large slivers or finely minced
  • 10 ounces corn – frozen or canned – drained
  • ¼ cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • Dash of rice vinegar  
Combine all ingredients and serve with Tostitos scoops or shrimp chips. 

You can substitute water chestnuts with jicama, diced small. Add a can of Japanese seasoned baby clams, aburage (fried tofu skins) sliced fine, diced red bell pepper or agedofu (diced small). Try shichimi tongarashi, chipotle or Sriracha hot sauce instead of the usual

I know a lot of these ingredients may be unfamiliar to you. I'll be happy to answer any questions you have in the comments, and you can find most of them in the Asian food section of a large supermarket, or an Asian food store.

This is my original recipe, but if you are familiar with Cowboy Caviar, you will see the inspiration for this, for which I'll give my recipe in the next post. We were eating the last of this tonight, and the DH asked if I'd already written about it. "Because the rest of the world should know about it!" This is why I married him! Well, one of the reasons.

Do people really want to eat in a more healthy manner? I can see that the women in my age group do, whereas the younger folks and men in general head straight for the fried chicken and noodles. Well, if there were no other choices, I guess I would, too. There is usually a fruit salad or tray of crudites (cut vegetables) with ranch dip, but those were missing this time. 

There was SO much food, I can't remember it all, but here's a partial list: pumpkin and apple pies, spice cake with a glaze, coffee cake, bought trio of pound cakes, 2 or 3 kinds of cookies - home-baked and not, finger jello in 2 colors, 2 kinds of bread pudding. ~takes a breath~ Fried rice, fried noodles, sushi, garlic chicken, teriyaki beef, chili (and rice), other entrees I've forgotten. In addition to the spinach salad, and my edamame (soybean) dip, there were lovely, jewel-like slices of steamed Okinawan purple sweet potato. Mulled cider (non-alcoholic, but delicious!) and lots of coffee to save us from the inevitable drowsiness of food coma were the beverages. 

I got excited when I saw the pot that held the cider, because I thought it might be soup. The library is a bone-chilling 70 degrees, and it's drafty. A small bowl of lentil, Portuguese bean soup or chowder would have been great!.In the library, my accessories often include fingerless gloves, a wrap or scarf, and sometimes even a beret! Human beings are more comfortable when the thermostat is set at 74 to 75 degrees! 

Back on topic! People in Hawaii do not even think of chips and dip as a buffet contribution, so the above description is not unusual. This event was held in the morning, and by lunchtime, only the beverages, chili, rice and baked items remained in any quantity! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

December Reading: on Food

Fed up with Lunch by Sarah Wu. In which a public school speech pathologist undertakes the unenviable task of eating a year's worth of school lunches.

Did you eat school lunch? Both the DH and I went to public schools, and had working parents who were too busy or modest to pack home lunches for us. DH told me the summer lunch he packed when he worked as a yard boy consisted of rice and a can of Vienna sausage!

If my mom had packed my lunch, it would probably have been PBJ, lunch meat and processed "American" cheese or - worst! - "deviled meat" on white or "brown" Loves bread. Anything "meat" in the previous sentence was probably beef and pork "parts" - anything from the tail to the snout, and in-between. And not in a good way, as "snout to tail" means today.

When I think back on school lunch in Hawaii, I remember fondly Spanish rice and sloppy joes. I still crave those comfort foods, but rarely make them. I've forgotten the worst of them, but the desserts were fabulous - big almond cookies with a red (probably #40!) dot, squares of shortbread and cream puffs.

I probably only had TWO cream puffs in my whole elementary school career. They were praiseworthy AND unforgettable!

Back to the book: much of the food Sarah Wu ate was preprocessed. A lot of it included chicken "nuggets" and meat patties. Of our own small family - two out of the three of us have always been suspicious of the chicken "parts" - beaks and feet?! - they may consist of. The book suggests only 50% may be chicken something, the rest "filler" - whether wheat, soy or corn.

And the beef may have hormones and antibiotics. When you feed cattle - ruminants designed to graze on grasses but are instead given a diet of cheap and plentiful corn to fill them up, they get sick and are given antibiotics. The author references food source guru Michael Pollan for this.

The author offers ways to increase the nutritional value of lunches, and to introduce fresh ingredients. School lunches have few fresh vegetables - they spoil too easily. But now, even the DH's cafeteria has a salad bar.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Comfort Food, Part Two

I've got a chest cold I've been fighting for a week, so what makes me feel better is SOUP. Yesterday, I picked up some ramen, drank ALL the soup and only a few of the noodles. My ramen of choice is the wafu from Yamagen, a tiny hole in the wall on King St. across from Stadium Park. Yes, across from where all the homeless are camped on the sidewalk.

The other things we eat are the yakitori don and tonkatsu. Actually I am the one who eats those. The DH ALWAYS eats the nabeyaki udon and maybe a side order of tonkatsu or yakitori or tempura.

I could make miso soup tonight - comforting but boring. I'm thinking of cooking those garnet yams and making this soup. It's warming and soulfully spicy.

But I also have baby potatoes and beets that are talking to me. What to do?

In the meantime, the jook/congee that I made has other iterations. We were given okai as children - a simple rice gruel made by cooking rice with lots of water. This was simply served with umeboshi - a pickled plum. Perfect for digestive systems ravaged by flu or other stomach upsets.

Other similar Japanese rice gruel dishes are okayu - which may be the same as okai, or may have broth and be served with green onions. Zosui is another type of rice gruel, usually made with leftover ramen or udon broth. Chagayu - a version where rice is cooked with tea - may be either firm or softer and soupy. I have forgotten what it's called here in Hawaii by those who grew up eating this.

What do YOU eat when you're under the weather?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Comfort Food, Part One

Am I alone in thinking that the best part of a holiday meal is the leftovers? And I'm not talking about reheated stuffing, turkey and gravy, or even a turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce.

No, what I mean is full-on repurposed meals that are almost unrecognizable from the original items.

I cannot believe that a friend has only been to making stock from her turkey carcass in the last couple of years. To me, that is the best part of the bird. I can tell how big my turkey was by the size of stock pot I need. This year's bird was over 14 lbs. Some years, it has been smaller. Once or twice, it was big enough that I had to haul out the large stock pot.

Since I'm merely a home cook, I simply put the bones - stripped of meat, skin and visible fat - into a stock pot and cover with water. That's it! In years past, I would add celery, onions, garlic and carrots, but I do so many things with the stock that those may affect - no, INFLUENCE the flavor. Real cooks would strain the stock of all those vegetables, and any meat along with the bones. Since I'm not a real cook, I do not boil the heck out of those bones, but just simmer them for 2 to 3 hours. Then I let it cool just enough that I can fish out the bones and pour the stock into containers to refrigerate.

I wait at least 24 hours for the fat to rise to the top, lift it off and discard it. Then I freeze that rich, wonderful stock that's full of collagen. The first thing I cook is this:

Turkey Jook aka Congee

3 cups turkey stock
3 cups cooked rice
2-3 cups water

Combine the ingredients above in a saucepan and set it to high. When it starts bubbling, turn heat to medium. Stir often. Add one thumb of sliced ginger if desired. (I removed the ginger after 15 minutes, as it had a strong taste.) Stir in 1/2 to 1 tsp. Hawaiian or kosher salt. The jook is the right consistency when it slides off the spoon. If it stays on the spoon, it's too thick! Add more water to thin, or cook a bit longer to thicken.

Condiments are an integral part of the jook. For turkey jook, take 1 cup of leftover turkey meat (in bite size pieces, shreds are better than chunks) and add 2-3 Tbsp shoyu, 1-2 Tbsp mirin, 1+ tsp sesame oil and stir all. Prepare all the cilantro sprigs, soft leaf lettuce and finely chopped green onion you want. You will also need one chung choy turnip, soaked in warm water until soft. Drain and mince finely. The salt and crunch of the turnip juxtaposed with the soft creaminess of the rice soup is marvelous!

When we eat turkey jook, we don't add extra sesame oil or shoyu - all that flavoring has already been combined with the turkey meat. We fill a bowl with rice soup, add our individual amounts of seasoned turkey meat, cilantro, turnip, green onion and lettuce. The hot soup, contrasted with the cold vegetables is heaven!

On a cool Honolulu evening, it may be all of 70 degrees, but with the wind chill, it can feel like 60. Turkey jook is warming and reassuring. While many things in life change and others are lost, the simplicity and richness of turkey jook lives on and nourishes us.

In future posts, I'll tell you what else you can do with the rest of the turkey stock.

BTW, my friend says soup is only as good as the homemade stock andxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Eating a Lot of Orange Food

Garnet yams, kabocha squash.


I've already eaten these! They are the fuyu variety.

We picked some up at the Waialua farmers' market, which are taking longer to ripen.

How do you know when they're ripe? The first group we ate softened markedly, so I just cut them in half crosswise and ate them by spooning them out. The ones we ate last night were the right color, but crispy-firm. I cut them into quarters, then peeled and ate them - yum!

Remember - do not eat the skin, and do not eat them until ripe - when the skin turns from yellow to orange. Unripe fruit has tannins which are astringent and bitter to the taste.

The price is right - under $1.50/lb - and you'll be treating your body to beta-carotene and antioxidants in this lovely orange fruit.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ho'okupu & More Roasted Vegetables - Sweet Potatoes & Beets

Mahalo, Kawaiaha'o Church School, for the lovely pu'olo, and the even lovelier ho'okupu ceremony. They were thanking us for all the times throughout the year, when the teachers bring their classes for us to read books, tell stories, do fingerplays and sing songs.

The ho'okupu consisted of chants, translation, lots of honi honi - OK, it was just hugs and not the nose pressing and inhaling. It was very touching, and I learned some things I hadn't known before. Makali'i - the Pleiades star constellation, or Seven Sisters - begins to rise in the night sky, and become visible. This also marks Ho'o-ilo, the rainy season, and the season of rest.

What does this have to do with sweet potatoes? Well, these lovely pu'olo bundles contained sweet potatoes and yams and salt. There were several varieties - Oriental Beauty, a white-fleshed Satsuma imo, Red Garnet yams (I just learned some are being grown on the island of Molokai!) and a couple of others. As I love sweet potatoes, I was thrilled to get a couple of these!

What to do with all of this bounty? Now that it's actually cool enough to turn on the oven, why not roast them?

I peeled and cubed the Beauty and the Garnet, along with 'uala I'd bought at a farmers' market. BTW, I've read that 'uala can be mashed into a version of poi, or mixed with water and left to ferment, making a beer! I love the taste of 'uala, but these were so tiny and like bumpy little sausages, they were WORK to peel. To roast them, I put heavy duty foil in a pan, tossed the tubers with olive oil, fresh cracked pepper and sea salt. At 400 degrees, they were done and caramelizing in less than 25 minutes - before I could even turn them.

At the same time, I washed beets, dried them and put them in a foil packet with a little olive oil. I put a rack on a shallow pan, put the packet on top of the rack. These took longer - after I took out the potatoes, I turned the heat down to 350 and ran the oven for another hour. When a knife still didn't slip easily into the beets, I kept them in the closed oven for another half hour more. When this cooled, I peeled several of them, sliced them and drizzled them with more olive oil, lemon, French feta cheese and slivered red onion. The DH liked this a lot better than the beet pasta I came up with next.

After the sweet potatoes cooled a bit, I used about 2 cups of them - in place of the large yam - to make this:

Groundnut Stew

  • ½ to 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced or minced
  • 1 thumb ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 large yam, peeled, ½-inch cubes and 1 medium potato, peeled, ½-inch cubes, cook in water to cover in microwave until almost tender

  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala or curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or similar pepper spice 
  • ½ cup peanut butter
Sauté onion in olive oil until soft. Add garlic and cook until soft. Drain yams and potatoes, add to the pot with ginger, and sauté for a few minutes. Pour in juice, tomatoes, chickpeas, and spices and heat through. Add peanut butter and stir until incorporated, and salt to taste.

Optional: slice a carrot and cook with the potatoes. Add a handful of fresh green beans, okra, spinach or chopped cabbage. I did not have orange juice, so I used what I had – mango. The original recipe called for tomato juice AND tomatoes, and apple or apricot juice and NO beans. Serve with brown rice and your choice of hot sauce. Add chicken or vegetable broth and serve as a soup the second time. My husband asked if this stew is vegan. I don’t know or care. I just eat what tastes good!

In this month of gratitude, I'm thankful to Kawaiaha'o Church School for sharing. Their generosilty has filled me with satisfaction and warmth, and reminded me to be grateful.

Note: Red Garnet yams are at fantastic prices in your neighborhood markets this week - 50% to 75% off the usual per pound price. I've bought several to roast, and think I'll be roasting ears of corn and some tomatoes at the same time! Soup, here we come!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ghastly Goblin to Pumpkin Soup and more

After Halloween, this guy - a duded-up kabocha pumpkin - was scrubbed, peeled, and cubed. Along the way, so was my thumb.

Well, the peeler and the thumb collided with negative results.

After some Bandaid action on the thumb, the pumpkin, along with garlic, onion, sea salt, cracked black pepper, olive oil and thyme were all tossed together and put in the oven at 400 degrees for half an hour. I was on a roll, so the pumpkin seeds and some asparagus were also roasted.

I used 2 cups of the pumpkin, a handful of crimini mushrooms, some goat cheese, penne pasta and pasta water and garnished with pecorino romano curls. I liked this better than the DH did. 

With the remaining 3 cups of pumpkin, I heated those with a cup of chicken broth, stirred in a heaping teaspoon of curry paste and half a can of coconut milk. The resulting concoction looked like baby food, but the baby had better like Indian spices! Good and warming on a cool November night in the 808!

Yes, 74 degrees IS cool!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

You can't pay me to eat these things!

Natto - fermented soybeans. The smell and mucus texture = NO, NO, NO!

Bitter melon - a cucurbit, in the same vegetable family as cucumbers, zucchini, melons, squash. BTW, I love all those other cucurbits. Bitter melon is just THAT - BITTER! You can soak it, salt it or cook it with fatty pork, but that won't make it taste any better for me. Big, big NOOOes!

Eggplant with miso. UGH! I LOVE eggplant: marinated in balsamic vinegar and olive oil, pan roasted and topped with goat cheese, pine nuts and golden raisins. Fried and sprinkled with Gorgonzola and served with spaghetti, like Auntie Pasto's - it's so good, it's hard for me to eat anything else. Adobo-style with garlic, shoyu and a touch of vinegar - lip-smacking! Korean banchan-style: braised in liquid with white potatoes, carrots, a touch of shoyu, a pinch of sugar and salt. But NOT with miso and sugar! YIKES!!!

We were talking about natto, and the other person urged me to try it again. I told him with so many other wonderful things to eat, I was not going to waste my appetite on stinky fermented mucus bean natto!

Edited to add:

TRIPE! I do not eat it. When I was young, my mother made me cook it. In those days, it was not as well prepared for sale as it is now. You would need to cook it (stew in water) at least 3 times, changing the water. I still have no idea why you would want to eat something that tastes like rubber bands and smelled THAT BAD!

This is proof the things you are made to do/eat as a child CAN scar you for life.

For New Year's, my job was to fry the tempura. I do not need to fry ANYTHING EVER AGAIN. I smelled like cooking oil. YUCK!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dinner at Plancha

We drove up to Morning Glass in Manoa last night. We'd missed out on Bob McGee's dinner last week with mullet and opelu. sigh.

This time, it was Big Island Puuwai Ranch lamb brochettes, tzatziki sauce with Naked Cow Dairy yogurt, the brightest green olives I'd ever seen (but yum!), ono pita, cranberry bean hummus (sorry Bob, my pinto bean hummus IS better!) Also lovely salads of barley with purslane, Ma'o farms greens with a sherry vinaigrette, INCREDIBLE Hamakua tomatoes with watermelon and feta (do I remember mint, or am I making it up?) Dessert was affogato - vanilla ice cream with espresso.

The Morning Glass owner, Eric Rose, and I talked about our love of Stumptown coffee (Portland, OR) and how we'd be back there for breakfast. Promise!

Everything was fresh and delicious. Our table had 6 people and 4 bottles of wine - pretty good ratio! A rioja, valpolicella, and 2 cabs - one an organic Bonterra. 5 sane people and one maniac. You know who you are!

Our tablemates kept it interesting, and the talk ranged from rambutan to lamb brains, wallaby in the imu(!) and beyond. Yes, mostly about food.

I ate ALMOST everything on my plate, so that should tell you how good it was. I am usually the queen of the doggie bag. (Hey - breakfast, lunch or dinner the next day! Just sayin'.

It was a fun evening, and the guys at our table extended it by sharing/swapping cigars they smoked afterwards. That lasted until the Manoa mist/drizzle turned into some serious rain. Well, all good things must end!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Love from the Food Processor: Tomato Soup

With fruit and veg needing attention, the food processor got a workout.

A cantaloupe was saved here, with Cuisinart help.

And there were a bunch of WOW farm tomatoes that needed love. With temps cooling a bit here in HNL, instead of salsa, the Romas and low-acid orange tomatoes went into my favorite soup. We had this with La Tour  Kalamata olive bread. And butter.

When you make the tomato soup recipe, you might want to add a teaspoon or more of agave or other sweetener, depending on the acid level of your tomatoes - and spices. Also, the ginger I used was very spicy hot, so I pulled it all out of the pot before serving! And instead of using powdered coconut, I used the half can I had leftover in the refrigerator, from another recipe.

Side trip: Romas are not my favorite tomatoes, but that's what's left when you get to the Blaisdell Farmer's Market late. I love the yellow and orange low-acid tomatoes best for eating out of hand, or in a salad. I don't usually care for cherry tomatoes, but Toon at Fort St. had the largest I'd ever seen. Sweet, too. Since I started buying tomatoes from farmers markets, I have not paid for one from a supermarket. They just aren't any good. I admit that I sometimes go without when I can't get to the farmers.

Imua! I see sweet potato coconut soup in my future!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday Dinner: Crab Cakes and Corn on the Cob

A large can of crab was a bargain at the market. Tonight, I pried it open to find backfin meat and very little extra moisture. I added a tbsp of mayo, some beaten egg, Worcestershire sauce, a bit of salt. I dipped the cakes in the rest of the beaten egg, then panko. What a mess!

Still, they turned out beautifully after they were fried in butter. Served them with hapa rice - half white, half brown, fresh corn from the farmer's market - from the Ewa plain. Stir-fried mini peppers with sweet onion, Roma tomatoes and taro from the Ala Moana farmer's market. Added a splash of white wine and garlic salt.

What an extravagant dinner - such an indulgence! Still, those home-cooked crab cakes turned out to cost $2 each vs $10 in a restaurant. There were six of them, we each ate one and 1/2. There are 3 left over - making a super lunch for the next day!

What I need to learn is when to stop cooking things like taro and sweet potatoes. They were a bit mushy. Any tips?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

It's Too Hot to Cook

Though I may have to cook soup, soon. Yes, in heat that ranges from 79 now at 12:30 am, with 72%  humidity. There are tomatoes that aren't getting any younger. And a red Garnet yam. And large, juicy shrimp.

So, that's THREE soups, asking to be made: Indian-spiced tomato soup, creamy sweet potato coconut soup, and Singaporean laksa.

For the moment, though: it's too hot to cook! So, this is what we've been eating:

Cantaloupe (local from Hawaii, hopefully sans listeria) with prosciutto

Salads of cucumber, sweet mini peppers and sweet red onion slivers

Toasted La Brea rosemary olive oil bread, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, topped with WOW tomatoes sprinkled with sea salt. Juicy!

Here's another idea for those tomatoes: chopped and mixed with capers, olive oil, garlic, sweet onion, sweet basil chiffonade. Sorry, but you have to cook up a pot of spaghetti or linguine to toss it with this cold tomato sauce! Serve with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and a glass of Pinot Grigio or a light red. Serve with the cantaloupe and prosciutto from above. Dessert: your choice of sorbetto. Heaven!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Oktoberfest in Honolulu

The DH spent some years in Germany when he was in the army. As a once-a-week treat, he went off base to eat in a local restaurant. He ate bratwurst, knackwurst or wiener schnitzel, with spaetzel or potatoes, and salat.

When we started spending time together, we were both in college, plus we both worked part-time. A treat was Friday dinner at Beethoven's Fifth, which may have been Honolulu's only German restaurant at the time. Somewhere, I kept a menu, and I'm sure dinner for was less than $20. For two of us! A beer or two for DH, a glass of wine for me, salat, schnitzel, pork roast or sauerbraten. I don't remember having dessert, but I do recall a shot or two of Barenjager or Jagermeister.

Since then, I've successfully made sauerbraten, salat and rotkohl - red cabbage. I was less successful with spaetzel!

When I saw a local restaurant observing Oktoberfest - Munich's harvest celebration - I convinced the DH we should go! He had the IPA, pork roast with spaetzel, potato salad and sauerkraut. I had a glass of Kenwood sauvignon blanc, the Wiener schnitzel with spaetzel and cooked apples. All quite good. We should have skipped the crab cake appetizer. And the strudel was more like a pop tart.

Sharing German food took us back in time, as well as to Germany and Austria. In fact, some of the best food was in Austria - eating game in a castle, and pork loin and salat at a friend's home! Good times!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It Came from Out of the Sky!

An avocado. Not just your supermarket or even farmer's market size avocado, but a BIG avocado.

On our nightly neighborhood walk, we found it on the sidewalk. We had admired the tree and its fruit, but it was trimmed back so that the branches no longer hung over the sidewalk. The avocado wasn't pretty - dark or brown or yellow in some spots. But we didn't question our luck, and a few days after a rest in a paper bag with an apple, I sliced into it, and it was firm and buttery. There was only the tiniest of bruises on one end.

So, two weeks in a row, we had The Most Delicious Sandwich! We ate the rest with cucumber and ripe tomato, with slivers of red onion and tangy ume dressing. Yum!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

How to Add Fiber and Flavor to White Rice

We had leftover white rice. This is a common occurrence, whether I cook at home, or we eat out. The usual amount of rice that's served to me is more than I can eat at one meal. I often take home half the entree, as well!

Last week, I had about 1-1/2 cups of leftover white rice. I cooked one cup of frozen soybeans in water, then drained them. Mixed the beans with the rice, a half teaspoon of sesame oil and half teaspoon of sea salt.

This made a tasty accompaniment to the leftover fish and vegetables I served. Come to think of it, it's an Asian version of beans and rice!

Soybeans are high in protein, and the ones that are sold frozen come either in the shell, or conveniently shelled.

Next time, I may add soybeans to reheated leftover cooked quinoa, along with a splash of shoyu (soy sauce)!

Do you eat soybeans? How do you prepare them?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Cool Choice for Lunch

More than once, I've been at the mall, doing errands and instead of sustenance, I needed to quench my thirst and cool down.

The answer to that has more often than not, been: ONOPOPS! They're in a cold case right at the front checkstand of the Ala Moana Center Foodland. I told the owner/inventor that I need Ono Pops at MY Foodland, up the street!

What are they? Delicious, real fruit paletas or popsicles, many with ingenious local flavorings. Ume Thai Basil. Mango Habanero-Lime. Strawberry Lemonade, which was less exciting than the previous exotics.

The current favorite of the DH is Li Hing Pickled Mango, which is pretty good, but I like to try new flavors. I wanted Salted Caramel Watermelon, but they ran out!

I'll pass on the Saimin flavor - complete with kamaboko (fishcake), noodles and Spam! No, too, to the creamy teri Spam onopop!

I love the tangy onopops, and sometimes I call them: LUNCH!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Most Delicious Sandwich

...was inspired by one eaten by Kathy YL Chan, of A Passion For Food.

Her vegetarian sandwich, from Olive's, in NYC, consisted of "California Avocado, Vermont Sharp Cheddar, Crunchy Sprouts, Red Onion, Tomato, Chipotle Mayo, and 7-Grain Bread".

The non-vegetarian sandwich we ate was: Hawaiian avocado smushed into the Baker Dude's multi-grain bread and sprinkled with garlic salt, Havarti cheese, 3 slices of microwaved turkey bacon, sliced WOW farms tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, another slice of Havarti. Heat a small amount of butter in a small pan and grill until golden, turn, add more butter and grill until the other side is golden.

I KNOW. Turkey bacon is NOT "real" bacon, but we don't eat bacon bacon unless it comes in a spinach salad or a sandwich. Then it gets picked out if it's undercooked!

I think what makes this the Most Delicious is the smushing, the garlic salt and the butter-grilled bread. The DH said it was Most Delicious as he ate it, avidly, voraciously.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On Fiber, Getting Enough of it, and Why?

The longer you live on this earth, the more you dread seeing your doctor.

Just kidding!

The more you dread getting your blood work done, is more like it!

I don't want to be thin, and I'm not. I want to be HEALTHY! I want my numbers to reflect that.

If I just ate what I really wanted, it would be pasta with butter and cheese, or bread with butter. And croissants, or better yet - ensemada! Note that these are all things involving white flour. And add to them white rice!

Instead, most of the above are relegated to a single serving every couple of months. Except for the bread - I need to a slice or two at least once a week . With butter.

And think about it: white EVERYTHING is boring! I need to eat fresh tomatoes several times a week, orange fruit, and green herbs.

I asked a friend if she ate brown rice; she told me she does NOW. A doctor's visit after bloodwork convinced her to make the change. Her cholesterol level was 300+! The doctor wanted to put her on medication IMMEDIATELY. She told him to give her a year to change.

By eating more fiber, fruit and vegetables, and less of the things she loves - pasta, white bread, pastries - she brought her cholesterol level down 100 points. She now eats Gen-Ji-Mai, a polished brown rice, as well as quinoa - a seed with lots of protein - and other fiber and nutrient-rich foods.

If you think all brown rice tastes the same, try the brown rice sushi at Nijiya - heaven! So good - this is something I crave! They must use Gen-Ji-Mai or something similar. There is also a delicious Gen-Ji-Mai 12-grain rice mix, which I cook in a 1:1 ratio with long grain white rice. Still healthy and lots of fiber. Add some chicken base or a little salt for more flavor and leftovers used as a salad base taste better.

Having said all that, I ate WHITE rice and umeboshi - pickled plums - for dinner tonight. Comfort food!

Do you eat brown rice? If not, why not?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Posts About Cucumbers You May Have Missed

I see that folks really want to know what to do with all the cucumbers they're growing in their gardens, or inheriting from their neighbors.

The other night, we ate JaJa Mein, and julienned cucumbers are the ideal topping for this spicy-salty dish, along with some chopped tomatoes. Here's the recipe:

Suzanne’s Jaja Mein
Based on’s recipe

  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp ground bean sauce (Koon Chun brand)
  • 1 tsp miso
  • 1 tsp agave syrup or mirin
  • 1 Tbsp shoyu
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 heaping Tbsp chili/garlic sauce 
Combine the above sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Saute the following in oil:

  • ½ lb. ground beef or pork
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 4 stalks (counting each bulb as one stalk) of green onion, chopped 
Add the sauce ingredients and simmer 3 to 4 minutes. Adjust taste.

For noodles: place an opened serving packet from a package Sun ramen noodles in bowl. Add 2-3 Tbsp water. Cover and microwave 45 seconds, then drain. Top with 2-3 Tbsp of ground beef mixture and garnish with julienned cucumber, grape or chopped tomatoes and cilantro. Note: recipe makes about 4 servings.

You could also make a cucumber salat as a side dish, or this quick cucumber pickle. This panzanella salad contains tomatoes as well as cucumbers.

Cooling cucumbers offer a crispy contrast to spicy or hot food. What is your favorite way to eat cucumbers?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Invitation to Lunch at Work

I was so tired from work yesterday - I was in charge of the last Saturday Storytime for August - that I took a shower, then fell asleep by 8 pm! The result, of course, is that I was up at 2:30 am, and I'm still up and typing this!

I spent the morning on last-minute details for storytime, did the stories and crafts, then went up to the employee lunchroom. I was invited to join the maintenance crew; lunch did smell delicious! I usually decline, but couldn't when one of the crew paid for my diet soda, and put a plate at my seat.

On the menu was fried chicken drumsticks, steamed white rice, and taro cooked with long beans and pork. The fellow who cooked also caters on weekends and has a second job cooking for the workers at a well-known resort - talented! I was invited to eat seconds, but declined - no sleeping allowed at the reference desk! I did wash my own plate and utensils.

I later told the DH I'd had a MUCH better lunch than I expected!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What Else to Make with WOW Tomatoes

There were cucumbers, older bread, and WOW tomatoes from the Blaisdell Farmers' Market. Such a deal: these lovely red, orange and yellow - the latter two, low-acid! - about 8 or 10 of them for only $5. The lovely tomato lady said they were the "salsa" bag - riper, softer victims, but I already bookmarked them for tomato SOUP.

Yes, in the teeth of a Hawaiian summer, I make soup! Here is the recipe. I made a double batch, and we ate it hot the first time. Tonight, we ate the leftovers cold - just out of the refrigerator long enough to take off the first chill. We also ate deliciously sweet, juicy Tuscan melon - I got this from my *favorite* big box store - with prosciutto.

Last night, we ate WOW tomatoes and arugula on top of pizza that was NOT Inferno's. More about that some other time!

And I used the last of them Marc Matsumoto's Panzanella salad. Check out his personal blog, No Recipes, as well as the PBS blog. For this bread salad, there are 4 things I did differently. my leftover bread was a Kalamata olive loaf, not plain or white, and as I didn't have champagne vinegar, I used Japanese rice vinegar (milder). I used Kalamata olives instead of green ones AND capers. Finally, I have a huge bag of arugula (anyone out there have different arugual recipes?) so I served the salad on a bed of this.

How was it all? Two thumbs up from the DH! I thought the salad was a bit salty - probably because of the olives in the bread as well as the salad, plus the capers, and would cut back on the salt in the dressing. But it was all fresh, light and tasty, and the only heat in the kitchen was from toasting the croutons in a skillet. Here's a tip: keep the croutons in the pan to cool, that way they are not piled up and soggy, but stay crisp. I had leftover croutons enough for another salad.

And leftover melon and salad for lunch at work tomorrow!

What do you do to keep cool in the kitchen? Besides drinking a lot of rose!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Favorite New Drinks

Nah, nothing as exciting as ALCOHOL!

In my continuing quest to avoid drinking soda - which I like much too much - I sometimes drink Crystal Light. Yes, I know it has aspartame and acesulfame. No, I do not drink it every day. 

Here are two three four things I've recently found, that I really like:

First, Naked Juice. It's so thick, it tastes like a smoothie. It's pricey unless it's on sale. But it's worth it, and there are lots of things that cost less, do not taste good, and YOU DESERVE A TREAT now and then! I like the mango and acai. They have reduced calorie versions, too.

Second, TRUE. It's a 0 calorie powder you mix with a pint of water. I got the orange flavor from Wal-Mart. (No, I don't go there often - maybe once every 5 weeks. They carry some things I can't find elsewhere.) I love the way it  smells and tastes. I need to try the lemon!

Third, Pacific Breeze Oolong Tea in Mangosteen flavor. I've never eaten a mangosteen. This tastes slightly citrusy. Half the packet in 12-14 oz. of water still tastes good. Also available at Wal-Mart.

Fourth: Barley tea. I know. It sounds awful. But it's not. I now understand why the Japanese drink it in hot weather. One packet makes a quart; so easy, just steep in cold water. It's toasted-nutty-tasting and refreshing served cold. Buy it at Nijiya.

Now I'm hungry for Nijiya brown-rice sushi!

Vegetable Rescue, or My Version of Potato/Mac Salad

You know what potato salad is, but if you're not from Hawaii, you're wondering what the heck the "Mac" is?

It's short for macaroni, the common elbow type. Yes, there is stand-alone mac salad, but not in my house made by me! My theory is that potatoes have more nutrition than macaroni when eaten as a salad. And my potatoes were threatening to develop eyes, so they definitely needed rescuing!

They were lovely, small Yukon Gold potatoes, which I cut up into 1/2 inch dice, covered with water and nuked in the microwave lightly covered until tender. I drained them - saved the water for soup! - and put them in the refrigerator to cool.

Instead of elbow macaroni, I cooked some ditalini - short tubes about 1/4 to 3/8 inch long - but I also like another tubular pasta that is 1/3 the diameter of elbows, but a bit longer. I do not know what this is called - when I see it, I'll buy it! I drained the pasta and also put this in the refrigerator to cool. At this point, I had about a cup and a half each of potatoes and mac.

I peeled 2 hard-boiled eggs and put the DH to work mashing them lightly. I finely chopped 1/4 cup sweet onion and 1/4 cup carrot and added them to the eggs. By this time, the potatoes and mac were cool, and they were mixed in with salt, pepper and just enough mayonnaise to hold it all together. I like the Japanese-style mac salad, which uses that skinnier pasta and less mayo, so what mayo there is is not really visible. But you can taste it.

We ate this as our starch - and it IS starchy! I think I make it once a year? Along with this, we had the Panch Phoran Yam Soup, and some sweet, sweet juicy cantaloupe - so we saved the meal with lots of fiber and beta carotene.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Panch Phoran Yams Transformed into Soup

While the dish was yummy, I could tell the whole spices used for the yams were a bit much for the DH to deal with. The next time, I might whirl them in the food processor or blender before using them.

It was a windy and rainy evening when I looked into the refrigerator to start dinner. There was 1 to1-1/2 cups of the Panch Phoran Yams left over. I chopped some onion and sauteed this in butter. When the onions were soft, I added the yams. I combined a cup of water, teaspoon and a half of chicken base and half a packet of powdered coconut milk, added this to the onions and yams, and heated the mixture through. After it was hot enough, I blended all into a thick soup with an immersion blender.

Warming, fragrantly spicy soup from leftovers!

The rest of the meal was leftover salmon with Thai sweet chili sauce. And a local Hawaiian side dish I'll post about separately...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Scrumptious Eggplant Redux and Indian Yams

Gorgeous eggplant was crying out to be made into dinner! I sliced and marinated them for the eggplant dish the DH loves: Balsamic Eggplant with Goat Cheese while I decided what to do with a huge Garnet yam.

I remembered researching uses for the Indian spice mix known as panch phoran. One of the recipes I found was Gordon Ramsay's Sweet Potatoes in the London Times. Online access to the recipe is no longer available at the Times website, but the ingredients are very simple:

  • 1 huge or two medium Garnet yams
  • Olive oil 
  • 5 tsps panch phoran spice mix
  • 2-3 tbsps plain yogurt
  • Handful of cilantro, chopped
  • Thumb of ginger, finely minced

I precooked the yam in the microwave for about 5 minutes, in water so it was halfway submerged, turning it several times until soft to the touch, but not mushy. Pour off the water and set aside to cool. The panch phoran consists of equal amounts of the following whole spices: nigella, fennel, fenugreek, black mustard and cumin.

When the yams are cool enough to touch, peel and slice them into 1 to 1-1/2 inch cubes. Heat oil, then add panch phoran and stir until mix starts to pop. Stir in yams, and turn and cook until slightly crispy. Salt to taste, then add in yogurt and gently combine. Top with ginger and cilantro and serve.

We ate this with quinoa and a tiny bit of leftover ahi poke. A few nights later, I transformed the yam leftovers into a warming soup for a rainy evening.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Small Celebration

Are you married? How long?

The DH and I have been for THIRTY-TWO years! And we'd been together for some years before that!

One of my excuses for not going to school reunions is that I know many of my classmates have sadly divorced and remarried. Or not.

It's not easy staying together for that many years. People change. Compromise is important. Tolerance is key.

sigh. The DH tolerates a lot of things. We agree on many. Still, we are very different people.

We produced male offspring we are very proud of!

So, how to celebrate? No big steak with lots of wine and ceremony and obsequious (I had to look up the spelling!) waiters. Though we do sometimes enjoy that. The DH jokingly named his favorite ramen place, and I gave him the STINK EYE!

Instead, on Saturday after my work day was done, we headed off to Hiroshi for happy hour. Martinis are 1/2 price and so is the food, as is the food from Vino, the brother restaurant next door. We've been to Vino for dinner, and prefer the food and vibe at Hiroshi. The bartenders, too!

Zoe was swamped last night, even though they opened 5 minutes early - at 5:25 pm. Six of us stormed in, quickly followed by 2 more, and more, until the bar was full. We knew we wanted the hamachi carpaccio and asparagus Milanese with egg, parmesan and white truffle oil. And the steak with two large shrimp on top. We also had the gnocchi with crab. DH had the Echigo beer, and I had a lychee martini. Or two. We were FULL by the time 6:30 came around, the sun was still up, and we took half the steak plate home. It made a wonderful brunch the next day!

If you like all the above, you MUST go to Hiroshi. I THINK you can also order Vino food for dinner as you sit in Hiroshi. You will want some of each!

We headed to the mall after, as I'd forgotten an errand! Then to sad Borders bookstore, a shell of its former self. Needless to say, we didn't stay long. Instead, we headed for Tango Market, for great coffee, an extremely small guava danish, and too-yummy toffee-chocolate macadamia nuts.

Next weekend is the DH's birthday, and we'll continue the celebration with several lunches!

How do YOU celebrate? And what are you celebrating?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Had a Heart Attack...on a Plate

The DH and I went to the big Blaisdell Farmer's Market yesterday. Ostensibly, we were there to buy locally grown bananas, papayas, carrots, tomatoes, green onions and eggplant.

But we also go there to eat dinner. I'd been wanting to try a dish from Soul Restaurant, but they didn't have it until this past Wednesday. I'd already tried the fried chicken with cornbread, black-eyed pea chili and buttermilk cilantro coleslaw - those last two are too, too yummy! - and the gumbo.

I needed to try the Shrimp and Cheesy Grits - and it was FINALLY on the menu!

I ordered, then I saw the cook heat up a skillet and slip in some butter. Then LOTS of garlic. Plump shrimp - looked to be 26/30 size. Flour, a few chiffonade greens and sun-dried tomato, water. A scoop of grits - the white cornmeal kind. This wasn't fast food - it took a good 10 to 12 minutes. I made my way to where the DH was sitting. He'd already started on his spare ribs.

I sat down and opened the ecologically correct clamshell takeout box. What an aroma! I took the first bite - yikes! Can you say RICH? Cheese-y, buttery. I ate bacon fat before I realized that's what it was, 'cause I sure hadn't seen him slip that in! I made sure to eat around the fat and only ate the bacon meat after that!

Also, there looked to be cream cheese - I thought they were cheddar grits! - under the grits. It was all very, very good, but so rich I could only eat four bites - 2 of grits, 2 of shrimp - as I'd eaten a late lunch at 2 pm. More about the lunch later! Many hours after that, I was hungry enough to eat about half the shrimp and grits. Tonight I ate the rest of the leftovers for dinner. Along with half a big sliced tomato and some leftover mixed vegetables. I am STILL burping garlic!

About the lunch: it was California organic brown rice maki sushi from Nijiya. Very fresh and delicious - what a way to get your fiber! Since I hadn't eaten breakfast, it was TWO meals!

OK, I can eat that sushi lunch any day, but the shrimp and cheesy grits were a one-time experience!

Have you ever had shrimp with cheesy grits? Did you live to tell the tale?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Most Delicious Beans - the Tooting Comes with the Territory

These are the most delicious beans you will ever taste.

I eat less meat all the time. I still eat it, but the portions may be just a few bites compared to what's on the rest of my plate. Tonight, it was a strange array of leftovers, fruit and rice. The leftovers were a few bites of pork and fish-stuffed calamari that the DH brought home from a potluck. (This is what happens when you're last to leave the party - the remains are thrust upon you! It was a gathering of cigar smokers. Yes, it was outdoors, but I can't take more than 2 or 3 hours of this, and he was there for SEVEN HOURS.)

ANYWAY! The fruit was slices of insanely honey-sweet melon. The rice was also leftover, combined with beans I'd cooked. The ratio of beans to rice was one cup of beans - with some of the cooking liquid - to 1.5 to 2 cups of rice. I served it with the remains of a jar of Newman's salsa to which I added a handful of chopped cilantro, a small chopped tomato and the juice of 1/2 a lime.

When I was packaging the beans - some to eat later, others to freeze - the last Ziploc bag slipped from my fingers, and I lost a third of the pot of beans I'd cooked! I spent a moment mourning them, as they truly are the MOST delicious beans you will ever taste! Here is the recipe:

Basic Cooked Pinto Beans
Based on a recipe from

  • 1 lb. pinto beans
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 7 to 8 cups stock
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
Quick-soak beans by covering with water, bringing to a boil, then cook at a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and leave for one hour. Pour off water, rinse, then place beans in pot with liquid (water is fine), onion, garlic, bay leaf and oregano. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender, adding liquid as necessary. This may take up to 1-½ hours. Remove from heat, add cumin and salt and stir well. Let sit for 15 minutes. The recipe calls for draining the beans well - I don't, I keep the liquid. Makes about 6 cups of beans.

If you're adventurous, and want to make a healthy and delicious dip, try the following recipe:

Pinto Bean Hummus

  • 2-1/2 cups basic cooked pinto beans
  • ¼ cup green onions, sliced
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ cup sun dried tomato strips, soaked in water to cover
  • 2 cloves garlic, zapped one minute in microwave in tomato soaking water
Place drained tomato and drained garlic in food processor bowl and run until chopped. Add basic cooked beans, lemon juice, green onions and sesame oil and process until smooth enough to your liking. Add tomato or bean liquid if it’s too solid. Turn into a serving dish, top with a little extra virgin olive oil and edible herbs of your choice. Serve with multi-grain pita cut into wedges, carrot sticks, cucumber slices and celery sticks. Use remainder of beans in soup or with rice, or freeze.

Epilogue: A Short Meditation on Beans

I'm very picky about the ones I'll eat. Growing up, the only beans we saw were kidney, lima and green. Often the kidney beans and/or the limas were cooked with a lot of sugar and served as a very sweet side dish. I'm not sure if this is a phenomenon peculiar to Hawaii or local Japanese. The green beans came from a can, the freezer or were string beans served with pork or a pork product (Spam or Treet luncheon meat) and shoyu. 

As I started to taste different foods, and began to cook for myself and my family, I found that garbanzos (aka chickpeas or ceci), black-eyed peas, soybeans, black, azuki and pinto beans were the ones I liked best. I find that all of these have better texture and flavor than the other beans, IMO.

To this day, I still can't bear to eat a kidney or lima bean!

BTW, the tooting comes with the territory...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dragon and other Exotic Tropical Fruit

I just got off the phone with my son. In far-off Minneapolis, the most constant and consistant-found tropical fruit available are mangoes. From Mexico. He assured me that they're pretty good. He also enjoyed some golden raspberries, which I've never seen here in Honolulu. I did have some of those in Portland, OR that were yummy.

Still, we had some awesome locally-grown fruit last week. The DH came home with a large dragon fruit. A colleague said a neighbor found the plant growing in his yard. It looks like it was designed - an ovoid fuchsia fruit with green barbs and "scales". Here's a photo and more information from a website, :

I put the gaudy solo fruit in a paper bag for several days, then quartered it and easily pulled off the fuchsia skin. I sliced the fruit into bite-sized chunks, chilled it and served it with lime and mint as a side dish at dinner. The flesh was white, and freckled with seeds. I felt the taste was relatively bland - like a cross between a kiwi and melon or banana. There is also a variety with fuchsia colored fruit interior, and black seeds. I added a drizzle of agave syrup over mine. This turned out to be a good instinct, as with further research I found that the pitaya or pitahaya, the Hylocereus, is a cactus, and agave of course is a desert plant. Dragon fruit flowers look very similar to our lovely and fragrant night-blooming cereus. 

Before that, the DH came home with a rumpled paper bag that he held close. He said, "You won't guess what I have here!" An expensive wine? Truffle oil? Live Maine lobsters?

None of the above! His paper bag held five small Pirie mangoes. I wrote about the difference between the more commonly-found bold-tasting Hadens and the lovely shy sweetness of Piries here

The DH gets the job of peeling and slicing these babies, and I just eat 'em! Of course the peeling, etc. also involves sucking the remaining fruit off the peels and seeds. Out of five mangoes, four were solid specimens. The fifth must have fallen from the tree; it was too soft and bruised to eat. The mango chunks were eaten on top of vanilla ice cream, with morning oatmeal, and with a salad of baby mixed greens and shrimp. 

Too yummy! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Even veggies taste better with wine

There are lots of lovely vegetables in the fridge and kitchen baskets. These will go into a vegetable melange for dinner:

  • Several baby pattypan squash - also known as cibleme or scallopini - sliced
  • One medium zucchini so fresh it glows, emerald green - halved and sliced
  • Onion, sliced
  • Garlic - 2 or 3 cloves, minced
  • Half a carrot, sliced thin
  • One or two small bell peppers, cut into strips
  • Baby Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced thin
  • Hamakua Alii musrooms, sliced thin
  • One tomato, in chunks
  • Leftover wine
  • Herbs of your choice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Start by cooking the onion in olive oil until soft, then add the carrots, potatoes and mushrooms and saute until somewhat soft. Stir in the bell peppers, squash and zucchini, cooking until soft. Add as much wine as necessary to make things hiss and bubble, but not drown, stir and heat for several minutes. Add the tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper. Heat through and adjust seasoning. Drink the rest of the leftover wine if you like.

I'm going to cook some quinoa - 2 parts water to one part quinoa - and add some butter or olive oil, vegetable or chicken base or salt for flavor. The tastier quinoa is much more fun to eat as a leftover, in salads. And make it easy on yourself by buying the prewashed version, and cooking it in the rice cooker!

I'm serving the veggies with a bit of leftover salmon, but if you top it with some grated Parmesan, feta or goat cheese, with the protein-rich quinoa, it's a complete meal!

Notes: fresh spinach would be a nice addition to the rest of the veggies, but I have none. Basil would be the first herb of choice - again, none. But there is fresh thyme and oregano! Make too much of this, as it's perfect to add to an omelet, or use the leftovers as a fast dinner, topped with a sunnyside-up egg or two.

Happy cooking! What are you cooking for dinner tonight?

BTW, reader: yes, by all means use every part of the Hamakua Alii mushrooms. If the bottoms look unsightly to you, just trim that bit!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

About my leftovers plus WOW Farms tomatoes

Do you eat them? I've heard of some folks who won't. Never met them!

We were told that children were starving in China, so we'd better eat what was on our plates!

Food is expensive, so wasting anything is painful, and a shame. Since I don't know how to cook for just the two of us, there are always leftovers. That's also true when we go out to eat. Sometimes it's hard to find something you want to eat that you can finish in one sitting.

We went to the Blaisdell Farmers' Market on Wednesday, and I got the delicious black-eyed pea chili with cornbread and a piece of chicken from Pacific Soul. I ate half the chicken and cornbread, and a third of the chili, and was full. The DH got surf and turf: fried fish and beef curry - and ate half of it. No, we can't share - we never want to eat the same thing!

So dinner last night was the leftovers plus salad mix from the big box store, topped with the last of the Pirie mangos from Ewa Beach and luscious WOW Farms tomatoes that are almost the same color as the mango flesh - orange-skinned and fleshed, and low-acid.

Yum, yum, yum!

When the tomatoes are this lovely and ripe, I have not even bothered to chop them for bruschetta. Instead, I toast the bread* - which you can rub with a garlic clove - and drizzle with a combination of extra-virgin olive oil  and balsamic vinegar. Top with fat, juicy tomato slices and sprinkle with sea salt. And cracked black pepper, if you want. Sooo good!

*Please, please use GOOD bread! My two favorites are the olive bread from Ba-le, and La Brea rosemary/olive oil loaf. As Berry says, "Life is too short for bad bread!" So true!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ono Poke Salad for a Hot Summer Evening

Poke is a Hawaiian dish which usually consists of one-inch chunks of raw ahi or aku tuna fish marinated with a variety of ingredients and flavorings. We buy these ready-made at our supermarket fish counter. The types we  most often choose usually include shoyu (soy sauce), wasabi (Japanese horseradish), green onion tops, and Chinese oyster-flavor sauce.

Here's what we do when we have too much left over - yes, we are re-purposing food! Heat a small frying pan with a slick of sesame oil and fry poke chunks until lightly brown. Add ponzu sauce - a mixture of shoyu and yuzu citrus juice - until moistened. Then add enough agave syrup (or honey) just until slightly sweetened. Add a pinch of chili flakes or a shake of furikake (prepared nori seaweed flakes) if desired.

Serve on a bed of mixed baby lettuce, chunks of WOW Farms heirloom tomatoes. slivers of red onion or chopped green onion and chunks of Japanese cucumber. Don't forget to pour the pan juices over the poke! Newman light raspberry walnut vinaigrette is perfect with this. Add a slice of crusty bread or sesame lavosh, and it's a light supper.

Balsamic Eggplant with Goat Cheese

We've been eating some marvelous meals that have featured vegetables. OK, avocadoes are really fruits, but we eat them as vegetables! Here is a recipe for eggplant, from Fitness Magazine (no, I don't read it, but I do look at the recipes online!) that made the DH groan with pleasure. Always a good sign!

The recipe called for rosemary, which I didn't have. Instead, I used fresh oregano and thyme (which is much more aromatic). And after I cut off the ends of the Japanese eggplants and halved them, I cut off an inch-wide strip down the length of them AND pierced both sides with the point of the knife, so they could soak up the marinade better. I also adjusted the recipe amounts, as there are only two of us.

When something tastes good and is truly satisfying, I don't want to stop eating it, and that is the case here!

Balsamic Eggplant with Goat Cheese

2-3 oz. goat cheese
1 Tbsp fresh herbs
Pinch of salt
2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
3 long Japanese eggplants
3 Tbsp golden raisins
3 Tbsp pine nuts

Combine the goat cheese, chopped herbs and pinch of salt and set aside. Mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and 1/2 tsp salt. Cut off the ends of the eggplants, cut in half lengthwise, then peel off an inch-wide strip of skin from the outside, lengthwise. Pierce through both sides, using the point of the knife. Season with more sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Mix up and add more marinade if necessary.

Heat a grill, grill pan or black cast iron skillet to medium-high. Oil lightly and cook eggplant on both sides until soft and charred but not black. Remove as done and top with goat cheese, pine nuts and raisins. Lower heat and return to the pan, drizzle with remaining marinade, cover and reheat until cheese is slightly softened.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2010 Census Guacamole

I worked for the Census for a year and a half, and met some wonderful people there - Shelly, Junise, Wanda, Winnie, Laura, Lori, Kathleen, Bob, Malissa, Pam, Vinh, Ginger - you know who you are! Some of them had fantastic fruiting trees in their yards, and shared the bounty. We had wonderful mangoes, papayas and avocadoes. So wonderful, it hurts to have to buy them.

No, it's not only the price, but the quality! In the supermarkets, they are invariably the Haas variety - small and crocodile-skinned, with little meat. At the farmers' market, they were a good size, with smooth green skin, but as they ripened, the skin darkened to an eggplant purple.

Avocadoes and I have a love-fear relationship. I love to eat them, but I fear they will all ripen at once - massive guacamole-making session! - or I will be too busy, and they will go into the Twilight Zone of overripe and mushy! One of the farmers' market avocadoes was ripe on the stem end, but still hardish on the blossom end, so I ended up cutting it into eighths, and using the the fully ripe avocado and the parts. Here is the recipe I made many times while Laura's and Winnie's avocadoes were so wonderful and plentiful:

2010 Census Guacamole

  • 2-3 large cloves garlic
  • ¼ medium, sweet onion
  • ¼ - ½ small tomato, chopped & drained
  • Juice of 2-3 small limes
  • 5 small-to-medium size ripe avocadoes
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin or more
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt or more
  • 10+ shakes hot sauce
With food processor blade running, drop garlic, onion and tomato into bowl while it’s running and process until finely minced.  Add seeded, quartered and peeled avocadoes with lime juice, cumin, salt and hot sauce. Process until all ingredients are incorporated, stopping to push avocadoes down with a rubber spatula. Adjust seasonings to your taste. Serve with your favorite chips or crudités.

Notes: I prefer my guacamole chunky; for this, you can mash up to 3 avocadoes with a fork, mince the garlic, onion and tomatoes fine and just combine with the rest of the ingredients. For more than that, you need MACHINERY! Also, if the avocadoes aren’t buttery, add a little extra virgin olive oil.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

He put Pirie Mango in his Chili con Carne

And it was good!

When I left the library last night, I said I was off to drink red wine. And I did.

The pinot noir I picked went well with Chef Jeff's chili, which was pleasantly hot and spicy. I think I would have put more garlic, oregano and cumin into it, but I guessed rightly that there were both chipotles and jalapenos in it.

Pirie mangoes are less acid and "smoother" tasting than the more common Haden variety, which are more fibrous and tangy. The piries have a peachy skin color with a whitish cast, and softer flesh. Hadens are more "telegenic", with vibrant green/red coloring. But the best mangoes I've ever tasted were big, beautiful Rapozas and equally big Shibatas. Piries are lovely, but so rarely found.

We ate on the "man cave" lanai, while the winds tried to decide whether they were trades or westerlies.

The guys lit up their cigars, the ladies tried to stay upwind, and the only thing missing was hot black coffee to go with the cheesecake.

A great way to start my one-day weekend! sigh. It's back to work, tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Memory of a Wild Boar Ragu

On Sunday, we went across town to pick up kalua pig from a fundraiser.

When we got home, we cracked open the container and forked out some tastes - yum! Just enough salt and smoke - and probably too much fat! I put it in the refer until tonight. Most people in Hawaii would cook up some onions, add the pork and maybe sliced head cabbage, cook a pot of white rice, and eat it up.

Here are two things I do, for a change:

1) Heat the pork and add your favorite barbecue sauce, to your taste. Toast some buns or load some pork onto slices of good bread with a melty cheese like Havarti or Muenster top with another slice and grill in a pan with a little butter, Serve with pickles or salt and vinegar chips. Yum!

2) What I did tonight: thinly slice half an onion and saute in a pan sprayed with PAM or lightly slicked with oil until lightly browned. Examine your kalua pig and remove the obvious chunks of fat. Add to the pan, breaking up chunks, and heat through. Splash in a generous amount of red wine - 3 to 4 ounces - and stir until combined. Add enough spaghetti sauce - Barilla and Classico are ones that I like - until it's wet but not soupy.  Taste - I added cracked black pepper and garlic salt. Serve with linguine or pappardelle.

Why is this a dupe for Wild Boar Ragu? Well, it isn't, but it does bring back memories of the lovely restaurant where we had lunch, in the Pearl district of Portland, OR. The noodles were probably pappardelle, and the pork sauce was very rich and yummy - the perfect meal on a cool and rainy afternoon. I don't remember the name of the restaurant, but we were seated above the street level, and there were large open windows and lots of beautiful wood interiors. So, this is my approximation of that delicious food memory.

Along with the pasta and sauce, we ate leftover cucumber salat - thinly sliced cucumbers and onions salted, drained and mixed with vinegar, crushed garlic cloves, olive oil and cracked black pepper. And peeled julienned raw beets and diced sweet onion, marinated in Angelo Pietro ume dressing. Sliced tomatoes on the side, simply sprinkled with sea salt.

No dessert necessary - this was all yum!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Yogurstory - a new option for coffee and dessert, great spinach salad!

We've been to this Korean coffee house/yogurt shop several times.

The first time, we'd eaten dinner at home, then went to a movie. We wanted to have coffee and dessert, but Honolulu is no longer an interesting place for those who seek this. I miss Upstart Crow, and Little Oven has been MIA for months. What's left is Starbucks with its burnt coffee and cold prefab desserts, and Zippy's with so-so coffee and ho-hum dessert.

So it was 9 pm when we walked into Yogurstory. I ordered an Americano, and the DH had regular coffee, and we split the Red Velvet Waffle. Can you say decadent and different? The coffees were more strong than anything else, but the atmosphere was well-designed, unhurried and relaxing.

We returned for lunch and enjoyed a sandwich and loco moco - both huge, we needed doggie bags.

We came back another time for pasta and ahi - both great.

Our most recent visit involved the chicken pesto pasta - again - and the spinach salad. We shared both of these, and they were excellent. We have very different tastes - the DH loves noodles, I like a variety of things. Yogurstory works for us! We are still talking about how huge and satisfying that spinach salad with the mandarin oranges, bacon and blueberry dressing is - we can't wait to eat it again!

I finally got to taste the frozen yogurt. It's different from most of the choices in Honolulu - Orange Grove, Yogurtland, Tutti Frutti - it's less creamy. And let's face it, I do not go for cookies, nuts, candies or sauce. I reach for the strawberries, blueberries and jellies and popping boba toppings. I was very happy!

Do you eat frozen yogurt? If so, what is your favorite?

Is there a salad you love to eat - whether at a restaurant, or at home?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Best Doughnuts in Honolulu and why I don't eat them

You'll have to take my word for it, and I'm passing it on from the many people who love these.

The best doughnuts - fluffy, light, puffy, big circles of sugary glazed goodness - are made by Kamehameha Bakery, located at 1339 North School Street in Kalihi. When you ask anyone who lives in Honolulu - and loves doughnuts - which ones are the best, they will NOT answer "Krispy Kreme". And they will not pass up the opportunity to eat a Kamehameha Bakery glazed doughnut, even if they're on a diet. When I tell them they can happily help themselves to my share, they eagerly agree!

I have never eaten one. Once upon a time, I used to eat doughnuts. They were not the fluffy glazed ones. When Honolulu used to have Dunkin' Doughnuts, I would eat the doughnut with the handle at least once a week. That was so tasty but heavy - dropped to the bottom of your stomach like a hockey puck - I know they helped make me the woman I am today.

Why don't I eat doughnuts of any kind? I decided I had to draw the line SOMEWHERE. I no longer eat bacon, either. Well, OK, I no longer go out of my way to order it. Once in a while I'll have a sandwich and *forget* it comes with bacon in it. We eat turkey bacon at home. It is not bacon, but it has a similar smokiness and crispiness. I admit to having a recent salad I'll write about later that had TOO MUCH bacon - if such a thing is possible!

Back on topic, to the doughnuts! I did make an exception in 2006, when we were in Portland. I had to make a visit to that freaky Temple of Circular Pastry, Voodoo Donuts. I ate the vegan blueberry, and it was YUM!

Anyway, in my opinion, there is something else that Kamehameha Bakery makes that is BETTER than glazed doughnuts. These are a Pilipino pastry called ensemada - a soft, breadlike circular pastry formed into a spiral snail shape, spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar. It's another form of dough with sugar - but baked instead of fried - and these are the best tasting ones I've found in Honolulu. If there are better ones, please someone tell me where to find them? I've eaten them from Napoleon's Bakery, St. Germain, Liliha Bakery and they do not compare. What makes them wonderful? They have this wonderful yeasty taste that's not found in the others, with the right amount of butter and sugar. They come in two sizes: small (they're really more medium) and large (which are too large - too much to eat at one sitting unless it's already 10 am and somehow you've missed breakfast and have hot black coffee at hand!)

Every few months, the DH will TELL me he's going there to Kamehameha Bakery, to pick up some pastries for the folks in his office. He asks me what I'd like. This time I told him "3 small ensemada". He went there early enough that they still had them - they do run out! He doesn't see the wonderfulness of these; he'd rather eat a haupia doughnut or a chocolate eclair. It takes me 3 days to eat these, and they are never so wonderful after the first day, when that sugary buttery airiness dissolves in your mouth with each bite!

- Oh, honey!?

BTW, Kamehameha Bakery makes naughty bread for bridal showers, but that is a story for another time!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Two great home-cooked meals


Saturday night: sockeye salmon from Costco (I hate that place!) with fruit salsa. Recipe: one nectarine, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch dice, 2 Tbsps diced sweet onion, one large Roma tomato, diced, 1/2 to one jalapeno - seeded or not depending on how hot you like it! Mix together with a splash of EVOO and one to two tsps lime juice and a handful of chopped cilantro. I also made a version of this adobo-style eggplant. Trim ends and peel some of the skin from two large Japanese eggplants, then cut into one-inch-thick diagonal slices. Saute in oil until soft, Add 1/4 cup sliced onion and 1 cup haricots verts (French green beans - from Costco, as was the eggplant). Cook until onion is slightly soft, then sprinkle with one to two teaspoons sugar, 2 to 3 Tbsps shoyu, 2 to 3 Tbsps. vinegar, and garlic salt to taste.

4th of July Monday night: whole wheat spaghetti, 16/20 shrimp cooked with EVOO, homemade basil pesto from the freezer and wine to deglaze the pan. I made two salads: peeled and sliced 3 lovely beets and julienned them. I also julienned a finger. Ow! Mixed with Angel Pietro ume dressing, diced sweet onion and chiffonade of fresh basil. Instead of making namasu, I turned the remaining three cucumbers I talked about here into cucumber salat: trim ends and peel skin in strips, halve and remove most seeds. Slice thinly and sprinkle with 2 tsps sea salt. Mix and let sit for at least an hour. Slice 1/4 sweet onion and 2 cloves of garlic and mix in. Stir together 3 Tbsps vinegar, 2 Tbsps EVOO, 1 tsp sugar and mix into cucumbers.

The DH groaned with pleasure over both of these dinners - and that is the highest praise!

Happy Eating to you all!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What do you do with too many cucumbers?

A week ago, the DH brought home a hoard of cucumbers. I don't know what came over him! I might buy one, two or three. He bought SEVEN!!!

While I love them, too many can be problematic. If you leave them alone too long, you might return to a puddle of green slime. Unless you like that sort of thing.

There is only one family I can think of  who have a refrigerator nazi who patrols for bits of leftovers and fruit and veg and brooks NO WASTE or decline in that neighborhood. I think I would cautiously welcome him near my unit, but also have a whole lotta fear. BTW, I have NO idea what he does with all those bits we all accumulate.

The two slices of onion and half a pear and half an orange. Yes, I can see them on a lovely composed salad with beets on a bed of spinach or arugula (neither of which I have at the moment) and some feta or goat cheese. With a light lemon/orange vinaigrette.

Does the refer nazi hoover these up willy-nilly, or does he stand over the family until THEY do? Or do they get blended up into some healthy slurry? (On a side note, I have heard wonderful things about the Vitamix blender, but had no clue these COST MORE THAN $400.) Sorry, I am the person who thought long and hard before spending $50 on an immersion blender, and $15-$20 on a microplane grater.

After veering WAY off topic, I'm returning to that hoard of cucumbers. Some of them were made into that quick cucumber pickle. That recipe gets even better if you stir in about half a teaspoon of ume (pickled plum) paste, and a teaspoon or more of sesame seeds. Other cucumbers were eaten with sliced tomatoes, a sprinkle of sea salt and vinaigrette.

I haven't seen Julie and Julia. Didn't want to. I grew up watching the real Julia Child drop chickens, cut her finger and celebrate food. I could not bring myself to watch the wonderful Meryl Streep ape the incomparable Julia. (Yet I accepted Dan Ackroyd's version! I think because it was LOVING.) There was much talk about the BRAISED cucumbers she favored, so I gave these ago.

EPIC FAIL! These were not good. Not a Celebration of Cucumbers as far as this family felt! You would THINK anything is better with butter, including cucumbers. No, foodies, not IMHO. But here's the recipe, if you must try it: peel and deseed 2 large cucumbers and cut into batons roughly 1/2 x 1/2 x 1 inch. Saute in 2 Tbsps butter. Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper and cook until translucent. Add a teaspoon or two of lemon juice.

Some say this tastes like artichokes. No. This tastes like it's not cucumbers and not zucchini, but NOT something good.

The last 3 cucumbers will be made into namasu, Japanese marinated cucumbers. The recipe: cut the ends off 2 to 3 cucumbers. Note: we've been talking about the "burpless" English cucumbers all along. Cut off strips of skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut in half and scoop out any seeds, then slice thinly. Sprinkle with about 1 Tbsp. salt and let stand 15 minutes to half an hour. Rinse, drain and squeeze out excess water. Combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt and I tsp grated or finely slivered fresh ginger root. Pour mixture over cucumbers and chill. You can add fresh crabmeat, slivered fishcake or thin pieces of reconstituted wakame or hijiki seaweed.

Yum! Happy eating!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

All the ingredients for a teri-beef banh mi

Last night I was feeling sooo punk and exhausted, it was all I could do to pull out the leftovers.

We had steamed white rice and teriyaki beef that I heated in the microwave. The other accompaniments were tsukemono - salty/sweet cabbage pickles homemade by my mother's friend, and leftover cucumber pickles made by me. Also, furikake rice topping and do chua made by me. Add hot treen tea poured over the topping and rice and eat with the teri beef and pickles - comfort food heaven!

The hot tea and rice is called ochazuke, and it is THE food I want to eat when I return from a trip where I've eaten too much because I didn't know when I'd get to eat it again. Like achingly fresh salmon in the Pacific NW. Or lobster in New England. Or Brie and Muenster cheese from the NE of France.

As we sat and ate our chazuke, my mind wandered - as it often does - and I wondered about other food iterations. What about a teri-beef banh mi!

What is banh mi? It's a Vietnamese sandwich with French influence. The baguette and mayonnaise are the obviously French, as is the pate you will sometimes find as filling. The other ingredients are cilantro, cucumbers and do chua, the daikon (radish) and carrot pickle. I thought I'd written about making this pickle here, but I looked back and hadn't. I had a lot more time to make such things when I wasn't working! These are yummy pickles that stay crispy - try them, you'll like them!

The beauty of the banh mi is that almost any protein can be the main filling - from marinated and fried tofu to deli turkey or roast beef. So, why not teri beef? The Euro ingredients of crusty baguette and mayo combined with the Asian cilantro, the sweet-tartness and crunch of the pickles - the sum of all of these parts create flavors beyond the individual ones to a new and interesting whole.

"Trus' me," as an in-law says. Try it. And Soos wanders off to dream of new or more likely, repurposed food creations...