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...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hamakua Alii mushrooms for breakfast

Here's what the DH's friend Nate eats for breakfast:

  • 1 pot cooked white rice
  • 1 package bacon, cooked
  • 6 eggs (only six? over easy, I bet!)

That would probably feed the two of us. FOR THREE MEALS!

Y'all know what I eat for breakfast M-F, as it's stated at the top of this blog. The only thing that gets switched up is the jam or fruit on top of the oatmeal. This morning it was frozen strawberries AND blueberries. My favorite is blackberries. Once in a while it'll be cherry jam, or raspberry. The DH eats poke and rice some mornings, but he always eats a banana or half a papaya. Or, more often, BOTH.

Saturday might be the same breakfast as M-F, as I work more often than not. It's a sinful pleasure for me to have the following breakfast (usually on Sunday):

Skillet Eggs

  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1'2 red bell pepper or tomato, diced, or diced veggies of your choice
  • 3-4 oz. Hamakua Alii mushrooms, halved or quartered lengthwise, cut into thin slices
  • 1 oz. fresh herbs, preferably thyme or marjoram
  • 6-8 eggs beaten with salt to taste
  • 3-4 oz. of your favorite shredded cheese

Saute the onion in 2 Tbsp butter (yes, everything DOES taste better with it!) until soft, then add the pepper or tomato or other veggies sprinkle with the herbs and add the Hamakua Heritage Farms Alii mushrooms (eryngii) and cook for 3-5 more minutes. If necessary, add a little oil to the pan, then the eggs, and scramble. When almost done but not dry, top with cheese, turn off flame and cover until the cheese is melted.

Serve with hot coffee, buttered toast and preserves handmade in Connecticut, and the breakfast meat - or not - of your choice. Plus ketchup, hot sauce or North Shore chili sauce (we bought this from a fellow who also sold the greatest popsicles made entire from fresh fruit. dare we say this was better than Ono Pops? Papaya/banana = YUM!)

Monday, June 13, 2011

I dreamed of Creamy Corn Coconut Soup

DH asked me how I think of the recipes I come up with. Buddha knows my coworkers eating what I call brown food - plate lunches of meat, rice and macaroni salad covered with gravy - look askance at my leftovers of spicy sweet potato soup!

I told him I sometimes dream about the food I'm going to prepare for dinner. The truth is that the vegetables that need to be used are even in my subconscious thoughts! I've been cooking for so long, that sometimes I just know when odd combinations of things will taste good together.

While we eat corn on the cob - and it is already sweet and crispy when you find it in the farmers' markets NOW - it figures in the soups we eat. Corn chowder comes to mind, but sometimes you don't want potatoes and the rest of the fuss. I often make a soup with lots of corn kernels cut off the cob, with onion, celery, zucchini and red bell pepper in a chicken broth.

I found a Martha Stewart recipe for a chilled soup with corn and coconut milk, but I always find soup tastes better when you start with onion sauteed in butter as it is here in my version:

  • 2 Tbsp. sweet onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 can coconut milk (about 6 oz.)
  • Lime or lemon to taste
  • Cilantro for garnish
Saute the onion in butter until soft, add the corn and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the broth and heat until bubbling, stir in the coconut milk and heat through, adding salt to taste. Stir in lime or lemon juice to taste. Garnish liberally with cilantro. Serve with lime or lemon wedges. You can add heat with a dusting of cayenne or some chopped jalapeno sauteed with the onion, but I left it out, as I served this soup with curried ratatouille, to which I'd added some cayenne.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

If soup could be sexy: Sweet Potato Coconut Soup with Indian Spices

If you're wondering why there are no photos in this blog, it was my conscious choice not to photograph my food. I see others doing this when I go out to eat. I don't understand how they can wait that long to taste their meals, and why they would want to lug around such big cameras. Add to that the facts that I don't have a good camera, and I'm not the best photographer. Factor in hunger to the equation, and you'll understand why photos are low on my list of priorities.

All of that said, this soup looks a lot like any orange baby food you'll find on the shelf. But it sure doesn't TASTE or smell like any baby food that I know of!

Garnet yams don’t sound as sexy as sweet potatoes, but that’s what I use. I like them better than starchy white sweet potatoes or purple-flesh Okinawan, u'ala or ube. I equate the glorious orange hue with health and nutrients. Some facts about sweet potatoes from the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture:

To start making your own bowl of sexy soup, microwave the yams in a couple of inches of water, covered, turning and repeating until just slightly soft. Cool, then peel.

  • ½ large onion, diced
  • 2 cups yams, cut into 1-in. chunks
  • 1 - ½ Tbsp. curry paste
  • 1-in. piece ginger, peeled
  • 1 - ½ cups chicken broth
  • ½ can coconut milk
Saut̩ onion in olive or canola oil until soft Рabout 3 to 4 minutes. Add yams, curry paste and ginger and stir, cooking another couple minutes. Add the chicken broth and heat through. Process with immersion blender until smooth, then stir in coconut milk and heat. Add salt and black pepper to taste and adjust spices. Serve with a wedge of lime and topped with cilantro.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A quick cucumber pickle

I couldn't resist a bag of shapely Asian cucumbers from the Blaisdell Wednesday Farmer's Market. PLUS, they were aquaponically grown! A short explanation of this is that fish are raised and the water used to hydroponically (without soil) grow vegetables.

Here's what I made:

Peel stripes from one large burpless cucumber and cut into 1/4 inch diagonal slices. Salt liberally and set aside. Sliver 2 T. sweet onion and add to cucumbers. Add more salt if necessary. If there's too much liquid, drain. If it's too salty, rinse a bit. Combine mild vinegar (I used the shiso vinegar I made here) with 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. sugar and stir into vegetables. Serve with a sprinkle of cilantro.

Update: also see JaJa Mein here and Panzanella.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dinner of a previous night - Tomato Soup Variation

It probably sounds like I'm obsessed with tomato soup, but when they are ripe and there are just too many to eat out of hand, soup is a fine choice.

The other night, I made the soup from this post. The tomatoes I bought in Waialua must have gotten squished somehow. Even though they weren't fully ripe, several of them had soft spots, so they went into the soup along with a large ripe one I'd bought from Karen, who sells lovely produce on Fort Street Mall Tuesday, and at Blaisdell on Wednesday.

This time, I also added half a red bell pepper. What glorious color together with a large carrot! We ate this with spelt bread - also from Waialua.

There is just enough left over for someone to have a warming lunch...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Four Day Weekend and Waialua Farmers Market

Since I returned to working full-time at the end of March, this past weekend was the first where I had FOUR days off in a row! Wonderful!

On Saturday, we took the long drive up to the North Shore of Oahu, and the Waialua Farmers Market. In Waialua, the landmark is the old sugar mill, and the market has brought new life to this area. The library was closed, but the service station was busy - the price of gas has gone back down by fifty cents! Sadly, the Sugar Bar in the old Bank of Hawaii building has closed down. We have memories of gatherings of friends and music!

The market is held in the area fronting the mill, and most of the vendors sell produce. A couple sell Avon or Bath & Body Works; there is also a fellow with fresh fish, another tea drinks in packets, still another has sauces.

We picked up corn, tomatoes, papayas and bananas - the latter fruit at really good prices. We also came away with nice zucchini, and spelt bread and spelt cookies. Yes, spelt tastes different, but I do like the taste.

There was also a woman selling Indonesian food: fish with tomatoes, beef rendang (with curry and coconut milk) and shrimp. Plates of the latter two with rice and mixed vegetables and a gingery topping were lunch!

We ate these at Haleiwa beach park. No turtles this time - it was low tide - but a chicken flew across the road to escape a chasing dog. The people at a nearby picnic table had their cats on leashes, but not their dogs. Go figure!

The dogs were VERY interested in our food. And rightly so - it was delicious!