Monday, March 26, 2012

Part Two: Dinner Party - Yes, Last Minute on a Work Night

When Chef Jeff invites, you'd be missing out if you said no! This is the second recent dinner invitation from him.

No time or energy to pick up something fantastic or cook, so we arrived with a very food-friendly Sangiovese and a robust Zin my brother-in-law would probably love.

What did we eat? Some lovely sashimi, "popcorn" potatoes, artichoke with lemon/garlic sauce prepared by Russ. Smoked fish - aku? And the highlight of the night: rack of lamb cut into chops. Yes, the Sangiovese went well with everything. We do not know about the Zin, as a disappointing Erath pinot noir was opened instead.

For dessert, there were cigars and spinach salad with bacon bits, onion, langostinos.

I'll have to check with the DH to see if he smoked my cigar!!! And I need to buy another bottle of that Zin...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What She Cooked in her Rice Cooker and Elsewhere

I've come (late) to the realization that I'm not good at multi-tasking.

Not at work, and much less so in the kitchen. So, if I can cook one part of a meal in the microwave oven, or even in a rice cooker, this is so much less stressful for me!

I'd purchased barley to make a hearty turkey-vegetable soup, but there was lots left. I wasn't in the mood to make something as decadent as a barley risotto (maybe next time!) So I decided to try and duplicate Chef Bob McGee's purslane salad from one of the dinners at his popup restaurant, Plancha. Here's what I did:

I rinsed 2 cups of pearled (dehulled) barley, sprayed my rice cooker pot with oil, and dumped in the barley with 4 cups of water and a splash more along with a generous pinch of salt. I let this soak for ten minutes, then hit the cook button on my very basic 8-cup rice cooker. This was cooked in about 45 minutes, and I let the barley sit for another ten minutes. I had the husband trim the stems from a bunch of purslane, then I made a dressing with 3 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and agave syrup to taste. (About 1 tsp. of the agave.) I took about 1-1/2 to to cups of the barley, added most of the purslane to this, and tossed with all of the dressing. (I put the leftover barley in zip-loc bags in the freezer.)

I had a bunch of beets with beautiful tops. I scrubbed them, then cut them into sections, placed them on a plate, covered tightly with Saran wrap, and microwaved them for about 5 minutes per side. Perfect! Not as tasty as roasted beets, but a LOT faster! The tops were washed well, sliced into pieces one inch wide, the stems trimmed into one inch pieces.

First, I sauteed the stems in a little olive oil, then I added the leaves and chopped garlic. After about 3 or 4 minutes, I added some white wine to the pan, salted to taste and added 2 Tbsp of pine nuts.

I microwaved thin stalks of asparagus and drained them. Then I put salt and pepper on both sides of some very thinly sliced pork cutlets. I rolled up 3 asparagus stalks in each of these pork pieces, then I floured the outsides of the rolls lightly. I browned the rolls in a pan, then added white wine to the pan along with some Worcestershire, water and a touch of agave syrup to make a sauce. Returned the cooked meat rolls into the sauce to warm through.

All of this made a feast for the two of us, and we had marvelous leftovers the next day!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

How to Stop Cars in Kakaako

Yesterday, I met Pickles. She sure got attention on Auahi Street, near downtown Honolulu. As I admired her, I watched the cars just about stop, or at least slow down!

Pickles is pretty, has much better eyeliner AND lashes than most of us, and yes, she was NAKED.

It's not often you see a cow in a parking space in Kakaako, but the cowgirls from Waianae's Naked Cow Dairy put Pickles under a nice tent, with a tarp under her feet and water to drink. As @yelphawaii said, it was "Cow-kaako"!

So, why was Pickles far away from sweet home Waianae, visiting the big city? She and the cowgirls, Sabrina and Monique, and their cowhands, were there for a cheese tasting in the @HIGreenHouse @RnDHI area to promote their IndieGogo fundraiser. In one afternoon, they raised about $3000, but that still leaves them $6000 short of their goal of $15,000. Although they received a USDA grant to promote their cheese, the dairy needs the fundraiser money for a cheese vat and pasteurizer, and to build an aging room.

Tasters were (subtly) encouraged to donate on the spot, in the tip compote jar or via the IndieGoGo website using the handy laptops available. @hnlfarmers @LisaAsagi was there - she is always so gracious and welcoming. Once again, I missed @Jayparasco - since we hang out in some of the same places, we'll meet IRL some day! I did get to properly meet @gidasnyder, Cheese Sorceress, who conjured up many of the great cheeses we tried.

What did we taste? Naked Farmer (!) cheese and a soft young cheese flavored with herbes de Provence or cumin and other flavors, Gouda - all good. But the Brie with port wine soaked figs and the buttermilk bleu with alae salt - Oh My Buddha - yum, yum, yum! I had tasted Naked Cow Dairy cream cheese and delicious feta at the farmers' market, but these little tastes left me WANTING MORE.

If you can, contribute something to the fundraiser in this way. As I write this, they have advanced and are only  a bit less than $6000 away from their goal.

Why should you contribute? Almost 100% of the cheese we eat in Hawaii comes from Somewhere Else. Somewhere FAR AWAY. 80% of the food we eat is imported. It comes here on boats and planes, and the carbon footprint is immense. Gas cost $4.35 in my neighborhood for regular yesterday!

Helping farmers who are working to produce good local food will benefit all of us by contributing to food security. The food will be fresher and last longer, too.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

When the Kabocha Looks Great

And they've been looking wonderful both in the supermarkets as well as the farmers' markets. Kabocha is a pumpkin with green skin and firm sweet flesh.

I picked out a nice one, and decided to cook it in traditional style. When you go to a Japanese restaurant here in Honolulu, you may be served a small portion as part of your meal. It tastes delicious - skin and all.

Here is the recipe I used. The only thing I did differently was to microwave it for about 2 minutes, turning it over once halfway, after I scrubbed and wiped it. It makes cutting into that tough skin a bit easier. I also made miso pork, using this recipe. Next time, I'd use 1/2 to 2/3 the amount of miso, and 1-1/2 to 2 times the amount of alcohol. I used white wine instead of sake, as that is what I had. Separately, I sauteed half an onion which I put in the bottom of the dish before I placed the cooked pork - the onion took in the pork/miso flavors. This was so delicious that next time, I'll saute an entire onion.

With the pork and the kabocha, we ate homemade cabbage tsukemono from a family friend which complemented the meal because it had a lot of fresh ginger and a touch of fresh bird chili. And of course, we had hapa rice - brown and white cooked together.

What are you eating these cold and rainy Hawaiian nights?