When you hear the words “fresh corn,” do you picture flat miles and miles of dark green stands of cornstalks in Iowa or Nebraska? I know we did, before we came to Hawaii. Now when someone mentions fresh corn, my mind immediately jumps to Ewa sweet corn, grown right down the road in the fertile Ewa Plains.
Corn in Hawaii? I know, this was a complete surprise to us too. But your first taste of these tender sweet kernels will make you a believer too. And yes, the corn is grown by the same folks at Aloun Farms who also grow those wonderful sweet onions and melons we’ve looked at earlier. If you can believe it, there is a second corn grower on this small island — in Kahuku, on Oahu’s North Shore (of surfing fame). Kahuku corn are also tender and sweet and, most importantly for Oahu, local fresh!
When produce is this sweet and fresh, we don’t usually mess with it too much — steam it or grill it, and eat it. They don’t even need butter or salt. The key with sweet corn is that it must be cooked or frozen as soon as you get it home. A corn grower in California once told me that the sugars in corn begin to convert to starch as soon as they are picked from the stalk. Sugar = tender and sweet; Starch = chewy and kind of bland.
At home, remove the husks and silk, then soak the corn cobs in a vinegar-water solution (2 TBL white vinegar for every 1 liter/quart of water), and rinse. Actually, for grilling you may want to keep some of the husks intact to use as protection from the flames (instead of wrapping in aluminum foil) or as a handle to pick up the corn. Just peel back the outer layers of the jusk (like peeling a banana) and leave them attached at the stem end. Remove the interior husks and the silks, then wash and rinse corn in their husks. Pull husks back over the corn (you can season the corn before re-husking), and they’re ready for the grill!
An alternative method, popular in Japan and here in the Islands, is to grill the corn directly over the flame, seasoning with salt, pepper and a brush of soy sauce in the last minute of grilling. Delicious! You get sweet smoke with that hint of salty shoyu. This is a favorite festival food, but easy to recreate at home, too!
We are fortunate to have more than one season for fresh corn on Oahu, and one of those seasons is going on now. With our fourth or fifth bag of corn this season, I finally decided to make something other than grilled or steamed corn. This is a thick and creamy soup that has no cream or milk — I really wanted the sweet flavor of the corn to be the star here. Its co-star is an equally sweet shrimp from a Neighbor Island — their flavors complemented each other perfectly.
Fellow blogger Pomai at Tasty Island commented on an earlier post that the use of place names (e.g., Ewa cantaloupe) not only promotes the freshness of the produce, but also increases the cachet of the final recipe to either impress one’s guests or (if you’re in the business) charge a fortune! He’s absolutely right, of course. Wouldn’t you pay $30 for that Linguine with Ewa Cantaloupe Sauce in a Waikiki hotel?!
So what did we do with the corn? Here I present you with Creamy Ewa Sweet Corn Soup with Kauai Shrimp (more on the shrimp in a later post). That should fetch at least $20 as a first course, don’t you think? The sea salad adds texture and another ocean element to the soup — we liked it a lot. The only thing I would say is next time I would cut the greens into smaller spoon-size pieces before garnishing.
Don’t miss any vegetable or fruit season in the Islands — download a month-by-moth seasonal availability chart from the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, one of the sponsors of the Buy Local campaign.
CREAMY EWA SWEET CORN SOUP WITH KAUAI SHRIMP
Serves 4 as a first course
6 ears Ewa (or Kahuku) sweet corn, washed as outlined above, some husk kept intact
Peel husk back from cleaned corn to use as a handle when cutting kernels from cob. Place top of corn ear into a deep wide bowl to catch the kernels. Using a sharp knife, cut down and away from you, into the bowl. Turn ear and continue cutting until all kernels are cut from cob. Remove husks and place in large dutch oven. Repeat with all cobs. Reserve kernels (you should have 5-6 cups kernels).
Cover cobs with water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes, and allow to cool completely.
(Optional step: I was taught to extract as much flavor from my ingedients as possible, but some people will omit this step.) When cobs are cool enough to handle, remove from water. Place one cob end in water and using the BLUNT end of a knife, press down along the length of the cob into the water to release the last bits of corn. Repeat over the whole cob, and repeat for each cob. Pour “broth” into a measuring cup, and add water to measure 8 cups of liquid. Reserve corn broth/water.
To finish soup:
2 TBL. olive oil or butter (use butter if corn is frozen or starchy)
1 small onion, minced
1/2 tsp. dried chervil
1/4 cup mirin or sake
sea salt, to taste
ground white pepper, to taste
1 lb. Kauai (or Kahuku) sweet shrimp, peeled and chopped (optional - reserve 1 tail per serving for garnish)
sea salad (chopped) or marinated sea asparagus for garnish
Melt butter in dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 6-7 minutes. Add corn kernels and stir to coat with butter. Cover and cook for another 5-6 minutes. Add chervil, mirin, salt and white pepper, and stir through. Cook together 10 minutes. Remove 1/4 to 1/3 of the kernels (depending on how chunky you want the final soup to be — or leave them all in if you want a smooth soup).
Add corn broth/water, and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes (add reserved shrimp tails to soup in the last 5 minutes, if using, and remove to separate plate to cool before blending soup). Taste and correct seasoning before pureeing.
Use an immersion blender to puree soup. If you have to use a countertop blender, first cool the soup, then puree, and re-heat. HOT FOODS in a covered blender can “explode” from accumulated steam and heat. I don’t recommend using a covered blender for any hot foods or drink.
Return reserved kernels to soup and return to boil. Add chopped shrimp, lower heat to simmer, and cook for 2-3 minues, or until all shrimp turn pink and firm. Ladle into serving bowls, garnish with purchased sea salad and reserved shrimp tails.
Whole fresh bunches of beets are a fleeting treat, so when we saw them recently, they were immediately snapped up. As much as we love beetroot, the greens and stalk stems are wonderful vegetables on their own. Granted, the stems lend more color and crunch than flavor to a meal, but they do readily take on strong flavors and hold them deeply. Usually I simply slice the stems on the diagonal and throw them in the wok, but this summer I’ve been inspired by the ingenious and creative ways that Helen, at Food Storeies, has with vegetables! The woman handles a vegetable peeler with the skilled finesse of a sushi chef. Anyway, I opted to attempt to julienne the stalks, but found them very stringy and fibrous — this is why they are usually cut along the width, to cut the fibers down to edible size. But undaunted, and 45 long minutes later, the stalks were finally “de-veined” and julienned — they made quite a pretty picture with their deep burgundy color. But you can definitely skip this step and do the diagonal slices instead!
Beet greens are a mild, quick-cooking green that is suitable for stir-frying or simple flash-cooking, similar to spinach. They do have a slight musky quality that allows them to stand up to strong flavors, such as the vinegar and garlic in this pasta — which is actually derived from a southern Italian style pasta that features cauliflower. The combination of currants, garlic, and red wine vinegar with the vegetables will give you a sweet and tangy (sour) sauce. The addition of pork is my own twist, but certainly leave it out and you will have a fresh and colorful vegetarian pasta.
I’ve been neglecting Dad’s Gout Diet Challenge lately, but the vegetarian version of this recipe (no pork) with its healthy doses of greens, vinegar and garlic would be a nice change of addition to Dad’s repetoire of gout-friendly recipes. So this will be included in the GDC.
SWEET & TANGY BEETGREEN SAUCE FOR PASTA
For 2 persons
Stalks and greens from 6 beets
Wash and rinse stalks and greens. Cut along both sides of each stalk to separate the greens. Roll the greens lengthwise and cut along the width into 1-inch pieces. Either slice the stalks in thin slices on the diagonal, or cut into 4-inch lengths, then de-vein each length (similar to cleaning celery fibers). Slice each length into 5-6 long pieces.
3-4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 TBL. + 1 TBL. olive oil
3 oz. (85g) lean pork, cut into slivers 1-inch long (optional)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup (40g) currants
1 tsp. raw sugar
1/3 cup (80ml) red wine vinegar
12 oz. dried pasta
Start water for pasta.
Heat first 2 TBL. oil in large skillet (large enough to hold pasta too) over medium heat. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant and lightly browned. Add pork, if using, and cook until browned, about 4-5 minutes. Add beet stalks and salt, and stir well to coat with oil. Cover pan and allow to cook until stalks begin to wilt, about 3 minutes. Increase hat to medium-high, and add beet greens and 1 TBL oil, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove cover and sprinkle sugar and currants over greens, stir through. Make a hole in the center of the greens, and pour vinegar in hole. Stir everything through, and allow to cook for another 8-10 minutes or until greens are bright green and softened. Taste and correct seasoning, and keep sauce warm until pasta is cooked.
Salt water and add pasta — cook to al dente. Drain well but do not rinse. Add pasta to sauce. Increase heat under skillet to medium-high, and stir through to combine pasta and sauce ingredients. Serve in warmed bowls/plates, garnish with squeeze of lemon, if desired.
Okra. It’s one of those “bright line” foods — you either love it or you really, re-e-ally don’t. I only crossed over to the “love it” camp as an adult, and now I’m firmly entrenched there. In Hawaii we’re lucky to find fresh okra most of the year, but because it’s a vegetable that doesn’t hold well when fresh, we still often have a bag of frozen okra in the freezer so we can make this ultra-easy Okra & Corn Stew.
In fact, it was this stew that bridged the way for me to cross into the okra-loving camp. A friend in college whipped this up in seconds from frozen and canned components and then let it simmer for an hour or so while we worked with our study group. At the end of the hour, a purchased bucket of fried chicken and biscuits rounded out our meal and four hungry, harried students were happily sated. To be honest, at first I balked at the sight of okra with the corn and tomatoes, but my friend dared me to “just one taste.” I’ve been hooked ever since, and when I make this stew, it’s always exactly as she told me how to do it.
As much as we advocate fresh local produce, there is still a place for frozen produce in our pantry too. Vegetables that have been minimally processed and left “naked” (no seasonings or other ingredients added) are frozen staples that allow us to prepare dishes we love when time is a premium. The okra in this photo is of thawed frozen okra.
Another favorite dish at our house in which okra plays a prominent role is a Filipino vegetable stew called pinakbet, but for some reason, we couldn’t imagine making that dish with frozen okra. For some reason that dish seems to require fresh okra pods, especially smaller ones. But I digress...
Here Okra & Corn Stew is paired with jerked fish fillets, made with a purchased jerk seasoning and frozen Alaskan sockeye salmon. The salmon are just browned in a separate pan, then added to the stew to finish cooking. The spicy fish fillets contrast with the sweetness of the stew for a satisfying, no-fuss meal. Of course, my favorite pairing with this stew will always be fried chicken!
OKRA & CORN STEW WITH JERK SALMON
for 4 persons
For the fish:
4 4-6oz. (113 - 170g) fillets of Alaskan sockeye salmon (or halibut, or snapper)
Purchased jerk seasoning powdered rub
Juice of 1 lime
Pat fillets dry. Sprinkle with lime juice, then coat both sides of fish with jerk rub. Allow to marinate while you start the stew.
For the stew:
1 bag frozen cut okra (1 lb/450g)
1 bag frozen sweet corn (1 lb/450g)
1 15oz (425g) can diced tomatoes (we use Muir organic from Costco)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup (120ml) water or broth
sea salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a skillet (large enough to hold all the fish fillets too). Bring stew to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how well you like your okra done.
After the stew has simmered for 30 minutes, pre-heat a second skillet for the fish. Season fish fillets with salt to taste (remember the stew has salt too). Add oil, then fish to the pan and allow the seasonings to brown (it will look like Cajun blackened fish), about 2 minutes. Brown the other side of the fillets (they will not be cooked through).
Check stew and correct seasoning, adding a little water or broth if it looks dry. Add fish on top, just below the surface of the stew. Cover and cook for the last 10 minutes.
Serve with biscuits or garlic bread.
During our celebration of Guam’s Liberation Day last week, our fiesta plate with Red Rice and Guam BBQ Chicken was served with this grilled salad of eggplant in a spicy lemon and coconut marinade, called Finadene Birenghenas in Guam’s native language, Chamorro (from Leblon Finatinas para Guam [Guam Cookbook]). The best eggplant for this salad are the long thin Oriental eggplant seen here. These can be found in abundance in the Islands most of the year. Off-island, Asian markets will usually carry them.
When we lived overseas, I often longed for these thin-skinned and quick cooking eggplants, which do not require skinning or salting as their round Continental cousins might. Our favorite way to prepare them is to grill them. Whenever we grill, T will also throw on 5-6 of these beauties even when they will not be part of that day’s meal. Once cooled, the eggplants are peeled and ready in the fridge for a variety of future salads and meals. When peeling, avoid the temptation to rinse the eggplants under running water — rinsing will wash out much of the prized smoke flavor in the vegetable. This is true for all grilled or char-broiled vegetables you peel before using, such as bell peppers or tomatoes.
I think of this dish as a salad, but it’s not the kind of salad you would want to eat alone. Usually this is served as part of rice meal with barbecued or roasted meats and seafood, although I love it with just a big scoop of red rice and finadene sauce, too. The smoky flavor of the grilled eggplant is first tamed with the sweet coconut milk, then lifted with the lemon juice and peppers. It is surprisingly light-tasting and refreshing, despite its seemingly heavy ingredients. If you already like the smoky, meaty flavor of eggplants in baba ghanoush, you might enjoy the variation on that flavor which this salad will bring to your table.
This recipe is going out to the award-winning Sig at Live to Eat, who is hosting the “Grill It!” event for the Monthly Mingle begun by Meeta at What’s for Lunch, Honey? Grill fever can’t help but sweep the northern Hemisphere while the short weeks of summer are in full swing, and I hope this delicious salad will too!
GRILLED EGGPLANT SALAD IN COCONUT MILK (FINADENE BIRENGHENAS)
Adapted from Leblon Finatinas para Guam [Guam Cookbook]
For 3-4 servings
6-7 large thin eggplants (about 1.5 lbs/680g)
oil to coat eggplant
With a sharp knife, pierce skin of each eggplant in 4-5 places to prevent the eggplants from bursting while on the grill. Lightly coat each eggplant with olive oil.
Place eggplants over high heat to char, and cook until eggplant is completely soft, with no spongy areas (spongy = still not cooked through). Time will depend on the size of the vegetables. Remove from heat and allow to cool enough to handle. Holding the stem end, remove peel by pulling downwards — peel should come away easily, leaving the vegetable flesh intact. Once eggplants are peeled, they can be refrigerated 3-4 days for later use.
To finish salad:
1/2 to 1 onion, sliced thinly
Juice of 1 lemon
sea salt to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
1-3 donne peppers, aka Thai bird chilies (optional)
1/2 cup coconut milk
scallions for garnish
Combine onions, lemon, salt, peppers, and coconut milk. Allow to sit for 30 minutes while you prepare eggplants.
Cut peeled eggplants crosswise into bite-size chunks. Taste coconut milk mixture and correct for salt, if necessary — it sould be lemony and slightly sweet. Add eggplants and gently combine to distribute flavors. Garnish with green onion rings.
Serve with roasted or grilled meats and seafood, and rice. (Serve with Red Rice and Guam BBQ Chicken for a real Guam fiesta experience.)
It’s no secret that we’re big fans of all the local greens around here — watercress, Chinese mustard cabbage (gai choy), and fiddleheads (warabi) have been touched on earlier. Two other versatile and highly nutritious locally grown vegetables are choi sum (Brassica parachinensis) and Chinese broccoli, or gai lan (Brassica oleracea), both also members of the cabbage family.
At the markets these two are sometimes confused for the other — shoppers looking for Chinese broccoli will pick up choi sum, and vice versa. Both vegetables have long stems with large lobe-shaped leaves and flowers at the end. The trick to telling them apart is that Chinese broccoli has thick, waxy-looking stems and leaves, and white flowers (right); while choi sum stems and leaves look more tender, and it has dark yellow flowers (left). When the flowering tip of Chinese broccoli is tightly closed, it can also be confused with its Continental cousin, broccoli rabe or rapini — but broccoli rabe has serrated leaf edges (photo on Wikipedia).
Chinese broccoli stems and flowers are similar in flavor to western broccoli; but it has the added nutritional value of having edible leaves as well. Chinese broccoli requires some peeling and sorting (stems from leaves) after washing, and so requires some extra prep work before cooking. We’ll take a closer look at it soon.
For now, let’s just focus on choi sum. Every part of choi sum is edible, and the stems are relatively soft and fast-cooking so whether you separate the stems from the leaves or leave it whole will depend on what you want to do with the vegetable. One of the easiest and most versatile ways to prepare choi sum is to simply steam the entire bunch. Once steamed, the vegetable can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days until needed. It can be served cold with a sesame or other dressing, or re-heated with pan sauce such as the Spicy Garlic Sauce below.
We also like to use choi sum greens in fried noodle dishes, including Japanese yakisoba and Korean chap chae. In this case, separate the leaves from the stems/flowers. Now you can julienne the leaves for the noodles and steam the stems whole for a separate vegetable dish. We recently made chap chae using choi sum leaves already steamed in a bunch — the cooked leaves were simply separated, then added after the meat and other vegetables were cooked too.
Choi sum is a very mild-tasting green when cooked (similar to spinach), and easily absorbs dressings, sauces and aromatics around it. It has none of the bitterness that watercress, mustard cabbage or other similar greens have, so it’s a good choice for someone who might be exploring Asian greens for the first time. It is also easy to clean and prep, and cooks fast which also make it a great candidate as a “gateway vegetable.”
As with any vegetable, organic or not, a good bath in a vinegar-water solution (2 TBL. vinegar for every 1 quart/liter water) and several rinses with cool water is a good way to start. Trim any discolored or questionable parts, then lay in a prepared steamer once the steam is at its peak (careful not to burn yourself). Cover and allow to steam for about 4-5 minutes, then immediately remove from steamer onto a large plate to cool — spread stems into a single layer on the plate. It should be a dark vibrant green, and the stems almost translucent. Once the greens are cool enough to handle, bring into a bunch and gently squeeze out excess moisture — you don’t want to wring it dry, just keep it from being dripping wet. These photos show the cooked vegetable after cooling, but before (left) and after (right) squeezing.
Now you’re ready to have your way with them! Cut into chopstick-friendly pieces, they can grace the top of your saimin/ramen soup; drizzled with sesame or citrus dressing it’s a quick and delicious side dish to any meal; chopped up and scrambled with eggs or quiche it’s a nice change from spinach; or top it off with this spicy garlic-rich sauce if you really want to kick it up a notch!
The folks at the “Island Fresh” campaign also have a soup recipe using fresh choi sum, just click on their logo at the top to check it out.
SPICY GARLIC SAUCE FOR GREENS
For one pound of choi sum, watercress, or warabi (or any hearty green)
4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 TBL. olive oil
1 tsp. raw sugar
1-3 tsp. sriracha chili sauce
1-1/2 TBL. fermented soy beans (dao jiao), mashed with a fork
1 TBL. soy sauce
2 TBL. Thai-style fish sauce (or patis, less if using a Vietnamese brand)
2 TBL. rice, coconut or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 TBL. cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
ground black pepper
1 lb. of cooked choi sum or other green
In a wok or large skillet, cook garlic in oil over medium heat until garlic is fragrant. Sprinkle with sugar and mix through. Add sriracha, mashed soy beans, soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, and water, and mix well to combine. Increase heat to medium high and allow mixture to come to a boil. Turn heat back down to medium, add cooked greens, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Make a hole in the center of wok/pan, and add dissolved cornstarch to center. Cook until sauce thickens, and coat greens with sauce.
Remove greens to serving plate, and pour sauce over. We had this as a side dish with the Kasu-marinated Butterfish last month.
Other Island Fresh produce on this site: Melons, Watercress, Mustard Cabbage, Warabi, Daikon, Eggplant, Corn, and Beef.
Happy Liberation Day, Everyone! Yes, today is a territorial holiday in my hometown — marking the day in 1944 when Marine troops stormed the shores of Asan beach and began the liberation of Guam from Japanese occupiers during World War II. It’s a day of parades and, of course, barbecues everywhere — and I don’t just mean on Guam. The Guam disapora has spread these flavors all over the world. At one point, the largest community of Guamanians outside of Guam was in Germany — no kidding! (Check out the coverage of this year’s festivities here from Guam’s own Pacific Daily News.)
And barbecues on Guam feature some uniquely prepared foods — most notably Red Rice, lemon-shoyu BBQ Chicken (short ribs and pork spare ribs too if you’re feeding a gang), and a condiment called Finadene (fin-ah-DEN-ee). A typical fiesta barbecue plate is shown here with a eggplant salad in coconut milk (in bowl) and pickled cucmbers.
Guam’s red rice is truly unique. Whereas other red-colored rice dishes will get their color and flavor from tomatoes (fresh or paste), or even beets, this red rice is flavored and colored with achiote seeds (also called annatto or atsute). The seeds are soaked in water, and the strained soaking liquid is used to cook the rice. Many people will add a tiny bit of salt and oil, as well, but after that everyone will have their own variations of what else, if anything, will be included — onions, peas, bacon or broth are some of the most common additions.
I’ve never seen any other cuisine use achiote water to cook rice — it lends a unique and ineffable flavor. Yestereday T and I tried to think of a way to describe the flavor of achiote-flavored rice to someone who was unfamiliar with achiote. “Earthy” “Smoky” “Meaty” “LIke beans that have been pureed” was the closest we could come, but none really hits the mark (that last one was T’s — pretty creative description, I thought). One thing I can tell you, I’ve never met a person who tried it and didn’t like it. Usually when you tell someone you’re from Guam, if they’ve known someone from Guam before, they will either ask you for your finadene, red rice and/or chicken recipe. That’s how these recipes are — you try them once and they stick with you and make you crave your next taste of it.
The recipes below are for what might be considered the holy trinity — the absolute basics — of a Guam barbecue (aka fiesta) plate. You’ll want to make all three if you’re going to make one. Trust me, these flavors were born to go together. The chicken marinade seems ridiculously simple, and it is — you just can’t believe how good this basic recipe is until you smell it on the grill. Charcoal is best, but even a gas grill will work (that’s what we have.... *she ducks as coconuts are thrown from Guam*).
And the best thing is that there are no especially hard-to-find ingredients. The achiote seeds may not be part of your pantry staples, but on Oahu, you can find seeds in the Asian (Filipino) or Hispanic section of most supermarkets. Elsewhere in the U.S. and the world, look in Hispanic markets and Asian groceries for the whole seeds.
At a real Guam fiesta, you will see many, many, many, MANY more dishes than these three, but these are your building blocks. And no, you don’t have to wait for the next Liberation Day festivities to try this. You can bring the flavors of Latitude 13 North to where you live any time (that’s where the island is, Folks, it’s not in the south Pacific)! For another take on these recipes, check out the Betty Shimabukuro’s full-page spread on Guam cuisine in last week’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
If you know Red Rice, how would you describe its flavor to someone who had never tried it??
for 4 persons
1/2 cup achiote seeds
2 cups water
Soak achiote seeds in water for 2 hours.
Wash hands well, then use hands to rub seeds together to release more color from the seeds. Water will be a dark red, muddy color. So will your hand. Achiote is used as a dye and food coloring agent (guess what colors your Cheddar cheese?) so it stains easily and deeply. I’ve taken to using a latex glove when rubbing achiote seeds for this dish — wash your hands WITH the glove on to rid the glove of its powder coating before handling seeds.
Strain water to catch all the seeds (the seeds don’t dissolve when cooked... ha ha... inside joke) into a measuring cup. Top up with water, if necessary, to measure 2 cups. Set aside until needed.
1 medium onion, diced
3 TBL. olive oil
Cook onions in oil over low heat, until translucent and sweet, about 10-12 minutes.
2 cups medium-grain Calrose rice, washed and rinsed until water is clear
1 tsp. salt
Place washed rice in rice cooker. Add salt, and cooked onions, including oil. Add achiote water, and gently stir through. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
Turn on rice cooker. When cooker turns itself off, do not open lid for at least 15 minutes.
Using a rice paddle or wooden spoon, turn rice over to distribute the cooked contents evenly. Bring paddle down to the bottom of the pot, and turn the contents over so the rice on the bottom (it will be darker colored than the rest) is on top. Gently break up this chunk of rice, releasing steam. (The motion is similar to folding egg whites into a batter — cut, turn and gently distribute.) Continue this motion all around the pot until the everything is evenly mixed through and the steam realeased.
GUAM-STYLE BBQ CHICKEN
for 4 persons
1 large whole chicken, cut into quarters
2 whole lemons
1 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 medium onions, sliced (optional)
Place chicken, skin-side down in large non-reactive bowl. Combine other ingredients and pour over chicken. Marinate overnight in fridge.
Prepare your grill or charcoal barbecue. An hour before it goes on the grill, remove chicken from fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
Place chicken skin-side down on grill. After 20 minutes, turn over and cook another 20-30 minutes, depending on the cut — breast pieces will take longer. Test by cutting near the joint to make certain the juices run clear. Cut into serving pieces and serve with red rice and finadene.
Everyone will have their preferred proportions of lemon juice to soy sauce — we like a really strong lemon flavor over soy. We didn’t have cherry tomatoes this time, but usually we put those in our finadene too.
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 medium onion, sliced thin
3 stalks of green onion, sliced (optional)
6-10 cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sea salt, or to taste (you’ll need less if you use more soy sauce than we do)
1-5 donne peppers, aka Thai bird chiles, sliced or left whole depending on your heat tolerance
Combine all ingredients, and let stand at least 2 hours before serving. Use on all kinds of meats and grilled vegetables. This is not for barbecues only — finadene is a staple condiment that will spice up any meal.
See also: Grilled Eggplant Salad in Coconut Milk (Finadene Birenghenas).
All we ardent food lovers can fall into the “rut” of reading our fellow bloggers’ recipes and thinking, “That sounds like this or that other recipe I’ve tried” and perhaps not venture to actually sample what has been offered. I know I do that, too. But sometimes someone’s description or method or humor captures our attention. We try the recipe. We’re surprised. And delighted. We’ve learned something new. A nuance has been added, a revelation is internalized.
The first time I saw coconut vinegar on the shelves at the Philippine supermarket here, I considered getting a bottle but we already had 10 different vinegars in the pantry so I actually passed it over. For three years. Then I saw what Marvin over at Burnt Lumpia made with coconut vinegar. He took the ubiquitous beer-can chicken and made it his own with his Chicken Inasal marinade and basting oil. We had never heard of — much less tasted — the regular chicken inasal, a marinade of coconut vinegar, calamansi juice, brown sugar, lemongrass, garlic, and ginger popular in the Philippines. And so the coconut vinegar finally made it’s way into the shopping cart.
Marv’s chicken inasal marinade creates an incredible melange of flavors, especially when the whole thing is basted with achiote (aka achuete or annatto) oil! The coconut vinegar is mildly acidic — on par with rice wine or balsamic vinegars — but it gives the chicken a definite tang that you know right away is not plain vinegar. I don’t know if you could substitute a different vinegar and get the same sweetness and bite, so for this recipe, coconut vinegar will be a pantry staple too.
We used Marv’s marinade with chicken parts, rather than a whole chicken as he did in the grilled beer-can chicken fashion. We’ve used this recipe 3 times already; the last time we made it, the chicken was broiled in the toaster oven (photo) rather than grilled. Still tasted great with sticky rice and Evil Jungle Prince style veggies! For his recipe and photos of beer-can chicken (for the uninitiated), check it out here.
Having fallen in love with the smoky, resinous flavor of dried methi, or fenugreek, leaves when we tried Fingerling Potatoes with Fenugreek at Easter, I’ve had my radar up for other recipes with methi leaves. Mansi at Food and Fun shared a recipe for her pakodas with fresh methi leaves. I asked her if I could use the dried leaves, since our grocer was often out of fresh, but she recommended frozen leaves instead. Never knew it was an option — but sure enough, they were there.
Pakodas (sometimes also spelled pakoras) are the Indian equivalent of Japanese tempura, but made with a highly seasoned batter made of chickpea flour, or besan. It’s one of our favorite first courses when we’re lucky enough to be in an Indian restaurant. Usually, vegetables such as cauliflower, mushrooms, carrots, or an assortment are dipped in batter and fried. This version produces a more dumpling-like pakoda, as tablespoonsful of brilliantly-speckled batter are fried until golden brown.
The “fresh” methi leaves really do taste different than when they’re dried — the pakodas had a fresh, almost minty flavor. We couldn’t quite place what the flavor reminded us of, until we were into our second fritter — it was eucalyptus! There’s a suggestion of fresh eucalyptus leaves in the aroma. Served with a tamarind chutney, it makes a great appetizer. Or part of a appetizer grazing meal, paired with the next recipe — which is what we did. Get Mansi’s recipe and instructions here.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking these are mere meatballs because they’re anything but. A more fitting tem would be “meat pillows” because that’s exactly what came to mind when I first bit into these hot little cuties. It was Lulu’s, at Mama’s Taverna, description of Keftedes that was so intriguing:
“These weren’t meatballs so much as they were fluffy meat clouds with a crispy crust that released a minty oregano-scented steam when pierced. You may think this hyperbole; if so, just try them.”
Mint? Steam? Crust? In a meatball? Yes — seriously, this is not like any meatball we’d ever met.
Lulu shares her Greek mentor’s recipe for these highly unusual treats with precise instructions juxtaposed with her tongue planted firmly in her cheek. The recipe calls for almost equal amounts (by weight) of ground meat and a combination of soaked bread, onions, ouzo (or wine, we used wine) and eggs; and also includes parsley, oregano and mint. I have to admit that I was sorely tempted to mess with this recipe, especially when I saw the proportion of meat to “other stuff” and how wet the mixture was once it was combined. I don’t care for doughy, mushy meatballs or meatballs that are more filler than meat — you know the ones: leaden and blah. I was afraid these were going to be like that.
Lucky for us, before I came across the Keftedes recipe I had read Lulu’s About page wherein she recounts her first experiences with Mama’s (friend Zoe’s mother) recipes and how she battled her own inclination to mess with Mama’s recipes. She describes Mama’s passion for keeping true to her recipes and that is something I respect so I, too, followed the recipe to a “T” — and boy, am I glad I did.
We’ve had these at 2 different times now, and I still marvel at how they are both meaty AND crisp and light at the same time. There is nothing doughy or heavy about these keftedes. Still not sure what black magic happens once these simple ingredients are combined in just the manner Lulu describes, but hey, I’m not gonna tinker with it.
This is an incredibly frugal recipe, too — with just 1 pound of ground meat we got about 36-38 medium-sized Keftedes (I kind of lost track the second time b/c we were pretty much eating them as they came out of the oil). Lulu provides a Keftedes size-graphic with the recipe so you’ll see what I mean by “medium.”
Actually we’ve only made one batch of the meat mixture, and froze half of it to use at a later time. Last week when we tried the pakodas recipe above, we thawed the remaining keftedes mixture, shaped & floured them, and fried them after the pakodas were done. The keftedes made from the frozen mixture tasted as fresh, meaty and light as the original batch so if you’re cooking for one or two, freezing the uncooked meat mixture works well. Unlike other meatball recipes where we would cook up the whole batch at the beginning, this recipe is at its crispy best when eaten hot and fresh. Find Lulu’s post on this recipe here.
So our thanks to Marv, Mansi and Lulu for taking us along with them on a culinary globe trot. It was a great ride!
I liked everyone’s ideas for making use of the tamarind nectar and chopped dates I found in the pantry — all of them were much healthier suggestions than what I had come up with: a cake.
The cake idea was first inspired by a recipe I’ve been meaning to try for a cake with dates and chocolate from Death By Chocolate, by Marcel Desaulniers. But when I found the tamarind nectar, too, my mind wandered to the tamarind-date chutney we had just sampled. Tangy tamarind and sweet dates in a cake? What would that taste like?
Of course, when making chutney one would use tamarind pods or paste instead of nectar, but I only wanted to borrow some of the flavor components from tamarind-date chutney: cumin and coriander. Cayenne, or red chili powder, was the third key flavor in the chutney, but I thought that was going too far in a cake!
The proportions and method for making the cake, including the chocolate and nut topping on half the cake, came from the book.
I didn’t get much feedback on the cake except through the grapevine. It seemed the consensus was that the cake with the chocolate and nuts was too sweet, although I cut back 1/4 cup of sugar from the original recipe and was using less-sweet raw sugar. The topless version of the cake was lightly sweet and moist, with a hint of exotic from the cumin — probably one of the last spices you might expect in a cake! I think it makes a wonderful snack cake, especially with dark coffee.
If I were making this only for our family, I would not have put the chocolate and nuts on the cake because we are not big consumers of sweets. But I have to confess that a sliver of cake with the topping was trimmed during slicing and saved as a “chef’s perk” for later. That evening we were enjoying another pantry item that needed to be consumed — port wine, and we were delighted to find that the combination of port with the nuts, chocolate and spices in the cake was a real winner!
We will make this cake again, probably without the topping unless we’re expecting to share it again. I would like to try the plain cake again with nuts mixed into the batter, too.
Thanks again to everyone who played along!
DATE & TAMARIND CAKE
(inspired by a chutney and a recipe from Death By Chocolate (1992), Marcel Desaulniers)
1 1/2 cups tamarind nectar
2 cups (225g) chopped dates
1 cup (225g) unsalted butter
2 cups (200g) whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cumin powder
2 tsp. coriander powder
1-1/4 cup (220g) raw sugar, (240g) regular sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Optional Topping: (See 2d set of baking instructions)
3 cups dark chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup chopped macadamia or walnuts
Grease and flour 9x13 inch pan. (I don’t have a 9x13 pan so I used a 9” square cake pan and a 6-muffin tin.)
Heat tamarind nectar to just boiling. Pour over dates. Let cool completely and set aside until needed.
Combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Sift to combine.
Cream together butter and sugar until light.
Add eggs, one at a time and beat on high until completely combined each time (about 15 seconds). Scrape down bowl. Beat on high for 20 seconds.
Add vanilla, and beat again for 15 seconds. Scrape down, then add flour mixture. Stir to combine, then beat on low for 15 seconds.
Add cooled date-tamarind mixture, and beat on medium speed for 20 seconds to combine. With rubber spatula, finish combining, then pour into prepared pan.
Bake in middle rack of pre-heated oven for 10 40-45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Let cool on rack 30-40 minutes before turning out to cool completely.
If using optional topping: Bake in middle rack of pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, then sprinkle chocolate and nuts over cake and return to oven for another 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Let cool on rack 30-40 minutes, then place in fridge for at least 20 minutes to firm up (but not harden) chocolate before slicing.
If cake chills completely in fridge (so that chocolate hardens), leave out for 30 minutes before attempting to slice the cake, or the dark chocolate will be almost impossible to cut through, even with a serrated knife. I managed to mangle the first piece when I tried to saw through the chocolate topping when the cake was still cold. It may not be so difficult to cut the cake when it’s cold if you opt for milk chocolate or semi-sweet chips instead.
Capers, capers, and more capers! This is probably at least twice, but more likely three times, more capers than sane people use when making piccata, especially with the classic veal or chicken which are both very mild meats. But since we just bought a Costco-sized bottle of capers in brine, why not indulge in caper happiness? ...Who are we kidding? We buy capers in Costco-sized jars BECAUSE we’re caper-happy.
These Piccata-style Pork Cutlets were our second-course following that ono Pasta with Cantaloupe Sauce we had earlier. Because the pasta was both creamy and slightly sweet, we knew we couldn’t have that as a sole entree, so we opted to eat in courses. The pasta was our first course, and this dish followed with some bruschetta with garlic. We will probably want that cantaloupe sauce again while melons are in high season here, and next time we may follow it with a piccata-style fish.
Before we moved to Germany, I always used chicken breasts to make piccata, but while we lived there I tried using pork cutlets because it was a very popular cut in the markets and Metzgerei. Likewise in the shops around Hawaii you can find thinly sliced pork loin cutlets, cut for Japanese tonkatsu (panko-crusted, deep-fried pork cutlets). This saves the step of having to butterfly chicken breasts before pounding to the desired thin-ness. Now we can go straight to the pounding! Rolling pins ready?? Let’s go!
I have to say that this causes quite a racket. Our poor cat Kiowea went scurrying to hide when I started with the whacking. He doesn’t like loud noises anyway, but this really through him for a loop. Poor dear!
These two cutlets at top show the 1/4-inch tonkatsu cut — already beautifully cut and so-o-o lean. In the bottom half of the photo, one cutlet has been pounded to the desired paper-thin slip for piccata, or for Vietnamese-style BBQ pork, or very small Schnitzel. LOL
Lay a good measure of wax paper on a large cutting board, then place your cutlets about 6-7 inches apart from each other. Be generous — they will need some space to spread when you start pounding. I’ve found it helpful when pounding meat to start with a good whack in the center of the piece, then to continue pounding while moving to one edge, then back from the center to the other edge. Think of it like the action of rolling out a pie crust — from the center, to the edge.
Whether chicken, pork or fish, we prefer piccata-style dishes without the breading on the meat. It saves on calories and prep time, as well as just letting the flavors of the meat and piquant gravy shine.
Another plus for this preparation is that it cooks so quickly that even with the time you will spend pounding the cutlets, dinner can be on the table in 30-40 minutes. And it is so flavorful — chock full of garlic, butter, wine, lemon, and yes, capers — that even simple undressed pasta will shine beside it! Put the water for the pasta on to boil before you start pounding meat, and the whole thing will finish about the same time. You can even remove the finished meat and sauce from the pan, and add the drained cooked pasta to the same pan to gather up the last bits of flavor in the pan. It’s not pretty, true, but you’ll have yourself a great meal nonetheless!
PICCATA-STYLE PORK FILLETS
for 2 persons
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 TBL. olive oil
1/3 lb. pork loin cutlets for tonkatsu or Schnitzel, about 6 pieces for tonkatsu, 2 Schnitzel
(pounded to desired thin-ness, see above)
ground black pepper
1/4 cup very dry white wine (Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc or even dry Vermouth)
2 TBL. capers, rinsed if desired (the photos on this page show more like 6 TBL. capers)
1-1/2 TBL. unsalted butter
Juice of half a lemon
Over medium high heat, lightly brown garlic in oil, then remove from pan and save.
Lightly season pounded cutlets with sea salt and ground black pepper, then place in single layer in pan to lightly brown each side (do in batches). This will take about 90 seconds or so per side. Remove to warmed platter while doing second batch.
When all cutlets are browned, de-glaze pan with wine, scraping up all the browned bits at the bottom, and allow to cook until reduced by half (about a full minute). Add capers and butter, and swirl through pan. When the liquid starts bubbling (about 1 minute), return meat and browned garlic to pan and cook for another minute, or until meat is heated through. Turn off heat and squeeze lemon over. Taste to correct for salt.
Serve with your favorite pasta, or even simple cooked noodles with the pan gravy on top. A salad and the same dry white wine you poured for the recipe will round out your meal. Pictured: Piccata pork with simple linguine noodles and courgettes.
Kio lays low
More recipes with capers:
Bowtie Pasta with Tuna (30 minutes from start to finish)
But let’s open up the comments to Everyone — can you guess what it is they’re taste-testing?
The idea for the recipe started as I was taking inventory of the pantry and attempting to use up ingredients we have on hand. These are the 2 ingredients that started the process:
Tamarind Nectar and Chopped Dates
What do you think we made or, better yet, what would you make with these ingredients as your inspiration?
Recipe, including round-up of comments, will be posted on Sunday, July 13th.
For the Taste-Testers, Mahalo for playing along!
Please click on the comment link below to leave your answers for these questions:
1. Did you try the plain or the “topped up” version?
2. Did you think it was: not sweet enough? just enough sweetness? too sweet?
3. Did you like the spice combination you tasted in the recipe? Yes, No
4. Was it too spicy? or not spicy enough?
5. What, if anything, would you change in the recipe?
6. Would you make this at home?
7. Would you describe yourself as an adventurous eater? If not, how would you describe your eating preferences?
(Answer will be kept Confidential)
8. Anything you’d like to add?
You will not see your answers appear on the site right away, so don’t worry if you click “Publish” but nothing shows up.
That’s it, Taste-Testers, and thanks again for the kind use of your palates and time!
I promise to send in something less adventurous and involving Belgian or Swiss choclate (more inventory that needs to be used up soon) for you to enjoy next week (no surveys!).
One of the things we’ve always been passionate about is eating local produce as much as possible. Yes, we’re tempted away sometimes by beautiful Brussel sprouts or white asparagus that have travelled from farther than the Neighbor Islands, and some staples like our beloved rice and even russet potatoes are just not grown around here.
But living in Hawaii you almost have to work NOT to eat local produce daily. A wide array of gorgeous locally grown produce is available seasonally all year round — from asparagus to zucchini, and just about everything in between.
The “Island Fresh: Buy Fresh, Buy Local” campaign is in its third year now. Sponsored jointly by the Hawaii Farm Bureau, the state’s Department of Agriculture, and the UH-College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), the promotion of “Island Fresh” has enjoyed new vigor in the last few months, especially with the wave of food scares this year in the U.S. Most recently, it’s E. coli bacteria causing food poisonings; the primary suspect, tomatoes. Hawaii is one of the few states that has not reported cases in this latest scare.
Download a poster from CTAHR showing fruit and vegetable seasonal availability in Hawaii throughout the year, and never miss a season!
Summer time is melon time, and there are few things more refreshing than a chilled slice of melon in the midst of summer heat. We’re fortunate to have one of the best producers of sweet, true-tasting melons just down the road between Ewa and Kapolei. Aloun Farms grows these honeydew, cantaloupe and miniature Thai watermelons, as well as a wealth of other produce, including the Ewa sweet onions we used in the Four Allii Tart earlier. We’ve found melons from Aloun at almost all the supermarkets, as well as farmers’ markets, festivals, and the fresh produce stand outside the Farm on Farrington Highway on the way to Kapolei. We especially love the tiny Thai watermelons, which are slightly larger than a cantaloupe, with few seeds, and a deep watermelon flavor. It’s also the perfect size for our two-person household.
We look for melons that are heavy for their size, and for honeydew and cantaloupe that are fragrant at the stem end. If you aren’t going to serve them right away, we’ve found it helpful in Hawaii to wrap the fruit in newspaper to keep the inevitable bugs away. When ready to use, wash the melons well before slicing in a solution of 2 tablespoons of vinegar for every 1 quart/liter of cool water. Although you may not eat the melon rind, it’s important to wash the outside because bacteria and other cooties on the outside rind can be transported into the flesh by your own knife action while slicing the melon.
And if you need any more incentive to eat melons, especially watermelon — did you catch the news making headlines last week that watermelon “is richer than experts believed in an amino acid called citrulline, which relaxes and dilates blood vessels much like Viagra” (see full article on WebMD). Although scientists are still not entirely sure just how much watermelon a person would have to consume to experience Viagra-like effects, they agree that it is still a nutrient-rich, low-calorie snack full of potassium, lycopene and carotene. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views these 3 melons as cool and sweet in nature, meaning they clear heat from the body and have properties that tonify the kidneys with their high water content.
There are few better ways to eat melons than simply peeled and cooled, although many cultures in tropical climates also dip or sprinkle salt and hot sauce on fruits, including melons, pineapples, mangoes, and papayas. Growing up, I often opted for the salt and hot sauce, but more often now it’s just the pure fruit.
However, a couple of weeks ago we did try this novel Pasta with Cantaloupe Sauce we saw on Rowena’s site. A sweet pasta sauce? — sounds pretty wild, doesn’t it? You can’t believe how incredible the combination is until you taste it for yourself — sweet cantaloupe with savory ingredients like parmesan, grape tomatoes (from Oahu’s North Shore in Kahuku), cream and butter!
Rowena’s version highlights the musky flavors of the Tuscan melons she finds in the Italian Alps, but we can testify that Ewa cantaloupes shine in this unique treatment as well. In fact, it’s on the menu again this week! The key to this recipe is the freshness and natural sweetness of the melon, so use whatever is local in your region. In fact, when I went shopping with this cantaloupe sauce in mind, the market was carrying muskmelons similar to the Tuscan melons, but these were not local. The far-travelled muskmelons had no fragrance at all, and experience hard-learned (and at great expense) taught that this would probably taste bland and watery despite their price tag more than double the local melons.
The cantaloupe sauce comes out this gorgeous deep orange hue, with the most gratifying juxtaposition of mint and umami-rich fresh-grated parmesan. We halved the original recipe to serve this as a first course (rather than a whole meal), followed by a piquant piccata-style pork. It was the perfect point and counter-point, especially with a crisp California pinot gris. We recommend this to everyone during this summer melon season.
Get the recipe at Rubber Slippers in Italy then go get you a melon!
For more recipes using both local and other produce, see 5-A-Day, and Mangoes.
Mango season is in full swing in the Islands! We were gifted recently with a bag of home-picked beauties, and after having our fill of mango au naturel, the rest were peeled and put to good use. First up was a whole wheat mango bread using both fresh and dried mangoes. The fresh Hayden mangoes provide yummy mango deliciousness and moisture, while the dried mangoes add extra mango tanginess and texture.
DOUBLE MANGO WHOLE WHEAT QUICKBREAD
Enough for 2 loaves: 8-1/2 in. x 4-1/2 in. each (or 18 muffins or 1 bundt cake)
2-1/2 cups (325g) whole wheat flour
2 tsp bkg soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, room temp.
2 cups (350g) raw brown sugar
4 large mangoes, peeled and chopped (about half-pound or 225g)
4 large eggs
1 package (100g) dried mango, chopped
1 cup chopped nuts (115g) (optional)
Preheat oven 350F/180C. Grease and flour loaf pans.
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In large bowl, beat butter and sugar together until well combined. Beat in mango pulp, then eggs until completely mixed. Mixture may look curdled — don’t worry, that’s normal.
Stir in dried mango and nuts (if using). Lastly, add dry ingredients and stir just until blended — don’t overmix.
Immediately spread in prepared pans and bake 55-60 minutes, or until thin wooden skewer comes clean.
(For muffins, bake 22-25 minutes; Bundt pan, 60-70 minutes).
Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out to wire rack to cool completely.