This was inspired by a wonderful gift we received for Christmas a couple of years ago — a bushel of gorgeous ruby red grapefruit from Pittman & Davis, an orchard in Texas specializing in mail order delivery.
Now we LOVE fresh grapefruit, and devoured these beauties in no time — they were sweet and incredibly fragrant. So much so that it made me sad to simply compost the rinds after the fruit were peeled.
What to do, what to do.... I tried grating some of the rind into sugar for a grapefruit scented sugar — it smelled heavenly, but quickly clumped up as the oils from the rind wet the sugar. So that was not a long term solution to preserving our bounty...
The next step was to try preserving the rinds in sugar. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of candied citrus peel. It's one of the reasons I don't really enjoy fruitcake — the sticky-sweet candied lemon and orange peel are generally too cloying for my taste. If we were going to candy these rinds, it had to be a drier and less sweet candy peel, one in which the grapefruit flavor came through and in which just enough sugar is used to preserve without taking over.
Basically, the peels were cooked over low heat in a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) until the water slowly evaporated and the peels had absorbed the sugar and been left coated in a light glaze. Simply Recipes offers a simple candied citrus tutorial that I found very instructive.
The grapefruit peels were blanched after the white pith was removed, just to give the thick rinds a chance to soften and better absorb the sugar.
After the rinds had cooked in syrup for about 1½ hours , they were dried on a rack placed on a cookie sheet and left in a cold oven. Since these were made in winter, our house was very dry and the rinds dried very quickly — in just over 24 hours.
These were great for nibbling, but I knew they would not last by the time summer came around since the weather around metro DC is notoriously humid starting around late May. As much as I enjoyed nibbling these with tea, I began to consider if I could use them in a savory dish. Then I remembered a stew that was on our to-try list from one of our favorite recipe books, "A Taste of Persia" by Najmieh Batmanglij. This collection is the same one from which we made the Khoresh with Eggplants. One of the reasons we had yet to try the Khoresh with Potatoes and Orange Peel is that it called for candied orange peel, something we never had in the pantry. With a substitution of grapefruit for orange peel, this was our chance to try this stew.
Loomi are used as a souring agent, and add a very pleasant puckering-sort of sour — we find it quite addictive. When I open a bag of loomi, I am reminded of the distinctive aroma of Pixie Stix! (For Americans of a certain age, Pixie Stix were a childhood treat — wax straws filled with sour, fruit-flavored sugar dust that were the precursors of Pop Rocks.) To use loomi, I was taught to puncture the skin with a sharp knife and add the limes whole to meat curries. The unique flavor of dried lime cannot be easily substituted with fresh lime juice or even fresh zest. Once dried, the limes seem to continue to age and the flavor grows quite complex as well as intense. They are worth seeking out or ordering online if necessary.
This stew was a truly inspired combination of citrus flavors — the intense lime permeates the meat and legumes, while the candied peel punctuates each bite with a bright sweet note. We really loved this khoresh. I would make the candied grapefruit peel just to be able to have this again.
So this was the third and last use of our Christmas gift of fresh grapefruit — preserved and enjoyed well into spring. It was a lovely present from first to last! Our love and thanks to Dad Rob and Mom Jo for these thoughtful and long-lasting treats!
Adapted from "A Taste of Persia" by Najmieh Batmanglij
Serves 4 persons
4 TBL ghee or unsalted butter
1½ lb (680g) lamb stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large onion, sliced
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
1½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 cups (474 ml) tomato puree, about 4 fresh tomatoes
2 cups (474ml) water
4 loomi (Persian whole dried limes)
½ cup (80g) dried yellow split peas
1½ tsp advieh**
3 TBL (24g) dried diced candied grapefruit peel
1 TBL raw sugar
i large pinch of saffron threads soaked in 4 TBL warm water
3 TBL fresh lime juice
2 large russet potatoes (about 1lb)
2-4 TBL olive oil
** Note: Advieh is to Persian cuisine what garam masala is to South Asian cooking, or Chinese five spice to Chinese cuisine: an essential blend of spices varying from kitchen to kitchen, and dish to dish. One key ingredient that seems to distinguish advieh is rose petals, but the other spices vary from cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, angelica, saffron, sesame, dried limes, or star anise. I bought advieh as a spice blend from a Persian grocery, but here is an interesting thread on chowhound.com with suggestions for making advieh mixtures at home.
In a large skillet or Dutch oven, melt ghee over medium high heat. Working in batches, brown lamb on all sides and remove each batch to a separate bowl to hold.
When all lamb cubes have been browned, add sliced onion and turn heat down to medium. Cook onions until they begin to turn translucent, about 6-7 minutes. Sprinkle with turmeric and stir to coat onions. Cook another 2-3 minutes. Return meat to pan, and add salt and pepper, tomato puree and water, then increase heat to medium high. Pierce each dried lime in several places with the tip of a knife and add to stew. Cover pan and bring to a boil. Once broth comes to a boil, turn heat down to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add split peas, advieh, diced candied peel, sugar, saffron water and lime juice. Cover again and simmer for about an hour, or until meat is tender.
Meanwhile, prepare garnish. Wash and peel potatoes. Cut into matchsticks about 3-4 inches long. Pat dry with paper towels to ensure even browning.
In a separate skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Working in batches, brown potatoes in oil, adding more oil as necessary. Remove each batch to paper towels to soak up excess oil. When lamb and peas are cooked through, add fried potatoes over khoresh.
We love khoreshes served with saffron basmati rice and Persian style yogurt salad with minced cucumber and fistsful of fresh herbs.
Mmmm, might be time to make this again....
Recently my entire family came for a visit here to Maryland — that’s my dad, two brothers, two sisters-in-law, a niece and two nephews. One family, my brother’s family on Guam, I had not seen in over 4 years. And T had not seen them since they came to our wedding in Germany, and that was in 1997! There were also a few first meetings, as the cousins had never met each other, and T had not met his nephew from Guam.
It was a wild ride because not only were we still staying in a hotel, but while they were here we finally saw it: our elusive holy grail — the house we were going to buy. Yes, it was kind of a crazy week. We put in an offer on the house 2 days into their visit, which also happened to be my sister-in-law’s birthday. Mind you, this was the 4th offer we’ve made on a house, so we were both jaded and exhausted by the whole process. And for 3 of the 5 days of this visit, everyone wanted to spend their time in DC visiting the Smithsonians, touring the monuments, you know the drill... but at a pace too strenuous for our 83-year-old dad. T and I stayed with Dad, who was here last year and had done the tourist circuit at his own pace already, and instead showed him around the neighborhoods and towns where we were house-hunting.
Finally the word came down from our realtor: the house was ours. You would think there’d be joy in Mudville that night, but I was more in shock than anything. Six long months... over. At last. Assuming everything is copacetic with the inspections, etc. Wow. I call my sister-in-law our good luck charm now since our successful bid was made on her birthday! But the next day was the last full day of everyone’s visit, so it was a little sad, too.
For their last day we wanted a day of more low-key adventures that our Guam family did not have the opportunities to enjoy at home: picking blueberries and fishing for trout and bass in the country, away from the hectic pace of Downtown.
Picking a papaya or mangoes from a tree was old hat to the folks from Guam,
but berries and apples.... now THAT was exotic!
It was a warm day, but fortunately it wasn’t during
the record-breaking heatwave we had here this summer.
With 5 buckets and 9 pickers, we ended up with way too many berries!
A natural athlete, our niece brought her athletic grace to this new sport too.
It’s neither a trout nor a bass, but this little sunfish did spawn two new sport fishermen!
Then just like that, they were all gone! And even after everyone took a share for their respective plane trips home, we were left with 5-6 lbs. of blueberries. We gobbled many handfuls straight from the colander, and in cereal, yogurt and pancakes. Some were shared around the hotel (you get to know people after 4 months...). Soon, the berries were gone, too. (The photos are just food porn and only representative of ways to use blueberries, they weren’t taken while we at the hotel!)
I so enjoyed spending that almost full day with the family together, and hope it won’t be another four years before we see everyone again. In 21 days we will be closing escrow on a house (*knock on wood*), so we hope everyone returns soon to spend time in the house their good luck helped us find!
This dish came out of the happy chance of finding fresh local lychee just after we had opened a bottle of lychee-flavored sake from California to sample. I couldn’t resist the temptation to put them together with locally produced pork loin and Chinese flat chives... and the result was unbelievably delicious. The pork is marinated briefly with garlic and rice vinegar to provide some punch to the dish, while the fresh fruit and sake lend their sweetness and a touch of elegance to the whole.
The lychee sake was interesting. It makes a nice after-dinner digestif, but it’s not something we would want to drink with a meal. In this dish, it carried the lychee flavor to the meat during cooking and the overall effect was really quite charming. We found this sake at Don Quijote on Oahu, and would buy it again if we ever come across it in future.
Lychee have a very mild but distinctive flavor. Although canned lychee are sweet and retain their fruit flavor, fresh lychee have a subtle but intense flavor that hits your palate before the more familiar regular lychee flavor settles in. If you can find fresh lychee, it’s worth the minimal effort to peel and de-seed them! In a pinch, though, canned lychee can be used too.
Although it’s not local there, Germany was the place I first tried fresh lychee so I know it’s available all around the Continent. So this is going out to Dhanggit at Dhanggit’s Kitchen for her little girl’s first birthday event, Perfect Party Dishes. This recipe easily doubles or triples if you’re making this for a crowd, but do each batch separately so the stir-fry doesn’t “steam” — which is the rookie mistake I made this time around. You can also use regular sake, but you might want to add a bit of sugar, as the lychee sake has the mild sweetness of the fruit.
Addendum: Speaking of celebrations, just after I hit “Publish” we received word that a good friend of ours just made full colonel in the Air Force! As he and his wife are part-owners of a pork ranch (?... farm?) in Iowa, and they and their 2 boys are gourmands all, we have to include them in this dedication, too. Congratulations, Colonel designate Lindsey! We hope we’ll be sharing meals like this with you all again soon...
LYCHEE SAKE PORK STIR-FRY
Marinade for pork:
1 lb. pork loin, cut into 1” slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. rice vinegar
ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients, and set aside while you peel and seed lychees, or for at least 30 minutes.
2 lbs. fresh lychee (or 2 cans lychee)
Peel and de-seed lychee, or drain cans well.
2 TBL. peanut oil
small handful of Chinese flat chives, garlic chives or ramps (Baerlauch)
chili pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
1/2 cup lychee sake (or regular sake + 1/2 tsp. sugar)
dash of soy sauce
Heat wok or large skillet over high heat to just below smoke point. Add oil, swirl, and immediately chives until their color darkens to bright green, about 30 seconds. Add chili flakes, if using, and pork and cook until pork browns.
Move pork from center of pan, and add peeled lychee and sake. Fry together to warm fruit through and bring alcohol to a boil, about 1 minute. Add a splash of soy sauce, stir through and turn off heat. Taste and correct seasoning.
We had this with steamed long-grain glutinous rice (malagkit), but it would also compliment the flavor of jasmine rice as well.
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.
This angular squat banana is known as the saba banana (Musa paradisiaca) — a varietal that must be cooked before eating. I prefer it when it's still firm-ripe, as in this photo, if we're using it for grilling or pan-frying, but many people will say it should already have black spots and be much softer before cooking. I'm guessing there are many folks who have tasted saba bananas and maybe not realized it. It's often used in Filipino sweets — either rolled in sugar, wrapped as a lumpia and deep-fried (turon), or found with sweet potatoes and pillow-light mochi balls in the soupy, coconutty dessert ginataan. Honestly, I like them best pan-fried with a little butter, either with other sweet things like french toast or pancakes, or with savory foods like eggs, rice and sausage, or a stew. Whichever way it's eaten, I think of saba bananas as part of my Filipino heritage, though I'm sure many other Southeast Asian cuisines utilize them as well. A couple of weeks ago, I wanted to do something a little different for a lazy weekend breakfast. A check of pantry and fridge turned up sweetened drained yogurt that was on its way to becoming an Indian dessert (shrikand) but instead was hijacked for this recipe, some homemade sweet azukii bean filling (tsubushi-an), and some instant taro pancake mix that needed to be used. The result? Pan-Pacific melding at its sweet best: taro crepes filled with buttery pan-fried saba (the bananas, not the mackerel), pandan-flavored sweet beans, and a dollop of thick sweetened yogurt.
Since this came together more by chance than by design, we were surprised just how good the combination was! With or without the pandan essence, the nutty flavor of the beans and their firm bite were a great contrast to the soft, apple-citrus essence and caramelized flavor of the cooked banana. Japanese-style sweetened azuki bean paste comes in 2 styles: smooth (called koshi an, short for anko) or coarsely mashed, with pieces of whole bean (called tsubushi an). I always prefer textures that have a bite to them (chunky vs. smooth peanut butter, or smashed vs whipped potatoes, etc.), and I think the nutty quality that comes through with the pieces of whole beans in the tsubushi are key here.
As for the crepe, taro/poi adds a pleasing chewiness and elasticity to the crepe, as well as its tell-tale violet hue, but not really a distinct flavor. It made for a very forgiving medium with which to practice my "pour-swish-flip" crepe-making technique. Normally I lose every third or fourth crepe to tears or rips as I try to flip them, but this time every single one was a winner. The yogurt was truly an after-thought — I was wishing we had creme fraiche or heavy whipping cream to top off the crepe, and used the drained plain yogurt, hastily sweetened, as a stand-in. I ended up loving the way the yogurt's tangy underbite contrasted with the different sweet flavors of the fruit and beans, and its heavier texture retained its creaminess when creme or cream would have long dissolved into sweet dairy puddles.
TARO CREPES WITH FRIED SABA BANANAS & TSUBUSHI-AN
(makes 5-6 crepes total)
For the crepes:
1 cup Taro Brand taro pancake mix
2 cups cold water
oil for pan
Combine pancake mix and water. Stir well to eliminate all lumps. Batter should be a very thin pouring consistency, add more water as necessary.
Lightly oil a seasoned 10-inch skillet or crepe pan with an oiled paper towel. Heat well over medium heat. Pour 1/2 cup batter into pan and immediately swirl batter to cover bottom of pan in a thin film. Cook until batter is set and dry to the touch. Carefully flip over and cook for another 5 seconds. Remove to plate, and while warm, roll pancake (jelly-roll style) and allow to cool while rest of the batter is used up. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Rolling the crepes while warm will prevent splitting when they are filled later. Use within an hour of making.
For the bananas:
5 saba bananas, washed
To peel, cut off the top and tail of the banana, then make a cut lengthwise through the peel. Remove peel. Slice lengthwise.
Pre-heat a small skillet or cast-iron pan over medium heat. When heated well, add a teaspoon or more of butter (depends on how decadent you are) to pan, then the sliced bananas, cut-side down. Cook for 6-7 minutes, or just until the banana caramelizes, then turn over for another 2-3 minutes or until the fruit takes on a translucent quality. Remove to plate to cool. Slice again lengthwise into quarters.
1 cup of prepared tsubushi an (recipe minus pandan essence on Recipezaar) or store-bought
(add 1 drop [a little goes a long way] of pandan essence to 1 cup of prepared anko if you want to experiment with this version)
1/2 cup drained plain full-fat yogurt sweetened with 1 tsp. sugar, or creme fraiche
Unroll finished crepe. Fill with 1-2 TBL. anko. Place 3-4 banana slices on anko, then fold over one end of the crepe to hold in fillings. Finish by rolling crepe to close. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt or creme fraiche and mint, or a dusting of powdered sugar.
Serve with Portuguese sausage for a real multi-cultural breakfast feast.
We don't have green salads very often, but our hands-down favorite is this pear, blue cheese & toasted walnuts on a bed of baby greens. Now pears, nuts and cheeses can also serve as a or pre-dessert or dessert course, and I actually prefer this salad after the entree. The acriditiy in the walnuts and mustardy, nutty vinaigrette is the perfect foil for the play between the sweet pears and salty, musky cheese. This is another one of those dishes where the synergy in the whole surpasses the sum of the individual parts.
Of course, the star here is the blue cheese so use the best quality you can find, Maytag and Amish blues are our favorites in the US; Roquefort (Papillon brand, if available) in the Continent. The pears, too are important; search out ones with a creamy texture when ripe such as Bartletts/Williams or Packhams. Oriental/nashi pears are delicious, but the synergy is not present when we tried this combination. And don't forget the walnuts. I don't like walnuts — in any recipe where I can substitute another nut or omit them completely, I will do it in a New Your minute! But there's something about the tannins in the skins and the slightly sweet taste brought on by the toasting that makes the walnuts a crucial part of the synergy. The salad seems "flat" without them — see, we did try to leave them out once!
PEAR, BLUE CHEESE & WALNUTS WITH BABY GREENS AND HAZELNUT VINAIGRETTE
For 2 people
Place salad plates in refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.
1/2 cup walnuts
Preheat small counter top oven to 400F/200C. Position oven rack to the highest tier. Chop nuts coarsely and place them on a tray. When oven is fully pre-heated, place nuts in top rack and roast for one minute, then turn off heat and lave oven door closed until pan completely cools. Meanwhile, prepare vinaigrette and salad.
For the Hazelnut Vinaigrette:
1 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
1/4 tsp. sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. raw sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. white or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup hazelnut oil (or walnut oil)
In a small bowl, put mustard, salt, pepper, sugar and lemon juice and whisk well to dissolve salt and sugar. Add vinegar and whisk again until incorporated. Add all of the oil, and whisk vigorously to emulsify. Set aside.
2 firm-ripe Bartlett, or other creamy type, pears
4 cups of baby greens, or mache
2 oz. chunk of Maytag or other quality blue cheese
Peel pears, then quarter lengthwise and remove core. Slice each quarter lengthwise into 3-4 pieces.
Place 2 cups of greens on each chilled plate. and lay 2 quarters (1/2 pear) over greens.
With a fork, separate small chunks of cheese and scatter over salad. Add cooled walnuts.
Drizzle Vinaigrette over all and serve immediately with or without sliced baguettes on the side.
The lead photo is entered in this month's CLICK event hosted by Bee & Jai at Jugalbandi, where the theme for April is Au Naturel.
Like the surf that gained Hawaii its fame, mango season rolls in wave sets — spread throughout the year as different varieties and locales around the Islands blossom, fruit, and ripen. Although many trees here are still in full bud,we found these red beauties a couple of weeks ago, beckoning at us from a lone stand at the farmers' market in our town. Sometimes even the most gorgeous, perfumed mangos can be stringy on the inside, making them difficult to cut or present in any fashion. These, however, were perfect — firm, fully-ripe flesh that cut cleanly and easily from the pit. This is a Hayden variety, and was an epitome of its specimen. Not only sweet, but redolent of mango juciness and flavor. I ate this first one as soon as the photo op was over. Hmmm, maybe T would be expecting some, too. Better not cut the second one until he was in the vicinity or it would be proverbial toast, too.
After living here for 3 short years, I'm only just beginning to develop the self-discipline to even consider doing anything with a mango except just eat it. Why cover up that succulent flavor with spices, or herbs, or anything!? In the last few months, beginning with the Double Mango Bread that was conceived for my first foray in the world of blog events, I've experimented with fresh mangoes with meat dishes, oatmeal, salsas, etc., but to be honest, I'd rather enjoy the mango au naturel — naked, if you will.
But last weekend I did venture to make a stuffed french toast with fresh mangoes. It was deemed a worthy use of this most noble fruit. I love egg-y french toast, or pain perdu (if we're being picky about it). I prefer to leave the bread to soak overnight in a copious egg-mik sop, heavy with vanilla and a bit of cinnamon. But with the mangoes, I wanted something lighter, something less bread-pudding-ish, that would showcase the fruit itself.
The trick to this preparation is to leave the interior of the bread slices dry so the result is a creamy yet light toast that allows the fresh fruit to star. A crumb topping provides a contrasting crunch. We loved this lighter french toast — it tasted sinful without leaving us feeling weighed down afterwards. Make this with any seasonal fruit. I don't really like cinnamon with mango, so I didn't use it or any other flavoring except a kiss of vanilla. With other fruits, though, I would think of complementary flavor combinations: almond extract and nuts with peaches, cherries and other stone fruits; stronger vanilla or even banana with strawberries; cinnamon and cloves with apples or bananas; lemon with blueberries; etc.
This recipe is made with whole grain wheat bread because we are trying to eat more healthily (and that's what we had on hand that morning). (Made with whole wheat, this is something I would serve my dad on his gout-maintenance diet, so it will go into the GDC.) No question you could substitute an egg bread, such as Hawaiian sweet or challah, for a truly decadent feast.
This recipe goes out to Mansi, the genial host at Fun and Food for her "Balanced Breakfast" theme for the 20th ed. of Weekend Breakfast Blogging. Have a wonderful weekend!
MANGO-STUFFED WHOLE-WHEAT FRENCH TOAST
(for 2 persons, double or triple recipe as needed)
Fruit from 1-3 fully ripe mango (if using a meaty Hayden, you may only need one if you can refrain from sneaking too many nibbles as you prepare the fruit; from the smaller Champagne (Ataulfo) or Pirie varieties, you may need as many as 3)
You can mash or dice the mango, especially if it shows any signs of being stringy. I left it in slices because this particular mango cut like butter anyway, and we like the texture of the fruit this way.
Pre-heat oven to 400F (200C). A countertop or large toaster oven is perfect for a 2-person serving.
2 large or 3 medium eggs
1/2 cup (120ml) almond milk (or soy or low-fat milk)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. raw sugar
4 slices of whole wheat bread
Beat together eggs, milk, vanilla and sugar. Dip each side of bread in this mixture, then leave bread to soak up remaining milk while you prepare the topping.
1 slice of bread
1/4 cup (40g) macadamia nuts, chopped
2 TBL. raw sugar
Process bread, nuts and sugar in small bowl of food processor or blender.
2 TBL. (30g) unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp. raw sugar, or to taste
Butter a small baking dish. Lay 2 slices of soaked bread on the bottom. Top with mango slices (dice, or puree). Sprinkle fruit with 1 tsp. of raw sugar. Top with second slice of bread. Liberally sprinkle bread-nut topping, then drizzle with melted butter.
Bake in pre-heated oven for 5 minutes, then turn oven down to 325F (for another 25 minutes). If top starts to brown to quickly, cover with foil to protect crust.
Serve while hot, with whipped cream or creme fraiche.
See also Double Mango Bread (yeast bread)
and Double Mango Wholewheat Quickbread
It's a bit of a mess here in not-at-all-sunny Oahu today — power lines and trees are on the roads, roofs have blown away, schools are closed, buses aren't running, many homes are without power. All this the result of a freak windstorm in the early morning hours. The weather reporter said the UV (ultra-violet) Index for today was 1 (it's usually 10-12), so that tells you how dark and dreary it is today, and will continue to be until the weekend. I always think of our poor visitors, some who are here on a vacation of a lifetime, some to escape the dreary weather in their cold hometowns. How awful to have come so far and then be told by the civil defense authorities that people should stay indoors, seas are too rough for boat travel or swimming.
So here's a little aloha to all of our wind-swept visitors (and to everyone in a colder clime): a ray of island sunshine in a cup, the Pina Colada Trifle. A fresh pineapple and rum cake is enveloped by a creamy, gently sweet coconut pudding. Easy to make, easy to serve. What could be better during this busy season? (The cake improves with one day's wait, so bake it early if time permits.)
PINA COLADA TRIFLE
Part I: Pineapple Rum Cake
12 TBL. (170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups (250g) brown sugar
6 egg yolks
3 cups (270g) sifted cake flour
1 TBL. + 1 tsp. (20 grams) baking powder
3/4 tsp. (5g) salt
½ cup (112 ml) dark rum
½ cup (112ml) milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups (360g) chopped fresh pineapple
Preheat oven to 350F (177C). Butter and flour 2 9-inch x 1-1/2 inch (23 x 3.75 cm) cake pans, or 1 13x9-inch pan. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder.
Combine rum, vanilla and milk.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar on high until sugar dissolves and mixture is light. On medium speed, add egg yolks, one at a time, ensuring each yolk is incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down bowl. Add dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with rum mix, and ending with dry. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are incorporated, then increase mixer speed to medium and beat for about 2 minutes. Scrape down bowl. Add pineapple and fold in.
Pour batter into the prepared pan(s). Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, or when the cake springs back when pressed lightly in center. Cool in pan on wire rack.
Part II: Haupia (Coconut Pudding)
(This recipe produces a looser pudding than haupia served by itself. If you want to make Haupia squares, increase cornstarch to 4 TBL.)
1-½ cup (350ml) coconut milk (12 oz. can)
1 ½ cup (350ml) water
3-4 TBL. sugar
3 TBL. cornstarch
Combine water, sugar, and cornstarch and cook over low heat until just below simmering. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves. Slowly add coconut milk, stirring constantly. Keep stirring, shifting directions, and stirring across the center so the mixture is in constant motion and doesn’t burn. After 10 to 15 minutes the color will change from chalky opaque to shiny bright white, and the mixture will thicken. Remove from heat and let cool at room temperature.
To Assemble: Cut cooled cake into 1 in. (2.5cm) cubes. Place in individual wine glasses. Pour slightly cooled haupia over cake. When pudding has completely cooled, cover and chill until serving time. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh grated coconut.
Papayas&Apple bananas --- Lychee(top)&Dragonfruit ---Taro,Russetts,Okinawan sweets&Red-skin Sweets --- Long beans,Squash blossoms&Red shallots
As a fairly new resident in Hawaii, I’ve really enjoyed combing through local farmers’ markets, ethnic groceries, even supermarket produce aisles to find what’s local and fresh here. Of course one expects to find tropical fruits (papayas, mangoes, dragonfruit, bananas, pineapples) and Asian vegetables a-plenty, and there’s certainly no shortage of these. What took my breath away is the abundance of unexpected delectables that are also grown locally: mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini, asparagus, strawberries, apples, oranges, and corn (corn?!). (And one of the local papers reports that coming soon…. blueberries from cool volcano slopes!) ©2007 setsat3
Another striking thing about the local produce is the variety that one will find in each category.
Do you like beans? You’ll find Kentucky green, yard-long, flat romanos, wing, sugar snap, and snowpeas.
How about sweet potatoes? They come in three colors – Okinawan purple or white flesh, and the traditional red-skinned yellow flesh (none of these are the orange yams called “sweet potatoes” on the Mainland).
Squash fan? Try zucchini, tongan or upo; or the hard-skinned kabocha.
Then there are the papayas – sunrise (orange flesh) or rainbow (red-orange) , or the unripe green ones for cooking;
and the luscious mangoes -- ripe greens, purples, reds, and deep orange Manilas.
And if you like cabbage, you’ve come to the right place – napa, Chinese mustard (also called gai choi, not US “mustard greens”), bok/pak choi (regular & baby sizes, white or green stem), choi sum, Chinese broccoli, green or white head cabbage.
Bananas that are locally grown include regular (Cavendish), apple, WIlliams, and saba (Philippine cooking bananas); but one can also find baby varieties, red eating and cooking varieties (separate types), as well as plantains in many shops.
But the crème de la crème for me is definitely the local mushroom bounty – fresh shiitake, shimeji, enoki and oyster mushrooms . . . . all year long. Mmmm.
The Hawaii Agriculture and Food Products Directory is compiled by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture compilation of Hawaii fruits and vegetables, showing peak availability, month-by-month. In addition to fruits of the tree and vine, there are also eggs, milk, pork and wonderful grass-fed beef --- all locally produced.
Other local products to look for:
- coffee, of course, both from the Kona coast and from the other islands;
- fragrant honeys;
- vanilla beans;
- Hawaiian Heritage chocolate;
- macadamia nuts and oils;
- alae sea salt (a wonderful finishing and preserving salt mixed with red clay);
- farm-raised sweet shrimp and white-flesh moi (fish);
- and award-winning goat cheeses from Maui and the Big Island.