Wish for a Year in Peace

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Thank you to all who expressed an interest in joining me in Reiki practice this morning. If you are interested in knowing how the energy manifested itself when it rested on you this morning, I would be happy to share that with you privately by email. I hope each of you finds the peace and strength in your selves to face the challenges that await us all in the new year, and the gladness of heart and gratitude to recognize and treasure each blessing that will also come. With Love to:

Flore & Fumiko, Gladys & Steve, Stephanie & Olga, Vic & Angie & Masato, Pat & Jen & Niko & Kenji, Barbara & Peter & Daniel & Andrew, Tra & Jeff & Chris & Rasta, Kendra & Jeff, Darlene & PJ & Ron, Kathy & Ron, Ruth & Ernest, Rob & Jo, Ian & Amy & Aiden, Amanda & Cody, Sara & Beth, Brandon & Cheryl, Rumi & Reiko & Neil, Joyce & James & Elizabeth & William, Shizue, Sandra & Joe & Joey & John & Garrett, the Cruz Family, Sophie & Seth & Andrew, Pamela & Nkosi & Ziyeem & Imaniye, Paula & Andreas, Ken & Jen & Louie & Izzy, Malinda & Craig & Alysa, Rudi & Hildegarde & Mattias & Bianca & Lukas, Manisha & Medha & Divyesh & Francie, Kat & Satoshi, Angela N, Rowena & Dario, Barb, Bee & Jai, Corrianne, Chuck & Anita & Anna, and Susan....

This morning’s dawn...


Happy Christmas

We wish you peace and all good tidings during this holiday season and into the New Year!
- manju and T

Merry Christmas

Mele Kalikimaka

Frohe Weihnachten

Joyeux Noel

Buone Feste Natalizie

Feliz Navidad


Gram's Recipe Box: Molasses Crinkles

“Co-o-o-o-o-o-kie!!”... I can’t help but hear the voice of my favorite Muppet character in my head around this time of year when the baking pans come out and every available space (including chairs, mantels and ironing boards) is made into an impromptu board for cooling cookies, cakes or bread.

This year especially most of our gifts for family and friends is going to come from the kitchen — economize, economize! Some recipes are perennial favorites, and are stored in a folder cleverly labelled “Holiday Recipes” in my filing cabinet (yes, they’re actually on paper!). Others are new, or as this year, newly-found old favorites.

An example of the latter are these Molasses Cookies, which came from a recipe I got from T’s grandmother over Thanksgiving weekend. Actually, Grandma Steff lent me one of her recipe boxes so I could scan in all her recipes! If you’ve followed this site at all, you know this was a gift of gold as far as I’m concerned. I couldn’t wait to try something from her collection, and the molasses cookies are the first. I borrowed the idea of adding raw, or turbinado, sugar to the tops from other molasses cookie recipes — it adds a little holiday sparkle.

Tomorrow is Grandma Stephanie’s birthday, so we’ll have to send her some of these to help her celebrate her day.

This platter of Molasses Crinkles, Dark Chocolate Biscotti, Pecan Crescents and Almond-Anise Biscotti is going to join the party at Food Blogga’s “Eat Christmas Cookies” event. She’s accepting entries until the 21st, but there are already a wealth of recipes with photos on the site if you need some inspiration for this weekend’s blast of holiday baking. And if that’s not enough to get you going, all cookie lovers who submit an entry are eligible to win a cookie field guide. A party with door prizes — how can you pass up an invitation like that?!

(In Gram’s files, these are labelled “Christmas Cookies”)
Makes 4-6 dozen cookies, depending on size
Dough requires chilling for 2 or more hours before baking

1 cup shortening (used butter)
1 cup sugar (used raw sugar)
1 cup molasses (used blackstrap)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water
5 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger

Cream shortening, then add sugar gradually, then molasses and beaten egg. Add dissolved baking soda to mixture.

Sift together flour, salt and spices. Add to creamed mixture and blend thoroughly. Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Here is where I diverge from Gram’s directions. She rolls out the dough and cuts out shapes. I made 1” balls, laid them on an ungreased cookie sheet, flattened them with the bottom of a drinking glass, and sprinkled raw sugar on top. Some recipes say to dip the balls in sugar then flatten with a glass, but I discovered after the first batch that the sugar crystals flatten out too much and don’t look as attractive.

If making cut-outs, Gram recommends baking for 8-10 minutes. For the thicker cookie crinkles, bake for 13-15 minutes.

Cool on sheet for a moment, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

These are equally great with your morning coffee, Glühwein, or with a warm apple cider.

Happy Baking!


Reiki ... Re-Gifted?

I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed making friends and hearing from the many souls who have stopped by this site, even if only once, to share a comment or send an email. Your wisdom, your thoughtfulness, your many kindnesses, and of course your wonderful recipes and stories have enriched and expanded my world in ways I could not have dreamed when I began this site last fall. You have invited me into your lives, shared your joys and heartache, and have both challenged and listened. Each of you has left your mark, and I am the richer for it.

Last year at this time I offered to any and all who visit this site the gift of Reiki healing at the start of the new year. The idea was to give us all a chance to start the year with a hope for peace and healing for ourselves and for this fragile world we all share. On the one hand, it’s hard to believe that the year is now almost ended. On the other, so much has happened and changed in our world — and so quickly — that both anxiety and hope seem to vie for pole position in our hearts. (
Or is that just me?)

Is it considered “re-gifting” if you give the same gift you gave the year before? Well, even if it is, recycling is supposed to be trendy this year — so whether you consider this “Reiki Re-gifted” or “Reiki Redux,” I hope you will accept another gift for Reiki healing on New Year’s Eve. For me, this is an exercise in gratitude for the many blessings both bitter and sweet that have visited our family this year.

If you would like to join in, please leave the following information in the Conversation/Comment section below:

1. Your first and last name (Only your first name will appear in the comment)
2. Where you will be on December 31, 2008, at 0900 GMT/UTC (0400, Eastern Standard Time) — if you will be vacationing or visiting somewhere other than your hometown at that hour, that’s what I need to send your gift to the right place!

Rei Ki kanji

What is Reiki?

In short, Reiki is a form of energy healing developed in Japan. “Rei” (pronounced RAY) means “universal.” “Ki” (pronounced KEE) is the same as the Chinese “Qi” (CHEE), which means “life energy or life force.” Reiki allows the movement of healing energy to situations and persons in need of it. Simple as that. Reiki practitioners who have been initiated into the first degree will do healing with persons they are in direct contact with. Second degree practitioners can practice Reiki at a distance.

What does Reiki feel like?

People I’ve worked with describe it as a warm heat that is very relaxing. That is usually how I experience it, too, when I receive Reiki, but I have also felt cool pulsating waves from certain Reiki practitioners. Some people will not feel a physical sensation like heat, but may experience a sense of well-being and lightness in their mood; others, a lessening of their physical complaint (an asthmatic person described feeling a puff of air filling her lungs).

What do you have to do?

Nothing, really, except to keep your heart open to the possibilities that will present themselves to forgive yourself or those around you, or to extend a blatant act of kindness to a stranger. Oh, and smile. Smile in the mirror. Then carry your smile out the door.

Happy Holidays to Every One! And peace to All in the New Year...


"Rim of Fire" Paella

Anyone who has lived on the West Coast of the Americas, the eastern shores of Asia and Australia/New Zealand, Indonesia, and Guam will know the term “Rim of Fire” to describe the chain of volcanoes that bubble beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean’s edges. This subterranean activity sometimes finds its way to the surface in places like Kilauea on Hawaii Island, Ubinas in Peru, Mt. St. Helens on the U.S. West Coast, and Pinatubo in the Philippines. Other times its power is more felt than seen, except in its aftermath, as in the frequent earthquakes that trouble all areas of the Pacific.

This dish was designed to “shake up” the palate and imagination with a Pacific take on an Iberian classic, the lovely paella. In our version, carnaroli — an Italian rice variety used for risotto — is simmered with a saffron sofrito spiked with sake, then studded with Manila clams, Hawaiian-style Portuguese sausage,
Kauai shrimp, and edamame for Pacific flair. If we had had abalone from the Big Island, we would have put those in too! Red and yellow pepper strips add color and sweetness, and a squeeze of tangy calamansi at the end brings this dish firmly into the Pacific rim. This was made early last summer when we were still on Oahu and all these wonderful ingredients were still our “local.”

Now the challenge will be to make a new local version with foods from this corner of the world.

Serves 4 persons

1/2 of one Hawaiian Portuguese sausage
1 TBL+ 2 TBL + 1 TBL olive oil
1 Cornish game hen, cut into serving pieces
sea salt and ground black pepper
6-8 cups vegetable or chicken broth (amount will depend on type of rice used, carnaroli will need more liquid)
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup seeded, diced tomato (about 1 large tomato)
small handful fresh cilantro sprigs, washed, dried and minced
pinch of saffron, soaked in warm water
1/2 lb. carnaroli or arborio rice
1/2 cup (120 ml) Japanese sake or Okinawan awamori

1 lb. (455g) Manila clams, scrubbed and cleaned
1/2 lb. (225g) sweet Kauai shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 red bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into thin strips
1 cup (150g) shelled edamame (fresh green soy beans)

Calamansi limes, for garnish and seasoning

Cut sausage lengthwise, then crosswise in 1/2 inch pieces to form half-moons. Season game hen pieces well with sea salt and ground black pepper.

Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.

Heat broth in saucepan to boiling, then reduce to simmer and keep at simmer near paella pan. Have a ladle ready nearby too.
Note: It’s important to add hot broth to the rice as you cook, so I usually have more liquid than I anticipate I might need. Adding cold or cool liquid to the rice will cool the rice and the pan and the liquid will not absorb properly into the rice grains.

Heat paella pan, or other shallow wide pan, over medium heat, add 1 TBL olive oil, and gently fry sausage pieces until browned and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes each side. Remove all pieces to paper towel and set aside.

In same pan (without washing), brown all pieces of the game hen, and remove to oiled oven-safe pan. Cover and put in pre-warmed oven.

Still using the same pan, add 2 TBL olive oil and onions. Cook until onion just start to turn transparent, about 4-5 minutes, then add garlic, cilantro and tomatoes. Cook until tomatoes start to turn a darker red color, another 3-4 minutes. Move ingredients to the sides of the pan, and add last TBL oil to the center, then rice. Stir to coat rice evenly in oil and sofrito (the onion-tomato mixture). Increase heat to medium high, and continue to stir and toast the rice for another 3-5 minutes, or until the rice begins to crackle and pop.

Just before the rice threatens to singe, pour the sake over the rice and stir through. You will hear a hiss of steam, which risotto guru Valentina Harris, author of “Risotto! Risotto!” calls il sospiro, the sigh. Allow the rice grains to fully absorb the wine, stirring constantly, before adding a ladle of hot broth. Continue stirring until the liquid is again absorbed, then add another ladle. This method of allowing one ladle of broth to be fully absorbed before the next is added, allows the rice grains to swell slowly and cook properly, and helps to avoid the dreaded “uncooked kernel” that can haunt rushed risotti.

Continue adding broth one ladle at a time, until rice grains start to look shiny and to stick together. Add the saffron and another ladle of broth, then turn heat down to medium, and add pepper strips and edamame to rice, and stir through. Add another ladle of broth if rice has absorbed most of the liquid, then add clams, cooked sausage and game hen pieces, another ladle of broth, and stir, then cover and allow to steam for 5 minutes. Add another one or two ladles of broth (depending on whether you prefer a dry or soupy texture), then shrimp, and cover again for another 5 minutes. Keep covered and remove from heat.

Serve in shallow bowls or plates, garnish with calamansi to keep with the Pacific theme. A New Zealand or Australian sauvignon blanc is the perfect wine for this meal. Enjoy!

More using Kauai’s unique sweet shrimp: Spicy Seafood Stew w/Kauai Shrimp & Hawaii Abalone and Creamy Ewa Sweet Corn Soup with Kauai Shrimp



Mulled or spiced wines are understandably popular when the weather turns cooler, and almost every country has its own version of mulled wine, wassail, or glogg. I confess I was never a fan until I spent my first winter in Germany — or rather, my first Christmas season. Glühwein (GLOO - vine), roughly translated as "glow wine," is the official beverage of the German Christkindlmärkte (KRIST-kin-del-merk-tuh) or Weihnachtsmärkte (VY-nahkts-merk-tuh), the world-renown Christmas markets!

Glühwein is both light-bodied and lightly spiced, which makes it eminently drinkable by the mugful as one wanders outdoors through the colorful stalls and festive displays of the markets. And when you're at a Christmas market, you will want to drink Glühwein by the mugful, not only because it's delicious, but also because it's winter in Germany and it's darn cold wandering through those markets!

It is the lightness in both body and spice that distinguishes Glühwein from other mulled wines I've tried, and it's this same quality that made me such a fan. Unlike many other mulled wine recipes which are 100% wine, sweetened and spiced, Glühwein can be one-third to one-half water. This is what makes Glühwein both quaffable in large sips to keep warm, and quaffable without getting too tipsy throughout the long winter day and night as one revels in the festive spirit of the Christmas market. The amounts of each spice used in Glühwein are also generally less than in other mulled wines, so the finished drink is as easy on the palate as it is on the liver.

There is something that seems just plain wrong about drinking Glühwein indoors. I can't remember ever seeing anyone drinking Glühwein inside a restaurant in Germany, although it might be on the menu. Having said all that, once it turned really cold here, we longed for a friendly mug of Glühwein to chase away the chill, even if we were drinking it at home. At least it was still cool in the house, unlike last winter when we made a batch of Glühwein in Hawaii! (Now that was just wrong, and we couldn't really enjoy our drink when it was still 70F outside!)

When making Glühwein, choose a cheap dry jug wine, such as a California Burgundy. No need for a pricey bottle here — not only are you going to add fruit and spices, but you're going to cut it with water, too. If you want to make this for a party, prepare the Base in triple or quadruple quantities, and divide the Base accordingly (into 3 or 4 batches). Then make each batch of
Glühwein as needed by adding a bottle of wine to the Base, and heating gently. If you make a big batch at once and leave it simmering too long, the alcohol can cook out and the spices become bitter.

You can fortify and personalize your Glühwein by adding shots of your favorite liquor or liqueur to your mug. My favorite addition is amaretto, a combination that is sold as "Heisse Liebe" (Hot Love) at the Heidelberg Christmas market (seen here) where I first tried it. Even if we only have our memories of Germany's Christkindlmärkte now, at least we can still make a hot mug of Glühwein to keep us warm.

Now if only I could figure out where my Zimtwaffeleisen is ...


500 ml/ 2 cups water
one orange, washed well, and sliced crosswise
Peel from one lemon
1 stick of cinnamon
3 whole cloves
3 tablespoons of raw sugar (only 2 TBL of regular sugar)
3-4 whole green cardamom pods
8-10 whole coriander seeds
1 vanilla bean

Note: If you can only find decorticated ground cardamom (inner seeds removed from the pod and ground) at the supermarket, put about 1/4 tsp. together with the cloves and coriander seeds, in a tea ball or tie them up in a coffee filter, and boil with the other spices and fruits. Remove bag after wine has been added and warmed through.

1 bottle (750ml) dry red wine
Rum, brandy, amaretto, or other liqueur, if desired

Bring water to boil. Add orange slices, lemon peel, cinnamon, cloves, sugar, cardamom, coriander and vanilla bean. Return to boil, then turn heat down to medium high and cook for 25 minutes.

The base can be prepared in advance, or in large quantities and kept refrigerated until needed. Re-heat Glühwein Base to boiling before adding wine.

Add bottle of wine and turn heat down to simmer – DO NOT BOIL. Keep at simmer for 15 minutes.

Pour into mugs, being careful not to pour in any of the whole spices. Add shots of rum, brandy, vodka, amaretto, hazelnut liqueur or sambuco as desired. Enjoy with spice cookies, such as Spekulaatis, Pfeffernusse,
Molasses Crinkles, or Zimtwaffeln. Zum Wohl!


Healthy Oceans, Healthy Choices: Kabocha Salmon Patties

One of the things that often gets lost in our busy lives is time — time to listen, to read, to watch, to learn. We barely have enough time to do what needs to be done in 24 hours — forget researching things that may or may not directly affect us, our families, our health.

If you have 7-1/2 minutes to spare today, pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee while you check out this video from
Oceana, a global non-profit organization committed to healthy oceans and sustainable fishing. It’s about the mercury lurking in some of our seafood and some of the warning signs of mercury poisoning we may be feeling in ourselves or seeing in our loved ones without realizing what they mean. Fatigued? Problems concentrating? It may not just be stress.

The point here is not to scare you off from seafood and fish — it’s important to include these in your diet on a regular basis. It’s equally important, though, to know what types of fish may pose a hazard to you or your family.

Last spring, we highlighted the convenience of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s
Seafood Watch fish guides. These guides are tailored for each distinct region in the U.S., so we recently ordered the guides for our new area. (Guides are also available for other countries in Europe and Asia, see earlier post for more information) If you have a mobile phone, you can save a tree and download the guides directly to your phone! The Seafood Watch guides provide at-a-glance, easy-to-decipher information about which species are farmed or fished in a sustainable manner (green is good, yellow is acceptable, red is bad), and which ones are known to have high levels of mercury (flagged).

Now we’d like to point you to another useful resource, Oceana’s “Green List” of national supermarket and warehouse chains that provide the FDA Advisory on mercury contamination at their fish counter. The stores on the List (including Shoppers, Safeway, Costco, Harris Teeter and Trader Joe’s here in the DC metro area) voluntarily post the FDA Advisory at their fish counters and canned seafood aisles (called point-of-sale advisories) to remind consumers which fish may be at risk for mercury contamination, and what the safe limits are for consuming some at-risk fish.

Why is this important? Because it provides a reminder for you and all shoppers that some varieties of fish (including swordfish, tuna, king mackerel and tilefish) are known to have high levels of mercury in their flesh, and that people at-risk (including children, older people, pregnant women) should limit how much they eat of these varieties, or avoid them. But that leaves many other wonderful fish varieties to choose from! The point of sale advisories help you as a consumer so you don’t have to struggle to remember which varieties are at-risk when you’re standing in the grocery.

Is the grocery chain where you shop on the Green List? Find out by following
this link, which will also show you the Red List (which includes Giant and Super Fresh in our area) that do NOT post the Advisory.

Another cool tool on the Oceana website is an
interactive grocery store map that allows you to input your area code, and click “Find My Grocer!” — a Google Map pops open with color-coded points showing you all the Green List and Red List grocery stores in your area. If you click on the colored point, the name and address of the store will appear. Finding your closest Green List grocer is just a click away!

Note to Hawaii consumers, the Oceana Lists only include national chains. The Hawaiian Islands have unique grocery store chains that are not on these lists. I used to check the seafood counters at Don Quijote, Star Market and Foodland on Oahu regularly and found no FDA advisories and only sporadic country of origin notices. Both Monterey Bay Aquarium and Oceana have campaigns that allow you to bring your concerns to the store management’s attention. Join the MBA’s campaign on labelling fish and seafood with country of origin and/or Oceana’s campaign on the FDA warning about mercury at the point of sale.

Following recommendations from both MBA and Oceana, we see that Alaskan wild salmon remain one of the best fish choices for the table. Both the fresh filets and canned varieties have healthy amounts of omega-3 fatty acids that reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and are fished in commercially sustainable ways.

Salmon patties made with canned Alaskan salmon and mashed potatoes are a delicious and economical way to eat healthy and stretch your budget dollar, too. The basic recipe is made with leftover mashed potatoes, but if you let your imagination roam, other interesting alternatives will come to mind. How about mashed tofu, if you want to cut down on the carbohydrates in your meal? Or sweet potatoes or yams, instead of russets? We especially like the sweet potato substitution with spicy notes like curry powder, garam masala, or jerk spices.

Here’s one version we did over the summer with leftover roasted kabocha and wasabi peas, and served with wasabi cocktail sauce. The crunchy peas add some texture to an otherwise very uniform patty, but the wasabi flavor was very mild — hence the need for the extra spicy cocktail sauce! Use fresh or frozen peas when wasabi peas are not available — they’ll add color and extra nutrition, if not texture.

Substitute any roasted or cooked hard squash in season for the kabocha: buttercup, butternut, Hubbard, blue and acorn are all in season now! Even pumpkin would be a nice medium for salmon patties.

*Note: Wasabi peas are a Japanese snack food of fried or freeze-dried green peas coated with crunchy wasabi-flavored rice flour. Look for them in Asian groceries and Trader Joe’s.

2 cups (360g) mashed roasted kabocha
1/2 medium onion, minced (optional)
1 large egg, beaten
sea salt and ground black pepper
1 small can (7.5 oz, 215g) Alaskan red salmon, drained and mashed
1 cup (120g) wasabi peas
1 quantity Wasabi Cocktail Sauce (below)

Add egg and onion to mashed sweet potatoes. Season well, and blend thoroughly. Add salmon, and roughly combine (we like to leave chunks of salmon noticeable in the patty, but you can combine to a smooth consistency if you prefer). Make a well in the center of the mixture, and add wasabi peas. Combine well. Shape into 2 large patties.

Preheat oven to 350F/180C, and preheat cast iron or other heavy oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat on the stove. Add about 1 TBL olive oil to the pan, and add patties to pan, pressing lightly. Turn heat to medium, and brown well, about 1-2 minutes. (Note: kabocha and sweet potatoes have more sugar than regular potatoes, and may darken and even burn more easily) Flip patty over, press lightly again, and move pan to pre-heated oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until patties are firm to the touch. Meanwhile prepare cocktail sauce.

Serve hot with cocktail sauce, salad or your favorite cooked greens, and rice or rolls.
If you serve this with some type of corn — cornbread, polenta, succotash,
corn chowder, etc. you would have a wonderful meal combining the “Three Sisters.” More on that soon.

1 TBL prepared wasabi paste
1 TBL lemon juice
1/4 cup ketchup
dash Tabasco
2-3 TBL capers, drained and rinsed

Combine all ingredients. Set aside.


On the Move with Cats, Part 2

This is the second in a two-part post about travelling, especially during a permanent relocation, with cats. Part 1 covered 2 natural therapies we have used to keep the cats calm, and offered tips about non-traditional places to stay during your move. This part touches on kennel-training and insights about using U.S. carriers when your pets travel as cargo. Everything in this series is based on our personal experience with the three cats we have travelled with, and is not intended to substitute for the advice of your own veterinarian.

We have a sign that says, “Dogs have masters; Cats have staff.” It’s usually the case that cats are better at training their humans than we are at training them, but one instance when training can be really important is preparing your cat to be in a kennel or travel crate for long periods of time if she has to fly. If your cat has never been in a kennel or has only spent a short time travelling to or from the vet or groomer, then it will help your pet to practice being in a kennel for the same amount of time it will have to travel. For instance, if you’re putting your cat on a 3-hour flight and have to check her in 2 hours before departure, that’s at least a 5-hour time frame (more like 6 or 7) she will be in the kennel.

Kennel training does several things for your friend. One, it allows her to slowly get used to being in a kennel while she’s still in a familiar environment, her own home. Two, the timed training period will give her a sense that there’s a light at the end of this tunnel, and that she will see you again and maybe get a treat and a cuddle. Three, it gives her a chance to make the kennel her own — it will have her smell in it, and will become familiar and safe.

Begin kennel-training as far in advance of your travel as time will allow.
1. Use the actual kennel in which the cat will be travelling — put water and food dishes in place, too. Also use an absorbent lining for the floor of the kennel, and maybe a shirt or small towel that has your scent on it (this will also help to keep your cat calm). Most airlines will not allow any toys in the kennel, so don’t put any toys that she won’t be able to take on the trip. The point is the kennel will look and smell the same as it will on the day of travel.

2. Prepare the kennel with Feliway or Comfort Zone, if using: spray around the corners of the kennel 30 minutes before the cat goes in. (See
Part 1 for information about these natural alternatives to keep your cat calm)

3. Start with short time periods similar to a trip to the vet (10-20 minutes), and increase the time by 20-30 minute increments each day. As the time periods increase to hours, put food and water in the dishes so the cat is used to eating and drinking from them. The airlines won’t allow food in the kennels during the flight, but they will put food and water in the dishes during layovers if you provide the food. Check with your airline’s policy for pets travelling as cargo.

4. If at all possible, try to make the experience a pleasant one. Don’t chase the cat and throw her in the kennel every day because obviously she’ll be suspicious and traumatized by then. Once she’s in the crate, spend a few minutes assuring her she’s OK, but don’t stay too close the whole time — the point of the exercise is to get her used to being alone and to learn that you will come back for her. Then at the end, offer her a favorite treat — for our cats, it’s usually a cuddle and a good scratch around the ears — but catnip, treats, or whatever she considers special will work. One cat we knew loved broccoli!

Three weeks before their flight, we started kennel-training Kio. This would be his first plane trip. We figured Haiku had been through so many moves and long car trips that she didn’t need the practice, but Kio hated kennels and he would soil his kennel even in the short 7-minute trip from home to the vet!

After a couple of days, Kio had stopped soiling the kennel but was still mewing and letting everyone know he was not a happy camper. Then it occurred to T that maybe the process seemed like a punishment since Kio was singled out for this treatment, while Haiku was left roaming around. He was right — as soon as Haiku joined the routine, Kio settled down. Haiku lay down and went to sleep once she realized she wasn’t going to the vet; and by the second time they trained together, Kio actually walked into his kennel, lay down and fell asleep, too! By the end of the training period, he would remain asleep in his kennel even after the door was opened. When we dropped them off at the cargo office for their flight, Kio was noticeably anxious but he didn’t claw or cry. When Mike picked them up in D.C. 18 hours later, he called to say that Kio walked out of his clean kennel, plopped on a rug and made himself quite at home. (Mike had the
Comfort Zone diffuser plugged in at his home, too.)

(This only applies to pets that are NOT travelling in the passenger cabin with you)
Travelling with pets on a U.S. carrier presents some challenges. Going from Hawaii to D.C. was the first time we tried to do this. What we learned is that
only one U.S. airline will guarantee travel with pets as cargo (our cats are too big to travel under the seat in the passenger cabin). What this means is that the other airlines will allow you to make reservations, BUT they can still refuse to accept your pet on the travel day if any stop in their itinerary is too hot or too cold. Translation: if you’re planning to have your pets travel in cargo on the same flight with you, you might find out that the airline will NOT let your pet be checked-in on the day you have reserved for them. The airlines can even call passengers AFTER the pets have been checked in (in some cases the passengers might already be passed security and waiting at the boarding gate) and tell them it has been determined that it will be too hot or too cold for the pet to travel in cargo. What does the passenger do then? The agents we talked to on the phone at Delta and United basically said: Not our problem.

We would have liked to travel on the same flight with the cats on this trip, but unfortunately our flight was arranged and paid by T’s employer who did not have travel contracts with the only airline that will guarantee pet travel reservations. We were travelling in August and were being routed through the Southeast, so it was a good bet that the airline we were flying with would cancel the cats’ reservations at the last minute and this was a stress we did not want or need. So we opted to have them fly out earlier on a different airline — the only one that would guarantee a travel day. We were also fortunate to have a kind person on the other end who offered to pick them up and take care of them until we got to D.C.

The only U.S. carrier that guarantees reserved travel for your pet (as cargo) is Continental Airlines — they are the only airline that has temperature-controlled holding areas for animals at all their major hubs. This might mean that you will not have the same itinerary as your pet, or that you will have to pay more for your flight if you want to match your pet’s itinerary, but at least you can count on your pet leaving when promised. The folks at the Continental cargo center in Honolulu told us that they often see frantic travellers at their counter who are trying to get their pet on a cargo flight an hour before their own flight is scheduled to leave because their airline refused to accept the pets at the last minute. Of course, trying to re-book at the last minute doesn’t always work out (and if someone can’t pick up your pet at the airport, the animal shelter will be called in) or people have to pay a premium price because they don’t have a reservation.

If you are not travelling on the same flight with or same itinerary as your pet, Continental allows you to track your pet’s flight and offers updates on their arrival at each stop. It also offers an extra service for pets whose itinerary goes through their Houston hub and whose layover is more than 3 hours long. For an additional fee per pet, you can have your pet’s kennel cleaned and your pet exercised, groomed, fed and given water. The amount of the fee will depend on the type and size of the animal; for cats it was an additional $75 for the first cat, and $50 for the second. Haiku and Kio had a 5-hour flight from Honolulu, a 5-hour layover in Houston, and another 3-hour flight to D.C., so it seemed like a worthwhile investment this time. If you don’t want the extra service, Continental will still give your pet water and any food you provide (dry food in a ziploc pouch taped to the kennel) during their layover, but the pet will not be allowed out of the kennel, and food and water will only be given through the locked door.

From the moment you know you have to re-locate until a few months after everything is unpacked and in its new place, there will be some stress and tension in the pets in your life. Think about how stressed you feel — and you know what’s going on and are (mostly) in control! Your pet has no idea why or to where you are moving, or even if they will be going with you. They may become clingy, talkative (mewing a lot), combative or depressed; or they may overeat or stop eating. Take a little time to reassure and comfort, and take to heart the Girl Scout motto and help them “Be Prepared” for the journey ahead. And when your pet invites you to play, accept the invitation — it will have a calming effect on you, too!


On the Move with Cats

The American Psychiatric Association recognizes relocating, or moving, as one of the most stressful challenges we can face. It’s right behind death of a spouse or family member, and divorce and losing/changing jobs. But there are things we humans can do to prepare and to take care of ourselves throughout the moving process. We understand what’s happening — and even with children, we can talk to them and help them process what they’re feeling and what to expect in their new home.

Not so with our four-legged furry friends. What our pets see is that their people are stressing, and one day all their furniture and other stuff with their smell on it is taken away. Then it’s a series of strange places to stay, maybe a long car ride (or worse, a crate and dark plane ride for a long, long time), and finally another strange house with all their stuff in unfamiliar places. Hey, what gives?! I suspect dogs may have an easier time with this adjustment — we haven’t made any moves with dogs, so I can’t say for sure.

But cats, especially indoor-only cats, are all about The Routine: I wake up when I feel like it, but My Bowls are filled at This Time, twice a day, even if I have to walk across someone’s pillow or tickle someone with my whiskers; I sit by This Window to watch the birds, and that Other Window at exactly That Hour when the sunny spot hits me just so; my people come home at This Hour and I spend half an hour letting them brush me and pay me the Attention I deserve... So what happens when The Routine is interrupted and Things Change?... Acting out (spraying, fighting, scratching furniture), loss of appetite or overeating, clinginess, depression, just about any reaction you can expect from a human... (See Cat's-Eye View: When Our Pets Decide To Move Without Consulting Us)

In the last 11 years we’ve moved five times, twice literally across the world, with two cats. Unquestionably our toughest move in terms of pet travel was going from Germany to Hawaii because of Hawaii’s strict quarantine laws. Because Hawaii is rabies-free, they understandably want to keep it that way and so there is a long-standing 4-month quarantine on incoming animals (same is true in the U.K. and Guam, both also rabies-free). Fortunately for us, just a year or so before we moved there, the quarantine regulations were loosened to allow the pets to fulfill the quarantine period BEFORE you get to the Islands. It’s a very strict protocol, with numerous steps and expensive tests and fees. But if you’re considering bringing your pets with you when you move to Hawaii, it’s considerably better for your pet to follow this protocol than to allow them to languish in quarantine for 4 months.

What we didn’t realize when we moved to Hawaii, until it was almost too late, was that if you successfully by-pass the quarantine for your pets, there are no hotels — on Oahu, at least — that will allow you to keep pets with you! Actually when we moved in 2005, there was one hotel and one short-term apartment rental that did allow pets, but they have both changed their rules. So unless you have family or friends in Hawaii willing to house your pet, you might have to kennel your pets while you house-hunt — which defeats one of the purposes of avoiding quarantine.

One alternative we found on Oahu is to find advertised private vacation rentals that will allow you to keep your pets with you (we used
craigslist). On this latest move, we found a high-rise 1-bedroom condo in the heart of Waikiki that was less expensive per night than any hotel, even those with special local or military rates. Make sure pets are okay, and that payment is made through some kind of system with guarantees (we used Paypal) so your money doesn’t disappear before you get a set of keys. You may be asked to pay a deposit, in our case the deposit was refundable once the Lessor knew there was no damage from the pets.

In Germany we have also booked with pet-friendly private vacation rentals, called Ferienwohnungen (or FeWo, for short), when entering or leaving the country. These are usually fully furnished private apartments, many of which include breakfast or at least Brotchen delivery service in the mornings. They too are usually cheaper than hotels, and provide all the amenities of home, including cable or satellite internet connections, washer and dryer in the unit, linens, and fully equipped kitchens. In general, it is much easier to travel with pets in Europe, especially Germany, than in the U.S. but your pet is expected to be well-behaved and clean. And it helps to know what to expect: many FeWo are attached to the landlord’s home, are located outside the main city or town, and the landlord usually speaks a smattering of English (but which was always much better than our German).

In the U.S., you can find lists of “pet-friendly” hotels and motels, but call directly to the hotel you’re planning to stay in — rather than the hotel chain’s 800-number — because these policies can change very quickly (“One bad apple” can spoil the whole bunch, Girl"). If you’re planning to bring more than one animal, ask if it’s okay before you get there — some places only allow one pet per room. And get the okay about pets in writing in your confirmation email. By the same token, some places that advertise only one pet per room may let you keep more than one cat or smaller dogs if they do not disturb other guests. But consider, hotels that accept pets (not counting premium 3 and 4 star properties, of course) are generally not centrally located and often require deposits or charge extra fees.

To prepare your cat for any stressful situation (vet visit, boarding, relocation) there are 2 products we highly recommend — one can be used by humans as well as pets, but the other is specific to cats. The first is “Dr. Bach’s Rescue Remedy”, a British homeopathic formula that includes over a dozen flower essences — it is sold in dropper bottles or sprays. I discovered Dr. B’s on the recommendation of the house mother I lived with in London when I was studying at Leith’s — a few drops in your tea or under the tongue helps to calm nerves in just a few minutes. A few drops in your cat’s drinking water does the same for your pet. When we know a stressful situation is coming up, we’ll begin adding the drops to the cats’ water every day for 2 weeks before the event. In cases like a relocation, we’ll add it to their water or put one drop in soft food throughout the process. Dr. Bach’s ($10-17) is available in the U.S. at many health food stores, Whole Foods markets, and on Oahu, at Star Market.

The other product is called Feliway spray — which is available by that brand name, or as a component in “Comfort Zone” spray in the U.S. As its name implies, Feliway is designed for cats. It’s a pheromone-based spray that calms felines. It was first prescribed by our German vets when Haiku and Laika were flying from Germany to Boston. The spray is used on your cat’s kennel, bedding, toys or other objects that the cat is around — don’t spray the cat itself! A newer product is the Comfort Zone plug-in room diffuser, which uses the same technology as those plug-ins that release fragrances into a room, except these have no fragrance (at least we don’t smell anything). This was particularly helpful when Haiku and Kio spent a week at our friend Mike’s home in DC before we joined them, and then in the series of hotels we all endured over the next 3 weeks, and finally our new home. One diffuser lasted about one month. You can find both CZ spray ($20 and up) and diffuser ($35-50) at PetSmart and Feliway ($13-25) on-line from Ashley's Animal Ark. Once you have a diffuser you can buy just the refills. We’ve seen Feliway/CZ lessen stress activities such as constant mewing, clawing at kennel doors and floors, and “spraying." But it also works in other stress situations — fighting among household pets or introducing new animals (or babies) to the family.

But just like catnip (25% of cats are not affected by catnip), one or both of these products may not work on all cats. We just wanted to share our experiences in case other people are looking for non-pharmaceutical alternatives to travelling with their feline friends.
Everything in this series is based on our personal experience with the three cats we have travelled with, and is not intended to substitute for the advice of your own veterinarian.

Next post, Part Two:
The benefits of kennel-training and what we learned about flying with pets in the U.S.


Lamb Shanks with Preserved Lemons and Gremolata

This is something we actually made while still in Hawaii during the middle of our move. Although it takes some initial prep to trim and brown the lamb shanks, most of the cooking can be done in a slow cooker while you tend to the rest of your life. This recipe was devised to put to use two key ingredients we had in the pantry: lamb shanks and preserved lemons. This is an incredibly hearty meal better suited for cold winter months — guess we’ll have to make it again once our newest batch of preserved lemons is ready in 4 weeks.

Lemons and red wine may sound like a strange combination for braising meat, but they marry together beautifully in this dish. The recipe is adapted from one we’ve used before using fresh lemons (
original recipe). The preserved lemons keep a true lemon flavor even after long cooking, while the gremolata brightens the flavors as you savor every mouthful. We found the combination really exquisite, and this will be our go-to recipe from here on out.

Gremolata is a classic Italian garnish for osso bucco, and is just a quick mince of fresh parsley, garlic and lemon peel. This is best done just before serving to keep the flavors of the garlic and lemon peel fresh. It is an unbeatable way to brighten flavors of long-simmered stews or braised meats.

Serves 2 persons
To prepare 4 shanks, double everything except the 2 TBL oil for browning (keep same amount), and the balsamic vinegar (use 1/3 cup)

Lamb Shanks
1 large onions, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
3 TBL olive oil + 2 TBL olive oil for browning
2 lamb shanks
1 cup dry red wine
4 cloves garlic, minced
4-6 pieces of
preserved lemon, to equal 1 lemon
remove pulp and thinly slice rind
6-8 sprigs fresh oregano, or 1 tsp dried
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Pour 3 TBL. of oil into bottom of slow cooker, layer with onions and bay leaves. Turn heat on slow cooker to LOW, cover and trim lamb.

Trim lamb shanks by removing excess fat and membrane surrounding meat. Then cut (update 11/24/08:
but do not remove) the tendon that connects meat to top of the bone — it’s easier to trim the fat and membrane while the tendon is still attached, so leave the tendon for last.

Brown the shanks well in a heavy bottomed skillet, then transfer them to slow cooker as they finish browning. Pour off the fat, add garlic and cook just until garlic are fragrant, about 1 minute. Turn the heat up to high, and immediately pour red wine into the skillet to de-glaze. Stir to bring up the browned bits in the pan. Boil for about 1 minute, then pour deglazing liquid over lamb.

Sprinkle lemons and oregano over and around shanks, then pour balsamic vinegar and diced tomatoes. Season well with salt and pepper.

Cover and leave on LOW for 7-8 hours or until meal is fall-off-the -bone tender. Or you can layer everything instead in a heavy dutch oven and place in the preheated oven (325F/160C) to cook for 3 hours.

Before serving, remove shanks from sauce and keep warm. Cook sauce on HIGH in slow cooker with no cover to reduce sauce while you prepare the Gremolata and polenta.

1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, washed well and dried
Peel from one fresh lemon
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

With a very sharp knife, finely mince parsley and place in a bowl. Combine lemon peel and sliced garlic on cutting board, and mince together. Add minced lemon-garlic to parsley and mix well. Serve with lamb shanks.

To serve, spoon creamy polenta onto plate. Place one shank over polenta, spoon sauce over lamb, and sprinkle gremolata over. Serve extra gremolata at the table.

See also:
Learning to make preserved lemons at home (all you need are lemons, coarse salt and oil. And time.)
Other recipes with preserved lemons:
Chicken with Preserved Lemons & Olives, Roast Chicken with Preserved Lemon & Sage and Preserved Lemon & Almond Polenta Torta (cake).


Learning from Our Friends: Going Meatless with Kitchiri

Finally, we’re back in real time on this site...It’s been a long haul and we’re still not 100% settled. This is by far the most difficult move we’ve had to make, and glad it’s almost over. One of the things that starts to signal a return to normalcy is when familiar things show up in the pantry again — old friends like these preserved lemons! This is a jar I just started 5 days ago and topped up with olive oil this morning. As we know by now, it’ll be 4+ weeks before this batch is ready to use. That’s okay, it’s worth the wait.

Preparing these lemons was bittersweet, too. It was a reminder of the preserved lemon torta we prepared last summer and sent as part of the appeal to raise money for our fellow blogger, Briana Brownlow at Figs with Bri. The appeal was to help Bri pay for the costs of her treatments in her second battle with breast cancer. During our hiatus, we learned from the fundraiser’s organizers at Jugalbandi that Bri died on October 26, 2008, at the too young age of 32. I will always think of the sunny optimism Bri’s site and her personality inspired, and associate that with the bright yellow and sunny flavor of lemons. Our deepest condolences and prayers go to Marc and all Bri’s family and friends. Thank you for allowing us to share in her warmth and optimism.

One of the things that Bri, as well as Bee and Jai, Shilpa and Dhivya, and other vegetarian bloggers continue to teach us is that modern vegetarian cooking is incredibly diverse and imaginative. It’s not all tofu and brown rice! And while we haven’t made the leap to vegetarianism ourselves, we continue to strive for 2-3 meatless meals each week. Kitchiri or Khichdi, the basis for the British dish called Kedgeree, is one of our favorites: usually a mix of lentils or split peas with rice in a spice-laden porridge, this is one of the most versatile and tasty dishes around (Shilpa even has a version with tapioca and potatoes that is on our to-try list).

After sampling many different versions from the Web and from cookbooks since April, we’ve evolved a version of our own that can be thrown together without reference to a recipe (aahhh, The Way of Cooking continues): using 3 parts pulses (dried split peas or lentils) to 2 parts rice cooked with turmeric and ground cumin, a seasoned oil topping (the tadka or tarka), and usually grated coconut (it’s not only yummy, it’s supposed to be helpful with T’s thyroid condition) and a mix of other vegetables (squash, hard or summer; corn; greens; even breadfruit). Although the basics are the same from week to week, changing the type of pea or lentil used, and the availability of seasonal vegetables keeps us from getting bored with this wonderful dish. Choose a split pea or lentil for faster cooking and Even in Hawaii’s hot summer months, kitchiri was a warm and welcome meal at the end of the day, but it’s especially beloved now as the days get shorter and the evenings colder here in metro DC. It also makes a hearty and filling alternative to oatmeal or other hot cereal in the morning — we often have the previous night’s leftovers for breakfast. Add a little broth or water when you re-heat the kitchiri, as it will thicken as it sits.

Serves 4-6 persons

1-1/2 cups split lentils or peas
1 cup rice, medium or long grain
2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground cumin
6 cups water
1 tsp. sea salt

Wash well and check for small pebbles in lentils or peas. Separately wash and rinse rice. Combine pulses, rice and water in large dutch oven. Bring to boil over high heat, removing foam as it rises to surface. When water reaches a boil, turn heat down to medium, add turmeric, cumin, and salt, and allow to simmer 20-30 minutes, or until pulses just begin to soften. Meanwhile, prepare the tarka.

The tarka, or seasoned oil, is another area where you can be creative about what combination of spices you use. But if you’ve never tried popped brown or black mustard seeds, I urge you to search them out at an Indian or Asian grocer — I’ve even found them in Chinese markets. The aroma and flavor of popped mustard seeds does not really have an equal in the culinary world, and adds a wonderful dimension to this and many other dishes (see also Chaat Potatoes for another great use of this ingredient). Whatever combination of spices you choose, cooking them in oil with the onions and garlic will add another depth to the flavors you are creating. As for the asafoetida, it also has a flavor that can’t be substituted, and it has the added benefit of reducing the “gassy” effects of the pulses — Leave it out at your own peril!

2 TBL. olive oil, or other light-tasting oil
1 TBL. brown mustard seed
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
5-6 curry leaves (optional)
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. amchur, ground green mango powder
1/4 tsp. ground asafoetida
1 tsp. garam masala
2” stick cinnamon
1-3 serrano peppers, seeded and sliced (optional, we have to leave this out on the advice of our acupuncturist)

Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add brown mustard seeds to oil, and as soon as they start popping and releasing their popcorn-like aroma (which is usually immediately), add onions and garlic. Turn heat down to medium, cover, and cook until onions are translucent and soft, about 10 minutes.

Add curry leaves, coriander powder, amchur, asafoetida, garam masala, and cinnamon stick. Stir together and cook until spices are fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add tarka to simmering pulses and rice. Check water level, you may need to add 1/2 cup to 1 cup more water (will depend on type of lentil/peas used). Stir spices through, cover and continue cooking over medium heat for 10 minutes.

To Finish:
Sea salt, to taste
4 oz. frozen or fresh grated coconut
8 oz. roasted or cooked kabocha, butternut, acorn, or other hard squash
or any combination of summer squashes (zucchini, yellow), corn, upo or other gourd, fresh green beans or peas, or raw or flash-cooked greens (see Flash-cooked Chinese mustard greens or Watercress). We’ve also used roasted breadfruit, edamame, frozen spinach, and lima beans — let your imagination and seasonal vegetables be your guide! This may also be a way to sneak in vegetables people THINK they don’t like... sneaky, yes, but sometimes necessary. (Note to my MIL and FIL: I would NEVER do this to you guys! Everyone else takes their chances in my kitchen...)

Taste mixture, and season with salt as necessary.
Add a mix of vegetables from the list above to the pot, and continue cooking until pulses are cooked soft, about another 20-30 minutes, check water level after 15 minutes, and add more as needed.

Garnish with minced cilantro or green onion, and serve with naan, roti or other flatbread, and maybe a yogurt raita.

Kitchiri with yellow split peas, brown rice, coconut and roasted acorn squash

See also Preserving the Perfume of Lemons for a step-by-step guide to making preserved lemons at home, and the Lemon Vigil for a weekly view of lemons during their 5-week journey from fresh to preserved. A new recipe using preserved lemons coming next.


Spicy Seafood Stew w/Kauai Shrimp & Hawaii Abalone

November 14, 2008
Another post that has been back-logged... The biggest stumbling block was finding time and the will to process and edit the photos to go with these last two posts.

A look back at our last few nights on Oahu and some of incredible local seafood: Shrimp from Kauai and Abalone from the Big Island.

In the midst of the rush to leave Oahu, there were so-o-o-o many things to do and so many decisions to be made: what to take, what to leave behind, how will the cats fly across country — with us or alone. One thing was a no-brainer: that we were going to do justice to the stock of Hawaii seafood, natural grass-fed beef, and produce we had in the pantry and freezer — we weren’t going to give them away or just cook them for the sake of finishing them off, we were going to savor and enjoy them... No matter what... Even if we had to eat 5 meals a day...

This is easier said than done because Life Happens — meals take time to plan and prepare and often the days were too short and after a day of packing, cleaning, and dealing with bureaucratic details, our energy level was pretty much ZERO. So it wasn’t until we had moved out of our rental house and into a vacation condo in Waikiki, shipped the car, and sent the cats safely on their way to Washington that we had the time and energy to return to meal-planning for some of the more prized treasures in the freezer — succulent, sweet shrimp from Kauai and plump and luxurious abalone from the Big Island.

I have only had fresh abalone once before, almost 20 years earlier — it was the large meaty California abalone that can be found in the cold deep waters north of San Francisco. Those dessert plate-sized shellfish had been harvested by a friend’s family, and then sliced thin and lightly pan-fried with garlic and wine. Sweet, tender but with a chew — absolutely divine. I was also familiar with the abalone-like shellfish that is sold canned in many Asian markets — much more chewy and salty, often cooked in an oyster sauce with mushrooms and other vegetables. The Hawaii-grown abalone were miniature and cute — the largest not much bigger than a half-dollar. They’re sold under wrap on styroform trays, and even when defrosted smelled of the ocean, and appeared to have lost no moisture while frozen. We removed them from the shell and added them to the seafood stew below. After their brief bath in the spicy broth, they came out tasty and tender, with a slight chew reminiscent of chopped littleneck clams.

Oahu has a shrimp farm or two on its North Shore, in and around Kahuku, and we were great fans of sweet Kahuku shrimp, both fresh and cooked from the many “shrimp trucks” that dot Kahuku, Haleiwa, and even downtown Waikiki. But earlier this summer Rowena’s post about the Taste of Hawaii featured large Kauai prawns as one of the entrees, and this sent us on a quest to find Kauai prawns on Oahu. Expecting to find Kauai prawns in the fresh seafood case, we were disappointed in our search until one day Don Quijote supermarket had a special on Kauai the frozen food aisle. Hmmmm... didn’t sound too promising... frozen shrimp — not prawns — in a 2 lb. bag. But we tried it. And loved it. Wow! To call these shrimp “sweet” is an understatement. They are morsels of sea-sweet succulence.

Our first hint that these shrimp were going to be different from other commercial frozen shrimp came when we first opened the bag to use the shrimp to garnish the Ewa sweet corn soup. Most frozen shrimp smell like nothing (if you’re lucky), or they smell fishy and should be thrown out. These shrimp from the Garden Isle smelled of the ocean — fresh, briny and clean. It was already a delight, and the shrimp weren’t even cooked yet! By the time we were safely ensconced in Waikiki, we still had over a pound of shrimp left, as well as the abalone, 2 grass-fed sirloin steaks from the North Shore, and one last bottle of Pommard hand-carried from Bourgogne. We were going to eat well for our last few days on Oahu...

The shrimp was divided into 2 meals. First, garlic-butter shrimp ala Gilroy was part of a meal of appetizers, or pupus, which also included prosciutto-parmesan bread sticks, methi-potato frittata, locally grown cherry tomatoes, extra-sharp Tillamook cheddar, pickled mango from Haleiwa, and purchased futomaki sushi. Washed down with ice-cold California sparkling wine and with the sunset from our 11th story perch, this was a lazy meal to sit back and reflect on all the things that had happened during our 3+ years in Hawaii. The next night the shrimp was part of a spicy seafood stew (recipe below) — paired with a sourdough loaf and our favorite Zinfandel from Folie a Deux winery, it was our last home-cooked meal on Oahu. The sweet shrimp, spicy Portuguese sausage and tender abalone married well together in the fennel and orange broth.

The Kauai shrimp, like their Kahuku cousins, have a very thin shell that is difficult to remove in one piece — in fact, in dishes like garlic shrimp and this stew, we just pinch off the legs and munch through the shell (similar to eating soft-shell crab), leaving only the taill! I think you can only do this with really thin-shelled shrimp — I wouldn’t try eating through the shell of a black tiger shrimp. Even if you don’t like the idea of munching through the shells, I recommend cooking the shrimp in their shells even though this makes for a messy meal — it keeps the shrimp from losing their distinct sea flavor and sweetness. Just keep a moist towel for each diner on hand.

For our last night in paradise, I hung up my apron and we took our cue from
Tasty Island’s Pomai and booked a seaside table at the Ocean House restaurant, Outrigger Hotel-Kalia, for a most memorable sunset dinner featuring pan-seared Kona Kampachi, another locally farmed fish only available in restaurants in Hawaii. It was a delicious meal, and the view of Diamond Head only a couple of miles away in one direction, and the red setting sun in the other made it unforgettable. (Follow the link to Tasty Island for the photos and write-up that made this a must-do for us before we left.) Thanks for the recommendation, Pomai, it made our bittersweet last evening on Oahu much more sweet than bitter...

Serves 2

We used locally grown shrimp and abalone, and Hawaiian Portuguese sausage in this version to highlight the flavors of the Islands we love — and now miss — so much. But we first discovered this recipe while living in Europe where we used the fish, seafoods and sausages we found there. Use whatever combination of seafoods and spicy sausage are local to you.

3/4 lb. Kauai shrimp, with shell on
(For hints on how to clean and de-vein shrimp with shell on, see
Garlic Shrimp post)
8-12 Big Island miniature abalone, cleaned and removed from their shells
Options: also add 1/2 lb. of flaky fish fillets, such as snapper, salmon, cod or halibut, cut into 2” pieces

4 TBL. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 leek, cleaned and sliced
1 TBL. fennel seed
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspicee, or 6 whole seeds
1 tsp. ground cumin
large pinch of saffron diluted in 1/4 cup hot water
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, diced, reserve juice
1 bottle dry white wine, reserve 1/2 cup
1 cup clam juice or fish broth
sea salt
1 tsp. chili/garlic paste (Sriracha)
1 blood orange or other orange, scrubbed well and sliced
2 TBL. thyme
2 sweet Italian sausages, or chouricos, sliced on the diagonal (we used half of one Hawaiian Portuguese sausage)
6 firm waxy potatoes, boiled and sliced (optional)
(We opted out of the potatoes this time.)

In a large Dutch oven, saute onions and leeks in oil over medium heat until onions are translucent, about 10-15 minutes. Add spices and turn heat up to medium-high. Fry together until spices are fragrant. Add saffron water and stir in.

Add tomatoes, stir well, and cook together for 15-20 minutes, or until tomatoes darken in color. Add wine, broth, salt, chili/garlic paste, orange slices, thyme, and reserved tomato juice. Cover reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes while you brown sausages.

In separate skillet, brown sausage pieces, and add to simmering sauce as you remove them from the pan. Deglaze pan with reserved 1/2 cup wine, and add deglazing liquid to sauce. Simmer another 15 minutes. (You can make the sauce up to this point and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Like many sauces, it improves with time. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes before finishing with the seafood or fish.)

Just before serving, re-heat sauce and add shrimp and abalone. Cover and let simmer another 5 minutes, or until shrimp is cooked through. Remove from heat immediately so abalone and shrimp don’t overcook.

If using potatoes, lay warm potatoes in serving dish, and cover with stew. Garnish with minced parsley or cilantro. Serve with lots of crusty bread to soak up the sauce.


From Pupu to Pupusa...

November 13, 2008
This has been in the queue since the end of September... Getting back into the swing of preparing posts has been a challenge, but things are finally falling in place. Many thanks to everyone for your support and concern. One more belated post to come before we get up-to-date... Thanks for your patience...

- Manju
“Cook food, but serve Love”

“Aloha Kakou” from the beautiful, if muggy, Washington DC metro area! While no one guessed the actual place we are moving to, Laurie from Alaska guessed the closest city (she guessed Baltimore) and was named the winner of the “Three Tastes of Hawaii” package.

Yes, we’ve finally landed and are still in the midst of finding a place to live, but we managed to sneak away for one day of sightseeing at the National Mall and the monuments, including the Washington Monument (seen here). It’s been a long series of hotels and other temporary housing since mid-August, and that has been tiring, to say the least. The upside, of course, is we’ve been planted in the midst of another landscape with wholly new (for us) culture and cuisines.

But Washington DC is no ordinary metropolitan area — as the U.S. capital, it’s the epicenter of transglobal palates and preferences, and we’ve seen a little of that already.

Here in the northern DC metro area we’ve been introduced to “Pupusa” (seen at left, bottom of photo) — a flat cornmeal pocket filled with cheese, beans, meat or any combination of the three, that is a popular snack or side dish introduced by the large and thriving Salvodorean community here. “Pupu,” of course, is the word in Hawaiian for appetizers or hors d’oeuvres, and we had our fair share of poke, sashimi, musubi, grilled sausage & pineapple, and other island-style pupu during our time on Oahu.

But we’re not completely done with exploring Hawaii and her cuisine just because we’re away — already we’ve discovered Hawaiian-made Okinawan soba noodles, Hawaii shave ice, and Maui Tacos right here in this far, far corner away from the Islands. And because our notice to leave Oahu came rather abruptly, we still have a backlog of recipes using Hawaii local produce and ingredients yet to post. We also learned that the first U.S. franchise for that venerable piri-piri chicken empire, Nando’s Chicken, has recently opened in downtown DC &mdash (but they spell it per-peri); is it as good as the one we remember from London’s Earl’s Court? How does our homemade Piri-piri Chicken recipe stack up against its famous cousin? And how do they both fare against Peruvian rotisserie chicken? And speaking of more things from south of the border, there are no less than four types of South American soured cream in the grocery shelves around here — Salvadorean, Honduran, Mexican and Guatemalan — what’s the difference and how do you use them? Can’t wait to find out!

We’ve also seen that it will be much easier to refresh our pantry with Persian, South Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean ingredients from local and specialty grocers in the area: sumac, Spanish and kalamata olives, sheep’s milk cheeses, fresh methi leaves, apricot leather, pomegranate molasses, fufu... We’ve also found a half dozen full-size or larger Korean supermarkets that are well-stocked with South American and South Asian ingredients, as well as Korean, Filipino and Japanese ingredients. What we can’t seem to find is a well-stocked Japanese market — I’m hoping for something akin to Uwajimaya in the Pacific Northwest.

As for our travel buddies, Haiku and Kiowea weathered their flight from Hawaii to DC (via Houston) well. For Haiku, it was old hat — in fact, she has now completely circumnavigated the globe! She and Laika lived with us in Boston, then flew across the Atlantic to Germany, then across Asia to Hawaii, and now Haiku has flown across the U.S. back to the East Coast! But for 3-year-old Kio, who was adopted in Hawaii, plane travel was quite a new experience! He seemed to have taken his cues from Haiku, though, and since she reacted calmly at the cargo center, he didn’t panic when we dropped them off. Nor does he appear traumatized since we re-joined them here (they flew 1 week before we did). In a later post, we’ll talk about what steps we took to prepare them for their trip — both with homeopathic treatments and behavior training (yes, you can train a cat! ... in some things ...) We also have some tips for folks travelling to or from Hawaii with pets (we’ve done both) — where you can stay with your pets, what airline will guarantee travel dates for your pets, etc.

So many thanks to everyone who has checked in with us and let us know we’re missed. I hope you bear with us through this hiatus, we’ll be back soon...

What we will miss...

There is an expression here, “You lucky you live Hawaii” — and it’s true. And though we don’t get to live here permanently, we know we are lucky to have spent so much time in Hawaii. And as that time draw to a close, we’ve been thinking back on all the wonderful things we are already missing. Here are a few...

Flowers blooming 365 days a year, but we’ll especially miss the varieties of plumeria...

View of the Koolaus and Diamond Head across Pearl Harbor

View of the Waianaes when the morning sun highlights its ridges

The brilliant colors of the sunrise...

and sunsets...


Hiking through rainforests...

...and along the knife edge ridges of the mountains (this is for T, I don’t do heights)

Hanging with some of the natives — these are monk seals, but also the honu (sea turtles)

The incredible blue of the Pacific Ocean...

The oasis that is Foster Gardens in the middle hectic Honolulu

All the great fests, especially those at Kapiolani Park

Perfect shave ice with li ling powder on top and ice cream on the bottom at our local shop on Ewa

Two of our neighbors: Friendly chirping house geckos, and this bulbul who adopted us and whom T nicknamed “Bento”

All the lovely FRESH LOCAL PRODUCE....

... and fresh, locally caught fish; as well as local beef, pork, eggs, milk, noodles, tofu, kamaboko,

Everything talked about in the Hawaii Food Primer, but especially ramen, andagi, pickled li hing mango from Haleiwa, manapua, crack seed, poi, laulau, and Zippy’s chili

Some things we don’t have photos of:

- waking to the chatter of mynah birds, cardinals, bulbuls, half a dozen variety of finches, and doves at 5:30 in the morning

- watching the weekly procession of cattle egrets stalking a riding lawn mower (they eat the bugs the mower churns up) — the scene always reminds me of the fable of the “Pied Piper of Hamelin” with the mower in the lead, and wherever it drives, 12-20 large white egrets follow just behind!

- the view of Kaneohe Bay as you come out of the tunnel on H-3 with the na pali on your left and that sheer drop off below the freeway (you feel like you’re flying!)

- and the view of Waialua and Haleiwa as you come over the crest on the Kam Highway, just before the road drops and your stomach falls before the rest of you catches up

- the smell of barbecued meat in the 7 in the morning!

- driving to the North Shore on Kunia Road, between corn fields, pineapple plantations and other farmland

- being able to buy 20 lb. bags of rice at any grocery

- bringing breakfast to the lagoons at Ko’Olina to whale watch, spot turtles or seals, and spend a quiet morning

- walking to the beach from home...

From the song written by Queen Lili’uokalani, “Aloha ‘Oe” (translation in italics)
Aloha ʻoe, aloha ʻoe
Farewell to you, farewell to you
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
The charming one who dwells in the shaded bowers
One fond embrace,
One fond embrace,
A hoʻi aʻe au
'Ere I depart
Until we meet again
Until we meet again


A Crabby Meal

You might expect this to be about a meal of crabs — Dungeness or Snow, perhaps. Instead you’re spying on this sand crab with me as he munches on his morning meal. He’s only about 4 inches long (or should I say, wide) and almost exactly the color of the surrounding sand. He sat just beyond my reach yesterday morning as I took our penultimate photo of the sunrise from this vantage point. When I realized he was eating, I turned my camera from the sunrise to him. He didn’t seem to mind, as long as I didn’t make any sudden movements. I dubbed him “Kani-san” (which is very un-original, it means Mr. Crab in Japanese).

He is eating a small pod from one of the many shade trees around this beach park. I didn’t even know crabs ate pods. Anyway, at first I assumed he was just carrying the pod somewhere until I noticed that he was making slicing motions with his claw along the length of the pod, not unlike a chef slicing fish...

Then he would feed himself with one claw then the other...

He even repositions the pod to reach deeper for the “good stuff” (I’m guessing...)

Then lowers the pod back to feed on the goodies, all the while keeping a wary eye on this rude intruder who is staring at him during his private time...

Mmmm.... more good stuff....

This time he repositions himself instead of his food...

Yeah, that’s the gooey middle...

After he slipped back into his hole, I couldn’t resist taking a closer look at what he was eating (hey, maybe he was on to something, you know?). Yep, it’s a pod... Do you think it might have any culinary value? Someone had to eat that first artichoke, right? (I did return it to Kani-san’s hole after taking this picture)

And this is the view he and I were enjoying — I with my coffee,
and Kani-san with his tree pod...


Our Omnivore's 100

Two of the Omnivore’s 100: Sauerkraut and Saumagen
(German version of Haggis, the pink patty on the right)

I saw this today on Lulu’s site at Mama’s Taverna as I made the rounds — it’s a list of 100 things Andrew at Very Good Taste thinks every omnivore should try at least once. It’s a fun read and sort of a game: you post the list and highlight what you’ve tried. Since we’re in a holding pattern until we get where we’re going next, this was a fun exercise. Brought back a lot of fond memories for us...

Andrew has a few rules if you want to join the fun:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results.

You learn a lot about yourself and others in thinking about what you would or would not eat. One of my college psychology books said that all appetites are the same: intellectual, sexual, and gustatory! So what does this list tell you about your appetites??

If you could add one thing to the list, what would it be? Mine would be Kombu, prepared the Okinawan way, of course!

VGT’s Omnivore’s 100:
1. Venison (tagged by my MIL and FIL)
2. Nettle tea
Huevos rancheros
Steak tartare
5. Crocodile

6. Black pudding (but I’ve tried Filipino dinuguan, which are the same ingredients in a stew, does that count??... not a favorite)
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp (would not order again)
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho (Vietnamese Beef & Rice Noodle Soup)
13. PB&J sandwich (peanut butter & jelly)
Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (blueberry and cherry were the favorites)
19. Steamed pork buns
(aka Manapua)
20. Pistachio ice cream
Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
Foie gras
24. Rice & beans (Sekihan is my favorite combo)
25. Brawn, or head, cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (in foods, yes; alone, no)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas (crunchy sweet peas coated in wasabi flavored crust)
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac
with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O (we also recently made a port wine jello)
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (you won’t believe this, but we actually have 2 cans of whole grasshoppers in 2 flavors but I can’t find anyone to try them with me)
43. Phaal (bring it on!)
44. Goat milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (looking forward to trying this...)
50. Sea urchin
Prickly pear
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (I can’t get Rapidweaver to cross this out, but this is the only one I’ve crossed out — I don’t like big macs)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
63. Kaolin (part of the herbal teas from the acupuncturist)
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (also malassadas!)
Haggis (prefer Pfaelzer Saumagen!)
69. Fried plantain
Chitterlings or andouillette
Caviar and blini
Louche absinthe (in Prague)
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
Lapsang souchong
81. Tom yum soup
82. Eggs Benedict
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
88. Flowers
89. Horse (couldn’t eat more than 2 bites because we couldn’t get past the idea of “horse”)

90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam (are you kidding, I grew up on Guam!)
92. Soft shell crab
Rose harissa (prefer without rose petals)
94. Catfish
Mole poblano
Bagel and lox
Lobster Thermidor
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (we’ll take Kona any day!)
100. Snake (in a soup, tastes like chicken but very bony)


Random Musings...

It isn’t called the Rainbow State for nothing... On the beach this morning to photograph the sunrise for the Sunrise Project, I turned away from the barely risen sun over the Koolau mountain range to find this intense spot of color to the west. Along with the two green sea turtles I saw bobbing around near shore in the choppy waters, this seemed an auspicious start for the day despite the rain. (Happy Birthday, Mom!)

And the winner is...

Laurie in Anchorage, Alaska! No one guessed the city exactly, but Laurie’s guess came closest to our new destination. So the above goodies are on their way to Anchorage. Thanks to everyone who visited and who played along! And thanks to GL at
Maine Musing!, who shares her adventures living in Maine on her site, for adding to the fun by throwing in extra prizes if any of her readers were the winner here!

And speaking of Alaska, look who’s back from his Alaskan summer vacation? Our part-year neighbor, this golden plover, or kolea, returned to our backyard on Thursday! He left in April and we weren’t sure we would be here to see his return this fall. In April we took his photo just before he began his long flight north, knowing he would be leaving soon. The tell-tale sign is that his breast feathers become black (see photo) — then we know he will soon be on his way.

What do you need?

This week 98% of our household goods were packed and whisked away and we will not see them again until early October. For our last 2 weeks here and the next 6 on the other end, we will only have what will fit in 4 suitcases and about a dozen boxes we send via post. We will be staying in short-term rentals during this time, until we find something more permanent.

So the question is: if you have to live for 2 months with only what you will carry with you, what do you bring to see your family through such a transition? What traditions or routines would be important to maintain? Assume you do not have family or other support on the other end, and you are limited to what you will bring with you.

I was talking about this with a friend who lives in the U.K., and as I listed some of the things I had put aside, she listened quietly until I mentioned the rice cooker. “Of course,” she said, a smile in her voice “the rice cooker.” “Yes, of course. Can’t live without a rice cooker... but this is our transitional rice cooker, it only makes 3 cups of rice at a time. Our REAL rice cooker makes 10.” Peals of laughter over the phone. (Hi, Sophie!)

Other must-brings include an electric water kettle (a habit I picked up in the U.K.), metal teapot and cups, coffee-drip filter and travel mugs, melamine (unbreakable) ramen bowls and plates, kitchen tongs, large skillet, 2-quart saucepan, small cast iron pan, wooden spoons (
Kochloeffeln), knives and sharpener, kitchen shears, can opener, corkscrew (actually, we just realized we did forget to pack this!), pillow, Dr. Bach’s Rescue Remedy, large quantities of dark chocolate.

I know many of you are or have been expats (living outside your country of birth) or spend a lot of time in other countries, so I’m wondering what things were important to you to remind you of home, or to help you make the transition?

Calamansi Margarita

It’s another CLICK! event, and this time the theme is Citrus. The Jugalbandits are accepting entries until August 30th, so get out your cameras and join the citrus-scented fun...

It’s the King of Limes, in my book — Calamansi — also known as Kalamansi or Calamondin (Citrofortunella microcarpa).

It’s flavor: a cross between lime and maybe a Seville orange, and as distinct as Key Lime or Wild Lime Leaves. If you’ve never tried it, I’m sorry. Really. You don’t yet know what you’re missing. It looks like a small round lime, but with the thin peel of a tangerine. In markets it may range in size from a Pfennig (smaller than a penny) to a half-dollar, and in color from mottled greens to pure orange, though its pulp is always a dark orange. The more orange the rind, the sweeter the juice will be; but it’s never as sweet as its eponymously named cousins. We prefer the greener ones — after all, we want to take advantage of its lime-ier qualities.

Native to southeast Asia, calamansi trees can be found as popular ornamental trees far from their native lands. When we lived in Europe we had this potted tree to remind me of home, and from which we could pick fresh calamansi most of the year. They are a popular tree in the nurseries and garden shops (labelled “Calamondin”) in Europe, and they’re raised in Tuscany (talk about being a long way from home!). I often wondered if anyone else buying these trees in Germany actually used the fruit as well. The glorious fragrance of both the fruit and leaves is extremely addictive, so be warned — try it once and you’ll be hooked. I used to love to crush the leaves and place them in a bowl, especially in winter, for a hint of the coming spring.

Calamansi are ubiquitous in Philippine cuisine — and for me, arroz caldo, pancit bihon and bistek are just not the same without this distinctive flavor. Calamansi also makes the best limeade in the world — no, the universe! You can find a frozen limeade concentrate from the Philippines in some Asian markets — availability is spotty on Oahu, even at Pacific Supermarket, a dedicated Philippine supermart. Surprisingly, it was regularly available at the military commissary when we lived in Germany, so if you have access to an Air Force commissary (Army ones didn’t always carry it), look in that frozen juice shelf more carefully.

Marvin at
Burnt Lumpia is doing some interesting experiments of his own using calamansi, and his infused vodka inspired me to try my hand with my preferred poison (tequila, hold the worm) to make the ultimate limeade — a Calamansi Margarita. So after a long long long day of sorting, cleaning and packing, there’s nothing better than a cool margarita on the beach to help one de-stress... and be thankful.

Bee, I have one for you, too, if you’d care to join us... I’d offer Jai one as well, but I don’t want to be accused of bribing a judge!

(adapted from

2 oz. Cuervo 1800 Tequila
1 oz. fresh calamansi juice
splash Triple Sec
1 tsp. raw sugar
clear ice cubes
coarse salt and calamansi for garnish

Prep glass by rubbing rim with cut calamansi, then dipping edge in salt. Keep aside.

Go to beach. Set up your beach chair.

Shake all drink ingredients together. Fill glass with fresh ice. Pour cocktail into glass.

Enjoy with setting sun casting long shadows on Diamond Head in backdrop...

If you like these flavors, try
Tequila & Calamansi Marinated Flank Steak


Lychee Sake Pork Stir-fry

(Click on logo to learn more about the Buy Local campaign on the CTAHR site)

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...

serves 4
Marinade for pork:
1 lb. pork loin, cut into 1” slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. rice vinegar
sea salt
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.

To finish:
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.


Tequila & Calamansi Marinated Flank Steak

(Click on logo to learn more about the Buy Local campaign on the CTAHR site)

Among the many local produce and products that surprised us when we moved to Hawaii, local grass-fed, hormone-free, antibiotic-free beef was one of the best. With all the concern about the chemicals and pharmaceuticals that are pumped into commercially produced meats in the U.S., it is such a relief to find high quality beef raised right here in the Islands.

Truth to tell, we were introduced first to Big Island beef on a visit there. We had heard that beef was raised on Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii, but we didn’t see it on market shelves. The only retail source seemed to be the Saturday Farmers’ Market near Diamond Head — and we had only been there once (it’s a long haul from where we live). Anyway, on our second visit to the Big Island, we chanced upon a loco moco (rice topped with beef patty and egg, smothered in brown gravy...mmmm) that was made with Big Island grass-fed beef patties. OMG! The difference in flavor between beef we had known and grass-fed beef is the difference between fresh tuna and canned tuna — seriously, it is that much of a difference!

We actually hand-carried several pounds of steaks and ground beef back to Oahu from that trip! Now that we were converted, we started looking more intently for grass-fed beef on Oahu, too. Happily we finally found a retail source closer to home — Tamura’s Market in Wahiawa carries Oahu’s
North Shore Cattle Company grass-fed beef. A closer inspection of the frozen meat section of other retailers uncovered Big Island-produced Kulana Foods (couldn’t find a URL for them) grass-fed beef at the Kokua Market co-op near the University.

Why local beef? If the incredible flavor is not enough to win you over, consider the health benefits as well. Hawaii’s local beef is leaner per pound, so less fat ends up on your plate and hips. And the cattle are not given hormones or antibiotics — both of which are absorbed and stored in the body.

Lastly, Oahu-produced North Shore beef is not treated with carbon monoxide (aka “tasteless smoke”) — a color preservative used to keep meats and fish artificially “red” and “fresh-looking.” Carbon monoxide is intended to make meats look fresh and safe to eat long after some of the most harmful bacteria making the news today may be present, including Clostridium botulinum, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E-coli 0157:H7. It’s one of the reasons the use of carbon monoxide for meats and seafood is banned in the European Union, Japan, Canada and Singapore (read full article here).

We received confirmation from North Shore Cattle Co. that they do not use carbon monoxide, and from what I remember of the Big Island beef, it does not look like it is treated either (if someone knows for sure, please comment or email us). So let’s support local island producers who provide such high-quality additve-free meats. How can you tell whether carbon monoxide is used? The treated meat or fish (sadly, carbon monoxide is used a lot in ahi too) is bright mauve-red or cherry-red. Still unsure? Ask the butcher!

OK, enough of the blah, blah, blah...
where’s the beef?!

We recently grilled a Tequila and Calamansi Marinated Flank Steak made with North Shore beef and it was out of this world. The first thing I noticed about the flank steak when I took it out of the package is that it was so beautifully trimmed — very little to no “silverskin” (that thin membrane that surrounds the tissue in flank steak that will cause it to shrink and curl on itself when cooked). Also, flank is a notoriously “un-tender” piece of beef that requires either long marination and/or cutting across the grain to break it down to palatable chewiness, and so we did both. But when the meat was sliced after grilling, we marveled at how easily the meat cut compared to other flanks — it was smooth and tender. In fact, at the table we ended up cutting our beef with a fork instead a knife!

Whether or not you can find grass-fed beef, this marinade will put some sizzle into your next grill. Calamansi is a lime native to southeast Asia with a very distinct and addictive flavor that marries especially well with beef (learn more). In this marinade, calamansi and tequila not only infuse the steak with loads of rich flavor, they help tenderize it too. We are sending this, too, to Sig at Live to Eat, our host for the “Grill It!” Monthly Mingle begun by Meeta at What’s for Lunch, Honey. Although we didn’t serve them together this time, this steak would pair well with our other entry for the “Grill It!” event, the Guam-style Grilled Eggplant Salad with Coconut Milk.

This should serve 4-5 people

(Marinate one day before grilling)
1-1.25 lb (455-570g) flank steak
3-5 cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise
1 oz. (30 ml or 2 TBL.) tequila
1/4 cup (60ml) fresh calamansi juice
1 tsp. soy sauce, preferably Kikkoman
1/2 tsp. sea salt (omit if using Aloha shoyu)
1 tsp. ground black pepper

Remove silverskin from flank steak, if necessary.

Cut small slits across the grain on one side of steak. Insert slivers of garlic in each slit. Lay steak in glass or other non-metallic pan, or use a large recloseable plastic bag.

Combine remaining ingredients, and pour over steak. Refrigerate ovenight.

The next day, prepare your grill for direct heat cooking.

Remove steak from fridge while grill is pre-heating. Take steak out of marinade and pat dry. Just before steak goes on the grill, sprinkle with sea salt, preferably alaea sea salt (red clay salt).

Grill over high heat to desired doneness. Allow steak to rest for 5 minutes before cutting. Slice across the grain to serve. We served this with Salsa Rice and sauteed peppers and red onions.

You can see the marinated and cooked garlic slivers
still embedded in the steak slices (we arm wrestle for these pieces!)

Other Island Fresh explored produce on this site: Melons, Watercress, Mustard Cabbage, Warabi, Daikon, Eggplant, Corn, and Choi Sum

See also
Calamansi Margarita


"Three Tastes of Hawaii" Prize Package

What are the three tastes here? 1) Salty, 2) Sweet, and 3) Coffee

OK, we’re stretching it a bit to call coffee a separate flavor, but how could you have a sampler from Hawaii without coffee??? This is the prize package of our favorite flavors of Hawaii — the stuff we’re hoarding in quantity to take with us to....where? If you’d like to guess and possibly have all these sent to you in Japan or Australia or Germany or the UK or Kansas or Alaska, check out the rules and enter your guess here. (Please don’t leave guesses on this post)

So what else is in here?

SALTY SIDE: Poke (POH-kay) Mix with dried chilies, sea salt and dried limu to make your own poke at home — just add your own favorite fish or seafood or tofu, and lemon or sesame oil, and you’ll bring a true taste of the Islands to your corner of the world; Smoked Octopus — think of it as seafood jerky; and Alaea Sea Salt, a blend of Hawaiian red clay and sea salt — great for roasting or grilling, adds a pleasant metalllic but sweetish salt flavor.

COFFEE & NUTS: organic milk chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, also plain salted, and onion-garlic flavor macadamias, and a one-pot sample of Kona blend coffee

SWEET SIDE: Dried Mango with Li Hing Powder — an addictive local favorite; Li Hing Powder — find your own uses for this versatile sweet and tangy powder: dressings, sauces, popcorn, margaritas & other cocktails, sprinikle on dried fruits and gummy candies; Wolfberries (aka Goji beries) — the wonder fruit rich in nutrients and anti-oxidants (not really from Hawaii, but this is where we learned of its wonderful properties and use it almost daily.) Read more on Wikipedia about wolfberries.

Keep the guesses coming... there’s no definitive winner as of today, but if no gets it exactly right, the closest city guessed will be the winner!

Read the rules and enter your guess


On the road again...

UPDATE 08/17/08: The contest is now closed, and the winner has been sent an email requesting a mailing address. Many thanks to everyone for playing along, it was fun to track the guesses in the midst of all the chaos going on around here now.

We’re about to lose our internet connection and will be left to the whims of the internet gods for the remainder of our time here. We’ll post when possible.

UPDATE 08/06/08: The prize package is on view

Well, I guess reality is finally catching up with us and now it’s time to share with everyone that we’ll be on the move again. Three weeks from today we’ll be on a plane to ...... ????? This is the question I”m putting to you, “Can you guess where we’ll land next?” In the last 11 years we’ve lived in Germany twice, Boston once, and now Hawaii, but where is fickle Fate sending us next?

To make this somewhat interesting (and, let’s face it, less depressing for me), we’re running a contest for the next 10 days. The first person to correctly guess our next destination will receive a tasting sample featuring some of our favorite flavors of Hawaii — l
et’s call it the “Three Tastes of Hawaii” (shameless self-promotion snuck in there!) sample pack. Full details will follow when the package is assembled. If no one guesses correctly, the person who comes the closest will be deemed the winner (Google Earth/Maps is the arbiter; all decisions are final).

A few hints:

One, I can tell you that the place we’re headed is somewhere between the 35th and 45th parallells North latitude. That’s what the business with the maps is all about — the area between the shaky black lines is the area in play (you can see why cake decorating is not my thing!). If you’re like me and you could use more concrete examples, check out the list on Wikipedia of world cities listed by their latitude. The city we’re going to may or may not be on this list, but it might give you some places to start guessing.

Two, I’ll mention that this city is renown for a body of water located nearby and its many outdoor attractions.

Three, I’ll also mention that the reason we’re moving is because of T’s new job in this location and not because we plan to buy a house (as we had hoped) in this location.

OK, that’s enough to start the guessing.

Now a few rules.

1. Residents of Hawaii are not eligible — anyway, why would you want a sampling package of Hawaii, right?

2. If you actually know where we’re headed, please disqualify yourself — Sorry again, but that would be “insider guessing.” (Passing insider information will be frowned on too)

3. Leave a comment below with your guess — emailed guesses will not count toward the contest.

4. Please include an active email address in the comment form — we need it to contact you by August 17th if you’re the winner. Because time will be of the essence, please reply to the email within 24 hours or we will be forced to move on to the next closest guesser.

6. Only one entry per person please!

If more than one person guesses correctly, only the first person with the correct guess will be deemed the winner so get your guess in early.

Anyone outside the Hawaiian Islands with a valid postal address is encouraged to play. The tasting package will not be heavy so I’m willing to mail it anywhere in the world that the U.S. postal system will accept (sorry, DHL and UPS are not in my budget).

The winner will be contacted via email and the package sent before we leave, and our new hometown will be announced once we’re on the ground there.

I”m having fun putting the sampler prize package together, and will post its contents soon.

Good luck, Everyone!

Creamy Ewa Sweet Corn Soup with Kauai Shrimp

(Click on logo to learn more about the Buy Local campaign on the CTAHR site)

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.

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.

Other Island Fresh produce on this site: Melons, Watercress, Mustard Cabbage, Warabi, Daikon, Eggplant, Beef and Choi Sum


Sweet & Tangy Beetgreens Sauce for Pasta

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

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 & Corn Stew with Jerk Salmon

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!

For Cari

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
sea salt

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.


Grilled Eggplant Salad in Coconut Milk

(click on logo to learn more on the CTAHR site)

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!

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

Pre-heat grill.

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.)

Other Island Fresh produce on this site: Melons, Watercress, Mustard Cabbage, Warabi, Daikon, Beef, Corn, and Choi Sum


5-A-Day: Choi Sum

(Click on the logo for another choi sum recipe)

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.

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.


Guam Fiesta Plate: Red Rice, BBQ Chicken & Finadene

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 diaspora 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 atsuete). 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.

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)
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).


New Worlds of Flavor Learned from You

My husband calls me a “food evangelist” because whenever I find a truly delicious new food, I want the whole world to share the love. Lately we’ve been sampling quite a few great recipes from fellow food bloggers, and the three featured below have all been sampled more than once and added to our “Keeper” recipe file.

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!


Date & Tamarind Cake

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!

(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.


Piccata-style Pork Cutlets

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!

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)
sea salt
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)


Recipe Comments Forum: What are they taste-testing??

Uh... this is going to sound weird, but this is a Comments Forum opened for a group of folks who are taste-testing an original recipe for us. They’ve been asked to answer a few short questions (see below) to help tweak this recipe before it goes global.

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!).


Island Fresh: Melons

(click on logo to learn more about the Buy Local campaign on the CTAHR site)

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.


Double Mango Wholewheat Quickbread

July 7, 2008: It’s been a hectic last couple of weeks. Sorry, I thought this actually got posted last week...

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.

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.

See also:
Double Mango Yeast Bread
Mango-stuffed French Toast


Rafute: Melts in your mouth, not on your hashi

There are few things that bring home Okinawan cooking to me more than Rafute, a meltingly tender and succulent braised pork belly that my dad calls “Okinawan bacon” (he’s Filipino, mom’s from Okinawa). He calls it that because 40-odd years ago his mother-in-law — unsure what to feed the new “foreign” son-in-law living in her tiny house in Shuri — used to make it for him for breakfast. With eggs and rice, of course.

Now, the uninitiated may look at pork belly and think, “I can’t eat that, it’s nothing but fat!” Aahh, but looks can be deceiving. In the case of rafute, the pork belly is first simmered for a long while in a seasoned bath of ginger, awamori or other alcohol, and water. The bath serves a dual purpose. First, to par-cook and remove the strong flavors of raw pork, thanks to the ginger and alcohol. Second, to remove a lot of the fat, which melts into the liquid and out of the pork. The pork can then be sliced and simmered again in a savory braising liquid that infuses flavor into the meat, and in the end glazes it and brings it to quivering tenderness. You think I exaggerate, but that’s only because you haven’t tried this yet.

Once fullly cooked and seasoned, rafute is a handy thing to have in the fridge to top those wonderful Okinawan soba noodles (photo bottom) you can find in Hawaii (or Okinawa, lucky you!), for yakisoba, as a side dish with tofu champuru — or yes, you can eat them for breakfast! (Uwajimaya in WA/OR carries Hawaii-made Okinawan style soba the last time we were in that area.) I also use rafute when making
Abura Miso, but that’s a story for another day...

Rafute freezes well, too, if you can vacuum seal it somehow. Then you can whip up an Okinawan-style soba/ramen any time! After the pork belly is removed from the first simmering broth, chilling the broth will make it easier to discard the layer of lard that forms on the surface. (If you are more enterprising than I, you can put this pure pork lard aside for other cooking purposes, too.)

From “Okinawan Cookery and Culture” (1984), a wondertful spiral-bound collection of recipes and cultural anecdotes from members of Hawaii’s large Okinawan community, there are notes to several recipes that it’s the large proportion of alcohol that gives rafute its distinctive melting quality. I never had awamori, an Okinawan distilled spirit made from Thai-style long grain rice, to play with until we came to Oahu. Growing up, my mother used sake. Until now, I used whiskey or bourbon. But Don Quijote on Oahu carries small bottles of awamori that are cheap enough ($5 for 375ml) that we can cook with it quite liberally for now.

hashi are chopsticks.

To Par-boil:
3 lb. not too lean pork belly
2-inch length of ginger, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup (120ml) awamori or whiskey or sake

Gently bruise sliced ginger with the heel of your knife. Place pork belly and ginger in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add awamori or other alcohol, then cover meat with water by at least 1 inch. Over medium heat, bring just to a boil, then cover and immediately reduce heat to a simmer. (Don’t let the pot stay at a hard boil or the pork will “seize” and toughen the lean parts of the meat.) Simmer for 1 hour, checking occasionally to make sure water hasn’t boiled and left meat dry, and topping off with hot water to keep meat covered.

Remove pork from liquid. Chill broth and remove layer of lard on surface. When just cool enough to handle, slice pork 2-1/2 inches across and about 1/2 inch thick.

Initial Braising Liquid:
1 cup (240ml) broth from Par-cooking stage, or plain water
1 cup (240ml) awamori or sake
3/4 cup (160g) raw sugar
1 slice of ginger (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and add sliced pork. When heat returns to bubbling, reduce to barely a simmer, cover and cook for about 25 minutes.

Turn slices over, cover again and simmer another 20 minutes.

Add 1/4 cup shoyu and stir through to combine evenly with rest of braising liquid. Cook 15 minutes at the lowest simmer with no cover to allow the liquid to start evaporating. Turn slices over and continue cooking without a cover for another 15 minutes or so. Check texture, you should be able to cut through the meat, “fat,” and skin with a spoon. It should be akin to room temperature butter. If everything except the meat part is soft, it probably means the meat remained at a boil too long in the par-cooking stage and toughened — just continue on to the next step. If even the “fat” and skin give resistance, add 1/4 cup mirin-water mix, cover again and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, then check again.

Now the braising liquid is turning into a sticky glaze. Continue cooking without a cover for another 20-30 minutes, turning meat over every 5-7 minutes, depending on how quickly the glaze is forming. Before the glaze dries off completely, turn heat off, cover pan and let meat cool in glaze. Will keep in fridge for at least a week, months in the freezer if you can protect it from freezer burn.

To re-heat rafute, heat in an oiled skillet over medium heat until hot. Microwave re-heating can be tricky, and cause “burned” spots where the skin or areas near the skin turn into chicharrone (aka crackling) — a lesson learned the hard way. After spending such a long time to make these beauties, I prefer the pan for re-heating.

Our favorite way to use rafute — with Okinawan soba noodles and broth, and garnished with ginger, pre-cooked
watercress, gai choy or choi sum, and way too many braised shiitake.

Ways to use Rafute: Abura Miso (Seasoned Miso Paste)


Kasu-Marinated Butterfish

No arm-twisting was required to convince us to try this different take on the Miso Butterfish we love so much — Butterfish marinated with Kasu, or sake lees. Happily, butterfish (a.k.a. sablefish or black cod) is a “Best” (from Alaska) or “Good” (from U.S. West Coast) choice on the Seafood Watch list. (Read more about choosing safe fish and shellfish for Hawaii, the US, and around the world.)

I’ve had kasu on my list of things to try for well over a year now, but with no luck finding it in the shops. A month or so ago, I spotted a new package on the top shelf of the Japanese refrigerated goods section at DQ (not the ice cream place, the former Daiei). I recognized the brand symbol on the cover as a sake brand, so that bode well. Sure enough, it contained sheets of sake lees. Yes, sheets — flat, compressed and heavenly-scented sheets. Not what I was expecting either — I had been looking for a paste-like product resembling packaged miso.

As soon as I could get my hands on a few butterfish fillets, we’d be set. The store I was in does not usually carry fresh butterfish so I made a mental note to look in Chinatown on our next visit. But when I wandered over to the fresh fish displays, there they were — butterfish steaks! And they were on sale that week. It was definitely a sign. Fillets would have been nice, but butterfish does not have many small pins or bones, so I left the steaks whole.

What exactly are sake lees? “Lees” is a nice word for the silty precipitate of dead yeast — and, in the case of sake, rice — that settles out from wine in the production process. It sounds much more palatable than “dregs,” doesn’t it? Sake lees, or kasu, have an incredibly intoxicating aroma. It is easy to see why sake vintners would be loath to simply discard the fragrant paste. Besides its use as a culinary ingredient, kasu can be further commercially processed to make a distilled liquor and a vinegar.

We have now tried both the marinated fish and a heady soup in which kasu was the star ingredient. Both were delicious and thoroughly addictive. (We’ll share more about the soup during soup season.) You can also try your hand at making pickled vegetables with kasu at home, but the most intriguing home use for kasu I found is as a moisturizing
face masque! It is supposed to leave your skin baby-soft. And delicious smelling, too, no doubt! Kasu keeps for a long time, so buy it when you see it and tuck it away in the fridge until you need it.

This particular recipe requires long planning — 10 days of marination. There are a slew of recipes with much shorter marinating times, but most of them also include miso paste, sake or mirin, shoyu and other ingredients. I wanted to let the pure kasu flavor through so I devised this one after much reading. If you’d like a more subtle kasu flavor, I’ve had
this recipe from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin bookmarked for months to try in future.

You can cook this after 4 days, but patience will be rewarded (here’s looking at you, Italy).

(inspired by an artice on
1 TBL. sea salt
1/2 cup kasu paste, about 2 sheets
3 TBL. raw sugar
1/3 cup water
2 butterfish steaks or fillets with skin on, about 6-8oz. each

Combine kasu, salt, sugar and water, and stir to make a thick paste. Place half of paste in the bottom of a glass or other non-reactive pan.

Wash and pat dry the butterfish, and place on the kasu mixture. Cover fish with remaining kasu mixture. Cover tightly and put away in a corner of the fridge for 10 days.

When ready to cook, remove fish from refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Remove fish from kasu, and with a paper towel, gently wipe away most of the paste.

Pre-heat skillet over medium heat. Add 2 TBL. oil to pan. Season fish with salt (I used alaea salt, that’s the pink grains you can see past the water drop on my lens), then add to skillet, salted side down. Season the second side of the fish. Cook, uncovered, for 4-5 minutes — fillets will cook quicker than steaks. Turn over and cook another 5-6 minutes, or until fish is cooked through (will flake with a fork).

Serve with rice, pickled ginger, and flash-cooked greens dressed with sesame or ponzu dressing.


Piri-piri Chicken

Have you tried Piri-piri Chicken? If not, you’re in for a treat. There is a chicken franchise in the U.S. called El Pollo Loco that prepares chicken in a similar way — marinaded in citrus and spices for a few days, then grilled low and slow, and basted with more flavor. I was a big fan. Then we moved overseas, and I tried to duplicate the flavors of EPL chicken at home, but with no luck.

One day I happened upon a Nando’s chicken restaurant in London (at Earl’s Court) and fell in love all over again. Nando’s is a South African restaurant franchise that serves a
Portuguese-style piri-piri chicken BBQ (I know, it’s confusing — it has to do with historical migration patterns but never mind that now). Piri-piri (Nando’s spells it differently) is a zestier, tastier and more succulent BBQ chicken than even EPL, so the urgency to grill chicken at home was temporarily quashed — I could just nip over to Nando’s for a grilled chicken fix! When we later moved to Boston, we were treated to even better home-style piri-piri chicken in some of the small Portuguese-run eateries around Cambridge, the best was at a tiny 6-table cafe in Inman Square.

Since that long ago time we’ve found a primo marinade recipe to make at home because we’ve lived the last 6 years out of reach of ready-made piri-piri chicken. The name piri-piri comes from the sauce made with small red chile peppers, called malagueta, that are the key flavor ingredient in the marinade. Finding the right pepper sauce, also called molho de malagueta, is the first and hardest part of making this recipe. Look for it in Brazilian or Portuguese markets in your area — it is a thick, deep red sauce usually sold in a tapered bottle. There is also a clear vinegar sauce with whole peppers floating in the bottle that is also labelled molha de malagueta or piri-piri sauce, but that’s not what we use.

Also, the
malagueta chile pepper used in this sauce is not the same as the melegueta pepper, also known as “grains of paradise.”

The original recipe from which this is adapted says you can substitute Tabasco (brand) sauce for the real thing, but the chicken will taste very different when made with Tabasco (and by different, I mean “wrong”). The Portuguese sauce is much thicker than Tabasco, and has a wholly different flavor. If you don’t care for very “hot” foods, don’t worry. The cooked chicken does not enflame your mouth with pepper-heat — the piri-piri sauce is primarily a flavoring agent. You can, of course, increase the heat by adding larger amounts of piri-piri sauce to the marinade.

This recipe is more like the home-spun piri-piri chickens we enjoyed around Cambridge than the commercial versions. Plan to prepare the marinade at least 24 hours before you intend to start grilling. If you can give it a 2-day headstart, you will be richly rewarded.

Warning: once you do try this chicken, you may become as obsessed with its addictive flavor as we have!

Adapted from
The Barbecue! Bible (1998) by Steven Raichlen

For the Marinade:
1/4 cup olive oil
4 TBL. unsalted butter
1 whole lemon, juiced and rind cut into 10 pieces
1 TBL. red wine vinegar
2-3 TBL. Piri-piri sauce (use minimum 2 TBL. to get the piri-piri flavor)
2 tsp. sweet paprika
3/4 tsp. ground coriander seed
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 scallions, washed and thinly sliced
3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, washed and leaves separated from stems
1” piece of ginger, peeled and slivered
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Place all marinade ingredients
except lemon rinds into a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. Taste and correct for salt, especially if using larger quantity of piri-piri sauce. Put half of marinade and the lemon rinds into a non-reactive bowl, or a large plastic zipper bag.

1 whole chicken (3.5-4lbs/1.5-1.8kg), cleaned, backbone removed, and cut into quarters

Cut partially through the leg joints where the the drum and thigh meet. Carefully slide a finger under the skin and loosen skin from flesh. Add leg portions to marinade, and insinuate some marinade between skin and flesh.

Cut partially through the joint between wing and breast. Carefully separate skin and flesh around the breast, and make a pocket between the tenderloin and the top of breast. Add to marinade, and also incorporate marinade under skin and next to tenderloin. Add remaining marinade, cover and let marinate in fridge for at leat 24 hours. 48 is better. The best we’ve made at home was marinated for 60.

Prepare your BBQ or grill for cooking with
indirect heat. (Learn how from the master himself at Steve Raichlen’s site)

Oil your grate well. Add chicken pieces to the grill, skin-side up. Baste with remaining marinade, cover grill and cook for 30 minutes. Uncover and baste again with marinade. Discard any remaining marinade. (Do not use marinade to baste in the last 10 minutes of grilling.) Cover grill and cook another 20-40 minutes, or until the juices run clear in the thickest part of the thigh and breast (instant-read thrermometer will show 180F). Leg joints may cook faster than breast quarters, so start checking them first.

If you want to crisp up the skin, cook over direct heat for the last 5-8 minutes of grilling time.

Cut into serving pieces. In every restaurant we’ve ever had piri-piri chicken, it is served with fried or roasted potatoes, but at home we prefer rice! Offer extra piri-piri sauce and lemon wedges on the side.


Baked Monchong with Hummous Crust

When it comes to food from the deep and the reef, the waters have gotten very murky lately, literally and figuratively. Literally, since it seems every week there is a report identifying another fish species as having dangerously high levels of mercury, PCBs, and other toxins from fertilizer run-offs and other pollutants in the nation’s oceans and rivers; and figuratively when, along with the warnings, health advocates encourage consumers to incorporate more fish — rich in omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein — into their diet. And as if this weren’t confusing enough, environmentalists want consumers to be aware of the dangers of over-fishing and poor fisheries management both at home and abroad, too! It’s enough to paralyze even the most want-to-be-informed consumer.

Finally, there’s help. A pocket-sized take-along guide for your wallet or purse identifying safe fish choices for both you and the environment from the
Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website. Separate guides are available for each region in the U.S. (West Coast, Northeast, Hawaii, Southeast, Central, and Southwest) and they are color-coded to red-flag fish species that are currently found to carry unacceptably high toxin levels, and to highlight non-toxic species that are sustainably managed. The charts are available in English or Spanish for the U.S. There is also a searchable on-line database for different fish varieties that provides all the necessary information to assist you in making an informed choice about your seafood, and also offers alternatives if your first choice is either unhealthy or unsustainable.

Seafood Watch (SFW) also provides links to similar charts prepared by the World Wildlife Fund or an environmental organization in the respective country for
Italy, Germany, Canada, the UK, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Australia, France, South Africa, and New Zealand. From similar sites, here are also links to fish guides for Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, Norway, and Switzerland (available in 3 languages). (The guides for Spain seem to have been removed from that country’s WWF website.) Most of these sites have a printable color guide that you can carry in your purse or wallet that make it easy to find non-toxic, sustainable choices in seafood; most also have a searchable database of fish varieties; some however, provide only an on-line database but no take-along guide.

Lastly, SFW has also teamed up with the Environmental Defense Fund in producing a searchable national database and take-along guide for your mobile phone! Check it out on the
EDF’s site here.

So whether you live in the US or one of these llisted countries, or are planning a visit to them, take along a portable guide to help you make wise choices for your health and the health of the environment.

And if all this reading has made you hungry, here’s an exceptionally flavorful and easy way to bake fish that will help keep it moist and infuse flavor. Monchong, or sickle pomfret, (see top photo and left) is listed as a “Good Alternative” in the SFW database, and it is a meaty, mild-tasting fish that readily compliments strong flavors. We all know hummous (bottom, right in photo) as a thick, savory dip of pureed chickpeas, sesame paste (tahini), lemon juice, olive oil and salt.

Usually eaten with pita or vegetables as part of a Middle Eastern mezze table, here hummous pulls double-duty as a crust for the baked fish. You can use a commercially prepared dip, but hummous, like the preserved lemons, costs a mere fraction of the commercial product AND is so easy to make at home. Try this recipe and you’ll never want to buy a pre-made product again. It’s worth the effort to boil your chickpeas from dried beans, and keep them frozen with some of the cooking liquid until you need them. But canned low-salt chickpeas are a good pantry staple for whipping up quick weeknight meals like this or when you’re asked to bring a dip to tomorrow’s function at work, and you don’t have time to soak beans overnight. Of course, you can substitute any of the other firm, white or oily flesh fish in the SFW “Best” or “Good Alternative” list for the monchong — the first time we tried this hummous crust on fish 9 years ago, it was with salmon and that was especially ono.


For the Hummous:
1 cup of dried chickpeas, soaked in water to cover at least 8 hours

Drain chickpeas, place in 4-quart or larger saucepan, and cover with by the least 2” of clean water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour. Add 1/2 tsp. of sea salt, and cook for another 30 minutes or until beans are easily pierced with a toothpick but not mushy (cooking time will depend on the hardness of your water). Turn off heat, cover and let cool in pan.

2 TBL. liquid reserved from cooking chickpeas (if using canned chickpeas, use plain water, not the liquid in the cans)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
5 TBL lemon juice
4 TBL olive oil
1/3 cup tahini, a.k.a. sesame butter/paste, stirred well before measuring

Place ingredients in the order listed above into food processor or blender. Last, add drained cooked chickpeas or 2 15 oz. canned low-salt chickpeas. If you prefer your hummous with a little texture, reserve a 1/4 cup of chickpeas. Puree the mix until smooth. If using a blender and the mixture is too thick, taste a little and see if it needs more lemon juice or water, and add accordingly. If you’ve reserved some chickpeas, add them in and pulse briefly to break them up a bit. Taste again and correct for salt, lemon juice or olive oil. Set aside for at least an hour if using as a dip.

For the Fish:
2 6 oz. filets of monchong, cleaned and patted dry
sea salt
ground black pepper

To coat fish, season fish fillet with sea salt and ground black pepper. Layer a generous amount of hummous to one side of the fish. Measure the thickness of the fillets at the thickest point. Set aside for at least 30 minutes while oven and pan pre-heat.

Pre-heat oven and oven-proof skillet or baking dish to 450F/230C.

Add 2 TBL. olive oil to heated skillet or baking dish, and place fillets, hummous-side up, on the skillet or dish. Place in pre-heated oven and bake for 10 minutes for every 1” of fish. If top crust has not sufficiently browned by the time fish is cooked, set oven to broil for a minute to brown the hummous crust. Garnish with a pinch of paprika or chili (red pepper) powder, if desired. Serve with your choice of starch and vegetable.

Download and print a seafood guide for your region

Other “Good” or “Best” Fish Choices for Hawaii (according to the SWF) that have been featured on this site:
Surimi (surprise!):
Crustless Quiche with Asparagus, Cress & Surimi
Linguine with Clams, Pork, Clam & Periwinkle Stew
Alaskan Cod:
Curry-glazed Cod w/ Wasabi-Sesame Soba Salad
Pan-Fried Opakapaka with Warm Spiced Cabbage Salad
Grilled Ehu in Banana Leaf
Kajiki with Pomegranate-Ogo
Wild Alaskan Salmon:
Alaskan Salmon with Pomegranate Sauce
Butterfish/Sablefish/Black Cod:
Miso Butterfish, Kasu-Marinated Butterfish
Dungeness Crab:
Crab Cioppino
Fish Tacos, Mahimahi Patties w/Lemongrass & Lime Leaf

To learn more about other nutrition issues for Hawaii and Asian diets,
If you are what you eat ...


The search for 10

This was hard...

We were tagged by Rowena — she with the
Rubber Slippers on the Italian Peninsula — to post 10 of our favorite photos. OK, technically, they’re supposed to be food photos. This is a meme begun in April by Anna of Anna’s Kitchen Table. Well, photos are not my strong suit, so this was a bit of a challenge. So much so that some of these photos did not appear in blog posts, but rather on static pages around this site. And it’s not all food porn, one involves feathers. There’s even fur (albeit gratuitous). You’ve been warned...

A thing of the past *deep sigh*:
Assorted Ahi & Tako Poke Platter

Fiddleheads, a.k.a. Warabi

What is Char Siu Pork?

Preserving Lemons

Waimea Valley Audubon’s official greeter

Nothing beats simple: Blue Cheese & Pear Salad

Sukiyaki at home

The one & only Soutzou-Moco:
Greek meatballs in sauce with eggs over rice

Walu & Shrimp Hash Lumpia with Papaya Coulis

Green Tea Shortbread

See Rowena’s favorites

And now to spread the love! Here are 3 gourmands with much better lens control than I — can they pick just 10 favorite food (or not) photos on their sites?
Helen @ Food Stories
Marvin @ Burnt Lumpia (when he returns)
Dhivya @ DK’s Culinary Bazaar

And now for some wholly uncalled-for cat pics... They’ve been getting jealous seeing other felines and canines with their own weekend blogs.
Laika at her salad bar in Lohnsfeld, Kiowea — the dapper new kid on the block, and Haiku with her catnip pillow


Al Fresco: Linguine with Clams

Fresh ingredients, lightly cooked, eaten ooutdoors. Pour the Soave, let’s eat.

(Adapted from
Marcella’s Italian Kitchen by Marcella Hazan)
for 2 people

Warm 2 plates in the toaster oven set to 200F/95C.

12 live Manila clams
Scrub clam shells with brush. Discard any clams that do not close during cleaning.

9 oz. (255g) dried linguine (12 oz./340g, fresh)
Bring water for pasta to boil, while you start the sauce.

3 TBL. extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz (100g) sugar snap peas
sea salt
ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
few sprigs flat-leaf parsley, minced

Put garlic and oil in large skillet or wok — something that will be large enough to hold both the sauce and pasta. Heat pan over medium flame, and saute garlic until it softens and becomes aromatic. Add peas, salt and pepper, stir to coat with oil, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until peas become bright green. Increase heat to high, and quickly add cleaned clams and wine, and immediately cover the pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes with cover closed, shaking pan occasionally.

Add a good handful of coarse salt to boiling water for pasta, and add linguine. Return to boil and cook until barely firm to the bite, maybe 5 minutes for dried, and 2 for fresh. I try to slightly undercook it at this stage, because the pasta will still cook with the sauce.

Check sauce. Turn heat down to medium, and remove peas and any clams that are opened to a warmed plate, and keep covered (this will keep them from over-cooking). Continue to remove clams as they open. When all clams are opened (or after another 4-5 minutes, discard any clams that don’t open), add parsley to sauce. Drain pasta but do not rinse. Add pasta to pan, and stir well to combine with sauce. Return peas and clams to pan, cover, turn off heat and let pan sit for 3-4 minutes while wine is poured and outside table is set.

Divide pasta and clams between two warmed bowls, garnish with more parsley, a grind of pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Carry bowls outside. Mangia!

We actually had this meal 2 weekends ago, and afterwards I was craving a cake, which I rarely do. In fact, the cake I was craving was a polenta torta so the next day I made the version with preserved lemon and almond here. Unlike many lemon desserts, the preserved lemon cake is well-suited to a rich cup of coffee!

(Read more about
choosing safe fish and shellfish for Hawaii, the US, and around the world.)


Acupuncture, Part III: Brewing Teas at Home

For the last in the series about the experience of receiving acupuncture in the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) setting, a brief look at how treatment carries over from the acupuncture clinic to your kitchen and home. You can choose to supplement acupuncture treatments with herbal “teas” — more properly called decoctions, but even the herbalists call them teas so we’ll continue using that term too. Of course, you can also opt to skip acupuncture entirely, and get a consultation for herbal therapies only. It will take longer to resolve any imbalances, but you might decide acupuncture is not for you. As we left the clinic in the second part of the series, the clinic’s herbalist had weighed and mixed batches of herbs for us to boil and drink at home.

A closer inspection at home reveals that the term “herbal” is not really descriptive either, since grains, fruit, bark, and even what appears to be chalk, has been included in some of our mixes. Dr. Wong has explained that it’s not enough to know that certain plants are beneficial for treating imbalances or illness, but also that the different parts of a plant (roots, stems, flower, fruit, leaves, inner or outer bark) are used for different illnesses. Even the time of day or the season for harvesting can affect a plant’s medicinal properties. Further processing — such as drying, fermenting, cooking, and glazing with honey — will alter healing properties even more. Whew! Well, all we have to know is how to boil the mixes and when to drink them.

Many cultures around the world have long traditions of using local herbs and other materials for healing. Perhaps what sets this therapy apart in China is a written record begun over 2000 years ago, and which now includes almost 6000 herbal “prescriptions” for various illnesses. But again, illness is perceived differently in TCM than in Western medicine — TCM focuses on the cause of illness (imbalances in the meridians) more than the manifest symptoms and condition (e.g., gout or migraines).

Boiling the teas requires a stainless steel or other non-reactive (i.e., not aluminum or copper) pot large enough to contain the herbs and at least 5-7 cups of water. You can also choose a ceramic teapot designed for this purpose (photo, left top). After several months of using the asparagus steamer (photo, left, bottom — hey, we believe in tools doing double duty whenever possible!) to boil our teas, we finally looked in to getting the special teapot. (Also, it’s asparagus season now, so we needed that steamer back.)

It was surprisingly affordable — this 8 cup size was less than $10, and there are both smaller and larger sizes, as well as unglazed models. The first thing we did after washing the pot was to test it for lead. A simple swab test kit is available at City Mill, but other hardware stores might carry it too. Be certain to check the unglazed areas (the lid and rim of our pot, for instance), as well as the interior. With my suspicious nature, I even checked it twice. All was copacetic.

To make our teas, we tip the contents of one bag into the pot, add the requisite amount of water and let everything re-hydrate for about 20 minutes. Then bring to a boil (we have to pay attention here because once it comes to a boil, the heat has to be turned right down) and let simmer until the liquid is reduced as noted in your instructions from the herbalist (this can take 60-90 minutes). Once the proper reduction is reached, we pour off the tea through a strainer (to catch any stray grains, seeds or twigs), then return the contents of the strainer to the pot, add more water (amount included in herbalist’s notes) and boil at full boil for 20 minutes again. The second pour is cooled to drink later or the next day.

These teas should be drunk on an empty stomach, and at least warm, if not hot. In TCM, cold liquids in general are frowned upon since it is thought they “cool the stomach’s fire” (i.e., that they make digestion and absorption of nutrients more difficult). This is especially true for my condition which is characterized as caused by damp — I”ve had to cut back on food and drinks that are physically cold (like ice cream and iced teas) or that have cool or cold chi properties (such as water chestnuts or bamboo). But, I admit, they’ve not been eliminated ... I love ice cream. But I digress...

We find the aroma of the teas simmering very pleasant, but that may have to do with the particular mixes we get, too. Not only are T’s mixes very different from mine, but the combinations we get will change with almost every visit, too. The changes in the herbal mix reflect not only the progress we may or may not be making with the acupuncture, but also additional stresses or factors that may have come into play since the last clinic visit, or even changes in weather patterns! As the Islands moved from their wet to dry season, T’s mixture changed at one point because the strong winds to which his condition is susceptible had died down.

How do the teas taste? Like you would expect a medicinal decoction that’s supposed to be good for you to taste — like a medicine. Unfortunately for him, T’s original condition required the addition of bitter tastes to balance his chi, and so at first his teas were really quite hard to swallow (sorry for the pun). (Yes, even tastes — bitter, sweet, salty, sour, and spicy — affect the flow of chi in the meridians.) Our “prescriptions” always come with a handful of chan pui mui (a 5-spice flavored dried plum that is enjoyed as a snack in many parts of Asia as well as here in Hawaii) to counter the bitterness or other unpleasant flavors that may be in the teas. “Hold your nose, drink, then chew on a mui” was his routine for a while.

As his condition has improved, I’ve noticed that his teas now include some kind of honey-dipped root or bark (the dark flat pieces that look like slate in this photo) that go a long way to making the teas more palatable. My condition requires the addition of naturally sweet things, so I’ve been lucky to have some kind of sweetener like the honey bark or dried fruit as part of my teas. (But that doesn’t mean I pass up on the mui afterwards!) *wink*

If the mui is not enough to make the tea palatable, it’s important to discuss options with the herbalist. Sweetening the tea itself is not advised because, as with T’s original condition, the sweetener may acutally work against your health objectives. And because in TCM different sweeteners also have different properties (brown sugar is considered warming, while honey is neutral), it’s best to let your doctor or herbalist recommend alternatives to complement your condition.

So, not your everyday sort of “cuppa.” But it can grow to be a comfortable part of a week’s routine, and definitely merits satisfaction in the knowledge that it is a cup as unique as you are.
Malama pono, Everyone!

And now that we’ve shared our experiences “under the needle” and by the cupful with you, we’d love to hear about your experiences with acupuncture or herbal remedies — Chinese, Ayurvedic, Kampo, or Grandma/Lola/Oma/Nana/Bubbie’s time-tested home-cure for colic! — we’re interested in them all!

See also
Acupuncture, Part I: An Overview
Acupuncture, Part II: The Clinic Visit

Some Web sources we have found helpful in learning about TCM and some of the current studies involving TCM and other alternative therapies include:
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, and
Institute on Traditonal Medicine (which touches on Kampo, Ayurveda, and has an interesting account of how TCM is integrated with modern practice in Italy, too.)


Mahimahi Patties w/Lemongrass & Lime Leaf

We love a good fish patty. This is playing with your food in the best way — you can use fresh, dried or canned fish; potatoes, rice or tofu to bind; and any number of herb and spice combinations to evoke flavors of Asia, the Americas, Africa, Europe, wherever you wish! One of our favorites is a deep-fried fish patty, bright with the tangy flavors of wild lime and lemongrass. In an effort to make them healthier so we could have them more often, I pan-fried them with olive oil instead of deep-frying. Still tasty, but honestly, it wasn’t soul-satisfying the way the deep-fried version is. So, I guess, like so many things, you have to choose your poison ...

This recipe starts with fresh fish (this time we used frozen mahi), but if saltcod were not so expensive here, I would love to try this again with that. The two mostprominent aromatics in this — the wild lime leaves and lemongrass — are available in many groceries now (as well as ethnic markets), and they freeze very well. So buy them when you see them, and freeze until needed. Just wash and dry the leaves, and store in a zippered plastic bag in the freezer. The lemongrass can be washed, and the tough outer leaves removed and trimmed, then zippered and frozen.

The double-lobed wild lime, or makrut, (in top photo) is more widely known by the unfortunate moniker, “kaffir” — which evidently carries quite a bit of historical baggage as a derogatory and offensive term for black Africans, or to denote something as inferior. From
The Oxford Companion to Food, University Press, 1999. page 424:

“Kaffir: an epithet which has been used, especially in southern Africa, of certain plant foods, for which it is now preferable to use names less likely to cause offense... In southern Africa the term came to mean what would now be called ‘black African’, sometimes applying to a particular group and sometimes in a general sense. In most contexts it now has a pejorative sense, to such an extent that its use can be actionable in S. Africa ... Since the fruit in question is of some importance in a number of SE Asian cuisines, it is in books about them that one is most apt to find references to it ... it would be a reasonable assumption that the term has its origin in southern Africa and may have reached Malaysia and Indonesia from there through the Cape Malays, and then travelled westwards to Thailand.”

The description of the the lime itself is listed in the OCF under “Makrut Lime.” We use the term “wild lime,” borrowed from
Alford & Duguid’s Hot Sour Salty Sweet.

Whenever we want to have these or any type of fish patty, I’ve always had to plan to have mashed potatoes around, which can be a hindrance if you don’t want to take the extra step of mashing potatoes just for this. On a whim once, I substituted cold cooked rice for the potatoes and the results were really good. I prefer the potatoes because I like the creamy texture they provide, but T prefers the rice texture, which was firmer. These are a bite-size version that make a great buffet dish or appetizer. You can shape them larger, for an entree- or bun-sized patty; but for a “burger” size, I would add 2-3 teaspoons of the sweet chili sauce (used as a dip here) into the mix before shaping and cooking.

Makes 24-30 appetizer patties

1 lb. (455g) mahi fillets, or any firm white fish, bones and pins removed
small handful (about 4 oz/110g) of snow peas, de-veined and julienned
1/2 small carrot, peeled and finely grated (optional)
1 stalk lemongrass, peeled and minced
1 wild lime leaf (2 lobes), de-veined and minced
1 bird’s eye chili (donne or boonie pepper), seeded and minced
1/4-1/2 tsp. raw sugar (will depend if fish sauce used already contains sugar, check label)

Roughly chop 3/4 of fish, and place in small food processor bowl. Chop remaining 1/4 of fish into pieces no larger than 1/2 inch. Add half of snow peas and carrots, and all of lemongrass, lime leaf and chili to processor, and very briefly pulse to combine. Remove contents of processor to mixing bowl, and add remaining finely chopped fish and vegetables.

1-2 TBL. fish sauce (will depend on brand and country of origin, Vietnamese brands are saltier and more pungent than Thai, Filipino or other brands)
few sprigs of cilantro, finely minced (about 1 TBL)
1 cup (210g) mashed potatoes, or cooled cooked rice
1 large egg, beaten

Add fish sauce and cilantro to mixed fish, and knead well to combine flavors. Add mashed potato and egg, and knead through again. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat skillet over medium-high heat. Pre-heat toaster oven to 300F.

Shape mixture into 2” oval patties. Add 2-3 TBL. olive oil to coat pan well, and fry patties about 3-4 minutes on each side. Keep warm in toaster oven until all patties are cooked.

You can also deep-fry these patties, but dust them with corn or potato starch before frying.

Serve with fresh lime and sweet chili sauce (available commercially, or try this
version from Recipezaar). With potatoes in the mixture, these do not freeze well since the potatoes develop a mealy texture when thawed. Haven’t tried freezing the version with rice yet...


Going Naked: Crustless Quiche w/Asparagus, Cress & Surimi

A summer brunch dish that tastes naughty, but is nicer to your figure and heart than its pastry-enrobed sibling. Quiche by its nature is not a dieter’s friend — flaky pastry, butter, heavy cream, eggs, and cheese can wreak havoc on the waist and the cholesterol count. But here’s the thing: we like eggs, we like cream, and we lo-o-ve cheese, but don’t like the “fat-free” versions of anything. I even begrudge low-fat versions.

But there are choices we can make that allow us to indulge in a Sunday treat like this without resorting to fat-free products — eliminating the crust, using egg whites in place of some of the whole eggs in the recipe, using light cream and yogurt instead of heavy cream, and using half the amount of cheese and twice the amount of vegetables. I’m not a dietician, and I don’t know if we can call this “healthy” but it’s at least healthi

For this quiche we used surimi, more widely known, unfortunately, as “fake crab.” I guess I had surimi on the brain because I just received a monthly update from a well-known cooking magazine, wherein surimi was roundly rejected as a poor substitute for crabmeat. Of course. It’s not crabmeat, it’s fishcake. One reason I dislike the term “fake crab” is that the term implies that surimi can be used interchangeably with real crabmeat, and of course, it can’t. The magazine article reviewed surimi as a substitute for crab in making crabcakes! Are you kidding me, crabcakes?! Honestly, reading this gave me a headache. There was no mention of a proper use of surimi, or it’s use for hundreds of years in China, Japan, Korea and all over Asia. Nothing. Just, “don’t use it to make crabcakes.” Okay, thanks. Noted. Once I stopped hyperventilating and huffing around the kitchen, I refelcted on the poor examples of surimi being used as if it actually were a substitue for crab — you know them, too, the pasta salads, omelets, sandwiches, and sushi touted as “crab,” without the the quotation marks.

So what, exactly, is surimi? It’s the name for both the raw fish paste that is used to make a variety of different fishcakes, and the red-and-white stick fishcake with that unhelpful “fake crab (or lobster)” label. Surimi paste is seasoned and shaped according to different cultural preferences across Asia. In Japan, products made from surimi are called Kamaboko (kah-mah-BO-ko), and the variety of shapes, colors, additional ingredients are many — tubes, sticks, half moons, patties; stuffed, hollow, plain, with vegetables; brown, white, neon pink or green. The other day we tried a wonderful kamaboko from Japan with actual pieces of snow crabmeat in it; it was the perfect complement to the homemade broth, fresh noodles and vegetables in our ramen lunch. The stick surimi used in this quiche has a distinctive bundled-threadlike appearance. It pulls apart easily in long strips the way string cheese does (photo above). I remember having to do this as a kid to help my mom prepare omelets or somen salads. Whenever I use the stick surimi, I still immediately shred it like this. Habit, I guess.

Whether you chunk it or shred it, I hope you give surimi a chance, and use it for what it is — a tasty fishcake that can lighten and liven up your meals in its own right. Hawaii is lucky to have several kamaboko manufacturers, and we know of one local purveyor of Taiwanese-style fishballs that (they advertise) is made fresh daily from kajiki (aka blue marlin; most commercial fishcake in the U.S. is made of pollock or whiting) (see
Chinatown Buys). But save those goodies for the stews, soups and fried noodles, for this recipe you’ll need the shredding kind.

The key to making a creamy quiche is “low and slow” — it’s basically a savory custard, so treat it with the same gentleness of whisk and heat with which you pamper a flan, bread pudding, or creme anglaise.
(Serves 2)

Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.

For the custard:
handful of garlic chives (about 20g), chopped fine
1 TBL. unsalted butter

Saute the chives in butter over medium heat until they just become fragrant. Keep aside.

6 large eggs (3 whole and 3 egg whites only)
1/2 cup (120ml) light cream or half-and-half
3 TBL. plain yogurt
2 TBL. mirin (seasoned rice wine for cooking), or dry sherry
1/2 tsp. dried chervil
sea salt
white pepper
one pass of nutmeg on a grater (over custard)

Whisk together the egg whites and whole eggs until thoroughly blended. Add cream,
yogurt and mirin, and whisk again, being careful not to incorporate too much air. Add sauteed chives, chervil and seasonings, to taste. Grate nutmeg over custard. Stir to incorporate.

For the filling:
12 stalks of cooked asparagus, preferably grilled, cut into 1” pieces (can keep a few whole to decorate the top)
(I used steamed asparagus, and even after a gentle squeeze and paper toweling, they still gave off liquid as the quiche cooked and left the filling looking like soft-cooked eggs even though the egg is cooked through)
1/2 cup flash-cooked watercress, squeezed dry and chopped
4 sticks of surimi, pat dry and pulled into shreds
1/2 cup (55g) grated mozzarella

Fill a 4-cup/1L baking dish with the vegetables and surimi, distributing them evenly in the dish. Add cheese. Slowly pour custard over fillings, lifting ingredients at the bottom slightly to make certain the custard gets all the way down to the bottom and covers the vegetables. Gently tap dish on counter to release bubbles and settle the custard.

REDUCE HEAT to 325F/160C. Place baking pan in oven and cook for 40-45 minutes, or until top is pale golden and a knife inserted in the middle comes out moist, but with no film of egg on it. Remove quiche from oven, cover and allow to set for at least 20 minutes in the pan before slicing. Custard will continue to cook as it sets.

Note: Cooking time is for a 4-cup/1L baking dish. If using a larger baking vessel (where the custard spreads out more), check the quiche after 30 minutes. If it still needs time, cover lightly with foil and keep checking at 5 minute intervals. If using a smaller baking dish (filling is more than 3” deep), keep temperature at 325F/160C, lightly cover top of quiche with foil after 30 minutes, and cook for a total of 50 minutes to 1 hour. Test with knife, as above.


The appeal for Briana

We are supporting bee and Jai’s mission on behalf of their dear friend. Please read their appeal here. You can click on the badge at the bottom to make your donation, or visit their site at Jugalbandi. The same badge will be on our homepage for the duration of this fund drive. Thank you for taking the time to read this and respond.

This is an appeal on behalf of a group of food bloggers who are friends of Briana Brownlow @ Figs With Bri.

Bri was diagnosed with breast cancer two and half years ago. A mastectomy, chemotherapy and two years of relatively good health later, the cancer is back. It has metastasized to other parts of her body. At the age of 15, Bri lost her 41-year old mother to the disease. Now, she’s waging her own war against breast cancer. More about it here.

She is going through intensive chemo and other treatments and needs to focus single-mindedly on healing and finding what treatment works best for her. Her health insurance, unfortunately, does not cover holistic alternatives which she would like to try. Bri and her husband Marc have enough on their plates right now in addition to worrying about her medical bills.

The team organising the JUNE edition of CLICK at Jugalbandi has organised a fundraiser to help Bri and her family meet her out-of-pocket medical costs for ONE YEAR.

CLICK is a monthly theme-based photography contest hosted by Jugalbandi. This month’s theme is: YELLOW for Bri

Yellow is the colour of hope. Through the work of the LiveStrong Foundation, it has also come to signify the fight against cancer.

The entries can be viewed HERE. The deadline for entries is June 30, 2008. The fundraiser will extend until July 15, 2008.

The target amount is 12,000 U.S. dollars. We appeal to our fellow bloggers and readers to help us achieve this. Bri deserves a chance to explore all options, even if her insurance company thinks otherwise.

There’s a raffle with exciting prizes on offer. After viewing the list, you may make your donation HERE or at the Chip-In button on any participating site.

Your donation can be made securely through credit card or Pay Pal and goes directly to Bri’s account.

This month’s photo contest also has some prizes. Details HERE.

You can support this campaign by donating to the fundraiser, by participating in CLICK: the photo event, and by publicising this campaign.


Preserved Lemon & Almond Polenta Torta

They’re ready, at last. The lemons have transformed and are ready to play with. But how? We’ve seen them in a savory dish, Chicken with Preserved Lemons & Olives, but how do they fare in sweets?

I went on a search for a lemon almond polenta torta many years ago after reading about a production of the play, “Dinner with Friends,” in which this cake plays a starring role. The play (now also a movie) is about a food-writing couple, just returned from vacationing in Italy, who want to re-create some of the wonderful meals they enjoyed during their travels with their two closest friends, another couple. During the dessert course, trouble ensues. Anyway, the director in the review I was reading raves about the authentic lemon almond polenta cake he baked for his cast, but doesn’t actually offer a recipe, and so I searched.

I came across this dense Italian version in the Boston Globe, featured in a story that was actually about olive oil, and using olive oil in place of butter in baking sweets. It was a novel concept to me at the time, but one I’ve since adopted for much of our cake baking. But this was the recipe that started it all. It was intriguing in so many ways, it contained no flour, no butter, and used an entire lemon — pith, pulp and peel! The final result is bright, lemony, dense and decadent cake. The Globe article quotes American-born pastry chef, Faith Willinger saying, “People use olive oil because it is healthier [than the alternatives], and it lets the genuine flavors stand up for what they are. Butter coats the whole palate and makes everything sweeter. Olive oil complements, rather than hides, flavor." Chef Willinger has taught cooking classes and writes about food for over 25 years from her home base in Florence.

To celebrate the end of our five weeks of patience, it seemed appropriate to use these precious lemons for a cake. By the way, last week I found preserved lemons in a local supermarket: it was over $10 a bottle for 2 small lemons! It’s so easy to make at home, I hope more people try this themselves. (Learn how)

Since the lemons are preserved in salt, I simply elminated the salt in the original recipe. I also used some of the olive oil that was sealing the lemon brine to make up part of the olive oil used in the recipe (and topped off the lemon jar with additional oil), but that’s optional. I did use the almond extract this time, as I had done with the original raw lemon version, but I would not use it again if using preservd lemons. With the raw lemon, the extract blended well with the bright citrus in the lemon; but the preserved lemon gave the cake a rounder lemon flavor, still intense but without the acidity, and the extract is noticeably distinct and remains apart from the lemon. The biggest difference for me is this: I can enjoy the preserved lemon version with coffee, something I couldn’t do with the original. Again, it’s the acidity. I have to admit that I don’t like the combination of coffee and citrus — the citrus changes the taste of my lovely coffee (black, no sugar so other flavors really affect it). However, with the volatile oils softened after 5 weeks in brine, I can enjoy the lemon flavor in the cake and still savor my coffee. The two versions are different enough that I would consider serving them at different times, different occasions — the original for a Sunday brunch, served with iced or hot tea, and maybe a shot of Limoncello, or even a lemonade; the preserved version after dinner, with coffee and later a digestif.

That’s what food always comes back to, isn’t it — creating your best for family and friends. And with that thought, this cake goes with our love and prayers to Briana Brownlow at Figs with Bri, via Jugalbandi’s special CLICK event for June — a yellow culinary theme that doubles as a fundraiser to help Bri meet her costs for medical treatments. Normally Bri creates with and writes about organic foods on her site, but understandably is focusing her considerable energy on this second bout with breast cancer that has mestatasized into her lungs and lymph nodes. Jugalbandi’s bee and Jai have organized an account payable directly to Bri to allow her to explore medical options that her insurance company refuses to cover. They are asking for $25 donations from 500 people to help Bri cover these costs. If you would like to help, and to learn more about Bri’s fight, visit Jugalbandi or Figs with Bri.

Take care, dear Bri, and God Bless!

(adapted from the Boston Globe, Oct. 15, 2003)
4-6 pieces of preserved lemon, enough to equal one whole lemon
1/2 cup (85g) cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1-1/4 cups (250g) blanched almonds
1 + 1/4 (190g + 48g) cups raw sugar (coarse granulated or demerara)
1/2 cup (120ml) fruity olive oil (optional: use some from the top of the preserved lemons)
1/2 cup (120ml) evaporated milk
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
Confectioners' sugar, for garnish
Drained full-fat yogurt, for garnish

Pre-heat oven tp 350F/180C.

Oil a 9-inch round cake pan, line with wax or parchment paper cut to fit, and oil the paper.

In a bowl mix together the cornmeal and baking powder.

In a food processor, pulse the almonds with 1 cup of sugar to make a slightly coarse mixture.

Cut each preserved lemon piece in half, and remove any remaining seeds. Add to the ground almond mixture. Pulse again until the mixture forms a heavy puree. Taste for sweetness and add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, if necessary. Add the oil, milk, eggs, and (if using) almond extract. Process for 1 to 2 minutes or until just combined. Add the cornmeal mixture and pulse just briefly to combine.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until golden brown and slightly moist in the center.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Run a knife around the cake, invert it onto a cake plate, then invert back onto another plate so the baked side is on top. Dust with confectioners' sugar. Serve with drained yogurt and fresh fruit, if desired. The original is served with ricotta cream, see Boston Globe article for recipe.

For a lighter version of lemon almond polenta cake, see Nic’s beautiful creation at Cherrapeno.

Other recipes with preserved lemons: Chicken with Preserved Lemons & Olives, Fig-Stuffed Roast Lamb with Mushroom & Port Gravy, and Lamb Shanks with Preserved Lemons and Gremolata


Green Tea Shortbread

We do love green tea. Hot or iced, in cakes, ice cream, custard, cookies — it’s all good. We drink almost all teas — green or black — without sugar; more by habit than for health. With sweets, though, we both agree that the best part of the earthy, herbaceous flavor of green tea is that hint of bitterness that comes through just before the sweet awakens the taste buds. Lovely.

With the advent of medical studies touting the anti-oxidant benefits of green tea, it’s been wonderful to see the spread of green tea consumption and green tea flavored goodies on menus and supermarket shelves. I see that a wave of Matcha Cookies hit the blogosphere last year and went right around the world! I first came across an entry for a green tea flavored cookie in
Obachan’s Kitchen, one which she had made a few years earlier, but had noted that she was not satisfied with the recipe. I went back to the standard shortbread recipe we usually use (confession: I last made these in 2001) and decided to substitute part of the flour with ground green tea powder and see what happened. Besides, I got to use one of my favorite kitchen gadgets, too.

For this recipe I did not use matcha, I used ground green tea leaves. Matcha is a specific grade of green tea that has been ground to powder for use in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, and is prized for its astringent quality. I used home-grade green tea leaves and ground them at home in a ceramic grater. A local Japanese department store (Shirokiya) sells this grater for home tea brewing, especially for cold brewing. I received one as a present a couple of years ago, and I love it. It’s nice to be able to add green tea powder as a condiment and flavoring agent to many different foods, like these cookies. Otherwise, you can purchase “matcha powder for cooking” (which I suspect is the same grade of green tea we used here), and actual matcha in gourmet shops, tea shops and on-line.

In adapting our shortbread recipe, I heeded Obachan’s note that more than 2 teaspoons of matcha per 100g of flour would be too bitter, and so only used 2 teaspoons in this batch. The resulting shortbread had the wonderful color and pleasing flavor of green tea, but was a tad too sweet for my taste, even without the extra sugar topping. One of the reasons I make shortbread so rarely is that you really can’t cut down on the ratio of sugar to butter without sacrificing shortbread’s melt-in-your-mouth quality; whereas with other cookies, I often cut down the amount of sugar in the recipe by 1/4 to 1/3. I think most people would find the balance between green tea and sugar in the recipe below just right, especially if served with a pot of
ocha (Japanese green tea). Since I’m using green tea powder instead of real matcha, next time I would risk replacing another teaspoon of flour with green tea. It’s not something I would advise other bakers to do unless they are looking for a bitter edge in their shortbread.

Makes about 24 cookies
**1/2 cup (or U.S. 1 stick) (110g) unsalted butter (no substitutes)
4-1/2 TBL. (55g) fine granulated sugar (aka caster, not powdered)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 cup (100g) all purpose flour
2 tsp. green tea powder
1/3 cup (55g) mochiko (glutinous rice four) or semolina

extra sugar for crunchy topping (optional)

**Update (01/06/09): With thanks to Nat for pointing out that the butter equivalencies originally were not correct -- the metric was correct, but the U.S. equivalent was off by half. My apologies to anyone who followed the U.S. measure and whose shortbread was too dry.

Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat together on low until the sugar is just incorporated (will still feel grainy).
Combine flour, green tea powder, salt and mochiko together. Add to butter mixture and stir well by hand to make a smooth paste, do not overwork the dough or your shortbread will come out like a brick.

Either roll into a log 1.5 inches in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap and chill (to make button cookies, as shown here); or flatten into a disc between two sheets of plastic wrap to a thickness of 1/2 inch and chill (to cut our shapes). Chill for 20 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 325F/170C.

To make buttons, slice log into 1/2-inch pieces.

Or use your favorite small cookie cutter to stamp out shapes. Gently re-roll, flatten and chill before stamping out more.

(Optional garnish) Place 2-3 TBL. of sugar on a small plate. Gently press one side of the cookie in sugar, and lay sugar side up on an ungreased baking sheet.

If cookies start to look shiny, place sheet in fridge for 5 minutes before baking. Bake in pre-heated oven for 10-12 minutes. To check for doneness, look for opaqueness and a sandy quality in the cookies (see photo, right, for raw and cooked cookie comparison), and you will smell butter and green tea. They will still feel a little soft when hot, but will harden a bit on cooling. Do not over-bake or they will transform into miniature papaerweights. Because of the high ratio of sugar to butterfat, these cookies will keep their tender crumb.

Cool completely on wire rack. Store in air-tight container at room temperature for up to one week.

More Cookies and Other Homemade Gift Ideas:
Nut Horns, Cocoa Cherry Biscotti, Sweet & Spicy Nuts


Taro Crepe w/Fried Saba Bananas & Tsubushi-An

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.

(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
unsalted butter

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.

To Assemble:
1 cup of prepared tsubushi an (
recipe minus pandan essence on Recipezaar) or store-bought
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.


Sariwa! (Filipino Fresh Lumpia)

I stand corrected!
Thank you to reader Ezra Antonio for his comments regarding the correct spelling of this dish (see his comments below). I've edited this to reflect this spelling with an "R" instead of how our family mispronounces it with an "L" — some of us are still working on the "P" and "F" thing, too! I love it when there's a dialogue about something you see around here — thanks to everyone who de-lurks! ; )

No doubt many readers are familiar with the Chinese eggroll, the Vietnamese fried springroll, or (if you're really lucky) the Filipino lumpia. They are all deep-fried packets of vegetables and/or meat beloved the world over as tasty, easy-to-eat parcels of exotica. Fewer readers may also be familiar with the Vietnamese fresh springroll — a noodle, herb and cooked shrimp filling wrapped in translucent rice paper. Definitely saves on calories (no frying) with no sacrifice of flavor. Now raise your hand if you're also familiar with the Filipino fresh lumpia called Lumpia Sariwa, or Saliwa. Anyone? Anyone??

I think it's a tragedy that this wonderful Filipino dish is not better known, so let's change that. Sariwa is full of healthy ingredients, fun to assemble, and oh-so-onolicious. The vegetable and meat filling is spooned into lettuce and a lumpia wrapper, rolled, and eaten with a sweet vinegar sauce and fresh garlic. How can it get better than that? And each diner assembles her own wrap at the table, so everyone can adjust the garlic and sauce to their taste. Have you ever had mu shu pork/vegetables, or fajitas — it's just like that.

Perhaps the single defining feature of sariwa is the raw garlic garnish. Finely minced raw garlic is added to each mouthful, along with a spoonful of vinegar sauce. It packs a powerful punch, but pulls together the flavorful filling and the bland wrapper and lettuce beautifully. If you prefer to assemble the rolls ahead of time for your family or guests, wrap the assembled rolls in plastic wrap, individually or in 2s and 3s, to keep the delicate flour wrappers from drying out and splitting.

Maybe the trickiest part of making sariwa at home is finding the lumpia wrappers if you don't have a grocer that stocks Filipino products. While you can substitute other types of eggroll/springroll wrappers when deep-frying, the thicker yellowish square wrappers labelled for Chinese eggrolls won't work in this recipe because I don't think you can eat those wrappers raw. The ultra-thin crepe-like wrappers necessary for sariwa are made with flour, water and salt only. There is a locally (Hawaii) made brand, and a couple imported from the P.I. All brands are available frozen (Don Quijote on Oahu carries a couple of types; but the Philippine grocery, Pacific Supermarket in Waipahu, has the most variety). Remove the frozen wrappers from the plastic, and wrap in a barely damp clean kitchen towel to thaw about 30 minutes. Before placing at the table, carefully separate the wrappers (they're fragile and will stick together a bit) before stacking again in a damp towel to keep them from drying out.

Sariwa is usually part of a larger meal, but we often will have just this and a bowl of rice as a full meal. It's perfect hot weather food, and a nice change of pace from a main-course salad.
The title of this post is a tribute to my dear husband who always speaks in exclamation points whenever he mentions this dish...

Serves 4 as a main course
For the Sauce:
3/4 cup (180ml) apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup (120ml) water
1/2 cup (100g) brown sugar or 2/3 cup (130g) raw sugar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3 tsp. (10g) cornstarch, dissolved in 3 TBL. water to make a runny paste

Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt in small saucepan. Stir vigorously to dissolve salt and sugar. Bring to boil over high heat, then immediately reduce to simmer. While stirring constantly or whisking, pour in cornstarch slurry and combine. Cook over low heat, stirring, until starch is cooked through, about 8-10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and loses all opaqueness. Pour into small serving bowls (one for each diner) and allow to cool.

For the Filling:
1/4 lb. (110g) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 whole chicken breast or 3 chicken thighs, deboned and skinned
1/4 lb. pork shoulder
1 onion, finely diced
4-6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. fish sauce (patis)

Cut shrimp and meats into thin slivers, no more than 1" long. Heat oil in wok over medium heat, then add onions, cover and allow to cook until onions are translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Increase heat to medium-high and add chicken and pork. Season with pepper and patis, and cook for 5 minutes. Add shrimp, stir through, and lower heat back down to medium, and cook for another minute. Immediately pour out all contents of the pan, including any liquids, into a bowl and keep aside. Do not wash wok and return to stove.

1 small head of cabbage, green or Napa (about 1.5 lb/600g), shredded
1 large or 2 medium carrots, julienned in 2" pieces or shredded
1/4 lb. green beans, cleaned and julienned or sliced on a sharp diagonal
1 medium potato, peeled and julienned in 2" pieces
1 small can of water chestnuts, julienned (optional)
1/2 cup of julienned bamboo shoots
3 pieces of Chinese black fungus (mok yee), rehydrated and sliced thin (optional)
ground black pepper
2-3 tsp. patis
1/4 cup chicken broth or water

In same pan that the meats were cooked, heat 2 TBL. oil over medium high heat, and add all the vegetables. Stir through, add pan juices from cooked meats and chicken broth or water. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Add pepper and patis, and stir through again. Continue cooking until all vegetables are just cooked through, then raise heat to medium-high and add back the cooked meats. Stir well to combine all ingredients, and cook uncovered for another 10 minutes to evaporate most of the liquid in the pan. Taste and correct seasoning.
Remove filling from pan, leaving behind as much remaining liquid as possible. Allow to cool completely before serving.

To Assemble:
1 packet of lumpia wrappers, thawed and separated, and kept under a damp kitchen towel
2 heads of Romaine lettuce, or 3-4 heads of leaf lettuce, washed, dried and separated into leaves
1-2 heads of garlic, peeled and finely minced in a serving bowl

Lay one wrapper on a plate and a Romaine or other leaf lettuce on top of the wrapper, with one end of the leaf just over the left or right edge of the wrapper (so it will peek out the top when it's rolled). Put 2 tablespoons of filling down the center of the leaf, fold the leaf around filling. Holding the leaf in place, fold the long end of the wrapper (nearest you) around the leaf & filling. Now bring the bottom of the wrapper over the leaf to close up tha end. Start rolling away from you until you reach the end of the plate. Use plain water to wet the edge of the wrapper to seal.

To eat, just pick it up burrito-style, garnish with garlic and sauce, and enjoy! ("
Pass the mints, please")


Indian Spiced Cauliflower, Daikon & Carrot Pickle

While we're waiting on the Preserved Lemons to finish curing, here's a pickle that is addictive to eat as it is easy to make. This carrot, radish and cauliflower pickle is tangy sweet with a mild bite of mustard from the mustard oil and brown mustard seeds in the brine. Similar to a chow-chow or mustard piccallili, or even an Italian giardinera, this flavorful veggie combo can serve as a side dish accent to a main meal or as a condiment or ingredient in other dishes. We crave it with almost every Indian meal, but also serve with grilled or roasted meats, and chop it up and stir into tuna, pasta and grain salads. For pasta, rice or grain salads, I've also used the unctuous spicy brine as a shortcut to making a dressing for the salad. In the photo below, chopped vegetable pickles and the brine were added to sweet potatoes, peas, pineapple and couscous to make a filling for stuffed artichokes. This is a pantry staple for us now, too — it's versatility seems to know no bounds!

Flavors of India by Madhur Jaffrey)
1 cup (240ml) mustard oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 small coin of ginger, peeled and julienned
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 medium cauliflower, washed and divided into florets
1 small daikon (1 lb/450g), peeled and cut into 1-in/2.5cm cubes
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-in/2.5cm cubes
2 tsp. garam masala
1-2 TBL cayenne pepper powder
4 tsp. ground cumin
2 TBL. brown mustard seeds, gently crushed
1 TBL. kosher or sea salt
2/3 cup (130g) raw sugar
1/2 cup (120ml) white vinegar

Heat mustard oil in wok or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions, reduce heat to medium and cook until onions lightly brown. Add ginger and garlic, and stir fry 1 minute.
Add cauliflower, daikon and carrots and fry together 1 minute. Add garam masala, pepper, cumin, mustard seeds and salt, and stir through. Mix sugar into vinegar, then add to pan. Stir through and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat, and allow to cool.

Sterilize a large quart jar, and transfer pickle to jar. Cover with cheesecloth or paper towel secured with a rubber band to allow excess moisture to evaporate.. Keep jar in a dry, sunny spot for 2 days. Occasionally shake the jars to distribute spices. On the third day, remove the cheesecloth and seal with a tight-fitting lid. Leave on countertop in a warm, sunny spot for another 4-7 days. Once pickle has soured a little, it is ready and can be kept in the refrigerator after use.

Serve as part of an Indian meal, or with roasted or grilled chicken. Add to couscous, rice or other grains, along with vegetables of your choice to make a quick salad or stuffing for cooked and de-choked artichokes.


Acupuncture, Part II: The Clinic Visit

After receiving quite a few comments and emails about the difficulty some readers have with the pictures with needles, a needle-free version with the disturbing photos removed is provided here. The text and links are all the same, you will just be spared the sight of any needles!

Although non-TCM physicians and licensed clinicians also offer acupuncture, I can only speak to the experience of receiving acupuncture in the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) setting.

Our experience began with T seeking relief for recurring knee pain, the result of abuse on the racquetball court and from jogging. Not having yet read Dr. Kidson’s book with her helpful advice on finding an acupuncturist (see the
Overview), our major criteria at the time were that the practitioner was licensed, spoke English and could provide a receipt we could submit for reimbursements. Not very enlightened, I know, but we lucked out anyway.

When you first enter Dr. Clara Wong’s (D.Ac.) well-lit and air-cooled clinic on Smith Street, you are met with the familiar sight of the Chinese herbal pharmacy — a massive dark cabinet with its dozens of labelled herb- and spice-filled square drawers for the herbologists, and shelves of boxed patent medicines for over-the-counter sales. Colorful diagrams outlining acupuncture meridian points cover the passage from the front waiting area to the treatment rooms.

Dr. Wong is trained in both Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with a specialty in acupuncture, but her practice in Hawaii is limited to acupuncture and Oriental medicine, including herbology. Each visit begins with a meeting with the doctor in her small office. The most important part of the entire visit actually takes place here, not the treatment rooms. As was mentioned in the earlier post, diagnosis in TCM has many facets: listening to the patient; gauging appearance, smell, and demeanor; examining the tongue; and taking the pulses. Yes, pulses, plural! In TCM, the physician listens for six distinct pulses in the same radial artery with which a Western-trained nurse will count your pulse. But even before the doctor gestures for you to place your wrist on her desk to check your pulses, she has probably already noted many things about the color and condition of your skin, hair, eyes and face, and your demeanor that has escaped most people’s attention, including yours!

Questioning usually begins on a general level, how do you feel? Is there anything bothering you today? Follow-up questions have often surprised us both by how pointed and specific they can be, and how they often touch on areas we haven’t mentioned at all. If this is your first visit, it is appropriate to ask how long the full course of treatment is expected to take (for me, it is about 4-6 months with twice-monthly visits; for T, as long as 9 months). Prognoses will also be affected by how often you can come in for treatment, and how well you follow up your clinic visit with appropriate steps at home. The interview will often end with the doctor asking you to stick out your tongue — the color (pale, pink, gray, red, etc.), condition (dry, flaccid, wet, etc.), and coating (its thickness, color, spread) are important diagnostic indicators to her trained eye. Usually this last step serves to confirm a diagnosis the doctor has already reached.

Before you proceed to the treatment room, you may be advised about steps you should take at home to assist your recovery, and asked whether you are willing to make and take medicinal herbs to supplement your treatment. This will require you to boil a jumble of assorted roots, twigs, seeds and leaves according to very specific guidelines. Then you have to strain and drink it. More on this in the next post,
Brewing Teas at Home.

Each of the three treatment rooms has a massage table and curtain for privacy. You don’t have to disrobe as long as you can expose the limb or body part that will require treatment (we usually just wear loose-fitting shirts and pants). Using disposable, stainless steel needles, Dr. Wong quickly and painlessly inserts each implement in place. I hate needles, and I can't watch the doctor perform this procedure (I usually have my eyes closed, and take deep breaths).

What you might feel is a small sting, akin to an insect bite, as the needle is inserted, then maybe a tingle. Tingling sensations are good, but sometimes a kind of ache settles in at the insertion point instead — this will usually require manual stimulation of the needle or re-insertion at a different angle. If you’re not familiar with meridians, it may be surprising to find needles at far distances from the organ or body part that you thought was being treated. In my case, for the stomach and digestive tract, I have needles in my arms and legs!

After the doctor has inserted all the needles necessary for your treatment, one of her aides will connect small electrodes to each needle. This was the biggest surprise for T on his first visit because the first acupuncturist he had visited (a year earlier) had used only manual stimulation of the needles. I asked Dr. Wong about the voltage and she explained that the small electrical current provides consistent stimulation at the meridian points for the set time, which is more comfortable for the patient. (I have to admit that I usually fall asleep during the 40-minute treatments.)

Each area of the body will have a separate meter that controls the intensity of the current. The aide will ask you to let her know when you begin to feel the current, then will slowly increase the flow until it is comfortable but still tingly. Feedback between patient and aide is very important here — tingling sensations are good, aches or sharp pain mean adjustments are necessary. I often have needles in my hands and on or near my feet (my needle placements are usually symmetrical but not always), and often a hand or foot on one side but not the other (it’s always my right side), will twitch or “jump” (see photos below). Dr. Wong identified these as areas with blockage of Chi — the twitching is caused by the current pushing its way through the blockage (imagine water accumulating behind a blockage and a small amount finally pushing its way through; it comes out in a forceful gush on the other side). For me, it’s a source of amazement how the theoretical meridians become concrete when you can see a physical manifestation of your condition jumping so vividly!

Once you’re comfortably stimulated, lights are lowered and a heat lamp is turned on if you feel a chill, then you are left in quiet peace for 30-40 minutes. At some point you may be roused and asked whether you are still comfortable ("I was asleep!") and whether you still feel a tingle in each area. If tingling has subsided, the current may be increased.

At the end of the session, the meters are turned off and disconnected by an aide, but the doctor will return to remove and dispose of each needle herself. If she hasn’t already discussed how to follow up treatments at home, Dr. Wong will often take this time to advise on appropriate home care. In addition to taking herbal brews, this may include foods to limit or increase in your diet, and appropriate types of exercise. The difference between these recommendations and those in Western practices is that they, like the diagnoses, are discussed in terms of Chi. For instance, a person with a strong Fire element and an excess of Yang may be told to limit red meat, and spicy foods and herbs, and to swim in the ocean (Water) or take walks in the woods (Earth) to calm the strong Fire.

Both T and I usually feel very relaxed after a session, and "lightened" as if a heaviness has been lifted from somewhere. I sometimes feel an ache in my right arm at the site of one of the needle insertions. The ache will come and go depending on how active that arm is (am I using it for writing, typing, or stirring pots), and whether it is exposed to a draft or cold; it tends to dissipate after tai chi exercises, Reiki, and drinking my prescription "tea." According to the doctor, these are long-standing blockages in the affected meridian and active meditative practices such as tai chi or Qi Gong do help to clear these blocks.

As you return to the front room, if you’ve agreed to take an herbal “tea” you will find small paper bags which an herbologist has carefully weighed and assembled containing the assortment the doctor has prescribed for you. Each bag will brew 1-3 doses, and each prescription will have specific instructions on how to boil the mixture. If this is your first visit, take a moment to read the directions and ask the herbologist any questions you may have.

Now you’re ready to continue your journey to better health at home. See you by the teapot in the next part of the series...

Dr. Clara Wong, D.Ac., is at
Acupuncture & Herbs from China at 1112 Smith Street, between Hotel and Pauahi Sts., in Honolulu. Telephone for appointments only: (808) 524-8837 (phone consultations not available).

See also:
Acupuncture, Part I: An Overview
Acupuncture, Part III: Brewing Teas at Home


Four Allii Tart: An Onion Pie Fit for a King

Washington has its Walla-Walla, and Georgia has the Vidalia, but did you know that Hawaii also has its own sweet onion — the Ewa Sweet. More petite than its Mainland cousins, the Ewa (EH-vah) Sweet can be used in any way that you would use a Vidalia or Walla-Walla. Low-acid and natural sweetness make it an ideal salad and pickling onion. In season now until June, this sweet treat should be savored during its short season.

One of our rare favorite treats is a caramelized onion and chevre tart. The contrast between the sweetness in the long-cooked onions and the tangy goat cheese is wonderful, especially when chased with a crisp sauvignon blanc. We have this treat so rarely because cooked in the traditional way, the onions take up to 3 hours to fully caramelize. I wondered if we could achieve a similar sweetness with the sweet onions in a shorter cooking time. I wouldn't want to actually caramelize sweet onions because I'm afraid their innate sweetness would become cloying and unpalatable except in very small doses (as in a jam). We wanted to cook them just enough to heighten their flavor. Local leeks, garlic chives and flat chives were added to lend some complexity. The dough for the pastry shell is a classic German
Mürbteig — this water-less dough is easy to make and extremely forgiving, and bakes up to a crisp shell that can support a heavy filing like this one.

In the end, I'd say this tart was a winner. I especially liked the addition of the leeks. The flavor of the garlic chives was not discernible, but the flat chives lent some pleasing astringency to the mix. I think T would still prefer the caramelized version since he loves the sweet & burnt effect on any vegetable, but I prefer the flavors in this combination. Too bad the sweet onion season is so short!

The name of this tart is a play on the Hawaiian word for the ruling class, Ali'i (with one 'L'). Onions, leeks and chives all belong to the plant genus Allium, Latin
plural Allii. In future we'll make the classic caramelized version and the Pfälzer Zwiebelkuchen, a custard leek tart, for comparison and contrast for Alliophiles everywhere.

(For a 12-inch tart tin)
For the Shell:
1-1/4 cup (125g) regular flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
5-1/2 TBL. (70g) unsalted butter, cut into small dice then chilled
1 extra-large (64g) egg, beaten

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Add butter pieces and blend well using your fingers or a pastry blender (or if you're a glutton for punishment, two knives). If you live in a particularly warm or humid climate, you may want to return the dough to refrigerator for 10-15 minutes after this workout. To continue, add egg and knead well to moisten all the dough until you have a smooth pastry. Cover with wax paper or plastic wrap, and let dough rest for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 425F/215-220C)
Roll out dough to a 14-inch circle (for a 12-inch tin, or at least 2 inches larger than the diameter of your tin). Fit dough into tin, gently pressing sides and bottom to fit. Trim excess dough by rolling pin over the edges of the tin. Prick bottom with fork, cover with parchment or doubled-wax paper and fill with a single layer of rice, beans or pie weights. Bake for 8-10 minutes, then remove paper and weights, and bake an additional 2-3 minutes, or until pale tan in color. Remove tart tin to rack to cool.

4 Ewa Sweet onions (about 1 lb./225g), or equivalent weight of a Mainland variety
2 large leeks (about 1lb./225g)
small handful of flat chives, about 40 stems
20 garlic chives
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt
1 tsp. caraway seeds (optional)

Prepare a solution of 1/4 cup vinegar in a half-gallon of clean water in a non-reactive container You are going to use this to wash all the onions/chives. (
Why use vinegar to clean vegetables? Read more in the preserving lemons post)

First, wash both chives in this solution and rinse them with cool running water. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Save flowering heads of the garlic chives as a garnish. (I saved them but forgot to put them in the picture!)

Rinse whole leeks in clean water to remove surface dirt, then wash them through the vinegar-water. Pat dry and slice cross-wise, at a slight diagonal, through the white and light green parts. Fill a separate container with another hlaf-gallon of clean water, and place the sliced leeks in the bowl. Gently swish through and then leave for a 5-10 minutes. Lift the leeks out of the water into a colander to drain. DO NOT dump out the water and leeks into the colander! You will put back all the loose grit and dirt that has settled to the bottom of the bowl! (Save the dark green parts of the leeks in the freezer for your next soup stock.)

Last, wash the onions in the vinegar-water. (Why wash onions if you're going to peel them anyway? Consider where they've been in their long journey to your kitchen. Putting an unwashed onion — or any vegetable or fruit — on your cutting board is contaminating your hands and board before you even start.) Pat dry and thinly slice.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add sweet onions and leeks, stir to coat with oil, then cover and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 35-40 minutes, or until onions have become translucent (see photo). Add both chives, sea salt and caraway seeds, if using, and continue cooking for 10 minutes (when adding salt, consider that the goat cheese contains a fair amount of salt and adjust your salt here). Using a slotted spoon, remove onions from pan, leaving all juices behind. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before assembling tart.

To assemble:
1 log (60g) chevre, sliced into 8 pieces
ground black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 400F/200C.

Place bed of drained onions on pre-baked tart shell. Season well with pepper and dot with goat cheese. Bake tart for 15 minutes, or just until onions and cheese start to take on color.

Garnish with reserved chive flowers and fresh pepper. Serve slightly warm or cold. Serves 8 as first course, or 3-4 as a meal along with a crisp green salad and baguette.


Pan-Fried Opakapaka with Warm Spiced Cabbage Salad

This entire meal came together in under an hour, including the time to defrost and marinate the fish. The ingredients for the warm salad may seem exotic, but dals and brown mustard seeds can often be found in the bulk section of well-stocked health food stores so you may not have to look too far afield to find what you need for this salad. It may seem an unusual way to use lentils and beans — to dry fry them instead of boiling them — but once you get a taste for the nutty crunch and spice they lend to foods you, too, will find reasons to serve them again! The combination of cabbage and coconut is one we fell in love with when we first tried Brussels Sprouts with Coconut last fall, so this was an easy sell even if it weren't so quick to assemble and cook.

3 TBL. mustard oil, or olive oil (not EVOO)
2 tsp. channa dal
2 tsp. urad dal
1 tsp. brown mustard seeds
20 fresh curry leaves (optional)
1-4 serrano chiles, seeded and sliced
3 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 carrot, julienned or grated
sea salt
1/2 cup grated coconut

Heat oil in wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add dals and mustard seeds, and fry until mustard seeds start to pop (about 10 seconds). Add curry leaves, if using, and stir through. Add chiles
and stir through, then cabbage, carrots and sea salt. Cover and reduce heat to low and cook until cabbage just wilts, about 8-10 minutes. Add coconut, and stir to heat through. Turn off heat and leave covered until ready to serve.

Crimson red snapper, known locally as opakapaka, is found in Hawaiian waters but is one of several species that are still under a fishing ban in the main Islands. The local fisheries council instituted the ban in 2006 to allow the opakapaka population to recover from over-fishing. The only opakapaka available here now arrives flash-frozen from Asia and the northern Hawaiian Islands. Of course, most "fresh" fish in supermarkets and fishmongers arrives frozen, and what we are buying is actually thawed fish. As long as frozen fish is protected from freezer burn, as with these shrink-wrapped individual fillets, you can always have "fresh" fish in your freezer and available at a moment's notice. In these photos, the frozen fillets were thawed in 15 minutes in a cool salt bath, towel-dried and produced the fillets on the right. I use about 1/3 cup coarse sea salt to 1.5 qt/L. of cold water, stirred vigorously to dissolve the salt. Frozen fillets are added to the water and left for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. The trick is not to leave the fillets in longer than this or they can become water-logged. Pat dry the fish, and use immediately.

2 fillets opakapaka, or other snapper, fillets (with skin on)
1 tsp. ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground yellow mustard powder (e.g., Coleman's)
4 tsp. fresh lime or lemon juice
fine sea salt
oil for cooking

Combine coriander and mustard powders. Sprinkle spices onto skinless side of fish, and gently massage. Drizzle 2 tsp. of lemon juice on each fillet. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Pre-heat skillet large enough to hold both fillets over medium-high heat. Add oil to skillet. Season fillets with sea salt, and place skinless side down on skillet. Cook for 1 minute and turn heat down to medium. Cook another 2-3 minutes, or until browned crust forms and releases from pan. Turn fish over and cook another 2-3 minutes, depending on thickness of fish. It will flake easily when cooked.

To assemble, mound cabbage onto plate and place fish on top. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes.


Acupuncture, Part I: An Overview

I know I’ve talked about this series on acupuncture with several readers and friends. It was first postponed because we went off-line for one week, and now is further delayed because last week I remembered to bring the medical releases to the clinic, but...forgot the camera. *smacking forehead* My next opportunity to take photos of the test subject is next week. Yes, I should ask the acupuncturist whether forgetfulness can be treated with needles, too.

So begging your indulgence for this dense post, I’m going to go ahead with a quick overview of acupuncture. The next post will cover the clinic experience — what to expect and what it feels like. A third post will look at the homework you can anticipate when you’re back from the clinic (yes, there’s homework).


When you think of acupuncture, you probably think of needles. Lots of them. And while this is certainly a defining aspect of acupuncture — versus say, acupressure or massage — it really isn’t the heart of it. Instead, to understand how acupuncture works, we have to re-visit the concept of Chi (chee), also spelled Qi, or Ki (kee) in Japanese (as in Rei-ki).

“Chi” is probably one of the most difficult concepts for the Western mind to wrap itself around. It is defined here by a physician trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), identified only as Dr. Fang, in Dr. David Eisenberg’s (MD) seminal book on TCM, Encounters with Qi (W.W. Norton & Co., 1985):

‘Qi means that which differentiates life from death, animate from inanimate. To live is to have Qi in every part of your body. To die is to be a body without Qi. For health to be maintained, there must be a balance of Qi, neither too much nor too little.’ (page 43)

In English, it is most often translated as "universal life force," or "vital essence." TCM understands Chi as existing not only within the body, but also in the environment — we take in nutritional Chi by the foods we eat, and breathe in air Chi by respiration.

TCM envisions the body’s Chi as existing in and running through channels, or meridians, that are interconnected and that affect each other in different relationships. Each meridian is linked to a major organ in the body, and is often named after the organ with which it is associated (e.g., the Lung Meridian). Through the meridians, Chi circulates through the healthy body in a defined pattern, delivering needed nutrition to organs and removing wastes and toxins. When there is an imbalance in one meridian, it can cause a domino effect in the other meridians, both behind and forward of the unbalanced or blocked channel. If left untreated, the body’s Chi becomes weak and leaves the body susceptible to both internal and external factors that can precipitate disease and illness.

It is the role of the TCM physician not to diagnosis the disease or condition (pneumonia, migraine, back pain, etc.), but rather the underlying root of the imbalance in the body’s Chi. The condition is merely a symptom of a deeper issue — the physician is interested in
Why the pneumonia, migraine, etc., has been able to overcome the body’s protective Chi. In every case the answer will be different because each patient will have different circumstances that bring on their health crisis. Therefore, two people who enter a TCM physician’s office with the same complaint (e.g., migraines) are likely to have completely different treatment regimes.

For we who are accustomed to the treatment model, “You have this condition, take this pill” this takes a moment to sink in. It is the meaning of “Holistic” — that individuals require treatments tailored for their individual circumstance. Wow, what a concept. And that is the feel-good side of holistic practices: you’re not just a condition, you’re an individual. The flip-side of holistic practices (acupuncture included) is that these treatments are not magic bullets, and they often don’t provide immediate relief of the symptoms that bring us to the TCM physician’s clinic. Sometimes symptoms will even get worse for awhile, before they get better.

The thing to keep in mind is this: the series of circumstances that finally brings on physical symptoms in the form of disease or illness are often the result of years, even decades, of accumulated poor practices (lousy diet, poor sleep habits, lack of exercise) and environmental influences (stress, weather, trauma). It won’t be undone in a day, a week, or even a month. As for worsening symptoms, this is also something recognized in Western medicine. My father suffers with large tophi (uric acid crystallizations) that leave his hands and knees deformed and painful. His internist warned him that the low-purine diet he was prescribed should slowly dissolve the acid crystals, but that as the crystals dissolved they would re-enter the blood stream before being eliminated through the kidneys. The sudden influx of uric acid in the blood could trigger a painful gout attack, in which case his medication dosages would be adjusted. Eventually the tophi should be eliminated; and if he maintains a sensible diet, the gout attacks also minimized.


In TCM, diagnoses are made in terms of Chi: Is there enough Chi? Is it active (Yang) or stagnant (Yin)? What channels/meridians are affected? What internal and external factors are affecting the meridians?

To reach a diagnosis, the physician will use carefully defined techniques, some of which have been chronicled, practiced, and adapted for 2000 years. These include pulse-taking, examining the tongue, specific questioning, and observation of the patient's speech, smell, color and appearance. We will touch on those more in the next part in the series,
The Clinic Visit.


So how does acupuncture work? The theory behind TCM is simple enough: restore balance to the body’s Chi and the body can begin to heal itself. A primary use for acupuncture is the stimulation of points along affected meridians to allow Chi to travel as it should on its appointed route.

TCM teaches that there are 12 meridian pairs running symmetrically along the left and right sides of the body, 2 non-paired meridians that run along the midline of the torso and head, and collateral meridians which are points that connect meridians to one another. Each meridian has a defined number of points; some have as few 9, others over 60; for a total of over 300 points.

In acupuncture, meridian points are influenced with the insertion of long, thin needles, which may also be used to conduct a mild electric current. The needles can release accumulated Chi in a blocked meridian (in much the same way accumulated water is released when a pipe is cleaned), or stimulate slow-moving or stagnant Chi to circulate more freely (imagine fresh water coming in to a tidepool), or divert Chi from one meridian to another. In each case, the goal is to restore the open circulation of Chi.

Another use for acupuncture is pain management and anesthesia. Even non-TCM physicians can use acupuncture to manage pain in chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia or diabetes. In these cases, needles are inserted at meridian points which are thought to release endorphins into the body to lessen pain. This can be used in conjunction with meridian points that also support body functions that contribute to the patient’s comfort and well-being in managing his overall condition (e.g., blood cell production, elimination of toxins by the liver and kidneys, etc.). Acupuncture has also been used in lieu of or with local anesthetics to control pain during surgery or painful treatments.


This is a bare-bones description of acupuncture. I've purposefully left out naming meridians, and descriptions of how they influence each other because: one, it gets confusing and I am not the authority to explain it; and two, it isn't necessary to know in order to seek treatment. One can get a consultation and treatment from a TCM physician without knowing a thing about anything written here.

Although we were familiar with the concept of Chi in our practice with Reiki, when we started acupuncture this year most concepts were in the category: “I’ve heard of that, not exactly sure what it means.” T is happy with the results he feels and sees with his treatments, and leaves well enough alone. That’s great, but if you’re like me and would like to read more about acupuncture, I recommend Dr. Ruth Kidson’s book, Acupuncture for Everyone: What It Is, Why It Works, and How It Can Help You (Healing Arts Press, 2000). Dr. Kidson is a licensed physician in the U.K., and I found her book immensely helpful in getting a grasp of the fundamentals of acupuncture. Her writing is clear, straightforward, and easy for a lay person to follow. I was already on my third treatment before I got to the heart of her book, where she discusses the symptomology associated with imbalances in different meridians, and I was fascinated with how the descriptions in her book matched my own doctor's diagnosis and treatment. I found this book at the public library, but it's soon going to become a part of our home library.

The book quoted from at the top is an exploration of the phenomenon of Chi, or Qi, by medical doctor and researcher, Dr. David Eisenberg. Dr. Eisenberg was one of the first U.S.-trained doctors to study and train in TCM in Beijing in the late 1970s. Fluent in Mandarin, and a graduate of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Eisenberg brought an empiricist’s eye to his studies in Beijing. His quest to quantify the results he saw in his practice there is enlightening whether you would want to prove or disprove his findings. Most of the book is anecdotal — accounts of his experiences learning acupuncture, herbology, and massage at one of the top TCM universities in Beijing. Since writing this book in the mid-1980s, Dr. Eisenberg has gone on to found a research center at his alma mater to further the empirical study of TCM and other alternative, complementary — the Center calls them “integrative” — therapies. Read more about the
Harvard Medical School Osher Research Center and its current research agenda.


Finally, if you're considering acupuncture for yourself, Dr. Kidson offers some practical advice about choosing a practitioner and what to expect. First, she cautions that most governing bodies of complementary medicine do not allow their registered members to advertise (Yellow pages listing or "Accepting new patients" notices in newspapers are allowed), so be wary of flyers that promote acupuncture for specific illnesses; in fact, your best bet may be to seek personal recommendations. Second, consider whether you are interested in pain management only or a more holistic approach, then check whether the acupuncturist you are interested in has earned a degree (a longer more comprehensive program with an holistic approach) or taken course work in treating symptomatic pain. During your first appointment, describe your condition and ask whether the practitioner can treat it, what the limitations of treatment are, and how long you might expect treatment to continue; the practitioner should be willing to recommend other treatment options if you don't show improvement over time. To these I would add, familiarize yourself with the licensing requirements in your jurisdiction; every country — and in the U.S., every state — has different requirements and allows different titles to be used. You can read Hawaii's regulations regarding acupuncture in full: H.R.S. §436E: Acupuncture Practice (I could no longer find these readable on-line, this link will download a PDF file to your computer).

I didn't pick up Dr. Kidson's book until after my second treatment, so it was sheer good fortune that we found the TCM practitioner we did. Although she limits her practice in Hawaii to acupuncture and herbology, she also trained as a medical doctor specializing in acupuncture in her home country. Her training allows us to talk to her about our medical conditions, and she has advised us when to seek further Western medical diagnoses too. In the
next part of this series, you'll meet the charming Dr. Wong, D.Ac., in her clinic.

Acupuncture, Part II: The Clinic Visit
Acupuncture, Part III: Brewing Teas at Home


No Bacon Butty? Try a Ham on Poi Muffin

Over at the Golden Arches, there are often featured items that cater to local tastes, like the occasional Taro or Haupia Pies in Hawaii. If I were the man with the curly red wig, this is what I would have on the breakfast menu over there. A breakfast sandwich with char-siu ham, furikake-dressed egg cooked medium-soft in a butter-kissed poi english muffin. No need cheese, it's too tasty already.

This is going out to Sandy in San Antonio, who asked in December what a Bacon Butty was (at first we thought it was "bacon buddy" — it was referenced on a British sitcom). I've had no luck finding any back bacon on Oahu, and regular or Canadian bacon really isn't the same. With Hawaii's historical ties to England, you'd think you could find more British products around here (bangers, yes; back bacon, no). I know my little creation bears absolutely no resemblance to a Bacon Butty, but hey, it hits the spot for grease and whimsy. Have you had better luck making a Bacon Butty? (Read a BBC report on the scientific method to the perfect bacon butty)

Crispy Nori-Wrapped Walu & Shrimp with Papaya Coulis

The three times we've gone out to dinner for our anniversary here in Hawaii have all been disappointments. So this year I decided to make something at home instead. Armed with a new cookbook from local chef Elmer Guzman (recommended by Laurie in Alaska!), I borrowed ideas from 2-3 different dishes to create this: a nori-wrapped walu and shrimp lumpia and a citrusy papaya coulis.

Walu is sold here as "Hawaiian butterfish" but is properly known as Escolar — a very white, flaky and oily fish that is actually banned in Japan and Italy because it can cause intestinal upset if not prepared properly (grill or pan-fry to release the oils that cause upset) or if consumed in too great a quantity (no more than 6 oz. per person). But I'm not scared! I love the unusual firm but most texture and mid flavor, and especially enjoyed this preparation. However, any firm flaky fish, such as tilapia, cod, halibut, snapper or even catfish would do well as a substitute here.

I love the flavor of nori in this, and I think it makes for a nice presentation, but if it would dissuade you from trying this, then feel free to leave it out. For the coulis, I paired the papaya with lime juice — a winning local flavor combination — and added a splash of wine vinegar for acidity to cut through the oiliness of both the walu itself, and the deep-fired shell. If you can find nigella, also called onion seeds, at a health food store (in the bulk spice section) or an Indian grocer, the peppery black seeds make a wonderful counterpoint to the flavors in the coulis and fish; otherwise, black sesame seeds or even crushed papaya seeds can be used for presentation.

It was a great marriage of contrasts and balance — crispy yet meltingly soft fish, and sweet but tart fruit sauce.
Kind of like a couple I know. . .

(inspired by The Shoreline Chef, by Elmer Guzman)
For the Papaya Coulis:
1 ripe papaya, peeled, halved and seeded
sea salt
1/2 tsp. raw sugar
2 tsp. white wine vinegar, or 3 tsp. rice wine vinegar
2 tsp. fresh lime juice

Place all ingredients except lime juice in a small saucepan. Using a hand or stick blender, puree papaya until smooth. Cook over medium heat until it just starts to bubble, about 10 minutes. Then reduce heat to low and simmer an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add lime juice. Taste and correct seasoning — you shouldn't "taste" vinegar or salt at all, only the papaya and lime.

For the Shrimp Filling:
6 oz. shrimp, peeled and coarsely diced
1 large piece of dried Chinese black fungus (tree ear, or mok yee), rehydrated and cut in slivers
sea salt
ground white pepper
2 tsp. sake or Chinese rice wine
1 stalk of Chinese flowering chives, or flat garlic chives
1/2 tsp. corn starch

Combine all ingredients, and leave to marinate at least 20 minutes, but no longer than 2 hours in fridge.

3-4oz. of walu, tilapia, cod, halibut or other firm flaky fish, filet cut into 4 equal pieces
(This step is only necessary if you are using Walu. For other types of fish, I would skip this.) Pan-fry each filet piece in a lightly oiled skillet over medium-high heat. Brown all sides. Lay on paper towels to cool completely.

To assemble:
4 sheets of lumpia or egg-roll wrappers (covered with a lightly dampened cloth while working)
2 sheets of nori for sushi, each cut in half
water, to seal rolls

To Finish:
Nigella, or onion seeds
Flowering chives

Preheat oil in wok or other deep-fryer to 375F.
Lay lumpia wrapper on clean dry surface. Place nori in center of wrapper (you may have to trim nori so it doesn't cover the top end of the wrapper, or you won't be able to seal it).
Place fish on nori near the bottom edge, and a few spoonfuls of shrimp on fish (see photo at left).
Bring bottom end to cover fish/shrimp, then fold sides to center around filling (middle photo).
Keeping gentle pressure on the filling as you roll (to keep it tight), roll to the top. Wet top edge of wrapper with water (photo at right), before last roll to seal.
Repeat 3 more times.

Fry 2 at time so they don't crowd the wok. Cook for about 5 minutes total, turning lumpia over after 3 minutes. Remove to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining lumpia. If using flowering chives, make certain they are completely dry (or it will splatter and you will burn yourself), and hold one end of chives and briefly dip flowering end into hot oil. Drain.

To serve, slice each roll in half on a sharp diagonal. I originally wanted to serve this on a bed of chewy soba noodles, but in the end I was really craving rice so that's what we had this time. Buckwheat soba noodles would also go well with both the fish and the coulis. Place fish on and around rice or noodles, drizzle coulis around edge of plate and sprinkle with nigella. Garnish with chives.


Pears, Blue Cheese & Walnuts w/Baby Greens

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!

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.


Stuffed Chicken Roll-up

We actually dined on this in March, shortly after my dad returned to Guam and we found we still had ground chicken in the freezer. We don't usually buy ground chicken, but it was the best meat alternative for his gout maintenance diet. I wanted to make something a little different than the meatloaf or meatball alternatives running through my head. We also had some beautiful asparagus and a large quantity of caponata newly made. Instead of adding it all into a loaf, what if we rolled it into the center of a meat casing. How would they go together?

Pretty well, actually. Although the roll did not hold its shape as well as it might have with ground beef or pork, the flavors melded well. The lightly seasoned chicken and fresh asparagus absorbed the salty play of flavors in the eggplant relish. Served over a bed of polenta-style grits with oyster mushrooms, it was a colorful and satisfying meal. I used a lot more caponata than I would have liked (less for me to snack on), but I didn't begrudge the loss of my favorite appetizer (too much).

For the ground meat mixture:
1.5 lb ground chicken (or beef, pork)
sea salt to taste
ground black pepper
1/2 medium onion, diced fine
1 medium egg (optional -- if I made this with ground chicken again, I would omit the egg so the roll might keep its shape better)

Combine all ingredients well. Chill until needed.

To Finish:
4-6 spears of asparagus (depending on width of spears)
1-1/2 cups prepared Caponata (recipe)

On a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap (about 16" long), form meat mixture into a rectangle, about 12" long and 6" wide.

Add layer of caponata to within 1/2-inch of the long side closest to you and 2" from the far end. Lay asparagus spears side-by-side over caponata.

Using the paper/plastic wrap as a guide, begin to roll the meat over the filling, jelly roll or sushi style. When completely enclosed, twist ends of plastic/wax closed and tuck under. Place roll on cookie sheet and leave in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 400F/200C.

Lightly oil a baking sheet, and place chilled meat roll on sheet. Drizzle olive oil over loaf, if using chicken. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn heat down to 350F/180C and continue baking for 20 more minutes. Allow to cool on the sheet for 15 minutes. Using a wide fish slice/spatula, remove roll to cutting board and slice on the diagonal.

Serve with mashed potatoes, polenta or pasta.

Passing the torch

Well, we’ve enjoyed having the “E for Excellent” badge all to ourselves for 2 weeks, and now it’s time to pass it on. Nicisme, baking, clicking and blogging in the UK via Cherrapeno awarded ThreeTastes with this badge. And now we’d like to award it to five sites that define Excellence for us:

1. The Tasty Island: Pomai is for me the arbiter of Hawaiian culinaria. He not only covers the best and the tastiest of restaurants and drive-inns, but also explores the minutiae of Hawaiian classics: ramens vs. saimins, Spam and its look-alikes, loco-mocos, you name it. I read and often think, "I did NOT know that!" and then have to fix myself some kind of snack. Also check out his great how-to guides on local favorites like kalua pork, ashtibitchi, and Portuguese bean soup, to name a few.

2. Rubber Slippers in Italy: Kauai-expat Rowena lives, eats, gardens and travels in and around the Lecco province of northern Italy, near Milan, with her Westie, Maddie, and husband, MotH, and shares her adventures with us with wit, whimsy, and often thought-provoking comment. She's a local girl living my dream life in Italia: searching out festas and sagras, local delicacies, and allowing us a peek behind the curtain at the marvel that is Italy. *sigh*

3. Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska: when you first read the title of this weblog, it’s understandable if you do a double-take. Mediterranean cooking. In Alaska?? But Laurie will make a believer out of you. A “recovering attorney” (I can say this, as someone with the same affliction) and part-time resident of Greece, Laurie’s attention to detail and sprinkling of helpful tips belie her former profession and her love for her topic. On her site, also check out her book, “Tastes Like Home,” a collection of recipes from members of her Greek Orthodox church — the proceeds of the book go directly to building their new church.

4. Lavaterra: lavaterra pens her eponymous weblog from her corner of Munich to share her inventive baking, cooking, and Wandern (hiking) in and around her hometown. I love her posts because she shows such fearlessness when it comes to trying new foods, techniques, and spices. She writes mostly in German, and hers is one of several German sites I visit to keep my reading skills semi-current. Thankfully, she accepts comments in English since she is a Canada-phile and fluent in English.

5. Obachan’s Kitchen & Balcony Garden: Obachan is the Japanese familiar, “Auntie,” and also the pen-name for this wry and insightful Japanese gourmand living in the rural village of Kochi, Japan. Obachan shares her kitchen experiments and glimpses of life in her community in sometimes poetic, always delicious prose. Reading her posts, I always marvel to think that she is writing in a second language (English)!

Thank you, All! (Mahalo, Grazie mille, , Vielen Dank, Domo arigato gozaimasu) I hope you enjoy your Award. When you're ready, you can pass this badge on to your favorite five sites too.


Preserving the Perfume of Lemons


So how do we take beautiful but tough-skinned lemons like these and turn them into the succulent, translucent beauties known as Preserved Lemons? All you need are 1-2 sterilized jars and lids, 10 lemons, one cup of coarse sea salt, and after 5 days, some olive oil. Plus 4-6 weeks of patience.

Our efforts, however, will be rewarded with nothing short of liquid gold. Yes, you can use the rinds in tagines like
Chicken with Preserved Lemons & Olives, but the briny lemony curing liquid is also a quick flavor boost for dressings, marinades, and drinks; and even the oil sealing in the lemons can add a touch of clean citrus flavor when used to pan-fry meats or fish, or saute vegetables.

The end result will look like the next 2 photos. Admittedly, not pretty perhaps. But here is a jar filled with a perfumed elixir redolent of sunshine and citrus, ready to bring the light and lightness of summer to any dish, savory or sweet. In the depths of winter, it's a real joy to have one of these jars gleaming at the back of the fridge, promising that summer will return, and boosting our spirits until it does. (I did have 8 winters in Germany and Boston before we moved to Hawaii . . . I remember the feeling!)
The last of the presrved lemonsPreserved lemon rind, sliced for use

The Jars

You can use a single 1 quart/liter jar for 6 lemons, or 2 half-liters with 3 lemons each. The advantage of using 2 jars is two-fold. I find they're easier to store in the fridge; and opening the second jar for the first time in the middle of winter is a special kind of present for the chef. (In the photos below you see one half-liter bottle with 3 lemons.) Sterilize your jars and lids as you would for canning.

The Lemons

If you have access to particularly flavorful lemon varieties such as Meyers or Sorrentos, by all means use those, but regular lemons will work just as well (I've only ever used regular lemons, but will cheerfully accept donations of Meyers or Sorrentos if someone wants me to experiment with those!). If you can find organic ones, even better. No matter what variety, look for lemons that are unblemished and with a firm skin.

Wash the lemons well. I used to lightly scrub the surface with a soft vegetable brush (not a potato brush, the bristles are too hard and will release the precious lemon oils into the wash water). A couple of years ago, however, I started looking for alternatives to remove pesticides and dirt from all produce and found many sites recommending soaking or washing with white vinegar, so we adopted this method with great success. Then last fall, National Public Radio ran a story (
"What does it take to clean fresh food,") about the importance of removing pesticides and dirt from all produce before using, and recommended using white vinegar. The magazine Cook's Illustrated has also tested white vinegar against a commercial vegetable cleaner for 2 purposes: 1) removing wax from vegetables (they tested cucumbers, but apples, lemons and other citrus are also waxed, see April 2007 edition), and 2) killing bacteria (March 2007). In both cases, they recommended plain white vinegar over the purchased product. (The NPR story link is accessible to anyone, but the CI articles are available to members only on the Web, but check your library for back issues.)

Now I soak the lemons in a solution of 1/4 cup white vinegar and 1/2 gallon of water for about a minute, then rinse in cool water. Dry each lemon with a clean paper towel. (If you lightly rub the surface of a lemon with your thumb before and after this brief soak, you will appreciate just how much wax, if nothing else, is removed by this simple step.) And since the prized part of preserving lemons is the rind, it's really a step worth doing.

Cut 6 of the lemons into 6-8 pieces, depending on the size of each. Remove straggler seeds that can be reached without having to dig too hard into each piece. Cut remaining 4 lemons in half crosswise and juice well with a lemon reamer or juicer. Keep juice aside. (If you're feeling really motivated, zest the lemons before cutting in half, and keep zest either in the freezer for future use; or add to 4 cups of sugar in an air-tight container and keep for 2 weeks, after which you will have a wonderful lemon sugar to use in baking or iced tea.)

The Salt

I prefer coarse sea salt, but kosher salt will work too — what you're looking for is a salt that is minimally processed, and is not Iodized. Iodized salt will cloud and add a strange off-taste to your finished product. Measure out about a cup of salt for every 6 lemons you intend to preserve. Put 2 tablespoons or so of salt into the bottom of your sterilized jar, and place first layer of lemon pieces atop salt. Cover with 2-3 more spoonfuls of salt, then next layer of lemons. Continue layering salt and lemons, ending with salt. If you're doing 2 separate half-liter jars, you will probably need 1-2 more tablespoons of salt for each jar.

Using a sterilized spoon, press on the lemons to pack them well, then add reserved lemon juice. Cover and leave in a warm dark place.
Days One thru Five of preserving lemons
Day Two. The lemons will begin to soften, use a sterilized spoon to press them below the juice line as much as possible, and shake gently to re-distribute the salt.

Day Three - Five. Repeat process of pressing down lemons and shaking bottle.

On Day Five, after pressing lemons, gently tap bottom of the jar against the counter several times to ensure all air bubbles have been released. Top mixture with olive oil to seal: place the back (rounded side) of a spoon about and inch above the juice line, and touching the inside of the jar, and slowly pour oil over the spoon — this will allow the oil to just sit over the juice and lemons with splattering. Add about an inch of oil. Cover and place in a dark cool corner of the pantry.

And now we wait. Today is the end of the Week One. Only 3-5 more weeks to go. The end time is determined by the weather, the types of lemons, quantity being preserved, etc. The rinds on these particular lemons looked a bit thick, so I'm guessing these will take another 4 weeks (for a total of 5) before they're done. If you find a thinner-rinded lemon, like the Meyers, yours might be ready in 4 weeks total. You can follow the transformation of this batch at the
Lemon Vigil, which will be in the sidebar for the next 2 months. I'll put up a photo each Friday with notes about any special care the lemons needed. When the lemons are ready, we'll have more recipes to try, too.

See also:
Preserved Lemon & Almond Polenta Torta


Chicken with Preserved Lemons & Olives

This may look like a simple bottle of salt covered lemons, but in fact it's a statement — an acceptance of the fact that we won't be moving as soon as we had thought we would. Why? Because these preserved lemons won't be ready for another 4 to 6 weeks, so . . . here we will be for the near future. So while I will continue to use up most of our pantry stock, I will also have to re-stock some of our most frequently used and beloved items, such as preserved lemons.

But what is a preserved lemon and why would anyone want them in their pantry? Because they are one of the most concentrated and divine lemon-delivery systems yet devised. And one of the easiest to make at home. All you need are lemons, salt, a bit of olive oil (to seal the jar), and time. There are different types of preserved lemons, some cured only in salt (no juice), others which are spiced with cinnamon and other flavors. Our favorite style is preserved in salt and lemon juice only. Our first taste of this exotica was a jar of juice-and-salt preserved lemons purchased 10 years ago in a Turkish dry goods shop in Germany. It was such a revelation and so versatile an ingredient, our pantry has been stocked with it ever since (between moves anyway). But that first jar was also our last purchased jar, because once I learned how easy they were to make it seemed a shame to to buy them. But before we go through the
making of the lemons, let's talk about one of the most popular uses for them.

These 2 photos were taken last year, though I used the last of that jar earlier this year to make our favorite Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives. You will find many versions of this dish all over the Internet, and with good reason. It's easy on the cook, slightly exotic but with familiar flavors, and elegant enough to serve to company. In fact, if you find yourself entertaining a mixed group of palates — some willing to try the exotic, some more sedate — this dish will often satisfy both. (Sometimes I leave out the word "Preserved" when offering this to some of the shy-er palates because they can find the descriptive off-putting, although they are also usually the ones most taken with the intense lemon flavor.)

Once cured, the lemon becomes nearly translucent (photo at right) and very soft. Cookbooks and recipes will usually advise you to separate the rind from the pulp, and discard the pulp. If I were using the lemons for a cake or a drink, I would use only the rind; but for this casserole style dish, I do include the separated pulp in the cooking medium for the added flavor, but it is not eaten.

We've tried different variations of this Middle Eastern classic, and this recipe is devised from many of those so I'm not sure I can say it is Turkish or Middle Eastern. I can tell you it's delicious, and is our current favorite recipe though we're still open to taste-testing other versions. Even keeping the spice combination the same, the most striking flavor difference can be wrought by changing the type of olives used. You can certainly mix green and black varieties, or go with your favorite one. The absolute best version we've made with this particular recipe used grande Spanish green olives (with pits), so if you have those around, do try them here. We prefer to keep the pits in almost all our cooking with olives, even pizza, but you can pit your olives before adding them to the dish. If you opt to leave the pits in, be sure to tell your guests to prevent a cracked tooth!

We used the last of our stash to make this chicken dish for my dad when he was visiting earlier this year. With all the lemons and spices, I thought it would be okay for him on his low-purine diet (without the chicken skin, of course). He really liked it, so I'm including it in the
GDC round-up in case he's moved to try it at home sometime.

Make a hole through the olive oil seal to remove your lemon quarters, and reseal with additional oil if necessary. I've found the lemons will keep for up to a year in the fridge this way.

Please note that there is no salt specified in this recipe. That is because we use both the pulp and juice from the preserved lemons, which contain a lot of salt.

1 3-4 lb. (1.5-2kg) chicken, cut into serving size, or an equal weight of chicken thighs
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Combine cumin, coriander, paprika and pepper. Rub spice mixture into chicken, especially under the skin and between the bone and breast meat, if using whole chicken. Set aside for at least 30 minutes, but as long as overnight in the fridge.

1 whole preserved lemon (
method here)

Separate pulp and rinds. Cut rinds into thin slices, and place 3/4 of slices under the skin and between flesh of chicken. Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.

2 TBL. olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thinly lengthwise
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3-4 bay leaves
1 - 1 and 1/2 cup whole olives, unpitted (depends on type of olives used, and personal preference for olives)
1/2 cup (120ml) chicken broth
1/4 cup (60ml) dry white wine
2 TBL. juice from preserved lemons

Heat oil over medium-high in a large skillet. In batches, brown chicken and place in oven-proof casserole dish or dutch oven. Turn heat down to medium-low, and In same oil cook onions until translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking together until garlic is fragrant.

Meanwhile, scatter remaining 1/4 of the lemon rinds over the casserole, and tuck bay leaves between chicken pieces. Add lemon pulp (optional step) and olives to the dish, and evenly distribute the onions and garlic over the chicken. Add broth, wine and lemon juice. Cover and bake in pre-heated oven for 45 minutes.

Serve with couscous and a crisp green or tomato salad.

Other recipes with preserved lemons: Preserved Lemon & Almond Polenta Torta, and Lamb Shanks with Preserved lemons and Gremolata.


Power Up!

Our seven days Unplugged for National Turn-off Week was quite a revelation and a wake-up call. Lots happened after and immediately before we pulled the power cord. We learned we aren't moving as soon as we had thought we would, bid "A hui hou" to a part-time resident neighbor, celebrated our anniversary, had epiphanies about the need for redundant non-electric back-up systems, re-visited a favorite garden, attended a techfest, and received a blog award. Our efforts to stay off the grid were aided for nearly a full day by a blown transformer that kept our community guessing about when power would be restored (thankfully it was only out for 10 hours), but also gave us a chance to test out our new hand-crank radio for a few hours.

Revelations came by way of realizing how much information is actually stored on our computers — important phone numbers, for instance. I stopped updating my Rolodex after we moved here, so anyone who has moved in the last 3 years we were not able to contact. The blown transformer brought this point home again — what if we lost power in a natural disaster for weeks or months? So having a non-electric redundant back-up (i.e., my Rolodex!) is top of the priority list this week.

I also realized how cut off I felt not being able to follow-up on the Net with things I heard on the radio or read in the papers. And what was the weather going to be like today or this weekend? No morning news, no Google weather forecast. In fact, the biggest weather news here was kind of a shock because we saw it before we heard about it . . . The Return of the Vog! Volcanic ash and dust from Kilauea were carried by not-normal southeast winds all the way over to here, where a high cloud system evidently kept it "boxed in" over the islands. Although this vog was supposedly less of a health issue (less sulfuric acid) than previous vog episodes we've had recently, it was many times more disconcerting because for the first time since we've lived here . . . . all the mountain ranges disappeared, and we were left with the uneasy feeling of being spatially displaced. Around here, you tend to think in terms of your relation to the mountains, the ocean, Diamond Head, the coasts, etc. With all these landmarks shrouded in unending gray, you can feel sort of . . . well, lost and out of sorts. Below are photos taken from the beach a 1/2 mile from home — the top was the "view" of Diamond Head and Honolulu last Saturday, and below it, the normal view.
View of Diamond Head with VogView of Diamond Head

We also saw the last of our part-time neighbor, this golden plover, or Kolea. He spends his winters feasting in the large yard behind our house, which he defends against all others of his kind (he seems perfectly content with other bird species, but other Kolea are aves non gratae). Arriving around mid-August from his Alaska nesting grounds, he makes the 3000 mile journey each year non-stop! After basking in the Hawaiian sun all winter, he makes his way back to Alaska around now to find a mate and raise a brood, which he will leave behind in the fall and blithely make his way back to Hawaii. OK, he won't win any bird-parent of the year awards, but somehow the fledglings find their way to Hawaii on their own! I managed to snap this photo at some distance (he's notoriously camera-shy) 2 weeks ago when I noticed his breast plumage had completely transformed to solid black and knew he was getting ready for his big trip. We haven't seen him for over a week now so luckily he seems to have made it out before the disturbing vog rolled in. He'll be back in August. A hui hou?

Just before we pulled the plug last week, I made the rounds of some of my favorite blogs and learned that Nicisme at Cherrapeno had named ThreeTastes as one of the recipients of the "E for Excellent" award badge! It was quite an honor, especially coming from Nic whose blog is my cure for my virtual sweet-tooth. Not only does she create the most amazing desserts, but she has a great gift for making eye-candy, too. Lucky for me our keyboard has a silicone drool guard over it! In fact, I was on her site to get a recipe for her pineapple sorbet to try during our time-off (in all the excitement, I forgot to print the recipe so I'll be trying it in future). I've had a week to consider to whom I will in turn pass on this badge. I still have to type it all up and will post the list over the weekend. Mahalo nui loa, Nic! You definitely set a bar with your site, I'll try to maintain it here too!

Finally, what do lemons, twigs and chalk, needles and heat lamps, pears, courgettes, green tea, and shrimp paste have in common? They're some of the things that kept us occupied during the last week. Here's a visual quick peek of what's coming up. Stay tuned to this bat-channel, Folks!


Unplugged: Waimea Valley Audubon Center

Beginning Monday, April 21st, and running through Sunday April 27th, it’s National “Turn Off Week” in the U.S. and Canada. Sponsored by the Center for Screen-time Awareness, in conjunction with many education and health & fitness organizations, the event is meant to highlight our growing reliance on all things electronic. It began in the 1990s as a one-day event in which people were encouraged to turn off their TVs for 24-hours. But as our dependence on other electronic media has grown, so has the scope and duration of the event: now participants are encouraged to unplug from their blackberries, cell phones(!), iPhones, PCs, laptops, Wiis, xBoxes, etc. for one full week.

Can you do it? We’re going to give it a shot. We’re only allowing ourselves the radio since it’s largely a non-interactive medium, and camera because we don't have a non-digital camera. I was going to start a series about our experience with acupuncture this week, but we’ll pick up with that when we return.

Today we spent the afternoon at the Honolulu Academy of Art to visit their special collection, "The Dragon's Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan," which is on view until May 23d. If you haven't seen this extraordinary collection, which is based on the Honolulu Academy's own expeditions to Bhutan over the last 5 years. The collection is composed largely of religious, namely Buddhist, artwork borrowed from active and working monasteries; it is supplemented with twice-weekly altar rituals performed by Bhutanese monks; videos taken by the Academy's staff of religious dances — some which have never been seen outside the country; and a truly innovative multi-media installation by Herbert Mingood, dance photographer for the Joffrey Ballet.

The exhibit is scheduled to tour five other museums, the next being the Rubin Museum in New York in September. If you have the opportunity to see this rare collection, I hope you will avail yourself of the gift. Read more about the exhibit on the Academy's website, or read the New York Times article by Susan Emmerling.

Bhutan is considered one of the most isolated countries in the world, and has the distinction of being the only country to have a Gross National Happiness index (how cool is that?). It seemed fitting to include mention of this exhibition here since there were no TVs in Bhutan before 1999!

We can't show you anything from the Bhutan collection, so to get National Turn Off Week to a proper start, we’ll leave you with another one our favorite ways to get Unplugged: Waimea Valley Audubon Center on Oahu's North Shore.

Waimea Valley's official greeter

A peahen plays coy with this ardent suitor

A more demure denizen of the gardens

The Valley has a collection rare and unusual hibiscuses . . .

The Falls has a swimhole and rest spot at the end of the
Waimea Falls, Oahu
A sausage tree, named for its pungent fruit
Sausage tree


Braised Lamb with Chickpeas

This meal was inspired by 2 different recipes in my favorite Italian cookbook. One had pork, chick peas and spinach; the other was a spicy braised lamb in a white wine sauce. We ended up with a braised lamb with chickpeas in a white wine sauce, with a side of Tuscan kale, served with grilled polenta. How's that for going with the flow, working in The Way?

adapted from
Trattoria, by Patricia Wells

1 cup (200g) dried chickpeas

Wash and rinse well. Soak overnight. Drain, and place in a large sauce pan and cover with 6 cups of water, large bay leaf, and half slice onion. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook until chickpeas are tender. Cooking time will vary depending on the type of chickpea, and how fresh it is. Test by pressing cooked bean between your fingers: it should just resist , then mash. Remove cooked beans from heat, remove cover and let cool in liquid until ready to use. If not using right away, let cool completely, then store chickpeas with liquid to cover in fridge. Drain liquid before adding to meat in the next step, but reserve the cooking liquid.

For the Lamb:
3 TBL. olive oil
5 anchovy fillets, drained and minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1.5 lbs (680g) meat from leg of lamb, or shoulder, cut into 3-inch pieces
sea salt
ground black pepper
1 cup (250ml) dry white wine (we used a pinot gris)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Heat oil and anchovies together over medium-high heat in large deep skillet. Add red pepper and cook just until oil takes on pepper color, then add lamb meat in batches to brown. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper while browning. When all lamb has browned, add wine, vinegar, garlic and oregano. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Add drained chickpeas, and continue cooking until meat is tender, about another 30-45 minutes.

To Finish:
1 tsp flour
3 TBL. reserved cooking liquid from beans, or water

Taste and correct seasoning. Combine flour and reserved liquid or water, and stir well. Move meat and beans away from center of pan, and add slurry to the center, stirring well. Combine with rest of the dish, and cook until the sauce begins to thicken and lose opaque color from the flour.

Serve with polenta, fresh or grilled, and a salad or your favorite cooked vegetable.


5-A-Day: Tian of Roasted Potatoes & Chinese Mustard Greens

With yesterday's meal of Portuguese-influenced pork, clam and periwinkle stew, we wanted to serve the traditional accompaniment of roasted or pan-fried sliced potatoes, but we also wanted a vegetable with some bitterness to punctuate the rich and spicy broth in the stew. Rather than make 2 side dishes, I opted to ease my workload and make only one dish.

One of our favorite vegetables is a simple oven-braised endive, wherein Belgian endive or Italian radicchio are cooked to melting tenderness while retaining their characteristic bite. I gambled that by layering bitter Chinese mustard cabbage under potato slices in the manner of a tian, I could get a bed of tender braised greens and crispy potatoes on top. Eureka! It worked.

A tian, like the cataplana in
yesterday's post, is the name of both a type of dish and the vessel in which it is traditionally cooked. Here, the original cookware is a bowl-shaped earthenware vessel, often unglazed, although in the hypermarches in France we saw oval or rectangular heavy ceramic dishes with 5-inch sides also sold as "tians." Tian recipes feature layered vegetables, sometimes combined with cheeses and/or grains, and often topped with breadcrumbs. In this version, it was all about the veggies with only a little broth, olive oil, garlic and sea salt for enhancement. I would gladly have substituted endive or radicchio for the mustard cabbage — as always, use what's local and in season in your area.

Although the seafood and pork stew is a definite no-no for anyone coping with gout, I think this vegetarian dish (especially when prepared with vegetable broth) would be suitable for a gout-management diet and so will be included in the

(serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as an entree)

2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and peeled

Slice potatoes cross-wise into thin slices. Toss with olive oil to prevent browning. Then sprinkle with sea salt and ground black or white pepper.
Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.

Olive oil
1 large head of Chinese mustard greens, washed well
(or 2 lbs. of any bitter green: radicchio, endive, dandelions, etc.)
4-6 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
Sea salt, to taste
Gound black pepper, or white pepper

After washing greens well, separate thick stems from leaves. Slice stems in julienne. Cut leaves lengthwise, then finely shred
— you should have 8-10 cups of leaves. Place stems, then leaves in large (10-12 cup) oven-safe casserole. Add garlic, broth, 2 TBL. of olive oil and seasoning to taste. Layer potatoes over greens in overlapping rings. You may have to press to fit the potatoes atop the greens; but as they cook, the greens will wilt. (Alternatively, place the leaves in a large colander and pour boiling water over until the greens are just wilted, then layer over stems and proceed as above.)

Place in pre-heated oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. If potatoes start to brown too quickly, lightly cover with foil (do not seal or potatoes will steam and not stay crisp).

Although this dish was devised to accompany the
seafood stew, its flavors will also accentuate any rich stew — meat or vegetarian, as well as roasted chicken, game fowl, or pork.

More about Chinese mustard greens, or gai choy


Shoreline Stew: Pork, Clams & Periwinkles

Periwinkles, clams and pork

This savory medley of land and sea combines tender pork with the briny, sweet flavors of periwinkles and Manila clams in a lightly spiced wine and tomato broth. It is a variation of "Clams Cataplana," a classic Portuguese pork & clams stew. Aside from the addition of the periwinkles, the ingredient that most distinguishes this version from the classic is the inclusion of tomatoes in the sauce; the original swims solely in a seasoned white or light red wine. I'm partial to this version, but T prefers the original. We'll do it that way next time. The traditional cataplana is served with roasted or pan-fried potato slices, and a crusty loaf to catch every drop of sauce. I also wanted a taste of something with a bite, some bitterness to counter the rich stew. I devised a simple tian with potatoes and Chinese mustard greens that gave us both roasted potatoes and a bitter green (next post).
Cleaned periwinkles Periwinkle meat
The periwinkles were a first for us, and we weren't sure what to expect. But after Laurie's enthusiastic endorsement in her pre-Christmas
"Seven Days of Seafood," we've been on the look-out for the tiny crustaceans at the fishmongers in Chinatown. Most periwinkles in the U.S. are exported from Maine (I forot to ask if these were as well), which was a surprise to T, who grew up there and never once tried a periwinkle. A tour around the web turned up other enthusiastic periwinkle fans, including Jimmy at Fishin' Fool Jimmy's, who had recipes and valuable advice on foraging and harvesting periwinkles free seafood, you gotta love that! along the U.S. (and Canadian) East Coast and Southeast marshes. In Europe, look for bigorneaux or littorines; and in the U.K., winkles.

The periwinkles resemble nothing more than a tiny snail, and were fairly easy to clean: a couple of changes of fresh water, and a quick tap of the shell to see if the animal responds. Like a clam, the periwinkle will tighten the hard bit of shell, or operculum, covering its entrance. Because they were so tiny, we added them to the stew in the last 10 minutes of cooking so they wouldn't overcook. Though they were a bit tricky to remove from their shell
T had much more success than I in using a pick in a pinch, a quick, light tap between the jaws of a nutcracker released the meat. The periwinkles were sweeter than the clams, with a delicate brininess and mild chew. I would like to try them again in a New England style chowder recipe or as a fritter.

I'm open to just about any preparation for these new-found crustaceans
what's your favorite recipe for winkles? Or what did you think of them the first time you tried them?

Shoreline stew with Roast potatoes & bitter mustard tian

The Sauce:
1 small chourico, or chorizo (about 2-3oz or 60-85g), cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 lb. (450g) pork tenderloin or shoulder, cut in 1-inch cubes
olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 small bay leaves
3 tsp. sweet or hot smoked paprika
(if using sweet, can add a pinch of a dried red pepper such as cayenne, Aleppo or Korean gochugaru)
12-15oz. (340-420g) chopped and seeded tomatoes
1- 1.5 cups (240-350ml) dry white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinto Gris
1/4 cup (10g) minced flat-leaf parsley, divided
sea salt (may not be needed, depending on the saltiness of the chourico)

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, fry chourico in a smidgen of oil, until browned. Remove to bowl. Tip out oil in pan, but do not wash. In same pan, add 2
TBL. olive oil and brown pork in 2-3 batches, removing each batch to the bowl with chouricos to keep warm.

In the same pan, turn heat down to medium-low and saute onions until translucent (about 8-10 minutes). Add garlic and bay leaves, and cook until garlic is fragrant. Add paprika and peppers, if using, stir through and cook 1 minute. Turn heat back up to medium-high and add wine, tomatoes and half the amount of parsley. Bring sauce just to the boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes while you prepare the crustaceans.

The crustaceans:
2-3 lbs. (1-1.5kg) Manila or littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed
(throw away any that do not close when tapped)
1lb (450g) periwinkles, cleaned (optional -- use larger amount of clams if not using periwinkles)
Lemon quarters

Taste sauce and adjust seasoning. Bring heat up to medium again, return chouricos and pork to pan, and add clams, stir through and cover. Cook for 10 minutes. Add periwinkles, cover again and cook another 8 minutes. Without opening cover, turn off heat and keep pan covered while plates/bowls are warmed and table is set. Just before serving, add last of parsley and squeeze lemon juice over.

See also
Portuguese Bean Soup


Curry-Glazed Cod with Wasabi-Sesame Soba Salad

Here's a quick dinner put together with ingredients on hand and very little brain work, because there wasn't much left at that point. I'm trying as much as possible to reduce our pantry stocks and not buy ingredients for a any one particular recipe. So with a couple of filets of Alaskan cod at the ready, I opted to serve the fish with a cool salad of buckwheat soba noodles tossed with a prepared sea grass salad that is marketed as "Sea Salad" here in Hawaii. Chewy buckwheat soba noodles and the sesame-laced sea salad were a nice foil for the spices in the tender flaky fish. We liked this salad so much, I will try this again with miso butterfish.

It's been awhile since we've had a gout-friendly recipe for the
GDC, but I think this recipe might fit the bill. Buckwheat is a grain high in protein and gluten-free, and sea grasses of all kinds and lemon juice are said to be especially beneficial for gout-sufferers. Sesame, too, is touted as a gout-friendly seasoning. If you wanted to make this even better for a gout-patient, I might also add julienned daikon, or grapes, apples, peas or cooked spinach. The skinned fish filets, only moderately seasoned with spices and pan-fried in olive oil, provide another measure of protein.

Serves 2
For the Salad:
7-8 oz. package of dried soba noodles, cooked al dente
1-2 cups prepared Sea Salad
1/4 cup julienned carrots, about 1/2 small carrot (optional)
1-2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
lemon quarters

1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 tsp. raw sugar ( or less regular sugar)
pea-size dollop of wasabi paste
sea salt, to taste
ground white pepper, to taste

Whisk together Dressing ingredients. Pour over cooked soba noodles. Toss together with Sea Salad and carrots, if using. Squeeze lemon juice atop noodles. Sprinkle top with sesame seeds

For the Fish:

Fish Curry Spice Mix:
1 TBL. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground fennel
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric

Combine spices and set aside.

2 4oz. skinless filets of cod, or other flaky white meat fish
1 TBL. lemon juice per filet
sea salt
ground white pepper

Sprinkle each side of the filets with lemon juice, then with the curry spice mix. Let marinate for 20 minutes.

Pre-heat pan over medium high heat. Season fish with salt and pepper. Add oil to pan, and place white side of filet down on pan, and gently press to make full contact. Cook for 2 minutes, then turn over and gently press. Cook another 3-4 minutes, or until fish flakes under a fork. Meanwhile plate the noodles. Place hot filets on noodles and serve immediately.


National Library Week is coming!

(Copyright 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 American Library Association.
This (badge) may be reprinted and distributed for non-commercial and educational purposes only, and not for resale)

Just wanted to remind everyone that next week, April 13-19th, is National Library Week in the U.S. It's a time to celebrate the fact that we have access to so many great public libraries and they're free and open for everyone to use. If you haven't visited your local library in awhile, this is also a good excuse to re-acquaint yourself with what your library might have to offer. Of course, libraries and librarians have always been and remain wonderful resources for research. But in addition to a wealth of magazines and books, we find at our local libraries: music CDs, audiobooks, keiki story-hours, movie and documentary DVDs (including a surprising number of foreign language films), downloadable eBooks, and rotating galleries of art, photos and seasonal displays. Nor are we limited to what is on hand in our neighborhood library, either the entire Hawaii public library catalogue is available and will be sent to our nearest library for pick-up! We can even search the catalogue database and request books on our home computer.

We have always been supporters and fans of our public (or overseas, the base) library. There is always a period when we first move somewhere new, and then again just before we leave, when 95% of our worldly possessions are out of our reach
and during those times we virtually haunt the library. We can check our emails and surf the Web, learn something about our new community, read the paper, or just find a quiet moment. In Hawaii, we have been especially engaged by the range of services and events the public library system here offers. We can attend evening jazz, folk, and Hawaiian concerts; take hands-on workshops on the Japanese art of gift-wrapping with textiles (furoshiki) or flower-arranging; sit in on lectures on feng shui or marine photography in the NW Hawaiian Islands; listen to tales spun by professional story-tellers; see an Afro-Cuban drum and dance troupe perform; or watch old movies on the lawn. This week, another use for the library came to light: as ad hoc shelter from the heavy vog (volcano ash "fog") that Kona winds brought our way from Madame Pele over there on the Big Island!

So go spend some time at your favorite library next week. You just may find yourself coming back for more.

Mahalo nui loa to the librarians, staff and volunteers at
the Kapolei and Ewa Beach libraries
for the outstanding work you all do!

To find out what's happening around Hawaii libraies for National Library Week, check out the
Hawaii State Public Library System website to find your local library.

To learn more about National Library Week, visit the
American Library Association site.


Stuffed Artichokes with Italian-style Dressing

Spring has come! And here is a bowl of one of my favorite spring buds. No jaunty jonquils, irises or tulips here. We're talking thistles — to wit, artichokes, the green, spiny, tight yet tender, buds of the thistle plant. Artichokes are much beloved in our house, even more so after we discovered the delicious and therapeutic drink one makes by simply boiling the 'chokes to prepare them for the plate (see Artichoke "Tea"). I was first enticed to make artichokes at home by Patricia Ballard's "Artichokes Italian" recipe. It was an instant favorite, and is still the first artichoke meal we have when the new season's crop first appears. It is quintessential San Francisco-style Italian — fresh ingredients mixed with seafood and cured meats in a piquant sauce. Served with a San Francisco sourdough to catch the addictive dressing, and a bottle of your favorite pinot noir, it is the perfect meal to welcome spring.

To make a vegetarian version, I would double the amount of mushrooms, and substitute 1/2 cup diced firm tofu for the tuna, allowing tofu to marinate with the vegetables.

(adapted from "Wine in Everyday Cooking")
Marinade for Dressing:
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 TBL. sea salt
1 tsp. raw sugar
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
3 large cloves garlic, finely minced

small head of cauliflower, divided into small florets
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, quartered
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced thin

Bring all Marinade ingredients to boil in a large saucepan, and allow to boil over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning — it should taste very vinegary and the herbs quite pronounced since this is a vegetable marinade for a dish that will be eaten cool or at room temperature. After 5 minutes, add vegetables and bring back to a boil for no more than 3 minutes (or vegetables will become mushy and unpalatable as they sit in the hot dressing).

Let cool completely, then refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours, but preferably overnight.

Prepare artichokes:
4 medium globe artichokes
1 tsp. sea salt (optional)
1 TBL. olive oil (optional)
couple of lemon slices (optional)

Clean artichokes by soaking in a solution of 1 gallon of water and 1/4 cup of white vinegar for about 2 minutes. Rinse well. Trim tops and side leaves, if desired (this is an aesthetic step and does not affect the final flavor; I like the "petal effect" the untrimmed leaves gives the final dish, but it can be a bit prickly for novice artichoke diners so I would trim them if serving for company).

In large dutch oven or 16 qt. soup pot, place artichokes stem side down in water that comes half-way up the sides of the vegetables. If you have no intention of using the cooking liquid as a "tea" (
benefits of artichoke "tea"), you can season the water with the optional ingredients. Bring water to a boil, then turn heat down to medium and simmer for 30-45 mnutes, or until the base is tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from water and drain upside-down in colander.

If using cooking liquid as a beverage, strain carefully and enjoy as a hot or cool beverage.

When artichokes have cooled, spread leaves open and remove spiny interior leaves surrounding the hairy center "choke." Using a small teaspoon, gently scrape out the choke to create a vessel for the dressing. Artichokes can be cooked ahead, refrigerated, and brought to room temperature 30 minutes before serving, or while the Dressing is completed.

Finish the Dressing:
1/2 cup green or black olives, halved
10 slices of prosciutto or 12 slices of salami
1 7 oz, can of tuna in olive oil (do not drain)

Combine marinated vegetables, olives, cured meat and tuna. Stir through carefully and set aside at least 30 minutes.

Traditionally, these artichokes are served in wide shallow bowls, such as a pasta bowl. I prefer a deep bowl like the cafe au lait bowl in the photo below because it supports the stuffed artichoke and has the added advantage of allowing the dressing to pool on the bottom and season the artichoke heart as you feast your way to the bottom. Spoon the Dressing into the center of each artichoke. Add any remaining dressing around each stuffed vegetable, and drizzle the remaining marinade between the artichoke leaves. Serves 4 as a first course, or 2 as an entree.

Best served with a tangy sourdough loaf, but any good artisan bread will do. We found it helps to begin with the inner leaves of the artichoke, and eat your way to the outside. You'll find each leaf base is already "dipped" in the savory Dressing marinade.

One of our favorite uses for left-over Dressing is to hollow out the bottom of a small baguette or other hoagie-type roll, fill it with the Dressing (and cold cuts, if you want a real carnivore's delight), then encase it with plastic wrap for at least an hour — the oil-vinegar dressing soaks the bread to create a muffaletta-type sandwich. For a less-messy option, combine Dressing with cooked tubular or small shell pastas, or brown rice for a quick lunch salad.


A Caponata to Feed the Soul

Caponata alla Siciliana

It was when I first tasted the Italian appetizer Caponata that I decided I must have been Italian in another life. It spoke to me — this unctuous relish, calling me home to a distant Mediterranean shore I had yet to visit. Everything about it was at once familiar and a revelation.

I was determined to find the definitive recipe. In those pre-Web days (I'm dating myself now), it took a bit of work to track down cookbooks and scour magazines. During the trial for the second recipe I found, a friend who had emigrated to the US from Sicily happened to stop by so he was a natural target for my efforts. I loved this version, but what would a real Italian think?

"I'm testing a caponata recipe, will you taste it and tell me what you think?" I asked. Eying me with a combination of curiosity and suspicion (what does this girl from Guam know about caponata?), he asked me how I even knew about caponata. I told him I had tried it in a restaurant in The City (San Francisco). With bemused indulgence, he accepted the proffered baguette slice and heaped a generous dab of the chunky relish. One bite. Surprise. Delight. A second bite. Approval.

"Wow, are you sure you're not Italian?" he joked. I confessed my suspicions about having lived a previous incarnation in Italia. Munching through a second caponata-laden baguette, he crowed, "Not just Italian, Baby, you must have been Sicilian!" There is no higher praise.

(adapted from a
San Jose Mercury News clipping)
2 medium eggplant (1.25lb total), peeled and diced
1.5 tsp. salt (for optional step)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
2 lbs ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
(or 1 15oz can diced tomatoes with juice)
2 TBL. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
1/3 cup black olives, pitted and chopped
2 TBL. capers, drained
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (optional)
2 TBL. parsley, minced
sea salt and ground black pepper

(Optional Step: I used to do this because it was in the original recipe, but have found that if the eggplant is properly browned, this step is unnecessary.) Toss eggplant with salt and drain in colander 30 min. Rinse and pat dry.

In large skillet, brown eggplant in 1/4 cup oil over medium-high heat until all sides are golden brown. Remove from pan.

In remaining oil, saute onion, garlic, celery and carrots until vegetables are soft, but not colored. Add tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt and olives, bring mix to a boil. Lower heat, return browned eggplant, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally

Add capers, nuts and parsley. Transfer to bowl to cool. Chill overnight. Season to taste before serving at room temperature with thick slices of sourdough baguette.

for Giovanni Giuseppe


Programming Note: Merrie Monarch Festival 2008

The world's premier hula event, The Merrie Monarch Festival, begins Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m., Hawaii Standard Time (no Daylight Savings here), and runs through Saturday night. Viewers worldwide can watch each evening's competition over streaming video broadcast by Hawaii's ABC local affiliate, KITV, at

Thursday evening is the Miss Aloha Hula competition: solo dancers chosen by their
halau, or dance school, perform hula in both traditional (kahiko) and modern (auana) styles

Friday and Saturday evenings, all competing halau, in separate men's and women's performances, dance each style. Beginning at 6 p.m., each evening's competition usually runs about 5-6 hours!

The Merrie Monarch Festival is not just a dance competition, but also focuses on keeping all the traditions associated with hula alive, including chanting, musicianship, lei-weaving, tapa-making, elder respect, etc. In the past, the affiliate broadcast has done a great job showcasing these aspects for its viewers. If you get a chance to drop in at any time during the broadcast, treat yourself to a taste of the Islands!

To learn more about the Festival, visit the
Merrie Monarch Festival site.

(When Laika (
left) and Haiku first arrived, they had ambitions of dancing hula)


Grilled Ehu in Banana Leaf

Grilled Ehu in Banana Leaf

Isn't it always the case that when you're looking really hard for something, you don't find it? When our friend Maia brought her parents, June & Rob, to visit Oahu last month, we wanted to barbecue a fish that would be new to them, something only available in a Pacific locale. We wanted a parrotfish large & colorful, with flaky white meat, it seemed the perfect combination of exotic but palatable. Parrotfish are available regularly in the markets and fishmongers, but we usually hesitate to buy one because they are rarely smaller than 4lbs., which is too large for just us two. But on this occasion we had my father and our guests, so it seemed the opportune time. Except that parrotfish suddenly disappeared from the market ice displays. Everywhere. Maybe it was the convergence of the Hawaii presidential primary and the American football Pro-Bowl game in the same week, but whatever the reason: no parrotfish.
Maia leads the post-prandial beach walk

So we ended up with the less exotic, but no less toothsome, Yellow-striped Red Snapper, or Ehu. Once stuffed with herbs and coconut, and grilled in fresh banana leaves, the Ehu were a swimming (sorry, couldn't resist) addition to our home-grown luau: grilled ehu, pork laulau, kalbi beef, huli-huli chicken, assorted poke, sesame watercress, green papaya salad, poi, and rice. And Ted's macadamia nut pie after a walk to the beach to see the sunset.

2 banana leaves, cleaned and oiled
2 Ehu (1-1.5 lb each), scaled and cleaned

sea salt
fresh ground pepper
4-5 cilantro roots
8-10 wild (sometimes called
kaffir) lime leaves
large sprig of cilantro
1 lime, sliced
1/2 cup grated coconut

! lime, quartered
Ehu stuffed for grilling

Rinse and pat fish dry. Place each fish on a banana leaf, then make 2 slashes on each side.
In a mortar, pound together cilantro roots, salt and pepper. Put a bit of the paste in all the slits.

Season the cavity of each fish, then fill with lime leaves and slices, cilantro and coconut. Roll banana leaf around fish. Oil outside of each packet, then place on pre-heated grill.
Grill about 8-12 minutes each side, depending on the size of your fish. Remove packets from heat, and leave wrapped until service. When unwrapped, squeeze fresh lime juice over whole fish.

The smoky, citrus flavors of this preparation go well with either poi or rice, and a lightly cooked salad such as
Sesame-dressed Watercress or Warabi.

Maia leads the buffet line
(Thanks for the visit, Maia! Come see us again soon.)


Mango Season 2008: The First Wave

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!

(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.

To assemble:
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)
Double Mango Wholewheat Quickbread


When Life hands you green papayas . . .

There is no fruit in the Hawaiian Islands I love more than papaya. Mangoes come a close second; but we've been able to find delicious mango varieties when we've lived in non-tropical parts of the world, never so with papayas. Never. I think you have to be close to the source to get a truly delicious papaya. We've been tempted and tricked by beautiful deep orange-colored papayas in markets in Europe and the US East Coast, but were always disappointed by the sweet, but vapid and watery fruit that met our spoons.

Hawaii, though, is papaya heaven. Orange flesh, red flesh it's all good. With a squeeze of lime, it's perfectly papaya-sweet. And it's jaw-droppingly cheap. Fifty-nine cents a pound, on sale; but even at .79, .99, 1.29 per pound, way way below Mainland and Continental prices. On our last trip to the Big Island, some vendors at the Hilo Market were selling 5 papayas for $2 that's not 5 lbs, but 5 whole papayas! (Have spoon, will travel.) And so we have papaya as often as possible, which is not every day so it's still not often enough.

Having said this, there are other ways to enjoy papayas when the fresh ripe ones are not the best choice. Eat it green. Like bananas, papayas enjoy a different life as a green fruit. Treated more as a vegetable, the firm white or slightly pink flesh of an under-ripe papaya can be diced and added to soups or stews, as one might with squash or gourds (see Chicken Tinola), or julienned and lightly dressed with a tangy lime and fish sauce to make a refreshing salad. Growing up on Guam, my favorite pickle in the world was pickled green papaya, similar to the southeast Asian style salads, but marinated only in vinegar, boonie peppers (donne) and salt.

With a benriner, mandoline, or julienne-peeler, making green papaya salad is a snap. And don't confine this salad to southeast Asian themed meals. A nice palate-cleanser with rich curries or stews, as well as deep-fried and grilled foods, a papaya salad brings a touch of the tropics to any meal. We've even used it to liven up the next day's lunch it becomes a punchy condiment for a meatloaf sandwich, or a last minute pasta salad with the addition of chicken and somen or soba noodles.

Note: Green papayas are light in weight for their size
their seeds are not developed and their flesh, while moist, is not heavy and juicy like their fully-ripened brethren.

(adapted from
Hot Sour Salty Sweet by Alford & Duguid)

1lb. green papaya (approximate weight), peeled and julienned

Toss with 2
tsp. sea salt and leave for 30 minutes. Rinse well, and drain.

1 large garlic clove

1 TBL.
chopped dry-roast peanuts
TBL. dried shrimp, chopped
1-2 fresh red chilies
tsp. raw sugar (or 1/2 tsp. white sugar)
tsp. sea salt

Place ingredients in a mortar, and pound together to make a wet paste. (If you want the salad to be less spicy, don't add the whole pepper(s) to the mortar. Simply slice the bottom half of the pepper, avoiding the seeds, and add that to the paste mixture, or add the slices to the dressing below. But don't leave the peppers out completely or the balance will be "off.")

Juice of 3 limes (to make about 1/3 cup)
2-3 TBL. fish sauce (Thai fish sauces tend to be saltier and fishier than Vietnamese or Filipino fish sauces, so how much you use depends on the brand and personal taste)
Cilantro or mint, minced (optional)

In a large bowl that can accommodate all the julienned papaya, combine lime juice and fish sauce, then add paste. Stir well, then taste. It should hint at all the primal flavors of the tropics
salty, sweet, hot and sour. When the balance is to your liking, add papaya and cilantro. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.


Fingerling Potatoes with Fenugreek

I came across this intriguing recipe while browsing through Dhivya's massive Potato Fe(a)st Event at DK's Culinary Bazaar earlier this month. It came from Eskay at A Bon Vivant's Chow Chronicle and she called it Fenugreek'ed Potatoes, named after the defining herb in the recipe. Fenugreek is used as both a spice and an herb. As a spice, it's available as triangular, amber-colored seeds prized for its distinct bitterness. Along with turmeric, it adds most of the defining color and flavor to commercial "curry powders."

As an herb, it can be found in both fresh and dried forms at specialty Indian markets. I've seen fenugreek seeds both bottled and sold by the ounce at health food stores here and on the Mainland, but not the leaves. Even at specialty stores, the fresh leaves can be hard to come by unless the shop caters to a sizable Indian population. However the dried form, called Kasoori Methi, is usually on the shelves. Dried methi leaves have a pleasing clean, minty, and almost astringent aroma. When fried lightly in hot oil, as in this recipe, it becomes nutty and smoky. The amazing change in character is reminiscent of the transformation of a fresh green jalapeno pepper to a smoky chipotle.

I had only used kasuri methi in a handful of recipes, and they were usually part of a large mix of other spices and herbs, so I really could not have told you what fenugreek leaves on their own tasted like. Eskay's recipe really stood out because it highlighted the flavor of fenugreek. I had some dried methi leaves (or so I thought), and we had just scored a bag of fingerling potatoes, so it seemed like a perfect time to try this! I first attempted to make this last week as a side for some ribs, but found that my poorly-secured bag of methi leaves had become infested with bugs. Ick! Luckily we had a chance to drive through the university district and stop by the India Market to stock up on some staples. I passed it at least five times on the shelf because the new box was spelled differently ("Qasuri Methi" it might also be spelled "Kasuri"), but finally realized what I was seeing.

This was part of our Easter Sunday meal with
Lamb Rib Chops & Lentils Catalane, steamed asparagus, and a cucumber and radish raita (yogurt salad). The earthy, smoked flavors worked surprisingly well with the sunny flavors of the lamb and lentils. In fact, the lentils and potatoes complemented each other so well I couldn't resist making a grilled sandwich with them: whole wheat bread, garlic mayo on the potato side, Kasoori Methi Potatoes, and Lentils Catalane, grilled with olive oil = Heaven!

One note: I cut larger potatoes down to the size of the smallest ones for even cooking, and found the cut ones had the added bonus of absorbing more of the spice flavors (no surprise). If you prefer skin-on whole potatoes, you may want to cut or at least score the potatoes after steaming, but before frying, to allow the spices to reach the buttery potato interior.

We've grown to really love tangy, sour flavors
whether it's tamarind in curries; powdered sumac on grilled meats; wild lime leaves in Laotian stews; or dried whole limes in Persian stews. If you enjoy any of these flavors, don't skip the sprinkling of amchoor powder in the first step.

(adapted from Eskay's
Fenugreek'ed Potatoes)

2 lb. fingerling potatoes
1/2-1 tsp. amchoor, aka dried green mango powder (optional)
tsp. sea salt

Scrub well, and cut larger potatoes in halves or thirds. Steam or boil potatoes until just cooked. Peel potatoes, if desired (we prefer the skins on). Combine amchoor and salt, then liberally season potatoes while still warm. (If not using amchoor, season to taste with sea salt.) Keep aside.

2 tsp. coriander seed
tsp. cumin seed

In a mortar, grind together coriander and cumin seeds to make a fine powder.

TBL. olive oil
5 TBL. kasoori methi
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (or Aleppo)
sea salt

Heat oil in wok or large skillet over medium heat. Add spices, cayenne, and methi leaves and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add potatoes and stir through to coat with leaves and spices. Cover, reduce heat and cook together for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered until serving.

For a vegetarian meal, Eskay recommends rice or rotis, and a dal (see earlier posts:
Tarka Dal or Mung Bean & Gourd Stew). We found it a perfect accompaniment to grilled lamb, as well as a hearty sandwich filling with lentils.

UPDATE: I was delighted to see lavaterra in Germany try this recipe as part of a vegetarian meal, along with a spring salad. You can see her version, and get the recipe auf Deutsch, "Kartoffeln mit Kasoori Methi"


Lamb Rib Chops & Lentils Catalane

I will usually order lamb if it's on a menu, especially lemon & garlic infused rib chops like these. We don't have them at home very often, but this Easter they were a perfect fit for our intimate stay-home dinner. Lamb and lentils have a natural affinity for each other, but this particular recipe for Lentils Catalane is the best we've tried and everyone who has ever tried them has refused to leave without the recipe. Thing is, the ingredients list couldn't be more mundane all simple pantry items: lentils, onions, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, tomato paste, oregano and thyme. The key to the wonderful flavor? There are two, actually.

One, use roughly equal weights of onions and lentils, then cook the onions until completely translucent. Believe it or not, this is the step where the dish will most often go astray
if the onions are still slightly opaque when the other ingredients are added, the moment is lost and the recipe will not taste quite as heavenly, no matter how much longer the dish is cooked.

Two, cook the tomato paste before adding the lentils. That's it!
now you have the keys and this wonderful recipe is open to you. It is a wonderful accompaniment to any grilled meat but is at its coquettish best with lamb. Having said that, these lentils are so savory and flavorful on their own, they would make a wonderful tortilla wrap or pita filling, too. Last night we made the serendipitous discovery that they also married well with the Fenugreek Potatoes, so the 2 together would make a filling and luscious vegetarian sandwich or pizza.

Oh, there is one catch. Make the lentils at least 24 hours before you intend to use or serve them. Because they are cooked separately from the base, the lentils need the overnight in the fridge to really meld the flavors together.

Serves 4 persons
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp sea salt
ground black pepper
4 sprigs fresh oregano, or 1 tsp. dried

12 lamb rib chops
1/2 lemon

Combine all marinade ingredients in glass bowl and add lamb. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, but no longer than 8.

Remove to room temperature 30 minutes before grilling. Grill to desired doneness.

(Prepare 24 hours before service)

10 oz. (280g) French green (Puy) lentils, or other green lentils

Wash and rinse through lentils in several changes of water, and remove any small pebbles. Place in a small (2qt) saucepan and cover with water by at least 2 inches, and place lid slightly ajar. Over medium high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until lentils are just soft (cooking time will depend on the freshness of the lentils). Remove from heat, cover and keep to one side.

While lentils are cooking, prepare the base:
2 medium brown onions, about 280g when minced
5 TBL. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 TBL. tomato paste
sea salt
ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme

Cook onions in covered skillet or small dutch oven over low heat until they are semi-translucent, about 8-10 minutes, then add garlic. Return cover and continue cooking until onions are completely translucent (they will taste sweet and mellow), about another 5-8 minutes, depending on your pan.

Move onions away from center of the pan and put tomato paste in the center. Press tomato paste against bottom of pan to maximize contact between the pan and paste. Stir to bring more paste in contact with heat you will see the paste begin to change color from bright candy apple red to a darker red pepper color. Begin to incorporate the onions into the paste, add salt and pepper, then cover and let cook on low heat for about 5 minutes. Add oregano and thyme, stir through and cook together for another 5 minutes or until you begin to smell the herbs come through the tomato fragrance.

Using a slotted soon, remove lentils from cooking liquid and add to tomato mixture. Add enough of the cooking liquid to allow the lentils and base to combine, but not become soupy (usually 2-3 TBL. does the trick). Heat together for 10 minutes. Then let cool in pan. Remove to container to chill overnight.

When ready to serve, re-heat gently in the oven or microwave. (optional step) Add 4-5 drops of toasted sesame seed oil and incorporate.


Sunrise Service at Puowaina ("Punchbowl")

Ecumenical Easter Sunrise Service at the National
Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Puowaina), Honolulu.

Sunrise view - 01
Sunrise view - 02
Sunrise view - 03
Sunrise view - 04
Celebrants representing 8 denominations across the island, and the ASL translator.
2008 Sunrise Serivce celebrants
The Royal Hawaiian Band
Roayal Hawaiian Band
Puowaina, like Diamond Head, is an extinct volcanic crater.
It lies in the heart of Honolulu.
Interior of Puowaina
View of Diamond Head from the center of Puowaina.
View of Diamond Head
Blessed and Happy Easter to All!


Fettucine mit Pfiff

In German, the term "mit Pfiff" connotes an "extra something," or "with a kick" and this fettucine had both. One day last week T offered to make dinner so I could continue packing boxes. He devised an all-vegetable marinara-based sauce with a most innovative twist: sauteed mushrooms to top the pasta, rather than be incorporated in it. I have to tell you, for a shroom-fiend like me, it was sheer genius. The mushrooms were boozy and buttery atop the chunky, spicy marinara and retained that separate distinction even when mixed through with a fork. With a glass of Zinfandel, it was pure heaven.

There's no recipe here, he used what vegetables we had on hand and a bottled marinara, as well as a pound of cremini mushrooms, sherry and butter. I'm just here to brag on my husband! (If you knew him when we first met, he used to put a frozen chicken breast in the microwave, cook it, stick a fork in it and douse it with Tabasco and call it "Chicken a la (insert name here)"

You've come a long way, Chef T!


A Case of Mistaken Identity

As a once avid scuba diver, I used to pride myself on my ability to recognize and name many fish and other denizens of the reef and deep. I was a diver who was perfectly content to hang out on one spot on the reef to see how many fish, eels, turtles, snails, worms, sponges, etc., I could spy rather than trying to cover a lot of sea turf. The blue spine unicorn fish ("Tataga," on Guam; and "Kala," in Hawaii) was an old friend, seen on almost every dive. I knew this fish more for its boldness (he'll come right up to a diver and point his one-corn right at you sadly, waiting for a hand-out), than its culinary delights. But when I first saw kala in the fish markets here, I had a strong memory of feasting on this at a barbecue on Guam. I remembered it had a tough leathery skin that could be put over direct flame without scorching, and which peeled away from firm white flesh. It was also recorded in my brain that it was rather delectable.

This is how I was accustomed to seeing a unicorn fish pointed, blank stare and teeth bared.

Alas, somewhere in the last 10 years since I left home, my memory has been failing me. I got his name right, the tough leathery skin is right, the firm white flesh is right. But the taste . . . hmmm, here my memory seems to have led me astray. This is a fish for the very strong of heart!
It has a distinct and pungent smell earthy and gamey, even when cooked with Alaea salt, lemon peel and juice, garlic and parsley stuffed in its cavity. I think this would probably be better prepared in a stew with coconut milk, lemongrass, onions and other equally robust flavors to mellow out its racy flavors. Fortunately we did have on hand a punchy Garlic Salsa that married well with the kala's fustiness.

So what fish waxed so fondly in memory? I've thought about that a lot since The Night of the Unicorn, and searching through the mists of memory I now believe it was a napoleon wrasse, which was also part of that same barbecue and which also sports a bump on its head, albeit a much less showy one (
photo on Wikipedia).

(adapted from
Fish Dishes of the Pacific from the Fishwife)
2 heads of garlic
TBL. olive oil
2 serrano chilies, seeded and sliced
28 oz. of canned, organic diced tomatoes (reserve juice)
1 TBL. red wine vinegar
sea salt and ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. raw sugar

2 large sprigs cilantro, minced

Peel garlic cloves, and cut largest cloves in half, so that all pieces are about the size of a marble. Gently cook garlic cloves in olive oil over low heat until they begin to soften. Add chilies, and cook until you can start to smell the chilies.

Turn heat up to medium, and add tomatoes and half of the reserved juice, as well as vinegar,
sea salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered for 10 minutes, or until tomatoes change to a dark burgundy color, and most of the liquid evaporates. Add sugar and cilantro, and cook another 5 minutes. Cover and let cool.

Serve with any grilled meat or game. Or gamey fish.

One Perfect Chocolate Cupcake

I'm the first to admit that I'm not a prolific baker. When I do bake, I have to be assured that most of my creation will end up in other hands, so it doesn't end up on my hips! Two pre-schoolers and their chocolate-loving mom brought out this recipe for chocolate cupcakes. Cocoa powder alone will not do, in my book to deliver real chocolate flavor, there has to be melted chocolate. Only half the batter got the extra shot of dark chocolate chips, so the munchkins' parents had some control of how much caffeine they got after dinner!

This recipe produces a cake with a very tender crumb and a smooth, pleasing chocolate flavor that both kids and adults will enjoy.

(Makes 2 dozen cupcakes or 2 9-in. round layer cakes)
6oz (170g) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
3/4 cup (180ml) almond milk
3 TBL. plain full-fat yogurt
(or use 1 cup buttermilk instead of almond milk/yogurt mixture)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups (200g) all-purpose flour
3 TBL. cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups (290g) raw sugar (demerara)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (180g) chocolate chips, Ghirardelli's extra dark (optional)

Place chocolate in double boiler over simmering water for approximately 5–10 minutes. Stir occasionally until completely smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool 5–10 minutes.

Combine almond milk, yogurt, and vanilla. Stir well and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers. Set

In a small bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and beat on medium speed until
fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add chocolate, mixing until well incorporated. Add dry ingredients in three parts,
alternating with milk mixture. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are just
incorporated — do not over-beat. Scrape down the batter to ensure the
ingredients are well blended, and the batter smooth. If using chocolate chips, fold in

Fill the the pans about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in
the center comes out clean.

Cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then on wire racks until completely cool.

For layer cakes, divide the batter between 2 9-in. round cake pans and bake 30–40 minutes.

5oz (140g) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup (115g) butter, softened
1-1/2 (195g)cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Melt chocolate over hot water; stir until smooth. Let cool 15 minutes. In large bowl, beat butter until light. Slowly add confectioners’ sugar, and beat until completely combined. Stir in melted chocolate and vanilla; beat until smooth.

Pour into a piping bag and chill for 20 minutes. Pipe onto cupcakes just before serving.


Mid-East meets Mid-Pac: Kajiki with Pomegranate-Ogo (Sea grass)

Kajiki with Pomegranate-Ogo

Once we had discovered the delightful marriage of pomegranate and fish in the Salmon in Pomegranate Sauce, we wondered how the pairing would work with other fish. We had more fillets in the fridge to play with this time firm white-fleshed Kajiki, or Pacific blue marlin. Rather than marinate the fish, I seasoned it shortly before cooking with some of the Middle Eastern flavors we usually associated with pomegranate namely cumin and coriander. I then used the base ingredients for the marinade to make a sauce and a dressing instead.
Pomegranate molasses

The key flavor ingredient here, pomegranate molasses, is an intensely fruitful and tart syrup with the dense viscosity of, well . . . molasses. Used primarily in savory dishes in Persian and Turkish cuisines, it's finding greater uses in Western kitchens with the rise in popularity and availability of all things pomegranate. On Oahu, your best source for pomegranate molasses is India Market, near the University. Elsewhere, check a Turkish or Middle Eastern dry goods store, or your local health food store.

Sea grasses of all kinds, including the limu ogo we use here, are ubiquitous in Hawaii. You find it in salads, soups, pokes (POH-kays), and as a raw ingredient by the bagful in many supermarkets. Among the diverse Asian population here, consuming sea grass is par for the course. US and other Western populations are also discovering sea grasses, lured by their "superfood" status for their high nutritional and mineral content, and low calorie load. I hope we begin to see sea grasses also more widely available and utilized in innovative ways. We had a bag of fresh ogo on hand, so I wanted to include that in this presentation. We actually made this meal when my dad was visiting last month, and sea grasses were one of the top foods in the list of low-purine foods for his gout-management diet.
Raw ogoBlanched ogo
Fresh ogo appears dark brown or reddish-brown (photo at left), when raw. After blanching, it turns a bright forest green. Although blanching is not necessary when using ogo as a salad or with other seafood preparations, since we were pairing it with some non-traditional flavors I wanted to reduce its normal brininess just a tad. The brief hot shower did no damage to the ogo's pleasing crunch a surprising contrast to the firm texture of the fish. The pomegranate and ogo complimented each other well the sea grass absorbed the punchy, mineral flavors of the pomegranate and Manuka honey and delivered them intact to the fish. We will try this combination again.

For the Fish:
2 4 oz. (120g) skinless fillets of kajiki, ahi, or other firm-fleshed fish
1/2 tsp. cumin powder
1/2 tsp. coriander powder
ground black pepper
sea salt

Combine cumin and coriander powders, and gently massage or rub into fish. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.

For the Ogo:
Take one large fist-ful of raw ogo and place in colander. Rinse well. Bring 4 cups of water to a hard boil, then pour over ogo in colander. Shake and drain well, then rinse with cold water. Leave to dry while you prepare the dressing.

For the Sauce and Dressing:
(adapted from Laurie's
Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska)
4 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp. coriander powder
1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper
TBL. pomegranate molasses
TBL. Manuka or other non-flowery honey (raw honey, if watching your gout)
sea salt, to taste

TBL. red wine or raspberry vinegar
TBL. olive oil
sea salt, to taste

In a small saucepan set over low heat, sweat garlic in oil until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add wine, and turn heat up to medium-high. Add coriander and pepper, and cook until spices are fragrant and alcohol has burned off, about 1 minute. Add molasses, honey and
sea salt, and stir through. Cook together for about 1 minute.

Remove 2
TBL. of sauce to a small mixing bowl and whisk in vinegar and oil. Taste and correct for salt. Using kitchen shears, cut ogo into 2-inch pieces. Add to dressing and mix well. Set aside.

Heat skillet with 2 TBL. oil over high heat. Salt fish fillets, then immediately add to pan, salted side down. When fillets release from pan, turn them over and reduce heat to medium. Cook until flesh will flake with a fork (or until desired doneness
if using ahi or wahoo, some people may prefer to leave the center sashimi-esque, like the Ahi with Peppercorns).

For service, spoon a pool of sauce on the plate and place a fillet in the center. Top with the dressed ogo, and serve with smashed potatoes and roasted broccoli.

For a gout-management diet, be certain to use skinless fillets and raw honey for the fish, and serve with whole roasted or smashed potatoes (i.e., with the skin on). This will be included in the
GDC round-up.

Salmon with Pomegranate Sauce

Catching up with some past dinners that have not been shared, this sweet and savory salmon inspiration came from dear Laurie at Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska. As I contemplated the multitude of seasonings and spices I have to use or lose soon, a lone bottle of pomegranate molasses kept calling from the dark recesses of the pantry. An ingredient I had always associated with Persian cooking, pomegranate molasses is a bright and sensuous syrup that evokes the exotic. We had only paired the deep, rich flavor of pomegranate with duck and lamb before, but the assertive flavor of salmon promised to be a fruitful match as well.

Laurie's recipe called for the salmon to be marinated for a couple of hours with pomegranate molasses, garlic, honey, Aleppo peppers and wine, then pan-fried and served with the pomegranate reduction. Here wild sockeye salmon fillets with pomegranate sauce are served with cinnamon couscous and stewed beans. We loved the marriage of pomegranate and salmon, and would definitely pair these again. I wondered, though, if the reduction alone (sans marination) would be enough to top other firm-fleshed fish. Since we only used half the marinade base (molasses, garlic and honey) for the salmon, the other half we paired the next day with a fish more often found in these warmer waters Kajiki, aka Pacific blue marlin. And limu. Stay tuned.

Brunch fit for a queen: Eggs a la reine

UPDATE: Find the round-up for the IWD in 2 parts at zorra's site here, and at fiordisale's site here.

Waffles w/ mushrooms, eggs and saffron-lemon sauce

Today is the international day to celebrate women. In honor of this joyous day, fiordisale and zorra have joined their considerable energies to organize a cyber-celebration of International Women's Day 2008. Invitees to the potluck were asked to prepare something yellow to share. I've been contemplating the makings of a savory waffle dish for a few weeks now, so I combined two of my favorite flavors (they just happen to also be yellow), saffron and lemon, to create a new take on a brunch favorite. This Belgian-style waffle is topped with seared oyster mushrooms, eggs, and a saffron-lemon sauce, and christened to celebrate the queen that dwells in every woman. Move over, Eggs Benedict, Eggs a la reine are in the house.

I wish each woman today, a day filled with love and family, and yes, wonderful flavors!

(yields 8-10 Belgian-style waffles)
(from the New McCall's Cookbook, c. 1973)
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
4 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups plain full-fat yogurt or sour cream

Pre-heat Belgian waffle iron.

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.

In medium bowl, beat together eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored. Gently fold in 1/3 of flour alternately with yogurt, ending with flour. Mix only long enough to barely incorporate
do not mix until smooth, it will toughen your batter.
Bake in waffle iron according to directions for your machine. Use or freeze.

1/2 lb. oyster or wild mushrooms
TBL. butter
pinch of sea salt

Bring wok or pan to smoking point. Add mushrooms to dry pan, and gently press to sear. Turn mushrooms over and press again. Add butter and salt, stir briefly and remove from heat. Do not let mushrooms weep.

Eggs, cooked to your liking

Saffron-Lemon Sauce:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of saffron threads in 3 TBL. warm water
1/2 cup dry white wine
juice from half a lemon
zest of 1 lemon (some reserved fro garnish, if desired)

Combine butter and flour in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly cook until flour grains begin to swell. Add 2-3
TBL. milk and incorporate into roux. Add more milk, and again fully incorporate. Continue adding milk while stirring until you have a smooth sauce. Add saffron, wine and salt. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, then add lemon juice, and remove from heat. Stir in lemon zest, cover while plating.

Top each waffle with mushrooms, then eggs. Nappe Sauce carefully over eggs. Garnish with reserved lemon zest, fresh fruit and a sparkling beverage (I chose my second favorite, an Apfelschorle).

IWL banner


A Sponge for Flavor: The Bottlegourd or Upo

Mung Beans and Bottlegourd

This spicy, easy recipe with new flavors came to us last week on a visit to Sagari's Indian Cooking website. She combines quick-cooking mung beans (no soaking needed) and a ridge gourd with spices to produce a memorable one-dish meal. Served with rotis or other flatbread (we had whole wheat tortillas), this simple dal is great cool weather comfort food and a nice change of pace from soup. I usually use mung beans to make a Filipino soup with pork, greens and fish sauce, so this was a nice alternative to our old stand-by.

We didn't have ridge gourd, but had picked up a nice young bottle gourd, or
upo, over the weekend. When choosing a gourd, I look for something heavy for its size as older gourds begin to lose water and become fibrous. So fibrous, in fact, that when fully dried they become a bath sponge, the loofah (derived from its Latin genus Luffa). My mom used to supply me with bath loofahs from her backyard garden on Guam when the occasional one escaped her notice until past its edible prime. Upo and other gourds of its ilk are mildly sweet on their own, but readily absorb flavors from their cooking medium. Usually I use upo in soups like Chicken Tinola or even a regular chicken soup, in place of zucchini or other squash. With the mung beans in this dish, it added a nice textural element to the soupy dal.
Upo, or bottlegourdLoofah bath sponge

Sagari's recipe is made using a pressure cooker, so I've adapted it here to cook in a regular saucepan.

(adapted from
Indian Cooking)
4 tbs oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. musturd seeds
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. coriander powder
1/2 cup tomato ( chopped)
2 TBL. cilantro
2 dry red chilies
3/4 cup dried mung beans, rinsed well
1 medium upo (about 1.5 lb total weight), seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (peeling is optional for smaller gourds)
1.5 tsp. salt
2 cups water

Preheat 3-quart or larger saucepan over medium high heat, then add oil, cumin and mustard seeds and chilies. When seeds begin to pop, immediately add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add turmeric, coriander, chili powder, and cook for about 1 minute. Add tomato and cilantro leaves, and whole chilies and cook until tomatoes soften.

Add mung beans, upo, salt and water, and cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes, or until beans are soft and thicken broth.

Garnish with cilantro, and serve with flatbreads. This will thicken as it sits and cools, and was equally delicious the next day cold, topping thick sliced toast. Thanks to Sagari for a new way to look at mung beans and gourds!

Mung dal with upo


Go Home, Cook Rice: Miso Butterfish

One of the hundreds of great things about living in Hawaii is the access to simple and quick healthy meals that only require a pot of home-cooked hot rice and a few minutes of skillet time. Misoyaki Butterfish fillets are available in almost every grocery, pre-marinated in a boozy miso-laced sake marinade that permeates the flaky silken butterfish, aka black cod or sablefish. Served with deli-made sea salad (sesame sea grass) or marinated warabi (fiddlehead) greens, as pictured above, misoyaki butterfish brings fine dining home. (The fish above and below were from purchased, pre-marinated filets.)

If you don't find pre-marinated butterfish filets at your local market, try this marinade at home. We've used this recipe before, and have stored it away for a day when we will not find marinated butterfish filets in the local markets. I gave the fish 2 days marinating time, but 3 would have been better. Give yourself the full 3 days marination for the most flavorful results. You can try this marinade with any flaky white fish, but if you can find sable fish or black cod, try it with this fish. There is a synergy that happens between the flavors in the marinade and the texture of butterfish that is infinitely greater than the sum of the parts.

(Also check out rowena's take on
Miso Monkfish with a laulau-esque presentation alla Italia.)

4 1/2lb. (220g) filets of butterfish (aka black cod or sablefish)
1-1/2 cups (300ml) Japanese sake (rice wine)
3/4 cups (150ml) mirin
1-1/2 cups raw sugar
2 cups (450g) white (aka shiro) miso

Combine sake, mirin and sugar and bring just to a boil over high heat. Immediately turn heat down to medium and stir well to dissolve sugar. Add miso paste, and incorporate completely. Cook for 10 minutes, then remove from heat and cool completely.

Pat filets dry, then cover with marinade, seal well and refrigerate for 3 days.

When ready to cook, preheat a small pan in the oven at 350F/180C. (A small tabletop oven or toaster oven is perfect for this.)

Pre-heat your pan, and add 2 TBL. olive oil. You can pat filets with paper toweling, but don't rinse with water. Place the skinless side down first, and gently (very gently) press to make contact with the pan. After a full minute or so, the glaze should release from the pan (i.e., not stick), and you can turn it to the other side for browning. After 30 seconds, put the filets on the pre-heated pan in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the fish flakes with a fork. Serve with rice, sesame-laced vegetables (see Warabi or Watercress recipes) or sea salad, and Namasu.


Confetti Potato Salad

Confetti Potato Salad

When we found a package of mixed new potatoes in the market, I couldn't pass up the chance to play with the lively colors for the Potato Fe(a)st Event at DK's Culinary Bazaar.
Although my first instinct with new potatoes is always to roast them, I knew from past experience that roasting, while intensifying the flavor, dulled the vibrant colors. Potato Feast logo

(Raw and steamed Okinawan purple sweet and Peruvian purple new potatoes)

Steaming would preserve the color and keep them firm, but they would require some strong flavors to punch through that waxy texture. Since T has never been a fan of mayonnaise-based salads, I'm always keen to try any potato salad without mayo. The sharp mix of lemon and feta in this recipe seemed the perfect foil for the bland potatoes, but the original called for kalamata olives, which we didn't have. I've substituted capers for the olives, and so hesitate to call this Moldavian Potato Salad, which is what it was titled in the library book I borrowed. At any rate, I was happy with the rich colors and sassy flavor that comes through in the end.

This salad joins "Purple & Squeak," made with the Okinawan sweets, in going out to DK for her event celebrating the International Year of the Potato.

(heavily adapted from
The Potato Cookbook)

For the potatoes:
2.2 lb. (1kg) total of mixed red, Yukon gold, and Peruvian purple potatoes
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
TBL. olive oil
sea salt
ground black pepper

Wash potatoes well, including a soak in a solution of 1
TBL. white vinegar for every 2 qt./liter clean water. Scrub, rinse and place whole, unpeeled potatoes in large steamer that can hold potatoes in single layer. Cook over medium high steam until potatoes are easily pierced with a knife blade. You might have to remove smaller potatoes earlier so they do not become water-logged.

Combine minced garlic and oil. While potatoes are hot, cube them into 1/2-inch (1.5-2cm) cubes, place in large bowl, and dress with garlic oil. Season to taste with sea salt and ground black pepper. Allow to cool to room temperature.

To finish salad:
4 scallions (green onions), white and light green parts only (save the dark green for garnish), sliced thin
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1/2 cup capers, rinsed and drained
1 sprig of fresh dill (about 1/4 cup)
Juice of 1 lemon

When potatoes have cooled, add scallions, feta, capers, dill and lemon juice, and toss gently to combine. Taste and correct seasoning
it should be lemony and salty-tart from the cheese and capers. Serve at room temperature. Can be chilled if made ahead, but allow to come to room temperature before serving. Garnish with reserved scallion greens, if desired.

Plate alongside your favorite finger sandwiches or quiche for an elegant tea or brunch, or fried chicken for a picnic in the park. Also makes a terrific sandwich filling stuffed in a pita with tomatoes and cucumbers, or rolled in a tortilla wrap with a smear of hummus to bind (I didn't have hummus for the wrap seen here, but was wishing I did).

By keeping the skins on the potatoes, this salad seems to fit the criteria for dad's gout management diet, so it will be included in the Gout Diet Challenge round-up for him.


"Bubble & Squeak" tweaked . . .

Purple & Squeak

When I received DK's invitation to participate in her first sponsored event at DK's Culinary Bazaar celebrating the year of the potato, I thought this might be the time to try something that's been lurking in the back of my mind for some time. I've always loved the combination of potatoes and cabbage, whether it's as Haluschka (potatoes, cabbage, onion and caraway) or the delightfully named Bubble & Squeak (mashed potatoes and cooked cabbage). And it's the latter that has been tickling my imagination for as long as we've had access to the gorgeous dark purple Okinawan sweet potatoes here in Hawaii what if you combined purple potatoes with purple (i.e., red) cabbage and red onions? You would have, of course, Purple & Squeak (you can see in the photo that even the mustard seeds took on a red tinge after they popped, so as to blend with today's color scheme).
Sweet and savory potato varietiesSweet Potatoes and Yam
Hawaii has a wondrous bounty of sweet potato varieties. At left, basketfuls of taro (upper left), russets, and two varieties of Okinawan sweet potatoes crowd a display at Kekaulike Mall in Chinatown. At right, 3 varieties of sweet potato (US, top left; Okinawan white, bottom right; and Okinawan purple) and 1 yam (bottom left). The Okinawan varieties have a firmer flesh than the US regular sweet potato.

In Britain, Bubble & Squeak is a dish designed to make-over mashed potatoes and cabbage left from the previous day's Sunday roast; in this case we had leftover
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Awamori (but without the evaporated milk called for in that recipe) and I cooked the red cabbage to make this dish. Given the natural sweetness of the Okinawan purple sweet potato, and the added sweetness of cooked cabbage, I wanted to balance those with a little heat and spice in the form of popped mustard seeds, cumin, chaat masala and a chopped jalapeno (seeded). We enjoyed this dish very much, and will make it again. We had it first with grilled fish and couscous, but loved it even more simply wrapped in a warm whole wheat tortilla with cilantro sprigs tucked in the middle.

DK's Potato Fe(a)st is open until Feb. 29th. If you enjoy potatoes, both savory and sweet, as much as I do, check out her site to enter or to see the Round-up soon.

1 quantity of
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Awamori (2 lbs. of sweet potatoes)

TBL. olive oil
TBL. brown mustard seeds
1 medium red onion, diced
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
2 tsp. cumin powder
1 medium red cabbage (about 2 lbs/1kg), sliced lengthwise into 1-inch (2.5cm) wide slices
sea salt

1 tsp. chaat masala
cilantro for garnish

Heat oil over medium high heat in large saute pan or wok. When hot, add mustard seeds and stir until they begin popping, then immediately add onion. Stir to coat onion, then cover pan and turn heat to low. Allow onions to cook until translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Remove cover and return heat to medium high. Move onions aside, creating a space in the middle of the pan, and add cumin powder to the center, stirring well to cook through for 1 minute. Add peppers, and saute for another 5 minutes. Add cabbage and 1 tsp. sea salt, mix well. Cover and cook until cabbage is tender, about 15 minutes.

Stir in prepared Mashed Sweet Potatoes and mix well to combine. Cover and heat through completely. Sprinkle with chaat masala and garnish with minced cilantro. Serve with any grilled fish or meat. Or eat either rolled in or atop (like a pizza) your favorite homemade or purchased flatbread. You can also shape into patties and pan fry with olive oil
the stickier texture of the sweet potato means no egg is required for binding for entree-type cutlets.

Purple & Squeak as a side dish

Skinless potatoes should be eaten less frequently by those with gout conditions, although potatoes with skin are considered good for those on a gout management diet. I wouldn't imagine eating the purple sweet variety with its skin, since it tends to be a bit tough after cooking; although the Okinawan white-flesh sweet variety could be mashed with the skin.

Cabbage is also high on the list of good foods for gout management. I would include this in dad's low-purine regimen by using a larger percentage of the cabbage mixture to sweet potato, and ensuring the other elements of the meal were especially low-purine, such as quinoa and lemon roasted chicken.


Persian-style Grilled Chicken

One of our favorite stand-bys for the grill is this lovely Persian style yogurt-marinated chicken. A friend shared her Iranian mother-in-law's recipe with us in broad strokes, giving general proportions of each ingredient for the marinade. After 8 years of tossing this marinade together every few months, and borrowing a basting technique from well-known Persian chef Najmieh K. Batmanglij in her book, "A Taste of Persia," I finally had to develop an actual recipe to share with other friends.

The yogurt serves to tenderize as well as flavor the chicken, leaving it moist and juicy even after high grilling. This marinade gets better the longer it has to marry with the chicken, up to 2 days in the coolest part of your refrigerator. Served with lavosh or other flat bread, grilled zucchini and tomatoes, and a yogurt salad, this is an exotic way to break out of the seeming confines of a low-purine diet (see the Gout Diet Challenge) that my dad faces for the next 9 months or so. Basmati rice is another traditional accompaniment.

As is sumac, a coarse dark burgundy colored powder made from the berries of a bush that grows wild in the Middle East and parts of Italy (related to, but not the same as, the poison sumac found in North America). It is an essential flavoring and souring agent in many Middle Eastern cuisines, including Persian. Here it is used as a condiment for the cooked chicken and rice. To be honest, I think I sometimes make this dish because I'm really craving the combination of yogurt, rice and sumac that are essential components of this meal. On Oahu, I finally located a local source for sumac India Market on South Beretania, near University Ave. (right where King St. becomes a one-way road), has many Middle Eastern pickles and spices, as well as Indian foods, clothing, music and movies.

1/4 cup (30g) plain full-fat yogurt
1/2 cup olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
Juice from 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup, 60ml)
2 tsp. cumin powder
1/2 tsp. saffron threads, soaked in 2
TBL. water (optional)
sea salt
ground black pepper

1 whole chicken, backbone removed, quartered, and wing tips removed
1 lime, quartered

Combine marinade ingredients in glass bowl or zipper bag. Add chicken, and combine well, massaging marinade under skin and into joints. Cover or zip up, and let marinate at least 8 hours, and up to 3 days.

To prepare to grill, remove chicken from refrigerator about 30 minutes before it is set to go on the grill (i.e., while the grill is pre-heatting or the charcoal coming up to cooking temperature). Make basting sauce.

Basting Sauce:
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tsp.)
TBL.. unsalted butter, melted
sea salt
ground black pepper

Combine ingredients and blend well to dissolve salt.

Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade. Place chicken on grill, skin-side down first. Turn over and baste liberally. Grill until each piece runs clear when cut near the joint, basting each time the chicken is turned. Remove fully cooked chicken from grill, and immediately squeeze lime juice over.

Serve with lavosh, basmati rice, grilled vegetables, yogurt salad, and liberally sprinkled with sumac.

Note on cutting chicken for serving: In the U.S., we generally cut a half-breast at the joint between breast and wing, leaving a tasty but tiny wing piece and a rather over-sized breast portion. Here's a more equitable cut
cut through the lower third of the breast so some white meat goest with the wing, and further divide the remaining part in two. This will allow more diners to get a share of white meat, if they like, and it encourages portion control as well.

If you are what you eat . . .

Idako (baby octopus)
. . . better know what you're eating, yeah?!

One of the trickiest issues I've come across while researching the management of a gout-friendly kitchen is the lack of resources when it comes to the nutritional values of less common Asian vegetables and fruits, and prepared ethnic foods. While some, like konnyaku and kelp (kombu) have made in-roads into the US and other Western markets as health foods, many others remain on the fringe. One resource I've found is not related to gout in particular, but is enlightening nonetheless about the nutrition content of foods common in Hawaii.

The "
Hawai'i Foods: Nutrition with Aloha" website, sponsored by the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) at the University of Hawaii, provides a breakdown of the total calories, protein, carbohydrate, fat, cholesterol, and vitamin & mineral content of popular fruits, vegetables, and cooked foods in the Islands. One recipe that was featured earlier here on ThreeTastes, Chicken and Green Papaya Soup (Chicken Tinola), is one of the cooked dishes listed on the site: a 1-cup serving of Chicken Tinola has 97 calories, 7g of protein, 4g of carbohydrates, 1g of fiber, 6g of total fat (only 1g is saturated), 23mg cholesterol, as well as Vitamins A & C, niacin, folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium and phosphorus; and 363mg sodium. Pretty healthy, all things considered, and the sodium content can be controlled by the amount of fish sauce (patis) you add while cooking.

Other dishes include ahi poke, kim chee, spam musubi, macaroni salad (included with almost every plate lunch in the Islands), char siu pork, chicken katsu, guinataan, pinakbet, mochi, laulau, kalua pork, poi, teriyaki beef, and chap chae. If you're familiar with these dishes, it's kind of fun
and sometimes scary to see the actual nutritional breakdown of these foods. (I have to seriously re-think how much poke we eat . . . too sad)

Also on the site are less common fruits and vegetables, such as apple banana, watercress, taro, string beans, Okinawan sweet potato, tamarind, soursop, mustard cabbage, mountain apple, papaya, marunggay leaves, lychee, jackfruit, guava, wing beans (listed as"goa bean"), bok choy, choi sum, and bittermelon.

Another great asset is the Recipe page which features more modern recipes using local ingredients: Watercress & Pork (saute), Pineapple Chicken, Apple Banana Bread, Daikon & Potato Soup, Chicken Noodle Choi Sum, and Okinawan Sweet Potato Hash, among many others. The nutrition breakdown for each recipe is also provided.
Go there, or click "Discover" on the main page. I'd like to sample some of these recipes for this site, so stay tuned.

Also on the site is a tool called "My Diet, or PacTrac (short for Pacific Tracker)" which is supposed to allow the user to gauge the nutrition content of their actual diet. It allows you to enter the foods you've eaten in the last 24 hours and receive back a report on how healthy that one-day diet was. The first problem I encountered was that when I entered "oatmeal" as the first item, I was given a list of 6 dry or instant oatmeal cereals to choose from, but no cooked oatmeals, so I could not proceed. It's a great idea, but it may need a little more work on that score. To see PacTrac for yourself, go there now, or click "Learn" on the "Hawai'i Foods" main page.

Finally, you can access and download (as PDF files) quite a few different UH publications that look at the history and nutrition of local foods, as well as guides on how to choose a more healthy diet among foods available locally (
Go there). One guide in particular seemed very practical and helpful: Hawaiian Food Choices for Healthful Living. This 39-page booklet breaks down the US government's recommended foods pyramid (Starch, Calcium/Milk, Fruit, Vegetable, Meat, and Fat), and includes local foods in each food group, including saloon crackers, arare (listed as mochi crunch), coconut, soba noodles, ramen, breadfruit, lotus root, pigeon peas, lychee, poha berries, ume, parrotfish (ulu), milkfish (bangus), skipjack tuna (aku), fish sauce, and Tabasco.

However, my favorite sections begin at page 28 (to page 33) of the booklet: these sections detail how some local favorites make up the total servings from each of the food groups the USDA recommends (2 servings of Calcium/Milk, 3 Vegetables, 4 Fruit, 8 Starch, 5 Meat, 4 Fat). For example, 1 cup of Portuguese Bean Soup (see photo) provides 1/2 of one Vegetable serving, and 2 Meat; 1/2 cup of Halo-Halo (Filipino mixed fruit and ice dessert) has 1/2 Fruit serving, 1 Starch, and 1 fat; and 1 cup of Bibimbap (Korean rice topped with vegetables and beef) has 1 Starch, 1-1/2 Vegetable, 1/2 Meat, 1/2 Fat. But ask yourself, do you really have only 1 cup of Portuguese Bean Soup or Bibimbap? Portion sizes in the Islands are very generous so calculate that in as well. I know my soup bowl probably holds about 2 cups of soup and don't forget about the cornbread you might have on the side, too!

The CTAHR at the University launched this site last year, and I've enjoyed using these tools and have learned a lot about the foods we eat here in Hawaii. I can't say we've banished anything from our table because of something we've learned on this site
— moderation is saner than total denial (especially when there are so many ono foods). But if knowledge is power, then the CTAHR has certainly empowered us to make intelligent choices about what we can enjoy in the Islands.

So "Mahalo nui loa" to all the researchers and staff at CTAHR who made this site possible!

For information on how to choose seafood and fish in Hawaii and around the world that are safe for both you and the environment,
read more here.


The GDC: Five-Spices Chicken

Five-Spices Chicken

We're still in the market for gout-friendly recipes that tickle the palate. This is one I actually dug up from my recipe files after dad reminisced about a Chinese-style chicken he remembered that was flavored with star-anise. I copied the original recipe from a newspaper article probably 20 years ago (yes, when I was a mere child in grade school . . .) onto a 4x6 index card. It's quite westernized, but still answers to its original Asian influences. I've adapted the old recipe so it is friendlier to the gout sufferer and can be cooked wholly in a slow-cooker for 6 hours, though the sauce must be finished in a pan. It's a recipe designed to leaves the chef free for a day to pursue other interests. Note how the chicken browned nicely even without the pre-browning step.

Even if you don't have gout, this is an easy and delicious way to add a little something different to your weekday menu. Follow the suggestions for non-restricted diets in parentheses.

TBL. tomato paste (or ketchup, as in the original recipe!)
1/4 cup raw honey (better for gout diet), OR 3 TBL. brown sugar
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce (or regular if you have no restrictions for gout)
1/4 cup natural apple juice (sake, sherry, or Chinese rice wine if you have no restrictions for gout)
1/4 cup broth or water (if using only whole breasts, I recommend using broth, as the breast pieces don't have enough bones to substantially flavor the sauce) + more to cover the chicken pieces in the pot

Combine ketchup, honey, soy sauce, juice/wine, and 1/4 cup broth/water and stir well to dissolve honey or sugar.

1 onion, sliced
3-6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 4-in. (20cm) slices of fresh ginger
1 stick of cinnamon, halved
3-4 pieces of whole star anise
6-10 whole black peppercorns
1 whole frying chicken, or whole legs or breasts (3-4lbs, 1.5-2kg)

To Finish:
2 heaping
TBL. of cornstarch
TBL. water

Stir together to dissolve cornstarch.

Lay onion, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, and peppercorns on bottom of slow-cooker. Cut chicken into serving size pieces, and lay on top of spices. Add prepared Sauce, and enough additional broth/water to cover the chicken. Set slow-cooker on LOW setting and leave to enjoy the rest of your morning.

After 6-7 hours, remove chicken to serving dish and cover to keep warm. Strain remaining sauce into a skillet and boil over high heat to reduce to about 1.5 cups. Taste and if the flavor is not too concentrated, further reduce to 1 cup. If flavors are already strong, proceed to thickening.

Taste and correct seasoning. To thicken, reduce heat to medium and add cornstarch mixture, stirring well as you pour in cornstarch. Stir well to combine and cook until sauce is slightly thickened and takes on a shine. Pour over chicken and serve immediately with
Mestizo Rice, and steamed or braised vegetables (see GDC Round-up for other gout-friendly recipes)

This recipe is going out to Sunita at
Sunita's World . . . life and food for her wonderful "Think Spice . . . think star anise" event this month. I love the distinctive flavor of star anise, it is the signature spice in Five Spices Chicken, and I'm looking forward to Sunita's round-up at the beginning of March to discover new recipes featuring this pretty spice.


Spice up your Valentine's: Vindaloo Curry Sauce

Vindaloo with lamb

I grew up eating curry on a regular basis. In truth, it was “Curry Rice” a Japanese adaptation of a Western (I’m guessing British) version of Indian-style curries. I don’t think you could get more attenuated from the original source than this. If you’ve never had Japanese curry rice, it’s kind of hard to describe because it bears little resemblance to the august culinary heritage from which it was adopted. There is something distinctly Japanese about it, which I can’t quite put my finger on. You make curry rice by cooking together meat (if using) and vegetables in a broth or water, then adding this block of pre-mixed paste to season and create a thick gravy. But for the first 20-some odd years of my life, when I heard the word “curry,” this is what I saw in my head:
Japanese Curry RiceJapanese curry seasoning paste
It never occurred to me that curry rice was something one could make from scratch because the secret blend of spices in the commercial mix seemed too perfect and too obtuse to mess with. I’ve looked at websites with Japanese-style curry rice recipes, but none have quite fit the bill. I’m still looking.

On a trip back from college one year, the Guam Hilton sponsored a curry festival in one of their restaurants and brought in an Indian chef from Singapore to create a dozen different types of curries. The most revelatory aspect of this event was that each curry (lamb, fish, chicken, duck, vegetable) had a different sauce! I know that sounds absurd now, but at the time the only difference in curries I had known was mild, medium or hot spiciness in curry rice (you could add different ingredients, but the sauce itself was the same)! I can’t stress how much this first visit (we went back 3-4 more times while the event was going on) opened my eyes to the vast and varied world of Indian cuisine and started a continuing love-affair with all its many forms.

So I could not pass up the chance to share in zorra’s enthusiasm for spice and curries in her
Curry Event at 1x umrühren bitte (click here or in the banner), by bringing one of our favorite curries, Vindaloo, out from the recipe pages into a post.

Vindaloo is itself a blend of cultures, the influence of Portuguese settlers on India’s west coast region of Goa. Vindaloo’s Portuguese heritage is betrayed in its inclusion of vinegar and its copious use of garlic in the sauce. This sauce is best with red meats and fowl (such as duck); we make it most often with lamb.

If 1lb. of meat seems like a small amount, that’s because a meat curry is usually only one of several dishes in a typical Indian dinner (the others are usually legume stews (dals), vegetables, pickles and salads). A very healthy way to dine!

(But I still love curry rice! And it's a favored stand-by and comfort food in our home, gracing our table at least once a month. With the block-o-paste seasoning it’s a great weekday shortcut to a delicious hot meal in 30 minutes or less.)
Vindaloo with Lamb

(serving for 4 persons as part of a full Indian dinner)

1 lb. of boneless meat (pork, lamb, beef duck, or chicken) cut into large cubes
1 piece of tamarind pulp, about the size of a walnut soaked in 2 cups (500ml) warm water for 30 minutes
ghee or unsalted butter
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 knob of ginger, peeled and julienned
5-7 cloves garlic, minced
4-10 dried red chillies
1 tsp cumin seeds 1 tsp black peppercorns 1½ tsp whole cloves 1 cinnamon stick 1 TBL. brown sugar ¼ cup (175ml) apple cider vinegar

Gently fry onions in a medium saute pan about 5 minutes over low heat. Turn heat up to medium, and add ginger, garlic, cumin seeds and peppers and continue cooking until onions are translucent, about another 5 minutes. Add cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, brown sugar and cinnamon stick. Cook another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, press tamarind mixture through sieve and extract as much liquid as possible. Add tamarind juice to sauce, and cook another 10 minutes. Taste — it should be tart and lightly sweet and hot (peppery). Can be cooled and stored in fridge until needed.

When ready to add meat, remove cinnamon stick and puree sauce in blender or with hand/stick blender.

Season meat with salt and pepper, and brown well in separate pan. Add ½ cup (125 ml) water to deglaze pan used to brown meat. Return meat and curry to pan, and cook 20-35 minutes uncovered, or until meat is tender.
Serve with basmati rice, dal and Indian vegetables. (See recipes for
Tarka Dal, Brussels Sprouts or Cabbage with Coconut, Chaat Potatoes, Aloo Gobi)


Wahoo!: Valentine for a Special Couple

Wahoo Pie

Today I wanted to make a special dinner for two people who aren't actually here in Hawaii, but who live in our hearts and thoughts everyday. We've begged, pleaded and cajoled them to visit here from cold and snowy (especially right now!!) Maine, but alas, to no avail. I'm sure they find the usual recipes on these pages a bit odd, and maybe even downright strange, and that's okay because they love me anyway. But today I wanted to send them a Valentine's wish for a very special anniversary.

I looked for a Maine version of this recipe, certain that it would be a staple there. But of the 6 Maine cookbooks I consulted, not one had a recipe for Fish Pie. I found that a bit astonishing, to be honest, because this dish has so many things for New Englanders to love: sweet white-meat fish, mashed potatoes, and a light cream sauce. T describes it as a Maine-style fish stew with mashed potatoes on top. For those of you familiar with Shepherd's Pie, or Cumberland Pie, you can think of this as a marine version of that, too.

I’ve had to rely instead on the recipe we used, and on which we were tested on so often, at the Leith’s School. I’ve adapted the methods a bit (sorry, Claire, I haven’t mashed potatoes through a sieve since 2000!), but the recipe is tried and true. One thing I like about this recipe is its method of poaching the fish in seasoned milk. The onion and bay leaf help to cut down any fishy smell, and in turn the poaching adds flavor to the milk, which is then used to make the bechamel sauce that will bathe the fish in creamy goodness. This was made with Wahoo, a popuar local fish also known as Ono (and it IS ono, too), and corn. It’s one of T’s favorites, too, so he gets a second early Valentine’s dinner — he’ll eat some for you both, Mom and Dad!

For Steve and Gladys, this one's for you! Thank you for all your love and support, and for sharing yourselves and one of the most wonderful of guys in the world with me. Happy Anniversary, late but with all our love!

*** This recipe is joining the heart-shaped savory pies we made earlier for zorra’s “Heart for your Valentine” event at 1x umrühren bitte. The event closes on Friday, the 15th, but zorra is updating the round-up as entries come in, so if you want ideas to tickle your Valentine’s fancy, there are already dozens of entries on-line. Check out the round-up here or by clicking the banner in the sidebar. ***

Wahoo fish pie

(adapted from
The Leith's Cookery Bible)
Mis en place:
1. Mashed Potatoes (for topping) (or use your favorite recipe)
1.5 lb (675g) floury potato (e.g., Russett)
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1/3 cup + 2
TBL. (100 ml) milk, room temperature
TBL. (55g) butter, room temperature
pinch fresh nutmeg (about 3 passes on a grater)

Peel potatoes, cut in quarters, and place in steamer. Steam over medium-high steam for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through.

Place milk, butter, salt and pepper in large bowl. Transfer hot potatoes to bowl, season with salt and peper, and immediately mash or whip to fulffy consistency. Add nutmeg, if using, and stir to mix through.
(Actually, when I make mashed potatoes for fish pie, I usually just mash the potatoes with a bit of
sea salt and ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil because there is so much butter, milk and cream in the sauce, it is too rich for my blood. But for company or a special occasion, I'll splurge on the butter and milk in the potatoes too.)

2. Poach Fish:
1.5-2lb. (675-900g) haddock, cod, wahoo, mahimahi, or other firm white fish, with skin
1-3/4 cup (425ml) whole or low-fat milk (don't recommend using non-fat)
½ onion, sliced
8-10 peppercorns
3-4 small bay leaves
sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.

In small oven-proof pan with deep sides, lay onion slices, peppercorns and bay leaves in pan. Place fish, skin side up (this is supposed to further protect your fish from drying out) on top of onions. Pour milk over fish, season with salt, and cover with parchment or wax paper. Cook in pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until fish is opaque (cooked through). Cooking time will depend on thickness of fish.

Remove fish from pan, and keep covered to retain heat. Strain milk to remove solids,
but KEEP MILK to make Bechamel Sauce.

3. Make Bechamel Sauce:
2 TBL. (30g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup (30g) flour
Reserved Milk from Poached Fish
2 TBL. heavy cream (or double cream)

Melt butter in saucepan, and immediately add flour. Stirring constantly, cook together for one minute. Add 2 TBL. of Reserved Milk, and whisk until milk is completely absorbed. Add 2 more TBL. of Reserved Milk, and stir to incorporate. Continue to add increasing amounts of milk to slurry in pan, and whisk well. Bring sauce slowly to a boil over medium heat, then add cream and remove from heat. Taste, and season with salt and pepper.

4. Assemble and Bake:
5 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled; OR 1 cup ( g) peas, green beans or veggie of your choice
Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley,
minced (about 2 TBL.)

Place 6-cup oven-proof casserole on baking sheet. Flake fish in large chunks into casserole. Add eggs, if using, or vegetables. Sprinkle with parsley. Pour hot sauce over all. (Can be cooled and refrigerated overnight up to this point, to top with potatoes and bake later. Lay wax or parchment paper directly on surface of sauce to prevent "skin" from forming.)
Traditional criss-cross patternPiped mashed potato topping

Spread a layer of mashed potates over fish and, using a fork, make a traditional criss-cross pattern over the top (photo on left). Alternatively, pipe mashed potatoes in attractive pattern over fish (heart-shaped pan).

Drizzle with olive oil, and and place casserole on baking sheet into middle shelf in oven. Bake for 10 minutes, or until filling is hot throughout. Test filling with metal needle or skewer to make certain it is hot. If potatoes start to brown before filling is properly heated, cover lightly with foil/aluminium.

If you're baking a pie that was begun 24 hours earlier and refriegerated: Cover with foil/aluminium and bake for 30 minutes. Test filling as outlined above. Remove foil and continue baking another 10 minutes or until potatoes lightly brown.

Serve with salad, and a dry (Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris) or mildly sweet (Riesling or White Zinfandel) white wine.

(This recipe also complies with the GDC, so it shouldn't trouble my dad's gout. More gout-friendly recipes)


The GDC: Chicken, Green Beans & Cherries in Tomato Sauce

Chicken Meatballs in Tomato-Green Bean Stew

While looking for interesting ways to cope with dad's diet limitations (our Gout Diet Challenge, GDC) as he works to reduce the visible uric crystal deposits (called tophi) on his hands and knees, the flavors of the Mediterranean still resound most strongly. We took a cruise through the Greek Islands many years ago with my parents, stopping in ports only long enough for T and I to make a mad dash through any groceries and bakeries we could find while my parents and aunt took the ship-sponsored tours or hung out in harbor-side cafes. The cruise only emphasized how fruitless it was for us to take a big-ship cruise through these wondrous islands, since you spend no quality time on any island.

It was long enough, however, to introduce us to new flavors. One that has remained a staple in our house since that cruise is Fassoulakia me Domates, Green Beans with Tomatoes. We found a small cafe at the harbor in Hydra and ordered some food to take back with us to the ship, and once on board, skipped the formal ship dinner to feast on our local finds. To be honest, I don't remember much about the other foods we ordered, there were stuffed vegetables, fish, lamb, etc., but the lovely stewed beans in tangy tomato sauce was something I had to duplicate when we returned home.

At that time, I had one Greek cookbook, "Greek Cooking for the Gods," by Eva Zane. It had come highly recommended by a friend who regularly cooked from it for her Greek boyfriend, and it was my stand-by for moussaka, spanakopita, and the Easter bread that I loved. The recipe for Fassoulakia me Domates in this book looked promising, but it did not include currants, which had been in the beans we tried from Hydra. I included currants in our first try, and it was a pretty close match. Since then, I've also used raisins, sultanas, even diced apricots, and loved the results; and even omitting dried fruit altogether is delicious.

To adapt this recipe for the GDC, I used dried tart cherries (black tart cherries are recommended for gout management) instead of currants. And I added cooked chicken (chicken is better than turkey for gout-sufferers) meatballs to make it a one-dish meal. Without meat, it is an easy side dish for roasted or grilled meats, or a very filling vegetarian entree served with couscous or to stuff a baked potato. Or as a flatbread pizza topping (that's for bee and Jai)!
(See the new
GDC Round-up for more gout-friendly recipes)

Chicken, Beans and Cherries in Tomato Sauce

(Inspired by the gorgeous island of Hydra and heavily adapted from "Greek Cooking for the Gods")

Chicken Meatballs
1 lb. (450g) ground chicken
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic
1 large egg
1 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper (optional)
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and shape into golf-ball sized rounds. Saute in pan lined with 1/2-inch oil until browned on all sides, or place on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and bake in tabletop oven for 20 minutes. Add hot to sauce, or cool completely and freeze to make ahead (add to sauce frozen after beans have simmered for 20 minutes, then cook for another 40 minutes).

To use fresh chicken, use 1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast or thigh meat cut into 1-inch cubes. Combine paprika, cumin, peppers and salt (omit oregano) listed in Meatball recipe above, and coat diced chicken in dry mixture. Set aside 30 minutes, then add to Tomato Sauce below after beans have simmered for 20 minutes, then continue cooking for the remaining 40 minutes in the original recipe.

Tomato Sauce
TBL. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dried cherries (or currants, raisins, sultanas)
1 TBL. dried oregano
tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried dill (optional)

6 ripe tomatoes, or 1 28oz. (780g) canned tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine, or chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 bunch fresh Italian parsley (flat-leaf), about 1 cup chopped
1 bay leaf
1 lb. green beans

In large saute pan set over low heat, sweat onions in olive oil until transparent (take your time, this will take 8-10 minutes at least). Add garlic and dried cherries, and cook until both are just softened. Add oregano, thyme and dill (if using), and mix through onion mixture and leave to cook about 2 minutes, or until herbs become fragrant.

Turn heat up to medium high and immediately add tomatoes, wine/broth, parsley and bay leaf. (If you omit the dried fruit completely, add 1/2
tsp. brown sugar to sauce.) Partially cover, and leave to simmer 20 minutes while you prepare beans.

Wash and tip green beans to remove stringy spine. Leave whole or cut into 2-inch lengths, it's up to your own aesthetics and who you are cooking for. Add to tomato sauce, cover completely and let simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes. Add cooked meatballs, cover and simmer another 30 minutes.

Serve with couscous, quinoa or amaranth (the latter two are very beneficial for the management of gout), fresh pita or other flatbread, or
Mestizo Rice. In the photo, it is plated with cinnamon couscous.

The Gout Diet Challenge: Greens & Cheese Pie

UPDATE: Visit the new GDC Round-up for other gout-friendly recipes

While my dad is still here recuperating comfortably from his cataract surgery, I'm challenged with cooking with the limitations of his chronic gout condition, which includes bans on red meats, turkey, cured meats, black tea, preserved meats, shellfish, yeast breads, cauliflower, coffee, chocolate, refined sugars, refined salts, certain legumes, small fatty fish (anchovies, sardines, herring), carbonated drinks, white vinegar, fish sauce, and fried foods; as well as limiting amounts of asparagus, and mushrooms. (Thankfully the pre-op restriction on garlic is no longer in place.) Dad was a bit depressed on learning about all these dietary restrictions because he's an inveterate improviser in the kitchen and he loves all kinds of foods. (Guess who inherited these traits?) I want to show him that these limits don't condemn him to a life of bland meals. On the contrary, it's often helpful to look to other cultures and cuisine to discover delicious new ways to incorporate the foods that support his management of gout. (See a complete list of foods to avoid and foods to help eliminate uric acid at

Just a brief word about gout (the condensed version of what I've learned in the last week). Gout is a form of arthritis distinguished by extremely high levels of uric acid in the blood that may cause sudden painful attacks in the joints. Uric acid is the metabloic by-product of purines, a naturally occurring substance in our body tissue and in some foods we eat. Normally uric acid is safely secreted out of the body by the kidneys, but if one's metabolism is impaired (by medications, age, or disease) or if one consumes a consistently high purine diet with little exercise and insufficient water intake, gout can take hold. Unfortunately, dad's condition has been poorly managed and has resulted in the formation of tophi, or deposits of uric acid crystals in the joints, which are particularly painful. Since he has been found to be allergic to the more aggressive pharmaceuticals to treat gout, proper diet management is his best resort now.
Cooked red amaranth

So what foods assist in the management of this condition? Well, one of the best foods is Watercress always a favorite around here anyway (see Flash-cooked Watercress post) and another is Amaranth. We sometimes see fresh amaranth at our favorite greengrocer, and we were in luck this week. At right is red amaranth, both raw and flash-cooked for the recipe below. Along with some watercress, and low-sodium cheeses (dairy also aids gout management) , the amaranth went in to a "pie" that is a variation one of our favorite stand-bys, Spanakopita. But I've recently learned that there is also a wild greens and cheese pie called Hortopita, which this will more closely resemble. With all due apologies to the real Greek chefs out there, this version will use a regular pie crust instead of filo, and cottage cheese instead of ricotta so it is something that can be duplicated when dad returns to Guam.

Because this pie is for the two most important men in my life, I decided to make it my early Valentines for them as well. This will be my entry to zorra's "
Heart for your Valentine" event at 1x umrühren bitte. If you're looking for sweet or savory Valentine's Day treats, check out zorra's event for some wonderful ideas from all over the world (the round-up is updated as new entries come in, so check back often until the 16th).

I (heart) you, Dad and T!!!

(Inspired by
Tastes LIke Home cookbook)

2 pie crusts or pate brisees (use your favorite recipe or commercial brand)

1 small tub (12oz, 340g) low-fat cottage cheese
Set a strainer over a bowl and drain cheese for at least 8 hours, or overnight, in refrigerator.

1 lb. fresh amaranth, cleaned
1 lb. fresh watercress, cleaned and trimmed
(or use 2 lb. of your favorite greens: kale, endive, dandelions, nettles, wild garlic (Baerlauch), mustard greens, etc.)
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
TBL. olive oil
sea salt

Cut greens into 2-in. (3cm) lengths. Heat wok over medium-high heat, swirl oil around edges and add garlic. Cook until just fragrant, do not brown. Remove garlic and add greens to pan. Season with salt, and continue to saute over medium heat. Cover and cook for 5-8 minutes, or until vegetables are bright green and just tender. Add garlic back and remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, squeeze gently to remove excess water. Set aside. This can be done up to 2 days in advance.

PRE-HEAT OVEN to 400F (200C).

4-8 oz. of feta cheese
2 large eggs
2 tsp. dillweed
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. chervil (optional)
1 cup fresh minced parsley
1 bunch green onions, chopped (about 1 cup, 150g)
sea salt and ground black pepper
Greens and Cheese Pie
Combine drained cottage and feta cheeses, eggs, herbs and green onions. Add drained, cooked greens, and sea salt and ground black pepper to taste (it will depend on the saltiness of the cheeses you use).

Roll out one pie crust and mound filling onto crust to within 1-inch (5cm) of the edge of the crust. Place second crust over filling and crimp bottom crust over the top. Brush with olive oil.
(For Heart-shaped pies, divide each pie crust into fourths (you will have 8 quarter-circles). Fold each quarter-circle down its center, and using scissors, cut out a heart shape. Repeat with other quarter-circles. Fill with about 1 cup filling for each heart, leaving about 1/2-inch edge. Cover with top heart crust, bring bottom crust over, and crimp. Brush with olive oil.)

Bake on middle shelf of pre-heated oven for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 350F/180C. Bake another 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown. (Heart-shaped pies, bake another 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.) Cool before slicing. Makes a wonderful meat-less meal with a crusty bread and crisp white wine, or a vegetable accompaniment to a simple roast chicken or fish.

Healthy and Delicious Greens and Cheese Pie


One Radish, Two Pickles, and a Garnish

The Japanese white radish, Daikon, is used in traditional meals in raw, cooked and pickled forms. Shredded raw daikon is a common garnish and side dish with sashimi its peppery bite complementing the mild cool flavor of the raw fish. When we had poke for the Superbowl game last Sunday (go there), I shredded a large mound of daikon as garnish for the platter, but that still left us with 3/4 of the root. I will cook with daikon if a particular dish requires it, such as Oden or Okinawan Kombu, but to be honest it's not my favorite cooked vegetable. So instead of cooking with it, I decided to pickle the remaining daikon two ways.

Daikon is a large (1-5 lb) root vegetable that can come in many shapes and varieties. I had only ever seen the long, white variety (seen here) until we came to Hawaii. Since then we've also seen short, thicker, bulbous looking variety labelled in the supermarkets as "Korean radish" and another stocky root tinged dark green at the top that is also labelled as daikon. When choosing one at the market, the radish should feel heavy for its size -- a sign of freshness, since daikon begins drying out and losing its water weight the longer it sits after harvesting. I also look for small roots
one, because larger roots can sometimes be woody and unpalatable; and two, because I don't usually cook a lot of daikon at one time.

To prepare, simply wash well with a vegetable scrubber and clean water, and peel. To shred, you can use the large holes of a regular grater. But I discovered this great tool while I was watching one of the workers at our favorite Thai restaurant make long beautiful strips of perfectly julienned papaya for a green papaya salad. I walked over to ask her if I could take a look at the tool she was using, and she told me I could find it at any Filipino (I did not find any at Pacific Supermarket, or any other Filipino grocery I know) or Thai grocery. After a few weeks search, I did find it at a Thai market in Chinatown (go there). With the same easy motion you use to peel a potato or carrot, you can make long julienne strips from any suitable vegetable: carrots, daikon, potatoes (make shoe-string fries), green papaya, sweet potatoes, etc. It takes up much less storage space than a mandoline, Benriner or other type of box grater, and cleans up faster and easier too. So here we used the julienne-peeler to make a garnish for our poke platter.

With the remaining daikon, the smaller tapered end was also shredded and pickled with carrots, sugar and vinegar in the Vietnamese style. This pickle can accompany most Vietnamese stye meals, like the BBQ pork with rice noodles (go there for recipe). It's also a great sandwich pickle, as in Vietnamese bahn mi sandwiches but even a regular tuna, ham-and-cheese, or deli turkey sandwich will benefit from this vinegary condiment.

Finally, the larger end was thinly sliced and combined with carrots, wakame (wa-KAH-may) seaweed, sugar, salt, rice vinegar, lemon and dashi-no-moto to make a Japanese pickle called Namasu (NAH-mah-s'). Like its Southeast Asian cousin above, namasu is a quick fresh pickle, and can accompany any Japanese rice meal.

1 lb. (450g) daikon, scrubbed, peeled
1 small carrot (100-120g), scrubbed and peeled
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 TBL. dried wakame seaweed, placed in a bowl and covered with 4 cups cool water for 20-30 minutes (not longer)

Slice daikon lengthwise, then into thin half-moon slices. Place in colander and sprinkle with sugar, then mix well and leave 30-40 minutes to drain. Sugar will pull water from the radish and leave it pliable but crunchy. Do not rinse.

Using your peeler, slice thin ribbons of carrot from the root. Cut the ribbons into fourths across their width. Place in colander, sprinkle with salt and leave for 20-40 minutes to drain. Do not rinse.

Place wakame in small bowl and cover with 3 cups cool water for 20-30 minutes. Rinse in 2-3 changes of water. Squeeze dry.

Combine daikon, carrot, and wakame in medium bowl.

1/2 packet dashi-no-moto (dried bonito broth)
1/3 cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar
1/3 cup rice vinegar or white wine vinegar (or 1/4 cup white vinegar + 1/2 tsp. sugar)
TBL. mirin
TBL. fresh lemon juice

Combine dressing ingredients in small bowl in the order listed above. Whisk or stir well to dissolve sugar and dashi-no-moto. Taste and correct seasoning
it should taste lemony and ever-so-slightly sweet.

Pour over vegetables and leave in refrigerator at least 30 minutes. Keeps in refrigerator up to 5 days.


Kung Hee Fat Choy: Happy Lunar New Year

New Year's good luck charmGau: new year's cake

Tomorrow officially begins the new lunar year, 4706 The Year of the Rat. Here on Oahu the festivities began early in January, and culminated publicly over the weekend with three days of partying in Honolulu's Chinatown. We caught the tail-end of the parade and the beginning of the street party on Saturday. We must have have missed the firecrackers, or perhaps there was a rain delay because it was quite wet in town all weekend. Despite the weather, hundreds of brave folks lined Hotel Street to watch the parade and stroll along the fest tents on Nu'uanu Street to sample fresh-cooked meat skewers, noodles, jai (also called monk's food, a vegetarian rice meal filled with good luck symbolism), fried rice, plate lunches, dim sum, and the hot fried-food-of-the-night "jin doi," crispy, hollow sesame-covered rice balls with a smear of sweet bean paste inside (far right photo below). Dad was looking for a remembered treat from Manila that he called "tikoy" turned out to be Gau (photo above), the super sticky brown-sugar and rice-flour "cake" that is available all over Chinatown and much of Oahu this time of year. For such simple ingredients, it's quite an addictive treat.
Hotel Street after the paradeMaunakea Marketplace CourtyardVendors preparing fresh jin doi
We only caught the last 2 entries in the parade, including this gaily decorated, if slightly water-logged, lion and his stalwart handlers.
The last lion wneds his way down the damp parade routeLion pauses for a feeding during the parade
After the parade, the lions go their separate ways to visit shops and other businesses in the area. People vie to "feed" the lions since doing so will bring good luck for the coming year. Many folks try to entice their youngsters to bring their "food" to the lions, but with their energetic dancing, and flashing bright eyes, the lions could be a bit intimidating for the little ones, too. First-timers are often carried by their parents. After receiving their monetary meal, the lions often bow in front of the donor and sometimes wag their tails!
A lion approachesLion awaits its feedingLion bows its appreciation to its youngest benefactor
Dad made his offerings to one of the lions one for Nikko, one for Kenji, and one Masato. I couldn't catch them both still, one was always in motion (Dad moves fast for a senior citizen!).
Dad and the Red LionThe Lion gets a second

More about Honolulu's Chinatown:
Part I: Come see what you've been missing
Part II: Best buys


The Challenge: Special Diets and the Superbowl

UPDATE: Visit the new GDC Round-up for other gout-friendly recipes

Assorted Poke Platter

In the last week, both T and my dad — visiting Oahu and now scheduled for out-patient surgery tomorrow have had dietary restrictions imposed for health reasons. For T these include limiting ginger, dairy products, soy products (including miso and tofu), cruciferous vegetables (all our favorites: cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower), pine nuts, hot peppers, peanuts, and millet. For dad, no red meats (beef, pork, lamb, etc.), foods containing yeast (breads, alcohol), red kidney beans, shellfish, fatty fish (herring, sardines), grapefruit, fish sauce or anything containing anchovies, fried foods, and garlic; and limiting amounts of asparagus, mushrooms.

I began with what we CAN we use: chicken, firm and white-flesh fish (no skin), whole grain flat breads and quick breads, whole grain pastas and rice, onions, peas, green beans, potatoes, carrots, hard and summer squashes, almost all fruits, seaweeds, tree nuts, sweet peppers, artichokes, eggplant, tomatoes, corn, soft lettuces, celery, and spinach.

The beef and kidney beans restriction pretty much put the kabosh on dad making his famous chili for the Superbowl football game last Sunday. Instead, we opted to go the local route and make an Hawaiian poke (POH-kay) platter, served with fresh (carrot sticks, cucumber, daikon radish, and cherry tomatoes), steamed (sugar snap peas) and pickled (kimchee and seaweed salad) vegetables. Poke, a combination of raw fish or cooked octopus, sea salt and other seasonings, is available ready-made in just about every supermarket on Oahu, and makes a great quick meal with a salad and rice. Gotta have rice. Having grown up, and now living again, in a rice-focused culture, I’ve found it hard to completely switch to plain brown rice. The chewy texture is pleasant in small doses, and with certain types of foods, but for more traditional meals (as with sashimi or poke), the softness and stickiness of white rice is essential even if only in part. I’ve seen a brown-and-white rice blend in some supermarkets, but I’m leery of the additional processing the brown rice is put through which would allow it to cook with the same amount of water as the white variety requires.

Instead, I’ve devised a method that allows us to cook the rices together in a rice cooker, and produce a nutritional yet fluffy (very important criterion) brown-and-white rice. I call the blend “mestizo rice” (mestizo is a Filipino term meaning, “of mixed ancestry”). All you need is a good long soak.

150g (3/4 cup) regular brown rice
150g (1/2 cup) white medium grain rice

Rinse brown rice well, and drain. Cover rice with water to 1-inch (4cm) over the top of the rice. Allow to soak for at least 8 hours. (Do this in the morning before you go to work.)

When ready to cook, rinse white rice well, and drain. Repeat, until rinse water runs clear.

Drain brown rice. Combine white and brown rices together, and add to rice cooker. Add 1-1/4 cup (320ml) water. Turn on rice cooker and allow to cook/steam. After rice cooker turns itself off, allow rice to finish steaming and do not open lid for at least 15 minutes, but no longer than 30.

Open lid, and with a clean towel, wipe condensation from sides and lid of rice cooker. With a rice paddle or spatula, gently turn rice over, bringing the rice on the bottom to the top in a folding motion (as you would fold in egg whites to a cake batter). Rice is ready to serve.

Leftover mestizo rice makes a great fried rice, especially with pineapple and spices. Read more about making
Fried Rice.

The Way of Cooking: Chicken Soup Revisited

Happy National Homemade Soup Day! Truth to tell, I didn't know such a day existed until my sis-in-law, Tra, sent us an e-card to commemorate this happy day! (Thanks for the head's-up, Tra!) We can't let an occasion like this pass, especially when there is a soup-in-waiting in the fridge as we speak.

We've touched on the healing properties of soup, especially chicken soup, earlier, and how centuries of folk wisdom is now backed by clinical study (see
Chicken Tinola post). Chicken soup is the first thing I think to make for anyone in crisis, whether it's illness, death in the family, or other emotional stress. When someone has no appetite, simply sipping some chicken soup broth can be reviving and sustaining.

Even when travelling last month, I had a chance to make chicken and vegetable soup with another sister-in-law, Angie, in Seattle on my way back to Hawaii. With the rain and damp that typifies the great Northwest of the US, and after 5 days of travelling and eating unwell, it was a luxurious comfort to sit down to a bowl of homemade soup. Angie started the soup off in the crockpot with a whole chicken, a couple of fingers of ginger, and a couple of carrots. After a night of bubbling and simmering, the chicken and vegetables were removed and the broth decanted to a shallow container to cool; then refrigerated at least 4 hours to allow the rich fat layer to congeal for easy removal. Since we used a whole chicken this time (as opposed to just chicken backs, as in the Chicken Tinola recipe), we kept the de-boned breast and thigh meat to return to the soup pot (store separate from broth).

An hour prior to dinner, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, corn, celery, green beans, kale and fun pasta shapes (we used "Shrek" pasta from a box of macaroni-and-cheese) were added to a boiling broth, along with the diced meat. With some Tafelbrotchen (water rolls) and Brezeln from the authentic Deutscher Baeckerei, Hess' Bakery, in nearby Lakewood, everyone enjoyed the hearty soup, even restaurant-critic-in-training, 5-year-old, Masato.

When my dad arrived on Oahu a couple of days after my return, we had chicken and veggie soup again to stave off any airline-borne "cooties." This time, zucchini, watercress, carrots, potatoes, corn, and whole wheat penne complemented the broth (from stewing hens) and chicken meat. Generous slabs of skillet-baked cornbread rounded out the meal. Chicken vegetable soup is as versatile as it is nutritious
you can use just about any vegetable or combination of vegetables to create a soup you will love.

Enjoy your soup today!

The Broth:
2 stewing/soup hens (about 3 lbs/1.5 kg, total weight)
OR 5-6 lbs (2.5-3kg) assorted fresh chicken bones from your butcher
OR 1 whole chicken fryer (3-3.5 lb/1.5-2kg)
1 hand of ginger, scrubbed well and sliced lengthwise (peeling is optional)
1 lb. carrots, scrubbed well and trimmed at the top and bottom (peeling is optional)
1 medium onion, scrubbed well and dark brown layers removed, halved lengthwise

The critical factor in broth-making is, of course, the bones for flavor, the skin for flavor and unctuousness, and the joints/tendons for body. You can make soup with fresh chicken carcasses alone, but not with just meat alone. Place chicken/bones, ginger, carrots and onion in 6-7quart slow-cooker, and cover with water. Set on HIGH for at least 3 hours or until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove any "scum" that rises to the surface. Turn slow-cooker setting to LOW, and leave for at least 8 hours. Turn off slow-cooker and carefully remove the chicken and all solids to a colander placed in a large soup pot. or wide cake pan. When cool, debone chicken and keep meat in separate container in fridge. Strain broth through a sieve into the same pot or pan into which the broth solids earlier drained. When broth reaches room temperature, place in a tightly covered container to store in fridge overnight.

Remove most (85%) of fat layer from the chilled broth, then return to soup pot or Dutch oven. Add diced chicken meat, 2 cups water and bring to rolling boil for at least 10 minutes before adding other ingredients.

To Finish Soup:
Add 3-4 lbs (1.5-2kg) of diced vegetables and/or shredded leaf greens as you like or according to what is in season. I try to get as many colors of the rainbow as possible into the pot, each
providing important nutrients and vitamins:

1. First choice is always to use fresh vegetables, of course. Eating what is in season and local, and preferably organic, will keep your body in tune with your environment. The good news is that many frozen vegetables, including peas, corn, squashes and leafy greens are just as nutritious frozen as they are fresh, and in many cases
especially with the corn and peas taste better flash-frozen than trucked "fresh" miles away from where they were born. So don't be shy about using frozen vegetables to supplement scarce fresh veggies out of season, but do try to get some fresh vegetables in as well.

2. Add root and other longer-cooking vegetables early on. Save leafy greens and vegetables that turn to mush (e.g., potatoes, cooked beans like red kidney or black beans, and hard squashes like kabocha) for the last 30 minutes of cooking.

3. Choose from:
Root vegetables: carrots, parsnips, turnips/rutabaga, potatoes, etc.
Green vegetables: green beans, peas, edamame, chayote, broccoli, etc.
Gold veggies/Squashes: kabocha, butternut, upo/loofah, wintermelon, corn, etc.
Cooked Beans: kidney, lima, black, navy, etc.
Leaf vegetables: spinach, kale, watercress, mustard greens, etc.
Mushrooms: button, crimini, oyster, shiitake, chanterelles, etc.

4. Add 2 cups of fully cooked small pasta shapes (optional).

5. Add seasoning to taste: sea salt, ground black pepper, and up to 1-1/2 tsp. of chervil, or herb of your choice: fresh oregano, marjoram, savory (especially nice if soup includes beans), thyme, basil.

Simmer on medium-low until vegetables are tender and cooked through, about 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on what vegetables you add. Taste again to correct seasoning. Serve hot, with bread
    • and salad.

Soup with sweet potatoes (pre-cooked leftover), watercress, peas, zucchini, carrots, beans, corn and whole wheat penne (leftover).


As wild as I can get: Warabi (Fiddlehead ferns)


Thanks to Caleb for bringing up a point of concern and confusion...

Outside of Hawaii, the term “Warabi” is applied to the unfurled fronds of the
Fernbracken (Pteridium aquilinum), also called simply Bracken (seen at left, with thanks to Crizzles). In the last 30 years or so, medical and chemical studies have linked chronic or excessive ingestion of Fernbracken by cattle and humans to esophageal and stomach tumors, and beriberi disease. Fernbracken can be found on every continent except Antartica, according to Wikipedia. It is used in traditional medicines of many cultures around the world, and is also a popular cooking ingredient (both the fronds and the rhizomes) in Japan and Korea. Recently concerns about a possible link between Fernbracken and gastric tumors has led authorities to caution people to limit their consumption of Fernbracken “warabi.” But according to the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, UH-Manoa, this does not apply to the Vegetable Fern below.

The frond of the Fernbracken looks different from that of its distant cousin, the Vegetable Fern (Diplazium esculentum, photo below), which is the focus of the original post below. Vegetable Fern (click on “5. Economic Uses” in this link) is found throughout Asia and Oceania (which includes Australia and Hawaii) and is a viable and safe food crop.

In Hawaii, the Vegetable Fern is sold as a fresh vegetable under the name “Ho‘i’o” or “Warabi,” which can lead to some confusion with the infamous Fernbracken. To make things even more confusing, in Hawaii (and elsewhere, including here in metro DC) you can find commercial preparations of pickled or cooked Fernbracken “Warabi” from Japan or Korea (in vacuum sealed packages) in the chilled aisles of Asian groceries — this is the warabi that should be consumed in limited amounts.

I will be very curious to see what is sold as fiddleheads in farmers’ markets in our new locale this spring. I don’t expect to see Vegetable Fern fronds, but maybe I’ll be in for a surprise!

Original Post

Warabi: fern or dragon?

As I've finally had a chance to sit down with one of the long-awaited cookbooks I received for Christmas, I've been haunted by the desire for wild greens. Laurie at Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska, has written a cookbook to benefit the building of her local church in Alaska. The cookbook, "Tastes Like Home," is filled with recipes from the church's Greek Orthodox parishioners and are brought to life in the stories and histories Laurie has captured here. The most captivating ones for me are always those that feature fresh greens, but there is special emphasis in this book on wild greens. And so I'm itching for something wild, something green. I confess I don't know the first thing about hunting wild greens, especially here in the Islands, but I always pounce on anything that remotely resembles a wild green in a market.

Which is how I came to know this fernhead green, sold locally as warabi. I love the kind of dragon-in-waiting feel the lone fiddlehead has. Warabi is easy to clean and prepare. Here we flash-cooked it with garlic, olive oil and sea salt (see
Watercress post for cooking method). It lacks the bite, or slight bittterness, I crave with wild greens, but it's certainly a fun vegetable to work (and play) with! See also Sesame Warabi.
Raw warabiFlash-cooked warabi with garlic

Honolulu's Chinatown, Part 2: Best Buys

Next Thursday, February 7th, is the start of the year 4706 in the Chinese calendar and, as my niece's new T-shirt points out, is also called the Year of the Rat. People born in the Years of the Rat (1924, 1936, 1948. 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996 and this year) are said to be intelligent, just, balanced, orderly, and honest in personal relationships, or so says our all-knowing wall calendar! (Were you born in a Year of the Rat?) Festivities to welcome the new year are well underway in Honolulu's Chinatown and other Chinese communities around the island, but key festivities still remain (see side bar at bottom). Streets are festooned with colorful lanterns and signs bearing wishes for prosperity and long health; dragon-like lions wend their way through shops, banks, markets, and malls; and the air cracks with sharp reports of firecrackers to ward off evil spirits and bad luck. If you need a reason to venture into Chinatown, these last few days leading up to the New Year are a great time to visit this historic district at its prettiest and liveliest. Shops and restaurants are filled with special foods, prices can be even more competitive than ever, and there is just an air of celebration and anticipation.

As far as we're concerned, though, T and I think any day is a great day to be in Chinatown. As outlined in the earlier post,
Honolulu's Chinatown: come see what you've been missing, we visit a couple of times a month for the freshest local produce, noodles, seafoods, smoothies (see Summer Frappe post) and ready-cooked meats, dumplings, and other goodies. Locations and some parking options were also covered earlier. Here we highlight some of our key finds.

Goji berries, aka wolfberries (Fructus lycii). We've used this medicinally for several years, but within the last year include wolfberries in our weekday daily breakfast oatmeal. Generous 1lb. packages retail between $4.50-$8.00 -- perhaps a third to half the retail cost we've seen elsewhere.

As mentioned in earlier posts, we prefer to shop for produce here because the turnover is so high that freshness is almost a given. We frequent many of the vegetable vendors, but our first stop is always a stall in the Kekaulike Mall marketplace called Cheap Market, Kahuku Farmers (right photo) for our leafy greens watercress, choy sum, Chinese broccoli, baby bok choy, dill, herbs, and gai choy but they have many others as well.

Kitchen tools I love: The julienne peeler (left), allows you to make julienne slices as easily as peeling a potato ($7-8), from Hong Fa Thai market on Maunakea/Pauahi. A Laotian rice steamer for sticky rice; the aluminum pot and bamboo basket are sold separately, and the assembly retails less than $20; also at Hong Fa. Vietnamese drip coffeemaker, a relaxing way to enjoy your favorite cup of joe on the weekend, with or without the traditional condensed milk accompaniment, retails less than $5 at most Vietnamese markets along King.

Kitchen collectibles: I have a weakness for wood kitchen articles, old and new. These antique mooncake molds and hand-grater are from Guan Hua (Chinese antiques and reproductions) on King.

For newer mooncake molds, check out Bo Wah on Maunkea. If you're discerning about hair care and insist on a boar-bristle brush, consider also using a wood, rather than plastic, comb. Wood is said to be less likely to pull (and therefore, weaken) hair; and to provide a massage-like feeling on the scalp to promote blood circulation. I love them the top right 3 are mine, I have one at home and one in my purse, and one in my backpack; all the others are gifts for family. All the models shown retail less than $6, except for the 2-tone one which starts at $18 (depends on size and type of wood used). Available at the Americomb House on Maunkea/King it's hard to miss with a giant wood comb in the window!

Char Hung Sut Manapua Factory's hand-made selection includes sweets and savories for every taste. Go early, things start selling out by mid-morning.

The selection of roasted chicken, char siu, pork, duck, as well as various kinds of offal at the ever-popular Wing Loy's BBQ on Maunakea. We also frequent Hong Kong style BBQ at the Far Eastern Center on King, and Nam Fong, also on Maunakea.

Fresh local and imported fruit selections are unparalleled. Visitors and picnickers looking for a ready-made taste of the islands will find cleaned and cut fruit bowls ranging from $2-4, depending on the fruits included. Chau's Fruits (middle) at the Hotel St. entrance to the Maunakea Markets, Summer Frappe in the Maunakea courtyard, and several vendors in the Food Court have ice-cold fruit bowls from which to choose. It's the best way to try a new fruit, too, if you're unsure how to prepare or eat it everything from the common (in Hawaii) pineapples and mangos, to watermelon, rambutan, sapote, dragonfruit, jackfruit and durian (seasonal).

Here's a special find for connoisseurs of fish cakes. These are made daily from fresh spearfish/marlin at KC Meatball House, one of the stalls inside the Markets at Kekaulike Mall. KC also carries Asian-style (bound with cornstarch for a springy texture) pork meatballs that are one of T's favorites.

This factory on Likelike Mall produces hundreds of the thin, rolled rice sheet noodles in shrimp (tiny dried kind), plain and char siu flavors. Each roll is $1 or less, depending on the flavor. Recipe: Char-siu or Shrimp Funn with Chive Oil.

This small dark store-front on King Street, just ewa of Kekaulike Mall, belies the bustling noodle factory inside. Dozens of types of fresh-made wheat and egg noodles in varying thicknesses and forms, as well as wrappers for wonton, gyoza and mandoo are available. A price list is posted in the foyer just before you step down into the factory proper to place your order. Often there's a line here (but it moves quickly) so you may have time to peruse the list and make your selections before you get to the counter. Shown here are udon (left) and thick saimin noodles, both sell for $1.00/lb.

Ready for lunch? Dim sum at Good Luck Chinese restaurant at Mauna Kea/Beretania allows diners to select from dozens of steamed, fried and sauteed dishes from their traveling carts or off the extensive menu.

Pho 97 on Maunakea, near the Marketplace entrance, is our go-to stop for all Vietnamese meals: BBQ pork bun (left), Vietnamese mung bean crepe, or soups.

Want something faster than a sit-down restaurant affords? The food court at the Maunakea Marketplace has the most compelling assortment of Asian food stalls on Oahu: Singaporean, Malaysian, Thai, Laotian, Filipino, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese vendors offer fully-cooked meals ready to take, as well as short-order items like noodle soups cooked to order. Of the more than dozen stalls here, almost half offer Filipino foods so if you've ever been curious about Filipino foods, this is the place to sample different regional styles.

This is in no way a complete list, just a few of our favorites. We've only been exploring for 2 years, so if we've missed your favorite haunt or you know we're missing out on a great product, please share it with us by leaving a comment below. And if you've recently visited this vibrant district yourself, we'd love to hear what your experience was like.

We missed some of the festivities over the last 2 weekends, but a few remain this coming weekend:

Friday, February 1
First Friday Arts at Marks
Chinatown Open House at Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Chinatown District

Friday & Saturday, February 1 & 2
Chinese New Year Celebration at Chinatown Cultural Place
Friday: 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Saturday: 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Fireworks and lion-dances

Saturday, February 2
CMA Parade - 4:00 p.m.
Night In Chinatown - 9:00 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.

Thursday, February 7
Chinese New Year


Table-top Cooking: Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki: Tabletop cooking at its finest

As promised, the second part of the Table-top Cooking series features the ever-popular Sukiyaki. Like teppan-yaki style grilling (BBQ pork and bun post), there's no reason this entertaining communal style of dining has to be regulated to exotic evenings out at a Japanese restaurant. With the small investment of a single burner butane stove ($15-30, depending on your neighborhood), a few butane cartridges ($1-3 a piece), and some basic cookware, you can create this meal any time at home. A suitable pan for sukiyaki is one that is relatively low-brimmed and wide, with no long handles -- in this photo, we are using a paella-style pan.

Sukiyaki (SKI-yah-ki) is simply a braised meat and vegetable "stew" featuring thin-sliced beef, tofu, negi (Japanese leeks), enoki and shiitake mushrooms, spinach or shingiku (chrysanthemum leaves), and shirataki (yam noodles. a form of konnyaku). Traditionally, sukiyaki was a winter meal cooked over a charcoal brazier built in to a table. The brazier served both to warm the room and the diners, as well as to cook the meal. Usually one person is in charge of keeping the pot full and evenly cooked, and the other diners select cooked pieces from the bubbling pot to put first into an individual serving bowl. Often each diner has a second smaller bowl with a beaten raw egg in it
- the hot pieces of meat and vegetables are dipped into the beaten egg before being eaten with rice. The beaten egg serves 2 purposes, first to cool the hot food coming directly from the fire; second, to envelop each bite in a silken robe of deliciousness that (for me) is the signature of sukiyaki. The egg, however, is completely optional and, of course, should not be consumed by anyone with a compromised immune system, very young children, or pregnant persons. Use only the freshest eggs available, carefully washing each egg in a solution of 2 TBL. white vinegar in 1 quart/liter of water.

Sukiyaki is more a method than a recipe, like the Way to Cook. Besides cleaning and prepping all the ingredients, the only thing requiring a recipe is the braising sauce in which all the ingredients are cooked. Because the ingredients may be a little strange to most people, a brief description and tips for prepping each are included below. If some ingredients are not available to you, suggestions for substitutions are included.

Rinsed and drained shirataki
SHIRATAKI: A form of konnyaku, shaped as "noodles"; konnyaku is a gelatin-like product made from the root of the "devil's tongue plant," a relative of the sweet potato. Konnyaku and shirataki have been gaining ground in Western kitchens as health and diet food because they have virtually no calories, and are flavorless on their own so will absorb the flavors of whatever medium they are cooked in. Konnyaku (and shirataki) is also recognized for its ability to rid the body of toxins -- in Japan, it is known as "the broom of the body" as it contains a dietary fiber that is indigestible yet gentle to the stomach and intestines, sweeping away undigested food and other sediment on its journey through the system. Both shirataki and konnyaku come in white and brown varieties; since it is flavorless, choice is a matter of your aesthetic, but the white form is more often used. Shirataki has a definite gelatinous quality imagine if you could cut jello into strips and pick them up with chopsticks and some people balk at this texture. Think of them as noodles, though, and they may be less objectionable. Remove from package and rinse well under running water and drain. Cut into roughly 3" lengths.
Substitutions: really, only konnyaku, which is in block form, is a substitute; you can slice it lengthwise into a noodle-like shape, or try the decorative style used in another Japanese classic, Oden or Kombu (
directions here). Konnyaku and shirataki are always kept in the chilled section of your market -- on Oahu, virtually every grocery store carries it. Because of its new-found popularity, you may be able to find konnyaku, if not shirataki, in a health food store if you don't have a well-stocked Oriental market nearby.

Japanese leeks, Negi

NEGI: Japanese leek, has a sharper flavor and firmer texture than the more familiar leek. Rinse whole leek, especially the root ends, then begin slicing on a sharp diagonal up to the light green tips. Fill a large non-reactive container with a solution of 1 TBL. white vinegar for every 1 quart/liter of water used, and place sliced leeks in this solution. Swish around gently, then let sit for about one minute. Swish again, then gently lift out all the leeks and place in a colander. Rinse well with running water and drain well. (Use this method for cleaning regular leeks as well). Substitutions: regular leeks (if neither is available, thinly sliced yellow onions may be used)

Dried shiitake
SHIITAKE: Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, see Braised Mushroom post for how-to prepare. Substitutions: any earthy fresh mushroom might work, shiitake, portobella, cremini, even oyster.

Enoki mushrooms
ENOKI MUSHROOM: Fresh tendril-like enoki are another sponge-like ingredient that readily absorbs the braising sauce. To prepare, rinse gently under running water and pat dry. Substitutions: shimeji mushrooms or leave out all together.

TOFU: Firm or extra-firm plain tofu found in the chilled area of the grocery/health store. To prepare, remove and drain, then wrap tightly in a clean kitchen towel and place in a container with a heavy dish pressing on the tofu (you're trying to extract as mush water as possible from the tofu). Leave in fridge for at least 2 hours. Remove toweling, and cut tofu into 1.5" (8cm) blocks. Tofu is a sponge for flavor, and the savory broth and braising liquid in sukiyaki makes bland tofu quite delicious and meaty-tasting.

When cleaned and prepped, assemble these ingredients in a large platter.

Thin sliced beef for sukiyaki
BEEF: Paper-thin slices of very lean beef are traditionally used. In Japan, as in most Asian cultures, meat is used as a flavoring agent rather than a focus of a meal. Therefore, 1/2lb. (250g) is enough for 4 persons. Almost every grocery on Oahu carries sukiyaki-sliced beef (it's actually labelled that way), but I've found the leanest and thinnest slices from Star Market. Elsewhere, Vietnamese and Korean markets have similarly sliced cuts. If you don't have an Asian butcher in the vicinity, ask your butcher to slice a round roast into paper-thin slices (about the thickness of deli-meats). Substitutions: maybe pork or chicken (haven't tried it). Place meat on a separate platter.

Spinach and watercress
GREENS: Spinach and/or Shingiku are the traditional greens used. See
Gai Choy post for cleaning and prepping leafy greens. This photo shows spinach and watercress. Substitutions: any quick-cooking leafy green or combination of greens. Place drained greens in a large bowl.

In Japan, diners begin their meal with a saying that is part exclamation, part blessing, "Itadakimasu!" (EE-tah-dah-kee-mas'). There is no direct English translation, but it is an older expression meaning, "I will receive" and is said to express the diners' thankfulness for the food about to be consumed
gratitude not only for the actual food, but also for the sacrifices and hard work (in the farm, field and kitchen) that produced the meal. I hope this meal will inspire a mood of both celebration and thankfulness at your table too!

(for 4 persons)

Prepare the braising sauce:
1 packet instant dashi no moto (dashi broth)
3 cups hot water
TBL. brown sugar
6 TBL. soy sauce
6 TBL. mirin
3 TBL. sake

In a small sauce pan, dissolve dashi no moto in hot water, then add sugar to blend completely. Add soy, mirin and sake, stir to blend. Set aside to cool while preparing vegetables (see above) and plating meat (see above). When ready to begin, put braising sauce in a pitcher-like container for easy pouring at the table. You can keep refilling the small table-side pitcher as needed from the sauce pan.
Setting the table for sukiyaki

To set the table:
Place butane stove and pan at center of table, closest to the designated cook. Each diner will need a rice bowl, a wide shallow bowl for their individual serving, a smaller cup-like bowl for the beaten egg (if using), and chopsticks. The cook will need to have close at hand:
long chopsticks or tongs
the assembled ingredients
the braising sauce
cooking oil (only at the start of the cooking)
a tall cold drink (this is going to be hot work, tending the pot and watching everyone else eat!)

To begin, pre-heat the pan over a medium fire then add a scant 2
TBL. olive oil and 3-4 slices of beef, and allow to brown very well. It's okay if the meat sticks slightly to the pan, but don't let it burn. Those browned bits are an important flavor base for your sauce. Once the meat has browned, add 1/3 of the negi (leeks), 3-4 more slices of beef, and enough braising sauce to come up about half way up the ingredients in the pan. Now add small handfuls of each of the other ingredients to the pan and keep the braising liquid simmering you'll have to turn the heat up as you add ingredients and sauce, then back down as things get cooked. Try to keep similar ingredients together, both for aesthetic reasons and to help the diners locate what they're hungry for next! When adding more raw meat to the mix, I try to push all the fully cooked ingredients to the other end of the pan, as far away as possible.
Starting sukiyaki

To eat, the cook can either serve each person a portion of all the cooked bits in their individual serving bowls, or the diners can fill their own bowls with what they like. A note about etiquette at the sukiyaki table: diners should not dip their chopsticks into the sauce, or touch food that they do not put into their own bowl (i.e., don't use your chopsticks to move food around in the pan). One way around this is to have a set of serving chopsticks or tongs to allow diners to choose foods from the pan, or allow the chef to use the cooking 'sticks to fill bowls. Of course, when it's just family, who's gonna tell on you, right? : ) From their individual bowls, diners can then dip each mouthful in a beaten egg, and savor.

Aahhh, sukiyaki in the comfort of your own home. "Itadakimasu," indeed!



I"ve received a couple of emails about the use of udon noodles with sukiyaki. We always added cooked udon noodles at the very end of cooking, after most of the diners were sated and the last of the ingredients were fully cooked in the pan. The noodles sit in the braising liquid overnight in the refrigerator and fully absorb all the flavors of the pan by morning. You will have a wonderful breakfast or bento once re-heated fully in a microwave or by returning the pan to the fire. I always understood using udon as a way of not wasting the flavor-laden sauce at the end. I suppose you could include udon earlier in the process as well, and enjoy it as a substitute for, or in addition to, plain rice. Thanks to Debi and to Karl for your questions!


5-A-Day: Flash-Cooked Watercress

Still starved for fresh greens, I bought 3 large bunches of watercress in Chinatown. The photo here shows 1 bunch of cleaned, trimmed cress. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that before coming to Hawaii I only considered cress for 2 things: tea sandwiches and a plate garnish. Pretty sad, no? Both these ideas came from my training in London, but I'm glad I've overcome these limitations in my thinking and have embraced watercress for the versatile, nutritious vegetable it truly is.

Watercress, like mustard greens (see
earlier post), is a cruciferous vegetable and like its cousins broccoli and cabbage, has long been recognized as an important source of calcium, iron and folic acid. According to Wikipedia, it is one of the oldest known leaf greens eaten by humans (read more). Eaten raw, watercress is prized for its peppery flavor; but when cooked, it takes on a more savory, almost tangy character, that stands up well like to strong flavors such as garlic or fermented black bean sauce, both popular preparations in restaurants serving knowledgeable Chinese clientele. Again, if you like strong flavored greens such as endive, chicory or broccoli rabe, there's a good chance you will enjoy watercress both raw and cooked.

Perhaps the best incentive to add this delicious green to your culinary repetoire is the exciting research coming out of the University of Ulster (UK) in the last year about the anti-cancer properties of watercress. That study found that daily intake of a modest amount of watercress (about 85g) can significantly reduce an important cancer trigger, namely DNA damage to white blood cells; as well as lowering cholesterol and improving absorption of lutein and beta-carotene, key minerals for eye health and the prevention of age-related conditions such as cataracts. Read more about this on the
Medical News Today site.

If you're lucky enough to live near Alresford, Hampshire, UK, you can attend the Watercress Festival on Sunday, May 11, 2008. There is also a newer festival in the US that celebrates watercress in Osceola, Wisconsin the third annual fest should be in late spring (no details available yet).

Here on Oahu, watercress grows in a most amazing locale. This close view of the Sumida Farms in Aiea (at right) shows us the lush vegetation amid irrigation culverts one would expect in a watercress farm.

But the larger view reveals that this beautifully cultivated and landscaped oasis of edible green fronts one of the major east-west thoroughfares on Oahu, Farrington Highway, and is bounded on its other three side by a large shopping mall, Pearlridge Center! The first photo is taken from the highway, which sits right beside the northernmost end of Pearl Harbor, and looks to the northeast corner of the farm. The second photo is taken from the northern (mauka) side of the shopping center, looking back towards Pearl Harbor (makai) and the highway side of the farm. Cultivation and harvest is year-round, as evidenced by the taller dark green patches adjacent to apparently harvested lighter colored patches. What a poetic resource!
View of Sumida Farms from highwayView of Sumida Farms watercress

So how to incorporate watercress into your diet? Well, instead of looking for specific recipes for watercress, again I would recommend using it in your own favorite preparations for fresh spinach or braised greens. Of the 3 bunches we bought, one was braised with garlic using the same method as for the Mustard Greens (
see post), one was used along with spinach in Sukiyaki (coming soon), and one was flash-cooked for later use as a topping for Okinawan soba or ramen. When we buy very perishable greens such as watercress or mustard greens, I will usually either garlic-braise or flash-cook them within a day of purchase. Cooked, the greens take up less precious fridge space and are no longer susceptible to wilting. I've also provided myself with some handy timesavers for mid-week meals: with cold potatoes and eggs, we can have a frittata in 20 minutes, or an omelet in 10; with a few additional spices and perhaps a sauce, we will have a great pasta; with a sesame dressing, we have a cooked salad to accompany any meal; after a 10 second buzz in a microwave, we have a great topping for ramen; or it can provide a healthy boost to your favorite soup recipe a couple of nights ago we added some flash-cooked watercress in the last 10 minutes of cooking a homemade chicken vegetable soup. One recipe still on the back burner in my mind is to substitute all of the spinach in a spinach dip with watercress I'll get back to you on that one, but if someone out there does it sooner, I'd love to hear how that worked for you!

Until then, here is my method for flash-cooking watercress, or any easy-to-cook green.


1 large bunch watercress, about 1lb (450g)
TBL. olive oil
2-5 cloves garlic, diced (optional)
sea salt (optional)

Trim hollow stems of watercress to about 1-inch (5cm) of the leafy parts. Wash thoroughly in clean water, and vinegar-water solution (see
Mustard Greens post for detailed directions on washing leafy greens). Cut into 2-inch (10cm) lengths.

Heat wok or other large pot just to smoking point. Add enough olive oil to coat wok/pot, then add garlic, if using, and let gently brown (about 10-15 seconds), then remove from pan.

Add watercress, and using 2 wooden spoons or spatulas, turn to coat with oil. Add more oil to the sides of the wok, if necessary, but not directly on the greens. Continue cooking on medium-high to high heat until the cress wilts and becomes bright green. Remove from heat and add salt to taste, if using (I don't use salt if I'm not using the greens right away). Cover and leave in pan another 5 minutes.

Gently squeeze greens to remove excess moisture, and either dress and use right away, or store in fridge for up to 3 days. If storing, be certain the greens will be cooked again (as in soup,
Plasto, tortilla, etc.). If using as a ramen topping or side dish, microwave briefly to heat through before serving.
Sesame Watercress

2-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
TBL. toasted (aka "dark) sesame oil
1 TBL. raw sugar
tsp. sea salt
2 TBL. mirin, sake, or sherry
tsp. soy sauce

Sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

Mix together sugar, salt, mirin and soy sauce. Stir to dissolve sugar. Pour over cooked cress and garnish with sesame seeds.

Watercress and vegetable tempura kamaboko top this ramen for an easy, nutritious one-bowl meal.
Okinawan Soba with cress and kamaboko

More Recipes with Watercress:
Watercress Dumplings
Portuguese Bean Soup
Green Papaya Soup (Tinola)


5-A-Day: Chinese mustard greens (Gai Choy)

Whew . . . !! After 7 days away 4 and 1/2 of which were spent in a car or plane, or at an airport it is GOOD to be back home. In addition to the stress of travel, we were traveling to a funeral so there was the added emotional toll as well. Having arrived home after too many meals that were deep-fried or involved hamburgers, I am really craving greens of any kind! A leisurely trip to Chinatown yesterday allowed us to pick up some of our favorites at their freshest -- watercress, Chinese mustard cabbage, and baby bok choy.

It's true that all these greens are available at most of the groceries around the island, so why do we trek 25 miles into town and pay for parking to shop in Chinatown? Selection. Quality. Prices are also generally 20-40 percent cheaper than at the supermarkets, too, but unless you are buying in quantity or buying a lot of groceries, the savings may not make up what you will pay to park your car (see earlier
post about Chinatown for details). The main reason we like the produce in Chinatown is the incredibly high turnover rate of both fruits and vegetables in almost all the markets there. What is put on the shelves at 7 or 8 a.m. is generally gone before lunch time! This translates to produce that is really fresh, and hasn't been sitting on a too-cold supermarket produce counter for days. Many vendors continue to replenish their tables until lunch, but by the afternoon the remaining produce has been pretty picked over.

Today will highlight the first of two lovely green vegetables that deserve a larger place in our vegetable repetoire, Chinese mustard cabbage. The next post will highlight our all-time favorite, Watercress.

Chinese mustard greens, also called
gai choi, is a peppery variety of the cabbage family. The specimen in this photo is fully mature and should be cooked. Both the stems and leaves are edible and will cook to a pungent, peppery finish. If slow-cooked, it will become meltingly tender, like collards or mustard greens, but will keep its peppery bite. If you like broccoli rabe, arugula ("rocket" to our friends in the UK), or Belgian endive, you will probably like gai choy. Younger gai choy will have slender, straight, dark green stems, and can be eaten raw as a salad green, or quickly stir-fried. It has less of a bite than a fully mature cabbage, more like a nibble.

Cleaning Vegetables in a Vinegar Wash
To prepare mature gai choy for cooking, remove stems from core and wash well first in clean container of water, rubbing away the soil and grit at the bottom of the stems. Remove vegetables from water, drain water and fill container with a solution of 2
TBL. white vinegar and 2 quarts/liters cool water. Rinse stems and leaves thoroughly in this solution. Lift out of water, swishing leaves gently as you lift (avoid dumping water out of container while greens are still in the water it is easier for grit and dirt to remain on your greens. Rinse again with clean water. Drain in colander.

Separate stems and leafy parts. Halve and julienne leafy greens; and halve and dice stems. If using for braised dishes or soups, add thick stem pieces early to cook down, and leafy bits in the last 15-20 minutes of cooking. Recipes previously posted that would work well with gai choy:
Portuguese Bean Soup, or Chicken Tinola (Chicken and Green Papaya soup) or Plasto (Greek cornbread and greens). Or try substituting gai choy for all or half the regular greens in your favorite recipe for slow-cooked Collard Greens or Mustard Greens. Here is a quick and simple way to cook gai choy: Garlic Braised Mustard Cabbage.
Garlic Braised Mustard Greens

I large bunch mustard cabbage, or gai choy, cleaned, stemmed and diced/julienned (see above)
2-3 TBL. olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth, or water
tsp. sea salt (optional)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper (optional)

Heat oil in wok over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir to release fragrance and gently brown, then remove garlic and keep aside. Add cleaned mustard greens stem pieces to oil, add broth, cover and let cook 10-20 minutes, or until beginning to soften. Stir to mix well, then add leafy parts of cabbage, cover and cook another 5-8 minutes, or until leafy parts are bright green. Remove cover and allow broth to reduce by half. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper, if using. Remove to serving plate and garnish with browned garlic.

We serve this as a side dish with any meal, from meatloaf and mashed potatoes, to rice and pan-seared tofu (Okinawan Champuru). I especially enjoy gai choy prepared this way and served with its garlicky pan gravy on top of mashed potatoes for a filling and delicious non-meat meal.

More recipes with Mustard Cabbage:
Tian of Roasted Potatoes & Chinese Mustard Greens

Packed for Travel: Miso-glazed Chicken

My bento is ready to go and so am I. An unexpected trip to the Bayou State has presented itself and I will be away one week. Airline meals being what they are, I usually pack my own when I can, like this easy meal of rice, pickled plum, (umeboshi), pickled ginger, sesame burdock and carrots (kinpira) and miso-glazed chicken. Simple flavors, lots of rice and ginger for a sometimes queasy stomach, and I'm good to go. Miso glazed chicken is quick and easy enough for weeknight meals, but elegant enough as well for your next dinner party.

1lb (450g) boneless chicken
3/4 cup (375ml) water
1/2 cup sake, or dry sherry, or apple juice
1 slice fresh ginger
TBL. mirin
3 TBL. sugar
4 TBL. white (aka "shiro") miso paste

Combine water, sake and ginger in saute pan. Lay chicken in pan, and bring liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook about 5 minutes.

Turn chicken over in pan, and add mirin, sugar and miso paste. Cover and simmer another 5 minutes.

Remove cover and continue cooking until liquid thickens and coats chicken. Turn meat to glaze both sides. Remove from heat. Garnish with green onions, or sesame seeds.

Recap: Cakes, Nuts, Crab Cioppino

A quick summary of recipes that didn't get posted during the holiday sabbatical, but were too delicious to ignore.

First was a dried fruit and nutcake that just happened to also be vegan. I say it that way because there's a misconception that vegan desserts = "dry, crumbly and and uninteresting." I confess, I've thought that myself. But done right, and with recipes developed by people who love good food, vegan sweets are light, luscious and very ono. The vegan butterscotch quick bread by Hannah of Bittersweet that we made in October (see post) proved that point, and so did this brandy-soaked dried fruit and nut cake from bee and Jai at Jugalbandi. Their recipe provided enough batter for a gift cake (shown here, made with a Gugelhupf pan smaller than a Bundt) and a 8x8 cake for us. Bee recommended soaking the dried fruits in rum for a month before baking!
I only had 3 days to soak my cherries, apricots and raisins in brandy, but I would like to try the longer soaking method in future. I did save the soaking liquid, poured it over the square cake, wrapped it tightly in plastic and foil, and kept it in the fridge until after new year's. We had our first slices this past weekend over a beach-side breakfast I have to say, our spirits rose with the sun! It is so flavorful and moist, it's hard to believe it was made without eggs or oil. I'm not a fan of glaced fruit, so I don't like traditional fruitcakes. This, however, is a cake of a different order. Bee's Fruit and Nut Cake recipe.

We were invited to a wonderful Italian-American Christmas dinner with our friends Laurie and Brian and their family. Chef Brian prepared stromboli, veal parmesan, and spaghetti with meatballs, all from scratch he was prepping into the wee hours of Christmas morning, bless him! I offered to make Tiramisu for dessert, in keeping with their Italian menu. Laurie is expecting their third child in February so the raw eggs in my usual recipe were out of the question. Instead, I tried a creme anglaise base so the eggs were cooked before adding the other custard ingredients, and proceeded as usual. I was impressed how close this came to the original, without the worry of having to use raw eggs! This may be my recipe of choice in future because it does eliminate the concern about the eggs. Don't be tempted to substitute cocoa powder for the grated chocolate in this recipe. Chalky powder (no matter which brand) can't compete with the creamy texture and taste grated dark chocolate lends this recipe. Tiramisu, custard-based recipe. Our thanks and love to Brian and Laurie for sharing their family celebration this year Chef B, you're the best!

This was an alternative recipe for sweet spiced nuts (
see post) that does not use egg whites. It's actually more like the candied walnuts (minus the sugar coating) we had with the spicy prawns at our favorite Chinese restaurant, and they are certainly tasty. But (you knew there was a "but" coming) they're cooked first in a sugar syrup, cooled in syrup overnight, dried another night, deep-fried, and coated in sugar. It's pretty time-consuming, and very laden with fat and sugar. With that word to the wise, here's the recipe for Crispy Sweet Walnuts.

For our second consecutive Christmas Eve we had Dungeness crab cioppino. Little piece of heaven. Until we moved to Hawaii 3 years ago, I had not had Dungeness in 10 years, and T had never tried it. Having grown up in Maine and around lobster boats as a teen, dear hubby was of the opinion that no crab was worth the effort of all the work it took to eat it. He had never tried Dungeness. Let's just say, in the immortal words of "The Borg": he was assimilated. This is the first time we've included fresh clams
their extra sweetness was a delight, but not necessary if they're not available where you are. Dungeness crab cioppino recipe.

UPDATES: On Reiki, The Real Etouffee, and Olives Redux

On Reiki

Just for today,

I will not anger

I will not worry

I will be grateful

I will work hard on myself

I will be kind to others
- Five Principles of Reiki

Thank you to every person who has written to share their experiences with Reiki, either on New Year’s Eve or elsewhere, or their genuine interest to learn more about it. I just wanted to take a moment to share with everyone a few resources for those who would like to learn more about Reiki in general, to find a practitioner for hands-on healing.

When asked, many people say they aren’t sure if they felt anything during their session, whether hands-on or distant. This is not unusual. As a recipient of Reiki from other people, I always experience a sense of deep relaxation, and usually also a sensation of energy in motion, whether as undulating or pulsing waves, or warmth traveling from the site of the practitioner’s hands to other parts of my body. One practitioner sent cool energy from her hands which was still deeply relaxing. As a practitioner, I often feel very warm internally (as if I’ve been doing intense core exercises), and my hands and feet feel very cool, although when doing in-person treatments, I’m always told my hands feel like a heating pad.

For a description of what you can expect during Reiki hands-on treatment, I recommend the book, Reiki: Healing Yourself & Others, by Reiki Master Marsha Burack. I chose this book for my home library recently because it’s beautifully illustrated and includes photographs of each Reiki hand placement. On the Web, Reiki Master David Herron offers a description of Reiki treatments and the hand positions on his site, The Reiki Page.

For a more clinical description of Reiki, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides an introduction to Reiki as it is understood by their scientists on their site.

In this scientific vein, perhaps one of the most exciting developments about Reiki is its use in clinical trials sponsored by the NIH. There are currently 5 different scientific studies funded by the NIH that are looking at the effects of Reiki on stress, advanced AIDS, fibromyalgia, prostate cancer, and the effects of diabetes (painful neuropathy & cardiovascular risk). (Learn more or volunteer — 2 of the studies are still recruiting). I’ve also found a reference to, but haven’t read, a journal article about the use of Reiki in managing pain in advanced stage cancer patients: "A phase II trial of reiki for the management of pain in advanced cancer patients," Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, Volume 26, Issue 5, November 2003, pages 990-997. Karin Olson RN, PhD, John Hanson MSc, and Mary Michaud RN.

Even without the hard empirical evidence, many hospitals, treatment centers and hospices now have patient treatment programs, mostly staffed with volunteers. Learn more about the Reiki In Hospitals project.

And more recently, nurses in many states can earn continuing education credits when learning Reiki. Reiki’s benefits to both patients and nurses (as self-treatment) is widely recognized in that profession. See individual states for requirements.

If you would like to find a Reiki practitioner for a hands-on session, the International Association of Reiki Practitioners (I am not a member) has a site available in English, French and Spanish that will assist you in finding one of their members near you.

If you’d like to continue distance healing, the Free Reiki Project accepts requests for Reiki healing, and is staffed by volunteers. You can reach the Project on RM David Herron’s site.

More questions? Let's talk about it leave a comment below or email me.

On Etouffee: I have permission to print Paula's wonderful Crawfish Etouffee recipe. (See updated post)

On Fried Olives stuffing: we filled more olives, but also sweet peppers and mushrooms.
(See updated post)


Here's Lookin' at You: Garlicky Shrimp in Butter Sauce

Taking advantage of the abundant fresh fish and shellfish available here, we often turn first to the classics. When it comes to fresh shrimp, few things can top this simple preparation often called "scampi" in seafood and Italian restaurants: whole shrimp sauteed in garlic oil and spices, and finished in a light buttery cream sauce. And when it comes to garlic, the highest authority on my shelves is the The Garlic Lovers' Cookbook (see book review) by the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association. Gilroy, California proudly claims itself the "Garlic Capital of the World" and during the last weekend in July for the last 30 years, over one hundred thousand visitors to its 3-day festival make it so. The Gilroy Garlic Festival serves up everything from its Gourmet Alley classics like calamari salad, garlic bread and this scampi, to the more unusual garlic wine, ice cream, chocolates, and "mountain oysters." All profits from the festival go to local charities. It's a delicious win-win for everyone. This year the Festival will take place July 25-27th at Christopher Ranch in Gilroy. If you're planning your first trip there, a word to the wise: go early, and don't let the garlic ice cream be the first thing you try that day! Until you can stroll Gourmet Alley for yourself, these finger-lickin' ono shrimp will tide you over.

(adapted from
The Garlic Lovers' Cookbook)

Butter Sauce
1/2 cup
unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, finely mince
4 oz. clam juice or fish stock
TBL. flour
tsp. minced parsley
1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white wine
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. dry basil
Dash of nutmeg
1/4 cup (60 ml) half-and-half, or light cream
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Over very gentle heat, saute garlic in butter (don't let butter brown). Combine clam juice, flour, and parsley, and stir until smooth. Add to pan and blend well. Add wine, lemon juice, basil and nutmeg, blend well. Slowly add dairy, and stir until thickened. Simmer gently 30 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning.

TBL. butter
2 TBL. olive oil
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
Juice and zest from 1/2 lemon
1 TBL. parsley, minced
tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. minced fresh basil
1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white wine
Dash of sherry
1 lb. shrimp
sea salt and ground black pepper

Heat butter and oil over medium heat, add garlic and cook to soften. Add lemon juice, parsley, pepper, basil, wine, sherry, and salt and pepper, and cook for about 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add shrimp, and lemon zest, and toss to combine. Cook until shrimp are just firm, and turning pink. Pour Butter Sauce over and heat through. Immediately remove from heat and serve with
Bruschetta or over long pasta (linguine, spaghetti, etc.) to soak up the delicious sauce.


Game Day in the Big Easy: Crawfish Etouffee

Update (January 8, 2008): With Paula's permission, her recipe replaces the previous version. This is the keeper recipe. Thanks, Paula!

Crawfish Etouffee

New Year's Day foods have to be special, even when they're not the traditional Japanese fare we usually have (
previous post). And since we decided to postpone making sukiyaki until dad's upcoming visit, something equally special had to fill those proverbial shoes. But what? Well, the University of Hawaii Warriors were playing in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day first time ever in this Bowl game and the island was caught up in the excitement of this momentous game. The game was in New Orleans so it seemed natural to make our favorite dish from the Big Easy Crawfish Etouffee (EH-too-fay).
Package of frozen crawfish tail meat

I've never been to New Orleans, so everything I know about it, I learned in my first bowl of crawfish etouffee
It's earthy and spicy, and little bit naughty. My dear friend Paula, a Nawlins native now residing in Cambridge, Mass., shared her family's recipe for etouffee with us when she wanted to introduce us to the joys of crawfish. The shellfish in question was already cooked, peeled and frozen -- ready to be added to a prepared sauce. This is the only type of crawfish I've ever had, but it's pretty darn tasty and the frozen pack is a full pound of solid tail meat, no shells. A trick I learned from Paula is to add the frozen crawfish unthawed to the simmering sauce so the all-important liquid "fat" is added to the sauce too. This will add a lot of flavor to your finished dish. (To find crawfish on Oahu, see Honolulu Chinatown post)

In their native habitat, crawfish are actually small lobster-like crustaceans (see drawing on package) similar to langoustines on the Continent, and they are wildly popular in Louisiana
boiled in a spicy brew in vast quantities and eaten from the shell. I've not had the pleasure of this Big Easy experience, but until I do, the etouffee will keep us happy.

(The real McCoy)

For the Roux (roo):
3 TBL. butter
3 TBL. flour

Combine butter and flour in heavy-bottomed pan (cast-iron is ideal) and cook on very low heat, stirring constantly, for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it achieves a nutty color.
Roux at the start Roux after 20 minutes Roux after 40 minutes
An internet version says you can skip making the roux because it makes the etouffee heavy. This might be true of a short-cooked roux, but the longer a roux is cooked, the less binding power it has because the flour is browning and losing its glutinous quality. Instead, the long-cooked roux lends a nutty flavor and buttery finish that is completely lost if this step is omitted. It's worth the time, trust me.
Crawfish Etouffee with Bruschetta and Tabasco

2 TBL. EACH oil and unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely diced (about 3/4 cup, 150g)
1/2 bell pepper, finely diced (about 1/2 cup, 85g)
1 large stalk celery, finely diced (about 1/2 cup, 85g)
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1
1 cup (160g) minced tomatoes
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 TBL. paprika
tsp. thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 bunch scallions, chopped (about 3/4 cup, 37g)
1 TBL. Worcestershire sauce
TBL. minced parsley
pinch cayenne

1 1/2 cup (375ml) fish or chicken stock
1/2 cup (120ml) dry white wine
1 lb. (450g) crawfish tail meat, with fat

Heat the butter/oil in a pan and saute the onion, bell pepper and celery over medium-low heat until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, green onions, thyme, bay leaves, tomato, parsley, salt, and both peppers. Add stock and white wine to the roux and stir to combine, then add to sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add frozen crawfish or cleaned tail meat, cover and simmer another 10 minutes or until heated through.

Serve with boiled long-grain rice, and a side of french bread or
Bruschetta. Hot sauce on the table for the brave. Paula also recommends potato salad with this. Now that's good eatin'!!

I just had to share this bit I heard on the morning news about the Warriors game at the Superdome. It's a testament to the spirit of Aloha that this state can personify.

Tens of thousands of fans from Hawaii flew out to New Orleans for this historic game. Optimism for another win to top off the Warriors' undefeated season was raging. Unfortunately, the Georgia Bulldogs have a bite nastier than their bark, and the Warriors faced a crushing 10-41 defeat. Although it seemed clear by the 4th quarter that the Warriors would not be able to rally back to win, and despite the late hour (it was after midnight CST), the overwhelming majority of Hawaii fans stayed to cheer their team. At the game's end, as the team started to leave the field, the fans gave them a raucous standing ovation. You could see the surprise light up the team's faces as they stopped dead in their tracks to acknowledge the applause. Now
that's taking care of your ohana (family). In the dark disappointment of the night, Hawaii had brought their Warriors . . . a rainbow.


New Year, New Tastes: Fried Olives

Japanese bamboo and pine kadomatsu

Usually, New Year's Day is a day filled with Japanese symbols and foods in our home. Maybe it's because it was the one holiday we celebrated when I was growing up that was specifically Japanese. Back in the day, Guam's Okinawan, Japanese, and other Asian cultures did not have ready access to many of the foodstuffs and decorations they would have liked to celebrate the New Year the way it is celebrated in their countries of origin. One stand-by that was available for the holiday, but often hoarded and in short supply, was fresh mochi, especially daifuku (seen here) -- the pillowy soft rice cake filled with sweet beans. In later years, grocers started carrying the special ingredients necessary for sukiyakc during the holiday season: fresh spinach, shirataki, Japanese leeks, paper-thin slices of beef, in addition to the readily available dried shiitake and fresh tofu.

Sweet daifuku mochi

In Japan and places where there is a substantial population with Japanese ancestry, it is customary to prepare an elaborate and highly-specialized multi-course (as many as 30!) meal called osechi-ryori (see photos on during the new year period. On Guam this was usually only available at the finest Japanese restaurant on the island and ran about $100 per person. Here on Oahu, one can buy the ingredients, either raw or already prepared, to prepare this special feast at home. Once after I had returned to Guam as an adult, I went to lunch with my mother for this special New Year's meal, and just could not appreciate many of the strong flavors and unusual foods. After that year, mom went with my aunt and other friends. Dinner, though, was still sukiyaki.

This year T and I opted to wait for my dad's visit here in a couple of weeks to make the sukiyaki. But to keep the Japanese theme, we had Okinawan
kombu and sekihan (adzuki beans and mochi rice) for new year's eve, and we started the new year with the traditional Japanese New Year's soup called ozoni, in which grilled or steamed plain mochi (no fillings) swims in a light dashi (broth), along with some shiitake, greens, and kamaboko (fishcake). This soup (sorry, no photos this year) symbolizes long-life and good health for the new year. Some people say you should pull the mochi away as you bite it (visualize warm mozzarella on a pizza as you take a bite) and the longer the "string" of mochi that you pull away, the longer your life. Afterwards, we switched gears and enjoyed a rich breakfast of organic french roast coffee, sweet rolls, and for me (T left for a hike) pickled eggs and sausage.
Stuffed Fried Olives — onolicious!

But since we weren't having sukiyaki, what about dinner? Well, we picked a New Orleans-style specialty since we were planning to watch the UH Warriors play at the Superdome today (tomorrow's post). And we started the meal with a new recipe we've been dying to try Italian stuffed and fried olives. We first saw these little gems at Rowena's Rubber Slippers in Italy early last month meaty green olives filled with meat and cheese, lightly breaded and deep-fried! We both LOVE olives, but had never seen such a decadent use of the savory wonders so, of course, it had to be made and sampled!

One thing you should know about me: I hate deep-frying. I love deep-fried foods, no question
but if I can find someone else to do the frying, I'll take the option every time. Tempura, fish and chips, fried calamari love them! Don't cook them myself, though. Which is a testament to how good these looked and how much we wanted to taste them. On her site, Rowena offers tips on slicing the olives for optimal filling (note my attempt to follow her directions, not always with success), a recipe for a lamb and beef filling, and do-ahead tips for entertaining. I had to substitute ground pork and feta, instead of the meats and parmesan specified, due to time constraints, but otherwise followed her directions to a "T." Rowena's delectable Ascolana-style Fried Olives recipe is here.
Colossal green olives Meat-stuffed olives Deep-frying olives
I only made 9 since it was just us two and they were only supposed to be a precursor to the etouffee. Two words: unbelievably ono. We each wolfed down our allotted share with thick slabs of sourdough bread, and considered stealing some off our spouse. They were everything you think they might be. Maybe more. I think I would keep to the parmesan cheese next time the feta was delicious, but with the other seasonings used, especially the white wine, I think the parmesan will blend better. I have lots more filling and olives to do this again on the weekend. I also have some miniature sweet peppers that we will try with the same filling and cooking method. Bottom line: this recipe went straight in to the Family Favorites folder of my files.
Must-try fried stuffed olives

UPDATE (Jan. 8, 2008): Couldn't resist making more olives over the weekend, as well as sweet peppers and mushrooms with the same filling. The mushrooms were stuffed, then given a sprinkling of bread crumbs, drizzle of olive oil, and bath of chicken broth and sherry (about 1/3 of the way up the mushrooms) and baked. The peppers were simply stuffed, drizzled and baked.

They were all good, but I think this filling best suits the briny-ness of the olives. Next time, I would add something salty or briny to the remaining filling before using it for another vegetable perhaps some minced olives or capers, or maybe some anchovies. A delicious experiment, nonetheless.