Free Acupuncture: May 1st @Turning Point Acupuncture

May First, also known as May Day, is celebrated in many ways around the world. Growing up in a Roman Catholic community on Guam, I first knew May Day as a commemoration of the purity of Mary, the mother of Jesus, where she is celebrated with song and flowers. When we moved to Europe, we joined local communities in May Day festivities usually involving dances and copious amounts of food and drink around the village Maypole, or Maibaum.

But in almost every part of the world, May Day is recognized as a day celebrating the resilience of working class women and men as International Workers' Day. In keeping with that tradition and with the ethic of community acupuncture to provide affordable care for all people, Jessica Feltz at The Turning Point Acupuncture here in Frederick, MD will join the network of community acupuncture clinics around the U.S. and the world offering FREE ACUPUNCTURE open to everyone on Tuesday, May 1, 2012.

To accommodate as many people as possible, Ms. Feltz is offering both morning and afternoon/evening appointments throughout the day (usually the clinic is only open in the afternoon/evenings on Tuesdays). If you don't live in our neck of the woods, please check out the POCA website to find a community acupuncture clinic near you and see if they will be participating too! If you've been on the fence about trying acupuncture, this is your best chance to give it a shot…. or needle (smile).

The sessions are free on May Day, but you must call ahead to reserve your recliner! Here are the details for The Turning Point Acupuncture's May 1st event:

acupunktureTM copy

It's the Annual May Day Event
at The Turning Point Acupuncture

Who:    EVERYONE is invited!

What:   FREE acupuncture for EVERYBODY

When:  Tuesday, May 1st
            9:00 am - 1:00 pm AND 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm


The Turning Point: A Community Acupuncture Center
243 W Patrick Street, Frederick, MD 21701

Why:    In celebration of International Workers' Day

            Save your seat, call 240-405-7878



Happy Earth Day!

We'll be celebrating Earth Day this year by getting dirty.... we'll be spending the weekend getting plants, seedings and trees into the garden and yard. Yay, Spring!

Mint, Stevia, Oregano and Thai Basil are in, and Sesame are next to go in.
Unfortunately, the Red Shiso seeds did not sprout. Very sad.

Pansies for the front yard and Marigolds for the raised garden.
We're keeping our fingers crossed that the marigolds will dissuade
the awful brown marmorated stinkbugs from chewing up the garden.
They did a real number on tomatoes and other garden plants, as well as fruit trees,
in Maryland and Pennsylvania last year and are predicted to be worse this year.

The asparagus are ready to cut!
Any suggestions for fresh asparagus?!

Two mature black currant bushes were a gift from friends.
They are in full blossom and will soon be joined with red currants.
Farther down the fence line (off camera) there are newly planted blueberry bushes.

Horseradish and rhubarb were residents when we moved in,
and both seem to be returning with vigor!

If you want to get wild as well as dirty, all the National Parks in the U.S. are waiving their entrance fees today in honor of Earth Day, so you can visit your favorite park for free!

In addition, some U.S. retailers are offering give-aways for Earth Day:

LOCAVORE APP from Hevva Corp. helps you locate sources for local produce, including farmers' markets, direct-to-consumer farms, and co-ops. Locavore retails for $2.99 on iTunes but is free today only!

LOWE'S, the home improvement center will be giving away 1,000,000 (one million) trees on Saturday, April 23rd across their retail locations in the U.S. It's on a first come, first served basis, so go early! Click on the screenshot to find a location near you.

Finally, Starbucks and Caribou Coffee are both offering free coffee if you bring in your own re-useable mug to their stores today. If it's as cold and windy where you are as it is here, this could be a welcome treat!

Are you celebrating Earth Day where you are? What's on your agenda?!

Happy Earth Day, Everyone!


BMB: No-Knead Wild Sourdough Boule

Kate's first true sourdough loaf — no commercial yeast involved...Yay! Kate is the wild sourdough starter I began on New Year's Day when I vowed to bake more breads. She's only 3 months along, but doing well, don't you think?!

This No-Knead Sourdough Boule — still warm from the oven is winging its way to Italy for Bread Baking Day #38, hosted this month from the gorgeous Lake Garda in northern Italy by Cinzia at Cindystar. Cinzia is holding a "No-Knead Festival" and welcomes breads with ingredients of your choosing, as long as they are made using a variation of the no-knead method made famous by Jim Lahey of the old Sullivan Street Bakery. Bread Baking Day is that wonderful monthly collection of homemade breads from around the world, the brainchild of Zorra at 1x Umrühren Bitte. If you'd like more inspiration for baking with sourdough starters, you'll love Champa's Round-up for last month's Bread Baking Day: Breads Made with Sponge/Pre-Ferment.

I was happy to see that Cinzia chose no-knead breads as her theme because I've never actually baked one before. Sure, I followed the craze and drooled over everyone's beautiful breads online over the last 4 years, but no, there was no actual bread. Now that I've finally unpacked my cocotte (Staub's oval Dutch oven) and have a live and happy sourdough starter, this theme was perfect timing!

This recipe was adapted to use the flours I had on hand from one lovingly detailing the making of a no-knead sourdough loaf by Ann Marie at Cheeseslave. But the biggest difference between Ann Marie's and this one is not really in the ingredients but in the timing — I did not have a chance to bake mine for 78 hours after the dough was assembled. That's not a typo — it was over 3 days before I was able to bake. So to be honest, I was expecting this to be more a flattened brick than a nice airy boule.

My initial timing was thrown off when it took much longer to wake up Kate than I thought it would. Maybe because she's a wild one — sourdough, that is. It was 10pm before I could use the activated starter for a dough, so I refrigerated the whole thing to retard the rise, hoping to bake in 28 hours or so. Life intervened in the form of workshops. Twenty-eight hours became forty-eight, then seventy-eight. Well, a retarded ferment is supposed to improve the bread's flavor so I thought I would at least try baking it and maybe get an interesting flatbread. Maybe a useful doorstop.

Believe me when I say no one was more surprised than I, when the cover of the Dutch oven came off and I saw that crusty boule! I did sneak a taste already and this is the first loaf I've gotten from Kate with a very distinct sourdough tang. Not like the San Francisco sourdoughs I love best, but definitely along that vein. Guess there really is something to that long fermentation! The crust is surprisingly thin and crisp, with a little bit of a chew. The interior is bursting with flavor — yeasty with that tangy sourdoughness and good salt balance; and a moist yet airy crumb, with lots of toothsome mouth action.

I still can't believe this worked out after such a long first rise. I can only guess that using the higher gluten bread flour and very gentle handling helped the dough cope with such a long ferment. Next experiment will be to do this again with the prescribed 18-hour ferment in the original recipe. Since this is my first go at the no-knead loaf, I have nothing with which to compare it.

Happy Baking, Everyone!

Adapted from Cheeseslave
1 one-pound loaf

Note: Please read the full recipe before starting. You will need a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or other 5-6 quart pot with a tight-fitting lid to bake the bread, and a large colander and lint-less cotton or linen towel for the final rise. If you already have an active sourdough starter on hand, you will begin at least 20 hours before you intend to bake, but if you have to grow a starter it will add an extra 24 hours on top of that to your prep time, so plan ahead.

¼ cup (40g) **active sourdough starter (for growing a wild sourdough starter [like Kate], I used this one from Know Whey)
12 oz (355 ml) filtered water, at room temperature
12 oz bread (340g) bread flour (aka strong or Typ 550 flour)
4 oz (112g) whole wheat flour
1 tsp. sea salt
rice flour, for dusting (I used mochiko, a glutinous rice flour)

**Make sure you wake up your starter by feeding it with equal parts of flour and water about 8 hours before you intend to make the dough. (You will find more information about activating a starter here.)

In a glass or other non-reactive bowl or cup, combine water and active sourdough starter and set aside.

In a large glass, ceramic or other non-reactive bowl mixing bowl, whisk together both flours and sea salt. Add starter and stir together with a wood spoon, or other non-reactive stirrer.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for at least 18 hours. If you would like to retard the ferment at this stage, you can place the covered bowl in the refrigerator. As I mentioned above, I unintentionally left the dough to ferment for over 3 days (78 hours) and my loaf still came out well. This may have been possible because of the bread flour (as opposed to regular all-purpose in the original Lahey recipe), but just know that if you exceed 18 hours fermentation, the dough might still be saved!

If the dough is refrigerated, bring it to room temperature for an hour before proceeding.

Place a clean, fragrance-free cotton or linen kitchen towel (do not use terry cloth) in a large colander, and sprinkle the towel generously with rice flour.

When the fermentation period is over, sprinkle all-purpose or bread flour generously on your clean countertop. Very gently, coax your dough out of the bowl and onto the countertop.

Still gently, fold the dough on itself, like folding a piece of paper in half. Do not press or you will lose some of those wonderful large holes in your dough. Rotate the dough mass 90 degrees and fold again. Rotate once more and fold a third time. Resist the urge to press on or knead the bubble-filled dough.

Gently cradle the dough and lift it into the prepared cloth-lined colander with the fold seam sides down. Cover the colander with an oiled plastic cover. (Hint: If you have a cheap, never used shower cap (like the ones you might find in a hotel), it makes a great cover because it is domed and unlikely to touch your rising dough.) Set your timer for one hour.

When timer goes off, place the covered pot on the middle rack of the oven and pre-heat to 500F/260C. Note: It is not necessary to prep the pot in any way; if the pot is properly heated, the crust will set and release cleanly when the bread is done. Set timer again for 30 minutes.

When timer goes off, remove Dutch oven from the oven.

Take lid off of pot. Using the kitchen towel as a sling, gently (always gently!) lift out the dough and turn over the dough so it is now on the bottom of the Dutch oven. The seam from the foldings, which had been on the bottom of the colander, should now be on top of the loaf. Instead of having to slash the loaf, the seams will form a natural place for the loaf to open as it rises in the oven! Pretty cool, no?

Cover Dutch oven with lid, return to oven, and reduce heat to 450F/232C. Set timer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove lid and reduce heat again to 400F/200C. Bake for another 15 minutes. Test by rapping on the bottom of the loaf — if it sounds hollow, it’s ready!

Cool on wire rack. Admire your gorgeous loaf and marvel at how easy it was to make. Walk away if you feel the temptation to slice it while it’s still warm. Go to another room. Leave the house if you must.

When cooled, slice and savor — your just reward for waiting 24 hours (or more!) for this flavorful, moist and chewy bread. I love nothing more than to dip this in a nice extra virgin olive oil, maybe with a mixture of herbs and spices — try an Arbequina EVOO, a spicy, grassy olive oil available under the California Estate label at Trader Joe's. We also added a za'atar spice blend which included hyssop, sumac and sesame that balance the peppery notes in the oil quite nicely. Delish!


BMB: Raisin Rye Bread

Update: Champa's Round-up for Bread Baking Day #37: Breads with Sponge or Pre-Ferment, is ready. You'll find a wonderful collection including a twist bread, pancakes, several versions of ryes and raisin breads, ciabatta, and so much more to tempt you!


Behold Son of George, the rye sourdough starter — smaller, milder and studded with golden and dark raisins, but no less chewy and perfect for snacking, slathered in butter or not: the Raisin Rye Loaf.

This recipe is an adapted version of master baker George Greenstein's recipe for light rye bread, and assumes you have a sourdough starter on hand already. With only half as much rye flour in the final dough and only one stage of rye development (as opposed to three in Mr. Greenstein's), the loaf is much less tangy and the rye flavor, while distinctive and clear, is more of a background note than the defining flavor.

Since we undertook this resolution last month to bake bread at home, the recipes we've tried have not been enriched (added oil, dairy or eggs) and mostly whole grain — whole wheat, rye or oatmeal. We soon remembered one of the most challenging things about home-baked whole grain bread: you have to eat it within a couple of days because it becomes stale very quickly. Since there are only 2 of us and we are not usually very big bread consumers, my strategy involved dividing the dough to make smaller loaves, and giving away one. Great way to try many different bread recipes, not gain 10 lbs. a month, and gain popularity with colleagues and neighbors! While we would never want to take anything away from sharing, there is another solution. It's called vital wheat gluten (VWG), and when baking with whole grains I think it is the home breadbaker's BFF.

I came across mentions of VWG while perusing the forums on The Fresh Loaf, a wonderful resource for tips and stories from real bakers, both passionate hobbyists and professionals. VWG was touted as increasing the rise and improving the chew of whole grain breads, as well as prolonging their shelf life. We tried it with our first rye loaf, and were impressed at how fresh the loaf remained even on the third day after baking. The same as been true for this raisin rye, and now I don't think I would bake whole grain bread without it. When a bread dough is enriched with eggs, milk and oil, these additions also aid in prolonging bread's freshness and softness so vital wheat gluten is not necessary.

This loaf takes its sweet note to dear Champa of Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen, this month's host for Bread Baking Day. In the 37th edition of this monthly event — the brainchild of our Zorra @ 1x Umrühren Bittethe theme is Bread Made with Sponge/Pre-ferment. I am late to the game this month, as the last day to submit entries is tomorrow, but Champa promises to have a round-up by March 5th that will include not only yeast breads, but may include cakes, scones, waffles, pancakes and the like as long as they use a sponge (such as a sourdough), are vegetarian (can include eggs), and made in the month of February.

Makes approximately two 1lb. loaves or one 1kg loaf

Start about 30 hours before you intend to bake.

For the Sponge:
1 cup (230g) sourdough or rye sourdough starter
1 cup (90g) rye flour
½ cup (120ml) water
½ tsp caraway seeds (optional)

Combine starter, rye flour and water and stir well to combine. Add caraway seeds, if using, and stir in. Leave to ferment at room temperature for at least 24 hours.

For the Dough:
¾ cup (98g) whole wheat flour
2¼ cup (293g) bread flour (aka "strong" or Typ 550)
4 tsp. vital wheat gluten
1 tsp sea salt
1 TBL raw sugar
cup (158ml) warm water
2¼ tsp. active dry yeast (about 1 cake fresh yeast)
1 cup (150g) golden raisins
½ cup (75g) dark raisins
1 TBL flour, for raisins
1 TBL cornmeal, for baking sheet
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tsp water, for glazing

In a mixing bowl large enough to hold the finished dough, combine both flours, vital wheat gluten, salt and sugar. Mix well. Make a small well in the flours, add warm water and yeast and allow yeast to dissolve. Add fermented Sponge to yeast mixture in well. Slowly incorporate flour mixture into the well, until a shaggy dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a well-floured table and knead well until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, this took me about 13 minutes of hard kneading. Shape into a ball for first rise.

Oil a large bowl and turn dough ball to coat lightly with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until doubled in size, mine took about 1½ hours.
Combine raisins and toss with 1 TBL flour to coat. Set aside until needed.

Pre-heat oven to 375F/190C. Sprinkle cornmeal over baking sheet.

Punch down dough, and gently knead. Allow to rest under cover for about 10 minutes. Gently roll out dough to the size of a sheet of paper. Sprinkle half of raisins over half the sheet, and fold dough close, as if closing a book. Press dough to lightly, and press dough back to the size of a sheet of paper again. Sprinkle remaining raisins and fold over dough to enclose the fruit again. Gently knead to distribute fruit through the dough.

Divide dough into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a free-form loaf. Place on prepared baking sheet. Cover each loaf with oiled plastic film and allow to proof until doubled in size, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. To test: gently press dough with a finger, if it springs back quickly, the dough needs more proofing time; if the indentation remains, it is ready to bake.

Brush loaves with egg yolk glaze, and slash tops with sharp razor or scalpel.

Place baking sheet in middle of oven, and spray sides of oven water. Immediately close oven door and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped on its underside. A single 2lb/1kg loaf may take 35-40 minutes to bake. I turned the sheet around about half way through baking to ensure even browning.

Allow to cool completely on rack before slicing. Its mild sweetness and toothsome chew are wonderful on their own — it's the only way T. has eaten it so far. I've indulged with a pats of unsalted butter to accompany my morning coffee.


It Was A Feast: BBQ prize from Serious Eats

The Game is over. The bones gnawed clean. Digestifs imbibed. It was a feast from first to last — smoky to the core, tender in all the right places, tangy in all the right notes.

Mike Mills and his crew at 17th Street Bar&Grill have the thanks of our 6 hearty eaters for providing the incredible BBQ Feast prize we won from Serious Eats.

The chilled box arrived Friday night, packed with frozen packs

In addition to the edibles, Mike included an autographed copy of his BBQ tome, "Peace, Love and Barbecue"
(happily, the recipe for the tangy Pit Beans are in the book!)
You can order this Feast for yourself!

Pit Beans, Spicy Sauce and oh-so-smoky Pulled Pork

The Magic Dusted Ribs

Where to start first?

Our plate runneth over....


Round-ups, 'Cue & Bee-ing Friendly

I am attending "Bee School" today for most of the day (a short course on bee-keeping), but so much is buzzzzing around here we just had to share.

First of all, the round-ups for My Legume Love Affair #31 and Bread Baking Day #36 are both up for your perusing pleasure.

Simona @ briciole received so many entries for MLLA#31 that she had to split the entries into 2 posts — they are linked together in each post, or here you can find Part One and Part Two (we're in P.2). You'll find an incredible selection of salads, breads, soups and stews made with beans or bean flours. Truly inspirational.

Need something to go with those beans? Don't miss Heather's (of Girlichef) round-up of Bread Baking Day #36 featuring breads baked with cornmeal or whole corn from avid home bakers around the world. You are pretty much guaranteed to find something corny to your taste: there are yeast breads, quick breads, flat breads, filled breads, breadsticks, steamed buns, biscuits, and sweet breads in this collection!

Second, our BBQ Feast from Mike Mills' 17th Street Bar&Grill arrived last night! Yay, BBQ! Who says poetry doesn't pay?? (photo taken with phone) Seriously, if I didn't have this class all day today, we probably would have bumped up our feasting to tonight! Well, the anticipation is killing me, but the bees are a-calling.

And speaking of bees, a last note. Holly @Tasty Travels is justifiably concerned about the plight of the gardener's best friend, the honey bee. She wants to encourage us all to consider including bee-friendly flowers as we plan our gardens for this spring. She's looking for participants who would like to swap seeds for bee-friendly flowers with others from around the world to invite bees into their gardens. Read more about participating here.


Serious Eating: Oven-Fried Buffalo Wings and a Prize

Can you tell what's different about this fried chicken wing? OK, if you hadn't already read the title of this post would you have thought that this wing was deep-fried? See the blisters on the skin, the crunchy bubbly bits that will hold all that buttery hot sauce? That does not just happen on oven-fried chicken skin, no matter how long you keep them in the oven, no matter how close to the broiler you might dare to put them. I know, I've tried. As I've mentioned before, I avoid deep-fat frying and even shy from shallow frying if I can help it. Not because of health concerns but because I hate the clean up. You have to be a deep-fried stuffed olive to tempt me to the fryer!

But I do love Buffalo wings. I remember the first time I tried them. I was visiting Seattle. The restaurant specialized in seafood, but one of my companions insisted on ordering this strange appetizer — it was the 80s, Buffalo wings were just hitting the far coast. One bite, two. The plate was soon emptied and a great love was born.

As a rule, I have limited Buffalo wing consumption to an occasional treat enjoyed only when eating out. In the last few years, though, more often than not, Buffalo wings we've been served have been a disappointment and not worthy of the caloric overload they entail. A year or so ago I tried oven-baking wings at home, it satisfied the taste craving but not the crunch craving because the oven-baked chicken skin came out smooth and slick. I was consigning myself to the dread task of frying for this year's Buffalo wing orgy until I came across a Food Lab dissertation on how to get the fat-fried effect in the oven. Again, our sensei in this journey is J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, the very same who talked us through making fresh cheese at home. The great (and twice repeated) success of that venture prompted me to try Mr. Lopez-Alt's carefully researched method for the perfect crunch in oven-fried chicken skin.

As you can see, it worked very well! I won't spoil the secret to Mr. Lopez-Alt's method — his writing is always a fun read and his research is thorough (did he really say 12lbs. of chicken wings to perfect this method?) so I encourage you to discover it for yourself. (Hint: the first picture of the uncooked wings below gives you 2 clues on how it's done.)

Food Lab is part of the Serious Eats family dedicated to all things that can be imbibed, noshed, slurped, and otherwise happily consumed. While we were in the midst of prepping these wings, I received an email from Erin, an editor at Serious Eats, with the stunning news that an haiku I submitted for their BBQ feast giveaway was one of three selected by the SE team as a winner! How exciting is that?!

What this means is that instead of re-creating these wings this Sunday, we will instead be immersed in intense BBQ porkiness in the form of a couple of racks of ribs, pulled pork, baked beans, sauce and Magic Dust from none other than BBQ legend Mike Mills of the 17th Street Bar & Grill in Murphysboro, IL. Consistently chosen as "best ribs" in the U.S. (Bon Appetit, and Playboy!), 17th Street Bar&Grill was most recently featured on the Food Network's Food Feuds wherein host Michael Symon declared 17th Street's "the single best rib I've ever had in my pork-lovin' life." I've only heard tell of legendary Memphis BBQ, never having had the pleasure of a visit myself — so to know we'll be receiving the best of the best, I can hardly contain myself!

Mahalo nui loa, Domo arigato gozaimashita, Vielen Dank, Merci beaucoup, and a heartfelt Thank You to the Serious Eats wordsmiths and to Mike Mills and the 17th Street Bar&Grill crew for this incredible bounty! We'll be sharing the spread with friends, and will post the Feast here over the weekend. In the meantime, you can read my winning tribute to the sauce and bone here. If you'd like to order a BBQ Feast for yourself, 17th Street can deliver to your doorstep, too! BUT I'm seriously digressing...

Back to the wings... Here is a quick look of how we achieved better (especially for our hearts) than deep-fried chicken wings for our favorite Buffalo hot sauce.

After 18 hours of non-attentive prepping (3d hint), the wings are ready for the oven.
One thing I did that was not in JKL's method was to drizzle a bit of
light olive oil over the wings after this pic was taken.

Hot out of the oven, they are perfectly browned and
have just the right kind of bumps and bits to cling to sauce.

An incredibly satisfying first course (we had these with rice — weird, I know)
or perfect for a party since you don't have to stand over a hot stove
and splattering oil to cook up a large batch!
Read how this was done, or go straight to the recipe.


Boston-style Baked Beans (via Tokyo)

Hard to believe isn't it, that these started as lily-white great Northern beans? Besides all the extra minerals, especially iron, that is packed in unsulphured (also known as "blackstrap) molasses, it also adds such a rich color to everything you cook with it: bread, cookies, Boston-style baked beans.

We've been making this recipe from The Bean Bible since 2001. We've tweaked the original recipe many times over to include more spices, especially mustard powder, and sometimes even a serrano chile or two. With a nice crusty bread, it's really a meal in itself.

When I mentioned baked beans and brown bread in an earlier post, I knew that after a 3-year absence there would be baked beans in our near future. Well, that was last week. But as I made up my shopping list and automatically added salt pork for the recipe to the list, I asked myself: Do we really needed salt pork to make this dish so tasty? Hmmm... Now, I love pork, amost meats, really, but during the last 3 years of learning from my fellow bloggers, especially those who are vegetarians or come from vegetarian traditions, I realized that you don't always need to add meat to beans and pulses to make them delicious or luscious. In fact, many of our meat-less meals during the week are meat-less beans. The key, it seemed, is developing a good base of aromatics, including generous amounts of cooking oil and toasted spices. OK, that's true of all good cooking, so what could I do to keep the flavor of baked beans true to its recipe, but without the salt pork that provides so much umami and body (by way of fat)?

It was a puzzlement...

The answer came later as I started planning for another dish — something completely unrelated: miso-marinated salmon. We had salmon (check), we had ginger (check), we had miso (*lightbulb moment*)... Yes, we had miso! Umami-packed, mineral rich, luscious miso paste! That was it — substitute miso paste for salt pork! Why not give it a try?

So I diced the onion and sauteed it, instead of leaving whole with cloves stuck in it as called for in the recipe. Also added a few cloves of garlic and a touch more of certain spices to ramp up the aromatics. As the beans cooked, I tasted to correct any seasoning, and thought the miso really hit the right spot for flavor in the beans — they were full-flavored, umami-licious and tender. But one thing bothered me. Something was missing: the rich mouthfeel that comes with beans cooked with fatty meats like salt pork — I like that! Fortunately, the fix was an easy one: add more olive oil. Yes, it's more fat, but it's monounsaturated fat which is supposed to good for your heart, so no guilt here!

A bowl of of these sweet and savory beans are winging their way across the Atlantic to sweet Simona at briciole, this month's host for My Legume Love Affair, an event celebrating the humble bean, and the brainchild of that Well-Seasoned Cook, Susan. Simona is accepting recipes for this, the 31st edition of MLLA, until the end of this month. But you can plan ahead for future events by checking out the line-up of future hosts here.

This recipe tweak all began with molasses-rich Anadama Bread, the start of my resolution to bake bread at home. Our second Anadama loaf, shaped into a braid this time, was the perfect accompaniment to these beans.

Inspired by The Bean Bible by Aliza Green
Serves 6-8 persons

1lb (455g) dried great Northern beans
4 TBL olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped (optional)
1½ TBL ground mustard powder
1 TBL ground ginger
8 whole cloves, placed in teaball or wrapped in cheesecloth
1 cup (240ml/ 350g) unsulphured (aka blackstrap) molasses
1 cup (190g) raw sugar, or (200g) dark brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1½ tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup (60ml or 88g) shiro miso paste
2-3 TBL olive oil (optional, but recommended)

Soak beans in 2 qt/L cold water overnight. Or, bring dried beans and water to boil over high heat, then remove from heat and cover for 1 hour.

Drain rehydrated beans and add to slow-cooker with 6 cups (1½ liters) cold water. Set heat setting to HIGH. It's important NOT to add any salt at this point. If salt is added to the cooking water before the interior of the bean has started to soften, the shell with toughen and the interior will remain hard. Leave on HIGH for 3 hours.

Meanwhile, in a small pan, cook onions and garlic (if using) in first 4 TBL olive oil over medium heat. Cook until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add mustard and ginger powders, stir to combine and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. After beans have cooked alone for 3 hours, add aromatics to slow-cooker, along with molasses, sugar, salt, pepper, miso and remaining olive oil. Turn heat down to LOW for remaining 5 hours.

Sauce will thicken and beans will become tender when cooked through. Serve with your favorite crusty bread as a meal, or as a side dish with grilled hot dogs, brats or burgers.

For the carnivores in your life, you can quickly turn these into
Franks and Beans by topping with your favorite hot dog.


Thank you for your support: Food & Friends Pie Sale Success

Pie Sales for the Food & Friends' fundraiser ended last Thursday on a particularly strong note, finishing just over the goal of 6000 pies! Thank you, thank you to everyone who pre-ordered their pies before Thursday and helped Food & Friends meet their goal, and extra hugs to those who ordered from Team Baker Boys! Below is a screen shot from the Pie Sales website showing The Fabulous Baker Boys' most excellent finish as the third highest selling crew. Most importantly, the Baker Boys sold 134 pies than their original goal of 200 — that's an extra 134 days worth of meals for Food & Friends' clients.

Please don't forget to pick up your pies tomorrow at the CVS location you chose when you ordered your pie — here is the List of pick-up locations.

If time got away from you and you forgot to pre-order your pie, you can still buy a pie and contribute to Food & Friends' mission of providing nutritionally tailored meals for our clients coping with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illness. Go to one the pick-up locations where pies will be distributed tomorrow, Tuesday, November 23, around Maryland, DC and Virginia — a limited number of pumpkin, apple crumb, sweet potato and pecan pies and chocolate cheesecakes will be available at each location for instant purchase at the same price as the pre-order sales ($25 for pies, $40 for the cheesecake).

Avoid the heartbreak of "Pie Regret"... come pick out your pie tomorrow!


Buy a pie!

Food. Friends. The unspoken thought that joins the two is Love. If you’ve sent an email to me at this site, you may have seen our motto: “Cook Food, but serve Love.” Now I’d like to introduce you to an organization that lives and breathes this sentiment every single day. One meal at a time.

Since last July I’ve been fortunate to volunteer with a local organization that puts love into action as friends provide food for friends they haven’t met, at an organization called simply Food & Friends. As a weekly “Slice and Dice” volunteer at F&F, I’m part of an enthusiastic team of volunteers that prepares, portions, seals and chills fresh meals alongside a team of kitchen professionals — meals that will be delivered along with nutritionally sound grocery items to folks struggling with life-challenging illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis.

Food & Friends serves over 1400 clients in the DC metro area, some as far as 20 miles from its headquarters near the Fort Totten metro (subway station). Clients are referred to the organization by their physician or social worker. After they meet with one of the staff dietitians and nutritionists, a complete meal plan is developed for them to support their treatment. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a snack or dessert, are provided every day so that meal-planning is one fewer worry for the client and their caregivers to think about during an already stressful period. Even more, if the client is the primary head of household, meals are also provided for every dependent family member.

It’s an incredible mission. And as someone who was the primary caregiver to a person given a cancer diagnosis, I can tell you that this service is a gift of incredible magnitude. My mother was diagnosed with multiforma glioblastoma — a type of brain cancer, in 2005. On top of the dizzying task of struggling to grasp the vocabulary and regimen of cancer treatment, I was also charged with meal-planning for someone I was told would be losing her appetite and with it, critical opportunities for the nutrition and proteins necessary to her successful treatment. I spent hours researching alone on the internet, in between doctor appointments, hospital visits, and clinic and home treatments. It was a frustrating and frightening challenge to comb through the data, look for recipes, and monitor Mom’s changes in appetite, with little or no help from a professional. I would not wish this for anyone. So when I first read about Food & Friends on, I knew I had to contribute to its mission.

From the beginning, Food & Friends and its dedicated corps of volunteers have left me humbled and amazed. I’ve met volunteers who were with the organization when it began in a church kitchen — that was in 1988! In fact, when I first started volunteering last summer, one crew member said, “Yay, now I’m not the newest member of the crew any more!” She had been there for 2 years already, but the others were 7-, 10- and 12-year and longer veterans. I now work with a different, though no less dedicated, crew including a crew leader who volunteers for 4 hours every Monday through Thursday. Beginning at 5:15 every morning. In fact, she was the one who had been the “newbie” on the other morning crew.

Do you want in? Do you want to help put the love in between “Food” and “Friend”? Volunteer if you can — yes, of course. But if you can’t slice, dice, pack or make deliveries — sharing the love is still as easy as pie: BUYING PIE, that is. “Slice of Life” is Food & Friends’ annual pre-Thanksgiving fundraiser — here’s how it works. For every pie you purchase, one full day of meals and groceries is available for one client, and you will have one less pie to fuss about for your Thanksgiving table! Or bring a pie to a party, surprise your neighbors or colleagues at work! More pies = more days of meals for a client, and happier guests/hosts/neighbors for you. For $25 you can choose from pumpkin, apple crumb, sweet potato and pecan pie — there’s even an ultra-decadent chocolate cheesecake for a $40 donation. Your pie(s) will be ready for pick-up on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving (Nov. 23) at one of 22 pick-up sites in the metro DC area that is convenient to you: there are 10 in the District, 6 in Maryland, and 6 in Virginia. Buy your pies by November 19th! Donations to Food & Friends welcome any time!

Buy wait, there’s more. You can join in the love even if you live too far to actually pick up a pie here, or (banish the thought!) you’ve given up carbs... On Thanksgiving Day, a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings will be delivered to every F&F client — you can buy pies and request they be delivered to a client with their meal! Imagine how much sweeter your own pie on Guam or Hawaii, in Germany or Washington, will taste when you sit down with friends and family on Thanksgiving Day, knowing you’re sharing that love with another family as they sit down to their Thanksgiving meal and one more chance to celebrate the holidays together.

Buy a Pie! Or two. And thank you from your 11,000+ new friends at Food & Friends!

Full disclosure: By buying a pie through this site, you will be buying a pie from the daring pie-selling duo, Team Baker Boys, who are Food & Friends pastry chef extraordinaire Tim Devine (R), and gourmet home pâtissier and volunteer Dan Kaufmann (L). A pair of cuties, no? Who wouldn’t want to buy pies from these two? As you might guess, I know them both from the F&F kitchen and have nibbled and gorged on many of their baked goodies in the last 16 months. No, they don’t actually bake the pies for this fundraiser — the F&F kitchens will be occupied churning out whole turkeys for many days before Thanksgiving! It’s all fun and friendly competition among pie-selling teams — nothing but bragging rights are at stake.

C’mon, you know you want to...


Gram's Recipe Box: Nut Horns

Just in time for the holiday cookie season, we were given the gift of another recipe from T's grandmother's recipe box, this time for one of her personal favorites, Nut Horns.

I had never tried a nut horn before baking these last week, but during a recent visit with Gram while she is convalescing and undergoing rehabilitation she asked me to retrieve this recipe from her second recipe box at home and make them for her. Although I actually forgot to get the recipe cards on that trip, my MIL was kind enough to find the recipe (actually there were 2 versions in the files), scan the cards and email us photos of the cards, some of which are in Gram's handwriting and some of which are neatly typed. (Thanks, Mom!!)

For me, the best thing about having hard copies, or at least photos of hard copies, of personal recipes is seeing the notations, changes and adjustments that have been made and to see how a recipe might have evolved or grown over time. It is always more precious when it's in a loved one's own handwriting, too.

In this case, Gram's recipe was a little vague on the actual method of shaping and filling the dough and a brief web search for similar recipes was required to fill in the gaps for me. And since I had never tasted this cookie, I was unclear on what the final texture and taste should be. Here's what I've learned after this first attempt at a classic (which I'm happy to say met with Gram's approval)!

This recipe for nut horns yields a very tender, mildly sweet and nutty cookie that is very addictive with a cup of strong coffee! It starts with a yeast cream dough that does not have any sugar except for 1 tablespoon to feed the yeast and the powdered sugar for rolling the dough. The ground walnut meringue filling is just sweet enough to balance the dough, and the meringue rises and fills the cookie as it bakes so it is important to roll the dough loosely to allow the meringue room to expand.

Both Gram's recipe and most of the similar recipes I found on the web call for rolling out the dough on powdered sugar, which I found to be a very sticky proposition. Literally. This makes your dough very sticky and a bit difficult to work with. I tried one batch rolled out on plain flour, which was easier to work with but which changed both the sweetness of the dough (remember, it has very little sugar in it) and the appearance of the final cookie — those rolled in sugar had a pleasantly crackled appearance (see photo below), while those rolled in flour were smooth (see top photo). For the last 2 batches, though, I hit upon a system of putting first flour, then powdered sugar on the counter, then rolling the dough out — that makes the dough less sticky on your board or counter, while still giving it some of the traditional crackled surface once the cookie baked. But once powdered sugar is sprinkled over the baked cookie, only the most finicky connoisseur can really tell the difference in looks or taste. In fact, as she sampled the first cookie, Gram confided that she usually rolled out her cookies in flour because it went a lot faster that way.

After tasting the first batch of cookies as they came out of the oven, I admit that I tweaked the filling a little — you can't really taste the spices I've added to Gram's original recipe, but they just seem to round out the flavor of the walnuts. The new additions are marked (**) so you can try Gram's original or the tweaked version (or both). Gram only taste-tested her orginal version, so that's the one that actually has her "grin of approval".

Another point of difference I saw among nut horn recipes was whether you spread the filling over the entire rolled-out dough before cutting it into 8 pieces (Gram used this method); or cut the dough, then put filling just in the lower half or third of the dough before rolling it up. As mentioned earlier, the filling is actually a meringue (whipped egg whites and sugar) and is expected to rise quite dramatically as it bakes.

For the first 2 batches I followed Gram's instructions and rolled out the dough balls into a 9-inch circle, spread one-sixth of the flling over each circle, then cut 8 pie-shaped wedges, and loosely rolled up each wedge beginning at the wide part. Once I saw how much the filling expanded and cracked the dough in some places and spilled over in others, I switched to the other method for the last 4 batches and filled only the lower half or third of the wedge before rolling (that's what is recommended in the recipe below). In the photo above, the cookies in the foreground were filled only in the lower half and I think make for a neater presentation (especially for gift-giving). The ones in the background (slightly blurry) are filled from wedge to point. Surprisingly, the cookies have about the same amount of filling whichever method you use so the final taste is pretty equal no matter which rolling method you choose.

I'm not sure whether I'll have time to make another batch of nut horns this holiday season, because we have so many recipes bookmarked to try from past "Eat Christmas Cookies" events sponsored by Susan at Food Blogga. Last year we added Gram's Molasses Crinkles to Susan's Christmas cookie platter and this year we'll continue the tradition by sending along these delicate Nut Horns for this third annual international cookie fest! Check out the first 2 years of cookie fabulousness now at Food Blogga, or send along your own favorite treats. Susan will post periodic Round-ups of this year's cookies as they are submitted so check back for new cookie inspiration until the event closes on December 20th.

Makes 48 cookies

Note: Dough has to chill for at least 6 hours before finishing. If you have a marble work surface, it will help keep the dough cool as you roll and fill.

½ cup/ 120ml lukewarm water
1 2oz./56g cake yeast, or 1 packet (.25oz) active dry yeast
1 TBL raw sugar
½ lb/455g butter, cold
3 cups/445g unbleached plain flour
3 egg yolks from large eggs, beaten
(reserve 2 whites and keep refrigerated to make Filling)
8 TBL/8 oz/120ml heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
powdered sugar for rollling dough and to dust for garnish

Dissolve yeast and sugar in lukewarm water, and set aside until foaming.

Cut butter into flour until crumbly. Combine egg yolks, cream and vanilla, and beat well. Add to flour and mix to combine.

Add yeast mixture and form into a ball for kneading — dough should not be sticky. Sprinkle with teaspoonful of flour until dough is not tacky. Knead until smooth. Refrigerate overnight, or at least 6 hours.

Prepare Filling no sooner than 1 hour before you are ready to roll out dough or it may become too stiff.

½ lb/ 225g walnuts, ground
1½ cup/285g raw sugar
2 egg whites from large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
** 1/2 tsp cinnamon
** 1/8 tsp or less fresh ground nutmeg
(Cinnamon and nutmeg are not in Gram's recipe — see notes above)

Make Filling: Beat egg whites to soft peak. Slowly add sugar, with the beaters on the whole time. Fold in vanilla and nuts. (Note: since I was using raw sugar, I could not hold a soft peak because raw sugar is so granular — but the fillling worked anyway.)

Pre-heat oven to 375/180C.

Sprinkle work surface with flour. Lightly flatten dough, divide into 6 parts and roll each into a ball. Keep remaining balls of dough covered and refrigerated as you work with the first one. (Note: I recommend using flour for the first roll since you need to refrigerate the remaining dough — if you use powdered sugar and then refrigerate, the remaining balls of dough are very sticky when they come out of the fridge... as I found out the hard way...)

To keep the final dough tender, use a light touch when rolling. Sprinkle work surface with flour, then cover generously with powdered sugar. (See notes above for flour vs. powdered sugar for rolling.) Roll first ball of dough to about a 9”/230mm circle.

Working quickly, cut into 8 wedges and fill each wedge with 1 heaping teaspoon of nut filling spread over widest half or third of the wedge. Roll dough starting at widest part and ending at the point. (Also see notes and photo above for alternative method for fillling cookies.) Bend corners of the cookie to the middle to achieve a nice crescent shape, and place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until light brown. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Each ball of dough will give you 8 cookies. Working with 2 cookie sheets, I put each batch of 8 cookies in the oven as soon as I was done so they didn't sit in the warm kitchen too long. Because of the high fat content from the butter and cream, the cookies would tend to soften and flatten if left in the warm environment. Also make sure your cookie sheet is completely cool before placing finished crescents on them — a quick way to cool a warm cookie sheet is to place it on a cool, wet kitchen towel for 1 minute or so. The wet towel pulls heat from the pan faster than air-cooling.

Cool cookies completely on rack. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

These seem best the first few days after baking, and then lose their tender quality with every passing day, although they were still wonderful the first 8 days after baking (they didn't last past that so I can't vouch for longer storage). If the cookies don't have sugar dusted on them yet, they can be re-warmed and re-sofened if wrapped loosely in foil and set in a pre-heated toaster oven for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar, if desired.``

If the cookies have to travel, omit the powdered sugar when packing since sugar can make the cookies sticky by the time they reach their destination (as you probably guessed, these were destined for Gram's bedside). You might include a note suggesting a sprinkle of powdered sugar before serving.

Happy Baking, Everyone!


Program Note: Live Webcast with Alton Brown for World Oceans Day

“Calling all Foodies!...”

This coming Friday, June 5th, Food Network superstar Alton Brown will be appearing via live webcast from the gorgeous Monterey Bay Aquarium in northern California. The live event is one of many celebrations taking place around the world for World Oceans Day, which is actually on June 8th. The webcast will air on Friday at 1200 (noon) PDT, which is 1900 (7pm) GMT/UTC.

Chef Brown is a staunch supporter of the MBA’s Seafood Watch Guides, which have been promoted several times on this site, and he’ll be discussing some of the recipes he prepares at home using the Guides. The Seafood Watch program provides regional guides to making sustainable and mercury-free choices of fish and seafood. The guides are available online, as hard copy, and for your mobile phone or iPod. And the Monterey Bay Aquarium partners with similar programs in other countries that provide guides for their citizens.

The broadcasters are soliciting questions now for Chef Brown to answer during the webcast, so if you have a question you’d like to see answered on the live webcast, you still have time to register and submit your question.

To watch the webcast, you have to register (just name and an email address) before noon Pacific Daylight Time with the Aquarium, and they will send you a link to the webcast so you can access it when it goes live. You can register here.

Chef Brown will be appearing with MBA founder Julie Packard so if you have questions about the Aquarium, Seafood Watch, or any of the Aquarium’s other programs, she is accepting questions as well.

This will be a nice kick-off to the weekend to get us in the mindset for World Oceans Day, and perhaps find some inspiration for menu ideas, too!


Celebrate World Oceans Day! (Win a Wavemaker Wristband)

Although I grew up on a tropical island surrounded by the ocean, I thought of the ocean more as a place to have barbeques NEXT TO, rather than a source for actual recreation. Sad, I know, but I guess we take for granted what is closest to us. As an adult I finally discovered the ocean and learned to appreciate it for its own sake, thanks to the miracle of SCUBA.

Now I am an avid supporter of the oceans, and am particularly happy to share with everyone the glad news that after 15 years as an unofficial global celebration, World Oceans Day received official recognition in 2009! June 8th has been designated World Oceans Day, and this year’s theme is “One Ocean, One Climate, One Future.”

Even if we don’t live near the ocean, it affects our lives every day. More than 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean, which functions to provide most of the oxygen in our air, and to regulate our weather and climate. More important, the ocean has long held a strong pull on the human imagination — feeding our curiosity, our need for adventure, our collective soul.

A majority of our fellow inhabitants on the planet live in the ocean, and whether we think of them as furry mascots, feared predators, or simply food, they need our help in keeping their homes, nurseries and and feeding grounds safe.

If we are lucky enough to live near the shore, there is no better source of recreation than the oceans, whether by swimming, fishing, diving, snorkeling, surfing, boating or just relaxing on the beach.

To promote the first official celebration of World Oceans Day, the Ocean Project has initiated the “Wear Blue and Tell Two” campaign, encouraging people worldwide to wear blue on June 8th, and to learn and share 2 facts about the ocean with others in your circle.

To learn some new facts about the worlds’ oceans to pass along, you might want to visit one of these websites that focus on news, education, and conservation of the oceans:

* NOAA Ocean Services: the key U.S. federal website for all things that affect the ocean and navigable waters. There is an entire division with educational resources for teachers and parents, including lesson plans and games. Also check out the two audio podcasts updated bi-weekly: Making Waves features the topical news stories affecting the oceans and ocean research; and Diving Deeper features in-depth interviews with scientists and researchers whose work touches on the oceans.

* The Monterey Bay Aquarium: features not only information about this gorgeous aquarium in California, but also the ever popular Seafood Watch guides that provide up-to-date listings of safe (from mercury) and sustainable fish and seafood choices. the Seafood Watch guides are available for each region in the U.S.: West Coast, Hawaii, Central, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Southwest. For a list of seafood guides for other countries, check out this post from last summer.

* The Ocean Project: advocates for ocean conservation and public education, including the “Wear Blue” campaign.

* Oceana: a global advocacy and environmental non-profit. You can also visit one of Oceana’s international sites in Europe and South America (in Spanish) to learn how you can support legislation in your country to protect the world’s oceans or just how to get the word out about World Oceans Day.

And speaking of getting the word out... To raise awareness of this first official World Oceans Day, the famous marine-themed fashion brand, Nautica(tm), has designed a special woven-rope Wavemaker wristband for the event. Similar to the plastic bands that support cancer, AIDS, and other important causes, this stylish rope band will immediately identify you as a supporter of the oceans.

I’ve just ordered a bunch of these bands, and am waiting for them to arrive. In the meantime, I’m offering to send one these attractive wristbands to the first 12 bloggers who help to spread the word about World Oceans Day!

To qualify for a wristband, please follow these instructions:

1) Between today, May 21st, and Friday, May 29th, post a blog about World Oceans Day (WOD 2009)and link to the Ocean Project announcement here. Mention the theme is “One Ocean, One Climate, One Future.”

1a) **Optional** Include the banner above or download one from the Ocean Project site here.

2) Mention 2 facts about the ocean.

3) Link back to this post.

4) After your post is “live,” leave a comment below with a link to your post about WOD 2009. Please include your email address on the form (it will not be public) so I can contact you if you qualify. I will visit your site as soon as possible and contact you soon after to let you know if you’re one of the first 12 to post correctly.

The wristbands are due to arrive here in 2 weeks, and I will mail them out to the winners as soon as they arrive. If you are a winner, the wristband may not reach you in time for World Oceans Day this year, but you’ll be a trendsetter this summer and ahead of the game for next year! ; )

Thanks for your interest in the oceans, and for helping to spread the word about World Oceans Day!

Remember to Wear Blue and Tell Two!


5-A-Day: Kale Crisps

Kale Crisps. This is one of the best food ideas ever. And so easy! Since we were first introduced to the concept on recipezaar in early December, we’ve adapted it and made it five times.

It’s great on its own — as a snack food as addictive as potato chips/crisps (we dare you to eat just one...), but it also makes a nice crunchy side dish for a sandwich or a buffet, and even a garnish for soups.

And it’s good for you: Kale, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt — baked for 10 minutes in an oven.

Are you wrinkling your nose? Are you thinking, “I don’t like greens, this isn’t for me.” Would you believe me if I told you they actually taste like potato chips? They even smell like potato chips when they’re baking. I don’t know what alchemy or magic is going on here, but it’s true. These crisps come out of the oven light as air and seem to melt in your mouth after the first satisfying KAA-runch!

This dish is going out to Ramki at the imaginative
One Page Cookbooks who is sponsoring the “Recipes for the Rest of Us” Event — a blog event to encourage newbies to try their hand at cooking. He’s accepting entries until Jan 10th, so there’s still time to join the fun! Ramki’s site features literal one-page cookbooks (some have 1001 recipes on them!) that can be printed in their entirety on a single sheet of A-4 paper (European standard). If this recipe were in one of Ramki’s books it would be something like: Wash kale well, tear off leaves, dry leaves, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake.

Whether you already love greens of all kinds — as we do, or it’s part of your New Year’s resolution to learn to like greens, or you’re cooking for someone(s) who would wrinkle their nose at any thing leafy or green, one nibble is all it will take...

1 bunch of kale (about 1 lb/450g)
A drizzle of olive oil — no more than 1 TBL.
sea salt

The key here is to wash the kale, as with any green, well. We prefer the vinegar wash to remove as much pesticide/fertilizer residue and dirt as possible. Simply add a couple of teaspoons of vinegar to a non-metal container (glass or heavy plastic) with 2-3 quarts/liters of water. Have a second container of 2-3 quarts/liters clean cool water. Plunge the kale leaves in the vinegar solution, massaging the leafy parts gently. Remove, and rinse in the clean water, swishing gently. Now rinse a handful of leaves at a time in running water. Allow to drain.

Remove the leaves from the stems. You can cut them off, but I prefer to tear them. Hold a branch with the stem side up, and gently (always gently) tear away bite size pieces of leaves from the branch.

Spin or pat the leaves dry. Or air dry. Any method works, just as long as the leaves are completely dry before you continue.

**Preheat oven to 325 F/180C.
Place completely dry leaves on a large baking sheet (cookie sheet or jelly roll pan), and drizzle regular or light olive oil over the top. Massage — gently, of course — the oil through the pile of leaves, then spread out on the pan. (You may need 2 pans or to do this in 2 batches for 1 lb. of kale.)

Sprinkle with sea salt to taste (we use about a 1/4 teaspoon for each pan). Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the leaves turn from jade green to dark forest green, and take on a translucent look. You’ll notice the potato chip-like aroma emanating from your oven, too.

Allow to cool on pan, about 2 minutes... if you can resist them for that long!

Enjoy guilt-free munching all through the New Year!

We haven’t featured a recipe that I could serve to my father, who suffers from gout, in a long while. Since kale and sea salt are considered moderately alkaline (better for gout-sufferers), and olive oil is a neutral, I would feel comfortable offering this to him as an alternative snack to the peanuts he loves but which are highly acidic and therefore a no-no. This will be included in the
GDC Round-up.

Other recipes featuring cooking greens similar to kale:
Brussels Sprouts with Coconut
Garlic Braised Mustard Cabbage (aka Gai Choi)
Tian of Potatoes and Mustard Greens
Flash-cooked Watercress
Greens and Cheese Pie
Choi Sum with Spicy Garlic Sauce
Pasta with Sweet & Tangy Beetgreens


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


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


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


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.


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.


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 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


Gift for the Chef: Easy Sweet & Spicy Prawns

As you all can attest, time is really at a premium right now. Anything that will get dinner on the table quickly and with delicious results (does that go without saying by now?) is a gift and a joy. Well, since I had some extra Sweet & Spicy Nuts from the last post, and all the ingredients to whip together the sauce for the Sweet & Spicy Prawns that we put in a recipe kit for friends (same post), I went with the easy meal and made the prawns for us last night. The shiitake mushrooms were a last minute addition, only because I already had some re-hydrated from the previous evening's preparations. As it's still flu and cold season, the shiitake are an added boost for our immune systems, along with the heavy dose of ginger in the sauce.

The local ginger available here in the Islands is so fresh, it can be quite tender (no woody filaments), with a papery-thin skin that will peel off with a firm rub with one's bare hands. When it is this fresh, I thinly sliced the ginger instead of grating it as the recipe suggests. The tender spiced ginger can be consumed as part of the dish, similar in texture to bamboo shoots. From opening the fridge to decide on something for dinner to setting the table, this meal was done in 35 minutes. We actually had to wait for the rice to finish cooking and steaming after the shrimp was already done. (Anyway, it was a chance to snap a few photos!)

1 lb./455g raw prawns, boneless chicken or firm tofu
1 egg white
3 TBL. cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
3 TBL. sake or water
Marinate prawns for 20 minutes in egg white, cornstarch, salt, water. If using chicken, cube, then marinate. For tofu, press dry, then cut in large (2 in./5cm) cubes, and either deep-fry, or pan-fry to brown all sides. Do not marinate tofu.

2 TBL. ketchup
1 TBL. sambal oelek or garlic-chili sauce
1-½ TBL. sugar
1-½ TBL. rice wine or apple juice
1 TBL. cornstarch stirred in 2 TBL. water
Mix together ketchup, sambal/chili-garlic sauce, sugar, rice wine and cornstarch mixture. Set aside.

Heat 3 cups oil in a pan or wok to smoking point. Fry half of the prawns, chicken or tofu. Remove when meat or tofu is evenly browned and floats to surface of oil, drain well on paper toweling. Re-heat oil, then fry second batch. Meanwhile, prepare sauce.

5 TBL. oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 TBL. grated fresh ginger (or thinly sliced if very fresh)
1 1/2 cup water or broth
6 medium shiitake mushrooms, re-hydrated, squeezed dry and quartered (not traditional, optional)

1 bunch scallions, washed and chopped finely
1/2-3/4 cup (60-90g) Sweet & Spicy Nuts (chopped)

In another pan or wok put 5 tablespoons of oil and fry garlic and ginger for 30 seconds. When fragrant, add mushrooms, if using. Add Sauce and water or broth, cook together for about 1 minute. Add cooked prawns, chicken or tofu, and stir to coat with sauce.

Remove from pan and garnish with chopped scallions and Sweet & Spicy Nuts. Serve with hot rice and your choice of vegetables.

Blog-Event XXX: Ingwer

This recipe has been submitted to the Ginger Event sponsored by the unstoppable zorra at 1x umrühren bitte.

Gift It: Sweet & Spicy Nuts

(The lead photo is entered in the CLICK! Photo Event sponsored by Bee and Jai at Jugalbandi -- a chance for amateur photographers to play with a food theme and get some feedback. December's theme is, of course, Nuts!
Is this droolworthy??)

It's the season for gifting and remembering not just family and friends, but colleagues and teachers, veterinarians and mechanics all those who touch our lives on a regular basis. A gift from the kitchen, like all hand-made gifts, is a gift of love. But many folks are wary of sweet treats at this time of year when so many sweet temptations are swirling and calling ("Taste me" . . . "I only come around once a year")

With this in mind, I opted to make Sweet and Spicy Nuts, instead of our usual Dark Chocolate Merlot Truffles. Tree nuts, such as the almonds, walnuts and pecans used here, provide a healthy dose of unsaturated fats
which can reduce the LDL (bad) cholesterol in one's blood and lower the risk of heart disease. (A) In fact, since 2003, the US Food and Drug Administration has recommended daily consumption of 1.5 ounces of tree nuts as part of a low saturated fat and cholesterol diet to reduce the risk of heart disease. Tree nuts are also an excellent source of heart-healthy vitamins and minerals. Although the FDA does warn against sweetened nuts because of the higher calories, these nuts are much less sweet than commercially sweetened nuts, and they're on offer as a healthier alternative to my beloved chocolate truffles.

This easy recipe coats the the nuts in egg white and spiced sugar mix, then they are baked for until the coating hardens. The recipe is incredibly versatile
change up the nuts, or the spiced sugar mix to suit your taste (try cumin, cinnamon, chipotle or Aleppo peppers, Chinese five spice, quatre epices, pumpkin pie spice, whatever your imagination conjures up!).

The final bonus is that you can dress up these nuts for the harried gourmets in your life as part of a Recipe Kit. Include the nuts, and your pre-made sauce or salad dressing, and a recipe card to put it all together in a snap. This year I tried to re-create the wonderful flavor of a sweet and spicy shrimp with candied walnuts dish we had in a downtown restaurant: the pre-mixed sauce and a cup of spiced nuts will allow the recipient of this package to add his or her own chicken or shrimp, and have a gourmet Chinese meal on the dinner table in in the time it takes to cook a pot of rice. But maybe you have a chicken salad recipe, or a stir-fried noodle dish, anything you think your recipient will enjoy to which these nuts will add that "je ne sais qua" touch.

1 cup sugar
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 large egg white
6 cups unsalted nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, natural almonds and/or cashews

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Grease two 101/2” x 151/2” jelly-roll pans. (Or do in batches)

In small bowl, stir sugar, salt, cinnamon, black pepper and cayenne.

In large bowl, beat egg white to soft peaks. Stir nuts into egg white. Sprinkle sugar mixture; toss well until nuts are completely coated.

Spread nuts evenly in pans, no overlapping. Bake nuts 25 minutes, or until golden brown and dry, stir twice during baking. Quickly transfer nuts to waxed paper, and spread in single layer to cool until hard. Package as desired in tightly covered container and store at room temperature up to a month.

Gifting tip: These beautiful heavy cut-glass tumblers made perfect vessels for the nuts before wrapping. After nibbling their heart-healthy treats, the recipients can use the glasses as a candy dish, votive candle holder, or a drinking cup (what a novel idea) in lieu of disposable cups at the office. Thrift stores and flea markets often carry vintage glass, and even crystal, alternatives to expensive but cheaply-made "partyware." Don't be afraid to re-use and recycle!

(A) Read more about the health benefits of tree nuts in this
WebMD article: The New Low-Cholesterol Diet: Nuts

More Holiday Gift Ideas:
Green Tea Shortbread, Nut Horns, Cocoa Cherry Biscotti


A Bit of Lost Sunshine: Pina Colada Trifle

UPDATE: Dear Zorra has posted the Round-up for SHF #38 just in time for all our New Year's celebrations. Come see all the wonderful recipes from around the world here:

SHF #38 - The proof is in the Pudding!

Sunshine in a cup: Pina Colada Trifle
It's a bit of a mess here in not-at-all-sunny Oahu today power lines and trees are on the roads, roofs have blown away, schools are closed, buses aren't running, many homes are without power. All this the result of a freak windstorm in the early morning hours. The weather reporter said the UV (ultra-violet) Index for today was 1 (it's usually 10-12), so that tells you how dark and dreary it is today, and will continue to be until the weekend. I always think of our poor visitors, some who are here on a vacation of a lifetime, some to escape the dreary weather in their cold hometowns. How awful to have come so far and then be told by the civil defense authorities that people should stay indoors, seas are too rough for boat travel or swimming.

So here's a little aloha to all of our wind-swept visitors (and to everyone in a colder clime): a ray of island sunshine in a cup, the Pina Colada Trifle. A fresh pineapple and rum cake is enveloped by a creamy, gently sweet coconut pudding. Easy to make, easy to serve. What could be better during this busy season? (The cake improves with one day's wait, so bake it early if time permits.)

Part I: Pineapple Rum Cake
12 TBL. (170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups (250g) brown sugar
6 egg yolks

3 cups (270g) sifted cake flour
1 TBL. + 1 tsp. (20 grams) baking powder
3/4 tsp. (5g) salt
½ cup (112 ml) dark rum
½ cup (112ml) milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups (360g) chopped fresh pineapple

Preheat oven to 350F (177C).  Butter and flour 2 9-inch x 1-1/2 inch (23 x 3.75 cm) cake pans, or 1 13x9-inch pan. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder.
Combine rum, vanilla and milk.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar on high until sugar dissolves and mixture is light. On medium speed, add egg yolks, one at a time, ensuring each yolk is incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down bowl.  Add dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with rum mix, and ending with dry. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are incorporated, then increase mixer speed to medium and beat for about 2 minutes. Scrape down bowl.  Add pineapple and fold in.

Pour batter into the prepared pan(s). Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, or when the cake springs back when pressed lightly in center.  Cool in pan on wire rack.

Part II: Haupia (Coconut Pudding)
(This recipe produces a looser pudding than haupia served by itself. If you want to make Haupia squares, increase cornstarch to 4 TBL.)
1-½ cup (350ml) coconut milk (12 oz. can)
1 ½ cup (350ml) water
3-4 TBL. sugar
3 TBL. cornstarch

Combine water, sugar, and cornstarch and cook over low heat until just below simmering. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves. Slowly add coconut milk, stirring constantly. Keep stirring, shifting directions, and stirring across the center so the mixture is in constant motion and doesn’t burn. After 10 to 15 minutes the color will change from chalky opaque to shiny bright white, and the mixture will thicken. Remove from heat and let cool at room temperature.

To Assemble: Cut cooled cake into 1 in. (2.5cm) cubes. Place in individual wine glasses. Pour slightly cooled haupia over cake. When pudding has completely cooled, cover and chill until serving time. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh grated coconut.
Pina Colada Trifle

SHF #38 - The proof is in the Pudding!

Aloha also to all those participating in Sugar High Friday, hosted this month by the indefatigable zorra, aka kochtopf, at 1x umrühren bitte. This is my first entry to this long-standing blog event!


One of the best cheesecakes ever ...

Thanksgiving seemed to sneak up on me this year. Not only did I lose most of the past week either tending to or being ill, but I got the designated day wrong — I thought it was on the 29th, but it's the 22d. That's this Thursday! (eek)

Well, I did know Thanksgiving was this
month, anyway, and coaxed our friend, Brandon, to share his recipe for the fabulous dessert he brought to our Thanksgiving table last year. The photo is actually of his cake before it was set upon after dinner. I'm not a huge dessert eater, and while I like cheesecake, they are generally very dense and I find it hard to eat more than a few nibbles. Not so with this cake. It is light and creamy, and the flavors are nuanced and layered: the pecans in the crust meet the candied pecan topping, the gingersnap crust echos the ginger and spices of the filling, the crunchy crumb crust and candied pecans sandwich the meltingly rich middle. Even after a full Thanksgiving meal, this cheesecake was a welcome touch of sweetness with our post-prandial coffee and digestifs.

Brandon will be literally a world away this Thanksgiving, probably working, but definitely missed in Hawaii. (And, yes, ladies, he not only bakes, he's single too!) Stay safe, Brandon, and Mahalo for letting me share this recipe.
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Candied Pecans

1-1/2 cups/135g gingersnap cookies (about 25 cookies), or Lebkuchen
1/3 /40g cup pecan halves
1/4 cup/50g light brown sugar
4 TBL/58g unsalted butter, melted

Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan.

In a food processor or blender, combine the gingersnaps and pecans, and blend to a fine crumb. Add sugar and butter, and pulse for a few seconds to combine. Transfer to prepared pan. Pat the mixture into the bottom and evenly all the way up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until firm.

3/4 cup/150g light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
(in the alternative, you can substitute 1-3/4 tsp "pumpkin pie spice" for all these separate spices, the ratio will still be about the same)
1lb/454g cream cheese, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 cup/180g pumpkin puree

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and cloves. Using a large bowl and an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gradually add the brown sugar mixture, beating until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the pumpkin puree, beating until smooth. Pour into chilled crust and smooth top.

Bake until set or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

1 cup pecan halves
TBL. unsalted butter
TBL. granulated sugar

Pre-slice cake before garnishing

Set aside 10 pecan halves and coarsely chop the rest. In a small pan set over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add all the nuts, sprinkle with sugar and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts and the nuts are toasted and coated. Transfer the mixture to a plate and cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

Just before serving, slice the cake into 10-12 slices, then scatter the candied nuts over the cheesecake, and arrange the halves evenly around the perimeter. Serve with creme fraiche or lightly sweetened chantilly cream (perhaps laced with bourbon to bring out the pecan flavors).

We've entered this post in the Festive Food Fair event hosted by the lovely Anna at Morsels & Musings. This event highlights celebration foods from all traditions, East and West, and around the world. Look for the round-up starting the week of December 10-14th. I can't wait to see what wonderful stories and recipes are shared!

UPDATE: The Festive Food Fair Round-up has been posted
check it out HERE!


World Pasta Day: Homemade Pasta

** This a "talk story" post. In Hawaii, to "talk story" is to share memories and tell stories. **

When I received
Verena's invitation (from "Mangia che te fa bene") yesterday to participate in World Pasta Day, which is Thursday, October 25th, the first thing that came rushing back was our last trip to Italy in 2003. We had such fun exploring the Cinque Terra, the 5 sparkling sea cliff villages on the Italian riviera that have been designated a World Heritage site. More on that in a bit, but first the pasta.

Immediately after returning from that trip, I felt compelled to make pasta at home to take advantage of this beautiful wondrous mushroom called Ovoli we found in the markets at
Chiavari (the town we stayed in). I'm sorry this picture doesn't do it justice because it was taken 4 days after we bought it, and after a train ride, overnight in Bologna (sigh . . . Bologna), plane trip to Germany, 2-hour car ride home, etc. You can see it retained it's lovely orange color, despite our abuse.
Prized ovoli mushroom

We were there around this time of year (October) and it was mushroom season and the markets were full of all kinds of incredible mushrooms. I don't speak Italian besides being able to order coffee, and inquire about a price (but not understand the answer). That's what happened with these mushrooms. I was so taken with them that I just selected 2 and handed them to the proprietor. And she handed me a receipt for . . . (gasp) 20+ Euros. The Euro-USD exchange rate was better then that it is now, but that was still about $19. This was for 260g of mushrooms -- yes, that works out to about $40/lb!! I looked at her sign for the first time (I was too enthralled with the mushrooms to see it earlier) and yes, it said 80 Euros per kilo. A sane person might have said, oh, sorry, my mistake, I won't be taking these. Instead I thought, wow, these must be good, I have to try them! I asked the proprietor (in German, it was our only semi-common language) to write down the name of the mushroom in Italian, which she was kind enough to do.

So, no dried pasta for these babies, it had to be from scratch. I also did a mad search on the web for any information on the Ovoli and recipe ideas on how to take most advantage of it's unique flavors. I wanted a recipe as simple as possible, so the Ovoli would not be overshadowed by any other ingredient.

Egg Pasta
500g/ 4 cups durum flour (Type 00), aka "pasta flour" in the US
6 large egg yolks
1 tsp salt

Mix flour and salt. Make a mound of the flour and a well in the center. Add the egg yolks and starting from the middle, incorporate the yolks into the flour (this is messy but fun!). Gradually add flour from the sides until all flour is incorporated. Flour your hands, start kneading until the dough comes together and does not stick so much. Cover with damp towel and let rest while assembling pasta maker. We will finish the kneading with the pasta maker/roller.
Flour, egg yolks, salt

Set your pasta maker on the largest setting. Sprinkle flour very generously over the pasta roller. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Take the first piece and flatten it with your hands so it will fit through the rollers. (Keep the other pieces under a damp towel.) Crank it all the way through. It will look something like this.
First pass through the roolers
Not very appetizing yet. Fold the dough and pass it through the rollers again. This action is actually doing the kneading for you.

After 2-3 times at the largest setting, go to the next smaller setting on your roller, and pass it through 2 times. Remember to fold the dough after it comes out of the rollers!
Dough after 6 passes

Set the rollers down at the third setting and roll through again. Now it's starting to resemble pasta . . .

Roll through the third setting one more time (don't forget to fold). This is a before and after view of the dough.
Pasta dough before and after kneading
After the last roll, cut your kneaded dough again into 3 pieces. Bring your roller setting down to the last setting, and put the short end of the dough through for the final roll. This is for the thinness of the dough. (Sorry, no picture of that)

Now go to the cutting side of your roller and put the paper-thin pieces of dough through to be cut. Sprinkle with more flour, gather lightly and leave to air dry. Isn't that beautiful? Fresh fettucine.
Pasta is cut into its final shapeFresh fettucine drying
But wait, we've only made one of those bundles so far. You have to go back and finish cutting the 2 other pieces of kneaded dough. Then there are still 3 pieces of unkneaded dough that have to go through the whole process. Hard work? A bit, but it's the kind of repetitious work, like making bread, that is meditative as well. If you're not in the mood to be meditative, put on your favorite music, open a nice Montepulciano and have fun with your work!

Ovoli saffron Sauce (made this up after a web search)
2 Ovoli, about 250g, cleaned gently with a towel and lovingly sliced
1-2 TBL olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 TBL unsalted butter
4-5 TBL creme fraiche
pinch of Saffron
sea salt to taste

Warm creme fraiche gently and add saffron to infuse.

Sear mushroom pieces in hot pan with minimal (no more than 2 tsp) oil. You want them to brown, not lose their juices. Remove them from pan. In same pan, add rest of olive oil and lower heat. Add garlic and saute until soft. Add butter and saffron-creme fraiche, and let them warm through. Turn heat to medium high and return mushrooms to pan. Heat through. Remove from heat and season as needed with salt. Mangia!
Fettucine in Saffron Ovoli Sauce
Fettucine with Ovoli Saffron Sauce

I hope now you will indulge me the nostalgia for the lovely places that inspired this cooking. The
Cinque Terre are the five villages (from south to north) of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. There is a cliff-side trail that connects the villages. We started first from the south, in Riomaggiore, and took our time to visit in each village. We stopped for a late lunch in Corniglia, the middle village, and took the train back to Chiavari for the night. Now a word to the wise, the trail that starts in the south, at Riomaggiore is a wide boulevard, paved and often with guard rails. We thought the whole trail was like that. But we were wrong.

View of Riomaggiore from the start of the trail
From the trail

Entering Manarola from the trail, and down its main street
Entering Manarola fr the south Manarola's main street

The only way to reach the town of Corniglia from the train station is up this switchback staircase! That'll work up your appetite.
Switchback staircase to Corniglia Fresh and fried, that's how we like it!

We started the next day at the northernmost village, Monterosso, and headed on the trail south to the village of Vernazza. The trail starts off as it did in Riomaggiore, paved and with rails, as you can see in this picture looking back at Riomaggiore from the beginning of the trail.
Northernmost village of Monterosso Trail leaving Monterosso

But it becomes this, and this. At one point, there is a narrow foot path (so narrow that my size 6 1/2, Euro 37, feet could not stand together on the trail) hugging the cliff-line for about 200 feet. We have no pictures of that because our fingers were dug into the cliff as we shuffled, crab-like, through that part!
The pavement and railing is gone after the first half-hour on the trail More on the trail

But after 2 1/2 hours hiking you see the light at the end of this dusty tunnel. The jewel of a village that is Vernazza.

Heading south on the cliff-side trail to Vernazza The gleaming jewel that is Vernazza

Thanks for taking that journey back with me. It's back to Hawaii and the present day in the next post, promise.

Happy World Pasta Day!

Come sample the breadbasket

Zorra, aka kochtopf, has done an incredible job organizing the 183 entries she received for this year's World Bread Day event. Come sample from this wonderful international breadbasket! The Round-Up is on-line now. Be inspired, be brave (delurk), and find your inner baker!


World Bread Day: Double Mango Bread

(Rezept auf Deutsch hier)

Mango Bread for breakfast

There are few things that call to mind Home and Love more readily than home-baked bread. Even people who don’t grow up with home-baked bread (like me) will feel emotional strings tugged when the aromas and textures of baking bread are evoked. Bread-making also invites Taoist mindfulness and a visceral connection to our food: the frothy wakening of yeast; the rhythmic meditative kneading; the long anticipation of the rises; the glorious aroma of baking bread filling the kitchen; and the simple happiness of having homemade bread in the house. So when I heard about World Bread Day, it was just the catalyst I needed to resolve to start baking again. I’ve dusted off my baker’s apron, scrounged around for the oven thermometer, pulled out my favorite fruit yeast bread recipe and bought some bread flour — so here we go!

When we moved to the hot and dry Leeward side of Oahu 2 years ago, we opted to forego air conditioning. Cool island tradewinds provide comfortable living temperatures 85% of the time, and we’ve learned work-arounds for the 15% when it’s either cloudy and humid, or scorching and windless. One thing we learned early on is: don’t use the oven unless you absolutely, positively HAVE TO. So far, we haven’t had to. T has become a master roaster with the outdoor propane grill, even roasting the Thanksgiving turkey to golden perfection last year. Our large capacity toaster oven does the bulk of the roasting for our small household, everything from whole chickens to loaf quick breads and brownies to roast potatoes and veg. The two things I haven’t made since we came to the Islands are bread and cookies because these both require the large capacity of a full-size oven for proper air circulation and distance from the heating elements.

First, the recipe. I’ve often made the Banana and Cardamom Bread from
1000 Classic Recipes — it produces a mildly sweet, fragrant and dense loaf with a lovely surprise of cardamom in the nose. Now that I have something I’ve never had in my life — access to fresh tree-ripe mangos — I want to substitute an equal amount of mango pulp for the bananas, and ground coriander for the cardamom and see what we get. I also want to add some dried mango because I know from all these years of oatmeal-making that the combination of fresh and dried fruit adds complexities in flavor notes. I think that will really be true in this case because 2 different mango varieties (dried Manila, and fresh Pirie) will be featured in this recipe. I’ll also take notes on measurement conversions for our friends who are metric.

Second, the timing. To do this and not live IN an oven for the rest of the day, I’ll have to plan to bake in the wee small hours of the morning. Which is OK, because I’m usually up early anyway. But to allow the dough a proper rise, I’ll have to start at least 3 hours before baking. Thank goodness for French Roast coffee.

Third, take advantage of having the oven on. My dad always says, if you’re going to turn on the oven, you better make full use of it. He’s right, of course. Pre-heating an oven consumes most of the energy spent in its use. So if we’re going to turn on the whole oven for a loaf of bread, then we’re going to make cookies too. I want to try using wolfberries in something other than oatmeal or soup, so I’ll make a batch of oatmeal cookie dough, using wolfberries and blueberries instead of raisins. These can bake while the bread is in its last hour of rising out of the fridge.

It’s six o’clock on a cool Oahu morning, I’m on my second mug of French Roast and the dough is in the oven. I’m a little surprised how easily it all came back — the mixing, the kneading rhythm, checking the “proof,” even the clean-up.
Sticky mango dough out of the bowl Dough after 10 minutes of knedaing
When the dough first came together in the bowl, it was pretty wet and sticky, but I loved its deep orange color. I heavily dusted my work space with flour, dumped out the dough, then sprinkled it with lots more flour and floured my hands before starting to knead. Once the kneading started, it was very easy to fall into a meditative mode. Watching the dough start to come together and take form as something so much more than just the sum of it parts; to see the flour proteins stretch and gather, stretch and gather; it was al kind of mesmerizing. I had set a timer for 10 minutes and was startled when it went off. I was happy to see the lovely color was retained and evenly distributed through the dough.
Rolled dough in loaf pan Place pan in oiled plastic bag Risen dough after 2 hours
Looking at my pictures, I didn’t do a very good job of the final shaping of the dough before placing it in the loaf pan and tying it off. If the ballooned plastic bag thing looks too complicated, use your own favorite method for covering your dough while it’s rising.

The biggest stickler I encountered was with my oven. Since I’ve never used it, I’m not at all familiar with its heating properties, and I found out after the first batch of goji-blueberry oatmeal cookies came out that it tends to run cool (the oven thermometer said it was running a hefty 30 degrees cooler than the stated temperature — that’s a lot!). Luckily, there was still time to get the heat up to the right internal temp before the bread was done proofing.

After a 2-hour rise, the dough was ready for the oven. I was so excited that I forgot to add the glaze (I’m a little out of practice). That’s OK, I have a work-around for that. When the aroma first hits you, it’s the simple earthy smell of baking yeast bread — the fruit doesn’t develop until it’s actually out of the oven. (Fresh unsalted butter over the to
p of the hot loaf provides some shine and helps to soften the crust a bit.)

Cooling Mango bread Melted butter glazes the hot bread for shine

Now the hardest part of the whole operation: waiting for the bread to cool before slicing. You can try slicing it while it’s still warm, but I tend to smoosh the bread and then am left with an unattractive, if still delicious, loaf for the rest of its days (or hours). I think I may try this recipe again as rolls so I can eat it hot and not have to worry about the slicing thing.

Dense and fruity mango bread

We loved it. It was the chewy, dense, mildly sweet and very fruity bread we were expecting. The mango flavors are great, but we started with tree-ripened Pirie mangos, so it’s hard to go wrong on that note. Whatever your mangos smell like when you’re adding them to the dough, that’s what flavors and smells you’ll get in your loaf. The dried Manila mangos added intense flavors that were very distinct from the Pirie flavors. I think if you can get fresh Manila (they were called "champagne mangos" in the Mainland) mangos and can bear not eating them straight out of your fist, then the fresh and dried Manila mango will really make this bread sing. One disappointment was that no coriander came through at all, so I would up the amount to a full teaspoon next time.

A word to the wise, while this IS a fruit bread, it isn’t a soft, fluffy, sweet bread, the way a cinnamon-raisin bread might be. You can see the recipe calls for only 2 Tablespoons of brown sugar. In the original recipe, the bananas (especially overripe bananas which is what I would normally use) provided a lot of sweetness and the 2 TBL were just enough to give the bread a boost. I liked the delicious mango flavor that carried through in this loaf, but I would adjust the recipe to add 2 more Tablespoons of brown sugar to make it more like the original banana recipe. This is still not enough to make it a “sweet bread” just closer to the original.

Also, this is a chewy loaf, provided by the heavier bread flour. We had thick slabs of bread with a bit of unsalted butter with breakfast, and it was onolicious. It’s also a great toasting bread, and makes a novel grilled cheese (try mozzarella or provolone) or grilled peanut butter sandwich.

I’d like to try this recipe again using plain flour (instead of bread flour) to get a lighter, airier loaf. If anyone does it before I do, I’d love to get your feedback on how it comes out. Until then,
Happy World Bread Day, Everyone! To see more wonderful bread recipes celebrating World Bread Day, visit our host, kochtopf.

(UPDATE: 11/11/07
Lavaterra made this bread too, and I liked how hers had lots more dried mango pieces, so I would recommend the maximum amount of dried mango, even up to double this amount *)

Double Mango Bread
Mis en place
In small bowl, mix together:
1 packet dry yeast
2/3 cup (150 ml) lukewarm water
1 Tbl. (15g) brown sugar

Dissolve yeast completely and leave for 5 minutes.

Sift together:
3 1/2 cups (500g) bread flour
1 tsp. (5g) sea salt
½ - 1 tsp. (3-6g) ground coriander
1 - 3 Tbl. (15-45g) brown sugar (depends on sweetness of mango, see notes bove)

Place in large bowl and make well in center. Once yeast is foaming, add to center of flour, and mix well.

Fruit from 2-3 mangos (about 1/2 cup or 150g)
¼-½ cup (70g - 140g) chopped dried mango * (1/2-3/4 cup [140g-210g] dried mango)
and mix again.

Flour your work surface and turn dough out. Knead for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. If dough is too sticky, sparingly sprinkle additional flour over dough, one tablespoonful at a time, incorporating well after each addition.

Shape dough and turn into loaf pan. Place in a clean plastic bag, “balloon” bag to trap air and tie off. Leave in a warm place until double in size.

Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).

Mix together
2 Tbl. (30ml) milk
1 tsp water

Remove pan from bag. With pastry brush, gently glaze top of dough.

Bake for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 400°F (200°C). Bake another 15 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Transfer to cooling rack and cool completely before slicing.

See also
Mango-Stuffed French Bread and
Double Mango Wholewheat Quickbread

Doppelmango Brot: Das Rezept auf Deutsch? (With apologies to native German speakers, this translation was an exercise for me to practice reading and writing German)