A Neighbor's Bounty: Rainbow Trout Amandine

A couple of weeks ago, our next door neighbor came by after a long afternoon practicing fly-fishing on a nearby pond. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources stocks several ponds in our area with rainbow, golden and brown trout in the spring and fall, and Wayne and his more experienced buddy had caught quite a few beauties. Not bad for a novice fly-fisher, no? Problem for them was that neither of their families really cared for freshwater fish, so he offered us four rainbow trout from their bounty. How lucky are we?! (When we lived on Oahu, we had a similar experience when our next door neighbors gifted us with a 2lb slab of ahi tuna they had just caught that also yielded multiple wonderful meals.)

I immediately abandoned what I was doing to clean the fish, and prep two for freezing. Actually, I tried to give one of the cleaned trout to another neighbor while it was still fresh but they weren't home that afternoon — so into the freezer they went.

One of the trout had an additional surprise: a roe sack! Not quite sure what to do with it, but knowing it was a valuable find, I removed the sack as intact as possible and left it in a sea salt brine while the preparations continued. (More on that another time.)

For this recipe I used the two smallest trout of the bunch, but they were still about a pound each. I had not had the opportunity to prepare fresh whole fish like this since we left Hawaii, so I was actually glad to have the practice even though it meant dealing with fish guts. (smile) It took almost an hour to clean and scale all four trout, so yes, I was definitely out of practice. But in the end, that marriage of sweet fish and buttery, crunchy almond sauce made it so worthwhile.

Thank you, Wayne, for this unexpected, delightful surprise!

Serves 2 persons

2 rainbow trout, about 1 lb (455g) each, cleaned and scaled
1 lemon, scrubbed well
sea salt
ground black pepper
3-4 TBL flour, for dusting fish
4-5 TBL safflower or olive oil (safflower is preferred because it has a higher smoking point)

Pre-heat a large skillet (big enough to hold both of your fish) over medium high heat.

Slice lemon in half lengthwise, then crosswise into ¼ inch slices (you're making little half-moons).

Pat fish dry with a paper towel, both inside and out. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper, both inside and out. Lay 3-4 half-slices of lemon inside each fish.

Sprinkle outside of fish with flour. Add oil to heated pan, then carefully lay each trout in the hot oil. If you have a splatter screen, you'll want to use it now; if you don't have a splatter screen (like me) use the skillet cover to reduce some of the splatter, but leave it ajar. (Yes, my stove area was a bit of a mess doing this dish!)

Cook for about 5-7 minutes, then carefully turn each fish over. Cook for additional 6-8 minutes, or until the interior of the fish flakes when probed with a fork.

Remove fish to large platter and cover to keep warm while finishing the almond butter sauce.

To finish Sauce:
½ cup (58g) sliced or slivered almonds
3 TBL unsalted butter
sea salt
juice from half a lemon (about 2 TBL)
flat-leaf parsley, minced

Drain oil from skillet, if necessary, and return pan to medium heat. Add almonds, and stir until they begin to release a toasty aroma, about 1-2 minutes. Add butter, salt and lemon juice and cook for another minute. Remove from heat and stir in parsley.

Pour butter and almonds over fish. Garnish with additional lemon slices and parsley, if desired.

Since this was an unplanned meal, we supplemented what was already available that day — pickled radishes, and the last of the nasturtium leaves and blossoms from the garden to balance the rich butter dressing; basmati rice and steamed brussels sprouts round out the meal.

We still have 2 larger trout in the freezer, and we already know how we want to prepare one of those: Sumac Trout! Stay tuned.

We do love fish! Some of the other recipes you'll find around here:
Pan-Roasted Haddock with Mustard Cream Sauce
Cod with Mango-Sake Sauce
Steamed Fish with Ginger and Scallions
Kasu-marinated Butterfish
Baked Monchong with Hummous Crust
Mahimahi Patties with Lemongrass and Lime Leaf
Pan-Fried Opakapaka with Warm Spice Cabbage
Nori-Wrapped Walu & Shrimp with Papaya Coulis
Grilled Ehu in Banana Leaf
Kajiki with Pomegranate Ogo
Wahoo Fish Pie
Fish Tacos
Roasted Kabocha Salmon Patties


Pan Roasted Haddock with Mustard Cream Sauce

Pan roasted haddock with cauliflower and potatoes

When the air begins to turn crisp and one of your to-do items is "order firewood", it's a natural to think of warming up with a slow-simmering stew, or to bring out the cache of soup recipes. As we watched the second fall season engulf our small house, I was in search of recipes to entice us to finish raking and bagging each week's leaf fall on our Saturday afternoons. (Our record so far: 26 full lawn-waste bags las Saturday!)

One weekend there was a catch. T. wanted fish (no pun intended). Hmmmmmm. I was tempted to do a fish pie, but decided to keep that for when T's parents visit next month. It occurred to me that the original post on that recipe was dedicated to them, but that I had never actually made it for them before! (How did that happen?) So, what else could I do with the haddock filets we had in the freezer?

For inspiration, I turned to a book that has never let me down: The New German Cookbook. Not surprisingly, this recipe for Pfannenfisch (pan-roasted fish) comes from the coastal city-state of Hamburg by the North Sea. Though the original recipe calls for flounder or turbot, I've substituted wild-caught haddock which is readily available here in the mid-Atlantic. Just before serving, I also added pre-roasted cauliflower florets to turn this into a complete one-dish meal. The sliced potatoes absorbed the savory pan juices from the fish and aromatics, while the sweet flavors of the haddock and the roasted vegetables complimented each other against the bite of the creamy mustard sauce — a hearty yet elegant autumn meal to transition with the seasons. It was nice to be able to garnish this with two of the hardier hangers-on in the herb garden, the chives and nasturtium blossoms, and to use our favorite summer quaff — a Trebbiano-Pinot Gris blend from Trader Joe's called Vola — to blend the seasons as well.

We will see this dish on our table again during the coming cooler and cold months. Brrrrrrrrrrrr….. Can't wait.

Adapted from The New German Cookbook, by Jean Anderson and Hedy Würz
Serves 4 persons

1 lb (450g) red potatoes
3 TBL unsalted butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 small cauliflower, cut into florets (optional)
sea salt, to taste
white pepper, to taste
1 lb (450g) haddock filets, cut into ½ inch pieces
lemon juice
small bunch of fresh chives, snipped for garnish
nasturtium blossoms (optional)

Scrub potatoes well and peel (optional), then slice crosswise into ½ inch pieces. Steam potatoes over medium steam until just softened enough to pierce with a fork, about 13-15 minutes.

Place large skillet in oven, and pre-heat oven to 400F/200C.

After 10 minutes, remove skillet and add butter, swirling carefully to melt butter and coat pan. Place potato slices on bottom of pan, and lay onions over potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If using cauliflower, layer florets over onion slices and drizzle over with about 1 TBL olive oil. (If using pre-roasted cauliflower, add when you add fish.) Return skillet to oven and roast for 30-40 minutes, or until onions have softened and vegetables are just browning. Meanwhile, make the Sauce.

For the Sauce:
2 TBL unsalted butter
s small shallots, finely minced
2 TBL flour
1½ cup (355ml) milk
½ cup light or table cream
3 TBL Dijon mustard
2 TBL Riesling, pinot gris or other dry white wine
2 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp sea salt
white pepper, to taste

In a small saucepan, melt butter and saute shallots over medium until translucent and fragrant, about 6-7 minutes. With a whisk, stir in flour, and blend well to make a roux. Cook for about 2 minutes. Combine milk and cream, add 2 tablespoons and stir well into the roux. Add another 2 tablespoons, and again incorporate into the roux. Slowly pour remaining milk into sauce mixture, making sure to whisk well so you don't get any lumps. When all the milk has been added, allow to simmer for about 5 minutes so your sauce is smooth and has begun to thicken. Combine mustard, wine and lemon juice, and add to simmering sauce. Add at least ½ tsp of sea salt to balance the flavor of sauce, them adjust to your taste, along with white pepper.

Remove from heat and put into a serving dish or gravy boat to allow each diner to help themselves. I like to divide sauces like this between 2 or more large creamers that can be placed between every 2 diners so it is easier for everyone to help themselves.

Finish Fish:
Once the veggies in the skillet are ready, remove from oven and lightly toss all veggies. Season fish pieces with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with lemon juice. Add fish to skillet and return again to the oven for 5-6 minutes, or until fish feels firm and lightly flakes with a fork. (I turned off the oven after 5 minutes and let the dish finish with the residual heat for another 5 while toasting bread and setting the table.)

Serve with your favorite bread to catch every bit of the addicting sauce, and the rest of the wine you used in the mustard sauce.


Dining In: Pasta with Salmon & Tuscan Veggies

Pasta with Salmon & Tuscan Vegetables — sounds like something I could expect from my favorite Italian chain (no, not the one with the tree). Curly corkscrew pasta, with ridges to catch every bit of a garlicky, herb-rich sauce. Salmon marinated in garlic, parsley and oil. Broccoli, cauliflower and green beans bathed in garlic-butter sauce. With a glass of pinot grigio, this is a wonderful meal to enjoy al fresco with friends. What’s not to love, right?

Well, here’s more. What if all the hard work has been done for you, and this whole meal could come together in 20 minutes, not including pasta cooking time? It did for us with this meal, because the whole thing materialized with just 3 things in my shopping basket at Trader Joe’s: frozen “Bean So Green” seasoned vegetable mix, frozen salmon filets in chimichurri sauce, and pasta. Okay, this particular corkscrew pasta is not from TJ’s but you could substitute any of the bowtie, penne or rotini pastas that TJ’s does have and it will be as fabulous. Just slice the slightly frozen fish (it’s easier to slice that way) into bite-size pieces, and saute in a skillet with a small bit of olive oil. You don’t even need much oil because the marinade has oil too. Once the fish has taken on a little color, increase the heat to high, and add half the bag of frozen veggies and half the quantity of cooked pasta, stir together, cover and allow to steam and cook for about 5 minutes. Pour yourself a glass of that pinot. Stir through again about half way through the cooking time. Voila, dinner!

Normally, you would expect to see the fish and veggies seasoned from scratch on these pages, but these are not normal times. At least not for us. This was made in a hotel room. True, it’s a room with a fridge and kitchen cooktop (no stove, but at least I can boil water for pasta, and saute and fry in a skillet or wok), but it’s in a hotel nonetheless.

If you’ve stopped by here in the last few months, you may know that we have been house-hunting since January. Well, we’re still house-hunting. But the lease on our rental house ended in April and we did not want to be locked into another year lease, so we moved out. Nor did we want to be tied to an apartment lease either, so we opted for long-term hotel lodging. Judging from the quizzical looks we get from friends and colleagues, this option freaks a lot of people out. For us, though, it is usually part of every move we’ve made (5 in the last 14 years), so we know the drill: store your stuff, find a hotel with kitchenette, look for permanent solution — in this case a house to buy.

So with a few kitchen necessities, and in this case lots of fabulous products from a source we like and trust, we can at least keep ourselves fortified and our spirits up while we transition yet again.


Roasted Butternut Risotto with Pan-fried Cod & Salmon

Whether the weather outside is frightful or delightful, creamy risotto always fits the bill: either hunkering indoors while the weather gods dither or warming up after a day of cavorting in crisp fall air. Here, roasted butternut squash provides a rich and satisfying foundation for an unexpected foil — curry-dusted wild salmon and cod.

This unlikely fusion came about this way: we had only one cod and one salmon filet in the freezer, we had roasted butternut squash in the fridge, and I was craving risotto. Butternut squash risotto was a no-brainer, but I wanted fish, too. Well, butternut soups are often seasoned with curry powder, ostensibly the spices act as a foil to the rich squash; and we often pan-fry fish dusted with curry spices, so it seemed like there was potential there. But how to tie the seemingly disparate classics, Italian risotto and Indian spiced fish? Answer: Two spices that are found in neither classic recipe but which compliment both and literally marry them in perfect union.

The key turned out to be using chicken broth infused with fresh ginger and cinnamon, which lifted the flavor of the butternut brilliantly without taking over. Both are also used extensively in Indian cooking and so did not fight with the curry spices in the fish. T prefered the cod with the risotto, while I liked the richer flavor of wild salmon better with this combination.

Although this recipe developed as a way to use ingredients we already had on hand, this combination was a winner with us both and something we will plan for in future. Although this recipe may look daunting at first glance, it's really and truly quite do-able when you roast the squash ahead of time — throw it in when you have something else going in the oven anyway. We had roasted squash on hand for this recipe because we roasted it when we were baking Stuffed Tomatoes earlier in the week. And enriching a store-bought chicken broth with ginger and cinnamon is something that requires little attention from the cook as it simmers on a back burner. Go on, you can do this.

Last Friday evening, the weather was in fact quite dreary and wet most of the day. But with a warm and colorful bowl like this to cheer us indoors, we say, "Let it drizzle, let it drizzle, let it drizzle!"

Whenever I make risotto, I still hear Valentina Harris, author of "Risotto! Risotto!" in my head coaxing and wooing risottos to their creamy finish. Chef Harris was our guest risotto instructor at Leiths, and the method I follow is hers although this recipe is my own.
(For 4 persons)

Prepare the Squash:
2.5 lb or 1kg butternut squash, washed well
2 TBL olive oil

Cut squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds.

Oil baking pan, and place squash in pan with the cut side down. Place in cold oven and set temperature to 350F/180C. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until the flesh is pierced easily with a knife.

Cool for at least 20 minutes (or completely if doing this step 1 or more days in advance). Scoop out flesh — it will be pretty smooth and creamy, but you can blend or puree it to ensure a uniform texture (I don't dot this) and set aside.

*Squash can be prepared up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated. Re-heat in microwave to heat through before continuing.

Prepare Broth for Risotto:
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 slim finger of ginger, well scrubbed and sliced lengthwise
1 stick of cinnamon

Bring all broth ingredients to a rapid boil in a 3 or 4 qt/L saucepan. Reduce heat to medium, cover and allow to simmer for 30 minutes. Ready to use, but for deeper flavor, allow broth to cool with ginger and cinnamon. Remove ginger slices and cinnamon, and return to full boil for 10 minutes before continuing with risotto.

Leave broth on low simmer while making risotto.

Prepare the Fish:
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
scant 1/4 tsp cayenne (red chili) powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garam masala
juice from half lemon, about 2 TBL
1 filet Alaskan cod, about 6 oz/ 170g
1 filet wild Alaskan salmon, about 6 oz/ 170g
2 TBL olive oil

Combine coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, salt and garam masala.
Cut each filet into 1-inch pieces.
Toss fish with lemon juice, and coat with spice mixture. Set aside to marinate for 20-30 minutes while you finish risotto.

For the Risotto:
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 TBL olive oil
2 TBL unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup Carnaroli rice (if using arborio rice, you may need only 5 cups of broth)
1/4 cup brandy
2 cups/360g warm roasted butternut squash puree
6 cups Infused Chicken Broth, kept simmering and with a soup ladle nearby

As always with risotto, have all ingredients ready and within easy reach before starting.

In a 5-6 qt/L pan, cook onion with oil and butter over medium heat until onion is absolutely translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Increase heat to medium high.

Add rice, and stir well to coat with oils. Allow to cook for another 40 to 60 seconds, until the rice starts to squeak or squeal. Add brandy, and stir well. When all liquid has been absorbed, add one ladle of simmering broth, stir in and allow broth to be completely absorbed. Add second ladle of broth, stir until broth is absorbed. Add third ladle, stir, absorb.

Add butternut squash puree, and stir through with rice. Continue adding broth one full ladle at a time, stirring continously and allowing liquid to be absorbed each time before more is added. This will take another 10-12 minutes.

Cover and let rest while finishing fish.

Pan-fry Fish:
Pre-heat skillet over medium high heat.
Gently pat dry fish pieces, being careful not to rub off spices.
Add 3 TBL oil to skillet, and add fish, being careful not to crowd pan.
Brown fish on all sides. Remove to warm plate, and repeat with any remaining fish.

To serve, place one-fourth of risotto in warmed bowls, and top with fish and chive or scallion garnish. The richness of the risotto and spiciness of the fish promise that this dish can hold its own against a fruity red wine. Our go-to weekday wine is Trader Joe's Charles Shaw, and we called on a Merlot for this experimental meal, and it was fine. But now that we have reclassed this unlikely combo as worthy of a special occasion, next time we will look deeper in the cellar.


Cod with Mango-Sake Sauce

We’re still catching up with recipes and photos from Hawaiii, so here is one for the current mango season there. This recipe for a mango and sake sauce for fish was created after we were visited by an enterprising tween-ager last spring who was selling ice-cold peeled, ripe pirie mangoes door-to-door for $4.00 per bag!! We bought 2 — I wanted to buy his whole stash but that seemed too greedy. Each bag weighed in at almost 2 lbs. each of pure mango! It’s hard to imagine such decadence now when the closest thing we can find to the silken mango-iness of tree-ripe piries are the champagne mangoes from Mexico at $1.99 per mango! *sob*

The mango was cooked down into a puree with just a touch of water (no sugar) to keep the fruit from sticking to the pan, then they were ready for use in baking and cooking. Sure, there was a mango bread or two, but I wanted to use them in a savory dish too. A jigger or two (probably two) of sake, a knob of butter, a pinch of sea salt and white pepper were added to some of the puree to create this sauce. The cod itself was seasoned with sea salt and a fish curry powder from Singapore, but any curry powder (Jamaican, Japanese, Malaysian, Indonesian, South Asian) with a bit of turmeric to lend a touch of bitterness to balance the sweetness of the mangoes will work.

The fish was then pan-fried and plated, and the mango-sake sauce napped before serving (in truth, this was too generously napped — probably half this amount would make a better presentation but it was very good! ). This was made with Alaskan cod but any flaky white fish would do — halibut, haddock, even tilapia.

Those are not black sesame seeds, but onion seeds, or kalonji, over the mango sauce. Kalonji are a staple of Middle Eastern and South Asian/Indian baking and cooking, and add a nice bit of tang as well as color. On Oahu you will find kalonji at India Market on S. Beretania near UH, and maybe in the bulk spice drawers at Down-to-Earth (??); here in the D.C. area we often see aisles of Indian spices and dry goods in the larger Korean supermarkets, such as H-Mart, but there’s also a market in Hyattsville called Patel Bros. that has quite an extensive assortment of South Asian fresh, dry and frozen goods.

I meant to do this recipe again during the second wave of mango season on Oahu last year so I could measure out the ingredients, but we were caught up in the re-location frenzy at the time. I hope the photo is enough to get you started playing with your ingredients at home.

The fish is plated with watercress mashed potatoes (Flash-cooked Watercress + Mashed Potatoes) and a homemade shiso-flavored rakkyo (pickled scallions).

If you’re somewhere in the world where it’s mango season now, please have one for me!!

More fun with mangoes.....
Double Mango Wholewheat Quickbread
Double Mango Yeast Bread
Mango-stuffed French Toast


Steamed Fish with Ginger and Scalllions

My father will be visiting again for one month, so I thought I’d better brush up on the guidelines for cooking for gout-sufferers. His doctor in Hawaii recommended fish over any land-based protein, and fresh ginger is one of the moderately alkaline foods that is supportive of his condition so this is one recipe I’ve earmarked to make for him during his stay. Probably more than once. We’ll include this in the Gout Diet Challenge (GDC) round-up.

This is another testament to the wisdom “Simple is best” — Ginger Scallion Fish. It was a standard order at our favorite neighborhood restaurant in Ewa Beach, and it was only when it started to dawn on me that we would be leaving the island that an urgency rose to deconstruct the recipe. I believe flounder was the fish used at the restaurant, but at home we like it best with tilapia. Both fish are considered Good choices under the Seafood Watch guides, though you do need to look for country of origin and make sure the tilapia is from a safe source, too. This is tilapia sold flash frozen from Taiwan.

This is my own method that duplicates the flavor of our restaurant favorite — it provides the flavor of the key seasonings in layers and just heats the soy sauce enough to bring out its flavor without “cooking” it, which would change the final flavor.

I know it seems out of character for me to specify “no substitutes” for more than one ingredient in a recipe since this site is predicated on the belief that cooking should be fun and dictated in part by what you have available. But please try this recipe as is before playing with the ingredients because with this dish, the end result really is more than the sum of its parts.

For 2 persons as part of a multi-course meal

1 knob or finger of ginger
4-5 stalks of scallions
12-14 oz. (340-400g) flat fish filets, such as tilapia, flounder, or sole
finely ground white pepper (do not substitute black pepper)
sea salt
2 TBL. peanut oil (no substitutes)
2 tsp. soy sauce, preferably soy sauce labelled specifically for seafood (Chinese sources)

Peel ginger and halve. Julienne half of the knob into fine slivers, and set aside. With the other half, slice in larger pieces (these are for steaming)

Wash and trim scallions. Cut each stalk into 2-inch pieces, then thinly slice lengthwise into fine slivers. Slice remaining stalks into 2-inch pieces, then halve again once lengthwise(these are for steaming).

Prepare a large pot or wok for steaming, adding about 1-1/2 inches of water, and placing a metal rack or bamboo steamer above the water line. Bring water to a boil over high heat while you prepare fish.

Rinse fish filet and pat dry. Lay filet on a non-metallic plate or a piece of waxed paper on the steamer. Sprinkle with sea salt, then scatter larger pieces of ginger and scallion over filet. Carefully place in steamer, and cover, turning heat down to medium high. Steam undisturbed for at least 7 minutes, then check fish for doneness — it should flake at the thickest part. If not done, add some hot water to the pot, and steam for another 2-3 minutes and check again.

Meanwhile heat a small skillet over medium high heat. Add peanut oil, and heat until just beginning to smoke.

Remove ginger and scallion pieces, and place fish on a serving plate. Sprinkle with finely ground white pepper, and fresh julienned ginger and scallions.

Drizzle soy sauce over fish, then immediately top with sizzling peanut oil.

Serve as part of a multi-course meal with rice. Suggestions for accompanying dishes: Stuffed Shiitake Medaillons, Watercress Dumplings, Flash-cooked Watercress or Mustard Cabbage.


Healthy Oceans, Healthy Choices: Kabocha Salmon Patties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Combine all ingredients. Set aside.


Okra & Corn Stew with Jerk Salmon

Okra. It’s one of those “bright line” foods — you either love it or you really, re-e-ally don’t. I only crossed over to the “love it” camp as an adult, and now I’m firmly entrenched there. In Hawaii we’re lucky to find fresh okra most of the year, but because it’s a vegetable that doesn’t hold well when fresh, we still often have a bag of frozen okra in the freezer so we can make this ultra-easy Okra & Corn Stew.

In fact, it was this stew that bridged the way for me to cross into the okra-loving camp. A friend in college whipped this up in seconds from frozen and canned components and then let it simmer for an hour or so while we worked with our study group. At the end of the hour, a purchased bucket of fried chicken and biscuits rounded out our meal and four hungry, harried students were happily sated. To be honest, at first I balked at the sight of okra with the corn and tomatoes, but my friend dared me to “just one taste.” I’ve been hooked ever since, and when I make this stew, it’s always exactly as she told me how to do it.

As much as we advocate fresh local produce, there is still a place for frozen produce in our pantry too. Vegetables that have been minimally processed and left “naked” (no seasonings or other ingredients added) are frozen staples that allow us to prepare dishes we love when time is a premium. The okra in this photo is of thawed frozen okra.

Another favorite dish at our house in which okra plays a prominent role is a Filipino vegetable stew called
pinakbet, but for some reason, we couldn’t imagine making that dish with frozen okra. For some reason that dish seems to require fresh okra pods, especially smaller ones. But I digress...

Here Okra & Corn Stew is paired with jerked fish fillets, made with a purchased jerk seasoning and frozen Alaskan sockeye salmon. The salmon are just browned in a separate pan, then added to the stew to finish cooking. The spicy fish fillets contrast with the sweetness of the stew for a satisfying, no-fuss meal. Of course, my favorite pairing with this stew will always be fried chicken!

For Cari

for 4 persons
For the fish:
4 4-6oz. (113 - 170g) fillets of Alaskan sockeye salmon (or halibut, or snapper)
Purchased jerk seasoning powdered rub
Juice of 1 lime
sea salt

Pat fillets dry. Sprinkle with lime juice, then coat both sides of fish with jerk rub. Allow to marinate while you start the stew.

For the stew:
1 bag frozen cut okra (1 lb/450g)
1 bag frozen sweet corn (1 lb/450g)
1 15oz (425g) can diced tomatoes (we use Muir organic from Costco)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup (120ml) water or broth
sea salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a skillet (large enough to hold all the fish fillets too). Bring stew to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how well you like your okra done.

After the stew has simmered for 30 minutes, pre-heat a second skillet for the fish. Season fish fillets with salt to taste (remember the stew has salt too). Add oil, then fish to the pan and allow the seasonings to brown (it will look like Cajun blackened fish), about 2 minutes. Brown the other side of the fillets (they will not be cooked through).

Check stew and correct seasoning, adding a little water or broth if it looks dry. Add fish on top, just below the surface of the stew. Cover and cook for the last 10 minutes.

Serve with biscuits or garlic bread.


Kasu-Marinated Butterfish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Baked Monchong with Hummous Crust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download and print a seafood guide for your region

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

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


Mahimahi Patties w/Lemongrass & Lime Leaf

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes 24-30 appetizer patties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pan-Fried Opakapaka with Warm Spiced Cabbage Salad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Crispy Nori-Wrapped Walu & Shrimp with Papaya Coulis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Finish:
Nigella, or onion seeds
Flowering chives

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

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

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


Curry-Glazed Cod with Wasabi-Sesame Soba Salad

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

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

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

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

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

For the Fish:

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

Combine spices and set aside.

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

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

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


Grilled Ehu in Banana Leaf

Grilled Ehu in Banana Leaf

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

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

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

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

! lime, quartered
Ehu stuffed for grilling

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

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

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

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


A Case of Mistaken Identity

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

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

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

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

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

2 large sprigs cilantro, minced

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

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

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

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

Kajiki with Pomegranate-Ogo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salmon with Pomegranate Sauce

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

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

Go Home, Cook Rice: Miso Butterfish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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)


Cook It Quick: Fish Tacos

Fresh fish, fast. And easy. That's what comes to mind when I think of fish tacos. As the myriad holiday and end-of-the-year preparations are underway, it's the kind of quick and healthy meal every busy cook has tucked in her or his sleeve. The fish tacos I first fell in love with over 10 years ago had lightly battered and deep-fried fillets; but more than anything, it was the garlic sauce that put it over the top for me -- very distinctive, the perfect binding agent between the sweet fish and the crunchy but bland cabbage. I've since adapted the dish of my memories to one using flaked grilled fish, to save on both calories and time. Fresh or frozen fillets work equally well -- choose any flaky white meat fish. The key is the fresh garlic sauce.

Purchased tortillas and pre-shredded coleslaw mix means dinner can be on the table in 30 minutes, and everyone can have some fun putting together their own tacos as they eat. But these also dress up well
we've included them with beef and chicken fajitas as part of a festive dinner cooked at the table with friends. (See last month's post on How-to-do Tabletop Cooking) For a fajita-style presentation, or for tabletop cooking in general, slice the fish against the grain before marinating, and cut marination time to 15 minutes.

for 4 persons

2 1lb. fillets of skinned white-meat fish, such as ahi or snapper
Juice of 1 large lemon, about 3
1 tsp. cumin
TBL. oil

Combine lemon juice, cumin and oil. Place fish in glass or other non-reactive dish, pour marinade over fillets and coat all sides. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Garlic Sauce
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
tsp. salt
1 cup mayonnaise
TBL. milk (optional)

Place garlic and salt in mortar and grind to make a smooth paste. Combine with mayo and milk, if using, to reach desired consistency. Set aside to serve.

To assemble:
1 medium head of cabbage, finely shredded
2 limes, quartered
20-30 fresh corn tortillas, warmed and kept covered
sliced pickled jalapenos (not traditional)
homemade or bottled salsa (not traditional)

Remove fish from marinade and lightly pat dry. Season with
sea salt and ground black pepper. Grill or broil for 5 minutes on each side, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Immediately dress with fresh squeezed lime juice, and flake meat with fork.

Place warmed tortillas, cabbage, garlic sauce and other optional garnishes at the table with flaked fish. Let each person make their own tacos as they eat. Can be served with rice and beans, too.

What's in the Pantry: Penne with Tuna

It's still pretty damp and dark, but the worst of the weather seems to be behind us (knock on wood!). Unfortunately, many folks on the Leeward (west) Coast and the North Shore are still without power because the electrical company still has to string up new lines to the 30 resurrected utility poles that were downed by yesterday's gusty winds. As the veteran of many many Super-typhoons (maximum sustained winds over 150mph) growing up and living on Guam, I feel their pain. It's usually at least a few weeks following any super typhoon before our village (Dededo, in the north of the island) would get power back. But in 1976, we had no power for 4 months after Supertyphoon Pamela came directly over Guam, THEN reversed direction and came back directly over the island again! Her 200mph winds in the eye wall hit the island in 2 directions so devastation was pretty widespread. So to make a short story long, this legacy has left it's mark on me in terms of disaster coping.

One mark has been to get creative with the canned goods we usually stock. Depending on how exotic your pantry stock is, you can make some really wonderful hot meals to get you through a power shortage. (Suggestions for how to stock a Basic, Expanded, or Exotic Pantry are offered in the "
In the Pantry" section.) So starting with a Basic Pantry, if you've got canned tuna, canned tomatoes, some capers and/or olives (and maybe some anchovies) you can make this Penne con Tonno (penne with tuna). Of course, you don't have to wait for a power outage to try this — we made it with the fresh tuna our neighbors gave us in last month's post, and it's an easy meal-saver when you only have 30 minutes to put dinner together on a weeknight.

So light the candles, open a nice bottle of wine and you'll almost be sorry when the power does come back on!

(for 2 persons, but easily doubles and triples)

1 clove of garlic, minced
TBL. olive oil (don't skimp on the oil, it will coat and flavor the pasta)
1/2 cup (or more, to your taste) olives (green, black, mixed), chopped or left whole
2-3 TBL. capers (I don't rinse for this recipe, but you can)
1/2 can (8oz/225g) diced tomatoes (pictures show roasted cherry tomatoes because that's what we had on hand that day)
2 anchovy fillets (you won't taste them in the final dish, I promise)

1 can (6oz/170g) tuna in olive oil, or water

1/2 box (230g) farfalle (bowtie), penne, or other pasta shape
sea salt
flat-leaf parsley for garnish (optional)

Put water on to boil for pasta.

Saute garlic in oil over medium heat. Once garlic is fragrant, add olives, capers, tomatoes, and anchovies, and stir until the anchovies dissolve. Add tuna (including oil if using tuna in olive oil), and cook over low heat at least 10 minutes, with pan covered. (The last picture shows this same sauce made with fresh tuna.)

Cook pasta until barely al dente (cooking time will vary depending on pasta shape). Drain well, but don't rinse.

Turn heat to medium high for the sauce, move the sauce ingredients to the edges creating a hole in the center, and add hot pasta to the center. Fold sauce ingredients over pasta and coat well. Turn heat off, cover and let rest for 5 minutes while you open a bottle and set the table. Garnish with parsley, if using.

Bounty from the sea and a kind neighbor

Our neighbors Scott and Terry brought over this beautiful 2lb/1kg chunk of sashimi-grade ahi tuna! A friend of theirs caught it and shared it with them, and they have shared their incredible bounty with us and other neighbors. Wow, we are so-o lucky! This made three different meals for us. (Click on links for recipes)
Ahi  tuna Slices of ahi for peppered steaks

First, I pan-fried one slice with furikake (actually a Japanese nori and sesame topping for rice) a dish I learned here in Hawaii (Furikake Ahi). Oishi-katta!
Ahi furikake Ahi furikake with rice and takuan pickles

Two thicker slices were coated with mixed (white, black, Szechuan, green and rose) crushed peppers and quickly seared so the inside remains uncooked (T's favorite) Ahi with pepper crust. We served this with mashed potatoes, mashed Okinawan potatoes (purple mash on left), sesame sauteed warabi (fern greens) and shredded daikon namasu.
Ahi pepper filet

Lastly, I made a pasta sauce with the trimmed smaller pieces, cooked with roasted tomatoes, olives, capers, anchovies, garlic and oil Tonno Puttanesca. This base will have a splash of vinegar added before mixing for a cold pasta salad to take with us on Monday when we have to vacate the house for the termite exterminators (yikes!).
Ahi pieces cooked for pasta

Mahalo, Terry and Scott, for these three wonderful meals!