Steamed Periwinkles with Garlic Stems & White Wine

When we first saw these green garlic stems in the Korean groceries, my first thought was to pickle them but actually I’ve done everything BUT pickle them so far! Once the stems are trimmed and cut to the desired length, they are sauteed in olive oil creating both a fragrant oil and a pre-cooked aromatic that you can quickly add to anything for a flavor boost — eggs and cheese for a hearty morning scramble or omelet; and pasta sauces, stews and soups to replace or supplement other aromatics such as onions and garlic. Garlic stems have a milder but distinctly garlic flavor, and soften to a pleasant bite once cooked.

One end of the stems has a bud which will eventually “blossom” with miniature cloves that make an interesting garnish, and which will be delicious once pickled. (I *will* pickle these soon.)

In this quick recipe for steamed periwinkles in white wine sauce, we used the same broth we would use for steamed clams and simply replaced regular minced garlic cloves with a half bunch of chopped garlic stems The stems are milder than garlic cloves so the copious amount was necessary to bring out the same garlic pungency.

We first tried periwinkles last year, and the ones we got in Hawaii came from Canada. These were more local, but at H-Mart were labelled as “Bai Top Shells.” They require considerably more cleaning than the ones we got in Hawaii if you plan to use them in this dish where the shells are added directly to the cooking broth, and the broth is consumed as part of the meal. It seems from a scan of recipes for bai top on the web, that in Korean dishes, the meat is extracted from the shell and the shells are discarded so they are sold more naturel, as it were.

The one thing I can say about the periwinkles we got this time is that they were VERY fresh. So fresh that after scrubbing them and draining them, I put the shells in the fridge to keep cool while I prepped the broth, and when I went to take them out, I was greeted with this:

I thought to myself: I can freak out, or I can grab my camera... As you can see, I went for the photo-op. (This photo is going out to Rowena, who first mentioned the possibility of snails in the fridge on her blog last month!)

For 4-5 persons

2 lbs. periwinkles (aka bai top)
2 TBL olive oil
Half bunch of garlic stems, washed, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces
4 TBL unsalted butter
1/2 tsp sea salt (not necessary if using regular butter)
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 bottle dry white wine (we used a Vinho Verde)
½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Make a saline soaking liquid by mixing 1/4 cup sea salt with 2 quarts/liters cold water, and stir to dissolve salt. Clean the shells by first soaking in this saline solution for 30 minutes to loosen dirt on the shells. Using a hard bristled brush, such as a nail brush or firm toothbrush, scrub shells free of dirt and place in colander. Rinse all shells under running water. Keep in fridge until needed. (Note: If you don’t plan to cook the shells the same day you buy them, don’t clean them until just before you plan to cook.)

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and garlic stems over medium high heat until garlic aroma fills the kitchen. Add butter, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes if using, and heat until butter is melted through and bubbling. Add white wine, and bring to boil. Add periwinkles, stir through, and add enough water so that broth comes 3/4 of the way around shells, and cover. Return to boil, stirring occasionally. Cook for 10 minutes.

Serve with a toothpick to extract meat from shell, and lots of fresh bread to sop up the buttery, garlicky broth!

Like periwinkles? Also try Portuguese-style Pork, Clams & Periwinkles. And for another take on periwinkles — adding chorizo and mussels instead, visit Meagan Down Under on her site, Megalomaniac.


"Rim of Fire" Paella

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

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

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

Serves 4 persons

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

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

Calamansi limes, for garnish and seasoning

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

Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Spicy Seafood Stew w/Kauai Shrimp & Hawaii Abalone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serves 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Creamy Ewa Sweet Corn Soup with Kauai Shrimp

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

When you hear the words “fresh corn,” do you picture flat miles and miles of dark green stands of cornstalks in Iowa or Nebraska? I know we did, before we came to Hawaii. Now when someone mentions fresh corn, my mind immediately jumps to Ewa sweet corn, grown right down the road in the fertile Ewa Plains.

Corn in Hawaii? I know, this was a complete surprise to us too. But your first taste of these tender sweet kernels will make you a believer too. And yes, the corn is grown by the same folks at Aloun Farms who also grow those wonderful sweet onions and melons we’ve looked at earlier. If you can believe it, there is a second corn grower on this small island — in Kahuku, on Oahu’s North Shore (of surfing fame). Kahuku corn are also tender and sweet and, most importantly for Oahu, local fresh!

When produce is this sweet and fresh, we don’t usually mess with it too much — steam it or grill it, and eat it. They don’t even need butter or salt. The key with sweet corn is that it must be cooked or frozen as soon as you get it home. A corn grower in California once told me that the sugars in corn begin to convert to starch as soon as they are picked from the stalk. Sugar = tender and sweet; Starch = chewy and kind of bland.

At home, remove the husks and silk, then soak the corn cobs in a vinegar-water solution (2 TBL white vinegar for every 1 liter/quart of water), and rinse. Actually, for grilling you may want to keep some of the husks intact to use as protection from the flames (instead of wrapping in aluminum foil) or as a handle to pick up the corn. Just peel back the outer layers of the jusk (like peeling a banana) and leave them attached at the stem end. Remove the interior husks and the silks, then wash and rinse corn in their husks. Pull husks back over the corn (you can season the corn before re-husking), and they’re ready for the grill!

An alternative method, popular in Japan and here in the Islands, is to grill the corn directly over the flame, seasoning with salt, pepper and a brush of soy sauce in the last minute of grilling. Delicious! You get sweet smoke with that hint of salty shoyu. This is a favorite festival food, but easy to recreate at home, too!

We are fortunate to have more than one season for fresh corn on Oahu, and one of those seasons is going on now. With our fourth or fifth bag of corn this season, I finally decided to make something other than grilled or steamed corn. This is a thick and creamy soup that has no cream or milk — I really wanted the sweet flavor of the corn to be the star here. Its co-star is an equally sweet shrimp from a Neighbor Island — their flavors complemented each other perfectly.

Fellow blogger Pomai at Tasty Island commented on an earlier post that the use of place names (e.g., Ewa cantaloupe) not only promotes the freshness of the produce, but also increases the cachet of the final recipe to either impress one’s guests or (if you’re in the business) charge a fortune! He’s absolutely right, of course. Wouldn’t you pay $30 for that Linguine with Ewa Cantaloupe Sauce in a Waikiki hotel?!

So what did we do with the corn? Here I present you with Creamy Ewa Sweet Corn Soup with Kauai Shrimp (more on the shrimp in a later post). That should fetch at least $20 as a first course, don’t you think? The sea salad adds texture and another ocean element to the soup — we liked it a lot. The only thing I would say is next time I would cut the greens into smaller spoon-size pieces before garnishing.

Don’t miss any vegetable or fruit season in the Islands — download a month-by-moth seasonal availability chart from the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, one of the sponsors of the Buy Local campaign.

Serves 4 as a first course

6 ears Ewa (or Kahuku) sweet corn, washed as outlined above, some husk kept intact

Peel husk back from cleaned corn to use as a handle when cutting kernels from cob. Place top of corn ear into a deep wide bowl to catch the kernels. Using a sharp knife, cut down and away from you, into the bowl. Turn ear and continue cutting until all kernels are cut from cob. Remove husks and place in large dutch oven. Repeat with all cobs. Reserve kernels (you should have 5-6 cups kernels).

Cover cobs with water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes, and allow to cool completely.

(Optional step: I was taught to extract as much flavor from my ingedients as possible, but some people will omit this step.) When cobs are cool enough to handle, remove from water. Place one cob end in water and using the BLUNT end of a knife, press down along the length of the cob into the water to release the last bits of corn. Repeat over the whole cob, and repeat for each cob. Pour “broth” into a measuring cup, and add water to measure 8 cups of liquid. Reserve corn broth/water.

To finish soup:
2 TBL. olive oil or butter (use butter if corn is frozen or starchy)
1 small onion, minced
1/2 tsp. dried chervil
1/4 cup mirin or sake
sea salt, to taste
ground white pepper, to taste
1 lb. Kauai (or Kahuku) sweet shrimp, peeled and chopped (optional - reserve 1 tail per serving for garnish)
sea salad (chopped) or marinated sea asparagus for garnish

Melt butter in dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 6-7 minutes. Add corn kernels and stir to coat with butter. Cover and cook for another 5-6 minutes. Add chervil, mirin, salt and white pepper, and stir through. Cook together 10 minutes. Remove 1/4 to 1/3 of the kernels (depending on how chunky you want the final soup to be — or leave them all in if you want a smooth soup).

Add corn broth/water, and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes (add reserved shrimp tails to soup in the last 5 minutes, if using, and remove to separate plate to cool before blending soup). Taste and correct seasoning before pureeing.

Use an immersion blender to puree soup. If you have to use a countertop blender, first cool the soup, then puree, and re-heat. HOT FOODS in a covered blender can “explode” from accumulated steam and heat. I don’t recommend using a covered blender for any hot foods or drink.

Return reserved kernels to soup and return to boil. Add chopped shrimp, lower heat to simmer, and cook for 2-3 minues, or until all shrimp turn pink and firm. Ladle into serving bowls, garnish with purchased sea salad and reserved shrimp tails.

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


Al Fresco: Linguine with Clams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Recap: Cakes, Nuts, Crab Cioppino

A quick summary of recipes that didn't get posted during the holiday sabbatical, but were too delicious to ignore.

First was a dried fruit and nutcake that just happened to also be vegan. I say it that way because there's a misconception that vegan desserts = "dry, crumbly and and uninteresting." I confess, I've thought that myself. But done right, and with recipes developed by people who love good food, vegan sweets are light, luscious and very ono. The vegan butterscotch quick bread by Hannah of Bittersweet that we made in October (see post) proved that point, and so did this brandy-soaked dried fruit and nut cake from bee and Jai at Jugalbandi. Their recipe provided enough batter for a gift cake (shown here, made with a Gugelhupf pan smaller than a Bundt) and a 8x8 cake for us. Bee recommended soaking the dried fruits in rum for a month before baking!
I only had 3 days to soak my cherries, apricots and raisins in brandy, but I would like to try the longer soaking method in future. I did save the soaking liquid, poured it over the square cake, wrapped it tightly in plastic and foil, and kept it in the fridge until after new year's. We had our first slices this past weekend over a beach-side breakfast I have to say, our spirits rose with the sun! It is so flavorful and moist, it's hard to believe it was made without eggs or oil. I'm not a fan of glaced fruit, so I don't like traditional fruitcakes. This, however, is a cake of a different order. Bee's Fruit and Nut Cake recipe.

We were invited to a wonderful Italian-American Christmas dinner with our friends Laurie and Brian and their family. Chef Brian prepared stromboli, veal parmesan, and spaghetti with meatballs, all from scratch he was prepping into the wee hours of Christmas morning, bless him! I offered to make Tiramisu for dessert, in keeping with their Italian menu. Laurie is expecting their third child in February so the raw eggs in my usual recipe were out of the question. Instead, I tried a creme anglaise base so the eggs were cooked before adding the other custard ingredients, and proceeded as usual. I was impressed how close this came to the original, without the worry of having to use raw eggs! This may be my recipe of choice in future because it does eliminate the concern about the eggs. Don't be tempted to substitute cocoa powder for the grated chocolate in this recipe. Chalky powder (no matter which brand) can't compete with the creamy texture and taste grated dark chocolate lends this recipe. Tiramisu, custard-based recipe. Our thanks and love to Brian and Laurie for sharing their family celebration this year Chef B, you're the best!

This was an alternative recipe for sweet spiced nuts (
see post) that does not use egg whites. It's actually more like the candied walnuts (minus the sugar coating) we had with the spicy prawns at our favorite Chinese restaurant, and they are certainly tasty. But (you knew there was a "but" coming) they're cooked first in a sugar syrup, cooled in syrup overnight, dried another night, deep-fried, and coated in sugar. It's pretty time-consuming, and very laden with fat and sugar. With that word to the wise, here's the recipe for Crispy Sweet Walnuts.

For our second consecutive Christmas Eve we had Dungeness crab cioppino. Little piece of heaven. Until we moved to Hawaii 3 years ago, I had not had Dungeness in 10 years, and T had never tried it. Having grown up in Maine and around lobster boats as a teen, dear hubby was of the opinion that no crab was worth the effort of all the work it took to eat it. He had never tried Dungeness. Let's just say, in the immortal words of "The Borg": he was assimilated. This is the first time we've included fresh clams
their extra sweetness was a delight, but not necessary if they're not available where you are. Dungeness crab cioppino recipe.

Here's Lookin' at You: Garlicky Shrimp in Butter Sauce

Taking advantage of the abundant fresh fish and shellfish available here, we often turn first to the classics. When it comes to fresh shrimp, few things can top this simple preparation often called "scampi" in seafood and Italian restaurants: whole shrimp sauteed in garlic oil and spices, and finished in a light buttery cream sauce. And when it comes to garlic, the highest authority on my shelves is the The Garlic Lovers' Cookbook (see book review) by the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association. Gilroy, California proudly claims itself the "Garlic Capital of the World" and during the last weekend in July for the last 30 years, over one hundred thousand visitors to its 3-day festival make it so. The Gilroy Garlic Festival serves up everything from its Gourmet Alley classics like calamari salad, garlic bread and this scampi, to the more unusual garlic wine, ice cream, chocolates, and "mountain oysters." All profits from the festival go to local charities. It's a delicious win-win for everyone. This year the Festival will take place July 25-27th at Christopher Ranch in Gilroy. If you're planning your first trip there, a word to the wise: go early, and don't let the garlic ice cream be the first thing you try that day! Until you can stroll Gourmet Alley for yourself, these finger-lickin' ono shrimp will tide you over.

(adapted from
The Garlic Lovers' Cookbook)

Butter Sauce
1/2 cup
unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, finely mince
4 oz. clam juice or fish stock
TBL. flour
tsp. minced parsley
1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white wine
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. dry basil
Dash of nutmeg
1/4 cup (60 ml) half-and-half, or light cream
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Over very gentle heat, saute garlic in butter (don't let butter brown). Combine clam juice, flour, and parsley, and stir until smooth. Add to pan and blend well. Add wine, lemon juice, basil and nutmeg, blend well. Slowly add dairy, and stir until thickened. Simmer gently 30 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning.

TBL. butter
2 TBL. olive oil
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
Juice and zest from 1/2 lemon
1 TBL. parsley, minced
tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. minced fresh basil
1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white wine
Dash of sherry
1 lb. shrimp
sea salt and ground black pepper

Heat butter and oil over medium heat, add garlic and cook to soften. Add lemon juice, parsley, pepper, basil, wine, sherry, and salt and pepper, and cook for about 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add shrimp, and lemon zest, and toss to combine. Cook until shrimp are just firm, and turning pink. Pour Butter Sauce over and heat through. Immediately remove from heat and serve with
Bruschetta or over long pasta (linguine, spaghetti, etc.) to soak up the delicious sauce.


Game Day in the Big Easy: Crawfish Etouffee

Update (January 8, 2008): With Paula's permission, her recipe replaces the previous version. This is the keeper recipe. Thanks, Paula!

Crawfish Etouffee

New Year's Day foods have to be special, even when they're not the traditional Japanese fare we usually have (
previous post). And since we decided to postpone making sukiyaki until dad's upcoming visit, something equally special had to fill those proverbial shoes. But what? Well, the University of Hawaii Warriors were playing in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day first time ever in this Bowl game and the island was caught up in the excitement of this momentous game. The game was in New Orleans so it seemed natural to make our favorite dish from the Big Easy Crawfish Etouffee (EH-too-fay).
Package of frozen crawfish tail meat

I've never been to New Orleans, so everything I know about it, I learned in my first bowl of crawfish etouffee
It's earthy and spicy, and little bit naughty. My dear friend Paula, a Nawlins native now residing in Cambridge, Mass., shared her family's recipe for etouffee with us when she wanted to introduce us to the joys of crawfish. The shellfish in question was already cooked, peeled and frozen -- ready to be added to a prepared sauce. This is the only type of crawfish I've ever had, but it's pretty darn tasty and the frozen pack is a full pound of solid tail meat, no shells. A trick I learned from Paula is to add the frozen crawfish unthawed to the simmering sauce so the all-important liquid "fat" is added to the sauce too. This will add a lot of flavor to your finished dish. (To find crawfish on Oahu, see Honolulu Chinatown post)

In their native habitat, crawfish are actually small lobster-like crustaceans (see drawing on package) similar to langoustines on the Continent, and they are wildly popular in Louisiana
boiled in a spicy brew in vast quantities and eaten from the shell. I've not had the pleasure of this Big Easy experience, but until I do, the etouffee will keep us happy.

(The real McCoy)

For the Roux (roo):
3 TBL. butter
3 TBL. flour

Combine butter and flour in heavy-bottomed pan (cast-iron is ideal) and cook on very low heat, stirring constantly, for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it achieves a nutty color.
Roux at the start Roux after 20 minutes Roux after 40 minutes
An internet version says you can skip making the roux because it makes the etouffee heavy. This might be true of a short-cooked roux, but the longer a roux is cooked, the less binding power it has because the flour is browning and losing its glutinous quality. Instead, the long-cooked roux lends a nutty flavor and buttery finish that is completely lost if this step is omitted. It's worth the time, trust me.
Crawfish Etouffee with Bruschetta and Tabasco

2 TBL. EACH oil and unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely diced (about 3/4 cup, 150g)
1/2 bell pepper, finely diced (about 1/2 cup, 85g)
1 large stalk celery, finely diced (about 1/2 cup, 85g)
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1
1 cup (160g) minced tomatoes
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 TBL. paprika
tsp. thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 bunch scallions, chopped (about 3/4 cup, 37g)
1 TBL. Worcestershire sauce
TBL. minced parsley
pinch cayenne

1 1/2 cup (375ml) fish or chicken stock
1/2 cup (120ml) dry white wine
1 lb. (450g) crawfish tail meat, with fat

Heat the butter/oil in a pan and saute the onion, bell pepper and celery over medium-low heat until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, green onions, thyme, bay leaves, tomato, parsley, salt, and both peppers. Add stock and white wine to the roux and stir to combine, then add to sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add frozen crawfish or cleaned tail meat, cover and simmer another 10 minutes or until heated through.

Serve with boiled long-grain rice, and a side of french bread or
Bruschetta. Hot sauce on the table for the brave. Paula also recommends potato salad with this. Now that's good eatin'!!

I just had to share this bit I heard on the morning news about the Warriors game at the Superdome. It's a testament to the spirit of Aloha that this state can personify.

Tens of thousands of fans from Hawaii flew out to New Orleans for this historic game. Optimism for another win to top off the Warriors' undefeated season was raging. Unfortunately, the Georgia Bulldogs have a bite nastier than their bark, and the Warriors faced a crushing 10-41 defeat. Although it seemed clear by the 4th quarter that the Warriors would not be able to rally back to win, and despite the late hour (it was after midnight CST), the overwhelming majority of Hawaii fans stayed to cheer their team. At the game's end, as the team started to leave the field, the fans gave them a raucous standing ovation. You could see the surprise light up the team's faces as they stopped dead in their tracks to acknowledge the applause. Now
that's taking care of your ohana (family). In the dark disappointment of the night, Hawaii had brought their Warriors . . . a rainbow.


Game Day: Portuguese Bean Soup

Rainy days on Oahu

The weather is quite dreary here this weekend and will remain so into the middle of next week, if you believe the weather guy. Our poor hibiscus looks quite weighed down by the heavy rains we got yesterday, doesn’t she?

Nevertheless, there’s a big game today at Aloha Stadium — the undefeated (11-0) University of Hawaii Warriors face off against the Washington Huskies in the last game of the regular season. The excitement on Oahu is palpable and infectious, even sweeping in sometimes-sports fans like yours truly. We casually tuned in to last week’s televised game against Boise State and then sat glued to the TV to the end. Luckily we still had Thanksgiving leftovers (ala tetrazzini) then because I was too into the game to cook.

(You can listen to today's game via the UH website here or watch on ESPN2)

This week we’re prepared with the perfect Hawaiian TV football-watching food: the venerable Portuguese bean soup. And judging by the empty Portuguese sausage shelf and dearth of ham hocks and shanks at my local supermarket yesterday, I’m guessing there are lots of soup pots bubbling away right now. This ultra-hearty spicy island classic rivals American style chili con carne in its variations and plain down-home comfort. For me the key ingredient is Hawaiian style Portuguese sausage, it’s quite distinct from its European ancestor and whatever the blend of spices they use here, it’s uniquely Hawaii. And ono. When we lived in Europe, I made this soup a couple of times using sausages (chouricos) from Portugal and those were good too, but in my heart I felt like something was missing.
Our favorite Portuguese sausage

The method I use for this (and most soups) is different in that I use a slow-cooker. This will require that you start at least 48 hours before you plan to serve, if you also want to de-fat the broth (which I do), at least 36 hours if you skip the cooling process. It does take a while, but I like the fact that I’m not tied to the stove making the broth or soup. In Europe we found a slow-cooker made in the U.K. that was 220-volt, and eliminated the need for a voltage-converter for a 110 volt machine. And the multiple draining and rinsing may seem like a bother, but according to Aliza Green in "
The Bean Bible," this process, along with the parboiling, reduces the beans’ propensity to cause flatulence so skip this step at your own peril! ; P

The substitution of mustard greens for cabbage is a new thing in the evolution of this soup for us — we tried this variation in a soup we had near Hilo on the Big Island a couple of years ago. The slightly bitter green brings a nice balance to the spicy meaty soup.

Making broth for soup

Make the broth:
1 large smoked ham shank, whole
1 medium onion, peeled but left whole, or halved
4 whole cloves
4 celery heart branches, with leaves
2 large bay leaves
2 carrots, peeled and cut in large chunks

Stick cloves in onion halves or whole. Place all ingredients in 5 quart or larger slow-cooker. Cover with water, at least to 4/5 of the ham shank. Set slow cooker to High and cover. After an hour or so, check and remove scum rising to the surface. When water comes to a boil, turn setting to Low and leave for 8-10 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone.

Meanwhile, soak 8 oz. (225g) of rinsed red kidney beans in 8 cups (2L) cool water. After 4 hours, drain the water, rinse, and cover with 6 cups (1.5L) cool water. Repeat after 4 more hours.

When the broth is done, remove the ham shank and all the vegetables. Debone and shred or chop the meat, and return to broth. You can either cool the broth overnight and remove the fat in the morning, or proceed to finish the soup as is. These pictures show the cooled and defatted broth.
Broth after coolingBroth after de-fatting
If you choose to cool the soup, after de-fatting, return to slow-cooker and set on High for one hour before proceeding.

For the soup:
10 oz of Hawaiian Portuguese sausage, halved lengthwise, then sliced into half-moons
4 cloves of garlic, diced
2 cups water
1 15oz can of diced tomatoes, including juice
1 6oz can of tomato paste
1-½ tsp. paprika
1 tsp. black pepper
2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 medium bunch Chinese mustard greens, Italian chicory, endive, or other bitter green, chopped
4 oz. (113g) dry elbow macaroni, or other small pasta shape

Drain and rinse beans. Bring 6 cups of water to boil, then add rehydrated beans and boil for 15 minutes. Leave in water until ready to use. Then drain, rinse and add to hot broth.
Portuguese bean soup
Mmmm, soup . . . .
Over medium heat, pan fry the sliced sausage until browned, then add to hot broth. Remove the excess fat from the pan, then add garlic and cook until just fragrant. Turn heat to high and add water to pan and deglaze, add to broth with tomatoes, tomato paste, pepper and paprika. Turn slow-cooker to Low and let cook about 4 hours. Add potatoes, carrots, stem parts of cabbage, and uncooked macaroni. Cook on Low another 1-½ to 2 hours, or until potatoes and beans are tender. (Add tender green parts of cabbage last half hour.) Correct seasoning (salt will depend on type of sausage or smoked shank/hocks used) and serve with cornbread, hawaiian sweet bread, or garlic bread.

If you want to use cooked pasta or macaroni, reduce water to 1 cup, and add cooked pasta with tender cabbage greens, in the last half-hour of cooking.

For a great step-by-step pictorial on how to make Portuguese bean soup local kine, check out Pomai’s site at The Tasty Island.

For a European take on this island favorite, see local girl Rowena cooking in Italy at
Rubber Slippers in Italy.

Update: The Warriors took it in a come-from-behind, nail-biting finish, 35-28. . .

See also
Portuguese-style pork, clam and periwinkle stew