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.
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.
GRILLED EHU (RED SNAPPER) IN BANANA LEAF
2 banana leaves, cleaned and oiled
2 Ehu (1-1.5 lb each), scaled and cleaned
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
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.
(Thanks for the visit, Maia! Come see us again soon.)
The lead photo is entered in this month's CLICK event hosted by Bee & Jai at Jugalbandi, where the theme for April is Au Naturel.
Like the surf that gained Hawaii its fame, mango season rolls in wave sets — spread throughout the year as different varieties and locales around the Islands blossom, fruit, and ripen. Although many trees here are still in full bud,we found these red beauties a couple of weeks ago, beckoning at us from a lone stand at the farmers' market in our town. Sometimes even the most gorgeous, perfumed mangos can be stringy on the inside, making them difficult to cut or present in any fashion. These, however, were perfect — firm, fully-ripe flesh that cut cleanly and easily from the pit. This is a Hayden variety, and was an epitome of its specimen. Not only sweet, but redolent of mango juciness and flavor. I ate this first one as soon as the photo op was over. Hmmm, maybe T would be expecting some, too. Better not cut the second one until he was in the vicinity or it would be proverbial toast, too.
After living here for 3 short years, I'm only just beginning to develop the self-discipline to even consider doing anything with a mango except just eat it. Why cover up that succulent flavor with spices, or herbs, or anything!? In the last few months, beginning with the Double Mango Bread that was conceived for my first foray in the world of blog events, I've experimented with fresh mangoes with meat dishes, oatmeal, salsas, etc., but to be honest, I'd rather enjoy the mango au naturel — naked, if you will.
But last weekend I did venture to make a stuffed french toast with fresh mangoes. It was deemed a worthy use of this most noble fruit. I love egg-y french toast, or pain perdu (if we're being picky about it). I prefer to leave the bread to soak overnight in a copious egg-mik sop, heavy with vanilla and a bit of cinnamon. But with the mangoes, I wanted something lighter, something less bread-pudding-ish, that would showcase the fruit itself.
The trick to this preparation is to leave the interior of the bread slices dry so the result is a creamy yet light toast that allows the fresh fruit to star. A crumb topping provides a contrasting crunch. We loved this lighter french toast — it tasted sinful without leaving us feeling weighed down afterwards. Make this with any seasonal fruit. I don't really like cinnamon with mango, so I didn't use it or any other flavoring except a kiss of vanilla. With other fruits, though, I would think of complementary flavor combinations: almond extract and nuts with peaches, cherries and other stone fruits; stronger vanilla or even banana with strawberries; cinnamon and cloves with apples or bananas; lemon with blueberries; etc.
This recipe is made with whole grain wheat bread because we are trying to eat more healthily (and that's what we had on hand that morning). (Made with whole wheat, this is something I would serve my dad on his gout-maintenance diet, so it will go into the GDC.) No question you could substitute an egg bread, such as Hawaiian sweet or challah, for a truly decadent feast.
This recipe goes out to Mansi, the genial host at Fun and Food for her "Balanced Breakfast" theme for the 20th ed. of Weekend Breakfast Blogging. Have a wonderful weekend!
MANGO-STUFFED WHOLE-WHEAT FRENCH TOAST
(for 2 persons, double or triple recipe as needed)
Fruit from 1-3 fully ripe mango (if using a meaty Hayden, you may only need one if you can refrain from sneaking too many nibbles as you prepare the fruit; from the smaller Champagne (Ataulfo) or Pirie varieties, you may need as many as 3)
You can mash or dice the mango, especially if it shows any signs of being stringy. I left it in slices because this particular mango cut like butter anyway, and we like the texture of the fruit this way.
Pre-heat oven to 400F (200C). A countertop or large toaster oven is perfect for a 2-person serving.
2 large or 3 medium eggs
1/2 cup (120ml) almond milk (or soy or low-fat milk)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. raw sugar
4 slices of whole wheat bread
Beat together eggs, milk, vanilla and sugar. Dip each side of bread in this mixture, then leave bread to soak up remaining milk while you prepare the topping.
1 slice of bread
1/4 cup (40g) macadamia nuts, chopped
2 TBL. raw sugar
Process bread, nuts and sugar in small bowl of food processor or blender.
2 TBL. (30g) unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp. raw sugar, or to taste
Butter a small baking dish. Lay 2 slices of soaked bread on the bottom. Top with mango slices (dice, or puree). Sprinkle fruit with 1 tsp. of raw sugar. Top with second slice of bread. Liberally sprinkle bread-nut topping, then drizzle with melted butter.
Bake in pre-heated oven for 5 minutes, then turn oven down to 325F (for another 25 minutes). If top starts to brown to quickly, cover with foil to protect crust.
Serve while hot, with whipped cream or creme fraiche.
See also Double Mango Bread (yeast bread)
and Double Mango Wholewheat Quickbread
There is no fruit in the Hawaiian Islands I love more than papaya. Mangoes come a close second; but we've been able to find delicious mango varieties when we've lived in non-tropical parts of the world, never so with papayas. Never. I think you have to be close to the source to get a truly delicious papaya. We've been tempted and tricked by beautiful deep orange-colored papayas in markets in Europe and the US East Coast, but were always disappointed by the sweet, but vapid and watery fruit that met our spoons.
Having said this, there are other ways to enjoy papayas when the fresh ripe ones are not the best choice. Eat it green. Like bananas, papayas enjoy a different life as a green fruit. Treated more as a vegetable, the firm white or slightly pink flesh of an under-ripe papaya can be diced and added to soups or stews, as one might with squash or gourds (see Chicken Tinola), or julienned and lightly dressed with a tangy lime and fish sauce to make a refreshing salad. Growing up on Guam, my favorite pickle in the world was pickled green papaya, similar to the southeast Asian style salads, but marinated only in vinegar, boonie peppers (donne) and salt.
With a benriner, mandoline, or julienne-peeler, making green papaya salad is a snap. And don't confine this salad to southeast Asian themed meals. A nice palate-cleanser with rich curries or stews, as well as deep-fried and grilled foods, a papaya salad brings a touch of the tropics to any meal. We've even used it to liven up the next day's lunch — it becomes a punchy condiment for a meatloaf sandwich, or a last minute pasta salad with the addition of chicken and somen or soba noodles.
Note: Green papayas are light in weight for their size — their seeds are not developed and their flesh, while moist, is not heavy and juicy like their fully-ripened brethren.
GREEN PAPAYA SALAD
(adapted from Hot Sour Salty Sweet by Alford & Duguid)
1lb. green papaya (approximate weight), peeled and julienned
Toss with 2 tsp. sea salt and leave for 30 minutes. Rinse well, and drain.
1 large garlic clove
1 TBL. chopped dry-roast peanuts
1 TBL. dried shrimp, chopped
1-2 fresh red chilies
1 tsp. raw sugar (or 1/2 tsp. white sugar)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
Place ingredients in a mortar, and pound together to make a wet paste. (If you want the salad to be less spicy, don't add the whole pepper(s) to the mortar. Simply slice the bottom half of the pepper, avoiding the seeds, and add that to the paste mixture, or add the slices to the dressing below. But don't leave the peppers out completely or the balance will be "off.")
Juice of 3 limes (to make about 1/3 cup)
2-3 TBL. fish sauce (Thai fish sauces tend to be saltier and fishier than Vietnamese or Filipino fish sauces, so how much you use depends on the brand and personal taste)
Cilantro or mint, minced (optional)
In a large bowl that can accommodate all the julienned papaya, combine lime juice and fish sauce, then add paste. Stir well, then taste. It should hint at all the primal flavors of the tropics — salty, sweet, hot and sour. When the balance is to your liking, add papaya and cilantro. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
I came across this intriguing recipe while browsing through Dhivya's massive Potato Fe(a)st Event at DK's Culinary Bazaar earlier this month. It came from Eskay at A Bon Vivant's Chow Chronicle and she called it Fenugreek'ed Potatoes, named after the defining herb in the recipe. Fenugreek is used as both a spice and an herb. As a spice, it's available as triangular, amber-colored seeds prized for its distinct bitterness. Along with turmeric, it adds most of the defining color and flavor to commercial "curry powders."
As an herb, it can be found in both fresh and dried forms at specialty Indian markets. I've seen fenugreek seeds both bottled and sold by the ounce at health food stores here and on the Mainland, but not the leaves. Even at specialty stores, the fresh leaves can be hard to come by unless the shop caters to a sizable Indian population. However the dried form, called Kasoori Methi, is usually on the shelves. Dried methi leaves have a pleasing clean, minty, and almost astringent aroma. When fried lightly in hot oil, as in this recipe, it becomes nutty and smoky. The amazing change in character is reminiscent of the transformation of a fresh green jalapeno pepper to a smoky chipotle.
I had only used kasuri methi in a handful of recipes, and they were usually part of a large mix of other spices and herbs, so I really could not have told you what fenugreek leaves on their own tasted like. Eskay's recipe really stood out because it highlighted the flavor of fenugreek. I had some dried methi leaves (or so I thought), and we had just scored a bag of fingerling potatoes, so it seemed like a perfect time to try this! I first attempted to make this last week as a side for some ribs, but found that my poorly-secured bag of methi leaves had become infested with bugs. Ick! Luckily we had a chance to drive through the university district and stop by the India Market to stock up on some staples. I passed it at least five times on the shelf because the new box was spelled differently ("Qasuri Methi" — it might also be spelled "Kasuri"), but finally realized what I was seeing.
This was part of our Easter Sunday meal with Lamb Rib Chops & Lentils Catalane, steamed asparagus, and a cucumber and radish raita (yogurt salad). The earthy, smoked flavors worked surprisingly well with the sunny flavors of the lamb and lentils. In fact, the lentils and potatoes complemented each other so well I couldn't resist making a grilled sandwich with them: whole wheat bread, garlic mayo on the potato side, Kasoori Methi Potatoes, and Lentils Catalane, grilled with olive oil = Heaven!
One note: I cut larger potatoes down to the size of the smallest ones for even cooking, and found the cut ones had the added bonus of absorbing more of the spice flavors (no surprise). If you prefer skin-on whole potatoes, you may want to cut or at least score the potatoes after steaming, but before frying, to allow the spices to reach the buttery potato interior.
We've grown to really love tangy, sour flavors — whether it's tamarind in curries; powdered sumac on grilled meats; wild lime leaves in Laotian stews; or dried whole limes in Persian stews. If you enjoy any of these flavors, don't skip the sprinkling of amchoor powder in the first step.
KASOORI METHI POTATOES
(adapted from Eskay's Fenugreek'ed Potatoes)
2 lb. fingerling potatoes
1/2-1 tsp. amchoor, aka dried green mango powder (optional)
1 tsp. sea salt
Scrub well, and cut larger potatoes in halves or thirds. Steam or boil potatoes until just cooked. Peel potatoes, if desired (we prefer the skins on). Combine amchoor and salt, then liberally season potatoes while still warm. (If not using amchoor, season to taste with sea salt.) Keep aside.
2 tsp. coriander seed
1 tsp. cumin seed
In a mortar, grind together coriander and cumin seeds to make a fine powder.
3 TBL. olive oil
5 TBL. kasoori methi
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (or Aleppo)
Heat oil in wok or large skillet over medium heat. Add spices, cayenne, and methi leaves and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add potatoes and stir through to coat with leaves and spices. Cover, reduce heat and cook together for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered until serving.
For a vegetarian meal, Eskay recommends rice or rotis, and a dal (see earlier posts: Tarka Dal or Mung Bean & Gourd Stew). We found it a perfect accompaniment to grilled lamb, as well as a hearty sandwich filling with lentils.
UPDATE: I was delighted to see lavaterra in Germany try this recipe as part of a vegetarian meal, along with a spring salad. You can see her version, and get the recipe auf Deutsch, "Kartoffeln mit Kasoori Methi"
I will usually order lamb if it's on a menu, especially lemon & garlic infused rib chops like these. We don't have them at home very often, but this Easter they were a perfect fit for our intimate stay-home dinner. Lamb and lentils have a natural affinity for each other, but this particular recipe for Lentils Catalane is the best we've tried and everyone who has ever tried them has refused to leave without the recipe. Thing is, the ingredients list couldn't be more mundane — all simple pantry items: lentils, onions, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, tomato paste, oregano and thyme. The key to the wonderful flavor? There are two, actually.
One, use roughly equal weights of onions and lentils, then cook the onions until completely translucent. Believe it or not, this is the step where the dish will most often go astray — if the onions are still slightly opaque when the other ingredients are added, the moment is lost and the recipe will not taste quite as heavenly, no matter how much longer the dish is cooked.
Two, cook the tomato paste before adding the lentils. That's it! — now you have the keys and this wonderful recipe is open to you. It is a wonderful accompaniment to any grilled meat — but is at its coquettish best with lamb. Having said that, these lentils are so savory and flavorful on their own, they would make a wonderful tortilla wrap or pita filling, too. Last night we made the serendipitous discovery that they also married well with the Fenugreek Potatoes, so the 2 together would make a filling and luscious vegetarian sandwich or pizza.
Oh, there is one catch. Make the lentils at least 24 hours before you intend to use or serve them. Because they are cooked separately from the base, the lentils need the overnight in the fridge to really meld the flavors together.
GRILLED LAMB RIB CHOPS
Serves 4 persons
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp sea salt
ground black pepper
4 sprigs fresh oregano, or 1 tsp. dried
12 lamb rib chops
Combine all marinade ingredients in glass bowl and add lamb. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, but no longer than 8.
Remove to room temperature 30 minutes before grilling. Grill to desired doneness.
(Prepare 24 hours before service)
10 oz. (280g) French green (Puy) lentils, or other green lentils
Wash and rinse through lentils in several changes of water, and remove any small pebbles. Place in a small (2qt) saucepan and cover with water by at least 2 inches, and place lid slightly ajar. Over medium high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until lentils are just soft (cooking time will depend on the freshness of the lentils). Remove from heat, cover and keep to one side.
While lentils are cooking, prepare the base:
2 medium brown onions, about 280g when minced
5 TBL. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 TBL. tomato paste
ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Cook onions in covered skillet or small dutch oven over low heat until they are semi-translucent, about 8-10 minutes, then add garlic. Return cover and continue cooking until onions are completely translucent (they will taste sweet and mellow), about another 5-8 minutes, depending on your pan.
Move onions away from center of the pan and put tomato paste in the center. Press tomato paste against bottom of pan to maximize contact between the pan and paste. Stir to bring more paste in contact with heat — you will see the paste begin to change color from bright candy apple red to a darker red pepper color. Begin to incorporate the onions into the paste, add salt and pepper, then cover and let cook on low heat for about 5 minutes. Add oregano and thyme, stir through and cook together for another 5 minutes or until you begin to smell the herbs come through the tomato fragrance.
Using a slotted soon, remove lentils from cooking liquid and add to tomato mixture. Add enough of the cooking liquid to allow the lentils and base to combine, but not become soupy (usually 2-3 TBL. does the trick). Heat together for 10 minutes. Then let cool in pan. Remove to container to chill overnight.
When ready to serve, re-heat gently in the oven or microwave. (optional step) Add 4-5 drops of toasted sesame seed oil and incorporate.
Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Puowaina), Honolulu.
Celebrants representing 8 denominations across the island, and the ASL translator.
The Royal Hawaiian Band
Puowaina, like Diamond Head, is an extinct volcanic crater.
It lies in the heart of Honolulu.
View of Diamond Head from the center of Puowaina.
Blessed and Happy Easter to All!
In German, the term "mit Pfiff" connotes an "extra something," or "with a kick" and this fettucine had both. One day last week T offered to make dinner so I could continue packing boxes. He devised an all-vegetable marinara-based sauce with a most innovative twist: sauteed mushrooms to top the pasta, rather than be incorporated in it. I have to tell you, for a shroom-fiend like me, it was sheer genius. The mushrooms were boozy and buttery atop the chunky, spicy marinara and retained that separate distinction even when mixed through with a fork. With a glass of Zinfandel, it was pure heaven.
There's no recipe here, he used what vegetables we had on hand and a bottled marinara, as well as a pound of cremini mushrooms, sherry and butter. I'm just here to brag on my husband! (If you knew him when we first met, he used to put a frozen chicken breast in the microwave, cook it, stick a fork in it and douse it with Tabasco and call it "Chicken a la (insert name here)"
You've come a long way, Chef T!
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
3 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.
I'm the first to admit that I'm not a prolific baker. When I do bake, I have to be assured that most of my creation will end up in other hands, so it doesn't end up on my hips! Two pre-schoolers and their chocolate-loving mom brought out this recipe for chocolate cupcakes. Cocoa powder alone will not do, in my book — to deliver real chocolate flavor, there has to be melted chocolate. Only half the batter got the extra shot of dark chocolate chips, so the munchkins' parents had some control of how much caffeine they got after dinner!
This recipe produces a cake with a very tender crumb and a smooth, pleasing chocolate flavor that both kids and adults will enjoy.
(Makes 2 dozen cupcakes or 2 9-in. round layer cakes)
6oz (170g) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
3/4 cup (180ml) almond milk
3 TBL. plain full-fat yogurt
(or use 1 cup buttermilk instead of almond milk/yogurt mixture)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups (200g) all-purpose flour
3 TBL. cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups (290g) raw sugar (demerara)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (180g) chocolate chips, Ghirardelli's extra dark (optional)
Place chocolate in double boiler over simmering water for approximately 5–10 minutes. Stir occasionally until completely smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool 5–10 minutes.
Combine almond milk, yogurt, and vanilla. Stir well and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers. Set
In a small bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and beat on medium speed until
fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add chocolate, mixing until well incorporated. Add dry ingredients in three parts,
alternating with milk mixture. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are just
incorporated — do not over-beat. Scrape down the batter to ensure the
ingredients are well blended, and the batter smooth. If using chocolate chips, fold in
Fill the the pans about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in
the center comes out clean.
Cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then on wire racks until completely cool.
For layer cakes, divide the batter between 2 9-in. round cake pans and bake 30–40 minutes.
5oz (140g) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup (115g) butter, softened
1-1/2 (195g)cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Melt chocolate over hot water; stir until smooth. Let cool 15 minutes. In large bowl, beat butter until light. Slowly add confectioners’ sugar, and beat until completely combined. Stir in melted chocolate and vanilla; beat until smooth.
Pour into a piping bag and chill for 20 minutes. Pipe onto cupcakes just before serving.
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.
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.
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.
KAJIKI WITH POMEGRANATE-OGO
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
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
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp. coriander powder
1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper
1-1/2 TBL. pomegranate molasses
1-1/2 TBL. Manuka or other non-flowery honey (raw honey, if watching your gout)
sea salt, to taste
1 TBL. red wine or raspberry vinegar
1-2 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.
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.
Today is the international day to celebrate women. In honor of this joyous day, fiordisale and zorra have joined their considerable energies to organize a cyber-celebration of International Women's Day 2008. Invitees to the potluck were asked to prepare something yellow to share. I've been contemplating the makings of a savory waffle dish for a few weeks now, so I combined two of my favorite flavors (they just happen to also be yellow), saffron and lemon, to create a new take on a brunch favorite. This Belgian-style waffle is topped with seared oyster mushrooms, eggs, and a saffron-lemon sauce, and christened to celebrate the queen that dwells in every woman. Move over, Eggs Benedict, Eggs a la reine are in the house.
I wish each woman today, a day filled with love and family, and yes, wonderful flavors!
EGGS A LA REINE
(yields 8-10 Belgian-style waffles)
(from the New McCall's Cookbook, c. 1973)
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
4 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups plain full-fat yogurt or sour cream
Pre-heat Belgian waffle iron.
Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.
In medium bowl, beat together eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored. Gently fold in 1/3 of flour alternately with yogurt, ending with flour. Mix only long enough to barely incorporate — do not mix until smooth, it will toughen your batter.
Bake in waffle iron according to directions for your machine. Use or freeze.
1/2 lb. oyster or wild mushrooms
2 TBL. butter
pinch of sea salt
Bring wok or pan to smoking point. Add mushrooms to dry pan, and gently press to sear. Turn mushrooms over and press again. Add butter and salt, stir briefly and remove from heat. Do not let mushrooms weep.
Eggs, cooked to your liking
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of saffron threads in 3 TBL. warm water
1/2 cup dry white wine
juice from half a lemon
zest of 1 lemon (some reserved fro garnish, if desired)
Combine butter and flour in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly cook until flour grains begin to swell. Add 2-3 TBL. milk and incorporate into roux. Add more milk, and again fully incorporate. Continue adding milk while stirring until you have a smooth sauce. Add saffron, wine and salt. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, then add lemon juice, and remove from heat. Stir in lemon zest, cover while plating.
Top each waffle with mushrooms, then eggs. Nappe Sauce carefully over eggs. Garnish with reserved lemon zest, fresh fruit and a sparkling beverage (I chose my second favorite, an Apfelschorle).
This spicy, easy recipe with new flavors came to us last week on a visit to Sagari's Indian Cooking website. She combines quick-cooking mung beans (no soaking needed) and a ridge gourd with spices to produce a memorable one-dish meal. Served with rotis or other flatbread (we had whole wheat tortillas), this simple dal is great cool weather comfort food and a nice change of pace from soup. I usually use mung beans to make a Filipino soup with pork, greens and fish sauce, so this was a nice alternative to our old stand-by.
We didn't have ridge gourd, but had picked up a nice young bottle gourd, or upo, over the weekend. When choosing a gourd, I look for something heavy for its size as older gourds begin to lose water and become fibrous. So fibrous, in fact, that when fully dried they become a bath sponge, the loofah (derived from its Latin genus Luffa). My mom used to supply me with bath loofahs from her backyard garden on Guam when the occasional one escaped her notice until past its edible prime. Upo and other gourds of its ilk are mildly sweet on their own, but readily absorb flavors from their cooking medium. Usually I use upo in soups like Chicken Tinola or even a regular chicken soup, in place of zucchini or other squash. With the mung beans in this dish, it added a nice textural element to the soupy dal.
Sagari's recipe is made using a pressure cooker, so I've adapted it here to cook in a regular saucepan.
MUNG BEAN & UPO STEW
(adapted from Indian Cooking)
4 tbs oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. musturd seeds
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. coriander powder
1/2 cup tomato ( chopped)
2 TBL. cilantro
2 dry red chilies
3/4 cup dried mung beans, rinsed well
1 medium upo (about 1.5 lb total weight), seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (peeling is optional for smaller gourds)
1.5 tsp. salt
2 cups water
Preheat 3-quart or larger saucepan over medium high heat, then add oil, cumin and mustard seeds and chilies. When seeds begin to pop, immediately add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add turmeric, coriander, chili powder, and cook for about 1 minute. Add tomato and cilantro leaves, and whole chilies and cook until tomatoes soften.
Add mung beans, upo, salt and water, and cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes, or until beans are soft and thicken broth.
Garnish with cilantro, and serve with flatbreads. This will thicken as it sits and cools, and was equally delicious the next day cold, topping thick sliced toast. Thanks to Sagari for a new way to look at mung beans and gourds!
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.