Jun 5, 2019

The Hawaiian Unicornfish Known As Kala

Most people know that a unicorn is a mythical, usually white animal generally depicted with the body and head of a horse with long flowing mane and tail and a single often spiraled horn in the middle of the forehead. However there is a distinctive Hawaiian reef fish that has a horn on its forehead that inspired its common name, the Unicornfish. Known as Kala in Hawaiian.

Kala travel in small schools and are seen in channels and seaward reefs with strong surges. They feed on coarse leafy brown algae. Unicornfish are herbivores that live in tropical waters around coral reefs and are part of the surgeonfish family, Acanthuridae. They range from the Indian to Pacific Ocean. Kala is grey to bluish green. They are characterized by their horn projecting from between the eyes. 
Unicornfish can live for more than fifty years.

When cleaning this fish, the first thing you will notice is that it has no scales. Instead it has an extremely tough skin. The 18 inch fish shown above only had 1/2 pound of firm, moist pink flesh. Kala is most commonly served raw as sushi, grilled, baked, steamed or pan fried.

Pan Fried Kala with Garlic, Ginger, Scallions, and Soy Sauce
I think pan frying Kala makes a better presentation and tastes great. The fish is topped with a hot soy sauce, scallion, garlic, ginger, and oil sauce, which releases the flavor of the aromatics into its flesh.

8 ounces of firm white Kala cut into 2 fillet servings
pinch of salt
pinch of ground pepper
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
corn starch, to dust the fish
3 tablespoons cooking oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced diagonally

1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoon sugar

Pat dry the fish, scatter a pinch of salt and ground pepper on the fish, then sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning. Dust with corn starch to coat the fish so it won't stick when fried in the pan, set aside.

Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat oil in a frying pan on high heat and stir fry garlic, ginger, and scallion until fragrant, about 1 or 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, fry the fish for 5 minutes each side on medium high heat. Only flip the fish once at the end of 5 minutes, otherwise, the fish will stick to the pan. Set the fish on a serving plate.

Turn the heat to medium and pour the sauce into the pan. Wait until it bubbles a bit, then return the garlic, ginger, and scallions into the sauce. Cook for a minutes. Pour the sauce onto the fish. Serve immediately with steamed white rice and snow peas.

Makes 2 servings.

Apr 22, 2019

A Lite Summer Lunch

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It's not an exaggeration to say that for much of the year, fresh tomatoes aren't even worth buying. Out of season, almost all fresh tomatoes are bland, mealy, and watery. But come summer, it's a completely different story. You can find beautiful ripe, flavorful tomatoes at farmers markets everywhere you go, even here on the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i. Here's a lite summer lunch for you to try:

Baked Tomato Bagel Pizzas
1 large whole tomato, sliced into four 1/4 inch slices
fresh garlic, salt and pepper to taste
2 large bagels or English muffins, sliced in half (available at Friendly Market here on Moloka'i)
olive oil, for drizzling
1/2 cup grated Parmesan and/or mozzarella cheese, or to taste
a handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped (available at Kumu Farms)

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Line a baking sheet with foil and place four bagel halves on the foil lined baking sheet. Top each bagel half with a drizzle of olive oil, and a 1/4 inch thick slice of tomato. Season the tomatoes with a little garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Top each tomato with grated cheese, and fresh chopped basil. Bake until tomato slices are tender and cheese is melted, about 10 to 15 minutes. Garnish with a little more fresh basil and serve immediately with iced tea or lemonade.

Makes 2 servings

Apr 21, 2019

Herb Crusted Tri-Tip Roast Beef

I have cooked this delicious tri-tip roast many times, and it turns out great every time. I have tried other cuts of beef but keep coming back to Tri-Tip because of its rich beef flavor, tender texture, as well as the cheaper price tag than similar steak cuts.

Tri-tip roast from Friendly Market on the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i.
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1 tri-tip roast, about 2 1/2 pounds, 
trimmed of all fat

Ingredients for marinade:
3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground 
   black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup beef stock, heated

The first step is to trim off all of the fat from the meat. You will probably notice a large slab of fat on the bottom of the trip-tip. Take a small sharp knife and slowly remove and discard all of the fat. I weighed the fat that I removed from the meat pictured above and it weighed 3/4 of a pound.

The key to creating a perfectly tender and flavorful try-tip roast is to give the meat time to marinate, allowing the muscle to soften and the flavors to seep in. Start by rubbing the Italian seasoning and garlic powder mixture into the meat. Then coat the meat with olive oil. Place the meat into a Ziplock bag. Allow the spiced meat to marinate in the refrigerator for a minimum of a few hours, or better yet, overnight, turning the bag a couple of times. The longer you give the roast to soak up the spices and oil, the deeper the final flavor will be. 

When ready to cook, sprinkle the roast with the sea salt, leaving all of the herbs on to the meat.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy ovenproof skillet, I use my large iron skillet. When hot, add the meat and brown over high heat for 3 minutes on each side. Now transfer the skillet to a preheated 425˚F oven and cook the roast for 10 to 12 minutes for medium rare, until the internal temperature has reached 140˚F for medium rare. Add the heated stock to the skillet and let rest, covered with foil on your stovetop for 10 minutes before carving. I like to cut Tri-Tip fairly thin across the grain because sometimes it can be a little tough. After carving the roast, add any of its juices to the hot stock. Serve with the natural meat cooking juices and mashed potatoes with tuscan kale and a nice bottle of red wine.

Makes 4 servings.