Jan 30, 2012

Watercress in Hawaii

Hawaiian watercress from Sumida Watercress Farm
From New York to Paris, China to Germany, watercress is one of the most widely used and recognized fresh vegetables in the world, and Hawaii is no exception. Watercress is readily available in Hawaii and is an economically important vegetable crop here. Hawaii grows the 'Sylvasprings' or 'English' strain of watercress. It has long stems with fewer leaves, while the mainland variety tends to come in short bunches, however both varieties have that distinctive 'peppery' flavor. In Hawaii, watercress is continuously cultivated year-round with an average of 6-8 crop cycles per year. Yield of watercress varies seasonally with the best growth occurring during the cool, wet season from October to April. Watercress is harvested by hand using a hand sickle when the plant has grown 12 to 15 inches above the water surface. 75% of Hawaii's watercress is grown on the Sumida Watercress Farm, an 11 acre, spring fed farm across from Pearlridge Center on Oahu. The watercress is harvested every 8 weeks, producing 300 tons a year which goes to local markets, hotels, and restaurants, and none of their watercress is exported. There are approximately 12 growers on Oahu, 2 on Maui, and 1 on the Big Island. Most of the watercress consumed in the continental United States is produced in Florida by B&W Quality Growers. It is the world's largest watercress grower, a family-owned and operated farm, growing watercress since 1870.

Watercress has amazing health benefits. It has cancer fighting properties and was long used to treat scurvy. Watercress provides more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than whole milk, more vitamin B than black currants, and more iron than spinach.

Watercress Soup with Pork Wontons
1 large bunch watercress, stems removed
8 ounces minced pork
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
pinch of sugar
1 tablespoon Chinese wine or dry sherry
pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 pints chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces ready-made wonton skins

Divide the watercress into two bunches. Chop one bunch finely and cut the other in 1 inch pieces. In a bowl, mix together the minced pork, finely chopped watercress, soy sauce. 1 teaspoon sesame oil, sugar, cooking wine, pepper and ginger. Beat well to combine throughly. Place about 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling in the middle of a ready-made wonton skin, gather up the corners to completely enclose the meat, then twist the top to close tightly. Continue until all the meat mixture is used up. In a deep saucepan, heat the chicken stock with the salt. In a separate pan, bring about 2 1/2 pints of water to a boil. When boiling, drop in the wontons. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Drain the wontons and place in a deep bowl. Line soup bowls with the remaining watercress. Put in the wontons. Pour on the chicken stock, sprinkle with the remaining sesame oil and serve hot. Makes 2 servings.

Watercress Pesto
1/2 clove garlic
1/3 cup walnuts
3 ounces watercress, rinsed and dried
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste depending on what you are serving it on.

Place ingredients into a food processor or blender, Pulse until a finely chopped paste has formed. Serve over pasta or chicken, shrimp or fish or over tomatoes in a salad. Makes about 1 cup.

Baked Salmon with Watercress
2 pounds of salmon fillets cut into four, 4 ounce portions
3 green onions, chopped
3/4 cup of button mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch of watercress, coarsely chopped
2 lemons, juice only
1/4 cup of dry white wine
1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
salt and black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Scatter onions, mushrooms and watercress on the bottom of a heavy, non-reactive baking dish. Place fish on top and add lemon juice and wine. Sprinkle with herbs and arrange tomatoes around perimeter of dish. Cover dish with foil and bake for 20 to 30 minutes depending upon the thickness of the salmon fillets. Serve with white rice or boiled potatoes with fresh parsley and melted butter. Makes 4 servings.

Cranberry, Watercress Salad with Toasted Almonds and Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
Ingredients for salad:
2 large bunches watercress, hand-torn, remove stems
1 cup almonds, toasted
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup orange juice

Ingredients for honey balsamic vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soften cranberries by adding orange juice, then microwave for 1 minute, let cool.

Make a quick vinaigrette by whisking together the mustard, honey, vinegar, oil, and salt and pepper (or throw the ingredients into a small jar with a lid, cover, and shake). Pour the vinaigrette over the watercress and toss to coat. Garnish with the toasted slivered almonds and cranberries. Makes 4 servings.

Watercress Salad with Roasted Beets
Ingredients for the salad:
1 large bunch watercress, stems removed
2 medium sized beets (about 1 pound)
2 small sticks of celery
1 Granny Smith or Pippin apple
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup roasted walnuts, chopped

Ingredients for the dressing:
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
1 crushed clove of garlic
1 teaspoon of mild curry paste
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
salt and pepper

To roast the beets, heat oven to 375˚F and arrange a rack in the middle. Rinse the beets and trim off any leafy tops. Place beets on a pie plate and cover with foil and place in oven. Roast until tender and easily pierced with a knife, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool. When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel using a paring knife or by pushing the skin with your fingers (wear rubber gloves so as not to stain your hands if you wish). Wash, drain and dry the watercress, removing the stems. Arrange on serving plates. Cut the beets and celery into thin slices. Wash, halve, core and slice the apple. Arrange the beets, celery and apple on top of the watercress leaves. Sprinkle the spring onions and walnuts over the top. In a small mixing bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients together until smooth. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve. Makes 2 servings.

Jan 28, 2012

Mango, The Most Popular Fruit In The World!

Hawaiian Mango
Mangoes are native to Southeast Asia and India, the mango is the most widely consumed fresh fruit in the world, with worldwide production exceeding 17 million metric tons a year. When mangoes were first imported to the American colonies in the 17th century, they had to be pickled due to lack of refrigeration. By the 18th century, the word "mango" became a verb meaning "to pickle". Mangoes have been cultivated in Southeast Asia for thousands of years and reached East Asia between the fifth and fourth centuries BC. By the 10th century AD, cultivation had begun in East Africa. Cultivation came later to Brazil, the West Indies and Mexico, where growing conditions were better. The mango is now cultivated in most frost-free tropical and warmer subtropical climates; more than a third of the world's mangoes are cultivated in India alone, with the second being China. Their cultivators include North, South and Central America, the Caribbean, south, west and central Africa, Australia, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Southeast Asia. Though India is the largest producer of mangoes, it accounts for less than one percent of the international mango trade. Mexico is now the largest exporter of mangoes in the world. Mangoes account for approximately half of all tropical fruits produced worldwide.

Mangoes are widely used in cuisine, worldwide. Sour, unripe mangoes are used in chutneys, pickles, or side dishes, or may be eaten raw with salt, chili, or soy sauce. Ripe mangoes are typically eaten fresh. Under-ripe mangoes can be ripened by placing them in brown paper bags. They will then keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for about four or five days. Ripe mangoes, which are commonly eaten fresh, have a thick, bitter tasting skin that it is typically not eaten. Ripe mangoes have many other culinary uses, such as curries, jams, and preserves. Mangoes are used to make juices, mango nectar, smoothies, and as a flavoring and major ingredient in ice cream and sorbetes, just to mention a few.

Mango Chutney
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon Five-Spice Blend, recipe follows
1 small red chili, minced
1 mango, peeled and pit removed
juice of 1/2 lime
a pinch salt
a pinch sugar

Put the basil, ginger, vinegar, cardamom, Five-Spice Blend, chili, mango, lime juice, salt and sugar in a blender and pulse until smooth. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until serving. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

The Best Mango Bread
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup canola oil
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups fresh mango, diced
1/2 cup coconut
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans or macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. In a separate bowl, combine sugars, oil, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and mango. Mix in dry ingredients. Fold in coconut, raisins and nuts. Pour into 2 lightly greased loaf pans or one greased bundt pan. Bake for 55 minutes until done. Makes 2 loaves or 12-15 servings.

Mango Tango Ice Cream
1 1/2 cups pureed fresh mango
2 whole eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 of a 15 fl. oz. can of coconut cream (shake can just before opening)
1, 14 fluid ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup shredded sweetened coconut

In a food processor puree fresh mango. Add the rest of the ingredients except the coconut. Blend together. Pour into your ice cream maker and add the coconut. Process until frozen to a soft consistency which should take about 1/2 hour. Freeze for several hours until solid. Makes just over 2 pints.

Mango Melon Freeze
3 cups chopped mangoes (peeled, pitted)
1 cup chopped cantaloupe
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup lime juice
a pinch of salt

Puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Pour into a bowl and place in the refrigerator for an hour, just enough time for the flavors to meld. Scrape the mango-melon mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Keep in the freezer until ready to serve. Serve in frozen martini glasses with a sprig of mint. Makes 8 servings.

Mango Cobbler
1/2 cup butter or margarine melted
3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
dash salt
1 egg
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
2 cups firm but ripe sliced mango
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
whipped cream

Place melted butter in a 8 or 9 inch square baking pan. Make a batter from the flour, baking powder, salt, egg, sugar and milk and pour over melted butter. DO NOT STIR.

Mix the mangoes with the 2 sugars and place evenly over the batter.

Bake in a 350˚F oven 45 to 60 minutes OR until golden and tested done. Serve warm or room temperature with whipped cream. Makes 8 servings.

Jan 26, 2012

Liliko'i, The Hawaiian Passion Fruit

Purple and Yellow Liliko'i
The Hawaiian Passion Fruit
Click on photo to view larger
There are two distinct forms of passion fruit, the standard purple, and the yellow, called liliko'i in Hawaii. Seeds of the purple passion fruit, brought from Australia to Hawaii, were first planted in 1880 and the vine came to be popular in home gardens. It quickly became naturalized in the lower forests and, by 1930, could be found wild on all the islands of the Hawaiian chain. In the 1940's, a Mr. Haley attempted to market canned passion fruit juice in a small way but the product was unsatisfactory and his effort was terminated by World War II. A processor on Kauai produced a concentrate in glass jars and this project, though small, proved successful. In 1951 the University of Hawaii chose this fruit as the most promising crop for development and undertook to create an industry based on quick-frozen passion fruit juice concentrate. From among Mr. Haley's vines, choice strains of yellow passion fruit were selected. These gave four times the yield of the purple passion fruit and had a higher juice content. By 1958, 1,200 acres were devoted to yellow passion fruit production and the industry was firmly established on a satisfactory economic level.
The exotic passion fruit flower
Click on photo to view larger

The photo to the right shows the exotic flower of the yellow 
passion fruit, which is about 3 inches across. They have five white petals that form the base, which has on top a vivid purple streaked and dotted center. Coming up from the center are five bright yellow stamens with large ends and shooting outwards from the center are very fine, whitish 'hairs' to complete this bizarre but beautiful flower. The nearly round or oval fruit, 1 1/2 to 3 inch wide, has a tough rind, smooth, waxy, ranging in hue from dark-purple with faint, fine white specks, to light-yellow or pumpkin-color. The rind is 1/8 inch thick, with a 1/4 inch layer of white pith. Within is a cavity more or less filled with an aromatic mass of double-walled, membranous sacs filled with orange-colored, pulpy juice and as many as 250 small, hard, dark-brown or black, pitted seeds that are edible. The one-of-a-kind tropical flavor of the juice is tart, and acid. Though not native to Hawaii, liliko'i has become a local favorite, especially when added to other foods. Eaten fresh off the vine, it is high in vitamin C, potassium, beta carotene and fiber. Baked, squeezed, frozen or preserved, it is turned into a variety of tasty confections (liliko'i butter, jelly, pie, cookies) and refreshing drinks (smoothies, iced tea, and cocktails). 

For the recipes below, if you can't find fresh liliko'i, try passion fruit concentrate which can be purchased online at http://www.amazon.com/Culinary-Traditions-Passion-Fruit-Concentrate/dp/B0001T2L5M/ref=pd_sim_gro_3. I have heard that many Asian or South American markets carry passion fruit concentrate, but I have not tried it.

Liliko'i Shrimp Salsa
1 ripe liliko'i (passion fruit), halved
8 medium sized shrimp, peeled, deveined and diced
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 large Roma tomato, peeled, seeded and finely diced
2 tablespoons finely diced scallion (including green parts)
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Scoop the seeds and pulp from the liliko'i with a spoon, and press it through a fine-mesh sieve. Reserve the juice (about 1 tablespoon) and discard the seeds and pulp. Put the shrimp in a small bowl, and toss with the olive oil to coat. Set a dry stainless-steel sautée pan over high heat and, when hot, add the shrimp. Sear, turning often until evenly pink, about one minute. Transfer to a nonreactive bowl, and add the reserved passion fruit juice, onion, tomato, scallion, cilantro, Tabasco sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well to combine. Cover and refrigerate.

Serve salsa in two ripe avocado halves as an appetizer, or spoon over your favorite sauteed fish, letting the juices from the salsa run onto the plates. Makes 2 servings.

Liliko'i-Honey Vinaigrette
2 liliko'i
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cut liliko'i in half. Scrape pulp and seeds into a small saucepan. Heat fruit pulp over medium low heat, stirring. Heat almost to boiling, then remove from heat. Strain pulp through a fine sieve. Discard seeds, and let the juice cool. Place olive oil, liliko'i juice, lime juice, vinegar, honey, and salt in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Stor salad dressing in refrigerator for up to one week. Stir or shake before using. Great served over a fresh fruit or vegetable salad. Also wonderful served warm over grilled chicken. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Glazed Liliko'i Shortbread Bars
Ingredients for shortbread crust:
11/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 cups flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Procedure for shortbread crust:
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Cut butter into 1/2-inch pieces. In a food processor mix until all ingredients combine to form a gravely texture. Spread into a 13 by-nine-inch baking dish. Press evenly onto bottom with the palm of your hand. Bake 20 minutes. While shortbread is baking, prepare custard.

Ingredients for custard:
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup fresh liliko'i juice (about 18 liliko'i)
1 cup flour
1 lemon, juice and zest

Procedure for custard:
Once shortbread is done, reduce oven temperature to 300˚F. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, liliko'i juice, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the shortbread crust and bake for 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool completely in pan and cut into 24 bars. Sift confectioners sugar over bars.

Ingredients for glaze:
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup liliko'i juice (about 5 liliko'i)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Procedure for glaze:
Boil water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add liliko'i juice and lemon juice and boil for 3 minutes more. It will boil rapidly and expand, so keep an eye on it at this point. When the glaze turns into a thick, sugary syrup, drizzle over the liliko'i bars. Makes 24 bars.

Liliko'i-Coconut Bars
Ingredients for the shortbread crust:
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, shredded, plus more for greasing the baking dish
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup shredded coconut
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Ingredients for the liliko'i-coconut layer:
4 large eggs
1/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup fresh liliko'i juice without seeds (about 14 liliko'i)
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Procedure to make the shortbread crust:
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish and line with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, coconut, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and, using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Transfer the dough to the baking dish and press into an even layer. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Procedure to make the liliko'i-coconut layer:
Cut fresh liliko'i in half with a serrated knife and remove the pulp, juice and seeds with a small spoon. Heat in a small pot until almost boiling. Press pulp through a strainer and discard seeds. Cool liliko'i juice. Blend together the eggs, coconut milk, and cooled liliko'i juice in a small bowl. Whisk together the sugar, flour, and salt in a large bowl. Add the liliko'i mixture to the sugar mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour over the shortbread and bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until just set. Let cool to room temperature.

To serve:
Using the parchment paper, lift the bars out of the pan and transfer them to a cutting board. Dust with plenty of powdered sugar, cut into portions, and serve. Makes 12 large bars. Bars keeps for a couple of days tightly sealed in the refrigerator.

Muffins with Aloha
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh liliko'i (passion fruit) juice, without seeds
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup flaked coconut1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts, or pecans

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, sour cream and passion fruit juice. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; stir into the creamed mixture just until moistened. Fold in the pineapple, coconut and nuts. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 375° for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes removing from pan to a wire rack. Yield: about 1 dozen.

Liliko'i Cheesecake
Ingredients for the crust:
3/4 cup Graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Ingredients for the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 cup fresh liliko'i pulp, without seeds (15 lilikoi)
1/4 cup sour cream

Ingredients for the top:
1 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for liliko'i syrup
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh liliko'i pulp, including the seeds

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. In a large bowl, combine the crumbs, sugar, and butter and stir until well blended. The mixture should stick together when squeezed firmly in your hand. Transfer the Graham-cracker mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press the mixture firmly onto the bottom of the pan. Bake until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool.

For the filling, in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until thick and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time and continue mixing until the mixture is well blended. Add the liliko'i pulp, without seeds, and continue beating, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the sour cream and beat for another 5 minutes. Pour the filling into the springform pan and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. It might still jiggle a bit. Let it cool for 10 minutes.

For the topping, combine sour cream, sugar, and vanilla extract and beat until the mixture becomes creamy. Pour the sour cream mixture on top of the filling and bake until the top is firm but still soft to the touch, about 15 minutes. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let it cool for 30 minutes. Transfer the cake to the refrigerator and chill overnight.

For the syrup, place the sugar, water, and liliko'i pulp in a saucepan over low-medium heat and boil until the mixture volume is halved or until syrupy, about 20 minutes. To serve, run the edge of a warm knife along the inside edges of the springform pan. Remove the cheesecake and top with passion fruit syrup. Makes 8 servings.

Liliko'i-Pineapple Ice
2 cups fresh liliko'i juice (about 28 liliko'i)
1/4 cup fresh liliko'i seeds left whole (about 5 liliko'i)
2 cups pineapple pulp
3/4 cups sugar
2 egg whites

To juice the liliko'i remove all pulp from all the fruit. Place in blender and pulse for 5 to 10 seconds. Pour in a fine mesh strainer placed over a bowl and with the back of a spoon push the pulp around until you are left with just the seeds in the strainer. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until well blended. Pour the mixture into a metal or plastic bowl and freeze. When frozen, break up the ice and place a small amount at a time into the food processor. When whipped and frothy, return to the bowl and freeze again. This mixture will not freeze hard and solid, so it will be easy to scoop out to serve. Sprinkle a few of the reserved seeds over the top of the ice when it is served or they may be added when the ice is returned to the freezer for the second time. Makes about 5 cups.

Note: Liliko'i juice can be made in advance and frozen in ice trays then transferred to freezer bags for future use.

Starfruit-Liliko'i Sherbet
4 ripe starfruit
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 liliko'i (passion fruit)
1 cup whole milk
1 ripe starfruit sliced thinly for garnish

Chop 4 of the starfruit, put in food processor and puree. Strain the pureed fruit in a fine strainer to get all of the juice out of the starfruit without the pulp. Use a spoon to push the fruit through the strainer. Whisk in the sugar, orange zest and vanilla extract. Cut the fresh liliko'i in half and with a spoon, scoop out the juice and seeds and add both to the mixture. Add the milk, whisk, then place the mixture in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and churn until frozen, about 1/2 hour. Scoop out the sherbet into a plastic container and continue freezing about 3 hours, or until hard. To serve, place one or two scoops of sherbet into 4 dessert glasses or martini glasses and garnish with a slice of starfruit. Makes 4 servings.

Liliko'i Frozen Yogurt
1 quart plain whole milk or low-fat yogurt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup + 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/4 cup light corn syrup
6 large or 8 fresh liliko'i

To prepare yogurt, place a sieve over a medium bowl and line the sieve with two layers of cheesecloth. Scoop yogurt into the sieve, cover, and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours (liquid will drain from yogurt). Discard liquid and measure 1 1/4 cups strained yogurt. Set yogurt aside for use in base.

To prepare liliko'i syrup, once again set a sieve over a medium bowl. Cut each liliko'i in half and scoop every last bit of pulp and flesh into the sieve. Using a spoon or spatula to push the fruit through the sieve, separating the seeds. Once strained, measure 1/2 cup liliko'i pulp. Set a small saucepan on the stove and add pulp and 3 tablespoons sugar to the pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Heat until sugar is dissolved then remove from heat. Let cool completely.

To make the frozen yogurt base, begin by mixing 3 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch to make a slurry. In a large bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth. Set a fine mesh sieve over the bowl and set aside. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.

Combine the remaining milk with heavy cream, remaining 2/3 cup sugar, and corn syrup in a large saucepan. Bring milk mixture to a boil. Cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves, 4 minutes. Remove from heat and off the heat gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Gradually pour the hot milk mixture (through the sieve) into the cream cheese and whisk until smooth. Pour reserved 1 1/4 cup strained yogurt and liliko'i syrup. Whisk until smooth. Set the bowl in the ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cool, about 20 minutes.

Chill the mixture thoroughly (at least 4 hours or overnight). Once chilled, pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Place plastic or parchment over ice cream (to prevent ice crystals) and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours. Makes one quart.

Liliko'i Chocolate Truffles
2 liliko'i
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 ounces good quality dark chocolate
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons butter
cocoa powder for dusting

Break chocolate into small chunks and place in a bowl. Set aside. Place a sieve on top of a saucepan, take the passion fruit pulp and mash it up to remove the juice. Discard the seeds. Add the cream and honey, stir and bring the mixture to a simmer. Pour mixture on chocolate, stir until smooth. Add butter. Leave to cool and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Shape the chocolate paste into small truffles with the help of a small slotted spoon and roll them in cocoa powder. Makes 18-20 truffles.

Lilikoi-Mango Mochi
1 1/4 cups lilikoi juice (23 lilikoi)
1 1/4 cups sweet rice flour
cubed ripe mangoes
cornstarch for dusting
powdered sugar
12 paper cupcake liners

Add passion fruit juice and rice flour into a microwave safe bowl like pyrex. Mix until combined, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave for 3 minutes on high. Carefully remove plastic wrap and stir - the center should be slightly liquidy and the edges stiffer. Cover again with plastic and microwave for another 2 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir. You should now have a 'dough'. 

Dust a cutting board with cornstarch and turn the dough out onto the board. Wait about 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the dough is cool enough to handle. Dust the top of the dough with cornstarch and form into a 1.5 inch thick log. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (keep covered to prevent from drying out). Cut off a 1.5 inch piece and form into a flat circle (make sure your hands are well starched so the dough doesn't stick). Place some cubed mango in the center of the dough and pinch closed. Place each mango-mochi, with the pinched side down, in cupcake liners and dust with powdered sugar. Makes 1 dozen pieces.

Note: This mango-mochi is best made the same day that they will be eaten, otherwise the mochi might dry out and start to get hard.

Liliko'i Butter
Hawaii is famous for its lilikoi curd, or lilikoi butter as it is called here. Great on toast, biscuits, sweet bread, or muffins.

1 stick of butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup honey
1 cup lilikoi pulp, seeds strained (about 18 whole lilikoi)
4 eggs, slightly beaten

In a saucepan over medium heat, add butter and honey. Stir with a whisk until butter is melted and mixture is combined.

Cut each lilikoi in half and spoon out the pulp and seeds into a strainer on top of a small bowl. Now push the pulp and seeds against the side of the strainer. This will remove the pulp from around the seeds. Discard the seeds. (If you have a blender, scoop the pulp in the blender and just pulse it a couple of times, which is enough to separate the seeds from the juice, then strain out the juice and discard the seeds.)

Mix together the lilikoi pulp (juice), and beaten eggs in the bowl. Gradually add to the butter/honey mixture, stirring continuously with a whisk until the mixture thickens. This should take about 10 minutes over medium heat. Do not allow the curd to boil or it will scramble the eggs.

Allow the lilikoi butter to cool at room temperature before pouring into an airtight glass container for storage in the fridge.

Note: Some people leave the seeds in the butter, but I don't like to eat the seeds, so I strain them out.

Jan 24, 2012

'Ulu, Hawaiian Breadfruit

The beautiful dark green leaves of the breadfruit tree.
'Ulu, (breadfruit), was one of the few subsistence plants the Polynesians brought with them when they sailed to the Hawaiian Islands. It never became a staple food as it was on islands further south. Taro played that role. Even so, ulu's mythical origins, its fame in history, and its immense usefulness to islanders have made the tree an immortal symbol of Hawaii Nei. 

Member of the mulberry family, Artocarpus Altilis (breadfruit) is believed to have originated in Java. Voyagers took it to Malaysia and, in the 14th century, to the Marquesas, where it spread to the rest of Polynesia. For many the nutrition-packed, starchy fruit became the staff of life. If you are lucky enough to find a breadfruit, savor this ancient Hawaiian treasure. Visit this "Samoan Cooking" website for a very interesting, step-by-step photos on how to prepare Fa'alifu Ulu (cooked breadfruit in coconut milk). For more interesting breadfruit recipes like "breadfruit salad", "breadfruit pumpkin soup", "breadfruit ice cream", etc., visit "the Earth of India" website

Breadfruit Recipes:

Breadfruit Chips
1 green, mature (firm) breadfruit
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups of water*
4 cups canola oil
sprinkle with salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder, to taste

Twist and pull stem to remove core of breadfruit. Wash breadfruit and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out soft center, then cut the halves lengthwise, into 6 to 8 wedges. Peel it and remove the hard tip portion. Then slice wedges crossways into thin, 1/4" triangular slices. Soak the slices in 1/2 teaspoon salt mixed with 2 cups of water for about half an hour, to remove excess starch from the fruit. COMPLETELY dry chips with paper towels to keep chips from splattering grease while frying. Heat oil over medium-high heat, 350˚F, in a large pot or wok and fry in batches, a handful at a time, until golden brown. Drain chips on paper towels, and immediately sprinkle with seasonings to taste. Then place them on a foil lined baking sheet, not touching each other if possible, in a 250˚F oven to keep crisp. Eat while warm with your favorite dip. Store in an airtight container for up to one week. Makes about 6-8 cups of chips.
*Note: You can also use coconut milk instead of water to give the chips that coconut flavor.

Baked Breadfruit
1 ripe breadfruit
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoon butter

Twist and pull stem to remove core of breadfruit. Wash breadfruit and cut in half lengthwise. Place halves in baking pan. Sprinkle with lemon juice and cinnamon. Dot with butter. Bake at 350˚F for 1 hour. Baste occasionally. Makes 4 servings.

Breadfruit Salad
1 ripe breadfruit
1 teaspoon salt
1 large carrot, grated
2 green onions, diced
3 eggs, hard boiled and chopped
1 can tuna
salt and pepper to taste

Twist and pull stem to remove core of breadfruit. Wash breadfruit and cut in half lengthwise. Cut each half lengthwise into 6 pieces and peel. Chop into bit-sized pieces. Boil in salted water like you would potatoes, for this recipe is very similar to potato salad. The breadfruit is ready when fork tender, about 8 minutes of boiling. Cool, then add chopped hard boiled eggs, grated carrots, tuna, green onions. Mix with mayonnaise until desired consistency, add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until time to serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Jan 21, 2012

Taro, The Heart of Ancient Hawaiian Cuisine

Wet-land taro field on the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i.
Taro was the all-important crop of the ancient Hawaiian. The art of gardening in Hawaii was more advanced than elsewhere in Polynesia, and taro culture was probably the most advanced in the world. Taro is the Tahitian name for the plant, the Hawaiian word is kalo; kalo is also called Haloa. Hawaiians identified with taro as an ancestor of the Hawaiian people. Taro did not just feed Hawaiians, but provided a familial connection between the people and the land (‘_ina). Taro symbolized the Hawaiian family unit with its main root, surrounded by offspring shoots, and topped by spreading green leaves. Hawaiians farmed about 300 different varieties of taro, including plants developed for either wet or dry locations. Today, about 80 varieties are known. Taro terraces or lo`i were built to farm wet taro plants, which required a ready source of water. The lo`i was built by first working the soil with tree cuttings, then building up the banks with mud, leaves and fine soil, and sometimes reinforcing the banks with stone. A stream would be diverted to flow through the lo`i to irrigate the plants. Taro served as medicine, as well as food in ancient Hawaii and was at the heart of Hawaiian cuisine. Taro is grown throughout the world, in tropical Africa, the West Indies, the Pacific nations and in countries bordering the Indian Ocean in South Asia.

All parts of taro can be eaten, the leaves, stalks and root, and can be found in almost every grocery store in Hawaii. With its mild but nutty taste, taro root can be cooked in similar ways to a potato, yam or parsnip – fried, baked, roasted, or added to stews and soups. Considerably firmer than a potato, taro takes longer to cook. Another reason to cook the taro root, stalks and leaves longer is that they contain tiny crystals of a substance called calcium oxalate. Chewing raw or half-cooked taro can set free these needle-like crystals and cause an uncomfortable itching in the mouth and throat. Cooking the taro thoroughly will prevent this. When preparing recipes that include grated taro, it is a good idea to cook the root before grating. Besides this warning, taro is considered one of the most nutritious starches in the world. Taro roots also provide a good source of fiber, contain a high amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamins A and C. It is also hyper-allergenic, anti-bacterial, gluten free and low in fat, containing about 110 calories per cup. Taro flour is used in some infant formulas and canned baby foods as it assists with food sensitivities, including lactose intolerance. 

Poi is a starch dish made by pounding boiled taro roots and mixing it with water until it reached a smooth consistency. Poi was a traditional Hawaiian staple that was only eaten in Hawaii. Much more than just a staple food, sharing a bowl of poi ment to put aside personal differences. In traditional Hawaiian society, it was the task of the men to prepare food for meals. It was kapu (forbidden) for women to handle taro. Men and women ate separately and some foods were forbidden to women, including pork, bananas, coconuts, and some types of fish. Today, Hawaiians eat their poi in different ways, some eat it with salt, some with sugar, even soy sauce. Some like it thicker or thinner. Others like it several days old for a little extra tang. Here are a couple of recipes to try:

Poi Nut Bread
1 pound poi
3/4 cup water
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cup nuts
Optional: add 1/2 cup raisins.

Mix poi and water together and let stand in bowl. In another bowl, mix together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Combine both mixtures with the remainder of the ingredients and place in greased loaf pans. Bake at 350˚F for 45 minutes. Makes 2 loaves.

Poi Biscuits
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 6 pieces
1/2 cup poi
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Measure dry ingredients into a bowl or the work bowl of a food processor. Add butter and cut into dry ingredients until crumbly and well distributed. In another bowl, whisk together the poi, egg and buttermilk until blended. Add to dry ingredients and mix until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times. Pour melted butter into an 8x8 inch pan. Cut biscuit dough into 8 pieces and place in pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Serve warm. Makes 8 biscuits.

Taro Leaf Soup
2 cups taro leaves
3 tablespoons butter
1 small bunch young spring onions
5 cups coconut milk
2-3 tablespoons flour

Melt and combine butter and flour in a saucepan. Add coconut milk slowly and let the mixture thicken over a low heat. Add diced onions and taro leaves (with stems and veins removed). Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 2-3 minutes and serve. Makes 2 servings.

Taro Chicken
1 chicken
2 medium-sized taro root
2 large yellow onions, chopped
2 cups chopped taro leaves (you can also use pumpkin leaves, or sweet potato leaves)
3 tomatoes
1 cup coconut cream
1 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Peel taro. Cut into thin slices and place in the bottom of a large saucepan. Cut the chicken into serving portions and place on top of the taro. Add the chopped onions, green leaves and tomatoes. Sprinkle lemon juice. Add the coconut cream and water and cook over a gentle heat for about 1-1 1/2 hours, or until the chicken is cooked. Serve hot. Makes 6 servings.

Taro Rice with Chinese Sausage 
and Long Beans
1 cup rice
1 1/3 cups taro, diced into 1/2" pieces
1 Chinese sausage (Lap Cheong), about 1/4 cup, thinnly sliced
4 dried black mushrooms
1 tablespoon small dried shrimps
2 shallots, finely sliced
1/4 cup water (or reserved from soaked mushrooms)
1 tablespoon canola oil for stir frying
1 spring onion, finely sliced
soy sauce to taste

Marinade for taro:
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

Wearing rubber gloves (uncooked taro can cause itchy skin), peel, rinse, and dice the taro into 1/2" squares. Combine marinade ingredients then marinate taro squares for about 15 minutes. Rinse dried mushrooms, soak until soft. Discard tough stems. Squeeze excess water from mushrooms after rehydrated. Dice into similar size of taro. Rinse dried shrimps, soak for 5 minutes or until slightly soft. Drain, dry. In a wok or large fry pan, heat oil over medium heat for stir-frying, sauté shallots and dried shrimp for about 3 minutes, followed by mushrooms, long beans, and taro. Stir and turn constantly for about a minute. Then add about a quarter cup of water, cover. Let simmer for 1 to 2 minutes (prolonged simmering may render the taro too mushy) or until liquid is almost reduced. Rinse rice and cook it in cooker as usual. Toward the last 10 minutes of rice cooking, open lid and quickly spread all stir-fried ingredients flat on top of the rice. Cover again. The sign of the right timing for adding taro is that the rice is slightly bubbling and looks wet with very little amount of water. Continue to cook rice until done. Dish up, garnish with spring onion and add soy sauce to taste. Makes 4 servings.

Poi Mochi
1 bag of poi
2 cups water (more or less as necessary for consistency of thick pancake batter)
2 packages (10 ounces each) Mochiko (Asian sweet rice flour)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 quart canola oil for deep frying

Combine all ingredients except oil; mix well. Drop by teaspoonfuls into hot oil and deep fry until slightly crisp. Drain on absorbent paper. Makes about 30 to 36 pieces.

Jan 19, 2012

Hawaiian Ginger, The Spice of Life.

Hawaiian yellow ginger,
photo courtesy of  Pinner Creek Organics
Ever since I was a teenager, drinking ginger beer, I have loved the taste of ginger. It wasn't until I moved to Hawaii that I really began to appreciate the fact that this plant is not only delicious, and good for you, but its flower is also fragrant and beautiful. Ginger is a native plant of tropical Asia. Ginger root is the underground rhizome that you see in most grocery stores. Raw ginger, used in many Oriental recipes, has a very intense flavor. The pungent taste comes from the same family of molecules that cause the heat of chili peppers. The older the ginger root gets, the more intense the flavor.

Ginger has been used for centuries worldwide for its many health benefits. It contains nutrients like potassium, phosphorous, riboflavin, and vitamin C. It also contains zingiberene, a protein-digesting enzyme which helps digestion. Ginger's enzymes are also considered an effective anti-inflammatory alleviating the symptoms and pain of arthritis. It also is an antioxidant more powerful than Vitamin E. In 1980, Cornell Medical school researchers published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine saying that ginger inhibited the process of platelet aggregation. Ginger strengthens the heart muscle, lowers the serum cholesterol, and interferes with cholesterol biosynthesis. Ginger is also an analgesic (painkiller like aspirin), antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal, kills parasites, and counters nausea and seasickness. No wonder it is considered a health phenomena!

Many varieties of ginger are cultivated worldwide, however Hawaii only grows two types of ginger, white and yellow. White ginger is larger and less pungent than yellow ginger. Yellow ginger has a stronger, sweeter flavor and most likely came to Hawaii in the 1880's with the Japanese sugar cane workers. It is harvested young because it has less fiber, however the roots flesh is still firm, succulent, fragrant, warm, peppery and sweet. Hawaiian yellow ginger is primarily used fresh and can usually be found in health food stores. The majority of ginger grown in Hawaii is white ginger, that's the ginger you see in the supermarket, however a lot of white ginger is dried and ground into powder to become the familiar kitchen spice used in cookies, bread and other bakery goods. Ginger makes delicious pickles to be served along side sashimi. It can be candied, or steeped with sugar and water to make a simple syrup that can be used in granitas and sorbets. Mince fine and use as a last minute addition to stir fries, or whisk into salad dressings. Check out this website featuring a family owned farm on the Big Island of Hawaii that grows delicious yellow ginger and sells it online, "Pinner Creek Organics".  http://www.pinnercreekorganics.com/yellowginger.html

Crystalized Ginger
Click on photo to enlarge
Crystallized Ginger
Have you ever wondered why the Chinese and Japanese frequently add ginger to their food? It helps digestion, facilitates absorption, helps with flatulence, and helps prevent nausea. A delicious way to enjoy ginger is to crystallize it. You can buy ginger already crystallized, but it can be hard to find, and is sometimes expensive. I like to make my own, it's very easy to do, here's the recipe:

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus extra sugar for coating
1 cup fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices

Combine water and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add ginger, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer ginger to a wire rack, set over a pan, and dehydrate in a very low 170˚F convection oven for 1 hour, or dehydrator until dry, and then cut into smaller 1/4 inch pieces. Roll the small pieces of ginger in additional sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to three months. Use in recipes, or just pop a couple of pieces in your mouth every day.

Lemon Cookies with Crystallized Ginger
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped candied ginger
1 large egg
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup water

Procedure for the cookies: Beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the ginger and beat for 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well blended. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat till just combined.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces; roll each half between two pieces of parchment paper to 1/4” thick. Cut dough into 2” circles (dipping your cutter in flour between cuts). Freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 350˚F; line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place one sheet of dough onto a cutting board remove parchment paper. Using a thin spatula, carefully transfer cookies to your prepared baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, for 10-12 minutes or till lightly browned around the edges. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Re-roll scraps and repeat until you’ve used up all of the dough.

Procedure for the glaze: Whisk confectioner’s sugar, lemon zest and juice, honey, water and a pinch of salt till smooth. Using a fork, drizzle the glaze over the cooled cookies. Let stand till glaze is set (about 30 minutes).

Pickled Ginger
2 pounds fresh young ginger root
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups rice vinegar
2 cups sugar

Peel the ginger root with a small spoon. Cut the ginger into thin slices using a carrot peeler or mandolin,  and salt them. Leave the ginger in a bowl for one hour, dry with paper towels, then put the ginger into a large sterilized jar. Mix rice vinegar and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil. Pour the hot mixture of vinegar and sugar on the ginger. Cool, then cover with a lid and place in the refrigerator for a week. Note: The pickled ginger lasts about a month in the refrigerator. Serve with sushi or just enjoy eating it by itself. Makes about 2 cups.

Grilled Honey-Ginger Salmon
3 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons orange zest
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup honey
1 green onion, chopped
1 1/2 pounds of salmon fillets

In a large self-closing plastic bag, combine first seven ingredients; mix well. Place salmon in bag and seal tightly. Turn bag gently to distribute marinade. Refrigerate 15 minutes or up to 30 minutes for stronger flavor. Turn bag occasionally. Lightly grease grill rack. Preheat grill to medium heat. Remove salmon from marinade; reserve the marinade. Grill 12-15 minutes per inch of thickness or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Brush with reserved marinade up until the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Discard leftover marinade. Make 4 servings.

Jan 12, 2012

Hawaii's Backyard Citrus

Lemons from my backyard
The first citrus trees were brought to Hawaii in the early 1800's. These first trees grew and produced so well, that many more varieties were imported and hybridized in the years to come. Today Hawaii's citrus industry barely exists except for backyard gardens and small orchards. One small 7 acre organic farm worth mentioning is Poamoho Organic Produce located in Waialua on the North Shore of Oahu, a thriving certified organic tropical fruit orchard, specializing in tropical fruits such as mango, papaya, lychee, longan, avocado, breadfruit, jackfruit, herbs and citrus. Unfortunately Poamoho Organic Produce is not open to the public but they do sell their produce to Whole Foods at Kahala Mall on Oahu. http://www.poamoho-organic.com/index.html

Regardless of Hawaii's lack of large citrus growers, citrus continues to thrive here. Oranges are common in Hawaii home gardens. The Washington navel orange tree, known for its seedless, sweet fruit, grows throughout the state. Mandarin oranges are also commonly grown by casual Hawaii home gardeners. Grapefruit, particularly Ruby Red and other warmth-loving species; and pummelo fruits, which are similar to grapefruit; also flourish in Hawaii. Meyer lemon, tangelo, and several types of lime trees thrive in Hawaii's warm island climate.

Egg-Lemon Soup with Chicken and Avocado
6 chicken thighs
1 cup of celery roughly chopped
1 cup of carrots roughly chopped
1- 1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, crushed
1/2 cup Jasmine rice, or other long grain white rice
2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons cornstarch
6 beaten eggs (yolk only)
2 quarts (8 cups) chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 avocados sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 whole lemon sliced thin for garnish

In a large soup pot, boil chicken thighs with celery, carrots and ginger in 8 1/2 cups of water with 1 tablespoon of salt for 1 hour, uncovered. While chicken and stock is cooking, pour rice into a bowl and soak with water for about 15 minutes. Stir the milk and cornstarch together in a large bowl. Add the egg yolks to the mixture and beat the eggs. The mixture should become a yellowish color. After the chicken has cooked, remove from stock and shred, discarding the bones. Remove celery, carrots and ginger from stock and discard. Drain the rice and add it to the 8 cups of chicken stock. Lower heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until the rice is puffy and tender (about 15 minutes). Remove the lid on the soup and reduce the temperature to low. Add the milk, egg mixture. Stir carefully and continue to cook until it thickens for about 5 minutes. Stir in the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and shredded chicken. Remove from the heat and ladle into bowls. Add avocado, parsley and fresh lemon slices for garnish. Makes 6 servings.

Linguine & Asparagus with
Creamy 'Bagna Cauda' Sauce

Bagna Cauda, pronounced (BAHN-yah KOW-dah), is a dish that is a specialty of Piedmont, Italy. Translated, it means "hot bath or warm sauce”. Olive oil, is gently warmed with garlic cloves, anchovies and fresh black pepper until the oil is scented, then cream, lemon and capers are added to make a delicious Tuscan pasta sauce. Traditionally the Piedmontese ate raw and cooked vegetables dipped in Bagna Cauda Sauce along with rivers of delicious red wine and hot crusty bread.

2 garlic cloves, minced
7 flat anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry, and minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly grated
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons brine-packed capers, rinsed and drained
1 pound linguine
1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed and cut at an angle into 2 inch pieces

Cook garlic, anchovies and black pepper in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes. Add cream and lemon zest and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and capers and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook linguine in a large pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente (about 10 minutes), adding asparagus 2 minutes before pasta is ready. Drain, then toss with sauce. Serve with hot crusty bread. Makes 4 servings.

Lemon Cookies
Click on photo to view larger
Lemon Cookies
These cake like cookies are sweet and tangy all at the same time, and very addictive.

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 eggs
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
1/3 cup powdered sugar, for rolling plus more for dusting

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large sized bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and lemon zest together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla, and beat just until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl, and beat on low speed just until combined. Do not over beat. The dough will be sticky, so chill it for about 30 minutes.

Once the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, form the dough into a walnut sized ball as much as possible, and roll it in the powdered sugar, covering it completely. Place the balls of dough on the cookie sheets spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack of the oven for 13-15 minutes, or until the middle is completely set and not dark on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack, then dust with more powdered sugar. Cookies can be stored in an air tight container at room temperature. Makes about 2 dozen good sized cookies.

Jan 11, 2012

The Hawaiian Avocado

Creamy Hawaiian Avocado
Click on photo to view larger
The avocado was introduced to Hawaii in the early 1800s, probably by Spanish horticulturalist Don Francisco de Paula Marin, however avocados are native to Central America and the Caribbean area. 

In Hawaii, local farmers produce about half of the avocados Hawaii eats through retail markets. In 2010, two million pounds of avocados were consumed in Hawaii. Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii, is the major production area for the state. Most of the cultivars grown in Hawaii are crosses between three strains of avocados, but almost half are of one cultivar, the 'Sharwil', which matures around Christmas time. I have about 15 avocado trees that I grew mostly from the seeds of a 70 year old tree here on Moloka'i. They are creamy and rich in flavor. The photo above shows how they look.

Avocado Baked Eggs
4 avocados
8 eggs (make sure they are at room temperature)
2 limes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
yogurt, optional garnish
chopped herbs, cilantro or green onions, optional garnish
cooked, crumbled bacon, optional garnish
warm flour or corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 450˚F. Cut each avocado in half and remove the pit. Using a spoon scrape out the center of each halved avocado so that it is large enough to accommodate an egg (about 1 1/2 tablespoons). Squeeze lime juice over the avocados and season with salt, then place on a baking sheet. Break a egg (not cold) into the center of each avocado. Don't worry if some of the white spills out as long as the yolk is intact. Bake in the middle rack of the oven until whites are set and yolk is runny, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and garnish with a spoonful of room temperature yogurt, chopped fresh herbs and/or bacon bits. Serve with warm tortillas. Makes 8 servings. Note: To make sure that the eggs are fully cooked, you can poach them first, removing the eggs while they are still runny, then drop each egg into the avocado, and bake them for an additional 5 minutes, then garnish.

Avocado Poke Salad
Poke is a raw fish salad served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine. Here we combine the creamy avocado with tuna poke to make a spicy Hawaiian salad.

1/4 cup fresh ahi tuna cut into small chunks (Poke)
1/4 cup avocado cut into small chunks
1/4 cup romaine lettuce - julienne
1/4 cup napa cabbage - julienne
1/8 cup daikon (japanese radish) - julienne
1/4 cup cucumber, seeded, sliced, and cut in half
1 pinch of 'nori', cut into thin strips with scissors, for garnish (nori are thin, dried seaweed sheets)
roasted sesame seeds for garnish

Chili Mayo:
4 teaspoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Siracha chili sauce, a spicy sauce from China
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Salad Dressing:
2 tablespoons Ponzu sauce, a mixture of citrus juice and soy sauce from Japan
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
black pepper to taste

Mix tuna and avocado with chili mayo mixture. Mix the lettuce, cabbage, daikon, and cucumber slices with the salad dressing then place mixture on a salad plate. Add the tuna/avocado mixture on top of that, then sprinkle with strips of nori and sesame seeds. Makes 1 serving.

Pan-grilled Ahi Tuna with
Avocado Chimichurri Sauce

2 -6 ounce ahi tuna steaks
1 large avocado
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
6 large cloves of garlic, chopped
2 teaspoon dry oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon crushed red chilies
1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Prepare the chimichurri sauce by combining the parsley, cilantro, chopped garlic, oregano, salt, red chilies vinegar and oil in a food processor and puree at medium high speed just until slightly chopped but not smooth. Taste a adjust if necessary. Chop the avocado into 1/4 inch pieces and add to about 1 cup of the prepared chimichurri. Set aside. Preheat your grill pan. Lightly dust each side of the tuna steaks with salt & pepper. Grill the tuna for about 4 minutes before turning, then for about another 2-3 minutes, or until the tuna is no longer pink on the inside (if you like your tuna seared on the outside and slightly raw in the middle, cut the time in half). Serve with a generous amount of the avocado chimichurri and some white rice on the side. Makes 2 servings.

Cream of Avocado Salad Dressing
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup fat-free plain yogurt
1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/4 teaspoon dill weed
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 heads romaine lettuce, outer leaves removed and the hearts cut in half lengthwise

In a food processor, combine the first nine ingredients; cover and process until smooth. Serve over romaine hearts. Store in the refrigerator. Makes 2 cups, plenty for 4 servings.

Avocado Macadamia Nut Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed avocado
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup coarsely chopped and toasted macadamia nuts

Mix together flour, sugar, orange rind, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add avocado, egg, buttermilk and lemon juice; stir until thoroughly mixed. Stir in chopped, toasted macadamia nuts. Pour into well-greased 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Bake in 350˚F oven for 50 minutes. Allow bread to cool 10 minutes before removing from pan. Makes 1 loaf.

Avocado Honey Lime Ice Cream
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup pure honey
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups half and half
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons lime zest
3 ripe avocados, pureed

Whisk together eggs, honey and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. In a medium saucepan over low heat, bring the half-and-half, buttermilk and lime zest to a full simmer. Once liquid begins to bubble, remove from the heat. Cover and let steep 2 hours. Once cream mixture has cooled, strain into another medium saucepan. Over low heat, bring to a simmer again. Temper the egg and honey mixture by adding the simmering cream to the mixture in a ladle a little bit at a time while whisking. Then, return the mixture to the saucepan. Continue to simmer over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until the custard thickens enough to coat a spoon and the thermometer reads 170°F to 175°F, about 4 minutes (do not allow mixture to boil). Strain mixture into a clean bowl and allow the steam to escape. Cover and chill mixture until cold (at least 3 hours, and up to 1 day). Process the custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add avocado purée halfway through freezing. Transfer to a bowl or tub and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours, and up to 3 days. Makes 4 servings.

Frozen Avocado-Lime Pie
People on Moloka'i grew up eating local avocados, but when I ask around, most like to eat it with sugar on it, or as a dessert. This frozen dessert recipe is kind of like a key lime pie but with avocado added. Very easy to make, and a good dessert served after eating a spicy meal, or whenever you feel like it.

1 graham cracker pie crust, store bought, or make your own... (I like to use 1 1/2 cups crushed macaroons mixed with 5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter for my crust. Then I press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a pie plate and bake it for 15 minutes at 350˚F)
1 very ripe (soft) avocado
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon lime zest
1, 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk (Eagle brand)
1 can of Reddi-whip whipped cream
1/2 cup chopped nuts (macadamia, pecans, or walnuts)

Puree the avocado in a food processor or blender. Add the lime juice, lime zest, cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk and mix until well blended. Pour into pie crust and freeze at least 2 hours, 4 is better. Thaw for 10 minutes before serving with a big dollop of whipped cream in the middle of the pie, and sprinkled with chopped nuts. Makes 8 servings.

Jan 9, 2012

The 'Apple' Banana

Moloka'i Apple Banana
The apple banana is most commonly grown in subtropical and tropical regions, specifically the Hawaiian Islands, Honduras, Malaysia and Mexico. This short, fat fruit has a sweeter and more apple-like taste than the more common dessert banana. The Apple banana is not grown for large scale commercial production, thus its culinary relevance is mainly within its growing region. 

Apple bananas are commonly used as a dessert once they reach peak maturity.

These bananas grow all over Moloka'i and can be purchased at the farmers' market on Saturday mornings.

Hawaiian Fruit Salad with Banana Dressing
1 pineapple
1 medium cantaloupe
1 medium honeydew melon
1 papaya cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 mango cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 kiwi cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 cup seedless red grapes
1 cup strawberries -- halved lengthwise
leaf lettuce
1/2 cup roasted, crushed, macadamia nuts (for garnish)

Ingredients for Banana Dressing:
2 ripe bananas
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Procedure for Banana Dressing:
Combine all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor. Cover and process for 12 to 15 seconds until smooth. Refrigerate for up to 1-2 hours.

Procedure for Fruit Salad:
Remove the top from the pineapple. Cut into quarters length-wise. Trim the peel and remove eyes and core. Cut into 1 x 2 inch pieces. Using a melon baller, cut balls from melons. Arrange all the fruit on lettuce, and serve with banana dressing. Or cube all and toss together, serve on individual lettuce lined plates, and top with dressing, top with crushed macadamia nuts. Makes 8 servings.

Apple Banana Smoothie
1 frozen apple banana
1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into quarters
1/2 cup fat free milk
1 cup orange juice
honey (optional)

Peel the banana and apple and cut them into pieces. Add them into the blender together with the milk and orange juice and blend until smooth, then serve immediately. Some honey may also be added and you can increase the ingredients depending on the amount of people you are serving. Makes 2 servings.

Chocolate-Banana Wontons
1 (13 ounce) jar Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)
wonton wrappers
2 medium bananas
1 egg beaten
canola oil (for frying)
confectioners sugar (for dusting)

Separate wonton wrappers into individual sheets. In the center of each wrapper, place a small dollop (approximately 1 teaspoon) of Nutella and top with a slice of ripe banana. Use a pastry brush to moisten the edges of the wonton with a beaten egg mixture. Fold the wontons in half to form a triangle. Use your fingers to press the edges of the wonton firmly together to seal completely.

Preheat a deep fryer, or heat two inches of oil in a pan to approximately 350˚F. Drop the wontons in a few at a time and cook, turning them over during the process, until they are lightly browned and cooked through, usually 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve warm.

Banana-Pineapple Bread
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Cream butter and sugars thoroughly. Blend in fruit. In separate bowl, sift remaining dry ingredients into flour. In a 3rd bowl, combine eggs, milk and vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternately with liquid to creamed mixture. Fold in nuts. Pour into 2 small well-greased loaf pans. Bake at 350˚F for 50 minutes to an hour. Makes 2 loaf pans or 16 servings.

Coconut-Banana Bread with Rum
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
3 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut
cooking spray
1 tablespoon flaked sweetened coconut
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk. Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, yogurt, rum, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Stir in 1/2 cup coconut. Spoon batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon coconut. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Combine powdered sugar and juice, stirring with a whisk; drizzle over warm bread. Cool completely on wire rack. Makes 1 loaf or 8 servings.

Banana-Brown Sugar Ice Cream

1 1/4-pounds very ripe bananas (6-7 medium), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 cups coconut milk or full-fat sour cream
big pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
optional: a few drops lemon juice

In a wide skillet or saucepan, heat the brown sugar with one-quarter of the coconut milk or sour cream, stirring, until smooth and bubbly.

Add the bananas and salt, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the bananas are soft and completely cooked through. It should take about five minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the remaining coconut milk or sour cream, rum and vanilla. Taste, and add a few drops of fresh lemon juice if it taste too sweet.

Puree in a blender or food processor until completely smooth.

Chill thoroughly, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. (If it's too thick when you take it out of the refrigerator, whisk it briskly, which should thin it out so you can pour it into your machine.) Makes about 3 cups.

Fried Apple Banana Lumpia
A Filipino dessert that is a favorite in Hawaii.

4 apple bananas, ripe but firm
1/2 cup brown sugar
8 lumpia wrappers
canola oil for frying

Defrost and peel each lumpia wrapper from the stack of lumpia, as it will most likely be stuck together due to being frozen at the store. Then peel the bananas and cut them in half. Once cut in half, slice each half through the middle of the banana. Leaving you with a banana slice that is flat on one side. Each banana will give you 4 slices. Place the lumpia wrapper in front of you in a diamond shape. Place a banana slice a little lower than the middle of the diamond, make sure that the banana slice is flat side facing up. Then add about a spoon of sugar on the flat surface of the banana.

Take both sides of the wrapper, left and right and bring to the center covering the banana, then bring the bottom up. Tuck in any excess space and roll it up. When you reach the tip, press down a bit of water so it can stay put. Then set that aside on a plate, with the end facing down so it won't unwrap. After you've wrapped them all, put oil in a frying pan or wok, preferably more oil than you usually fry with, because the wrapper could burn before it actually cooks. Fry until light golden brown. Place on a large plate lined with paper towels to soak up excess oil. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Makes 8 fried banana lumpia.

Caramelized Banana Crêpes
with Roasted Macadamia Nuts

A crêpe is a type of very thin pancake, usually made from wheat flour or buckwheat flour. The word is French in origin, originating in Brittany, a region in the northwest of France. Crêpes are served with a variety of fillings from sweet to savory. The fresh fruit found here in Hawaii and French Polynesia, mango, papaya, pineapple and banana, make a perfect filling for a sweet tropical dessert, using French crêpes. Simple caramelization of fresh tropical fruit to enhance the natural sweetness, and warm crêpes, topped with roasted Macadamia nuts to add crunch and texture.

Ingredients for basic sweet crêpes:
1 cup wheat flour (leveled)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup milk (full, low, or nonfat)
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs

Procedure for basic sweet crêpes:
Combine flour and sugar in a bowl and set aside. Blend milk, water, melted butter, and eggs in a blender. Slowly add in dry ingredients and blend until smooth. Cover and set in the fridge for one hour. Spray an 8-inch frying pan and heat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the pan and swirl the batter so that it fills the pan in one thin layer. Cook on one side until for about 1 minute or until lightly browned (as seen by carefully lifting the crêpe with a spatula). Carefully flip on the opposite side and cook through. Repeat until the rest of the batter is finished. Makes 12-14 crêpes.

Ingredients for caramelized bananas:
4 large bananas, sliced
4 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar

Procedure for caramelized bananas:
Melt the butter and sugar in a large frying pan or saucepan on a medium heat. Once sugar has dissolved, add the bananas. Watching carefully, gently cook until the bananas are well caramelized, and sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes.

Ingredients for caramelized banana crêpes:
one recipe basic crêpes
one recipe caramelized bananas
1/2 cup crushed, roasted macadamia nuts
vanilla ice-cream to serve, optional

Procedure for caramelized banana crêpes:
After preparing a stack of crêpes, set aside. Prepare the caramelised bananas. Fill each crêpe with 2-3 pieces of banana. Drizzle caramel sauce over the finished crêpe and garnish with a few roasted macadamia nuts. Vanilla ice-cream optional. Makes 4-6 servings.

Apple Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Apple bananas are small bananas that grow here in Hawaii. They have a tang to them, similar to apples, and give these chocolate chip oatmeal cookies a delightful tropical flavor. Unfortunately you'll have to come to Hawaii to buy apple bananas, so just use regular bananas if you don't live here.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large banana, mashed
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and sugars, mix until smooth. Add in vanilla extract and egg. Next, add the banana. Beat well. Slowly add in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in oats and chocolate chips. Drop cookie dough by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets that have been lined with parchment paper or Silcone baking mats. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-18 minutes or until golden. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Fried Apple Banana Fritters
Fried Banana Fritters are popular all over Asia. It's important to use the right banana for this dessert. The Apple Banana here in Hawaii is perfect, with a sweet/sour flavor. The batter has to be crispy, and the banana must be ripe and tender and moist on the inside. Using ice-cold soda water helps the batter to be crispy, but you want to make sure that you don't put too much in the batter,  adding it slowly as you stir the batter, keeping it thick. It's also a good idea to drain the grease from the fritters so they are not oily and use oil that has not been used before. 

3 ripe apple bananas, chopped into bite sized chunks
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1 tablespoon rice flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoon canola oil (to add to batter)
1/2 cup club soda (ice cold)
Canola oil for deep frying
Powdered sugar for dusting
Honey for drizzling

In a large bowl, mix together the self-raising flour, corn starch, rice flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and 1 1/2 tablespoons of canola oil until smooth and thick.

Now slowly add the ice cold club soda and whisk gently just until well incorporated and smooth.

In a wok, or small skillet, heat one inch of oil on medium-high heat. While waiting for the oil to come up to temperature,  325˚F, begin dipping the apple banana chunks into the batter. Using a slotted spoon, test the temperature of the oil by carefully dropping a small bit of the batter into the oil. If the oil is hot enough, the batter should begin to bubble up and lightly brown within a few seconds.

Adjust heat to medium then carefully place the battered banana chunks into the hot oil, leaving enough room in between them to turn over. Fry on each side for just about 2 or 3 minutes or so until lightly golden brown. Drain on a paper towel lined cookie sheet. Repeat as necessary with remaining banana chunks. Keep the bananas warm in a 200˚F oven, this will keep them crisp.

Place warm bananas on a serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar and drizzle with honey before serving, or serve with vanilla ice-cream. Makes 18 fritters depending on the size of the bananas.

Note: If you don't have self-rising flour, you can make your own by mixing 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt with 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Also make sure your baking powder is current. Check the expiration date on the box. Baking powder can lose its potency over time, which means your baked goods won't rise as they should.