Sep 27, 2012

Growing Oysters In Hawaii

Growing oysters in Hawaii's ancient fish ponds 
Loko i'a, Hawaiian for fish pond, were used for the 
fattening and storing of fish for food in ancient Hawaii. 
These fishponds were typically shallow areas of a reef flat 
surrounded by a low lava rock wall (loko kuapa) built out from the shore. 
Several species of edible fish (such as mullet) thrive in such ponds, 
and Hawaiians developed methods to make them easy to catch. 
Few remain today, although Molokaʻi offers 
the best opportunities to view a Hawaiian loko.
Click on photo to view larger
There is a huge demand for oysters in Hawaii. For now, oysters are shipped here from Washington state, where the oyster industry is a $200 million-a-year business. Because of ocean acidification, which has affected oyster larvae from forming in Washington state's waters since 2005, oyster hatcheries are beginning to move to the cleaner waters of Hawaii to raise oyster seed starters. Baby oyster larvae from Hawaii are then sent back to Washington for further growth. One of these new hatcheries is located on the Big Island, Kona Coast Shellfish, the largest producer of oyster and clam larvae in the world. Over the past two years, this hatchery has proven to be a big success, producing oyster larvae in one year, twice as fast as the seed previously produced in Washington hatcheries. So why not just grow oysters here in Hawaii you may ask. Good question, people are actually doing that. You can read about it by clicking on the link below, this story was published in the 9/19/11 issue of the Honolulu Star Advertiser. ( It states that Hawaii is seriously looking into growing oysters in our ancient fish ponds. This business has great potential for Hawaii because the sale of oysters and clams could be a multimillion-dollar industry here. There are dozens of Hawaiian fishponds that could be suitable for growing oysters. Research has shown that you can get a market-size oyster, growing it in a Hawaii fishpond, in five to six months. On the mainland it takes two to three years!

There is a huge variety of fresh oysters available, with over 70 oyster varieties on the West Coast and 60 on the East Coast. Each of these oysters have been given a flavor profile. Oyster tasting has been compared to the experience of wine tasting. Oyster connoisseurs discuss the salinity and complexity of the oyster, the finish, the hints of melon or cucumber, etc. you get the idea. The bottom line is what oysters are available at your supermarket here in Hawaii, how do we buy them, store them, open them, and cook them... read on: 

What To Look For When Buying Fresh Oysters: 
Oysters in the shell must be sold LIVE by law. They should feel heavy and full of water. Live oysters will be tightly clamped shut, or will clamp shut when tapped. Dead oysters will have loose shells and must be discarded along with those which have broken shells. This is because loose or broken shells make the oyster susceptible to bacteria growth and could make you very sick. Remember, oysters are alive and need to breathe, so never seal them tightly in a plastic bag, this can kill the oysters. If you see oysters or clams being sold with broken shells or in tightly sealed plastic bags, call the heath department. For detailed information about infection from consumption of raw shellfish, check out this website Another website to check out is

How To Store Fresh Oysters:
Keep the unopened oysters cold but do not store in water! Sandwich a layer of live oysters between two (2) beds of ice. Place them deep side down (to retain their juices). Never immerse live oysters in fresh water or melted ice - it will kill them. Oysters stored this way will keep for 2 days. This is the method to use if you plan on using the fresh oysters soon. The flavor is best when fresh oysters are consumed within 24 hours of purchase.

Store live oysters in the refrigerator at 40˚F. if they are not to be used immediately. Place them deep side down (to retain their juices) in an open container. Cover the oysters with a damp towel or layers of damp newspaper. Oyster store this way will keep up to 5 to 7 days.

How To Open Fresh Oysters:
Open (shuck) shortly before serving - not more than 2 hours. The colder the oyster, the easier it is to shuck. Keep oysters cold at all times, partly for safety and very much to enhance flavor and texture.

Traditional Method:
Hold an oyster firmly with a cloth in one hand and the hinged end towards you. Insert a knife in the area where the two shells meet and prise open with a twisting action. Slide the blade along the inside edge of the shell to sever the muscle holding the shells together. Cut the muscle attachment to lower shell. Turn the oyster meat for best presentation. The best way to serve raw oysters is on a platter of crushed ice, or sometimes you see them presented on a bed of seaweed. If they are cooked, you can serve them on a bed of rock salt, or raw white rice.

Microwave Method:
For the novice, and easier way to open oysters is via the microwave oven. Put six oysters on a plate, cover with wax paper and microwave at full power for 55 seconds. Let them sit in the microwave oven, power off, for another 15-20 seconds and remove. The meats won't be cooked, only warmed, and the shells more amenable to opening by whatever method you choose. Once opened, chill before serving.

Oven Method:
When oysters in the shell are suddenly exposed to extreme heat, they will automatically open their shells. Place half a dozen oysters in the shell in a pie pan and put the pan in a hot oven for a few minutes. Remove quickly and you will see their shells have opened enough to insert a small sharp knife. Probe gently on the inside upper shell and cut the muscle from the shell. Pry off top shell. Then cut the muscle from the lower shell. If you want to serve the oyster on the half shell, quickly place them in the refrigerator with the oyster meat still in the lower shell. Chill 15 minutes before serving, and the oyster will be fresh and delicious.

Oyster Recipes:
Grilled Oysters with Mango Mojo Sauce
Oysters are commonly cooked in their shells on a barbecue grill here in Hawaii. The heat from the grill steams the oysters and pops the shells open, while poaching the oyster inside, then you add the mango mojo sauce. They make a great appetizer, but who can just eat one.

32 large fresh (live) oysters in the shell

2 cups mango puree (either fresh in season or from frozen pulp, available at most supermarkets)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup orange juice
1 red onion, diced
1/4 cup garlic, chopped
1/4 cup ginger, chopped
1 tbsp. sugar
1 bunch cilantro, minced
2 cups light olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
lime wedges for garnish

Place mango puree in stainless steel bowl. Add red onions. Mix in lime juice, orange juice, ginger and sugar. Lightly simmer garlic in olive oil for 5-6 minutes. Add to mango mixture and blend well. Add minced cilantro. Season to taste, and set aside. Meanwhile, preheat barbecue grill. Scrub the oyster shells under cold running water with a brush. Discard any open shells, as the oyster is dead and not edible. Place oysters (cup side on bottom) on hot grill about 4 inches from hot coals. Cover barbecue with lid, open any vents, and cook 8 to 10 minutes (depending on size) or until shells begin to open to indicate doneness. Remove all oysters when the first one opens. I always personally check over all live oysters that I buy to make sure they are alive when purchasing. Some shells will not be opened, so some prying will be necessary. Using a mitt or towel to protect your hand, remove the oysters from the grill, taking care not to spill their juices. Pry the oysters the rest of the way open with an oyster knife, paring knife, or screwdriver. Sever the muscle that connect the shells, leaving the oyster on the half shell. Transfer onto a serving platter. Serve with a little mojo sauce over each oyster, and lime wedges on the side. Makes 4 servings of 8 oysters, or 32 appetizers.

Oysters on the Half Shell with 
Passion Fruit Mignonette Sauce
Mignonette sauce is a condiment usually made with minced shallots, cracked pepper, and vinegar. It is traditionally served with raw oysters. This is the Hawaiian version. 

1 lemon, juice only
1 lime, juice only
1/2 cup olive oil
2 passion fruit, cut in half, pulp scraped out with seeds
3 tablespoons cracked black pepper
1/4 cup finely minced shallots
small handful fresh cilantro, finely chopped

36 oysters on the half shell
crushed ice for presentation
2 limes, cut into wedges, to serve

Place all the ingredients, except the oysters, lime wedges and ice, into a small bowl and mix well, cover and refrigerate. Carefully open the oysters using an oyster shucker by loosening the muscle from bottom shell, removing top shell. Arrange oysters on a large, deep serving plate filled with crushed ice. To serve, spoon a teaspoon of the passion fruit mignonette sauce over each oyster and garnish with lime wedges. Makes 6 servings of 6 oysters, or 36 appetizers.

Creamy Oyster-Rice Stew with Sake
East meets West in my delicious version of creamy oyster stew.

2 slices bacon, diced
1/2 cup butter
1 medium onions, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons flour
fresh ground black pepper
1 pinch cayenne
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 (8 ounce) bottles clam juice
1/4 cup sake
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 (12 ounce) cans evaporated milk
1 cup cooked long grain rice
16 ounces shucked oysters, with their liquor
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup nori flakes or strips (seaweed, found in the Asian section of your grocery store)
rice crackers

Sauté diced bacon in a non-stick soup pot over low heat until rendered. Add butter and heat until melted. Add onions, celery and garlic and continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until translucent, taking care not to let them brown. Add salt and pepper to taste, pinch of cayenne, thyme and flour, whisking steadily to make a roux. Cook, whisking steadily, for several minutes. Slowly whisk in clam juice, whisking until smooth, then sake, whisking until smooth. Whisk in cream, whisking until smooth, then whisk in evaporated milk, whisking until smooth. Raise heat slightly, stir while bringing just until it starts to boil, then lower heat and whisk until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add cooked rice, stir in oysters with their liquor, and several dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Continue to heat, stirring occasionally, until oysters curl at the edges indicating they are heated through. Serve immediately, garnished with nori cut into thin strips and rice crackers on the side. Makes 8 servings.

Oysters Rockefeller
Oysters Rockefeller is a blend of ingredients that makes this dish symbolic of New Orleans cuisine.

24 large oysters
1 1/2 cups drained cooked spinach
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped green scallions
2 slices cooked crumbled bacon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste
dash Tabasco
rock salt

Open oysters in microwave. Just open, don´t cook. Discard top shells. Cut meat free from bottom shell but leave in shell. Reserve. Preheat oven to 400°F. Add spinach, bread crumbs, scallions, bacon, parsley, olive oil and Tabasco to food processor. Process just enough to chop fine. Do NOT make a puree. Arrange oysters on a bed of rock salt on a ovenproof platter. Spoon spinach mixture onto each oyster. Bake 8 minutes until cooked then broil to brown. Serve very hot. Makes 2-4 servings.

Panko Fried Oysters
This is a 3-step, easy fried oyster recipe using crispy panko (Japanese bread crumbs), and a mildly spicy and sweet dipping sauce.

12 oysters, freshly shucked
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons Tabasco hot sauce
1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs found in the Asian section of your grocery store)
2 cups canola oil
Mae Ploy brand sweet chili sauce (found in the Asian section of your grocery store)

In a small bowl, place the flour. In a second small bowl, whisk the egg and 3 tablespoons of the hot sauce. In a third small bowl, place the panko. Dredge the oysters in the flour shaking off any excess. Dip the flour dredged oysters in the egg mixture. Then coat the oysters in the panko bread crumbs. In a heavy skillet, heat oil to 325˚F. Add the breaded oysters and fry until golden brown about 1-2 minutes. Drain on paper towels and immediately sprinkle with salt. Serve warm with sweet chili sauce. Makes 2-4 servings. Note: These crispy fried oysters work really well in a "Po' Boy" sandwich. Simple add 3 fried oysters to french bread rolls, topped with shredded lettuce and sliced tomatoes, mayonnaise (or May Ploy sweet chili sauce) and dill pickle slices.

Chef's Shooters
This shooter is like a bloody mary with a surprise at the bottom... bottoms up!

1 small freshly shucked raw oyster with its juice (liquor)*
1/2 to 1 ounce of V8 Vegetable Juice
1 ounce ice cold high-quality vodka, I like "Tito's" from Texas**
dash of Tabasco sauce
squeeze of fresh-squeezed lime juice

* If you can't find small oysters, cut oysters into smaller pieces that are easy to swallow.
** By chilling the vodka, it acquires a thick, silky texture.

Place oyster and its liquor (juice) in bottom of a chilled martini or shot glass (any small glass may be used). Pour in V8 Vegetable Juice, then Vodka; add Tabasco Sauce and lime juice. Drink as a shot, allowing oyster to slide down your throat, try not to chew. Makes 1 oyster shooter.

Sep 26, 2012


You will find Panko in the Asian section
of your grocery store
Many people know about panko and many don't, if you don't, you should. Panko is a wonderful and very versatile bread crumb that can be used in a variety of recipes from appetizers to desserts. It's available in most well-stocked supermarkets and in Asian grocery stores. So what is panko? Panko is a Japanese-style bread crumb, however it is produced worldwide, particularly in Asian countries, including Japan, Korea, Thailand, China, and Vietnam. The Japanese first learned to make bread from our old friends, the Portuguese; the word "panko" is derived from pão (Portuguese for "bread") and -ko, a Japanese suffix indicating "flour", "crumb", or "powder". There are two types of panko, white and tan. White panko is made without the crust and tan is made with it, but you usually see the white variety in stores in the U.S. Panko’s bread is coarsely ground into airy, large flakes that give fried foods a light, crunchy coating. The flakes tend to stay crispier longer than standard bread crumbs because they don’t absorb as much grease. Panko is often used for breading fish and shellfish because of its lighter airier texture, leaving the fish perfectly moist inside. This wonderful product is a "must have" in your pantry. 

Just like any other bread product, the shelf life of panko is important to know. If you look carefully on the bag you will see a "sell by" date. Generally an unopened bag of panko will keep for at least one year. Moisture is the biggest problem, especially here in Hawaii where the humidity is high most of the time, shortening the shelf life, so panko should be stored in a dry area. When the package is opened, it should be stored in a tightly closed container. To increase the shelf life, panko can, and should be frozen in a resealable plastic freezer bag. If you haven't tried panko, give it a try, I think you will be glad you did, and so will the people you cook for.


Panko Crusted Shrimp Tempura
Everyone loves shrimp tempura, but adding panko makes the shrimp even crispier. This recipe will also work with vegetables like green beans, onion rings, sliced sweet potatoes, red bell pepper, etc., but shrimp is the most popular.

canola oil, for frying
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup club soda
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 1/2 cups panko Japanese bread crumbs
24 large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails left on
1/2 cup Tamari (a type of soy sauce used for sushi, it has a deeper flavor than regular soy sauce)
24 6-inch bamboo skewers

First clean and devein shrimp, I like to leave the tails on, but that's up to you. Sprinkle shrimp with a little Tamari sauce, and put into the refrigerator. In a wok or large skillet, pour in about 1 inch of canola oil, enough to cover shrimp when cooking. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer, inserted in the oil, reaches 375˚F. While the oil is heating, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the club soda and sesame oil. Stir until just combined and still lumpy. Put the panko bread crumbs in a large plate. Dry the shrimp with a paper towel, then dip 4 in the batter, then cover with panko and fry, 4 at a time, until the batter is golden and crispy, about 60 to 70 seconds. Drain on paper towels. Continue this process until all of the shrimp are all cooked. Put one shrimp bamboo skewers and serve the Tamari sauce alongside as a dipping sauce. Makes 24 appetizers.

Baked Salmon Cakes with 
Roasted Red Pepper-Chive Aioli
This recipe is for mini salmon cake appetizers, but you can make the cakes larger and serve as a main course if you prefer.

12 ounces salmon, poached in water with a little salt, cooled and crumbled
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
fresh chives, rinsed and cut into 1-inch lengths

In a large bowl, combine celery, minced chives, mayonnaise, egg, mustard, and hot sauce; mix well with a fork. Add salmon and 1/4 cup panko; stir gently just to mix. Put remaining 1 cup panko in a shallow bowl. Shape salmon mixture into 24 cakes, each about 2 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick. Turn each cake in panko to coat on all sides, pressing gently to make crumbs adhere. Place cakes slightly apart on a parchment lined baking pan. Bake in a 475°F oven until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. With a spatula, transfer crab cakes to a platter. Spoon a dollop of Roasted Pepper-Chive Aioli (recipe follows) onto each cake. Garnish platter with fresh chives. Serve hot. Makes 24 cakes.

Roasted Pepper-Chive Aioli
In a small bowl, mix 3/4 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup canned roasted red peppers drained and minced (or broil a fresh red bell pepper until black then remove skin, seeds, then mince), 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste. Taste and add salt if needed. Makes about 1 cup.

Panko Crusted Opakapaka  (Hawaiian red snapper)
Opakapaka is my favorite island fish, however you can substitute your favorite fish if you like. Marinating the fish first keeps it moist and flavorful. When coated with panko, it becomes light and crispy after frying. It can be served with a nice aioli sauce, or mango salsa on the side.

3/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2-4 pieces of opakapaka 1 - 1 1/2 inches thick, skin removed
1 - 2 eggs
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (make sure it's powder not garlic salt)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup mochiko rice flour (or all purpose flour)
1 cup of panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
Garnish: Chives and sliced green onions

Combine the soy sauce, ginger, honey, pepper flakes, and sesame oil in a zip-lock bag and shake it all together. Then add the opakapaka. Let the fish marinate refrigerated for 1 hour. After marinating take the fish out of the bag and slightly dry it off with a paper towel. Beat the egg, add the water and garlic powder. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Be sure to watch the oil, if it begins to smoke - turn it down. Dredge the fish in the flour, then egg, followed by the panko. Place the fish into the pan and fry for 5 to 8 minutes on each side, or until done. The panko should be crispy and golden brown. Note: flip the fish 2-3 times to prevent it from getting dark brown, Panko browns very easily. Place on a drying rack and finish frying the other pieces. Garnish with a few pieces of chives and sliced scallions. Makes 2-4 servings.

Panko Pork Piccata
This dish originated in Italy using veal, however pork or chicken work just as well. I've added panko to the mix, for a crispy coating with a lemon-caper sauce. Serve with broccoli rabé and polenta.

1 cup flour
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups panko
1 1/2 - 2 pounds boneless pork loin cut into 4 pieces, then pounded between two pieces of wax paper with mallet to about 1/4-inch-thick
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup canola oil
6 tablespoons butter
4 teaspoons capers
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
lemon slices, cut thin, and in half for garnish

Set the flour, eggs and panko in three separate shallow bowls. Season the pounded pork loin with salt and pepper. Dredge the pork in the flour, shaking off any excess, then dip in the eggs and coat thoroughly with the panko, pressing lightly to adhere. In each of 2 large skillets, heat 1/4 cup of the canola oil. Add the pork and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes. Transfer the pork to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter and cook over moderately high heat until browned and nutty, about 4 minutes. Stir in the capers, lemon juice and parsley; spoon over the pork, garnish with thin lemon slices. Makes 4 servings.

Baked Zucchini Fries In Greek Yogurt Dip
Ingredients For Zucchini Fries:
olive oil
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
2 large zucchinis, cut into 4-inch sticks
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded
salt and pepper, to taste

Ingredients For Dip:
1 cup low fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
1 scallion, chopped

Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Oil large rimmed baking sheet. Lightly beat the eggs and milk together in a medium bowl. In a separate medium bowl, stir the panko breadcrumbs and cheese together. Dip zucchini sticks in the egg mixture, making sure to coat them well. Dip the egg coated zucchini into the panko mixture. Spread out the coated zucchini pieces onto the prepared sheet pan. Season generously with salt and pepper and bake for about 15 minutes. Flip the zucchini sticks over with a spatula and bake for another 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

Mix the Greek yogurt, chopped parsley and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the chopped scallion on top. Serve the yogurt sauce alongside the fries. Makes 10 servings.

Asian Baked Asparagus
1/4 cup plain yogurt
4 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar, divided
3 teaspoons soy sauce, divided
1 1/4 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger, divided
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 pound thick asparagus spears, trimmed, bottom 2/3 of each spear peeled
2 1/4 teaspoons Asian sesame oil, divided
1 teaspoon golden brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon Asian chili-garlic sauce

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place a rack on a large rimmed baking sheet that is covered with foil. Whisk yogurt, 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon grated ginger in pie dish. Mix panko and sesame seeds in another pie dish. Toss asparagus in mayonnaise mixture to coat, then roll in panko mixture. Transfer to rack on baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons sesame oil. Roast until browned, about 16 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk 1 teaspoon water, brown sugar, chili-garlic sauce, remaining 3 teaspoons vinegar, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil in small bowl for sauce.

Transfer asparagus to platter; sprinkle with salt. Drizzle with sauce. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Crispy Mango Coconut Cobbler
Ingredients for topping:
1 3/4 cups plain panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sweetened coconut
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Toss the topping ingredients together, and set aside.

Ingredients for filling:
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
3 1/2 to 4 cups fresh or frozen mango (other fresh or frozen fruits may be substituted)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter six individual baking dishes, a generous 1 cup capacity each. Combine the sugar and corn starch, then stir in the lemon juice. Add the mango and cinnamon. Divide the mixture among the buttered baking dishes, using about 1/2 cup for each. Top with the crumb topping, again using about 1/2 cup for each. Bake for 38 to 45 minutes, until the filling is bubbling. Serve warm, with whipped cream or ice cream. Makes 6 servings.

Sep 24, 2012

Eating Safely In Hawaii

The salmonella bacteria 
is the second most common 
cause of foodborne illness
in the United States.
Recently here on Moloka'i, a well known bakery was closed and fined $90,000 for health code violations including improper cleaning and sanitizing of cooking implements and surfaces, inadequate rodent control, lack of hot water and general unsanitary conditions. Eating safely is a big, big problem in the U.S., and especially in Hawaii. The Centers for Disease Control and prevention, CDC, estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. What does that mean to you? It means that whether you eat out or eat at home, there are simple precautions you can take to make sure you, or your family don't get sick from food poisoning.

Here are steps you can take 
to prevent food poisoning in your home:

Wash your hands, utensils and food surfaces often. Wash your hands well with warm, soapy water before and after handling or preparing food. Use hot, soapy water to wash the utensils, cutting board and other surfaces you use. Put a few drops of bleach in a spray bottle filled with water and keep it on you kitchen counter. Every night, spray your counter tops and sink. This is an easy and cheap way to disinfect your prep surfaces that I learned in culinary school. Germs don't like bleach and it only takes a few drops!

Keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat foods. When shopping, preparing food or storing food, keep raw meat, poultry, fish and shellfish away from other foods. This prevents cross-contamination.

Cook foods to a safe temperature. The best way to tell if foods are cooked to a safe temperature is to use a food thermometer. You can kill harmful organisms in most foods by cooking them to the right temperature. Ground beef should be cooked to 160 F (71.1 C), while steaks and roasts should be cooked to at least 145 F (62.8 C). Pork needs to be cooked to at least 160 F (71.1C), and chicken and turkey need to be cooked to 165 F (73.9 C). Fish is generally well-cooked at 145 F (62.8 C).

Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods promptly. Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods within two hours of purchasing or preparing them. If the room temperature is above 90 F (32.2 C), refrigerate perishable foods within one hour.

Defrost food safely. Do not thaw foods at room temperature. The safest way to thaw foods is to defrost foods in the refrigerator or to microwave the food using the "defrost" or "50 percent power" setting. Running cold water over the food also safely thaws the food.

Throw it out when in doubt. If you aren't sure if a food has been prepared, served or stored safely, discard it. Food left at room temperature too long may contain bacteria or toxins that can't be destroyed by cooking. Perishable food held at temperatures above 45˚F for more than two (2) hours should be discarded. If the food has been at room temperature for an unknown amount of time, it should be discarded. Spoiled food may have off-colors or unusual odors. However, food poisoning and food spoilage are caused by different bacteria. Food that has become tainted by food poisoning bacteria cannot be detected by sight, smell, touch, or taste. You should not taste questionable food. Don't taste food that you're unsure about — just throw it out. Even if it looks and smells fine, it may not be safe to eat.

How can you prevent food poisoning eating out:

Have you ever gotten sick from food poisoning at a restaurant? Did you notice anything about your food, or the restaurant/staff, that should have clued you in? One of the easiest ways of telling if a restaurant is clean and safe to eat in is by looking around. Keep in mind that how people take care of the outside of their restaurant offers some great insight into how they take care of the inside. If the outside is grubby and unkempt, what’s the kitchen going to look like? Also take a look at the cooks and wait staff. They should have clean aprons, uniforms and hands. Cook staff especially should not be wiping their hands on their uniforms (which harbors bacteria that can spread to food). When the food is served, does it smell good. If there's any kind of funny odor or taste, or if it is undercooked, send it back. Undercooked food supports the growth of bacteria. This goes for all your food. If the food is supposed to be hot, it should be steaming. If cold, you should be able to feel the coolness. Lukewarm anything is bad. 

It's hard to know where to draw the line on being overly-cautious. The bottom line is that if you are planning to eat out at a public location there really is no way to guarantee that you don't end up suffering from food poisoning. Unfortunately in most restaurants you can't see the kitchen where the food is prepared, so we have to rely on our health inspectors to regularly inspect restaurants. If you do see a problem, give your local health department a call, it's their job to regularly inspect these places and protect us from food poisoning. 

According to Hawaii News Now in Honolulu, the state of Hawaii is finally working on a new placard system that California has had for years. It is designed to let people know how clean restaurants are. Here's how it will work, the Green "Pass" placard means the restaurant has had one major violation or less that was corrected. The Yellow "Conditional Pass" means there were at least two major violations that are yet to be fixed. The Red "Closed" means the food permit was revoked because the immediate danger and the establishment is shut down until further notice. "The main point of this is to reduce the incidents of food borne illness risk factors and that will hopefully translate into less food borne illness in Hawaii so it's just protecting public health. State staffing levels are also going up. There are 11 food inspectors now. There will be 25 by the end of the year. That's good news since a restaurant now is only inspected once every two and a half years. It should be as much as three times a year" said Peter Oshiro, State Department of Health Environmental Health Program Manager. The state plans to hold public meetings on the issue in the coming months and then implement the new placard system early next year.

For more detailed information about protecting your family from food poisoning, check out this website. Click here.

Sep 18, 2012

"Hawaii-Style" Island Cookies

"The Emperor's Pillow"
To view larger, click on image
Whether they're freshly baked by your mom, sold door-to-door by Girl Scouts, purchased at a church fund raiser, or presented on Santa's plate by the fireplace, cookies are a big part of American culture. 

The first American cookie was originally brought to this country by the English, Scots, and Dutch immigrants in the 17th century. Today our simple "butter cookies" strongly resemble the English tea cakes and the Scotch shortbread. 

There are hundreds upon hundreds of cookie recipes available in the United States. "Hawaii-style" cookies take advantage of local tropical flavors, shapes and colors. Ingredients using mango and pineapple with ground coconut and macadamia nuts, or Kona coffee chocolate chip cookies, or tangy passion fruit shortbread. If you don't want to make your own Hawaii-style island cookies, you can find a huge variety from Hawaii cookie companies specializing in cookies with these flavors, and many others. Check out their websites: 

It's fun, and easy to make your own island cookies, and give them as tasty tropical Hawaii-style gifts. One way to present them as gifts is to buy a coconut bowl, you know, the little bowls made of half of a coconut. Fill it with tropical cookies, wrap it in a colorful cellophane sheet and put a bow on it. Here's a place to buy the cellophane sheets, bags, etc.:

You can't go wrong with cookies, just ask the "Cookie Monster".

"Hawaii-Style" Island Cookie recipes:

The Emperor's Pillow

These crispy little banana-nut wonton cookies are a great way to impress your friends, and it's very easy. They are filled with a combination of bananas, macadamia nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkled with more brown sugar and cinnamon. I've tried baking these, but frying works better. Eat them while they are hot and crispy, Yum!

canola oil for frying
1 package of wonton wrappers (a 16 ounce package contains 50 wontons)
ripe bananas cut into thin slices (I use apple bananas here in Hawaii)
cinnamon and brown sugar, mixed

macadamia butter (recipe below)

Ingredients for macadamia butter:
1 cup crushed macadamia nuts, toasted a couple of minutes in a dry skillet
butter, softened
brown sugar

To make macadamia butter, simply place toasted macadamia nuts in a food processor with a little butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. Process until they are finely chopped, but not too fine. To assemble, fill a small cereal bowl with water. Place one wonton on a plate. Place two thin slices of banana and about 1/2 teaspoon of macadamia-nut butter in the middle of the wonton. Dip your finger in the water and coat the outside edges of the wonton with a little water. Then pull two opposite corners together and squeeze the points of the wonton to seal. Repeat this step with the other two corners. Finally press together the edges to completely seal the pillow. Continue this process until you have as many pillows as you want. 

In a small pot or wok, heat about 1 1/2 inches of canola oil to 360˚F. Fry pillows, one at a time, until golden brown, turning often with a slotted spoon. It should be ready when it is a light golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Place hot pillow on a paper towel lined plate and while still hot, sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon and brown sugar. Make as many as you like, but remember to eat them while they are hot and crispy. 

Note: Leftover wontons can be easily cut into 1/4" ribbons with a sharp knife, then fried and sprinkled with a little salt. Put these over salads, like Oriental Chicken Salad, or you can sprinkle leftover cinnamon and brown sugar on the fried wonton ribbons and serve them for dessert over orange sherbet.

Ono Hawaiian Lace Cookies

1/2 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Grease 1-2 cookie sheets. With a sharp knife, food processor, or blender, chop the nuts as finely as possible. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients and the almonds. Drop teaspoonfuls, 2 1/2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake until golden around the edges, about 5 minutes. Cool on the cookie sheets briefly, just until the cookies are stiff enough to lift off. With a metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely. Makes 18 cookies.

Kīlauea Chocolate Lava Cookies
Kīlauea is an active volcano on the island of Hawaii. The cracked dark chocolate surface plus the slight warmth of cayenne pepper, and the red sugar dust in these cookies reminds me of the lava from this volcano, and was my inspiration for this recipe.

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
4 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup packed, light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
red sugar dust (I add red food coloring to sugar or you can buy it already made)

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate together, whisking until glossy and smooth. Alternately, the butter and chocolate can be melted in the microwave (in a microwave-safe bowl) in 25-second increments, whisking between each interval. Cool the chocolate mixture to room temperature. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand-held mixer), beat the brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract and eggs on low speed until well combined. Pour in the cooled chocolate and continue to mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, chili powder, baking soda, salt and cayenne pepper. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate batter and mix on low speed until just combined and no visible flour remains. Fold in the chocolate chips with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. 

Working in two batches, scoop 12 balls of dough (preferably using a small ice cream scoop with a spring handle, about 1 1/2 tablespoon size) onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, leaving at least 1 1/2 inches of space between each cookie. Bake the cookies, one pan at a time, for approximately 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking time. The cookies should be puffy and still fairly soft when removed from the oven. Immediately slide the cookies, still on the parchment paper, onto a wire cooling rack, brush with red sugar dust, so that it goes in the cracks like red hot lava. Cool just a bit before serving, 5 to 10 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Granny's Island Cookies
Granny's Island Cookies
Click on photo to view larger
One day I was looking for a good oatmeal cookie recipe. I started out with a basic recipe and kept adding ingredients until I made it uniquely Hawaiian, just like Granny would make. Alongside a tall glass of milk, these cookies are really delicious, and are easy to make, crispy yet soft and chewy, and full of Aloha.

1 stick (4 ounces) butter, melted (15 seconds in the microwave)
1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark molasses
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1 cup chopped pecans or macadamia nuts
1/2 cup uncooked, quick-1 minute Quaker oats
1/2 cup dried fruit (pineapple, golden raisins, chopped cranberries, or apricots)

Cream together the butter, and sugars. Add egg, vanilla and molasses, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl,, sift together flour, soda, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Add to above. Stir in remaining ingredients. Note: mixture will be very thick, sticky and hard to stir. Scoop dough out by large rounded teaspoons full (about the size of a golf ball), onto 2 large, un-greased, foil lined baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch of space between cookie dough so they can spread without touching each other. Bake in a preheated 375˚F oven for about 15 to 18 minutes. Halfway through cooking, change the position of the cookie sheets to help prevent burning on the bottom of the cookies. When cooked, slide the hot cookies, with the foil, on to cooling racks to cool for 1/2 hour. Store in an air-tight container.  Makes about 18", 2" wide, Chef's Hawaiian cookies.

*You can make your own pumpkin pie spice by blending: 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 2 teaspoons nutmeg, 1/1/2 teaspoons ground allspice and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves, or you can purchase it from: This spice makes a great gift, along with this cookie recipe. It can also be used in your pumpkin pie recipe, mixed into applesauce, as a topping for sweet potatoes, mixed into pancake or waffle batter, stirred into oatmeal, or sprinkled in your coffee for a pumpkin spice latte. also sells spice bottles.

Mango-Macadamia Nut Cookies
with Spiced Icing
Mango and macadamia nuts are Hawaiian culinary icons. Combine this with a spicy icing and you have a tropical blend that everyone will love.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dried mango, coarsely chopped (use apricot if you can't find mango)
2 1/4 cup crushed macadamia nuts, toasted a couple of minutes in a dry skillet

Spiced Icing:
2 cups confectioner's sugar
4 tablespoons nonfat milk 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ginger

For the Cookies: In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg. Stir in the flour until just blended. Mix in the chopped mango and toasted macadamia nuts. Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a log, about 12-inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the dough in the plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line 2 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the dough log crosswise into 1/4 to 1/2 inch-thick slices. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets, spacing evenly apart. Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges, about 15 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

For the Icing: Place the confectioners' sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Gradually whisk in milk, then cinnamon, cloves and ginger, until the mixture is of drizzling consistency. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet. Using a spoon or fork, drizzle the cookies with the icing, allowing any excess icing to drip onto the baking sheet. Allow the icing to set before serving, about 30 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Ginger & Spice Cookies
Ginger bread and ginger snaps all wrapped up in these spice cookies. They are one of my favorites.
Ginger & Spice Cookies
To view larger, click on image

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon table salt

Combine the butter and 1 cup of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Beat in the egg and molassas. Sift the flour, soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt together onto a piece of parchment paper. Add the butter mixture, beating just until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 2 to 3 hours. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a pie plate. Shape the dough into walnut-size balls and roll in the sugar. to coat. Arrange 1 1/2 inches apart on parchment paper lined baking sheets and bake until cracked and dry but still soft, about 15 minutes. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to cool on wire racks. Makes about 4 dozen small cookies.

Pineapple Star Cookies 
with Caramel Sauce
Pineapples are a symbol of welcome and friendship here in Hawaii. I think your friends will welcome these beautiful Pineapple Star Cookies.

3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 tablespoon pineapple juice
1 20 ounce can pineapple rings
12 Maraschino Cherries, cut in half

Ingredients for caramel sauce:
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup 
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whisk together the flour and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed. Add the egg the vanilla, the pineapple, and the pineapple juice and beat until smooth. Slowly add the flour mixture and continue to beat until just combined. Place a tablespoon of cookie dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet and press down on dough to form a 2" circle. Place 1/2 of a Maraschino cherry into the center of the dough. Cut a pineapple ring into eight equal pieces and press 5 of the pieces into the top of the cookie. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough, cherries and pineapple rings. Bake at 300˚F for 15-18 minutes or until very lightly browned. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

To make caramel sauce: Mix the water, sugar and light corn syrup in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cover and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a medium brown, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Watch it carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly. Stand back to avoid splattering, and gradually add the cream and vanilla extract. Simmer until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Drizzle sauce between the pineapple slices of each cookie. Makes 1 1/2 cups of sauce.

Moloka'i Mocha Mama Cookies
I'm mad about the famous Moloka'i iced drink served at coffees of Hawaii called a "Mocha Mama". These cookies have the same combination of sweet mocha flavors.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, soft
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft
1 1/3 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs, large
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
1/2 cup crushed macadamia nuts, toasted a couple of minutes in a dry skillet

Ingredients for Mocha Mama Icing:
1 box confectioners sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/3 cup cold coffee (about)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease cookie sheet and set aside. Combine, flour, soda and salt in small bowl, set aside. In a large bowl combine butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, blending well. Next add vanilla extract and the espresso coffee. Add the flour mixture slowly, 1/3 at a time, until well blended. Mix in the chocolate and fold in the nuts. Drop 2 tablespoons batter onto the prepared cookie sheets. Allow room for spreading. Bake 12 minutes. Remove from pan and place on wire rack to cool. 

To make Icing: Sift sugar, cocoa and salt. Cream butter and shortening with vanilla. Gradually add sugar mixture alternately with coffee until the mixture is of drizzling consistency. Place the wire rack over a baking sheet. Using a spoon or fork, drizzle the cookies with the icing, allowing any excess icing to drip onto the baking sheet. Allow the icing to set before serving, about 30 minutes. Makes about 3 cups of icing, and 2 dozen cookies.

Tahitian Lime Sugar Cookies
Tahitian limes are the variety of the limes found here in Hawaii, but you can use whatever you have for this recipe. These cookies are irresistible, with a chewy butteriness and a big hit of lime.

3/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar, divided
zest of 2 limes (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature*
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour

Ingredient for Lime Icing:
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon lime zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Beat butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and lime zest on medium speed with an electric mixer fitted with a paddle until lightly creamed. Add sour cream, and beat just until blended. Stir in egg yolks and lime juice, scraping down sides of bowl. Add salt, baking powder, and flour, and beat until blended. Chill dough 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar, and place on baking sheets. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until edges begin to brown; bottoms will look light golden. (For crispier cookies, bake a few additional minutes.) Remove to wire racks to cool.

Note: *Remove eggs from refrigerator, and place in a bowl for 30 minutes. To make the icing: whisk together the powdered sugar, lime zest, and lemon juice until smooth. Once out of the oven, allow cookies to cool completely on a wire rack before icing. Using a fork, drizzle glaze over the tops of each cookie. Let sit 1 hour to allow glaze to firm up. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Mango-Chocolate Chip Aloha Cookies
Mango is the most popular fruit in the world, and Hawaii has the best mangos. Hawaiian chocolate has a unique flavor and is produced in the Kona region of the Island of Hawaii. Combining the tropical flavor of mango with the classic chocolate chip cookie, makes this a cookie with Aloha.

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon small-medium coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup diced fresh mango

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper and set aside. Cream butter, sugar, and brown sugar until it is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Beat for an additional 2 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips until well distributed. Gently fold in the mango chunks. Drop about 2 tablespoons of dough or use a medium cookie scoop and plop the batter onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the edges are nice and golden brown. Remove from heat and allow the cookies to stay on the cookie sheet for an additional 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire cooling rack and cool completely. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Note: To buy Hawaiian Chocolate, log on to this site:

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.

Macadamia Pin-Wheel Cookies
Puff pastry really makes these pin-wheel cookies flaky, buttery and wonderful, and easy to make. They are great with a hot cup of Kona coffee in the morning.

1 sheet of puff pastry
2 tablespoon butter, melted
3 tablespoon brown sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup toffee bits (I use "Hershey's / Heath Bits 'O Brickle Toffee Bits" found at or Walmart)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup crushed macadamia nuts
1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash

Defrost puff pastry according to instructions. Lightly cover work surface with flour and roll out puff pastry. Brush puff pastry with melted butter. Sift brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on top of puff pastry. Place toffee bits, chopped macadamia nuts and chocolate chips in a bowl and toss. Sprinkle mixture on top of brown sugar and cinnamon. Starting from the bottom, roll pastry into a log. Brush top edge with egg wash to seal log. Brush egg wash all over log. Slice log into 1/2 inch pieces. Place pinwheels on parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving 1" of space between cookies for expansion. Bake at 375˚F for 14-16 minutes or until pin-wheel cookies turn golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 1 dozen cookies.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cookies
Peanut butter and jelly are as popular here in Hawaii as it is on the mainland. This recipe will not only please the kids, but the adults as well. This is one my favorite cookies.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cookies
Click on photo to view larger
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup for rolling the dough
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup extra chunky peanut butter (I use Jiffy brand)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all purpose flour
1 large jar of the jelly of your choice (I use Smucker's seedless raspberry)
Parchment paper

In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter, shortening and sugars, then mix in peanut butter, eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and flour. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the sugar/butter mixture. Beat until thoroughly combined.

Next place a long sheet of plastic wrap on your kitchen counter and place half of the cookie mixture into a long row in the middle of the plastic wrap. Fold the wrap tightly over the cookie dough. Repeat this process with the other half of the dough, then put the two dough logs into your refrigerator for 2 hours. This process will make handling the dough while forming the cookies much easier.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat your oven to 350˚F. Now line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar into a plate. Unwrap the chilled dough and make balls using about 1 tablespoon of dough per ball. Roll the balls completely in the sugar. Place each ball on the parchment lined cookie sheets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of space between the balls, as they will spread while cooking. Take a fork and gently press lines into the top of the cookie balls, first horizontal then vertical, creating a patern on top of each cookie.

Place the cookie sheets into the heated oven on two different shelves toward the top of your oven. Cook for 5 minutes, then open the oven and switch around the cookie sheets so the bottom is now on the top. This will ensure even browning on the bottom of the cookies. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove cookies to cool for about 30 minutes. Decorate the top of each cookie with a dab of your favorite jelly. Makes about 60 cookies.

Note: You can freeze the dough to cook the cookies at a later date. Just put the logs into a zip-loc freezer bag.

Moloka'i Coconut Shortbread Cookies
These rich and buttery coconut shortbread cookies are great for gift giving... if you can stand to part with them, and they are very easy to make!

1 cup butter, softened (8 ounces)
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (optional, but it gives the cookies a little more coconut flavor)
2 cups all-purpose flour (measured after sifting)
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut (toasted)
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted (or more as needed, for coating after baking)

Heat oven to 250˚ F. Spread the coconut evenly on a baking sheet, transfer to the oven and bake until just golden, about 10 minutes (keep an eye on the coconut so that it doesn't burn. Set aside to cool.

Cream the butter until smooth. Add granulated sugar, vanilla, and coconut extract (if using), creaming again until smooth and slightly fluffy.

Sift flour and then measure the 2 cups of flour. Add salt to flour and sift again.
Gradually add to the creamed butter mixture until you have added all the flour and mixture is smooth.

Mix the toasted coconut into the cookie dough.

Shape into a one and half (1.5) inch diameter roll and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until it the dough is firm, about 2-4 hours, or for several days until ready to use. May be frozen for later baking.

Using a sharp knife, cut 1/4 inch slices from the cookie dough roll and place on a very lightly greased cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart.

Bake at 300˚F for about 20 minutes, until a light golden brown at edges, but not browned entirely across the top.

Cool cookies on sheet just until they are set, easy to remove and have cooled slightly, usually about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove cookies with a spatula and place on the 1 cup of powdered sugar that you have sifted onto a piece of wax paper or similar surface. Cover cookies with powdered sugar on all sides by sifting more sugar over them or "rolling" them in the sugar. After they have cooled and the powdered sugar has "set", you can coat them with more powdered sugar if you would like. Cool completely and then store in an airtight container. Makes 36 cookies.

Sep 10, 2012

The Exotic Dragon Fruit

The Exotic Dragon Fruit
Click on photo to view larger
Sliced dragon fruit with little black seeds and sweet white flesh
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The exotic dragon fruit is grown here in Hawaii as well as Mexico, Central and South America, Israel, and Southeast Asia. This avocado-sized oval fruit actually grows on a climbing cactus with beautiful flowers that bloom only at night. The fruit from this cactus may be red, peach-colored or yellow. The spongy flesh is white or sometimes pinkish red. The flavor of the Dragon fruit is as exotic as it's appearance, mildly sweet and crunchy because of the little seeds, much like a cross between a kiwi fruit and a pear. To prepare dragon fruit for eating, cut it in half lengthwise, to expose the flesh, then you run a tablespoon around the circumference of the sections to separate the flesh from the skin, much like an avocado. The flesh is diced and eaten by itself or mixed with other fruits in a tropical fruit salad (pomegranate seeds go very nicely with it, and make a beautiful presentation). The skin is discarded because it is inedible, or it can be used as a serving cup for the fruit, see recipe below. The flesh of the fruit can also be converted into juice or wine, used to flavor beverages, or you can combine it with sugar and freeze into sorbets and sherbets. The flowers can be eaten or steeped as tea. Dragon fruit is low in calories and offers numerous nutrients, including Vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, plus fiber and antioxidants. So now you know all about the exotic dragon fruit.

Dragon fruit salad with lime and honey
click on photo to view larger
Dragon Fruit Salad with Lime and Honey
1 dragon fruit, chilled

watercress leaves
2 tablespoons honey
pomegranate seeds for garnish (optional)
2 teaspoons freshly-squeezed lime juice

Cut dragon fruit in half, lengthwise. Gently scoop out the white center fruit. Cut the white fruit in chunks. Reserve the red dragon fruit peel as a serving bowl. Add fruit in medium bowl, and drizzle with honey, then gently toss together. To serve, use the fruit peel as the bowl, add watercress leaves around the edge of peel bowl, then dragon fruit cubes. Squeeze fresh lime juice over the top, and serve. Makes 2 servings.

White Dragon
1 ripe dragon fruit
1/3 cup vodka
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lime juice
2 to 3 tablespoons white sugar, to taste
2-3 ice cubes
1/4 cup coconut milk
garnishes: dragon fruit wedge

Prepare your dragon fruit by scooping out all of the flesh - see How to Prepare Dragon Fruit for Eating.
Place dragon fruit flesh in blender or food processor. Add all other ingredients and blitz 20 to 30 seconds on high speed. Taste-test for desired strength and sweetness, adding more vodka if not strong enough, or more sugar if you'd prefer it sweeter (note that the sweetness will also depend on the ripeness of your dragon fruit - the riper, the sweeter it will taste). If too sweet for your taste, add another squeeze of lime juice. If too strong for your liking, add more coconut milk. Pour out into martini glasses and garnish with a slice of dragon fruit. Makes 4 drinks.

Green Dragon
2 tablespoons fresh dragon fruit flesh
12-15 mint leaves
2 ounces white rum or vodka
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
3 ounces tonic or soda water
a splash of cranberry juice, just enough to give this drink a nice pink color

In the bottom of a glass, muddle the dragon fruit flesh, mint leaves, and lime juice until well combined and fragrant. Add the vodka to the glass and stir to combine. Add ice to the glass and top with tonic or soda water. Add a splash of cranberry juice for color, and garnish with a lime wedge and extra mint leaves. Makes 1 drink.

Orange Dragon
1 dragon fruit
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
6 ounces light rum

Cut dragon fruit in half and scoop out the flesh. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.   Fill a shaker and 4 glasses with ice. Use a 1.5 ounce shot glass to measure 1 part rum and 3 parts of the dragon fruit puree per cocktail. Shake well and pour over ice. Makes 4 drinks.

Dragon Fruit & Coconut Ice Cream
2 cups dragon fruit (about 4 dragon fruit)
1 cup sugar
1 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cups cream
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Combine everything in a food processor and blend. Pour into an electric ice cream maker and process for about 30 minutes. Put into plastic containers and freeze for at least 3 hours. Makes 2 pints.

Sep 7, 2012

Talking Teriyaki

Skillet Chicken Teriyaki
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What is teriyaki? It's a way of Japanese cooking. The word, teriyaki is a combination of two Japanese words "teri" and "yaki." Teri means shiny, and yaki means to grill or broil. To make a teriyaki dish, ingredients are broiled, roasted, or grilled after being marinated in or basted by teriyaki sauce. It's the teriyaki sauce that brings the shiny look (teri) to the ingredients. You can buy teriyaki sauce in a bottle at the grocery store, but authentic Japanese teriyaki sauce is very easy to make. To make traditional teriyaki sauce, basically soy sauce, mirin, and sugar are used. The most important ingredient is mirin, which is a Japanese sweet white wine. If you cannot find mirin you may substitute sake with a little extra sugar or honey. Mirin adds luster to ingredients. Teriyaki sauce can be used for glazing and marinating meats and vegetables.

Traditional Japanese Teriyaki Sauce
1 cup mirin (Japanese sweet white wine)
1 cup soy sauce
4 tablespoons sugar

Place all ingredients in a pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer until all of the sugar has dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Makes 2 cups.

My Teriyaki Sauce
My teriyaki sauce has a more complex flavor but is very easy to make.
1 cup of fresh minced pineapple or pineapple juice
1 cup of Tamari soy sauce*
1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water

In a blender, combine all ingredients except cornstarch and water. Blend until combined. In small bowl, mix cornstarch and cold water. With fork, break apart all the cornstarch clumps until liquid is smooth (cornstarch slurry).Transfer teriyaki liquid to sauce pan. Heat up on medium high heat until hot and bubbly. Remove sauce pan from heat and immediately stir in cornstarch water mixture. Stir rapidly until sauce thickens. Allow to cool. Makes about 3 cups of teriyaki sauce. *Note: Although soy sauce and tamari [tuh-MAHR-ee] are both made from fermented soybeans, Japanese tamari is thicker, darker, richer, and less salty than its counterpart. It has a more complex, smooth flavor than regular soy sauce.

Baked Teriyaki Chicken Thighs
2 1/2 pounds chicken thighs, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 garlic cloves, minsed
1 1/2 inch fresh ginger, crushed
1/4 cup green onions

Rinse and pat dry chicken thighs.

Add remaining ingredients in a medium size bowl. Mix together until sugar dissolves. Place chicken in a freezer bag and add teriyaki marinade. Soak chicken overnight in marinade. Turn and mix chicken in marinade several times during this time.

Pour the marinade into a small pot and simmer for 30 minutes, or until it has thickened. Taste the marinade and adjust if necessary. Meanwhile, bake the chicken pieces in shallow pan covered with foil, at 325˚F for 45 minutes.

Now pour the hot marinade over the chicken and continue cooking for fifteen minutes.

Top with green onions and serve with white rice. 

Makes 3 to 6 servings.

Skillet Chicken Teriyaki
8 chicken thighs
canola oil for frying
1/3 cup sake for steaming

Teriyaki Sauce Marinade
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sake (Japanese rice wine)
1 tablespoon mirin (Japanese sweet white wine)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 onion, grated, including juice
1 inch ginger, grated, including juice

Combine teriyaki sauce marinade ingredients in a bowl or Ziploc bag. Add chicken thighs and marinate for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator. Remove chicken from marinade, saving the marinade. Heat 3 or 4 tablespoons of canola oil in a large skillet on medium high. When hot, place the chicken pieces in skillet and cook until nicely browned on both sides. Now add the sake and cook covered for 8-10 minutes. Remove cover and cook about 2- 3 minutes. Then turn chicken over and add the reserved teriyaki marinade over the chicken. Cook until the sauce is reduced a bit, spooning sauce over chicken as it reduces. Serve the chicken with the sauce and rice and snow peas. Makes 4 servings.

Teriyaki Chicken Sushi Balls
1 1/2 cups short grain rice, cooked
2 pieces boneless chicken thighs
basic teriyaki sauce (recipe below)
2 nori sheets
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3/4 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 egg lightly beaten
canola oil for deep frying

Teriyaki Sauce:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 clove garlic
1 piece fresh ginger crushed

Prepare teriyaki sauce by combining all ingredients. Set 1/3 of the sauce aside for later use. Use remaining sauce to marinade chicken overnight. Prepare rice seasoning by combining rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl, mix and set aside. Prepare and cook sushi rice, when cooked, season with seasoning liquid. Mix and fluff rice, cover with dish towel and set aside to cool. Cook chicken on the grill or broil in oven for 10-12 minutes or until fully cooked. Cut nori (seaweed) sheets into 3"x3" squares.

Place about 1 tablespoon of teriyaki chicken onto nori squares, moist the edges and fold. Take some seasoned sushi rice and form a round ball around the piece of nori-wrapped chicken. Heat up oil in a deep pan or wok to 370˚F. Roll sushi balls into the lightly beaten egg then into panko bread crumbs. Gently drop the sushi balls into hot oil and fry for about 20 seconds or until its golden in color. Makes 8 to 10 sushi balls.

Sweet Potato Fries with Teriyaki Mayonnaise
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4" thick French fry sticks
canola oil for frying
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce, store bought or make your own (see post "Talking Teriyaki") 
1/2 cup mayonnaise


Peel sweet potatoes, cut into French fry sticks. Fry in oil until crispy. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with a little salt. Mix 1/2 cup Teriyaki Sauce with 1/2 cup mayonnaise for a dipping sauce. Makes 6 servings.