Oct 26, 2012

The Hawaiian Octopus

"He'e", Hawaiian for Octopus
Octopus is not something most Westerners eat on a regular basis, unless they frequent sushi bars. I guess it's mind over matter. There's something very strange about eating the tentacle of an octopus with its suction cups. Once you've gotten over the idea, octopus is actually very good, and has become one of my favorite seafoods. In Hawaii, and particularly here on Moloka'i, hunting for and eating octopus is very common, and has been since the ancient Hawaiians were here. The Hawaiian word of octopus is "he'e", but they are usually called "squid" locally. He'e can be caught by hand, speared, or tricked out of their holes with a special lure made with a large cowry shell. There are over 70 different types of octopus found in Hawaiian waters. The most frequently seen is the day octopus, or he'e mauli, probably because, as the common name might suggest, they are more active during the daytime and retreat into their lairs (holes in the reef) at night. He'e mauli are found from shallow water to at least 150 feet deep, and geographically span the Tropical Indo-West Pacific region from Hawaii to East Africa. Compared to the giant octopus of the Pacific Northwest, which reaches weights of 90 pounds, the Hawaiian he'e mauli are small, perhaps reaching a maximum arm span of two to three feet and maximum weight of 10 pounds. Hawaiian octopus are, none-the-less, a very popular food item and are sought after by local fishermen.

Octopus is eaten in many cultures, and is a common food in Mediterranean and Portuguese cuisine. It is also a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine, including sushi, takoyaki, and akashiyaki. In Korea, some small species are sometimes eaten alive as a novelty food. A live octopus is usually sliced up, and it is eaten while still squirming. Most Westerners would turn their noises up at this.

Preparing He'e (Octopus):
Tenderizing: He'e is very tough and must be tenderized. I have heard that some locals here in Hawaii actually have cement mixers that they use solely for the purpose of tenderizing he'e. The traditional way to tenderize fresh he'e is to stand beside a rock, which is at your feet level. Grab the he'e by its head, putting your two fingers under the head to hold it (it's slippery!) Bring the he'e up high over your head and throw it down hard with all your strength onto a piece of concrete slab or a rock. Do this beating action 3, 4 or 5 times (you will notice that the he'e contract or tense up.) Then, holding onto the head, you need to rub it with sea salt or lomi (massage), and swirl it around on the rock for a minute or so. Repeat these two actions again - beating and rubbing for about 20 minutes. The he'e is ready when you throw it down and it just flops on the rock - not contracting and there is no more slime coming out of it. Then rinse the octopus in the sea to remove any remaining slime. Ok, now that you know how they used to tenderize fresh he'e, today it is believed that freezing it actually does pretty much the same thing as all of the steps above, however it is best not to freeze he'e for more than 2 days for the best flavor.

To clean fresh he'e, rinse in cold water. Locate the beak and cut off the tentacles below the beak. Discard the head. Some people skin the he'e, using a very sharp and flexible knife for this, but in Hawaii the thin skin is usually eaten. Finally, rinse in cold water again.

To cook: I like to braise my fresh he'e rather than boil it. When you boil it, much of the flavor is lost in the water, braising he'e in their own juices over low heat concentrates the flavor and renders it dense and delicious, not rubbery. The first step is to defrost the he'e completely in the refrigerator, then add olive oil to a medium/large pot. When braising he'e, it should need no other liquid. All you have to do is put it in the pot over high heat, turning the he'e several times for about 5-8 minutes until the liquid is released from the he'e (the meat in the arms of the he'e contains about 85% water). Then reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover. He'e needs to be braised slowly for about two hours. On occasion, the liquid can totally evaporate as every he'e is different or you simply had the heat on too high. If this occurs, you may add a cup of water at a time. Some locals add a can of beer, or soy sauce, but I like to add a little white wine or sake. After two hours of slow cooking, poke the he'e with a toothpick to make sure it is tender. You should end up with about 2 cups of liquid in the pot. At this point you can follow the recipes below, or grill the he'e by rubbing it with olive oil, a little sea salt, cracked black pepper and some oregano. Place it on a pre-heated grill for a quick sear on all sides, then slice and squeeze lime juice all over it. 

Tako Poke
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Popular He'e Recipes:

Tako Poke
Tako is the Japanese word for octopus. This recipe is very popular in Hawaii, and is one of my favorites.

1 pound tako, braised and finely sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1/4 cup finely julienned green onions
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup shoyu, or Tamari sauce
chili sauce, to taste
Hawaiian salt

Braise your octopus as directed in the instructions above. Thinly slice the cooked octopus on the bias. In a small mixing bowl combine tako with remaining ingredients. Season to taste. Chill and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Squid Luau
Hawaiian dish made of octopus (called squid or he'e in Hawaii) and luau leaves cooked in coconut leaves until tender.

2 pounds luau leaves (leaves from the taro plant)
2 cups water
2 cups coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 pounds braised squid or octopus

Braise your octopus as directed in the instructions above. Wash the luau leaves thoroughly. Remove stems and fibrous parts of veins. Place washed leaves in large pot and add water. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for one hour, stirring frequently. Cut braised octopus (squid) into thin slices on the bias. Drain luau thoroughly then stir in coconut milk, salt and squid. Heat but do not boil. Serves 6 people.

Octopus Adobo
A very common Filipino dish. Traditionally served cooked with the ink sack still intact.

1 pound baby octopus, cleaned
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup cane vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
garnish: chopped green onion

In a mixing bowl; combine garlic, vinegar, water, soy sauce, sugar, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Marinate octopus 1 hour or overnight. In a skillet over medium high heat; saute onions in oil. Add squid/octopus with liquid. Continue to cook over medium high heat until no juices remain, about 10-15 minutes. Do not overcook. Garnish with green onion. Makes 3-4 servings.

Portuguese Octopus Rice Stew
1- 3 pound braised octopus
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
a pinch of crushed and dried chili pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups short grain rice
4 cups cooking broth (save the water where you boiled the octopus)
1/4 cup finelly chopped cilantro

Braise your octopus as directed in the instructions above. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a separate pot. Add the chopped onion, garlic, bay leaf, parsley and chili peppers. Cook until the onions are translucent. When the octopus is nearly tender place it in a plate reserving the cooking water. Cut the tentacles in bite size pieces and transfer to the onions. Add the rice and stir until all is combined. Mix in the tomato paste. Pour in about 4 and half cups of cooking broth. If you don’t have enough broth, add some water to make up the difference. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the rice for 12 to 15 minutes until the rice is tender. Mix in the cilantro and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Spanish Octopus Tapas
2 pounds braised octopus
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 chopped garlic cloves
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 lemons

Braise your octopus as directed in the instructions above. Meanwhile, put the salt, pepper, paprika and garlic in a mortar and pound it until it is a paste. Slowly add the olive oil, stirring and mashing all the while. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, you could use a food processor, but the texture will be different. When the octopus is tender and still warm, cut into chunks, put into a large bowl and toss with the sauce. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into the bowl and toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature with slices of lemon. Makes 4-6 servings.

Octopus Salad with Arugula
1 pound braised, cooled octopus
1 small red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon drained capers
2 tablespoons sliced pitted calamata olives
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, coarsely chopped
1 bunch arugula, rinsed and dried

Braise your octopus as directed in the instructions above. Slice the cooled octopus into thin pieces and put them in a bowl. Add the onion, celery, capers and olives and mix. Mix the oil, vinegar and salt and pepper together. Pour over the octopus mixture and toss lightly. Allow to marinate at room temperature at least an hour. Just before serving, fold in the parsley and check seasoning. Serve on a bed of arugula. Makes 4 servings.

Veracruz Shrimp and Octopus Cocktail
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Tobasco sauce, or to taste
1 pound braised octopus, cut into small slices
1 pound small shrimp, peeled and boiled for 3 minutes until pink
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 large white onion, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ripe avocado
1 lime cut into 8 wedges for garnish
corn tortilla chips

Braise your octopus as directed in the instructions above. Combine ketchup and hot sauce in a small bowl and set aside. Combine shrimp, octopus, cilantro, lime juice, onions, garlic, and three-fourths of the ketchup mixture in a large bowl, mix well. Season to taste with salt. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, pit, peel, and slice the avocado. Spoon cocktail into small bowls or martini glasses and top each with avocado slices and a spoonful of remaining ketchup mixture. Garnish with lime wedges. Serve with corn tortilla chips on the side. Makes 8 servings.

Aloha He'e Ceviche
1 pound braised octopus, chopped
1 cup green onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh corn
1 mango, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup passion fruit juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Hawaiian hot chili water or Tabasco sauce or to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil

Braise your octopus as directed in the instructions above. Cut braised he'e tentacles into pieces. Mix the green onion, garlic, chopped red and green peppers, corn, fruit, and juices. Add salt, pepper, Tabasco, and olive oil to taste, then add the octopus. Let stand in refrigerator to cool for 1 hour before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Mediterranean Octopus Stew
1-2 pound octopus, braised and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
6 medium sized onions (chopped)
6 tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
2 stalks of celery, chopped
6 large potatoes (cut in thick slices)
8 cloves of garlic (crushed)
8 olives (pitted and chopped)
1 tablespoon capers
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
a few sprigs fresh mint
a pinch of dried thyme
¼ bottle red wine

Braise your octopus as directed in the instructions above, then cut into bite-sized pieces. Saute the onions in olive oil. When they soften, add the tomatoes, celery and garlic. As soon as the tomatoes start to soften, mix in all herbs, olives and capers. Add octopus pieces to the pan. Increase the temperature to boiling and add the potatoes and red wine, lower the heat and simmer slowly until the liquid reduces considerably. Serve with hot crusty bread. Makes 4-6 servings.

Oct 23, 2012


Madagascar Vanilla Beans
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For centuries, vanilla has been one of the most familiar flavors in western cuisine, and is commonly used to flavor desserts, beverages, milk products, and coffee. Vanilla beans are grown in many countries, but vanilla from Madagascar, know as "Bourbon" vanilla, is the variety favored by chefs around the world because of its high 'vanillin' content. Hawaii also grows vanilla beans, but there are less than a handful of vanilla growers here and only two are working on a large scale. These farms are located on the Island of Maui and the Big Island.

All vanillas are not equal. Pure vanilla extract contains premium vanilla bean extractives, distilled water, 35% alcohol and 3% sugar to soften the harsh nose of the alcohol. Alcohol is the most effective way to extract flavor from vanilla beans, and the alcohol will evaporate when heated in cooking or baking. Liquid vanilla products made without alcohol are called vanilla flavoring, or imitation vanilla, and are made with chemicals and other ingredients that imitate the taste of vanilla but do not go through the same process therefore do not have vanilla’s true flavors. Amazingly, an estimated 95% of all vanilla products are artificially flavored.

Vanilla is one of the most labor intensive crops in the world. It takes three years for a vine to produce vanilla beans and even when it is ready to flower the pollination process must me done by hand. Then it takes another year for the bean to grow, be picked by hand, cured and shipped to its destination. This is why vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world... Saffron is the first. 

So what brand of vanilla extract is the best? Many people think vanilla extract made by Nielsen-Massey is the best. They also make an excellent vanilla bean paste, which is a good alternative to buying expensive vanilla beans. One of my favorite places to buy spices and vanilla is Penzey's. They make a double strength vanilla that's great for baking. I also highly recommend their spices, I use them all the time. You can get excellent vanilla products and prices from TheVanilla.COMpany. They sell their quality products wholesale to anyone.

Many people make their own homemade vanilla extract using 1 pint of premium quality vodka, rum, or brandy. Vodka has the least flavor to interfere with the taste of the vanilla. I've tried it using Maker's Mark Bourbon, because I love it. Then I Split five vanilla beans lengthwise down the center to expose the seeds, keeping the ends of the beans intact. Drop them into the bottle, leave it in a dark place for a 8 weeks, agitating it several times a week, and that's it. It's really not the same thing as pure vanilla extract, but it tastes good and it's kind of fun to give a gifts. You'll have to be the judge.

Mango Lassi
A thick, yogurt based, drink from India

2 cups plain, full-fat yogurt
1 cup ice cubes
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1" pieces, plus more for garnish
Vanilla ice cream or heavy cream, for topping (optional)

Purée yogurt, ice, milk, sugar, vanilla, and mangoes in a blender until smooth. Pour into glasses and top with 1–2 tablespoons ice cream or heavy cream if you like; garnish with additional mango. Makes 2-4 servings.

Vanilla-Cheese Spread with
Roasted Red Pepper and Pistachios
4 ounces each mild goat’s cheese and cream cheese
1 tablespoon light cream or sour cream (approximate)
1 vanilla bean cut open and scraped clean (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
2-3 bottled roasted red peppers* finely chopped
1 piece of roasted red pepper, sliced into slivers
1/2 cup shelled and toasted pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 fresh baguette, sliced into thin rounds
small pieces of parsley for garnish

Blend the cheeses with cream or sour cream, adding more if necessary to create a creamy spread. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the mixture or add extract. Add the chopped roasted red pepper, pistachios and salt and pepper to taste. Spread the mixture onto the fresh baguette slices, and decorate each round with the red pepper slivers and a small piece of parsley.

Vanilla Coconut Quick Bread
1 1/4 cups (about 2 1/2 ounces) shredded unsweetened coconut
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons coconut extract
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray; set aside. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet; toast, shaking the pan once, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Immediately transfer to a bowl and cool slightly.

Pineapple Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
1-1/2 - 2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
3 tablespoons vanilla (this is not a typo!)
2 cups zucchini, peeled, grated, and drained
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-8 ounce can ofcrushed pineapple, do not drain
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup golden raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Grease and flour 2 (9x5") loaf pans or 1-10" Bundt pan. Beat eggs until fluffy. Add sugar, oil and vanilla; blend well. Stir in zucchini. Sift dry ingredients and add to batter. Stir in pineapple with juice, nuts and raisins*. Mix well. Pour evenly into prepared pan(s). Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Note: coating the nuts and raisins with part of the flour helps to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the bread.

Carrot and Daikon Salad
I love this delicious blend of textures and colors and it's different than a coleslaw. It's great served with fried fish or chicken, or with Asian dishes. You can even add fresh spinach or watercress for a wonderful light main course.
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon tamari or other soy sauce
1 teaspoon agave or honey, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch or white or black pepper
4 large carrots, peeled
1 daikon radish, peeled (2 peeled turnips can be substituted)
2 scallions sliced thinly
1 tablespoon black or white sesame seeds

In a small bowl, combine ginger, oils, vinegar, soy sauce, agave, vanilla and pepper. Whisk to blend. Shred carrots and radish or turnips in a large bowl. Add dressing and mix well. This salad can be made several hours ahead of serving. Before serving, add sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature.

Pan Fried Pork Chops with Fresh Apples
4 loin or rib pork chops
3 large firm, sweet apples, cored, peeled and sliced into 12 slices*
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup apple juice or cider
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Pan cook pork chops until barely done. Place on a platter in a warm oven. Add butter and brown sugar to pan used to cook pork chops and set over medium heat. Stir butter and sugar to blend well and to allow to caramelize slightly and to loosen small pieces of the pork chops. Add apple juice or cider and apple slices. Cook apples just until done, then remove with a slotted spoon and set apples aside. Reduce the pan juices to two to three tablespoons. Remove from heat and add vanilla, salt and pepper. Add apples slices and return to heat until the apples are hot. Pour over the pork chops. Serve with rice or potatoes.* Summer apples such as Gravenstein will work in this recipe; you may need to add a little extra sugar.

Note: This recipe can also be made with papaya, mango, peaches or nectarines. You will need less sugar and less juice as these fruits have lots of natural juices.

Vanilla-Infused Golden Beets
1 large bunch of golden beets (about four large - red beets okay)
large pot of water
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise

Trim the tops and bottoms off the beets, then scrub well under cold, running water. Don't peel. Place beets in a large pot with cold water and 2 vanilla beans. Bring water to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Simmer beets approximately 1 hour or until beets are soft. Remove beets from water with a slotted spoon, and cool briefly under cold water. Save cooking liquid. Reduce cooking liquid with vanilla beans until there is a little less than 1 cup left. While liquid is reducing, peel beets and slice or dice. When the cooking liquid is reduced, remove vanilla beans and pour liquid over beets. This dish may be served hot or cold.

Note: Allow vanilla beans to dry, then grind in a coffee mill, put through a sieve, and mix into sugar for a flavorful vanilla sugar.

Mango Salsa
I like to add some fresh pineapple to this salsa. The combination of the mango and pineapple is amazing on grilled fish or poultry. If you want, you can add a little rum to the mix.
2 mangoes peeled and diced
1/2 - 3/4 cup peeled, diced cucumber
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 tablespoon lime juice (or to taste)
1 – 2 teaspoons honey (optional)
1/2 - 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
salt and pepper

Combine the mango, cucumber, jalapeno, red onion, lime juice and cilantro leaves and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Great served with pork, chicken or fish.

Mango and Vanilla Bean Jam
3 large mangoes, peeled
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 cups white sugar
2 vanilla beans, split lengthways

Cut mango flesh from stones and roughly chop. Place into a large, heat-proof microwave-safe bowl or jug with lemon juice and sugar. Stir well to combine. Scrape seeds from vanilla beans. Add seeds and pods to mango mixture. Microwave, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes on HIGH (100%) power, stirring every 10 minutes, or until setting point is reached (see note). Remove jam from microwave and stand for 10 minutes. Remove vanilla pods. Ladle hot jam into hot sterilized jars. Seal and turn upside down for 2 minutes. Turn upright and allow to cool. Label jars and store in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months. Once opened, store in fridge for up to 4 months. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Notes: The most accurate way to tell if jam is set is to use a sugar thermometer. Jam should reach 220˚F. Alternatively, remove jam from heat and place 1 teaspoon of jam onto a chilled saucer. Place into freezer for 1 to 2 minutes, or until jam is at room temperature. Run your finger through the jam. If the surface wrinkles and the jam stays in 2 separate portions, it's ready to bottle. If not, cook a little longer and re-test.

Honey & Spice Oranges
This recipe makes a simply delicious, and elegant light dessert after a heavy meal. The crystallized ginger adds a hot tropical flavor mixed with the honey and vanilla.
6 large Navel oranges, peeled and sliced into sections
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 teaspoons crystallized ginger, minced very fine (see recipe below)
6 mint sprigs for garnish

Peel the oranges and slice sections into a bowl. Combine the honey with the vanilla and drizzle over the orange sections. Let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature. Serve in martini glasses, sprinkled with crystallized ginger, then garnish with mint sprigs and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Crystallized Ginger
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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.

Honey Pears with Puff Pastry
4 small pears
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 cup honey
1 small lemon, halved
3 cinnamon sticks (3 inches)
6 to 8 whole cloves
1 vanilla bean
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

Core pears from bottom, leaving stems intact. Peel pears; cut 1/4 in. from the bottom of each to level if necessary. In a large saucepan, combine the water, sugar, honey, lemon halves, cinnamon and cloves. Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds; add bean and seeds to sugar mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; place pears on their sides in saucepan and poach, uncovered, for 18-22 minutes or until pears are almost tender, basting occasionally with poaching liquid. Remove pears with a slotted spoon; cool slightly. Strain and reserve 1-1/2 cups poaching liquid; set aside. Unfold puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 1/2-in.-wide strips. Starting at the bottom of a pear, wrap a pastry strip around pear, adding additional strips until pear is completely wrapped in pastry. Repeat with remaining pears and puff pastry. Transfer to a parchment-lined 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake at 400°F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile bring reserved poaching liquid to a boil; cook until liquid is thick and syrupy, about 10-15 minutes. Place pears on dessert plates and drizzle with syrup. Serve warm. Makes 4 servings.

Chocolate Coffee Ganache
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon coffee extract (or you can use 1/2 tablespoon instant coffee granules dissolved into 1 teaspoons warm water)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoons cognac or brandy (optional)

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium-sized heatproof bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. (Can also heat the cream and butter in the microwave.) Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand, without stirring, for a few minutes. Stir gently (as you do not want to incorporate air into the ganache) with a spoon or whisk until smooth. If desired, add the liqueur. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Note: Keep warm until ready to use, or let cool to room temperature and store in a container with a tight fitting lid in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Reheat chilled sauce over very low heat on stovetop or in the microwave until warm enough to pour easily. This sauce is wonderful served with pound cake, or over fresh fruit.

Oct 20, 2012

The Gluten-Free Diet

Gluten-Free Rolls
Photo and recipe from: glutenfreegirl.com
You probably have friends who are on a "gluten-free" diet, I know I do. These people have celiac disease, which is genetic and is a surprisingly common autoimmune disorder, affecting one in every 100 people in the United States, that's 3 million Americans. This disease can begin at any time in a person’s life, but no one knows exactly what causes it to become active. It’s important to remember that celiac disease is NOT a food allergy. Some practitioners call it an allergy as a shorthand way to explain why those with a diagnosis need to avoid certain foods, but that description is both misleading and dangerous. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, a category of diseases in which the body’s immune system attacks itself. The immune system reacts to a protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, and related proteins found in rye and barley. When even the smallest amount of gluten enters the digestive system, it sets in motion a cascade of inflammatory processes. The immune system begins to attack the body’s own tissue, resulting in damage to the small intestine. Celiac disease is treated entirely by making the right changes to your diet.

If you are on a gluten-free diet, you know that there are so many products and foods out there that contain gluten that we tend to overlook! Once you become familiar and confident with reading a product label and knowing exactly what to avoid, it will be much easier and your choices will no longer seem so limited. There is some great information about hidden sources of gluten in the book, "Healthier Without Wheat," which I would recommend checking out at Amazon.com. There is also a website that lists the best gluten-free products and a gluten beware list which can be found at: http://www.dietsinreview.com/diet_column/03/best-gluten-free-products-and-a-gluten-beware-list/.

Gluten-Free Soy Sauce
San-J Gluten-Free
Tamari Soy Sauce
Soy sauce is a staple in Asian cooking, especially here in Hawaii. Japanese soy sauces are primarily made with wheat and some component of soy. Therefore they are NOT gluten-free. I recently discovered "San-J Organic Gluten and Wheat Free Tamari Soy Sauce Platinum" that is certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Association. It tastes exactly like regular soy sauce. You can buy this product on Amazon.com for $4.29 for a 10 ounce bottle. 
"The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen"
by Laura B. Russell

I also found this cookbook that I highly recommend if you like Asian food, but Asian food that is gluten-free. It's called "The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen", by writer Laura B. Russell, and is also available on Amazon.com for $15.63. 

More resources and products are coming out every day for celiac disease, and with the large consumer-packaged goods companies getting on-board, the gluten-free marketplace is evolving. As I become aware of these new products, I will add them to this list, so check back to this post.

'Ulu, Hawaiian Breadfruit
Read about breadfruit in my January, 2012 post

Naan flat bread,
made from gluten-free flour

Photo from celiac.com
Making Gluten-Free Flour From Breadfruit
'Ulu, as it is named in Hawaiian, 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. The breadfruit, Artocarpus altilis, is a species of flowering tree in the mulberry family, and is commonly referred to as "loaves of bread on trees". Breadfruit also happens to be gluten-free! In Jamaica, chips are being made from breadfruit, dried and processed into gluten-free flour which is used to make pancakes, flat bread and tortillas. You can read about this new discovery at this website. Also in Haiti, a company called Signa-Haiti is actually selling breadfruit flour now, check out their website, they also have recipes. One other site to visit is www.celiac.com to read more about breadfruit flour. VERY INTERESTING, Hawaii should be doing this!

Gluten-Free Flour Mix
This gluten-free flour mix recipe from tasteofhome.com can be used in place of regular wheat flour in recipes for cakes, cookies, muffins, etc.
2 cups white rice flour
2/3 cup potato starch flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour
2 tablespoons xanthan gum

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 1 year. Yield: 3 cups.

Banana Bread That's Gluten-Free
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup chopped dates
4 large eggs
2 cups mashed, very ripe bananas (about 4)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
11/2 cups brown rice flour*
1/2 cup sorghum flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped walnutsPreparation:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour 1 cup boiling water over dates in a small bowl. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Lightly beat eggs with a whisk in a large bowl. Whisk in bananas and next 3 ingredients until blended. Stir together brown rice flour and next 4 ingredients in a small bowl. Gently stir flour mixture into egg mixture, stirring just until blended. Gently stir in melted butter, walnuts, and dates. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 9- × 5-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 1 hour). Makes 1 loaf.

*Note: Brown rice flour and sorghum flour can be found in the organic section of supermarkets.

Oct 19, 2012

Not Just Any Cooking Pot!

What's 2,000 years old, environmentally friendly, fuel efficient, durable, simple, easy to use, portable, and almost indestructible? Get ready... it's A COOKING POT! I'm not talking about just any cooking pot, I'm talking about one that is almost impossible to improve upon, it's the WOK.

14 inch carbon steel wok made by Ken Hom Tao
available at Amazon.com for $29.99,
with free shipping in the U.S., including Hawaii.
Click on photo to view larger.
Most Hawaii cooks would be lost without a wok. From Oahu's Chinatown to backyard potluck dinners, the wok has found a home here in Hawaii. The wok came to us from China, most likely between 1852 and 1898, when approximately 50,000 Chinese immigrants arrived here to work as field hands on Hawaii's sugar plantations. The wok was and still is the most important piece of cooking equipment in South East Asia and China. This piece of ancient technology is perhaps one of the most, if not the most, versatile cooking tools ever invented by humans. The round shape of the wok permits maximum cooking surface based on minimal fuel contact. This explains why foods destined for the wok are routinely chopped into small, thin slices. They cook faster that way. The wok is also the ultimate tool of kitchen convenience, as it can be used for stir-frying, steaming, pan frying, deep frying, poaching, boiling, braising, searing, stewing, making soup, smoking and roasting nuts.

The wok comes in many sizes, from 12 to 79 inches or more in diameter, depending on how many people you want to feed. The most common size is 14 inches wide, which is perfect for a family of 3 or 4. You don't need to spend more than $30 to buy a carbon steel wok. Why carbon steel? It heats quickly and evenly. Stainless steel or anodized aluminum woks will not work as well. Don't get nonstick. If you season your iron wok properly, food won't stick (read below). Nonstick woks don't sear the food properly, and you don't get the proper stir-frying effect. You can buy a good wok if you look around, like the one pictured here.

Seasoning your new wok:
A new steel wok MUST be seasoned before use, much like an iron skillet. Here's the seasoning process: Scrub your new wok well with soap and water to remove any coating applied to protect it during shipping, rinse well, and dry. Place the wok over low heat, wipe lightly with vegetable oil and let stand on the heat for 10 minutes. Cool and wipe with paper towels to remove the dark film. Repeat the oiling, heating, cooling and wiping procedure until the paper towels come away clean. Once a wok has been seasoned, it should be cleaned with plain water ONLY, using a wok brush, never with soap or abrasive cleaners, then dried and oiled with just a few drops of oil and a paper towel, before storing. If the metal ever rusts, clean with steel wool or fine sand paper and re-season. If a wok is properly cared for it will last more than a lifetime.

Wok Recipes:

Hot & Sour Soup

This is one of my favorite soup recipes. I would like to suggest that you make this soup a day ahead of time to let the flavors meld, then heat and serve. If you can't wait, go for it!

1/2 pound boneless pork, or chicken, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon red chile paste, such as sambal oelek, or Sriracha*
8 dried lily buds*
4 dried Chinese dried black mushrooms*
4 dried tree ears*
1/2 cup canned sliced bamboo shoots*
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
6 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, cut into thin matchsticks (julienne)
8 ounce square of firm tofu, drained and sliced in 1/4-inch strips
1 tablespoon cold water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sesame oil*
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onion (to garnish)

*Available at Asian food markets, or in the Asian section of your supermarket.

Cut pork or chicken into 1-inch thin strips. Sprinkle strips with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1 teaspoon chili paste. Meanwhile, in three bowls soak lily buds, mushrooms, and tree ears in enough hot water to cover for 30 minutes, then drain. Cut off and discard tough stem end of lily buds. Slice each lily bud into 1-inch lengths. Throughly rinse tree ears under running water; drain well. Cut off and discard mushroom and tree ear stems. Cut mushrooms and tree ears into thin strips. In a wok bring chicken broth to boiling; stir in pork, the remaining soy sauce, lily buds, mushrooms, tree ears, bamboo shoots, ginger, vinegar, pepper, garlic, and carrot sticks. Simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Add tofu strips to soup. Simmer, covered, 3 minutes more. Blend cold water into cornstarch. Stir into soup with sesame oil. Pour eggs slowly into hot soup in a thin stream, beating constantly with fork till egg cooks and shreds finely. Cook soup till slightly thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. Serve with thinly sliced green onions. Makes 6 to 8 first course servings.

Special Fried Rice
2 cups long-grain rice, cooked
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup bacon, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 medium eggs, beaten
3/4 cup bean sprouts
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped for garnish
3 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped for garnish

Heat a wok, add the oil, and, when hot, add the bacon. Stir-fry for 1 minute before adding the garlic and ginger, then stir-fry for an additional 30 seconds. Add the cooked rice and peas to the wok. Stir-fry over high heat for 5 minutes. Add the eggs and the bean sprouts and continue to stir-fry for an additional 2 minutes until the eggs have set. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture onto a serving plate and garnish with the peanuts and scallions. Serve hot or cold. Makes 4 servings.

Vegetable-Beef Stir-Fry with Crispy Noodles 
There are many types of rice wines in China, however Shaoxing rice wine is most often used in cooking because of its consistent high quality. It takes its name from the Shaoxing region of Zhejiang, an eastern Chinese province, where the wine has been produced since the fifth century. It plays a major role in Chinese cuisine, possibly coming second only to soy sauce in importance. Unfortunately it is very difficult to find Shaoxing rice wine in the U.S., and there is no western substitute for it. However some people say gin or a good dry sherry, (not cooking sherry), comes closest in flavor to Shaoxing rice wine. I use Pagoda Brand, considered by cooks as the standard for decades. Try and find Shaoxing rice wine in Chinese markets, it's really an excellent product, with a distinctive, dry fruity flavor which works well in many Chinese dishes.

2 ounce pack rice sticks (found in the Asian section of your grocery store)
3 cups canola oil for frying rice sticks
1 pound beef top round steak
1 1/2 cups broccoli cut into 1-inch pieces
3 medium carrots, bias-sliced
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, cut in thin wedges
1/2 of a 10-ounce package (1 cup) frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, halved lengthwise

Carefully separate fragile rice sticks. In a wok, fry unsoaked rice sticks, a handful at a time, in hot canola oil (375˚F) about 3-5 seconds or just until sticks puff up dramatically, then turn with tongs for a second more. Remove; drain on paper towel lined baking sheet. Keep warm in 200˚F oven. Partially freeze beef; slice very thinly across the grain into bite-size strips. Cook broccoli and carrots, covered, in boiling salted water 2 minutes; drain. Mix cornstarch, salt, and sugar; blend in soy sauce and Shaoxing rice wine. Set aside. Preheat a wok over high heat; add oil. Stir-fry broccoli, carrots, and onion in hot oil for 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove from wok. (Add more oil, if necessary.) Add half the beef to hot wok; stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes or until browned. Remove beef. Stir-fry remaining beef 2-3 minutes. Return all meat to wok. Add peas, water chestnuts, and bamboo shoots. Stir soy mixture; stir into wok. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Return broccoli, carrots, and onion to wok.; cover and cook 1 minute more. Serve immediately on top of fried rice sticks. Makes 4 - 6 servings.

Pork with Eggs and Mushrooms
1/2 cup dried Chinese mushrooms
6-8 ounces pork fillet
1 head bok choy
1/2 cup drained bamboo shoots
2 scallions
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
few drops of sesame oil

Rinse the mushrooms thoroughly in cold water and then soak in warm water for 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly again and discard the hard stalks, if any. Dry the mushrooms and shred thinly. Cut the pork fillet into matchstick-size shreds and set to one side. Thinly shred the bok choy, bamboo shoots and scallions. Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt. Heat a little oil in a wok, add the eggs and lightly scramble, but do not make too dry. Remove from the wok. Heat the remaining oil in the wok and stir-fry the pork for about 1 minute or until the color changes. Add the vegetables to the wok and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the remaining salt, the soy sauce and wine. Stir for 1 more minute before adding the scrambled eggs. Break up the eggs and blend well. Sprinkle with sesame oil and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Stir-Fried Salmon with Vegetables
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pound salmon, skinned, boned and cut into 3/4" cubes
5 teaspoons oil
1/2 pound bean sprouts
1/2 pound snow peas
1 cup sliced green onions
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

In a medium bowl, combine two tablespoons of the oyster sauce with vinegar, ginger, soy sauce and one clove garlic. Season with pepper, if desired. Add fish, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least a half-hour. In a seasoned wok, heat two teaspoons of the oil over high heat. Add remaining garlic, stir fry 30 seconds. Add sprouts, peas, green onions and red pepper. Stir-fry two minutes or until tender-crisp. Stir in the remaining one tablespoon of oyster sauce, sesame oil, sugar and pepper. Remove from skillet and set aside. Drain fish, discarding marinade. Heat remaining oil in same skillet. Add fish and stir-fry about four minutes or until done. Add vegetables. Gently toss. Heat through and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Crispy Shrimp Stir-Fry
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoons cornstarch
pinch of sugar
6 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound raw shelled jumbo shrimp, halved lengthwise
3/4 cup carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 cup snow peas, trimmed and shredded
1/2 cup asparagus spears, cut into short lengths
3/4 cup bean sprouts
1/4 head Chinese cabbage or bok choy, shredded
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Mix together the soy sauce, cornstarch, and sugar in a small bowl, and set aside. Heat the wok, then add 3 tablespoons of the oil, and heat until almost smoking. Add the shrimp and stir-fry for 4 minutes or until pink all over. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a plat and set aside in a warm oven. Add the remaining oil to the wok, and when just smoking, add the carrots and ginger, and stir-fry for 1 minute or until slightly softened, then add the snow peas and stir-fry for an additional minute. Add the asparagus and stir-fry for 4 minutes or until softened. Add the bean sprouts and Chinese cabbage, and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until the cabbage is slightly wilted. Pour in the soy sauce mixture and return the shrimp to the wok. Stir-fry over medium heat until piping hot, then add the sesame oil, give a final stir, and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Papaya-Chicken Stir-Fry
1 whole medium chicken breast (3/4 pound total), skinned and boned
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 stalk celery, thinly bias-sliced into 1/2-inch lengths (1/2 cup)
1/2 of a papaya, seeded, peeled, and cut into bite-size pieces (1 cup)
1/4 cup macadamia nuts
cooked rice
papaya slices from other half of papaya for garnish

Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. For marinade, stir together water, dry white wine, and soy sauce. Add chicken, stirring to coat well. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes or in the refrigerator for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Drain the chicken, reserving the marinade. Combine cornstarch and the reserved marinade. Set aside. Preheat a wok over high heat; add canola oil. (Add more oil as necessary during cooking.) Stir-fry celery in hot oil for 3 to 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove celery from the wok. Add all the chicken to the hot wok. Stir-fry about 3 minutes or until done. Push chicken from center of the wok. Stir marinade mixture; add to center of the wok. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 30 seconds more. Return celery; add papaya. Stir in nuts. Serve immediately over hot cooked rice. Garnish with papaya slices. Makes 2 servings.

Chicken in Black Bean Sauce
Black beans, also known as salted black beans, are soybeans that have been preserved by being fermented with salt and spices. They have a distinctive salty taste, a rich savory aroma, and are often used as a seasoning in conjunction with garlic or ginger. Buy the beans either in cans, in which case they will need rinsing and draining, or dry in bags. Dried black beans will keep indefinitely in an airtight container.

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into strips
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
salt to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons corn starch
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
4 scallions, trimmed and finely sliced
3 tablespoons salted black beans, chopped
2/3 cup chicken stock
shredded scallions, to garnish
freshly cooked egg noodles, to serve

Place the chicken strips in a large bowl. Mix together the soy sauce, Chinese rice wine or sherry, a little salt, sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch, and pour over the chicken. Heat the wok over a high heat, add the oil, and, when very hot, add the chicken strips and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the green bell peppers and stir-fry for an additional 2 minutes. Then add the ginger, garlic, shallots, scallions, and black beans, and continue to stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Add 4 tablespoons of the stock, stir-fry for 1 minute, then pour in the remaining stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for 3-4 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened slightly. Garnish with the shredded scallions and serve immediately with noodles. Makes 4 servings.

Stir-Fried Bean Sprouts
2-3 scallions
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar
few drops of sesame oil

Cut the scallions into short sections about the same length as the bean sprouts. Heat the oil in a wok and stir-fry the bean sprouts and scallions for about 1 minute. Add the salt and sugar and continue stirring for 1 minute. Sprinkle with the sesame oil, and serve. Do not overcook,  or the bean sprouts will become soggy. Makes 4 servings.

Bok Choy with Oyster Sauce
1 head bok choy
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons oyster sauce

Trim bok choy and tear into manageable pieces. Heat a wok until hot, add the oil and swirl it around. Add the bok choy and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until it has wilted a little. Add the oyster sauce and continue to stir-fry for a few more seconds, until the bok choy is cooked but still slightly crisp. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Stir-Fried Spinach
2 LARGE bunches of fresh spinach (spinach will wilt down to 1/10th its size when cooked)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red chili, sliced, or 1/3 to 3/4 tsp. dried crushed chili (chili flakes)
1/4 cup good-tasting chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons oyster-flavored sauce (or vegetarian oyster sauce/stir fry sauce)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a cup, stir together: stock, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sherry, and brown sugar. Set aside. Rinse spinach and drain. Heat a wok over medium-high heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil and swirl around, then add garlic and chili. Stir-fry 1 minute to release the fragrance. Add the spinach and stir fry briefly, until the spinach leaves are lightly covered in the oil and garlic/chili (about 30 seconds). Then add the stir-fry sauce and stir-fry until spinach has cooked down to a nice dark green (stems should still be on the crisp side) - 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat. To serve, scoop or slide spinach onto a serving plate or bowl. Top with the remaining liquid at the bottom of your wok. Drizzle over the sesame oil. Makes 2-4 servings.

Stir-Fried Mixed Vegetables
This is a delicious mixture of Asian vegetables, which is very easy to make.

1/3 cup cold water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated ginger root
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly bias-sliced (1 cup)
1 cup fresh snow peas, strings removed
5 green onions, bias-sliced into 1-inch lengths (1 cup)
1/2 cup sliced fresh button mushrooms
1 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained

For sauce, stir together water, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, ginger root, and pepper. Set aside. Preheat a wok over high heat; add canola oil. (Add more oil as necessary during cooking.) Stir-fry carrots in hot oil for 2 minutes. Add onions and mushrooms; stir-fry about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in snow peas and water chestnuts and cook for 1 minute more. Push vegetables from center of the wok. Stir sauce; add to center of the wok. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Stir in the vegetables to coat with the sauce. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Ah Bing Cherry Fritters
Cherries have been consumed since prehistoric times. Of all the varieties of sweet cherries grown in the United States, the Bing is most well known. Bing Cherries were developed in the 1870s by Oregon horticulturist Seth Lewelling and his Manchurian Chinese foreman Ah Bing (for whom they are named), in the area that is now Milwaukie, Oregon. Today, China is the largest cherry grower in the world, however the U.S. exports more fresh cherries than any other country.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 egg whites
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 3/4 cup fresh cherries, pitted and coarsely chopped
Canola oil for frying
Powdered sugar (optional)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add in the milk, egg yolks, oil, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat until nice and smooth.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. The batter will gain quite a bit of volume at this point.

Coarsely chop the cherries into large chunks. Fold the cherries into the batter.

Heat oil to 375˚F in a wok or deep, heavy saucepan. Drop a couple tablespoons of batter into the hot oil and fry for 4 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown (I used an ice cream scoop for this). You want the fritters to have enough time to cook all the way through and get the cherries nice and hot AND you don’t want the outsides to burn. Fry up a test fritter and make adjustments to size and temp as needed.

Remove the fritters from the hot oil and drain on paper towels. You can keep the fritters warm in the oven – just set on a low temperature. Serve hot!

Top with powdered sugar.

Note: If the oil isn’t at a high enough temperature, the food absorbs the oil and starts taking on that flavor.

Oct 6, 2012

Hawaiian Chocolate Is Very American!

Chocolate Bourbon Balls
To enlarge, click on photo
Hawaii is a great place to live for many reasons, one of which is that it is the only state in the U.S. with the climate to grow cacao beans. Chocolate comes from cacao beans. Very few people know that Hawaii is growing chocolate – even Hawaii residents. It's also the only state in the nation able to grow coffee plants. When you mix the two, you get something very special, and very American. Cacao has been grown in Hawaii since the 1850s. Today there is one estate on the Big Island and two on the island of Oahu that produce cacao beans. While the fruit is grown and fermented in Hawaii, the chocolate is actually manufactured by the large Guittard Chocolate Company in Burlingame, California. Hawaii's chocolate growers are forced to finish the chocolate on the mainland until a factory can be built to process cacao on Oahu. Hopefully soon we can actually grow and manufacture the chocolate right here. Remember Hawaiian chocolate is American chocolate, harvested by unionized workers. Most other chocolate comes from exotic places around the world, like Madagascar, Grenada and the Gulf-of-Guinea island of São Tomé, places where dollar a day labor is common. The fact is that with sugar cane and pineapple production all but gone in Hawaii, coffee and chocolate may be the best hope for Hawaiian agriculture.

The United States has many small makers of superior chocolate products. The vast majority of these companies use cocoa imported from overseas. Only on the Big Island of Hawaii and, in recent years, the island of Oahu, will you find makers of fine American chocolate products who use cocoa grown locally. Many of these companies also use other products grown locally in Hawaii, such as macadamia nuts and vanilla. Here are several of those companies:

Located on the slopes of the Big Island's Hualalai mountain, The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory harvests cacao to make 100% Hawaiian milk chocolate. These chocolates can be found at: http://www.ohcf.us/products.html.

Malie Kai North Shore Chocolates produce one of the most pampered chocolates in the world, with a unique Hawaiian taste. To find out how to get your hands on some of this fine Hawaiian chocolate, click here: http://www.maliekai.com/availability.html.

There is another Oahu chocolate plantation also located in Waialua. This 155 acre coffee/cacao orchard produces fine Hawaiian coffee and chocolate under the Waialua Estate brand. Their website is: http://www.waialuaestate.com/index.html.

Big Island Candies in Hilo, on the Big Island, produce many wonderful chocolate confections, but only one is made entirely of 100% Hawaiian Chocolate from the Waialua Estate, Toffee Coated Chocolate Covered Hawaiian Macadamia Nuts. Their website is: http://www.bigislandcandies.com/BIC/

Chocolate Recipes:
Chocolate Bourbon Balls
This is an easy, no-bake recipe. I make these for Christmas every year to give as gifts, they are delicious and very potent. They should not be served without checking the recipients ID.

1/2 cup finely chopped dried cherries or cranberries
1/4 cup Makers Mark bourbon (you can use whatever brand you like, this is my favorite)
2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs (15.25 ounce package of Orios with cream centers removed, then crushed)
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup finely chopped pecans to roll the bourbon balls in

In a small bowl, let 1/2 cup finely chopped cherries macerate in 1/4 cup of Makers Mark bourbon for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, combine well 2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs, 1/2 cup each of firmly packed dark brown sugar and finely chopped pecans, the cherry mixture, 1/4 cup molasses, 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and ground ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls and firmly roll the balls in finely chopped pecans. Store the bourbon balls in an airtight container in your refrigerator for at least 1 week before serving. Makes about 30 servings.

Chocolate Oreos You Make Yourself
Ingredients for the Oreos:
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for cream filling:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
1 and 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the cookies: Toss the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl as needed. Switch the mixer to medium speed and beat in the granulated sugar and brown sugar until combined. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Turn the mixer off and pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Turn the mixer on low and slowly beat until a dough is formed. Cover the dough tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Chilling is mandatory.

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

Roll the dough into small balls, 2 teaspoons of slightly chilled dough per ball, and place 12 on each baking sheet. Press down on the balls to slightly flatten as pictured above. Bake each batch for 6-8 minutes. These cookies are small and bake very quickly. They will appear soft when done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. You'll make 3-4 batches (38-40 cookies total).

While the cookies are cooling, make the cream filling: In a small bowl using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together on high speed until creamy and combined, about 1 minute. Turn the mixer off and add the confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Beat on low for 1 minute and then switch to high and beat for 1 more minute until creamy and combined. The cream filling is thick. See photo above for how mine looked.

Spread cream filling between two cooled chocolate cookies. Repeat with the rest. Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 1 week. Cookies freeze well, up to 2 months. Cream filling may be made ahead of time (up to 2 days in advance). Cover and chill when storing. Allow to come to room temperature before using.

For a mint cream filling - beat 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract and 2 drops of liquid or gel food coloring (or add more until you reach desired color) when you add the vanilla extract.

Chocolate-Macadamia Nut Toffee Squares
one sleeve of graham crackers
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
12 ounces milk chocolate chips

Line a 9x13 inch pan with aluminum foil. Place whole crackers in single layer on foil. You will have to break some into quarters to finish filling in one row. In small saucepan, heat butter and brown sugar until sugar dissolves and mixture just starts to bubble. Whisk until the two blend to form a thick butter/sugar sauce; this does take a bit of whisking so don’t give up! DO NOT boil the mixture. Spread evenly over crackers. Sprinkle evenly with chopped nuts. Bake at 325˚F for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and turn oven off. Cover top evenly with chocolate chips and put back into oven for 3-5 minutes until chips are softened enough to spread with a spatula. Remove from oven and spread chocolate over surface of toffee. Cool in refrigerator until chocolate is firm. Cut into squares.

Chocolate Dipped Candied Meyer Lemon Peels
3 organic Meyer lemons, rinsed and dried (you can use regular lemons if you prefer)
2 1/2 cups sugar, divided
semi-sweet chocolate

Cut lemons in half and juice (reserve for other use, like over ice with a shot of vodka). Using a sharp paring knife, remove flesh from skin and discard (leave white pith attached to peel). Slice peel into strips. Place strips into a saucepan and fill with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes. Drain water and repeat two more times. After draining the last batch of water, place peels aside. Combine 2 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar in saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until sugar has dissolved and reduce heat to medium-low. Add peel strips and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and transparent, about 15-20 minutes. Drain (reserve liquid for other use - this lemon simple syrup can be used to sweeten drinks or desserts). Pour remaining sugar in a bowl and toss strips until coated with sugar. Place coated strips onto a sheet of wax paper and let dry overnight (if you’re impatient, you can dry it in a 200°F oven for an hour, checking frequently). Once peels feel dry to touch, dip in melted chocolate and let dry on wax paper. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

The Devil's In The Chocolate Cake
1 (18.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350˚F. In a large bowl, mix together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil beaten eggs and water. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour batter into two well greased 10" cake pans. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until top is springy to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cake thoroughly in the pans for 5 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack. I freeze the cake after it is cooled before applying the frosting. Makes one devilishly good chocolate cake.

Frosting Ingredients:
2 cups butter (no substitutes), softened
9 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 1/2 cups baking cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk

Procedure for Frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Add enough milk until frosting reaches spreading consistency.

Chocolate Honey Cake
Ingredients for the Cake:
4 ounces semi or bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1 1/3 cups light brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup honey, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water

Ingredients for the Sticky Honey Glaze:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup honey
6 ounces semi sweet chocolate
3/4 cup confectioners sugar

Melt the chocolate in the microwave or over boiling water. Set aside to cool slightly. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with wax paper. Sift flour, soda and cocoa together. Beat together the sugar and butter, until airy and creamy. Add the honey. Add eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of flour with each. Fold in the melted chocolate, followed by the dry ingredients. Then add the boiling water, mixing well to make a smooth batter. Pour into prepared pan and bake for one hour, or until a cake tester comes out clean. If the cake is still loose after 45 minutes, yet the top is appears quite cooked, gently lay a piece of foil atop the cake. Cool cake completely in the pan on a rack. Remove the sides. Invert it onto a cake plate. (If the top stays just perfectly rounded, yes, flip it back over. If it sinks a bit, inverting the cake will mask the problem.) Slide strips wax paper under the edges to keep the plate free of glaze.

To make the glaze: 
Bring honey and water to a boil. Turn off heat and add the chocolate. Let it rest while the chocolate melts, then whisk gently. Sift the sugar into the pan (to avoid lumps) and whisk until smooth. Make the glaze in plenty of time to let it cool. If you put it on a warm cake or if it is still warm, the glaze will run right off. When the cake is cool and the glaze is room temperature, the honey glaze turns your cake into a shiny, irresistible confection. Slide the paper out from around the edges and serve. Makes 8 servings.

Black Bottom Coconut Cream Pie
pastry for a 1-crust pie, home-made or refrigerated ready-to-use
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream, divided
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cup milk, divided
3 egg yolks
1 (7 ounce) bag (about 2 1/2 cups) sweetened flaked coconut, divided
2 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Line a 9-inch pie plate with the pastry, prick it all over with a fork, line with a double thickness of foil and bake at 375˚F about 20 minutes, until it is beginning to brown. Remove the foil and bake another 5 to 10 minutes, until it is fully brown. (Or follow label directions on premade crust for baking empty.) Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, combine the 2/3 cup of chips and 1/3 cup of the cream in a small saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is completely smooth. Pour into the pie shell, spread if necessary and set aside to cool completely. In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, flour and salt. Add about 1/4 cup of the milk and stir until the mixture is smooth. Add another 3/4 cup or so of the milk in two additions, stirring well after each, then stir in the remaining 2 cups of milk, stirring well. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, and scraping around the edges of the pan bottom, until the mixture is as thick as pudding – 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Lightly beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Gradually stir in about a cup of the hot milk mixture. Pour this egg-milk mixture into the hot mixture in the pan, stirring well immediately. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes, until it thickens again. Remove from heat and stir in 1 1/2 cups of the coconut and the butter, vanilla and almond extract. Let cool 10 minutes, then spoon and pour over the chocolate in the pie shell. Put a sheet of waxed paper right on top of the custard (to keep skin from forming), and chill at least 2 hours. Meanwhile, spread the remaining cup of coconut onto a baking sheet and toast it at 350˚F 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is golden. Cool completely. Whip the remaining 2/3 cup of cream and spread or pipe it on the cooled pie; decorate with toasted coconut. Makes 8 servings.

Flan... The Dark Side!
Flan is one of my favorite desserts. This version uses dark chocolate and a hint of cinnamon, making it even more decadent.

1 (12 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
6 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 ounces premium dark chocolate, shaved thin
1 cinnamon stick

Ingredients for Caramel:
1 cup sugar

Make caramel by slowly heating the sugar in a small saucepan until golden and liquid. Be careful not to stir too much, as this will cause crystals to form. Pour the very hot, molten sugar into the flan mold (this can either be a round pan or a bundt pan - I usually use a bundt pan because I like the pretty pattern the flan takes). Be sure to tilt the mold so that the caramel coats the sides. In a small saucepan, heat the milk, cinnamon, and chocolate pieces, stirring occasionally to help the chocolate melt. Let this cool down to just warm and remove the cinnamon stick. Blend the rest of the ingredients together gradually adding the milk mixture. Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour into caramelized pan and bake in a hot water bath (bain marie) for about 50-55 minutes or until golden. Test with a knife or toothpick, it should come out clean. Remove from oven, cool, unmold and serve. (If you are having trouble unmolding the flan, run a small, sharp knife around sides of pan to help release). Makes 8 - 10 servings.

Bourbon Brownies
1/4 cup bourbon (I use Maker's Mark brand bourbon)
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Bring the bourbon to a boil in a small saucepan; remove from heat. Add the chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt, stirring with a whisk. Combine the sugar and butter in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Add the vanilla and eggs and beat well. Add the flour mixture and bourbon mixture to the sugar mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Spread batter into a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350˚F for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 20 small brownies.

Chocolate Florentine Lace Cookies
1 3/4 cups sliced, crushed macadamia nuts (about 5 ounces)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
finely grated zest of 1 orange (about 2 tablespoons)
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
bittersweet chocolate, 4 ounces, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350˚F. Line 1 baking sheet with silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until finely chopped, but not pasty. Stir together the nuts, flour, zest and salt in a large bowl. Put the sugar, cream, corn syrup and butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a rolling boil and sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, then pour mixture into nut mixture and stir just to combine. Set aside until cool enough to handle, 30 minutes. Scoop rounded teaspoons (for 3-inch cookies) or rounded tablespoons (for 6-inch cookies) of batter and roll into balls. Place on prepared baking sheet, leaving about 3 to 4 inches between each cookie since they spread. Bake 1 pan at a time, until the cookies are thin and an even golden brown color throughout, rotating pans halfway through baking time, about 10 to 11 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for about 20 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool. Repeat with remaining batter. Add 2/3 of the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 20 seconds and stir. Repeat until the chocolate is just melted, about 3, 20-second increments. Add the rest of the chocolate and stir until all the chocolate is melted. Dip a fork in the melted chocolate and drizzle the tops of the cookies with the chocolate. Freeze the cookies until the chocolate has set, about 15 minutes. Remove the cookies from the freezer. Store baked cookies carefully, separated by parchment or waxed paper, in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. Florentines are best stored separated from moist cookies and cakes. Makes 5 dozen 3-inch Florentines, or 2 1/2 dozen 6-inch Florentines.

Homemade Chocolate Sauce
Homemade chocolate sauce couldn't be easier to make and is much better than that bottled stuff you buy in the grocery store. Great over vanilla ice-cream, or make a large batch and have a chocolate fondue party with fresh fruit for dipping.

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or pure chocolate, chopped)
1/2 cup heavy cream (no substitutions)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Set aside. Combine the cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a small saucepan over low heat. Bring to boil, stirring often. Remove from heat and pour immediately over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is smooth, then stir in the vanilla. Makes about 1 cup.

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