Nov 21, 2012

"On The Side"... Tropical

Sweet-and-Sour Roasted Pineapple
and Red Bell Peppers

Click on photo to view larger
A side dish, sometimes referred to as a side order, side item, or simply a side, is a food item that accompanies the entrée or main course at a meal. The related phrase "on the side" may be synonymous with "side dish" - as in "French fries on the side" - or may refer to a complimentary sauce or condiment served in a separate dish. For example, a diner may request a salad be served with its dressing "on the side". Side dishes such as salad, potatoes and bread are commonly used with main courses throughout many countries of the western world. A typical American meal with a meat-based main dish might include one vegetable side dish, sometimes in the form of a salad, and one starch side dish, such as bread, potatoes, rice, or pasta. In Hawaii, the most popular side dish would have to be two scoops of rice or mac salad. Also there is, poi, lomi lomi salmon, chicken long rice, squid luau, bok choy, and many others that I have written about in my cookbooks, and on this blog. There are 45,000 tropical islands on earth and literally thousands of side dish recipes to enjoy, so on this post I will introduce you to a few side dishes that perhaps you haven't tried yet, food that goes well with tropical island cuisine, or perhaps "on the side" of your favorite main course.

Tropical Side Dish Recipes:

Sweet-and-Sour Roasted Pineapple
and Red Bell Peppers
Hawaii is famous for its sweet pineapple. When it is roasted, it intensifies the flavor. Adding red bell pepper and tropical seasonings makes this a beautiful alternative to a vegetable side dish.

3 cups cubed fresh pineapple
1 medium red bell pepper, cubed (1 1/2 cups)
1 medium red onion, cut into thin wedges (1 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon dark or light brown sugar
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon sweetened coconut flakes, optional
1 tablespoon lime juice

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Arrange pineapple cubes, red bell pepper cubes, and red onion wedges on ungreased rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with toasted sesame oil and vegetable oil, sprinkle with brown sugar, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Toss to coat. Roast pineapple mixture on center oven rack 30 minutes, or until lightly browned, turning once. Remove from oven and sprinkle with sweetened coconut flakes, if using, then drizzle with lime juice. Remove to serving bowl and toss well to combine. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes 4-6 servings. Note: If you are careful, you can create a pineapple serving dish (see photo).

Japanese Kabocha Squash Rice 
Japanese Kabocha Squash Rice with Edamame
Click on photo to view larger
with Edamame
This beautiful side dish is a great way to use Japanese kabocha squash. Kabocha is very common here in Hawaii. It is a hard squash, has knobbly-looking skin, is shaped like a squat pumpkin, and has a dull-finished, deep green skin and an intense yellow-orange color on the inside. The sweet squash flavors the rice, and the edamame (soy beans) not only tastes wonderful, but adds a nice contrast to the dish. Serve with chicken, pork, or fish.

1 1/2 cups short grain rice
3 cups water
1 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons Sake (Japanese rice wine)
2 1/2 cups Kabocha squash (peel and cut into 1 inch cubes)
1 1/2 cups cooked & shelled edamame (soy beans)

Put rice in a bowl. Wash and pour water out, then repeat 2 more times. Place rice and water in a heavy medium sized pot. Let it soak for 30 minutes. Meanwhile peel and cut the squash (I like to use a serrated bread knife). Set the squash aside. Just before cooking the rice, add salt and sake and stir. Add the cut Kabocha squash to the rice and bring everything to a boil on high heat without lid. When it reaches the rapid boil, put the lid on and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pot stand for 10 minutes (don't open the lid.) Fluff the rice, and cooked squash, with a spatula (the squash will be so soft that it will be mashed a little bit, but that's OK.) Garnish with the cooked edamame. Makes 4-6 servings.

Potato Choka
This is a Caribbean mashed potato recipe that is flavored with fresh green onions, hot peppers and cilantro, and is usually eaten for breakfast with roti, an Indian-influenced flat bread. A nice change from regular mashed potatoes, which happens to be my favorite food of all foods.

1 pound potatoes, I like to use Yukon Gold, but russet will do
2 tablespoons canola oil
minced hot pepper or pepper sauce to taste
1/4 cup sliced green onions (white and green parts)
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (optional)

Peel the potatoes and add to a sauce pot with lukewarm water, cover and bring to a boil. When the pot comes to a boil, salt the water to taste. Cook potatoes until a fork or knife inserts easily. Drain well. Transfer drained potatoes to a large bowl, add oil and pepper sauce and mash until smooth. Toss in green onions and cilantro and fold into potato mixture. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary. Serve with roti or rice. Makes 4 servings.

Aloo (Potato) Balls
Aloo Balls are a popular street food in the English-Speaking Caribbean, where there is a heavy influence of Indian food. This would make a very interesting side dish with fish.

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and boiled in salted water
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions (white and green parts)
1 tablespoon finely minced cilantro (optional)
minced hot pepper to taste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons oil
salt to taste
canola oil for deep frying

Batter Ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
salt and pepper to taste

Mash the potatoes until smooth and then add in all the ingredients (except oil for frying). Be sure to check for salt before adding extra given that the potatoes would already have been cooked in salted water. Form the mashed potatoes into 2-inch diameter balls or the size of golf balls. Set aside. For the batter, mix the dry ingredients together and then add enough water to make a crepe-like batter. Add oil to a deep frying pan for deep frying and heat until 350˚F. Dip balls one at a time and add to heated oil. Do not over crowd pan. Cook on both sides until golden or lightly brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Repeat until all the balls are cooked. Serve hot or at room temperature as is or with some savory chutney or pepper sauce. Makes 18-20 balls.

Pea Pulao
Pulao is a rice-based dish which often also includes ingredients like vegetables and/or meat. Pea Pulao is also known as "Yellow Rice". It is an Indian-influenced dish served in the Caribbean, and is a great alternative to plain boiled rice. I love using turmeric in white rice because it turns the rice a beautiful yellow color, and turmeric is very good for you.

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion chopped fine
1 cup fresh, or frozen green peas
1 cup Basmati rice (a long grain Indian rice)
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
salt to taste
1/2 cup warm water

Wash the rice well in running water and keep aside to soak for 30 minutes. Heat the oil in a deep heavy-bottomed pan. When it is hot add the onions and cook till soft. Add the peas and stir well. Add the rice and fry for 2 minutes. Add the 3 cups of water, turmeric and salt to taste to the rice and set it up to boil on a medium flame. Once the water comes to a boil, reduce the flame to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook till the water seems to have almost disappeared - tiny holes will form on the surface of the rice. Add the 1/2 cup of warm water all over the top of the rice and cover the pan again. Simmer for another 5-7 minutes and turn off the fire. Allow the rice to sit for 10 minutes and serve. Makes 2 servings.

Black Bean, Heart of Palm, and Corn Salad
1 16-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained
1 10-ounce package frozen corn, thawed, drained
1 7 1/2-ounce can hearts of palm, drained, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
2 large tomatoes, seeded, diced
1/2 red onion, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground coriander

Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper. (Salad can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Makes 4 servings.

Pineapple Stir-Fried Rice with Shrimp
1 ripe pineapple
3 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped, veins and seeds removed
2 spring onions, the green tops only, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups shrimp, shells removed and deveined
3 tablespoons garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce or light soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups cold, steamed Thai jasmine rice
cilantro leaves for garnish

Cut the pineapple in half lengthwise with green top. Scoop out the fruit, saving the two pineapple halves to use as bowls to serve the rice in. Chop the pineapple fruit into bite sized chunks, removing the tough core. Put the fruit in a bowl and add the shallots, jalapeno, ginger, green onion and cilantro. Add a pinch of salt to bring out the juice. mix and set aside. In a wok, over high heat, add oil, and stir fry the shrimp for 2 minutes or until just pink. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and set aside. Stir fry the garlic a minute or so until golden brown, but not burned. Add the cooked jasmine rice, and stir thoroughly until slightly toasted. Add the fish sauce and sugar, and continue stirring. When the rice is heated through, add the pineapple mixture and cooked shrimp, and stir until thoroughly heated through. Pour the mixture into the pineapple shells, garnish with cilantro leaves and serve as a side dish. Makes 6 servings.

Quinoa Hawaiian
If you have never tried quinoa, pronounced (keen-wa), it’s a wonderful whole grain that has a delicate nutty flavor and is easy to prepare. Quinoa is widely versatile and goes well with chicken, pork and fish.

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped dried pineapple
1/4 cup macadamia nuts, chopped and roasted
2 green onions, chopped

In a small skillet, toast chopped macadamia nuts on low heat for about 5 minutes, being careful not to burn them, then set them aside. Next, heat olive oil and sesame oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in quinoa and allow to toast for 2 to 3 minutes, then add vegetable broth, soy sauce, ginger and garlic. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until all liquid has been absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes. Add dried pineapple and fluff quinoa with fork, cover and let sit 5 minutes. Serve hot, topped with green onions and toasted macadamia nuts. Makes 6 servings.

Purple and Yellow Passion Fruit
(Lilikoi in Hawaiian)
Click on photo to view larger
Muffins with Aloha
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh passion fruit (lilikoi in Hawaii) juice, without seeds
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts, or pecans

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

Sesame Seed Sticks
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups whole-wheat flour
about 1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Dissolve the yeast in the water in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in the honey. Let stand for five minutes. Stir in the olive oil. Combine the whole-wheat flour, 1 cup of the unbleached all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup of the sesame seeds and the salt. Add to the liquid mixture. If kneading by hand, stir until you can turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead for 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and work top. If using an electric mixer, mix at medium speed for 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour as necessary so that the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be elastic and just slightly sticky. Lightly flour your work surface or brush with olive oil. Using your hands or a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 14-by-4-inch rectangle. Make sure there is enough flour or oil underneath the dough so that it doesn’t stick to the work surface. Brush the top with oil. Cover with plastic wrap, then with a damp kitchen towel. Allow to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until nearly doubled. (If you need the workspace, lightly oil the underside of a sheet pan and place the dough on top.) Preheat the oven to 400˚F with the racks positioned in the middle and upper thirds of the interior space. Brush sheet pans with olive oil. Cut the dough crosswise into four equal pieces. Brush each piece with beaten egg white, then roll each piece in 1 tablespoon of the remaining sesame seeds, until coated. Cut each piece crosswise into six equal pieces. Roll each between the board and your hands as if you were making a rope until it is as long as the baking sheet. For a tighter strip, twist the strands from one end to the other. Place 1 inch apart on the baking sheets until you’ve filled two baking sheets. Continue to shape the remaining breadsticks while the first batch is baking. Place in the oven, and bake 15 minutes. Switch the pans top to bottom and front to back, and bake another 10 minutes until the breadsticks are nicely browned (they will be darker on the bottom). Remove from the heat, and cool on a rack. Shape and bake any remaining dough as instructed. Makes two dozen breadsticks.

Coconut Sweet Potato Puffs
2 pounds sweet potatoes or yams
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter
2 eggs, separated
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Wash and scrub the potatoes (grease the potatoes prior to baking as this makes peeling easier). Bake for 45 minutes or until tender. After baking, peel the potatoes and discard the skins. In a large mixing bowl mash the potatoes. Add the salt, sugar, cinnamon, butter, and the egg yolks. Blend the mixture well. Cover and chill. After the mixture has chilled, form it into three-quarter-inch balls and roll the balls in flour. Chill the puffs. Whip the egg whites and add enough milk to equal 1 cup liquid. Dip the floured puffs into the milk and then roll them in the shredded coconut. Fry at 375˚F until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Makes 6 servings.

Onion Pie
1 cup saltine cracker crumbs, finely broken
4 plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups thinly sliced onions (2 medium onions)
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
dash paprika

Preheat oven to 350˚F. In a small bowl mix the cracker crumbs with 4 tablespoons of the melted butter. Press the crumbs into the bottom and sides of an 8-inch pie plate. In a small skillet on medium heat cook the onions in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, stirring to separate the rings. Cook until the onions are tender but not brown. Place the onions in the pie shell. In a small bowl combine the milk, eggs, salt, and pepper. Pour this mixture over the onions. Sprinkle with the cheese and paprika. Bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted halfway between the center and the edge of the pie comes out clean. Serve hot. Makes 6-8 servings.

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.

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