May 30, 2013

"Fresh SPAM" Spring Rolls?

Fresh SPAM Spring Rolls
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Whether you like it or not, Spam definitely has it's place in Hawaiian cuisine. I never paid much attention to Spam until I moved to Hawaii. It wasn't until I was invited to share in local food that I realized that the people of Hawaii have been cooking with Spam for a long time, and have mastered the art of cooking with it. Until now, I guess musubi would have to be my favorite use of Spam, a slice of grilled Spam between two cakes of sticky rice, wrapped in nori... ono! 

So I decided that if Spam has merit, then I will invent another use for it. Something to offset its saltiness. Something that is full of healthy vegetables. Something that has sweet local fruit. Something that is sort of Yin-Yang. Something like a fresh spring roll with SPAM. 

Fresh spring rolls are a delicious Vietnamese appetizer combining fresh Asian vegetables, pork and shrimp, rolled up in a round rice paper called banh trang. It is then usually served with a sweet and sour or peanut butter dipping sauce. I have taken this idea and have made a few island changes to make it more Hawaii-style, and even more delicious. It's a little work but worth the trouble, and great for your next potluck get-together. Feel free to add your own personal touches.

"Fresh SPAM" Spring Rolls?
There's something odd about saying "fresh Spam", but here goes...

1 teaspoon salt
1 pound small shrimp, peeled, and deveined
1-12 ounce can of Spam, thinly sliced into 1/4 inch strips
8 ounces thin rice vermicelli noodles*
1 package 8 1/2 inch round spring roll wrappers (rice paper called "banh trang")
1 head napa cabbage, use the tender inner leaves, removing the tough stem, then cut leaves into 1/2" strips
1 bunch fresh mint leaves, using only the leaves
teriyaki sauce (small bottle)
1 Japanese cucumber, thinly sliced, with the peeling left on, into 2 inch long strips
2 fresh ripe mango or papaya, peeled, pitted, and cut into thin 2 inch long strips
16-20 chives, or green onion tops cut lengthwise and then into 5 inch strips

Follow package directions and cook rice vermicelli noodles. However sometimes the package is in another language, so I usually soak my rice vermicelli in warm, not hot water for about 15-20 minutes, until the noodles are completely pliable. Then cook in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and run cold water over the top to stop the cooking and to wash off any starch which makes them stick together as they dry. I usually put a couple of drops of vegetable oil over the top and mix it in, this stops the sticking together problem. Set the noodles aside while you prepare the other items.

Fill a small saucepan half full of water, add salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp, reduce heat to simmer for 2-3 minutes or until cooked through. Remove the shrimp with slotted spoon and set aside to cool.

Next, cut the spam into thin 1/4 inch strips and saute them in a little teriyaki sauce for about 5 minutes, remove from heat and set aside.

Lay cooked shrimp flat and cut in half horizontally.

Fill a large frying pan with warm water and quickly dip and spin a piece of rice paper into water; make sure to wet the entire piece for about 5 seconds. Lay it down on a large cutting board or work surface. Working quickly, place a few Napa cabbage leaf strips on the near side of the rice round. On top of the leaf strips, add a small amount of rice noodles, a couple of Spam strips, a little cucumber, and mango/papaya evenly across the rice paper.

Roll the rice paper forward (in egg roll fashion), one revolution over the filling, and tuck it underneath. Add 3 mint leaves, 3 shrimp halves with the sliced side facing up. Fold the sides inwards and add a chive/green onion strips over shrimp with 1 inch sticking outside of a folded side. Continue rolling while keeping tension on the rice paper for a tight roll. The roll will seal itself. Continue making rolls until ingredients are exhausted. Serve rolls with dipping sauce of your choice (recipes below). Makes 16-18 rolls. With a sharp knife, cut rolls into 3 pieces for bite-sized pupus (appetizers).

*Rice vermicelli are thin noodles made from rice and are a form of rice noodles. They are sometimes referred to as rice noodles or rice sticks, but they should not be confused with cellophane noodles, which is another type of vermicelli. They are available in the Asian section of most grocery stores, and are a key ingredient in fresh spring rolls. Here on Moloka'i, I have gotten them at Misaki's grocery store for $3.39 for a 16 ounce package, which is twice as many noodles as you need for this recipe, so put the other half away in a zip lock bag for another time.

Note: These rolls should be prepared no earlier than 3 hours before serving, otherwise the rice paper gets tough. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve with dipping sauce. Below you will find 2 different dipping sauces. You can make both or just one, whatever you like.

Ingredients for Sweet & Sour Dipping Sauce:
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
1 medium clove garlic, finely chopped (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

To make the sweet and sour dipping sauce:
Combine the water and cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the pineapple juice, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan over moderately high heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir the cornstarch slurry into the saucepan, decrease the heat to low and simmer until the sauce thickens, 3-5 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature before serving. The sauce will continue to thicken a bit more as it cools.

Note: If you are lazy like I am sometimes, or just don't have the time to make a great sauce, then try bottled Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce from Thailand. It's available in the Asian section of your grocery store. It is a fairly thick sauce that is slightly sweet and is ideal for fresh Spam spring rolls.

Ingredients for Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce:
1 small piece of lemon grass, chopped
1 cup water
1/2 cup hoisin sauce (available in the Asian section of your grocery store)
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

To make a peanut butter dipping sauce: 
In a small sauce pan, simmer lemon grass for 6 minutes, strain out the lemon grass, then add the remaining ingredients to the lemon grass water and simmer an additional 5 minutes. Pour into individual serving cups and serve with spring rolls.

May 27, 2013

With "FRISÉE", Bitter Is Better!

"Green Curled Ruffec" (Chicorium endiva) 
350 Seeds By - Seed Needs -

$1.65 -
Frisée is a lettuce from the chicory family. It has a spiky and firm leaf, which is mildly bitter. The outer leaves are green and spiky but firm, the inner leaves are lighter in color, even white, and have a milder taste. Frisée also comes in a broad leafed variety known as escarole.
Frisée is an exotic plant that resembles a lettuce gone horribly awry, with a pale green explosion of frizzy leaves that adds a nice contrast to green salads. Some consumers are radically opposed to frisee, while others adore the bitter and sometimes woody green.

Frisée was popularized in the United States in the 1990s by chefs across the country, who integrated the green into a wide variety of salads, and it has since become available in many upscale grocers and at some farmers' markets, including the farmers' market on Moloka'i (look for my friend Kay Hirayama, she's a small grower who gets there very early, and usually sits with her large cooler full of homegrown vegetables, just to the left of Bank of Hawaii). 

Because of the slightly bitter taste of frisée, it goes very well with the fresh fruit that we have in Hawaii, like a frisée salad with slices of fresh mango and avocado, topped with a sweet and tangy lilikoi vinaigrette. Or try this classic French salad made with a bed of frisée lettuce, topped with a fried egg and sprinkled with pieces of bacon (see recipe below). Cooking frisée will significantly reduce its bitterness. Frisée is often served as a vegetable steamed or braised, and can be added to soups for flavoring in the later stages of soup making. Or try sweating frisée in butter with chopped shallots. Finish with a drizzle of cream and serve as a vegetable. I love this beautiful stuff... I think you will also, give it a try.

Frisée Salad with Bacon & Eggs
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Frisée Salad with Bacon & Eggs
In France this salad is often called "Salade aux Lardons", combining tasty morsels of bacon with frisée, and then coated with a warm bacon vinaigrette dressing and topped with a poached egg.

4 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1-by-1/4-inch strips
3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 teaspoon Dijon style mustard
12 ounces frisee, torn into pieces
salt and ground pepper
4 poached eggs
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

In a medium skillet, cook bacon over medium, tossing occasionally, until browned, 6 to 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Set bacon aside. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat from skillet; return skillet to heat. Add mustard and vinegar; stir, scraping up browned bits until dressing is combined. In a large bowl, toss frisee with warm dressing. Add bacon, and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, topped with a poached egg garnished with a pinch of cayenne pepper and minced chives. Makes 4 servings.

Frisée Salad with Fuji Apple, 
& Gorgonzola Cheese
I am a gorgonzola lover, a creamy, rich blue cheese from Italy that works beautifully with apples and frisée lettuce. Try and get gorgonzola from Italy, it's much better than the gorgonzola from anyplace else.

1 head of frisée lettuce, chopped
1 fuji apple, sliced and seeded
1 Japanese cucumber, sliced
1/3 cup of toasted pumpkin seeds
2 ounces Italian Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
black pepper, freshly cracked
salt to taste

Mix the lemon juice, vinegar and mustard in a small bowl. Slowly incorporate the oil into the vinaigrette. In a large bowl, toss the frisée lettuce, cucumber, apples and vinaigrette. Serve with pumpkin seeds and crumbled cheese. Crack black pepper over the top with a sprinkle of salt. Makes 2

Grilled Turmeric-Spiced Chicken Wraps
with Avocado Salsa & Frisée

Ingredients for Chicken:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, trimmed

Ingredients for Tomato-Avocado Salsa:
6 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch chunks (2 1/2 cups)
2 avocados, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 cups frisée lettuce
8 flour tortillas (8-inch)

For the chicken, mix oil, garlic powder, sea salt, turmeric and red pepper in small bowl. Place chicken in large resealable plastic bag or glass dish. Add marinade; turn to coat well. Refrigerate 30 minutes or longer for extra flavor.

Meanwhile, for the Salsa, mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Cover. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove chicken from marinade. Discard any remaining marinade.

Grill chicken over medium-high heat 6 to 8 minutes per side or until cooked through. Cut chicken into thin strips. Place 1/4 cup frisée lettuce on each tortilla. Fill with chicken and salsa. Fold sides of tortilla over filling and serve. Makes 8 servings.

Frisée & White Bean Soup 
2 bunches greens (frisée, Swiss chard, beet greens, etc.)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2, 15 ounce cans great northern white beans, drained and rinsed (2 cups)
3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Parmesan-reggiano cheese, grated

Wash greens. Remove any tough stems and chop into bite sized pieces. Heat oil in medium soup pot. Add garlic and sauté until golden. Add greens and sauté until soft (you may have to add them in batches if they don’t all fit into your pot). Add beans and stock. Simmer 15 minutes or so. Add salt and pepper to taste, top with freshly grated parmesan-reggiano cheese. Serve with crusty bread. Makes 4 servings.

Frisée au Gratin 
This traditional Belgian dish is usually made with Belgian endive, but frisée can be used instead (endive and frisée are, after all, two incarnations of the same vegetable). 

1 head of frisée
2 cups soft bread, crust removed, shredded
1 cup milk
1 cup ham, cut in little squares (optional)
2 hard-boiled eggs
2/3 cup light cream
1 cup grated gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Boil salted water in a pot large enough to take a head of frisée. Boil until wilted. Drain, cool, and cut lengthwise in strips. Place strips side-by-side in a buttered gratin dish. Put the soft bread in the milk. Mash the hard-boiled eggs with a fork. Mix together the eggs and the bread/milk mixture (add extra milk if necessary to obtain a creamy consistency). Add the ham, salt, pepper and the nutmeg. Mix well and pour over frisée strips. Pour the cream over the frisée, and sprinkle with grated cheese. Add some little cubes of butter over the dish. Bake for 15-20 minutes, then broil for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes 4-6 servings.

Frisée and Caramelized Onions
1 head of frisée
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
juice of 1 lemon or 1/2 cup heavy cream (to soften the bitterness of the frisée)
salt and pepper to taste

Boil salted water in a pot large enough to take ahead of frisée. Boil until wilted. Drain, let cool, and chop coarsely. In a large skillet, sauté the onions in oil until caramelized. Add garlic and continue sautéing for 1-2 minutes. Incorporate steamed frisée and lemon juice (or cream). Add salt and pepper to taste and serve. Makes 2 servings.

Beet, Spinach and Frisée Salad
3 medium red or golden beets
juice of one orange plus water to make one cup
1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon walnut oil or a fruity olive oil
4 cups frisée
4 cups baby spinach
1 cup mint leaves (optional)
2 ounces Mozzarella, diced in 1⁄2 inch dice, or firm tofu or crumbled soft (log-style) goat cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour or until tender. Discard foil; cool beets for 30 minutes. Trim off beet roots; rub off skins. Cut into 1/8-inch thick slices. Combine orange juice, water, cranberries, and vinegar in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil; cook 11 minutes or until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in shallots, salt, and pepper. Gradually add oil, stirring with a whisk. Combine lettuce, spinach and mint leaves (if using) in a largebowl. Add cranberry mixture; toss to coat. Add beets; toss gently to combine. Divide salad evenly among 6 plates. Top each salad with 4 teaspoons cheese. Makes 6 servings.

Surinam Cherries In Hawaii

Surinam Cherry
Photo by Ken Love at
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I first experienced these shinny little red pumpkin shaped berries when a friend gave me a small box of them that she had just picked from the tree in her yard. They were sweet but very tart at the same time. I then saw them being used in jelly, and sold here on Moloka'i at farmers' market. I have to say that the jelly was one of the best jellies I have ever had, again very tart, but delicious, with a vibrant red color. I now have a small tree growing in my back yard and I am looking forward to one day making my own jelly. 

The taste of these berries ranges from sweet to sour, depending on the cultivar and level of ripeness (the darker red to black range is quite sweet, while the green to orange range is extremely tart). They must be picked when absolutely ripe or they are a very unpleasant edible experience. They are an acquired taste because most people are expecting some kind of sweet cherry flavor and they don’t have that because they are actually not a cherry at all. The surinam cherry is in fact part of the Myrtaceae family, and is related to the guava, clove, allspice and eucalyptus plants, but it is not related to sweet or sour cherries.

The Surinam cherry is known by many names, Brazilian cherry, Cayenne cherry, Pitanga, and Florida cherry. It is native of Surinam, Guyana, French Guiana, southern Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay where it grows in wild thickets on the banks of the Pilcomayo River. Surinam cherries can now be found growing in most tropical regions around the world, from the Philippines to Hawaii, and from Haiti to the West African country of Nigeria.

For table use, they are best slit vertically on one side, spread open to release the seed(s), and kept chilled for 2 or 3 hours to dispel most of their resinously aromatic character. If seeded and sprinkled with sugar before placing in the refrigerator, they will become mild and sweet and will exude much juice and serve very well instead of strawberries on shortcake and topped with whipped cream. They are an excellent addition to fruit cups, salads and custard pudding; also ice cream; and can be made into pie or sauce or preserved whole in sirup. They are often made into jam, jelly, relish or pickles. Brazilians ferment the juice into vinegar or wine, and sometimes prepare a distilled liquor.

Surinam Cherry Recipes:
Surinam Cherry-Ginger Jam 
6 cups ripe surinam cherries
2-3 cups of sugar
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
4 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
8 ounce jelly jars (sterilized)

Wash fruit and remove stem and blossom end. Place the cherries, sugar, lemon/lime juice and ginger in a large pan. Bring to boil on high heat, lower to simmer and stir often. Do this until you get a jam like consistency (approximately 30 minutes). Leave to cool. Place a sieve in a bowl and put the fruit into the sieve. Give it a good workout with a wooden spoon to get as much fruit pulp into the bowl as you can. Discard the stones (seeds). In a clean pan, add 1/2 cup of sugar to each cup of pulp. Heat to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Wash jelly jars as normal, rinse but leave the jars a little wet. Microwave for no more than one minute to sterilize them. Place jam in jars, label and store in the refrigerator.

Surinam Cherry Chiffon Pie
1 pie crust, 9-10 inch diameter, baked and cooled
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin powder
1/4 cup cold water
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup surinam cherry pulp (about 1½ cups of fruit)
1 cup whipping cream, sweetened with powdered sugar and whipped to soft peaks

Rinse the cherries and remove stems and flowery ends. Put them in a food processor and using quick pulses, process a few times then pick the seeds out. The flecks of cherry throughout the pie makes for a pretty presentation when cut and served.

Soften the gelatin in 1/4 cup water. Beat the yolks together with HALF of the sugar and add the fruit pulp. Cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly. Add the softened gelatin and stir until dissolved. Cool and set aside.

Whip the egg whites until frothy then gradually add the remaining amount of sugar, beating until peaks begin to hold their shape. Fold beaten whites into cherry mixture and fill pie shell. Chill until firm. Top with prepared whipped topping just before serving. Serves 8-10.

May 25, 2013

OPO – Long Squash

Opo - Long Squash
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Opo is an Asian squash similar to a zucchini with a very mild flavor. Opo is from the gourd family and is native to the cuisines of China and Southeast Asia. In addition to Opo, other names commonly referred to for this squash are: bottle gourd, calabash, Italian edible gourd, long fruited gourd, long melon, long squash, peh poh, woo lo kua, hu lu gua, New Guinea bean, Tasmania bean, snake gourd, suzza melon, or zuzza. The name given to this squash in other countries include: yugao (Japanese), po gua (Cantonese), kwa kwa or hu gua (Chinese), opo (Filipino), cucuzzi or cucuzza (Italian), bau (Vietnamese), and dudhi or lauki (Indian). In Hawaii it is called opo or Chinese long squash. You will find many backyard gardeners here growing Chinese long squash, a squash that is pale green with white flesh, and can grow up to several feet in length. Chinese long squash is especially plentiful in the summer months here on Moloka'i, and is very popular with the Filipino community.

Popular cooking methods for this type of squash include grilling, roasting, baking, stir-frying, and stewing. The squash can be seasoned with a variety of items, and generally absorbs the flavors of other ingredients when it is used in a soup, stew, or casserole. It can also be stuffed and baked, or cooked with yellow lentils, tomatoes and spices, as they do in India. 
Opo's skin is edible, as are the vegetable's seeds, but people usually peel opo and cut out the seeds and pithy inside. 

Recently at a golfing potluck lunch at Ironwood golf course I had a dish prepared using long squash and Spam. I actually like Spam in certain dishes, like in musubi, but this long squash/Spam soup was so ono, and very local (recipe below). Besides having a lot of fiber, opo provides vitamins A, C, B vitamins – niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, and if that’s not enough, it also provides calcium, iron and potassium! Select firm squash that has evenly-textured skin, free of wrinkles. Upo can be refrigerated up to 3 days.

Opo Recipes:
Opo Squash Soup
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Opo Squash Soup  (Tabungao)
This delicious Filipino recipe is the most common recipe for opo here on Moloka'i. Other nationalities also enjoy soups with opo,  adding fish, or shrimp instead of pork or chicken, and the addition of lemon grass, sesame oil, and local spices for seasoning.

1/4 cup canola oil for frying
1 1/2 pounds fresh boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or pork, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 whole bay leaf, ripped in half
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thin
6 roma tomatoes, cut into chunks
2-4 cloves of garlic, crushed, peeled, and minced fine
1 tablespoon minced ginger
4 cups cold water
2 tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons fish sauce (nuoc mam or patis)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1- 2 pound small opo (long squash), peeled, seeded, and cut lengthwise, then cut into 1/4" slices (4 cups of cut squash)
cilantro for garnish (optional)

Heat a 6 quart pot or wok with cover. Add canola oil and heat until almost smoking. Add pork or chicken and stir fry. Brown and cook until medium well done, about 10 minutes on high heat. Season with salt, pepper, and bay leaf while frying. Add onions, tomato, and garlic. Continue to stir fry until vegetables are translucent and wilted. Add additional oil if needed. Add 4 cups of water to pot, cover and bring meat to a boil then lower heat to simmer. Simmer until meat is tender, about 20 minutes. Add fish sauce, soy sauce, and white vinegar to soup. Add squash to pot and cover. Simmer until squash is soft, about 20 minutes more. Add more pepper and fish sauce to adjust to your taste. Serve with white rice on the side or in the soup. Makes 4-6 servings depending on whether you serve it as a first course or main course.

Note: I usually use chicken, dark meat, 2 wings, 2 drum bones, and 2 thighs. Leave the bones in the wok until stock is cooked, then remove the meat and bones, cut the meat into bite sized pieces and discard the bones, return chicken meat to stock, add the squash, fish sauce, soy sauce and cook for 20 minutes and serve with rice. The bones add flavor.

Sari Sari
Filipino food is comfort food, family-style food, food that Hawaii has been enjoying for 100 years. Filipinos love to eat vegetables. Sari Sari is a favorite Filipino soup/stew simmered with vegetables that are familiar in Filipino cooking. In Tagalog (an ancient native language in the Philippines), the term sari sari is roughly equivalent to "any kine", meaning whatever you've got; tomatoes, onion, eggplant, long beans, bitter melon, pumpkin, winged beans, opo long squash, okra, sequa (sponge gourd), or swamp cabbage (a water spinach common in Southeast Asian dishes). Prawns, squid, fish, pork belly or lechon (crispy roast pork) are then added to create this flavorful dish seasoned with garlic, ginger and fish sauce.

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, cut into wedges
4 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch ginger, peeled, minced
2-3 tablespoons patis (Filipino fish sauce)
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups chicken broth
2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 long Japanese eggplants, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 pound long beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium bitter melon, seeded, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1/4 pound small shrimp, peeled, deveined, or cooked whole, with or without the head on
1 pound crispy roast pork, 1 ½-inch chunks

In a large pot over medium heat; sauté onion, garlic and ginger in oil. Add in patis, vinegar, tomato paste, salt and broth. Stir well to combine. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Add tomatoes, eggplant and long beans. Cover pot; simmer stirring occasionally until vegetables are almost tender (about 10 minutes). Add bitter melon and shrimp; cook until shrimp are just pink (about 2 minutes). Taste to adjust seasoning by adding salt or additional fish sauce. Add roast pork and gently stir until heated through. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Spam & Pork Belly
Long Green Squash Soup
I first had this soup at a potluck lunch up at Ironwood Golf Course. This is a truly local recipe, and real comfort food, thanks Bruce.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 pound pork belly, sliced thin into bite size pieces
1-12 ounce can of Spam, diced into bite-sized pieces
1 inch slice of fresh ginger, smashed
1 medium long green squash (opo), peeled, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon dried shrimp
4 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked and cut into quarters
1- 14 ounce can chicken broth
4 1/4 cups water, enough water to equal 6 cups with the chicken broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
6 green onions, chopped, for garnish

Heat a soup pot over medium high heat and add oil. Add the pork belly slices and brown like you would bacon, only not crisp. Now add the Spam and ginger and cook for 2 minutes more. Drain most of the oil from the pot, then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the squash is tender about 15 – 20 minutes. Garnish each serving with chopped green onions, and serve with white rice on the side, sprinkled with Tamari sauce, and sprinkled with nori fumi furikake rice seasoning. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

May 21, 2013

Light and Refreshing TROPICAL SOUPS

Gazpacho - Hawaiian Style
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You don't think of people in the tropics eating soup, it's too hot. Tropical soups, just like other heavier soups from around the world, are based on local seasonings and ingredients. Tropical soups tend to be lighter and more refreshing than the soups that originate in colder climates.

There are numerous varieties of soups available. They are a staple food in many families whose recipes get passed down from generation to generation. Whether you live in a warm tropical climate or in a cold one, soup is a timeless staple, and is truly a beloved food that is economical, nutritious, easy to prepare and one that I am excited to see constantly evolve.

Tropical Soup Recipes:
Gazpacho - Hawaiian Style
Gazpacho is a classic Spanish tomato-based vegetable soup that is traditionally served cold. It is also served in neighboring Portugal where it is spelled Gaspacho. This Portuguese adaptation was created with the tastes of Hawaii, combining the best of Hawaiian summer vegetables and seasonings for a refreshing luau meal or for a 'ohana (family) picnic on the beach.

2-14.5 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
2-14.5 ounce cans tomato sauce
6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1 sweet maui onion, finely chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
1 sweet red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 small bunch of basil, roughly chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
6 or more drops of Hawaiian Hot Chili Water, or Tabasco sauce to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Garnish with a dollop sour cream, watercress, or small basil leaves

In a food processor, add one can of crushed tomato and one can of tomato sauce. Then add HALF of each of the chopped vegetables and garlic. Blend until almost smooth, or to desired consistency. Pour into a large non-metal, bowl. Repeat this process with the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Now add the vinegar, sesame oil, lime juice, sugar, salt and pepper, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce to the bowl. Mix together with a spoon and adjust the seasonings to your taste. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours or overnight, allowing the flavors to blend. Ladle cold soup into chilled bowls and garnish with small dollops of sour cream and the top sprigs of cold watercress or basil. Sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds and serve immediately with your favorite crackers on the side. Makes 8 servings, or 4 if you're hungry.

Shrimp Long Rice Soup with Taro Leaves
and Purple Sweet Potatoes

8 ounces (about 20) large shells-on shrimp (40 count per pound)
1-inch slice of ginger, peeled and lightly smashed
2 teaspoons fish sauce (patis) or 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 ounces dried bean thread noodles (Mum’s brand), sometimes called "long rice"
1 large taro leaf, stem removed
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 small purple sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons Tamari sauce, or soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha Chinese hot chili sauce, or to taste (optional)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon Katsuo Mirin Furikake for garnish

To make the stock, peel and devein shrimp (shells and heads reserved for stock), put aside in the refrigerator. Put ginger, shrimp heads and shells into a large pot filled with 6 cups of salted water. Once the water comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes. Strain the shrimp broth into large heat-proof bowl. Skim out and discard the shells and ginger. (Stock can be made the day before and refrigerated).

Soak the bean thread noodles (Chinese long rice) in 4 cups of cold water and set aside for 20 minutes, then remove from water and cut into 2 inch long chunks.

Using a sharp knife and cutting board to remove the stem and large vein in the taro leaf. Roll the taro leaf up and cut across the leaf into 1/4 inch strips. Then cut in half to make the strips shorter to help the fit on your spoon after the soup is cooked. Add taro leaf strips and garlic to the shrimp broth. Simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered.

Meanwhile, peel the potatoes, and cut into 1/4 inch circles, add to pot. Add the, Tamari sauce, and Sriracha sauce. Bring everything to a boil then reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes, or until the taro and potatoes are tender. Add the reserved peeled shrimp, reserved soaked bean thread noodles, sesame oil and lime juice and allow the soup to return to a boil once again. At this point, the shrimp will have curled and turned pink, indicating they are cooked. Serve immediately, garnished with Furikake seasoning. Makes 4 servings.

Green Papaya Chicken Soup
This is one of my favorite Filipino recipes. It is important to find rock hard, dark green papayas for this dish, with no sign of any yellow-orange on them.

2-3 tablespoons canola oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
2-3 pound whole chicken or parts cut into bite sized portions, remove skin
2 tablespoons fish sauce (patis)
3-4 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups peeled and cubed unripened (green) papaya
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped (optional)

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onions and saute until transparent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and saute another 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and saute another 5 minutes to partially cook and lightly brown. Add the fish sauce and stir well. Add water to cover the chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 25-30 minutes, stirring and skimming off fat and scum occasionally. Add cubed papaya and simmer another 5-10 minutes until papaya is tender. Remove from heat, salt and pepper to taste and stir in the chopped spinach. This dish will be soupy when done. Serve with hot white rice on the side with Tamari sauce. Makes 6 servings.

Sweet & Spicy Mango Soup with Tamarind
5 medium-sized white onions, chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
6 very ripe mangoes, peeled, seed removed, chopped
1 serrano pepper, seeded, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
creme fraiche or plain yogurt to garnish
lime zest to garnish

In a soup pot, melt butter. Saute chopped onions in butter until tender but not brown. Add chopped mangoes and minced serrano. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Add chicken broth. Bring soup to a simmer. Cover pot and simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in tamarind paste, salt and pepper.

Puree soup in blender in several small batches. I always cover the lid of the blender with my kitchen towel before I turn it on, just in case that hot soup spurts out of the top.

To serve, ladle hot soup into serving bowls. Place a small scoop of Creme fraiche or plain yogurt on each serving. Garnish with zest of a lime. Makes about 6 servings.

Coconut Fish Chowder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 package (10 ounces) thawed frozen corn kernels
1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk
1 pound skinless red snapper fillets (opakapaka or ehu)
3-4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 finely chopped onion, 1/4 tablespoon red-pepper flakes, and 1/2 tablespoon coarse salt; cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add 11/2 cups water and 1 package (10 ounces) thawed frozen corn kernels. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until corn is tender, 4 to 5 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer 11/2 cups corn and onions to a blender. Add 1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk; blend until smooth.

To pan, add 1 pound skinless red snapper fillets. Simmer until opaque throughout, about 5 minutes. Return corn puree to pan. Break up fish with a spoon; heat until just warmed through (do not boil).

Remove from heat; stir in 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro. Serve immediately with lime wedges, if desired. Makes 2-4 servings.

Watercress Soup
2 bunches of watercress (about 12 ounces), chopped
2-3 medium onions, peeled and diced
2 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups water, or you can use chicken stock
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
creme fraiche or plain yogurt to garnish

Wash the watercress and chop the leaves and stems. Peel and dice the onions. Peel and dice the potatoes into a medium sized bowl. Add the 4 cups of water. This keeps them from turning brown and they release their starch into the water, which will provide a little thickener for the soup.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the onions. Cook until the onions have softened and are translucent but don’t let them brown. Add the watercress, potatoes and the water they were soaking in, and the salt, to the onions. Cover the pan and simmer on low heat until the potatoes are softened, about 15-20 minutes. Garnish each portion with a spoonful of creme fraiche or plain yogurt. Serve with crusty white bread. Makes 4 servings.

Asian Fish Soup
1 1/2 ounce package dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated according to label directions
10 cups water
2 3/4 ounce packets Dashi-No-Moto* (Asian soup stock)
2 leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 cups thinly sliced Daikon (Japanese white radish)
1 cup sake, or dry white wine
3 slices lemon
1 cup soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, halved
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1 12-inch piece lemon grass, chopped
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 ounce thin spaghetti
1, 3 ounce can crabmeat, drained and flaked
1 pound whitefish fillets cut into 1-inch pieces (such as flounder, cod, red snapper or halibut)
1 12 ounce can salmon, skin and bones removed, and flaked
4 tomatoes cut into eighths
lemon slices and chopped green onion (garnish)

Chop rehydrated mushrooms. In a five-quart Dutch oven or soup pot combine the water, Dashi-No-Moto, leeks, daikon, mushrooms, wine, lemon slices, and soy sauce. Wrap the garlic, lemon grass, peppercorns, and ginger in a piece of cheesecloth; tie securely with string and add to soup. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, covered. Meanwhile, break noodles into thirds; cook according to package directions; drain. Set aside. Add crabmeat, fish pieces, and salmon with noodles and tomatoes to soup; cook 5 minutes more. Ladle soup into serving bowl and garnish with lemon slices and green onion. Makes 6 servings.

*Purchase Dashi-No-Moto in the Asian or ethnic food section of your supermarket or an Asian Specialty Market.

Cold Cucumber Soup
2 large cucumbers, seeded and diced, reserve 2 slices for garnish later
2 cups yogurt
2 scallions, diced
2 hard-boiled eggs, diced
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon fresh dill weed, reserving several sprigs for garnish later
1 tablespoon fresh mint
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut two thin slices of the cucumber for garnish and put aside, covered in the refrigerator. Cut the rest of the cucumbers, leaving the peeling on, in half lengthwise, and with a teaspoon, remove the seeds. Dice the cucumbers into small pieces. Place cucumbers pieces into a blender, or food processor, with 2 cups of yogurt, 2 scallions, 2 hard-boiled eggs, and 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds. Add 1 tablespoon each fresh dill, mint and parsley. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, cover and purée until smooth. Transfer to bowl, cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, about 2 hours. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with a single slice of cucumber and a sprig of fresh dill. Makes 2 servings.

Won Ton Soup
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1/2 cup green onions and tops, minced (reserve 2 tablespoons of the tops for garnish)
1/2 cup minced fresh mushrooms
1 cup cooked shrimp, finely chopped
1/2 cup water chestnuts
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cooking sherry
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 pound (8 ounce) snow peas
1 12 ounce package won ton wrappers

For the won to filling, heat oil in skillet or wok. Stir-fry ginger and onions for 1 minute. Add mushrooms, shrimp, water chestnuts, soy sauce and sherry. Stir-fry for 1 minute and set aside. Remove 24 won ton wrappers from package. Cover with damp cloth to keep from drying out. One at a time, moisten one side of a wrapper with fingertips which have been dipped in water. Put a level teaspoon of filling in center of wrapper. (Don’t overfill!) Fold over to make a triangle. Press edges firmly to seal. Bring two opposite sides of triangle together and press to seal, using a little water if necessary. Set aside and continue to fill wrappers until all filling is used. Carefully slide won tons into a large pot of boiling water. Cook until won tons rise to the top. Remove and drain. Meanwhile, heat the chicken broth just to boiling point. Add snow peas and won ton and cook about 1 minute. Pour into soup bowls and garnish with minced green onion tops. Makes 6 servings.

Golden Squash Soup
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 1/2 pounds squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (such as acorn, butternut, or kabocha)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, minced
1 1/4 cups half and half or light cream
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
salt and pepper to taste

Fill a Dutch oven with water 2 inches deep. Add carrots; bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add squash pieces to pan; simmer 10 minutes more or until vegetables are tender. Drain well and set aside. In food processor, or with a stick blender, puree squash and carrots until smooth; set aside. In same pan melt butter; sauté onion and ginger for 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Add puree back to pan with half and half, broth and orange peel. Heat and stir mixture until it begins to boil. DO NOT BOIL; reduce heat to low. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve soup hot or chilled. (If necessary, add additional broth to chilled soup to thin to desired consistency.) Makes 4 servings.

Chow Fun Chicken Soup
8 cups chicken broth
2 leeks, sliced
2 large carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon whole peppercorns
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, or 2 teaspoons, crushed dried basil
3 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
2 packages dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted
half of a 1-pound package fresh chow fun rice noodles, cooked separately and drained

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, bring chicken broth to boiling. Add leeks, carrots, celery, bay leaf, peppercorns, basil, and cut-up chicken. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid to pot. Chop mushrooms, add to pot with noodles. Cook 5 minutes more or until heated through. Makes 8 servings.

Moloka'i Mango-Papaya Soup
This is a cold soup with the tropical fruit flavors of the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i.

2 large ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and chopped
2 large ripe papaya (3 3/4 pounds total weight), peeled, seeded, and chopped
about 1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice (using more or less as necessary)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 kiwi fruit, peeled, sliced and each slice cut into 4 pieces
3 lilikoi (passion fruit), cut in half
6 thin slices of fresh lime

Put chopped mango and papaya in a food processor with the orange juice and lime juice and blend until smooth. Pass the mixture through a sieve into a large bowl, cover and chill until required. Divide into 6 small soup bowls and top off each bowl with a few slices of peeled kiwi fruit, the seeds of half a lilikoi drizzled over the top, and a thin slice of lime. Makes 6 cups, or enough for 6 small servings.

Hot & Sour Soup
I love this recipe, great for cooler winter days when you want to warm your insides in a wonderful way. Lily buds, shiitake mushrooms, Wood Ear mushrooms, and chili oil can be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores.

1/2 pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup soy sauce
12 dried lily buds
8 dried shiitake mushrooms
10 dried Wood Ear mushrooms
6 cups chicken broth
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small carrot, cut into julienned strips
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar or white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chili oil, or to taste
8 ounces fresh tofu (firm)
1 tablespoon cold water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 beaten egg
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onion

Partially freeze chicken, cut into 1 x 1/4-inch strips. Sprinkle meat with 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce. Meanwhile, in three bowls soak lily buds, shiitake mushrooms, and Wood Ear mushrooms in enough warm water to cover for 30 minutes. Drain lily buds, shiitake mushrooms and Wood Ear mushrooms.  Cut off and discard tough stem end of lily buds. Slice each lily bud into 1-inch lengths. Throughly rinse Wood Ear mushrooms under running water, drain well. Cut shiitake mushrooms and Wood Ear mushrooms into thin strips. In large saucepan bring chicken broth to boiling; stir in chicken, the remaining soy sauce, lily buds, shiitake mushrooms, Wood Ear mushrooms, garlic, carrots, vinegar, and chili oil. Simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Slice tofu into 1/4-inch wide strips. Add to soup. Simmer, covered, 3 minutes more. Blend cold water into cornstarch. Stir into soup. Pour egg 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 garnished with thinly sliced green onion. Makes 6 servings.

Chips & Avocado Soup
Hawaii has some wonderful tropical avocados, just like Mexico. This simple soup satisfies my south-of-the-boarder cravings, and is a great way to enjoy avocado.

6 (6-inch) corn tortillas
cooking spray
1 3/4 cups sliced onion
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups chopped tomato
1 teaspoon hot sauce, or to taste
6 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup (3 ounces) queso fresco, or shredded 4 cheese Mexican cheese
1 cup cubed peeled avocado
1 large lime, cut into 6 wedges
1 small bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut tortillas into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Place strips on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes or until golden. Set strips aside.

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and garlic; sauté 7 minutes or until golden. Place onion mixture, tomato, and hot sauce in a blender or food processor; process until smooth.

Place pan over medium-high heat. Add tomato mixture, and cook 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chicken broth; bring to a boil. Partially cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 30 minutes. Ladle soup into bowls. Divide the cheese, tortilla strips, and avocado evenly among bowls. Sprinkle each serving with chopped cilantro. Serve with lime wedges on the side. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

May 19, 2013

Coconut Flat Bread

Indian woman baking chapatis on an iron griddle
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In the U.S., we are more familiar with Latin American tortillas when it comes to unleavened flatbread. However the flatbread used in India is called chapatis or rottis. The dough is rolled out into thin 8 inch rounds and baked on an iron griddle.

Using coconut milk instead of water adds a tropical coconut flavor and a velvety texture to this traditional Indian bread. The dough is easier to roll and shape than the whole wheat flour version. 

After you have made a stack of coconut flatbread, you can just put butter on them and eat them warm, or make a tropical burrito out of one, using cooked and seasoned ground pork, black beans and rice, with a spicy mango-avacado salsa. Or cut flat bread into strips, fry in 350˚F oil 2-3 minutes, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar while still hot. Then serve them with apple bananas that have been sauteed in butter, brown sugar, rum and cinnamon. Or serve them around mango ice cream sprinkled with toasted coconut. There are so many uses for this delicious tropical coconut flatbread.

Coconut Flatbread
3 1/2 cups white all-purpose flour, plus a bit extra to dust the counter top.
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (Be sure to buy pure coconut milk with no sugar added. Shake the can well to distribute the cream before opening.)
2 tablespoons canola oil

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add coconut milk and stir to make a soft dough. Mix with hands until thoroughly combined, and knead well about 10 times. If the dough is too wet or too dry, add a bit more coconut milk or flour as needed. At this point you can leave the dough, covered, for an hour or two.

Preheat a large (9-inch or more) cast iron or other heavy skillet or griddle. Brush surface with the 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Heat until hot but not smoking.

Divide dough into 10 equal balls. Dust work surface with flour, and begin rolling balls into large, flat rounds, about 8 inches in diameter and very thin. You can trim the edges with a sharp knife or pizza cutter to make a round shape.

Place first round of dough in hot skillet. Press surface lightly with a paper towel to make air bubbles appear in dough. This makes a nice speckled surface. Cook for about 1 minute, then flip and cook other side, pressing dough again with towel. When dough is cooked through and lightly browned in spots, remove from pan. Continue with remaining rounds of dough. Usually you do not need to add more oil to the pan after the first flatbread is cooked. You can stack coconut flat bread on a warm plate as they are taken from the pan. Makes 10 coconut flat bread rounds.

Gluten-free Coconut Flatbread
Rottis are a pan-fried soft bread, similar to Indian nan, that are made with toasted rice flour. Coconut milk is a delicious and exotic replacement for dairy and soy milk. Rice flour and coconut milk are gluten-free and vegan.

2 cups rice flour
1/2 cup unsweetened, dried and shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups water, or use canned coconut milk (Be sure to buy pure coconut milk with no sugar added. Shake the can well to distribute the cream before opening.)

Place the rice flour in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir the flour continuously to ensure even toasting. Remove from heat when the rice flour has darkened several shades and emits a toasted aroma. Place the toasted rice flour in a large bowl.

In the same skillet, toast the coconut, stirring constantly, just until it begins to turn golden. Add the coconut to the rice flour and add salt. Stir to combine. Add just enough water to make a soft dough. Knead it until it forms a ball and no longer sticks to the side of the bowl. To test the moisture level, roll a bit of the dough in your hand and press it flat. It should easily stay in one piece but it should also have some cracking around the edges. If your edges are totally smooth, you've added too much water. In this case you can add a bit more un-toasted rice flour to the mixture.

Roll the dough into balls about the size of a golf ball. Place each ball between two pieces of waxed paper and use your palm or a rolling pin to flatten to your desired thickness. Note: If you make them too thin, they can break easily.

Fry on a preheated, lightly greased griddle or frypan over medium to medium-high heat until it begins to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until golden. Makes 6 gluten-free coconut flatbread rounds.

May 18, 2013

Cooking with FIG Leaves

Figs and Fig Leaves
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If you cook, then you probably have cooked with leaves. Herbs are culinary leaves, either dried or fresh, that have been around the cooking pot for a very long time. Culinary herbs are distinguished from vegetables in that, like spices, they are used in small amounts and provide flavor rather than substance to food. By culinary herbs I mean those little bottles that you probably have on your spice shelf, herbs like bay leaves, oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary, coriander, and so on. 

Ancient cooks also used certain kinds of large culinary leaves in the cooking process, mostly to wrap food in during the cooking process. They found that these leaves, not only kept the food moist, but also gave off an added flavor to the food. The early Hawaiians used ti leaves, taro or banana leaves, even sea weed, to cover their food with before cooking in their underground oven called an imu. 

Banana leaves also play an important role in Vietnamese cuisine – they're used as a wrapper for sticky rice dumplings and whole fish. During cooking, banana leaves give food the flavor of tea and anise. Cooking with tea leaves is as old as the history of tea itself. The ancient Chinese used dried pungent oolong tea leaves to stuff fish before steaming it, or they added tea leaves to the fire source for smoking duck. Grape leaves are another common leaf used for cooking, and perhaps the most familiar. They're essential in Greek and Middle-Eastern cooking and, unlike banana leaves – which are used only as wrappers – grape leaves are eaten along with their contents.

It turns out that there is another leaf that you can cook with, fig leaves. You probably don't think about the leaves of the fig tree as one of fig's edible parts. But in some cultures, fig leaves are a common part of the menu. I've been looking into cooking with fig leaves. Famous chefs like Alice Waters and Martha Stewart have been grilling and steaming fish, like salmon and halibut, in fig leaves for years. Fortunately I have a small brown turkey variety fig tree in my yard which I was told was the most popular of hundreds of varieties of fig trees. Unfortunately my figs are even more popular with the birds in my yard. They eat all of the fruit before it even gets ripe, leaving me with just the leaves. All the more reason to cook with them. It's actually quite simple to cook with fig leaves, but they usually aren't eaten, even though they are edible, but are usually used as a wrap in the cooking process. The sap in fig leaves imparts a wonderfully fragrant coconut-like aroma when grilled, and it keeps the fish juicy. Cooking fish in a fig leaf lets you use a minimal amount of fat to create a healthy, lean entree. Here's is how you do it:

Cooking Fish Wrapped In Fig Leaves
1 large pot
4 large fig leaves, stems removed and blanched
1 bowl ice water
4 fish fillets (mahi mahi, salmon, jumbo shrimp, sward fish, whatever you like)
olive oil
pastry brush
salt, or Tamari sauce or soy sauce
lemon or lime juice
rimmed baking sheet
meat thermometer

Preheat your oven or grill to 400˚F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Rinse the fig leaves in water and remove the stem. Place four large fig-leaves in the boiling water. Blanch the leaves for three to five minutes, until they are soft. Remove the leaves and immediately place them in a bowl of ice water to stop them from cooking.

Lay the fig leaves flat on the counter. Place a fish fillet, or shrimp on top of each leaf.

Paint the fish/shrimp with a small amount of olive oil, using a pastry brush. Sprinkle the fish with salt, or soy sauce, and pepper.

Squeeze lemon, or lime juice over the fish. Bring up the sides of the fig leaves and wrap each fillet.

Arrange the packages on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour 1/4 cup of water around the packages. Slide the sheet into the oven. Or, place the fish packages on the grill – folded sides facing down – if grilling.

Bake the fish for 10 minutes in an oven. If using a grill, allow three to four minutes of cooking time per side.

Open a fig leaf and check for doneness with a fork, or insert a thermometer through leaf into center of fish. It is ready when the thermometer reaches 140°F. The center of the fish must be opaque and flaky.

Remove the fish from the grill or oven; place the packages on a serving plate. Serve the fish wrapped in the fig leaves. Makes 4 servings.

May 15, 2013


Spiced Pumpkin Bread
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One of the great things about living in Hawaii is the availability of fresh tropical fruit year-round. Apple bananas, pineapple, coconut, papaya, and pumpkin, are always in season, making mango, lilikoi, starfruit, strawberries, surinam cherries, meyer lemons, and pomelo even more desirable when they are in season. One of my favorite ways to use fresh fruit is in tropical quick breads. Quick breads are leavened with baking powder or baking soda, as compared to yeast breads that require long rising times before baking. They are easy to make, and I love to have a slice with coffee in the morning.

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

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

Papaya-Mango Bread
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, I use Bob’s Red Mill
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup papaya puree (place chopped papaya in food processor and puree)
3/4 cup minced mango, dried on a paper towel
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon coconut extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Place coconut on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 5 minutes. Be sure to watch it carefully. It can burn very quickly. Turn down the oven to 350ºF. Coat an 8 x 4″ loaf pan with baking spray. In a large bowl, mix together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, sugar/stevia mix, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and coconut. Reserve 2 tablespoons of flour. In a small bowl, mix together papaya puree, yogurt, eggs and coconut extract. In a small plastic bag, mix together mango and reserved flour. Mix in wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Fold in the mango until just combined. Pour into a loaf pan and even out the top. Bake for about 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Take bread out of the pan and place on a wire rack to cook completely. Makes 1 loaf or 8 servings. Note: Mix together 4 ounces of cream cheese with 1/4 cup minced papaya to make a delicious spread for the bread slices.

Spiced Pumpkin Bread
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 eggs
2/3 cup water
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree, or just under two cups
5 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cloves
whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix together with a fork; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, oil and eggs; beat until smooth. Add water and beat until well blended. Stir in pumpkin, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, stir until blended with no lumps. Pour into prepared pans. Bake in preheated oven for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cake cool 1/2 hour before removing from loaf pans, if you can. Makes 2 loaves.

Meyer Lemon Bread
1 cup butter, softened
2 cup sugar
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 meyer lemon rind, grated
1 cup chopped pecans
juice of 3 meyer lemons
1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 325˚F. Cream butter and 2 cups of sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Sift together salt, soda and flour. Add to sugar mixture alternating with buttermilk. Stir in lemon rind and pecans. Pour into 2 greased and floured loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour. While bread bakes, mix lemon juice and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved, making a glaze. After bread has baked, turn onto waxed paper and spoon glaze over top while bread is still warm. Makes 2 loaves or 16 servings.

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

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

Guava Bread
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg
1 cup peeled and mashed fresh guava

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then add the egg and guava, mix well with a wooden spoon. Scrape batter into a greased 9x5 loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer plunged into the center comes out clean. Makes 1 loaf or 8 servings.

Honey Bread
2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons of butter), at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Butter and flour the loaf pan. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, whip the butter, sugar and honey on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vanilla extract. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for about one minute after each addition. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the dry mixture and buttermilk in three additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is evenly incorporated. Transfer the batter to the prepared pans. Smooth the top down and bake the cake for about hour and the muffins for about 20 to 25 minutes. The cake will be a lovely golden brown and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 1 loaf, or 8 servings.

Pumpkin Walnut Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree, or just under two cups
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Grease and flour two loaf pans and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. In a medium bowl, carefully whisk together pumpkin puree, oil, maple syrup and water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and use a spatula to fold all of the ingredients together. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl well, finding any stray flour bits to mix in. Fold in most of the chopped walnuts, reserving some to sprinkle on top of the batter once in the pan. Divide the dough between the two greased pans and sprinkle with a few walnut pieces. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven. Let rest in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack. Serve warm. Makes 2 loaves, or 16 servings.

Persimmon Bread
3½ cups sifted flour (I used half all purpose flour and half white whole wheat flour)
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 to 2½ cups sugar
1 cup melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2/3 cup cognac, bourbon or whiskey
2 cups persimmon puree (from about 4 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)
2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
2 cups raisins, or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates)

Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree then the nuts and raisins. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes 2 loaves, or 16 servings.

Maui Strawberry-Almond Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 eggs
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup crushed fresh strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 325˚F. Spray or grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and almond extract until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the flour and sour cream. Fold in the crushed fruit and almond slivers. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the bread in the pan for 20 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack, turn right side up and cool completely.

May 14, 2013

POMELO... The Granddaddy of Grapefruit!

Pomelos on sale at Chinatown, Singapore
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The pomelo is the largest of the citrus fruits, earning the name "Citrus Grandis". It's sort of like a grapefruit on steroids. They are huge, ranging from cantaloupe-size to as large as a 25-pound watermelon. The pomelo is similar in color and taste to a grapefruit, but it is actually much older than the grapefruit, introduced in China around 100 B.C. It has been described as the grapefruit for people who don’t like grapefruit, because the taste is less tart. The other difference is that they have a very thick rind with a cotton-textured pith. The rind can be as thick as 5 inches. 

Its pulpy segmented flesh ranges in color tones from pale to rich rosé pink to translucent yellow. The fragrant flesh can be juicy or dry depending on variety and age. Pomelos are semi-acidic, giving them their sweet tart flavor, and are loaded with vitamin C. Most pomelo varieties contain only a few seeds, though if cross-pollinated with another variety, the fruit will bear multiple seeds. To get to the flesh of a pomelo, take a chef’s knife, slice through the rind at the top and slice in segments until you can pull the two sides apart. Then just pull away the pith and white skin surrounding the flesh.
Hawaii grown cut pamelo
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Yam som-o
A Thai salad made with pamelo, chillies, deep-fried anchovies,
dried shrimp, roasted peanuts, fish sauce and tamarind juice
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The pomelo is mostly grown in eastern countries including China, Japan, Southern India, Fiji, Malaysia, Indonesia, New Guinea, Thailand, and Tahiti. Perhaps the pomelo was first brought to Hawaii by the Polynesian settlers, I'm not sure. It is also now grown in the Caribbean and in the United States, in California, Florida, Arizona, Texas and here in Hawaii. Pomelos are usually grafted onto other citrus rootstocks, but can be grown from seed, provided the seeds are not allowed to dry out before planting. The seedlings take about eight years to start blooming and yielding fruit. Pomelos are harvested November through June. Unlike most other citrus, it thrives in tropical lowlands and brackish water conditions. Another interesting fact about this fruit is that the tangelo is a hybrid between the pomelo and the tangerine, and the grapefruit itself is a hybrid between pomelo and the sweet orange.

The pomelo is sometimes called a "Chinese grapefruit". The Chinese believe that the pomelo is a sign of prosperity and good fortune - good things will happen if they eat it. They also use pomelo leaves in a ritual bath, which they believe helps to cleanse a person and repel evil. The peel is used in Chinese cooking or candied. It is also a staple fruit in Vietnamese food culture and cuisine. One very popular dish using pomelo is a Vietnamese Pomelo Salad. A combination of meaty citrus, crunchy carrots, salty cucumber, and sweet caramelized shallots with mint leaves and chopped peanuts, and finished off with the aromatic sweet-sour-salty-sweet sauce. Jumbo shrimp, chicken breast meat or pork are sometimes added to this recipe for more protein. The next time you visit Hawaii, look for the pomelo, "The Granddaddy of Grapefruit".

Vietnamese Pomelo Salad
Adapted from Viet World Kitchen

1 medium pomelo
1 cucumber, cut into matchsticks
2 to 3 teaspoons salt
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup chopped, roasted peanuts

Dressing Ingredients:
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce

With a large knife slice through the rind and go around with the knife until you can pull the two sides apart. With your fingers, peel the pith away from the white-covered flesh. Then, peel away the white skin away from the flesh (use scissors or a small knife is skin is too hard.) Separate the flesh into bite-size pieces and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss cucumber strips with salt. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the salt to draw out excess water.

Mix together the ingredients for the sauce. Set aside.

In a wok or sauté pan, cook the shallots and garlic until shallots are caramelized, about 3 minutes. Allow the shallots and garlic to cool for a few minutes, then toss with the carrots. After the cucumber has been sitting for 20 minutes, drain away excess water and add cucumbers to carrots. Add the mint, chopped peanuts, and dressing and toss well. Transfer to a plate or large bowl and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Thai Pomelo & Watermelon Salad
Ingredients for the salad:
6 small pink (Thai) shallots, halved and finely sliced
2 tablespoons groundnut oil
2 tablespoons cashew nuts
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut shreds
1 pomelo
1/4 large watermelon, skinned and sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut into matchsticks
thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely shredded
small handful of mint leaves
small handful of cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Ingredients for the dressing:
2 red bird's-eye chillis, deseeded and very finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon palm sugar or soft light-brown sugar
crisp green lettuce leaves to serve (optional)

Slowly fry two thirds of the shallots in the groundnut oil, stirring often and increasing the heat only when they have reduced in size. When crisp and golden, drain on paper kitchen towel.

Using a dry frying-pan, separately toast the nuts and coconut, shaking often, until golden and toasted but not burnt. The coconut can char very quickly, so take care. Crush or chop the nuts.

To cut the pomelo, cut off the top, then deeply score into wedges from top to bottom. Peel away the skin and thick layer of pith, then wrench the segments apart. Using a small knife to help, tear the membrane and pith away from each segment and discard.

Combine all the dressing ingredients, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Just before serving, mix all the salad ingredients together – including the reserved raw shallots – add the dressing and sprinkle with the toasted coconut and crushed cashews. Serve as is, or cupped in crisp green lettuce leaves. Makes 4 servings.

Candied Pomelo Peel
1 large pomelo
1 1/4 cups sugar

Using a pairing knife carefully remove peel from pomelo. To do this, cut both the top and bottom off of the fruit, leaving a flat surface to sit the pomelo. Follow the shape of the pomelo from top to bottom, in about 1/2″-1″ slices. Remove as much of the white pith as you can.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, blanch the peels for about 1 minute. Plunge into an ice bath, rinse off and repeat. You can do this 2-3 times to remove some of the bitterness.

Bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a simmer in a medium pot. Add your rinsed peels, turn the heat to low, cover and let cook for 1 hour.

Remove rinds to a drying rack. Let cool then toss with remaining sugar. (Some people like to dip one end in chocolate) Place back on the rack and let dry for an additional 3 hours or so. Store in an air tight container.

Pomelo Margarita
6 ounces pumelo juice
2 ounces lime juice
3 ounces tequila
2 ounces orange liqueur
salt, for rim (optional)
simple syrup, to taste (optional)

Stir together all ingredients in a small pitcher. Run one of the lime halves around the outside of two glasses. Twist the glasses in salt, fill with crushed ice, and fill with margarita. Makes 2 cocktails.