Jul 27, 2013


Mahi-mahi is a beautiful fish that can reach up to 25 pounds off the shores of the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i. They are distinguished by dazzling colors while in the water: golden on the lower sides, with bright blues and greens on the upper sides, but unfortunately the colors immediately fade when the fish is caught. Mahi-mahi is thin-skinned with firm, light-pink flesh. It has a delicate flavor that is almost sweet. Mahi-mahi is ideal for a variety of preparations and care should be taken not to overcook this fish. It can be broiled, poached, baked, sautéed, grilled, pan-fried, or even thinly sliced and served raw as sashimi, delivering a truly outstanding taste.

Mahi-mahi Recipes:
Mahi-mahi & Shrimp Tempura Pupus
Everyone loves shrimp tempura, but adding mahi-mahi with a sweet chilli sauce takes this appetizer to a new level.

canola oil, for frying
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup club soda
1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 1/2 cups panko Japanese bread crumbs
12 large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails left on

1 1/2 pounds of mahi-mahi fillet, without skin, cut into 1 inch squares
1 cup Mae Ploy brand sweet chilli sauce (found in the Asian section of your supermarket)
24 6-inch bamboo skewers

24 fresh cilantro leaves

First clean and devein shrimp, I like to leave the tails on, but that's up to you. Next cut the mahi-mahi into 1 inch squares. Put cleaned shrimp and fish squares into the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap.

In a wok or large skillet, pour in about 1 inch of canola oil, enough to cover shrimp and fish when cooking. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer, inserted in the oil, reaches 375˚F. While the oil is heating, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the club soda and sesame oil. Stir until just combined and still lumpy. Put the panko bread crumbs in a large plate. Gently dry the shrimp and fish with a paper towel, then dip 2 shrimp and 2 fish squares in the batter, then cover with panko and fry, 4 at a time, until the batter is golden and crispy, about 60 to 70 seconds. Drain on paper towels. Continue this process until all of the shrimp and fish are cooked.

Put one shrimp, and one fish square on each bamboo skewer, divided by a cilantro leaf and serve with Mae Ploy sweet chilli sauce alongside as a dipping sauce. Makes 24 pupus (appetizers).

Note: For a tropical display, cut a pineapple in half and stick 12 skewers into each pineapple half. Cut a small slice off of the bottom of each pineapple half to keep them steady. Use the pineapple for another use after the party.

Mahi-mahi Ceviche
Mexican ceviche is sort of like poke here in Hawaii. Raw fish marinated in a sauce with onions or whatever else you like. The difference is that Mexican ceviche relies on fresh lime juice to chemically cook the fish, giving it a wonderful lime flavor. Naturally small Mexican limes are the best for this recipe, but our Tahitian limes here in Hawaii work mighty fine.

1 1/2 pounds very fresh mahi-mahi, cut into 3/4" cubes
1 red onion
1 1/2 cups lime juice (that's about 12 Tahitian limes)
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
3 avocados, diced
3 roma tomatoes, diced
salt to taste
4 jalapeno chiles, seeded and minced (optional)

Juice the limes in a bowl and then add the mahi-mahi. Chop the onion into 1/2-inch pieces and add to the bowl along with the oregano and cilantro. Toss the ingredients until fish is well coated. Place the bowl with the fish in the refrigerator, covered for at least 1 hour. Remove from the refrigerator, add the avocado, tomatoes, salt to taste, and chiles if using. Toss and serve with tortilla chips or in a soft tortilla. Makes 6-8 servings depending on how hungry you are.

Note: To make limes or lemons easier to juice, put them in the microwave before slicing for about 20 to 30 seconds before squeezing, then when they have cooled for 30 seconds, roll them on the counter top with your hand, then cut them open for more juice.

Lemon Crusted Mahi-mahi with Salsa Romesco
Romesco sauce, originated in Spain, and has a beautiful combination of flavors that add a richness to anything it’s paired with, and it's easy to make. It's not only wonderful on seafood, but is very popular on chicken, lamb, pasta, or even on vegetables, like asparagus. You could even add cream to it and serve it as a soup.

4 (6-ounce) mahi-mahi fillets
olive oil

Seasoned Panko Crust Ingredients:
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
2 tablespoons lemon zest
3 sprigs fresh parsley (leaves only)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons melted butter

Romesco Sauce Ingredients:
1 cup fire roasted red peppers (see how to roast red peppers and garlic here)
3 garlic cloves, roasted
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
3 tablespoons toasted macadamia nuts or slivered almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
1 slice whole-wheat sandwich bread torn into small pieces

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Place fish on an oiled shallow sided baking pan and spread 2 tablespoons of the seasoned panko crust mixture over each piece of fish.

Place pan in the oven and roast for 15 minutes or until fish is cooked through.

Meanwhile, place romesco sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Makes about 2 cups of sauce.

Remove fish from oven and serve with romesco sauce and rosemary roasted potatoes. Makes 4 servings.

Baked Mahi-mahi with Dill Sauce
2 mahi-mahi steaks
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon Juice
white pepper

Dill Sauce Ingredients:
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced, or 1 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon bottled hot pepper sauce
salt and pepper; to taste

Combine sour cream, yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, and hot sauce. Stir in dill then add salt and pepper to taste. Blend well. Allow to stand at least 1/2 hour to blend flavors. Pat mahi-mahi steaks dry with paper towels. Combine oil and lemon juice and brush on both sides of steaks. Season lightly with salt and white pepper. Place an inch apart in a lightly oiled baking dish. Bake at 450˚F for approximately 15 minutes. Serve mahi-mahi steaks with dill sauce over steaks sprinkled with a dash of fresh dill atop each. Makes 2 servings.

Grilled Mahi-mahi with Roasted Pineapple Sauce
Ingredients for Roasted Pineapple Sauce:
2 cups chopped peeled and cored fresh pineapple
1 red bell pepper, halved lengthwise and seeded
pinch of cayenne pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Ingredients for Fish:
4 mahi-mahi fillets, skinned (about 2 pounds of fish, total)
2 tablespoon sweet paprika
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

cilantro leaves for garnish

Prepare a grill for moderately high heat.

In a grill pan, sear and soften the pineapple and red bell pepper, turning occasionally with tongs. Transfer the pineapple and bell pepper to a blender and add the cayenne pepper and lime juice, then puree the mixture. Season the sauce with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and more lime juice if needed, keep at room temperature.

For the fish, combine the sweet paprika, oil and lime juice and brush on both sides of mahi-mahi steaks. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Oil the grill rack, then grill the fish, covered, turning the fish once, until it is opaque and just cooked through, about 6 minutes total. Transfer the fish to a platter and keep it warm, covered. Serve the fish with a fresh green salad or slaw, roasted sweet potato fries, with the pineapple sauce on the side. Garnish fish with fresh cilantro leaves. Makes 4 servings.

Note: Grilled mahi-mahi is commonly used for fish tacos or fish sandwiches. For a variation on this recipe, prepare an Asian coleslaw, recipe on this site, click here. Break the grilled fish up into chunks and fill fried or steamed corn tortillas, or toasted hamburger buns, with the mahi-mahi. Top the fish with a little roasted pineapple sauce and Asian coleslaw for a delicious tropical fish taco or fish sandwich.

Mahi-mahi Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup of chopped Maui onions, or yellow onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1/2 cup edamame (cooked fresh soybeans), pods removed
2/3 cup fresh cilantro, or parsley, finely chopped
1 cup fresh chopped tomato
1 cup vegetable stock
1 pound mahi-mahi fish fillets cut into 1 inch pieces
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/8 teaspoon (pinch) of dry oregano and thyme
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
salt to taste

In a large pot heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and cilantro and stir for 2 minutes. Add tomato, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the soybeans, vegetable stock, black pepper, salt, oregano, thyme and let it come to a boil. Once boiling, add the mahi-mahi pieces and simmer, uncovered, until the fish is cooked, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and add the lime juice. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Jul 9, 2013

The TOMATO... "Apples of Love"

The tomato has been traced back to the Aztecs. The name tomato is derived from the Aztec word "tomati". The Aztecs cultivated them and ate them mixed with chiles. Spanish travelers brought tomatoes to Europe in the 16th century, but at this time, there were Moors in Spain, and they took the tomato back to Morocco, where they called it pomi dei mori, or "apple of the Moors." When the French got hold of the tomato, they called it "pommes d'amour," or apples of love. They believed that the tomato had aphrodisiacal powers. Today, Italians still love a good pomodoro, while English-speaking people use the Aztec-inspired word tomato.

The tomato is actually classified as a fruit, not a vegetable, and belongs to the same family as tobacco and the toxic, deadly nightshade. The heat-loving tomato is grown in backyard vegetable patches from Hawaii to Florida and beyond.

The tomato is well adapted to the climate of Hawaii and grows year-round here. Unfortunately an insect called the melon fruit fly love tomatoes. They sting the fruit and lay their eggs in them, rotting the fruit. I would say that at least 25% of the tomatoes I have purchased on Moloka'i over the past 11 years have rotted on my kitchen counter. The store bought tomatoes that don't rot have been very disappointing because they taste like tasteless hot house tomatoes. Occasionally I find a tomato that tastes like the tomatoes I grew up eating in Tennessee, tomatoes that were purchased at Molokai's local farmers' market, or at Kumu Farms. I believe they taste good because they were vine ripened. My only guess is that tomatoes grown in this state are picked while still green to avoid being stung by the fruit fly, leaving the tomatoes not vine ripened and tasteless. These flies begin mating in mid-April and continue through summer months and will attack ripening tomatoes. The only option is to protect the fruit from the flies by planting larger tomatoes in the fall and grow cherry and roma tomatoes in the spring and summer. Cherry and plum tomatoes have tougher skins which the melon fruit fly can't penetrate as easily.

The University of Hawaii has developed varieties of tomatoes resistant to root-knot nematode, another tomato pest present on the islands. When you set out to buy tomato seeds or seedlings, look for the cultivar names 'Anahu', 'Healani', 'Kalohi' and 'Puunui'. Go to this website to buy their seeds. I have been told that the best heirloom tomatoes to grow in Hawaii is the the "Cherokee Purple" - it's delicious sliced, made into salsa or cooked into sauce. It's been one of the hardiest and consistently productive of all the large heirloom tomatoes. The most productive plum tomato that I've heard about is the "Flamme" (aka - Jaune Flamme). It's yellow-orange, about the size of a golf ball and it is ono to eat. It holds up well in the heat with minimal cracking as do the cherry tomatoes. "TomatoFest" is a great source for tomato seeds. They must have almost every open pollinated tomato seed known to mankind and all of their seeds are organic.

Cooking with fresh tomatoes has always been a joy for me. Hopefully one day Hawaii's tomatoes will be pest free and taste like a tomato should taste.

Tomato Recipes:

Panzanella - Italian Bread Salad
"Panzanella" - Italian Bread Salad
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There are many variations for this rustic Tuscan Italian bread salad, but basically the bread, tomatoes, and basil are the stars here. You'll need a good, dense loaf of bread that is at least a day old! Other options are to add capers, olives, roasted red bell peppers, mozzarella cheese, anchovies, etc.

5 ripe Roma tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
1 small Japanese cucumber, peeled and diced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 large clove garlic, very finely minced
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces with your hands
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more as needed
juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 thick slices of stale country style Italian bread, or French baguette, torn into bite-size pieces.

In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic and basil. Drizzle with the 1/2 cup olive oil and the 2 tablespoons vinegar and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Place half of the bread in a wide, shallow bowl. Spoon half of the tomato mixture over the bread. Layer the remaining bread on top and then the remaining tomato mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or until serving time. Just before serving, toss the salad and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. At this point the bread should have absorbed the juice from the tomatoes and be all moist. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Roasted Tomatoes with Egg and Sausage
This Portuguese brunch recipe is a nice change from the usual eggs and bacon. You will need 2 large ripe tomatoes, preferably from your garden.

2 large ripe tomatoes, cut in half
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
chopped parsley
10 pitted black olives chopped
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
black pepper, freshly grated
dried oregano
4 fried eggs
1 Portuguese sausage (linguica, blood sausage, or chorizo) thinly sliced and fried
2 limes

Cut the tomatoes in halves. Place them with cut side up in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with salt and a little olive oil. Then put it in a 375˚F preheated oven for 40 minutes. Mix the garlic, parsley, olives and bread crumbs. Season with pepper. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the mixture. Then sprinkle again with two tablespoons of olive oil. Put it all in the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes. Fry the eggs and sausage slices in a little olive oil. Place a fried egg on top of each roasted tomato and put thin slices of sausage next to it. Surround the tomato and sausage slices with a few watercress leaves sprinkled with lime juice, olive oil and a little salt. Don't forget to grind black pepper and/or dried oregano on top of the eggs immediately before serving. Makes 4 servings

Portuguese Fish Stew
This is a delicious hearty rustic fish stew, the way the Portuguese would have made it.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 leeks, washed to removed interior soil and coarsely chopped
1 bulb fennel, white parts only, coarsely chopped
5 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 cup diced tomatoes, canned or fresh
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1 bay leaf
Zest of 1 orange
1 quart fish stock or water, or an 8-ounce bottle of clam juice plus 3 cups water
2 cups dry white wine
Scant 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
3 pounds mixed white, non-oily boneless fish and shellfish, or just fish

Heat the oil in a large stockpot, add the onions and leeks, and sauté in olive oil until fostered. Add the fennel and garlic and sauté until aromatic. Add all the remaining ingredients except the fish and shellfish and bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.

While the stock is simmering, cut the fish into bite-size portions. Bring the stock back to a rapid boil, add the fish, and cook for 1 minute. Add the shellfish (if using) and continue to boil until shells open, approximately 1 minute. Shake the pan occasionally to encourage clam and mussel shells to open. If using shrimp, turn off the heat as soon as all the shrimp lose their gray translucency; any longer and they quickly become tough and overcooked. Depending on your pot and burner, this will probably be about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot with crusty bread. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Portuguese Kale Soup
1 pound kale
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes
1 pound smoked sausage (linguica or chorizo)
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped carrots
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 quarts chicken broth or a combination of beef and chicken
3 pounds peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans (I use 1 15-ounce can,drained and rinsed)
salt and freshly ground pepper

Strip the leaves from washed kale, and cut diagonally into wide slices. You should end up with 6 to 8 cups of lightly packed kale. Wash, peel, and chop potatoes, and keep in cold water. Prick sausage; blanch in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes to release fat. Drain; cut into 1/2-inch slices; set aside. In a large saucepan, saute onions, carrots, and garlic in oil and butter, cooking until softened, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes and broth, and simmer, partially covered, for 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked. Mash the potatoes against the side of the pot (or puree with some of the broth and return to the pot). Stir in tomatoes and kidney beans, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the kale and sausage, cook 5 to 10 minutes longer, and season to taste. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Gaspacho - Hawaiian Style
Gaspacho - Hawaiian Style
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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
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons 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 sour cream, watercress, and roasted sesame seeds

In a blender, add one and 1/2 cans of tomato sauce. Then add HALF of each of the chopped tomatoes, onion, cucumber, bell pepper, celery, parsley, chives, and ALL of the garlic. Blend until almost smooth, or to desired consistency. Pour into a large non-metal, bowl. Add everything else to the container except for the garnishes, and stir to combine. Taste for additional seasoning. 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. Sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds and serve immediately with your favorite crackers on the side. Makes 8 servings, or 4 if you're hungry.

Roasted Fish with Cilantro and Cherry Tomatoes
In Portugal you would use a sea bream for this recipe, but in Hawaii, I would suggest moi. Moi is a delicious, delicate Hawaiian fish that was once reserved only for royalty, it is now farm raised on the Big Island, and available in many stores here.

2 pounds whole moi, cleaned and scaled, or other white fish
suitable for roasting in the oven: Onaga, Ono, or Opakapaka
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges
16 cherry tomatoes
sprigs of cilantro
2 stalks of rosemary
olive oil
salt and peppercorns to taste

Stuff crushed garlic, rosemary and lemon wedges in the belly of the fish. To prepare the wrapper, place a sheet of parchment paper on top of an aluminum foil sheet. Place the parchment paper and foil on a cookie sheet. On top of the parchment paper sheet, place sprigs of cilantro. On top of that, place the fish, after being seasoned with salt. Sprinkle the fish with chopped garlic and sprigs of cilantro. Place the cherry tomatoes around the fish. Sprinkle with peppercorns. Sprinkle with olive oil and close the wrapper tightly. Put the cookie sheet with the fish into a preheated 400˚F oven for 40 minutes. Makes 4 serving.

Ground Pork with Long Beans & Squash
(Ginisang Kalabasa)
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound ground pork
3 tablespoons fish sauce (Patis), or to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 roma or plum tomatoes, diced and seeded (if desired)
3 tablespoons soy sauce or to taste
1/2 cup water
1 whole bunch of Asian long beans, cut or broken into 2 inch pieces, about 2 cups
1 medium sized kalabasa, or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into inch-long chunks

Heat oil in a deep sauté pan, or wok. Sauté the garlic and onions for about a 1-2 minutes. Add the ground pork and crumble the meat with a fork to prevent clumping as you brown it on medium-high heat. Season with fish sauce and black pepper, to taste. Add the diced tomatoes and cook for another 3 minutes. Pour in the soy sauce and water. Bring to a boil. Cover then simmer on low heat for at least half an hour to allow the meat to absorb the flavor of the liquid. Immediately add the long beans and squash, stir and cover. Simmer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the squash is tender and the beans fully cooked yet still retain some crunch. Correct the seasoning if necessary. Serve with white long grain rice (see photo above). Makes 4-6 servings.

Snow Peas & Tomatoes
1 1/2 cups snow peas, trimmed, strings removed
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon butter
1/4 teaspoon sugar
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Cook first four ingredients over medium high heat for 2 minutes in a skillet or until liquid evaporates. Then add tomatoes and cook until tomatoes are heated thoroughly. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Serve immediately as a side dish. Makes 2 servings.

Green Papaya Salad with Shrimp
This salad is all about texture and the flavors of Southeast Asia where it is hugely popular. Green papaya salad is usually eaten with barbecue or grilled chicken and a portion of sticky rice. The dish is made from unripe green papaya, which has a firm white flesh and white seeds, and can sometime be hard to find. If you are going to make it, look for rock-hard dark green papaya without a trace of pink or yellow blush on the outside. Normally this salad is made with a lot of hot chilies, but I prefer it with just one chili in the dressing.

Ingredients for dressing:
2 large garlic cloves, forced through a garlic press
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (preferably nuoc mam)
1/2 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 small thin fresh red or green Asian chili (1 to 2 inches long) or serrano chili, or to taste, seeded and chopped fine (wear rubber gloves)

Ingredients for salad:
1/2 pound small shrimp, shelled
3/4 pound green papaya, peeled, seeded, and shredded, or julienned into 2-3 inch strips 1/8 inch thick, preferably in a food processor (about 3 cups)
1 carrot, julienned the same size as the green papaya
1/2 cup cut long beans - 1 1/2-inch-long segments (or substitute with regular green beans)
1 tomato, cut into bite-size wedges; or 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, no stems, washed well and spun dry
4 tablespoons roasted peanuts, chopped
mint or Thai basil sprigs for garnish

In a large bowl whisk together dressing ingredients until sugar is dissolved, set aside.

In a small saucepan of boiling salted water cook shrimp 45 seconds to 1 minute, or until cooked through. In a colander drain shrimp and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Halve shrimp horizontally. Add shrimp, papaya, carrot, beans, tomatoes, and cilantro to dressing, tossing well. Salad may be made 2 hours ahead and chilled, covered. Bring salad to room temperature before serving. Serve salad sprinkled with chopped peanuts, garnish with a sprig of mint and Thai basil. Makes 4-6 servings. Note: It is important to julienne the papaya, carrots and long beans as thin as possible, otherwise this salad can be a challenge on your jaws.

"Mamma Mia" Marinara Sauce
I love this sauce. I make it whenever I have an abundance of vine ripened tomatoes, or I use canned crushed tomatoes, then freeze the sauce for later use. This is a must have recipe that I am sure you will love on pasta, meatball sandwiches, for pizza sauce, in a fish stew, etc. So good it's ono! If you live on Moloka'i, you can buy fresh basil and tomatoes at Kumu Farms.

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely shredded
1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
freshly grated parmesan cheese to taste
sugar if needed, to your taste

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions, garlic and salt, saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Stir in the basil leaves and season with parmesan cheese. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with sugar, salt and pepper, if needed. Note: This sauce makes 2 quarts, and can be made a day ahead of time then reheated. The sauce may be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 6 months.

Pico de Gallo
Pico de Gallo is basically a Mexican salsa that I like to serve right in the middle of a ripe avocado, served with a spoon. Naturally it also goes well on fish tacos, fajitas, burritos, roast pork, or with grilled fish or shrimp. Somehow Pico de Gallo sounds sexier than salsa.

4 medium tomatoes, diced
1 medium red or white onion, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic, or more if you like
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped finely
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine tomatoes and onion. Gently toss to mix. Add the chopped cilantro, garlic, and jalapeno. Pour-in the lime juice and sprinkle with salt. Mix well. Makes about 3 cups.

Tuna Stuffed Tomato Salad
A great tasting summer tomato is mandatory for this classic tuna stuffed tomato salad.

Tuna Stuffed Tomato Salad
Click on photo to view larger 
1-7 ounce can solid white albacore tuna
1/4 cup Best mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons capers
3 tablespoons dried dill, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons lime juice, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large ripe tomatoes
2 slices of iceberg lettuce
2 cucumber slices quartered
chopped cucumber to garnish plates

In a small bowl, mix together tuna, mayo, celery, capers, 1 tablespoon dill, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 tablespoon lime juice. Take a head of cold iceberg lettuce and cut two 1/2 inch slices across the middle of the head. Carefully place one slice on each of 2 dinner plates. Season the lettuce with the remaining salt, pepper, lime juice, and olive oil.

Remove the stem part of the tomatoes with a knife. Cut the tomatoes into sections, but leave about 1/2 inch uncut at the bottom of the tomato to keep the tomato slices together. Place one cut tomato on the center of the lettuce slice. Fill the tomatoes with the tuna salad. Garnish the top of the tuna salad with a cucumber slice that has been cut into quarters, then garnish the plates with the remaining cucumber pieces. Finally, sprinkle the plates with the remaining dried dill. Makes 2 main course servings.

Jul 8, 2013

Burnt Sugar

Toasted Marshmallow
From brandy to creme caramel to toasted marshmallows, the taste of burnt sugar is all around us. Burnt sugar is sometimes known as caramelized sugar. Caramelized sugar has been used for years to add color and flavor to alcohol such as brandy, scotch whisky, whisky and rum, and to soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi.

One of the most common uses of caramelized sugar is in caramel candy made from a mixture of caramelized sugars (white or brown) and corn syrup, butter and cream. The mixture is then boiled, and when it comes to the firm ball stage, poured into a pan or molds to harden, resulting in a soft and pliable treat. Remember eating caramel apples when you were much younger, I do.

Almost everyone who cooks has a bag of brown sugar in their kitchen cupboard, another form of burnt sugar. Brown sugar gets it's color and flavor from the addition of molasses, which is the byproduct of the process of refining sugar cane into table sugar. Molasses helps create the distinctive taste of dishes such as baked beans, gingerbread, and barbecue sauce. Basting chicken or turkey with molasses will give it both a rich color and rich taste.

Here in Hawaii, caramelized sugar is used in a variety of recipes from savory to sweet. If you like the flavor of burnt sugar, then give these recipes a try.

Cornish Game Hens with a Burnt Sugar Glaze
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 Cornish Game Hens (cut in half)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup lime juice
1 teaspoon concentrated chicken broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon curry powder

Preheat oven to 350˚F. In a bowl or 1-gallon plastic resealable bag, combine flour, salt and cayenne pepper. Add Cornish game hen halves, then dredge or shake to coat. Pour 1/4 cup butter into 9x13-inch baking pan; place Cornish hen halves in pan, turning pieces to coat. Bake for 30 minutes. For the burnt sugar glaze, combine brown sugar, honey, lime juice, chicken broth, soy sauce, curry powder and remaining butter in a mixing bowl; pour over Cornish hens. Bake 40 minutes more or until Cornish hen halves are tender but no longer pink on the inside, basting several times with pan drippings. Makes 6 servings.

Barbecued Ribs with a Molasses Glaze
Ingredients for the boiling liquid:
6 cups water
1/4 cup tomato paste
1-1/2 medium onions (about 12 ounces), peeled and thickly sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped medium-fine
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
4 whole cloves
2 tablespoons hot red pepper sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 (1-1/4-pounds each) racks of pork spareribs (each 7 to 9 inches long, 6 ribs per rack).

Ingredients for the barbecue glaze:
2 tablespoons dark molasses
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Place all the water, tomato paste, onions, garlic, peppercorns, garlic, red pepper sauce, and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer rapidly for 15 minutes. When the liquid is bubbling, add the spareribs. Make sure they are covered with the sauce. Let the ribs simmer 45 minutes. As the liquid reduces, add water to keep it at the original level. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Do this as much as a day ahead, and refrigerate. Return to room temperature.

Place 1 cup of the boiling liquid from the ribs in a small saucepan. Boil the liquid until reduced to 1/2 cup. Add the molasses, mustard, vinegar, pepper sauce, and salt. Stir over heat to combine thoroughly. Brush this mixture liberally over the blanched ribs before cooking them.

About 20 minutes before cooking the ribs, place rack in center of oven. Heat oven to 500˚F. Place ribs in an 18 x 13 x 2-inch roasting pan and roast for 5 minutes. Turn. Roast 6 to 7 minutes more. Serve warm. Makes 6 servings.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Sesame Seeds, Honey, & Brown Sugar
1 pound pork tenderloin
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons sesame seeds

Combine soy sauce, garlic, ginger and oil. Place in a zip lock bag with tenderloin. Toss to coat and marinate in the refrigerator for 3-6 hours turning occasionally. Remove the tenderloin and discard marinade. In a shallow plate mix together honey and sugar. Roll the tenderloin in honey mixture. coating all sides. Roll tenderloin in seeds to cover meat. Place the tenderloin on a preheated grill for 20-30 minutes until meat thermometer reaches 155˚F. Slice and serve with rice. Makes 4 servings.

Dark Meat Chicken with Garlic Brown Sugar
4 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon garlic granules or garlic powder
2/3 cup brown sugar
4 to 5 pounds chicken pieces (breast, leg or thigh), rinsed
1/3 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Line a baking sheet (with sides) with foil. Mix garlic salt, garlic powder and brown sugar in a gallon sized plastic resealable bag. Add the chicken. Seal and shake the bag to coat the chicken well with the mixture. Place chicken skin side up on the prepared sheet, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove chicken and turn it over. Sprinkle with nuts and return to oven for 20 more minutes. Makes 6 servings.

Brown Sugar Grilled Salmon
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
6 (4 ounce) salmon fillets

Combine wine, soy sauce, sugar, and garlic in a large plastic resealable bag. Add salmon, seal bag, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to marinate. Preheat grill to medium and lightly oil grate. Drain salmon from marinade and set on the grill. Close lid. Cook for about 10 minutes, until fish fillets flake easily. Makes 6 servings.

Brown Sugar Baked Sweet Potatoes
6 large sweet potatoes (5 pounds total), peeled and sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375°F. Put sweet potatoes on a foil lined baking sheet and toss with butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bake for 25 minutes. Stir together brown sugar and nutmeg. Turn sweet potato slices and sprinkle evenly with sugar mixture. Bake again until golden and tender, 35 to 40 minutes more. Makes 8 servings.
Note: Sweet potatoes can be baked 1 day ahead and chilled. Reheat in a baking dish, covered, in oven.

Beets with a Brown Sugar Glaze
3 cups, 1/2- to 1-inch cubed beets
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

*Trim beet greens (if any) and root end; peel the skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut beets into 1/2- to 1-inch-thick cubes, wedges or slices.

To steam on the stovetop: Place in a steamer basket over 1 inch of boiling water in a large pot. Cover and steam over high heat until tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

To steam in the microwave: Place in a glass baking dish, add 2 tablespoons water, cover tightly and microwave on High until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

Combine brown sugar, orange juice, butter, salt, and pepper in a large nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat until the sugar and butter are melted and starting to bubble. Stir in beets and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the beets are coated with glaze, 6 to 8 minutes. Serve hot or warm. Makes 6 servings.
*Note: Many people don't realize how delicious beet tops are. Simply wash them, remove the tough stems and saute with sliced onions, garlic, butter and a little chicken stock or water for about 15 minute.

Kimberly's Creme Caramel  (a.k.a Flan)
Flan is an oven-baked caramel custard dessert that is very popular in Spain and in Mexico. Flan is commonly used as a term to describe the Spanish or Mexican version of Crème caramel. However, traditional flan is both more rich and more dense than Crème caramel, as it contains more eggs and yolks as well as some milk, heavy cream, half and half, and/or sweetened condensed milk. It is made with a top layer of custard paired with the sweetness of a light caramel sauce, that is put in the bottom of the pan underneath it. Both are baked together. When chilled and then inverted to unmold, the sauce pours over the custard and is served as is. The typical favoring is simply vanilla but there are numerous variations that include almonds, pistachio, orange, pumpkin, coffee, lemon, and various other fruits. My wife, Kimberly, has been making creme caramel (flan) for years, probably because I love it. We've tried many other recipes, but this one is a keeper. It's smooth and creamy with a wonderful caramelized sugar sauce. We hope you try it, and share this recipe with others.

Ingredients for flan custard:
5 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups whole milk

Ingredients for caramel sauce:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 ungreased 6-ounce sized ovenproof ramekins (she uses pyrex ramekins)

Preheat oven to 325˚F. In a large bowl, with a wire whisk, beat eggs with sugar, salt and vanilla to mix well. Gradually add milk, beating until smooth, not frothy, and set it aside while you make the caramel sauce.

Pour 3/4 cup of white sugar into a small pan. Cook slowly over very low heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, just until sugar melts to a golden syrup. If the sugar is cooked too long and at too high a temperature, it will be too dark and taste burned. Immediately pour syrup equally into the bottom of each ramekin. Allow ramekins to cool for at least 15 minutes.

Fill a high sided roasting pan with 1 inch of boiling water. Place the 6 ramekins in the pan. Carefully pour the custard mixture on top of the caramelized sugar in each ramekin. Place the baking pan on the middle rack in the oven. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a paring knife inserted halfway between center and edge of custard comes out clean. Do not over bake; custard continues to bake after removal from the oven. Remove the ramekins from the hot water to a rack to cool completely. Custards can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to two days. The custards will settle slightly while cooling.

To unmold, slide a paring knife around perimeter of each ramekin, pressing the knife against the side of the dish. Hold a serving plate over top of ramekin and invert; set the plate on the work surface and shake the ramekin gently to release custard; the caramel sauce will run down the sides of the flan. Serve immediately. Makes 6 individual flan servings.

Roasted Mango with Brown Sugar
and Macadamia Nuts

2 mangoes, peeled and pureed
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
slices of fresh mango for garnish

Combine the nuts, sugar and cinnamon in a baking dish, mix well and bake in a pre-heated oven at 300˚F for 15-20 minutes. Pour in the mango pulp and again bake for 10-12 minutes. Serve warm over pound cake, ice-cream or by itself. Garnish with fresh mango slices. Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Pineapple Slices with Brown Sugar
8 fresh pineapple slices
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon brandy or rum (optional)
vanilla ice-cream

Combine butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and cream the mixture until it is soft and creamy. Using a knife, spread an even layer of the creamed butter mixture on both sides of each pineapple slice. Grill the pineapple slices on both sides until they are lightly browned. Pour the brandy in a ladel and warm it lightly. Pour over the pineapples and set it on fire, allowing them to get flambéed. Serve immediately with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Makes 4 servings.
Note: You can also use bananas with the same marinade.

Burnt Sugar Cake
1 3/4 cups white sugar
1/3 cup hot water
3 cups sifted cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup milk

Prepare burnt sugar by placing 1 1/2 cups white sugar into a heavy skillet over medium high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon as sugar melts. When it becomes very dark brown, remove from heat, add hot water very slowly and stir until dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350˚F (175 degrees C). Line two 9 inch round baking pans with parchment paper. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together three times.

Cream the butter or margarine with the remaining 1 1/4 cups white sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating thoroughly after each. Stir in the vanilla and the burnt sugar syrup mixture.

Add the dry ingredients and milk alternately to the creamed mixture. Beat until smooth. Pour batter into the prepared pans.

Bake at 350˚F for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cake layers and dust with powdered sugar, or use a butter cream icing. Makes 2 - 9 inch round layers.

1 cup / 8 oz / 225 g unsalted butter
1/2 cup / 120 ml water
3/4 cup / 180 ml unsulphured blackstrap molasses

3/4 cup / 180 m honey
1 cup / 5 1/2 oz / 155 g tightly packed dark brown 

3 cups / 13 1/2 oz / 385 g whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

2 teaspoons ground ginger 

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup / 120 ml milk
1 packed tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 325˚F / 165˚C, with a rack in the center. Butter and line a 13x9x2-inch (33x23x5-cm) baking pan so the parchment hangs over by a couple inches. This will help you remove the cake from the pan later on.

Combine the butter, water, molasses, honey and brown sugar in a medium non-reactive saucepan and place over low heat. Stir the mixture frequently until the butter is just melted, and all of the ingredients are well blended. Remove from the heat, pour into a large bowl and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, all-spice and cloves, and set aside. When the molasses mixture feels just warm to the touch, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the milk and stir to combine. Fold the dry ingredients into the batter, and don't be overly concerned if you can't get every lump out. Stir in the grated ginger.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes. Start checking for doneness after about 45 minutes. When the top of the cake springs back when touched you're good. For me this is usually 55 minutes, but the baking time will depend on your oven and the shape of your pan.

Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes, then, using the overhang of parchment (if you're using a rectangular pan), lift the cake out of the pan and cool completely on a wire rack before cutting. If refrigerated, the texture becomes dense and sticky - in a good way, just let it come up to room temperature before serving. Serve with whipped cream that has been flavored with burbon. Makes 12-16 servings.

Burnt Sugar Cookies
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar (either light or dark)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 burnt sugar syrup (see recipe below)
1/4 cup granulated sugar

To make the burnt-sugar syrup:
Place about 3/4 cup granulated sugar in a saute/frying pan, over medium-low heat. Sugar will start to melt and turn brown. Stir occasionally. When melted, add 3/4 cup hot or boiling water. Stir gently and carefully as the mixture will bubble like a cauldron. Though I'd been warned, I was still gleefully impressed. Simmer over low-ish, for 5-10 minutes, letting some of the water boil off. Then, let cool to room temperature.

For the cookies:
Sift together flour, baking soda, ginger, coriander, and salt. In mixer bowl, cream together (on HIGH) butter, brown sugar, and lemon zest til light and fluffy. Reduce speed to MEDIUM. Beat in egg and burnt-sugar syrup, till blended. Reduce speed to LOW; add dry ingredients in two additions, till just blended. Cover, refrigerate for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Pour 1/4 cup of granulated sugar into a small bowl. Roll 1" dough-balls in sugar before placing on cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, until crinkly on top like gingersnaps. Makes about 16 cookies.

Caramel Sauce
This sauce is wonderful poured over vanilla ice cream.

1 cup white sugar
5 tablespoons butter, cut into slices
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 pinch sea salt to taste

Place sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium-high heat. Stir continuously until sugar begins to melt. Continue stirring until the sugar melts completely, begins to darken and all the chunks are dissolved, about 10 minutes. Stop stirring and continue to cook until the sugar begins to smoke and turns a dark shade of amber, 3 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and wait 30 seconds.

Whisk in butter until melted and combined. Slowly pour in cream, taking care because it can bubble over. Sprinkle in salt and stir to combine. Transfer to a jar and cool completely before refrigerating. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Buena Vista Irish Coffee
My first exposure to Irish coffee was at a bar in San Francisco called the Buena Vista. There were people standing shoulder to shoulder in this bar, all drinking their famous Irish coffee, this is the recipe.

4 ounces freshly brewed coffee
1 1/2 ounces Irish whiskey
1 teaspoon brown sugar
dollop of freshly whipped cream

Combine the coffee, whiskey, and sugar in a hot Irish coffee mug; then float whipped cream on top. Makes 1 serving.

Italian coffee: Substitute amaretto for the whiskey.
Jamaican coffee: Substitute dark rum for the whiskey.
Mexican coffee: Substitute Kahlua for the whiskey.

Macadamia Nut Expresso Caramels
2 1/2 cups chopped macadamia, or walnuts, toasted
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon espresso powder / finely ground espresso beans
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup honey

Special equipment: candy thermometer

Place the nuts in a medium sized, glass or ceramic mixing bowl.

In a medium, thick-bottomed saucepan heat the cream, espresso powder, and salt until tiny bubbles start forming where the milk touches the pan - just before a simmer. Stir in the honey. Bring the mixture to a boil. Now reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 15-20 minutes minutes or until the mixture reaches 260˚F - hard ball stage. Remove from heat.

Pour the caramel over the nuts and stir until all the nuts are well coated. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for 10 or 15 minutes to allow the caramel to thicken before you attempt to shape it. It is easier to handle this way - not as much spread. Stir one last time and drop by tablespoonful onto a prepared baking sheet (Silpat, parchment-lined, or oiled). Alternately, skip the nut addition and simply spread the (cooled but not set) caramel out on a slab or parchment-lined pan, let it cool completely before cutting into small pieces. Wrap & twist in parchment paper.

In either case keep the caramels in a cool place (or refrigerate) until completely set.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen nut caramels, or a couple dozen individual caramels (depending on the size).

Burnt Sugar Lollipops
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup or pure maple syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
24 cinnamon sticks, preferably 4 inches or longer

Line a large baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper; place in the refrigerator until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Stir sugar, corn syrup, water and cream of tartar in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, wiping down the sides of the pan occasionally with a wet pastry brush to remove any crystals, about 5 minutes.

Once the mixture reaches a full boil, cook, undisturbed, until very light amber, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into a second deep saucepan, preferably one with a pouring lip; set aside just until the mixture stops boiling and is thickened somewhat (it will continue to darken), about 2 minutes.

Make 24 lollipops by pouring 1 1/2-inch circles onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. (Give yourself a few practice attempts"you have plenty of extra syrup for experimenting.) Press a cinnamon stick into each circle to form the lollipop stick. Use a spoon to drizzle the remaining sugar syrup (be careful: it's very hot) over each lollipop, thereby affixing the sticks and creating a sandwich of hardened sugar that holds the stick in place"do not let the circumference expand beyond its original boundary. (You won't use all the sugar; some will harden in the pan before you pour it out.) Let cool for about 20 minutes, then break off any shards of hardened sugar and seal the lollipops in individual bags. Makes 24 burnt sugar lollipops.
Note: Store lollipops in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

A couple of sources for lollipop bags and cellophane bags are Kitchen Krafts, kitchenkrafts.com, (800) 776-0575, and New York Cake and Baking Distributors, nycake.com, (800) 942-2539.

You can find the longer cinnamon sticks in natural-foods stores and from The Great American Spice Company, americanspice.com.

Recipe adapted from http://www.eatingwell.com

Jul 4, 2013

Think Twice-Baked!

Swedish "Skagenröra". 

A hot baked potato mixed with cold shrimp, 
cottage cheese, dill, and tomato.
Click on photo to view larger.
It's no surprise to me that potatoes continue to be popular here in the U.S. As a matter of fact, they are the most popular vegetable in the produce department. Nearly three-fourths of consumers were likely to place potatoes in their cart last year, I am one of those consumers. There are many ways to prepare potatoes, but one of my favorites is to twice-bake them.

Twice-baked potatoes were very popular back in the '70s in America. Large russet potatoes stuffed with butter, cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon, then topped with sour cream and chives, served alongside a big steak. Today's cooks have found twice-baked potatoes to be too time consuming to make, so they have fallen out of favor.

In other countries like Great Britain, twice-baked potatoes, called "jacket potatoes", tend to be more varied than they are here in America: baked beans, curried chicken, tuna, and prawn fillings are popular, and in Scotland even "haggis" is used as a filling. In Turkey, a twice-baked potato is called "kumpir", stuffed with butter, kasar (mozzarella) cheese, and topped with peas, corn, olives, cucumber, pickled beets, green onions, red cabbage, carrot, tomato, or mushrooms. In Sweden, the hot baked potato is topped off with a cold shrimp salad mixture, called "Skagenröra" (see photo above). I have decided to revisit this culinary phenomenon, but with a few new fillings of my own.

You can make twice-baked potatoes with almost every potato available, from Yukon Gold, to sweet potatoes, even fingerling potatoes. One of the great things about twice-baked potatoes is that they can be used as a side dish, a main course with a salad, or even as an appetizer. The other thing is that you can get very creative with the stuffings. There are unlimited possibilities based on what you like, so the next time you pass the potato isle in your grocery store, think twice-baked!

Twice-baked potato recipes:
Baked Potatoes with Swedish Shrimp Salad
While this Swedish recipe is not twice-baked, it does show just how delicious a stuffed potato can be (see photo above). I've even made this salad for my golfer friends up at Ironwood Golf Course. Instead of baking the potatoes, I cut up the potatoes and boiled them with little shell shaped pasta and added it to the rest of the ingredients, plus I added some shredded carrots, imitation crab (surimi) to keep the shrimp company.

4 large russet potatoes
1 pound small cooked shrimp
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
6 tablespoons crème fraîche (I sometimes use sour cream or cottage cheese)
1/2 cup of chopped tomato
1/2 bunch fresh dill
juice and zest of 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper
red caviar, (tobiko), optional

Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 400°F. Prick the potatoes with a fork and place them directly on the oven rack. Bake until tender when pierced with a small knife, about 1 hour. Remove the potatoes from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, peel and devein the shrimp. Set aside a few to use as garnish and chop the remainder coarsely. Mix mayonnaise and crème fraîche together and stir in the chopped prawn. Set aside a few fronds of dill to use as garnish and chop the rest finely. Add chopped tomato and dill to the prawn mixture. Add lemon zest and juice to taste (use half a teaspoon of zest and one teaspoon of juice – then season). To serve, cut open each hot potato and spoon in the cold shrimp mixture. Top with a few whole prawns, and a sprinkle of dill. Makes 4 servings.

Note: To make this dish even fancier, garnish with red caviar (tobiko) with a sprinkle of dill.

Twice-Baked Potatoes with Ham & Eggs
4 medium russet potatoes (about 8 ounces each)
1 cup diced ham
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper

Pierce potatoes all over with a fork. Microwave on Medium, turning once or twice, until soft, about 20 minutes. Combine the ham, sour cream, 1/2 cup Swiss cheese, 6 tablespoons chives, salt and pepper in a bowl. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut off the top third, then gently scoop out the flesh; add to the bowl with the ham mixture and gently mash together. Place the potato shells in a baking dish and evenly divide the ham mixture among them. Make an indentation into the top of each potato with the back of a spoon and crack an egg into each. Top eggs with the remaining cheese. Put the potatoes into a 350˚F oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the eggs are cooked. Garnish with the remaining chives. Makes 4 servings.

Pizza Lovers Twice-Baked Potatoes
Here's one for pizza lovers. The kids will have fun making this easy recipe. You can put whatever toppings on the potatoes you like. I'm a big fan of pizza twice-baked potatoes topped with marinara sauce, chopped anchovies and capers, topped with a sprinkling of Gorgonzola cheese and minced basil.

3 large potatoes
1 can spaghetti sauce, or homemade marinara sauce
2 cups mozzarella cheese
pepperoni slices

Pierce potatoes all over with a fork. Microwave on Medium, turning once or twice, until soft, about 20 minutes. Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise, scoop a small well into the center of the potatoes, sprinkle lightly with salt, then scoop abit of spaghetti sauce on top of the potato. Sprinkle some cheese on top of the sauce. Place a few pepperoni slices on top of the cheese, then transfer to a foil lined cookie sheet. Bake in an oven preheated to 400˚F for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Twice-Baked Potatoes with Shrimp
Shrimp adds a touch of class to these little appetizer twice-baked Yukon Gold potatoes.

24 baby Yukon Gold or red potatoes, each about 2 inches across (2 to 2-1/4 lb.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces bacon (about 3 thick slices), cooked until crispy and crumbled
6 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh chives
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
24 small cooked shrimp, peeled and cleaned

Heat the oven to 425°F. Put the potatoes on a large baking sheet and toss with the olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the thyme, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and toss again. Bake the potatoes until they feel perfectly tender when pierced with a skewer, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. If not working ahead, increase the oven temperature to 450°F.

Carefully hollow out each potato: Begin by slicing off the top; use a small spoon or a melon baller to scoop out most of the flesh inside, transferring it to a large bowl. Discard the tops. Mash the potato flesh with a masher or a fork, then combine it with the bacon, 1/4 cup of the chives, the crème fraîche, the remaining 1 teaspoon of thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Season to taste with more salt and pepper.

Using a small spoon and your fingers, fill the hollowed potatoes with this mixture; it should mound a bit. Sprinkle on the cheese.

Return the potatoes to the 450°F oven and bake until the filling heats through, 8 to 10 minutes. Push one shrimp into each potato and sprinkle with the remaining chives and serve warm.

Note: You can stuff the potatoes up to two days ahead as long as you wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate them; bring them to room temperature before the second baking.

Asparagus & Ham Twice-Baked Potatoes
4 medium russet potatoes (about 8 ounces each)
1/2 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup diced ham
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper

Pierce potatoes all over with a fork. Microwave on Medium, turning once or twice, until soft, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Add asparagus, cover and steam until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Combine the steamed asparagus with ham, sour cream, 1/2 cup Swiss cheese, 6 tablespoons chives, salt and pepper in a bowl. When the pota toes are cool enough to handle, cut off the top third, then gently scoop out the flesh; add to the bowl with the ham mixture and gently mash together. Place the potato shells in a microwave-safe dish and evenly divide the ham mixture among them. (They will be very well stuffed.) Top each stuffed potato with 2 tablespoons of the remaining cheese. Microwave on High until the filling is hot and the cheese is melted, 2 to 4 minutes. Garnish with the remaining chives. Makes 4 servings.

Twice-Cooked Red Potatoes
with Tamari Butter & Tobiko
1 pound tiny new potatoes, washed and skin on
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon tamari sauce*
1 tablespoon salt
sour cream
tobiko (flying fish eggs)

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Put potatoes in a large pan, cover with water and add salt. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Drain the potatoes. When cool enough to handle, cut potatoes in half. Melt the butter in the same pan and add the tamari sauce. Mix the potatoes and the tamari butter well, and pour onto a baking sheet. Roast potatoes for 25-30 minutes until browned and cooked through. Make sure to turn them a few times while cooking. Serve individually topped with a dab of sour cream and a little tobiko (flying fish eggs), for an elegant Asian appetizer. Just remember to trim a little of the bottom of each potato off the bottom so they will sit upright.

*Tamari sauce is the wheat-free version of soy sauce, the flavor of tamari is much better however. Tobiko is a caviar made from flying fish eggs. Both of these items are usually available in the Asian section of your grocery store.

Twice-Baked Potatoes with Spinach
4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and patted dry
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large shallot, minced
2 bunches fresh spinach leaves, tough stems removed and leaves rinsed well
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup firmly packed shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 400°F.

Prick the potatoes with a fork and place them directly on the oven rack. Bake until tender when pierced with a small knife, about 1 hour. Remove the potatoes from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, melt 2 Tbs. of the butter. Add the garlic and shallot and sauté until the shallot is translucent, about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the spinach, and toss until wilted but still bright green, about 4 minutes. Transfer the spinach mixture to a sieve set over a bowl and press all the liquid out of the spinach.

Using a serrated knife, cut a slice 1/2 inch thick off one long side of each potato and discard. Scoop out the potato flesh into a bowl, leaving a shell 1/4 inch thick. Add the sour cream, salt, pepper and the remaining 4 Tbs. butter to the potato flesh and mash with a potato masher to blend. Stir in 2/3 cup of the cheese and then the spinach. Spoon the potato mixture into the potato shells, mounding it high. Press the remaining cheese on top of the filling.

Transfer the potatoes to a baking sheet and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. To test for doneness, stick a small knife into a potato and leave it there for about 15 seconds. Remove the knife and feel the blade; if it is hot, the potatoes are ready. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Twice-Baked Potatoes with Gorgonzola Cheese
4 medium yellow-flesh potatoes (such as Yukon Gold)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
milk (optional)
2 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola or blue cheese
1 tablespoon chopped red sweet pepper

Scrub potatoes with a brush; pat dry, and prick with fork. Bake in a 425˚F oven for 40 to 60 minutes or until tender. Cut a lengthwise slice from the top of each potato; discard skin from slice and place pulp in bowl. Scoop pulp out of each potato, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Add pulp to bowl. Mash potatoes with a potato masher or an electric mixer on low speed. Add sour cream, garlic salt, and pepper; beat until smooth. If necessary, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons milk to make of desired consistency. Spoon the potato mixture into the shells. Place in a 2-quart sqaure or rectangular baking dish. Bake, uncovered, in a 425˚F oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Sprinkle with Gorgonzola or blue cheese and chopped red sweet pepper. Makes 4 servings.

Baha Twice-Baked Potatoes
1 (10 to 12-ounce) Russet potato
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/2 cup canned refried pinto beans*, warm
salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese
fresh salsa
1 green onion, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400°F. Prick potato all over with a fork and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake until just tender, about 1 hour; set aside until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Cut open top of potato and scoop about 1/2 cup of the cooked flesh into a medium bowl. Add sour cream, beans, salt and cumin and mash with a fork to combine. Use bean mixture to refill potato, then top with cheese and return to baking sheet or place in a small baking dish. Broil until cheese is melted and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Top with salsa and green onions and serve. Makes 1 serving.

Twice-Baked Potatoes with Mushrooms
2 (10 to 12-ounce) Russet potatoes
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup grated Swiss or Monterey jack cheese
2 cups chopped wild mushrooms chopped (use a combination of shiitake, oyster and portobello)
1/4 cup melted butter,
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, and
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg.

Bake potatoes in 350˚F oven until tender, about 50-60 minutes. When cool enough to handle, carefully scoop out the inside of the potato, leaving the shell intact. Mash the potato with the sour cream and 1/2 cup of the grated cheese. Then saute mushrooms in butter with garlic, sherry, and salt. Stir in cooked mushrooms to potato mixture and divide the filling equally between the 4 potato shells. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on each and bake at 350˚F for 10-15 minutes, until cheese on top is melted and browned. Makes 4 servings.

Tofu-Mushroom Twice-Baked Potatoes
3/4 cup onion chopped
3/4 cup mushrooms chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sage
2 (10 to 12-ounce) Russet potatoes
6 ounces soft tofu, mashed (3/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Bake potatoes in 350˚F oven until tender, about 50-60 minutes. In a skillet, combine onion, mushrooms, soy sauce and sage. Cover and stew over low heat until mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes. Cut baked potatoes in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop out insides, leaving a shell about 1/4 inch thick. Puree scooped-out potato, tofu and salt in a food processor, or whip them together by hand, making the mixture as smooth as possible. Stir in all but a quarter cup of the cooked mushroom-onion mixture. Fill the potato shells and top each half with 1 tablespoon of the reserved mushroom- onion mixture. Place potatoes on a baking sheet in oven (or toaster oven) and bake at 350˚F for 20 minutes. Makes 4 potato halves.

Twice-Baked Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes
No matter what age you are, this is a great recipe for Thanksgiving or anytime. By the way, sweet potato skins are not only tasty, but packed with nutrients.

1 cup pecan pieces, divided
6 medium to large sweet potatoes depending on how hungry you are
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
6 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup miniature marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spread the pecans onto a baking sheet and place in preheated oven 5-7 minutes until fragrant. Shake the baking sheet halfway through baking so the nuts will toast evenly. Remove nuts from oven and set aside to cool completely. Turn the oven up to 400˚F. Wash the sweet potatoes, scrubbing them well to remove any dirt. With a fork, prick the sweet potatoes in a couple of spots and place them on a sheet pan. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center goes in easily. Remove from oven and let stand until cool enough to handle but still very warm.
Cut the top of the potatoes lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh and place it in medium bowl, being careful not to tear skins. Reserve skins.

In a large bowl, mix 3 tablespoons butter and brown sugar together until it's crumbly-looking. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, and half of the pecans. Divide mixture in half. Add half of the mixture to the sweet potato flesh and fold in completely. Add the filling back to the potato skins and place on baking sheet.

To the remaining brown sugar mixture, add 3 tablespoons butter, flour and remaining pecans. Mix until crumbly looking. Top sweet potatoes generously with the brown sugar mixture and marshmallows and return to the oven. Bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until the marshmallow topping is golden brown. Makes 6 servings.