Feb 19, 2017

On The Side

Cherry Tomatoes with Fresh Green Beans
The Red and green of fresh, sweet cherry tomatoes and crisp green beans, blended with fresh basil, butter and garlic make for a beautiful and simple side dish that can be served with so many things.

1 1⁄2 pounds fresh green beans, stems removed
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1⁄4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Salt and pepper to taste

Blanch green beans in salted water, until tender but not overcooked. Melt butter in a skillet and add blanched green beans, garlic, sugar, basil. Stir cherry tomato halves around until barely soft and heated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with Hawaiian Baked Salmon.

Makes 6 servings.

Note: These beautiful cherry tomatoes were grown and gifted to me by my friend Chato Purdy. The green beans were grown by Larry and Lina, a Filipino couple who sell their fresh produce at the Saturday Farmers Market, here on Molokai, in front of American Savings Bank. The fresh basil comes from my garden, or you can get it at Kumu Farms here on Molokai. Remember, freshness counts!

For more side dish recipes, click here.

Feb 17, 2017

Fungus Among Us!

Rehydrated Chinese Black Wood Ear Mushrooms

Black Wood Ear Mushrooms are enjoyed in China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the 
Phillippines, in Europe and Hawaii. They are also called "Black Fungus" in English and mu er (木耳) in Chinese. Mu er literally means “wood ear” in Chinese. Wood Ears take their name from the fact that they grow on the sides of decaying trees. The broad, flat shape of the mushroom makes the tree look like it has ears.

The Wood Ear Mushroom is considered a "Super Food". According to Chinese medicine practitioners, eating dried and cooked Wood Ear can have health benefits for people with high blood pressure or cancer, and can prevent coronary heart disease and arteriosclerosis. It may also be effective in reducing LDL cholesterol and aortic atherosclerotic plaque.
Available at Friendly Market on Molokai
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They have a wonderful crunchy texture when cooked, unlike the average mushroom which has a spongy texture. They don't have a strong taste once cooked, instead, they tastes like whatever sauce it’s cooked with.

In Chinese cooking, Wood Ear Mushrooms can be added to all sorts of dishes to add texture. It is one of the key ingredients in the famous moo shu pork. It’s often used in northern style noodles with gravy, and also commonly used in dumpling fillings, and soups like hot and sour soup.

Dried Black Wood Ear Mushrooms are visually striking, and make a recipe really look, and taste special. To rehydrate the mushrooms, simply boil a pot of water, soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for about 30 minutes, drain, rinse and drain again and set aside, cover and refrigerate if you're cooking them the next day. You will notice that they will almost quadruple in size once rehydrated.

Black Fungus Salad
To Americans, eating fungus sounds gross, however mushrooms are fungus, so get over it. This is a Chinese dish, served as a side salad.

1 inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
3 small stalks of celery, cut into thin strips
8 pieces of dried fungus, soaked in hot water until soften, about 30 minutes
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted
2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar and/or a little lime or lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2-3 drops sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon wasabi paste (optional)

Peel and then cut young ginger into thin strips, set aside. Rinse and cut celery into strips 2 inches long. Cut or tear rehydrated fungus into bite-size pieces. Cook celery in boiling, salted water for 2-3 minutes. Remove and put into a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking. Mix all ingredients for seasonings in a small bowl. Add the celery, fungus, ginger and garlic to the bowl, and then toss the mixture until well combined. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds. Makes 4 servings. Note: Adjust the seasonings to your taste.

Wok Fried Pork Belly with Black Mushrooms
Fresh chow fun noodles (wide rice noodles)
1 pound pork belly, without the pig skin,
    cut into thin slices
1 cup dried wood ear mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, then roughly chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese black bean sauce
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/4 cup water
2 green onions, split down the middle and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces for garnish

Heat slightly salted water in a wok, enough to cover the fresh chow fun noodles. When it comes to a boil, add the noodles and cook 2 or 3 minutes. Drain noodles in a colander in the sink. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of canola oil over the top of the noodle and toss to prevent the noodles from sticking together. Set aside.

In the same wok, sear thinly sliced pork belly in a dry wok over medium high heat until golden brown on all sides.

Add the bell pepper and stir-fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the soy sauce, black bean sauce, garlic and mushrooms. Stir-fry for about 5 minutes to blend all the flavors.

Add 1/4 cup water, cover, and simmer for 5-7 minutes over medium heat. Now add the cooked chow fun noodles. Stir one last time and serve, garnished with sliced green onions. Makes 4 servings.

Note: All of the ingredients in this recipe can usually be found in the Asian section of you grocery store, or online.

For more wood ear recipes on this site, click here.

Feb 14, 2017

Luau Bloody Mary

Luau Bloody Mary
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In the United States, the Bloody Mary is a common "Hair of the dog" drink, reputed by some to cure hangovers due to its combination of a heavy vegetable base (to settle the stomach), salt (to replenish lost electrolytes) and alcohol (to relieve head and body aches). Its reputation as a restorative beverage contributes to the popularity of the Bloody Mary in the morning and early afternoon, especially with brunch.

The origin of the name Bloody Mary is unknown, however the story that I like is that of a waitress named Mary who worked at a Chicago bar called the "Bucket of Blood "named it. But nobody really knows for sure.

I have had many versions of this popular drink, with and without alcohol. Actually I think the bloody mary stands on its own without alcohol. 

It's only natural to add local ingredients to this luau drink if you live in Hawaii. Things like Tahitian lime juice, local sushi grade ahi tuna, speared on a bamboo stick with a couple of slices of pickled ginger between it and a large Kauai cooked shrimp. Topped off with a coating of Furikake on the rim of the glasses.

Here's my recipe for a Luau Bloody Mary:

Luau Bloody Mary
1/4 cup Nori Komi Furikake*
Ice cubes
2 cups tomato juice
1 tablespoon fresh Tahitian lime juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce,
   or Momoya Kimchee Spicy Chili Sauce*
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 bamboo swizzle sticks
2 ounces vodka, chilled in the freezer (optional)

2 celery ribs from the heart, including leaves
2 slices of sushi grade Ahi tuna, speared on two bamboo swizzle sticks
4 slices of pickled ginger
2 large cooked and peeled Hawaii shrimp, speared on the same bamboo swizzle sticks
Dried dill

Spicy Kimchee Sauce
Rub a fresh lime wedge around the rim of 2 tall glasses. Sprinkle the Furikake on a small plate. Turn the glasses over and rub the rim of the glasses into the Furikake to coat the rim. Carefully fill the glasses with ice cubes. Combine remaining ingredients in a large jar or pitcher, stir, or shake, and pour over the ice. Garnish with the celery ribs, tuna, pickled ginger slices, and shrimp. Sprinkle with dill. Serve at once.

Makes 2 servings. 

Note: Add a splash of your favorite vodka if you must, but it's really not necessary!

*Nori Komi Furikake is made up mostly of roasted sesame seeds, dried nori seaweed, and other seasonings, found locally on Moloka'i at Friendly Market, in the Asian section.

*Tabasco sauce is traditional, but try a splash of Momoya Kimchee Spicy Chili Sauce instead. Available at Friendly Market on Moloka'i or in the Asian section of most grocery stores.

Feb 10, 2017

Tops & Bottoms

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Beets are as popular in Hawaii as anywhere else, but the difference is that we can get them year-round because of our tropical weather. They are so beautiful and really good for you. Beets are considered a superfood because of its health benefits. Beets not only lower blood pressure by helping improve blood flow, but increase a person's stamina and energy. They're packed with fiber, vitamins A, B & C, magnesium, and iron. Including beetroot in your diet can protect you from many things like hypertension, possibly Alzheimer’s, cholesterol and even dementia. Pregnant women are encouraged to include beetroots in their diet as it is a rich source of folate and iron. Beets have shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. As beets are rich in sugar, they can even act as a high-energy snack. Beet’s richness in beta carotene helps combat anemia, especially for people who do not eat meat. Beets’ color pigment has also shown signs of fighting cancer cells. In research studies, beets have also shown to fight stomach cancer cells. It contains fiber and iron and lots of antioxidants. So if you are vegetarian you should include some amount beetroot in your diet. If you are a diabetic patient, check out this site.

Beet tops are also good for you. The greens of beets are very high in lutein and zeaxanthin which are good for eye health. They are a great source of Vitamin A and Vitamin K. They also have natural fiber which helps keep you full longer, and help with digestive health. For more information about beets, check out this great site, or for a delicious recipe for Beet Green & Mushroom Frittata, click here.

Roasted Beetroot Salad 
with Egg & Mustard Dressing
9 small, trimmed and rinsed baby beets and beet tops
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced beet leaves, rinsed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
A pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Hard cooked eggs, chopped or sliced, for garnish

Heat the oven to 375˚F. Lay a large sheet of aluminum foil on a baking sheet. Scrub the trimmed beets and lay them on one end of the foil. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of oil and season with salt. Fold the foil over the beets to make a packet and roll the edges to seal. Bake until the beets are tender, about 30 minutes. Let sit on the baking sheet until warm but not hot.

While the beets are still warm, peel them by pressing against the sides of the beets with your thumb, which loosens the skins, slice each beetroot into 4 wedges. Add the wedges to a serving bowl as you go.

Whisk together the mustard, minced garlic, vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, until the dressing is emulsified.

Pour the dressing over the beets. Sprinkle in the thinly sliced beet leaves. Season generously with pepper. Toss well, then taste and adjust seasoning. Let sit for at least 20 minutes before serving with chopped or sliced hard cooked egg.

Makes 4 servings.

For more beet recipes, click here. If you want 7 recipes for beetroot juice click here!

Feb 3, 2017

Pasta-Chicken Salad Minus the Mayo!

Hawaii is in love with mac salad. My guess is that this salad's origin is rooted in Europe, along with potato salad, brought here in the early 20th century by pineapple plantation managers, who were mainly of European descent.

Hawaiian potato-mac salad is usually served with most local plate lunches, and is loaded with mayonnaise. I have tasted many variations of this salad in the last 15 years, but the common denominator is mayonnaise.

It's easy to make mac salad, but it's the 'mayonnaise-laden' part that bothers me. Face it, most of us could stand to loose some weight. I don't think you want to hear this, but the fact is that one tablespoon of regular mayonnaise has about 100 calories, and 80 milligrams of sodium. This is not a healthy condiment folks! It gets worse, click on this site to learn the truth about mayonnaise.

The recipe below is loaded with good things, minus the mayo. Give it a try, I think you will like it.

Pasta-Chicken Salad with Mustard Dressing
I use chicken thighs in this recipe instead of chicken breasts. Chicken thighs have a lot more flavor, however if you would rather use the breasts... go for it. I also use bow-tie pasta (farfalle) instead of elbow pasta because it looks so festive.

This recipe is all about flavor, for example I roast a red bell pepper over a burner on my stovetop, cool, and remove the burnt skin and seeds, then chop it up, click here for more info on fire-roasted red bell peppers. Feta cheese is loaded with flavor, but you could use parmesan if you prefer. Finally the mustard dressing takes this salad over the top, enjoy!

Ingredients for Salad:
1 tablespoon salt
5 cups (16 oz.) dried bow-tie pasta (farfalle)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, sauteed and sliced thin
1 large Japanese cucumber, sliced lengthwise and cut thin
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup chopped fire-roasted red bell peppers (1 whole pepper)
1 cup sliced thin and diced pepperoni (about 8 ounces)
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese, divided in half
1 large head of leaf lettuce for garnish

Ingredients for Mustard Dressing:
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime or lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for about 12 minutes, or until al dente. Drain in a colander, rinse with cold water and shake until very dry. Transfer the pasta to a large mixing bowl, drizzle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over it and gently toss to coat.

Add the sauteed chicken, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, peppers, salami, onions, parsley, and half the cheese, gently toss to combine. Chill until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, whisk together the mustard dressing; pour it over the chilled salad and gently toss again. Sprinkle the remaining feta cheese over the top. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve in lettuce cups.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.