Mar 20, 2017

The Oldest Known Tomato... Now Growing In Hawaii!

I'm talking about the "Red Currant Tomato". The Red Currant Tomato is considered a wild species of tomato native to Ecuador and Peru but naturalized elsewhere, such as the Galapagos Islands. This plant is known to botanists as Solanum pimpinellifolium, or simply "pimp." The plant, according to Smithsonian Journeys Quarterly, is the wild ancestor of all the tomatoes we eat today, and still grows wild in northern Peru and southern Ecuador.

Red Currant Tomatoes from the Moloka'i Saturday Farmers' Market
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I had never heard of, or tasted, these little gems until my wife brought home a little bag of them last weekend from our local Saturday farmers' market here on Moloka'i. They are amazing because they are so small, no bigger than a shelled pea. You truly can't just eat one, because of the intense tomato flavor that pops into your mouth.

After doing a little research, apparently it produces hundreds of sweet fruits on a single plant within about 65 days or so after planting the seeds. It is recommended to grow them in hanging baskets because its rambling branches can grow out to as much as 8 feet long. They like direct sunlight, and will produce fruit all summer long. Currant Tomatoes are a different species from standard garden tomatoes, and have been known to readily reseed themselves and continue to grow season after season if you maintain the soil fertility and water the plants.

I also found out that Red Currant Tomatoes are an exceptional source of lycopene, a naturally occurring pigment that doubles as an antioxidant. Lycopene is known for its anti-cancer benefits, such as preventing, fighting and repairing cell damage in the human body. The tomato’s array of nutrients and antioxidants, including the especially potent lycopene that is found in its highest concentration in tomatoes, also helps support healthy eyesight, cardiovascular health, and more. 

From a culinary standpoint, Red Currant Tomatoes are essentially miniature cherry tomatoes, and are treated as such in recipes. Hence, Red Currant Tomatoes can serve as a substitute for cherry tomatoes. Seasonal recipes and ingredient pairings are best suited to showcase the Red Currant Tomato's full flavors. Consider leaving Red Currant Tomatoes whole in any application, as their attributes will be amplified. Dot Red Currant Tomatoes onto appetizers, scatter onto salads, float them on tomato-based soups, or simply freeze them for a cold summer treat. Try tossing with couscous for a simple side dish, or use them to make your own sun-dried tomato raisins. With their tangy-sweet flavor, they are considered a type apt for pickling or making preserves, such as a sweet tomato relish, and they can also be used for juicing or making sauces. Like all tomato varieties, store Red Currant Tomatoes at room temperature until ripe, after which refrigeration can prevent further ripening and decay.

Naturally I wanted to find out where to buy seeds. To my amazement I found a number of sites online. Soon I will be growing, and enjoying my own Red Current Tomatoes.

Broiled Crusty Bread Slices with Ricotta Cheese
and Red Currant Tomatoes
4 slices crusty bread (Molokai Wines & Spirits par-baked crusty bread)
1/2 cup Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup red current tomatoes or 1/4 cup cherry tomato halves
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Lightly toast bread. Spread each toast slice with 2 tablespoons ricotta. Scatter tomatoes over the ricotta. Drizzle the toasts with a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil (1/2 teaspoon each), and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Broil 1 to 2 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: As a variation to this recipe, replace the Ricotta cheese guacamole made with avocado, mixed with fresh lime juice, salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste. Top with tomato and chopped cilantro.

Microwave Ham & Eggs 
with Red Currant Tomatoes
6 pieces of thinly sliced sandwich ham broken into bite-size pieces
4 large eggs
1 thin slice of butter broken in half
12 red current tomatoes, or 6 cherry tomatoes cut in half
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon freshly chopped parsley for garnish
1 fresh orange, peeled with sections removed

You will need 2 microwavable ramekins (I use 6-oz Pyrex custard cups). Place half of the thinly sliced sandwich ham into each ramekin. Break two eggs on top of the ham. With a fork pierce the yolk of each egg. Put a sliver of butter in the middle of each ramekin. Now sprinkle tomatoes on top. Add salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Place both ramekins in your microwave oven and cook for about 2 1/2 minutes. Place ramekins on a dinner plate, garnished with orange sections. Serve with toasted English muffins spread with your favorite jam.

Makes 2 servings.

Ground Pork with Long Beans, Kabocha Squash
and Red Currant Tomatoes
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
1 tablespoon Sriracha chili sauce, or to taste
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 kabocha squash peeled, seeded and cut into inch-long chunks
3 cups of red currant tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, cut in half.

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 chili sauce, to taste. 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. Finally, sprinkle each plate with whole red currant tomatoes or sliced cherry tomatoes. Serve with white long grain rice. Makes 4-6 servings.

Red Currant Tomato Jam, Hawaiian-Style
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Red Currant Tomato Jam, Hawaiian-Style
This fresh savory jam makes a fantastic appetizer (pupu) when spread on your favorite cracker with creamy goat cheese, or mixed in with ahi tuna to make "Jamin Poke". Try it on burgers instead of ketchup, or as a condiment with roasted meats or grilled fish or shrimp. I even make a salad dressing out of it by adding seasoned rice vinegar and olive oil to the tomato jam. I like using red currant tomatoes because of their intense tomato flavor.

1 1/2 pounds or 4 cups of whole red currant tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon Tamari sauce
2 tablespoons Korean kimchi sauce, or to taste
1 pinch of sea salt 

To make this jam: Wash tomatoes then cut in half (if using cherry tomatoes). Combine with the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan. Heat slowly to a simmer. Stir every 15 minutes or so to prevent sticking, until the tomatoes are syrupy, about 1 hour and 15 minutes, avoid scorching as the jam condenses. You should end up with a thick gooey tomato jam. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Use the jam immediately or let it cool and store, covered, for up to 1 month in the refrigerator, or put the jam into sterilized jars and seal. Makes about 2 cups.

Note: You don't have to use red currant tomatoes, you can use just cherry tomatoes, or a combination of both, as long as the tomatoes have a lot of flavor. This jam will taste different depending on the tomatoes you use.

Mar 10, 2017

Chicken Thighs Good Enough For Company

Chicken so full of flavor, yet so simple... it's good enough for company. The reason it's so good is because chicken thighs are moister than white meat, plus it's marinated with a great combination of flavors. I think you will love this one!

Tasty Roast Chicken Thighs
with Asian Noodles
Available at Friendly Market
here on Molokai, or in the Asian
section of your grocery store.

Click on photo to view larger
8 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons Sriracha Chili Sauce
3 tablespoons peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup Tamari sauce, or soy sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
8 ounce package of Chuka Soba Noodles
3 scallions, sliced, for garnish

Whisk garlic, chile sauce, ginger, oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, fish sauce, and salt in a medium bowl until sugar and salt dissolve. Place marinade and chicken in a large resealable plastic bag. Turn to coat, and chill at least 3 hours, turning the bag every 1/2 hour or so.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 450°F. Remove chicken from marinade, shaking off excess, and place, skin side up, on a rimmed baking sheet coated with cooking spray so you will have easier cleanup. Roast on a rack in the middle of your oven until cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165°F, 25–30 minutes. Strain the marinade into a small pot and simmer while chicken is cooking. 

Serve chicken with Chuka Soba Asian noodles and long beans with oyster sauce on the side. Strain the juices from the baking sheet into the simmering marinade. Taste the sauce and adjust if necessary, then mix, a little at a time, with the noodles until it's the way you like it. Garnish with sliced scallions.

Makes 4 servings.

Mar 8, 2017

Quick and Easy Hawaiian Avocado Salads!

Coconut Shrimp Salad 
with Hawaiian Avocado & Cucumber
This is a beautiful salad to present and is very easy to make.

2 large Hawaiian avocados, ripe but still a little firm, 
    halved, stone removed, peeled, thickly sliced
24 large cooked Kaua'i shrimp, peeled leaving tails on, deveined
1 Japanese cucumber, cut in half lengthwise & thinly sliced into ribbons
3 tablespoons fresh Tahitian lime juice
3 teaspoons honey
3 teaspoons fish sauce, found in the Asian section of your grocery store
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup sweetened, shredded coconut, lightly toasted

To cook shrimp, simply steam or boil in salted water for about three minutes until they turn pink. Allow the shrimp to cool. Meanwhile, spread the shredded coconut in a small skillet and toast for a few minutes, on medium heat, being careful not to burn it. Remove to a plate to cool.

Divide the avocado, shrimp and cucumber among 4 Asian serving bowls.

Combine the lime juice, honey and fish sauce in a small bowl. Stir until well mixed. Drizzle the lime mixture over the salad. Top with minced cilantro and season with pepper.

Top with toasted coconut and serve cold. 

Makes 4 servings.

Spicy Hawaiian Avocado Stuffed with Tuna
This spicy salad uses the avocado skin for its bowl.

1 (12 oz) can solid white albacore tuna, drained
2 avocados, halved and pitted
2 limes, juiced
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons Sriracha hot chili sauce (optional)

Use a spoon to remove the avocado flesh, being careful not to damage the outer skin, leaving plenty of avocado to form edible bowl walls. Place scooped avocado into a mixing bowl and mash with a fork. Drain tuna and place into mixing bowl with avocado. Add in lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, cilantro, green onions, peanuts, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.

Stuff into prepared avocado bowls.
Drizzle in a criss-cross fashion with Sriracha hot chili sauce and serve. 

Makes 4 servings.

Hawaiian Avocado-Surimi Salad
with Sweet Ginger Dressing 
Imitation crab sticks are a form of kamaboko, a processed seafood made of starch and finely pulverized white fish, shaped and cured to resemble the leg meat of snow crab or Japanese spider crab. These crab sticks, called surimi here in Hawaii, are delicious, and they shred into long threads quite easily for this delicious salad.

2 avocados, halved and pitted
8 pieces of imitation crab sticks shredded into strips 
   by pulling them apart from top to bottom
1 small head of leafy lettuce, cut into thin strips, about 2 cups
1 medium Japanese cucumber, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
1 sheet of nori (dried seaweed) cut into thin strips 2 1/2" long for garnish

Ingredients for sweet ginger dressing:
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup minced fresh ginger root
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
3 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Procedure for dressing:
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, vinegar, sesame seeds, ginger, garlic, sesame oil and red pepper flakes. Serve over your favorite salad greens with fresh fruit, like sliced fresh pears.

Procedure for salad:
Slice avocados in half lengthwise. Remove and discard the pit. Use a spoon to remove the avocado flesh. Cut scooped avocado into cubes and squeeze one lime over the cubes to keep the avocado from turning dark. 

Shred the imitation crab sticks into strips by pulling them apart from top to bottom. Set aside.

Mix the salad dressing ingredients and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap.

Wash, peel, and cut the cucumber and carrots into thin matchstick pieces.

Toss the lettuce, cucumber and carrots in a bowl with the sweet ginger salad dressing.

Place the mixture into 4 chilled salad bowls or plates, and top with shredded imitation crab strips. Serve garnished with 5 or 6 thin nori strips on top of each bowl or plate. 

Makes 4 servings.

Avocado-Tomato Salad with Anchovies, Eggs, and Capers
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Avocado-Tomato Salad with Anchovies, Egg and Capers
Many chefs have fallen passionately in love with anchovies, which is a core reason you now come across them on so many menus across America. The combination of salty and tart anchovies and capers with hard cooked egg and creamy Hawaiian avocado is a winner... and easy to make!

2 ripe avocados, cut in half, pit removed
1 head of butter lettuce
4 ripe plum tomatoes, diced
4 hard-boiled egg, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 ounce can anchovies in olive oil
1/2 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
lemon juice
sliced baguette, toasted

Place each avocado half on a bed of butter lettuce in the middle of a salad plate. Gently mix diced tomatoes with chopped hard-boiled eggs, salt and pepper, and capers. Fill each avocado with the mixture, then drape each with 3 anchovy fillets. Top with some chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves. Drizzle with a good quality extra virgin olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar and fresh lemon juice. Serve with sliced toasted crusty bread or crackers.

Makes 4 servings.

Hearts of Romaine with Cream of Avocado Salad Dressing
This is one of my favorite salad dressings poured over romaine hearts.

1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup fat-free plain yogurt
1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/4 teaspoon dill weed
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 heads romaine lettuce, outer leaves removed and the hearts cut in half lengthwise

In a food processor, combine the first nine ingredients; cover and process until smooth. Serve over romaine hearts. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes 2 cups, plenty for 4 servings.

Avocado/Cucumber Salad with Celery
2 Japanese cucumbers, thinly sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped ginger
6 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup fresh lime juice, from about 4 limes
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 celery stalks, thinly sliced on a sharp bias
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil leaves
2 avocados, halved, pitted and sliced

Combine cucumbers, ginger, garlic, jalapeño (if using), salt, sugar, cilantro, lime juice and olive oil in a large bowl. Let sit at room temperature, stirring every so often, until flavors are combined and mellowed, about 40 minutes.

Fish out the garlic cloves and discard. Add celery and basil and toss well. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, sugar and lime juice if desired.

Arrange avocado slices on plates and spoon salad and dressing over top.

Makes 4 servings.

For more Hawaiian avocado recipes and nutrition information, click here.

Mar 5, 2017

Pancakes Made with Aloha

Pancakes come in many forms and thicknesses, and have been around for thousands of years. I wouldn't be surprised if pancakes have been in Hawaii since the first haole (visitor) arrived here. Regardless, today Hawaiians enjoy pancakes as much as anyone else. The difference is in the aloha. So tomorrow, start your morning tasting Hawaii with:

Fluffy Hawaiian Pancakes with Fresh Mango
and Honey Sweetened Coconut Cream

Ingredients for topping:
3 large fresh ripe mango
1 cup coconut cream (I use Kara brand coconut cream from Friendly Market).
2 tablespoons honey, or to taste

Ingredients for fluffy pancakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups milk
1 large egg yolk, plus 3 egg whites
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for brushing
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Peel and pit 3 fresh, ripe mango, then thinly slice. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Using a fork, blend the coconut cream and honey together. Cool in the fridge for 30 minutes (for a soft consistency), or up to 3 hours (for a thicker consistency).

Whisk the flour, confectioners' sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the milk, egg yolk, melted butter and vanilla in a medium bowl until combined. In a separate large bowl, beat the 3 egg whites with a mixer on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.

Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined (it's OK if there are a few lumps). Stir in one-third of the beaten egg whites, then gently fold in the rest until just combined (do not overmix).

Heat an old cast iron skillet, or whatever you prefer, over medium-low heat; lightly brush with butter. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake; cook until bubbles form on top and the bottom is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. (If the pancakes are browning too quickly, reduce the heat to low.) Flip and continue cooking until golden on the other side, about 1 more minute. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter, brushing the pan with more butter as necessary. Serve with fresh slices of ripe mango, topped with a dollop of honey sweetened whipped coconut cream.

Makes 12 pancakes.

Note: If you are like me and don't want to cook early in the morning until you have had that first cup of coffee, then you want a really great pre-mixed buttermilk pancake mix, (see photo above), where you just add water, try Weisenberger Mill, an old mill located on the South Elk Horn Creek in southern Scott County, Kentucky. You can order it online, and they will send it via Priority Mail if you ask. I usually buy 4, 5 pound bags that they put in a large Priority Mail box to send to Hawaii. They have many great products that I highly recommend like: banana bread mix, cornbread mix, biscuit mix, fish batter mix, gravy mix, etc.