Mar 8, 2018

Spinach Alternatives In Hawaii

Most of the time I buy my spinach from the grocery store, but lately I have been disappointed in the quality of the product. Either it looks old and damaged, or dirty with long tough stems. So what can I do about it. I do enjoy growing my own vegetables. Living 1,200 feet above sea level here on the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i provides me with cool, rainy weather most of the year, and Spinach prefers cool, damp weather, but is sensitive to Hawaii's highly acid soil, so amending the soil is necessary for this vegetable. 

Beet tops and bottoms from Kumu Farms on Moloka'i
Another alternative is to grow a spinach substitute like beets for their tops, and beets will grow anywhere in Hawaii. I love beets, not only for the traditional beet root, but the leafy green top which taste very much like spinach when cooked. It takes 60 to 80 days before beets are ready to harvest, however you can pick up to 1/3 of the plant's leaves while the plant is growing without harming its root.

Tatsoi, from Kumu Farms on Moloka'i
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Another alternative to spinach is an Asian plant called tatsoi. Tatsoi is the new spinach but is actually not spinach at all. It is related to pat choi or bok choy, but is much smaller, with a texture similar to spinach, but sturdier. I first noticed this variety here on Moloka'i at Kumu Farms. It is sold in little bunches about 6 inches long, and has dark green leaves with a thicker stem than common spinach. It has a creamy texture and a subtle yet distinctive flavor reminiscent of mustard greens in heat although not as hot. Tatsoi seems to grow quite well here in Hawaii. 

Tatsoi is wonderful eaten raw in salads and sandwiches, in stir-fry recipes, or in soups like the wonton soup below. Actually you can use Tatsoi anywhere you'd use spinach. You will want to store tatsoi in a plastic bag in your crisper drawer with the other vegetables. Tatsoi has a short shelf-live and will only last a few days. Don't wash this vegetable until you are ready to eat or cook it.

If you are interested in this very easy to grow green in your own garden, check out this seed companies website.

Salmon with Sauteed Beet Tops

Ingredients for salmon:
4 (7-ounce) salmon filets, without skin
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, minced

Ingredients for spinach:
12 ounces fresh beet tops, cleaned and stems removed
2 garlic cloves, minced (or to taste)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce (or to taste)
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Procedure for salmon:
Squeeze lemon juice over each filet, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Heat olive in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Sear skin side of filets, for 3-4 minutes until crispy and golden.

Flip and sear the other side of each filet for 2 minutes. Then, add in the butter, chopped garlic and more lemon juice. Continue to cook the salmon for 1-2 minutes, or until salmon reaches desired doneness.

Procedure for beet tops:
While salmon is cooking, heat olive oil and sesame oil in a wok or large pan. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add cleaned beet tops and soy sauce to taste and saute just until the spinach has wilted. Serve immediately with salmon. Garnish everything with toasted sesame seeds.

Makes 4 servings.

Egg Drop Soup with Tatsoi and Edamame

6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 1⁄2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
3 eggs
2 cups tatsoi, stems removed
1 1⁄2 cups cooked, shelled edamame
4 scallions, thinly sliced

Bring stock, ginger, and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan. Stir cornstarch and soy sauce in a bowl until smooth; whisk into stock, cook until slightly thickened, 1–2 minutes, and remove from heat.

Whisk together remaining salt, sesame oil, and eggs in a bowl.

While gently whisking broth, slowly add egg mixture to scatter eggs as they cook. Stir in tatsoi and edamame until tatsoi is wilted, about 1 minute; season with salt. Divide soup between four bowls; top with scallions.

Makes 4 servings.

Wonton Soup with Shrimp & Tatsoi

8 dried black wood ear mushrooms, rehydrated (found in the Asian section of your grocery store)
1 bunch green onions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, divided
1 pound leftover cooked pork, remove fat and mince
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 egg
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs, or one slice of bread, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (16 ounce) package square wonton wrappers
8 cups chicken broth (see note below)
16 uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 or 2 heads Tatsoi, stems removed
16 snow peas
1 dash soy sauce, or to taste
1 dash sesame oil, or to taste

Put dried black wood ear mushrooms in a bowl of warm water for 30 minutes.

Dice the green onions, and set aside all but 1 tablespoon. Finely chop the 1 tablespoon of green onions and place in a bowl with minced cooked pork, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, egg, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Stir to thoroughly mix the pork filling.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the pork filling onto the center of each wonton wrapper. Use your finger or a pastry brush to lightly moisten the edges of the wonton wrappers with water. Fold one corner of the wrapper over the filling onto the opposite corner to form a triangle. Press the edges together to seal. Moisten the two long ends of the triangle, fold them together, and press them firmly to seal.

Bring the chicken broth and mushrooms to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Drop the wontons, one by one, into the broth, and let them cook for 5 minutes, until they float to the surface. Reduce heat to a simmer, and gently stir in the shrimp and Tatsoi. Let the soup simmer 2 more minutes, until the shrimp turn pink, and then drop in the snow pea pods. Garnish with the remaining green onions and a dash of soy sauce and sesame oil, and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Note: I like to make my own chicken stock because it tastes better and it's much cheaper than buying store bought broth. Simply buy a 5 pound box of frozen chicken thighs from Friendly Market. Defrost it in the refrigerator over night. When defrosted, rinse the chicken well under cold water. Dry the chicken and put it in a large pot with one large chopped onion and 3 tablespoons of canola oil and brown the chicken for about 20 minutes. Then add one chopped carrot, 3 chopped celery sticks, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, a bay leaf, and a 2 inch knob of fresh ginger that has been smashed with the side of your knife. Now add 8 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of salt. Bring everything to a boil, then simmer for 2 hours with the lid open a little on top of the pot. After 1 1/2 hours, taste the stock and season with more salt and pepper or soy sauce if needed. Strain everything, saving the chicken. When cool, put the chicken broth in plastic containers and freeze. Take the chicken apart and discard the bones. Divide the meat into plastic zip-loc sandwich bags, then put all of the bags into a zip-loc freezer bag and freeze for later use, like stuffing wontons, making chicken salad, or whatever. You just saved yourself $6. Chicken stock lasts about a week refrigerated or 1 month frozen.

Did you know that you can freeze leftover wonton wrappers and reuse them later. Simply tightly wrap them in plastic wrap, then put them in a zip-loc freezer bag. Let them come back to room temperature before you reuse them, otherwise they will be brittle and break.

Tatsoi with Oyster Sauce
This recipe is very easy to make and is a delicious served as a bed for a slice of broiled salmon.

2 bunches of Tatsoi
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
a pinch of salt and black pepper

Wash and dry Tatsoi. Remove the core and discard, cutting up the stems and leaves into 2 inch pieces.

In a wok or large fry pan, gently fry the garlic in the sesame oil over medium heat being carful not to brown the garlic.

Add the chopped Tatsoi to the pan and stir-fry for 2 or 3 minutes or until wilted but still bright green.

Stir in the oyster sauce and stir-fry until the stems have cooked through and no liquid is left in the pan.

Taste the Tatsoi and season with a little salt and black pepper if needed.

Serve immediately, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.

Makes 2 servings.

Mar 4, 2018

Tasty Filipino Food In Hawaii

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The Philippine archipelago comprises about 7,641 islands, of which only about 2,000 are inhabited. They are clustered into the three major island groups of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Filipinos are now the fastest growing ethnic minority in Hawaii. Taken together, Filipinos and part-Filipinos constitute 275,728 or nearly 23 percent of the state population, slightly more than the Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian population. About 70 percent of the Filipino population live on the island of Oahu.

Fortunately for us, they have influenced Hawaii's cuisine over the years. Dishes like pork adobo, Pinakbet, pork, cooked with pumpkin, Chinese long beans, cabbage, and bitter melon, or tom yum, a sour tamarind soup. All so different and oh so good, and there are so many more.

One of my favorite Filipino recipes is grilled Chicken Inasal, a classic dish that is also enjoyed here in Hawaii. It tastes wonderful not only because it is grilled, but because of the zesty marinade. One of the marinade ingredients is 7up, yep I kid you not. It turns out that the carbonation and citric acid in 7up helps to tenderize meat, while the added sugar promotes caramelization during cooking. Try not to substitute any of the ingredients if possible. Also you want to be sure not to overcook the chicken, it should be moist and full of flavor.

Chicken Inasal is traditionally served with 'Java Rice' that is gently mixed with spices and formed in a tea cup, then turned over on the plate and sprinkled with chopped scallions. Also, pickled green papaya called 'Achara' is usually served as a side dish. For dessert, how about 'Bibinka', a unique soft, sweet, and gelatinous cake (recipes below).

Looking for more delicious Filipino recipes? click here.

Filipino Grilled Chicken Inasal

2 cornish game hens cut in half or 4 chicken leg quarters, with the skin side scored 3 times

Calamansi from Moloka'i farmers market.
It is widely cultivated in the Philippines and in Hawaii.
Your best chance of finding it on Moloka'i is at our
Saturday Farmer's Market where Filipino vendors sell it.
Marinade Ingredients:
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 cup white vinegar or coconut vinegar
1/2 cup calamansi or lime juice
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup lemongrass, chopped
1 cup 7up
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Basting Sauce Ingredients:
(see note below)
3 tablespoons annatto oil
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon calamansi juice, or lime juice

Combine the marinade ingredients, mix well. Set aside.

Arrange the scored chicken in a large resealable bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken pieces. Gently push the air out of the bag and then seal. Refrigerate for 3 hours, turning the bag several times so the chicken is well coated.

Combine the basting sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Heat-up the grill to 360˚F. Remove the chicken from the marinade and wipe down stray aromatics. Arrange the marinated chicken leg quarters over the grates of the grill, skin side up, so that the chicken gets indirect heat. Turn the chicken every 5 minutes for about 30 to 45 minutes brushing with the basting sauce. The key is to grill over indirect heat until the chicken gets fully cooked and the internal temperature reaches 160˚F, do not overcook, you want the chicken to be moist. Transfer to a serving plate, cover and allow to rest for about 3 to 5 minutes before serving.

Serve chicken with Java Rice (see recipe below), sprinkled with chopped scallions on top, and some pickled green papaya on the side (see recipe below) (this is also known as papaya achara). If you can't find calacansi, use fresh lime juice instead.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: I like to use cornish game hens for this dish because half of a hen is a perfect serving for one person, and they are so tender and look nicer on a plate. I use kitchen sheers to cut them in half, or a good sharp knife will do. They are a dollar cheaper at Friendly Market than Misaki's Market... it pays to shop around.

I couldn't find annatto oil here on the small Hawaiian island of Moloka'i, so I used annatto powder, which I found in a small packet in the Asian section of Friendly Market. I heated 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a small pan, not very hot, certainly not smoking. Then I mixed in about 1 teaspoon of the annatto powder. The powder should settle to the bottom, allowing you to pour off most of the oil without the powder making it cloudy. You could also put it through a coffee filter, which will remove all of the powder residue. Then you mix in the rest of the basting ingredients. You will notice that a the Java Rice recipe below calls for annatto powder.

Java Rice
This rice recipe is typically served with Chicken Inasal. It is basically pre-cooked white short grain rice that is reheated and gently mixed with various spices. The end result is a seasoned golden rice.

4 cups cold pre-cooked white rice
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon annatto powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped for garnish

In a bowl, break rice to separate grains.

Heat a wok or large skillet over medium heat, combine butter and oil. Heat until butter is melted. Add  garlic and bell pepper. Cook, stirring 2 or 3. Add annatto powder and turmeric powder. Continue to cook, stirring for about 1 minute.

Add rice and gently toss to fully coat. Spread the rice on entire cooking surface of the pan for about 45 seconds or until grains start to sizzle and then toss again to redistribute.

Add soy sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook, tossing gently, for about 1 to 2 minutes or until rice grains are heated through and evenly colored. Serve hot garnished with finely chopped shallots.

Makes 4 servings.

Pickled Green Papaya
This wonderful Filipino pickled green papaya recipe is called 'Achara' and is usually served as a side dish for barbecued meat or fried fish. Green papaya is underripe papaya that is green and firm. Look for it in Asian markets.

Ingredients for brine:
1 cup white vinegar or coconut vinegar
2 tablespoon white sugar
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

4 cups julienned green papaya (available at Kumu Farms or Moloka'i farmer's market)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup water
1 small red bell pepper, julienned
1 medium size carrot, julienned
1 small red onion, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 thumb size ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1 teaspoon whole peppercorn

Using a non reactive saucepan combine coconut vinegar and sugar. Bring to a quick boil and remove from heat. Add turmeric powder and stir. Set aside and allow to cool.

Peel the green papaya and discard the seeds. Julienne the papaya into a medium size mixing bowl. Sprinkle with sea salt and toss well. Pour in 1 cup of water and squeeze out the juice from the papaya. Add the pepper corn, bell pepper, ginger, onion, garlic, carrots and papaya. Toss well. 

Pour vinegar mixture over the vegetables. Toss well, cover and let it sit, refrigerated, overnight before serving. Best when served cold.

Makes about 6 cups.

Note: Look for green (completely green and unripe) papaya. I prefer to julienne the ingredients (green papaya, red bell pepper and carrots, rather than grate them because it just looks better. 

To find out more about the health benefits of coconut vinegar, click here.

Filipino Coconut Pineapple "Bibingka"
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This cake is considered a delicacy in the Philippines. I have a friend who lives there, Ann Supan who recently had a birthday. She asked if I had ever heard of "Bibingka", and that she only has this special cake during the Christmas season. I researched it and came up with this recipe. It is a sticky cake, very different from other dryer American cakes, because of the glutinous sweet rice flour, which makes it have a unique soft, sweet, and gelatinous consistency, sort of like the Japanese Mochi. There are many different Filipino versions of the Bibingka, including a version that my Filipino friend Estella Ramos likes that uses cooked sticky rice instead of rice flour and only light brown sugar, not white sugar, plus a little less coconut cream. This dessert is a winner Ann, Happy Birthday!

Ingredients for cake:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
2 cups white granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 pound (3 1/2 cups) Mochiko brand sweet rice flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 15-ounce can sweetened cream of coconut, not coconut milk
1 cup whole milk
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained of the juice
1 tablespoon Crisco brand shortening
9 x 13 inch metal sheet pan, or glass Pyrex pan

Ingredients for topping:
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese and sugar. Stir in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the remaining ingredients and stir, until smooth. Pour into a greased 13x9 pan. Combine the topping ingredients; sprinkle over batter. Place in oven on middle rack and bake in a 350˚F oven for approximately 60 minutes. After 30 minutes of baking, cover the cake lightly with a sheet of foil to keep the coconut from getting too brown, then continue baking for 30 minutes more. Turn off heat and allow the cake to rest in the oven for an additional 20 minutes before removing. Now remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour, then cut into small pieces. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Note: The cooking time may vary depending on your oven, and the pan you cook in. For example I cooked this cake in a glass Pyrex baking pan and had to increase the time by 30 minutes. If the cake center jiggles when you give it a shake, continue cooking, and check again every 5 minutes. The cake is done when the top springs back to the touch.