Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Spinach Salad with Grilled Red Onion Vinaigrette

lovely salad

recipe # 162

Another winner from The Cafe Pongo Cookbook.

Spinach Salad with Grilled Red Onion Vinaigrette
1 medium red onion, peeled and cut half way thru the root end
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon grainy mustard
3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 pound fresh spinach
3 hard boiled eggs

Over a charcoal or wood grill slowly grill the onion until it is blackened on both sides. You can also use a cast iron pan. Heat skillet over med. heat until it starts to smoke, add oil and blacken the onion. Let onion cool.

tasty grilled onion. I cooked mine in a cast iron pan.

Cut the onion lengthwise in thin slices and put them in a bowl. Whisk the remaining dressing ingredients together and pour over the onion. Let this mixture sit for at least an hour.

Just before serving, toss the spinach with the egg and the red onion vinaigrette.

This is a good side salad. I tried to make it lunch and it was a bit overwhelming all alone. It is also a very pretty dish. I added fake bacon bits, because. . . well, I have no excuse other than I think they are tasty on salad.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Vegan Cooking, A Second Opinion

spicy peanut stew

recipe #159, 160, 161

Vegan with a Vengence is in the mail. I ordered it after reading an article about the author ISA CHANDRA MOSKOWITZ (fellow Brooklynite) who said something like, vegans should learn to cook vegetables before messing with tofu. I find that philosphy promising. Here is her terrific and not preachy website.

My in-laws came over for dinner and to see our new house. My Father in Law is vegan, so I made one of Isa's recipes for dinner. This is one was posted in last weeks New York Times:

Spicy Peanut Stew With Ginger and Tomato
Adapted from Terry Hope Romero
Time: One hour
1 medium-size eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 to 2 jalapeño chilies, seeded and minced
1 onion, chopped
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 small (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, preferably roasted
4 cups vegetable stock or water
1/2 cup natural unsweetened peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
1 medium-size zucchini, 6 to 8 ounces, cut in quarters lengthwise, then sliced 1/2 -inch thick
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 to 2 lemons)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves, plus whole leaves for garnish
Cooked rice, for serving
Chopped roasted salted peanuts, for garnish (optional).
In a colander, toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt; set aside for 30 minutes. Rinse, drain well and set aside. In a small bowl, combine cumin, coriander, turmeric and cayenne; set aside.
In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots and fry, stirring often, until soft, crisp and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shallots to a large bowl, leaving oil in pot. Raise heat to high and add eggplant. Cook, stirring often, until lightly browned and just tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl with shallots.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pot and heat over medium-high heat. Add ginger and chilies and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add spices and cook, stirring, 30 seconds more. Add onion and cook, stirring to scrape up any browned bits, until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Add diced tomatoes, stock or water, eggplant, shallots and a sprinkling of salt. Bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Place peanut butter in a medium bowl, add one or two ladlefuls of hot soup, and stir until emulsified, then pour mixture back into soup.
Reduce heat to a simmer, add zucchini, cover and cook 10 to 15 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Turn off heat and stir in lemon juice and chopped cilantro. Let cool slightly and taste; add salt if necessary. Serve in bowls with rice, garnished with cilantro leaves and chopped peanuts, if desired.

Yield: 8 servings.

Clearly Indian inspired. Nice recipe. Could be slightly more spicy, but maybe I just got a mild jalapeno. Good with Brown rice and a salad.

vegan stuffed mushroom

I served these as an appetizer (from epicurious.com):
1 medium onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
14 oz firm tofu, frozen and then defrosted (Freezing changes texture to a more meaty substance that soaks up flavor. Freeze in plastic wrap, thaw and pat dry with paper towel to remove excess water.)
1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crumbled
2 small tomatoes, finely chopped
1/3 cup ground walnuts
2 tsp mellow miso, or more for stronger flavor (available at health food stores)
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp tomato paste
12 large, fresh cremini or white mushrooms, wiped clean, stems removed
1/4 cup chopped green onions

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large skillet, sauté onion and garlic in 2 tbsp oil, with a pinch of salt, until tender. Crumble tofu over onion and sauté another 5 minutes. Add rosemary and tomatoes and cook on low heat about 10 minutes or until mixture is fairly dry. Add walnuts, miso, vinegar, tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle remaining 2 tbsp oil over mixture. Place mushrooms in a baking dish and fill each with about 1 tbsp stuffing, using a spoon and pressing firmly to pack. Bake 20 minutes. Remove and top each hors d'oeuvre with a sprinkle of green onion. Serve warm.

These were fine. Use more miso than the recipe calls for. Salt before serving. The recipe calls for large mushrooms, but you almost need a fork and knife to eat them. If I ever make them again, I will use 24 small mushroom caps instead of 12 large.

These were dessert:
Oatmeal Cookies
1 1/2 mashed bananas
1/2 cup applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup brown sugar or agave syrup
1 cup flour (I used brown rice flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 dash salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 dash nutmeg
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries or walnuts or chocolate chips or a mixture
3/4 cup oatmeal
1. Blend first 4 ingredients.
2. Add dry ingredients.
3. Drop onto greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

These cookies are damn tasty right out of the oven. I have made them 4 times now, each time with a different dried fruit or nut. The walnut chocolate chip was the best. The almond cranberry was nice too. It could almost be a to go breakfast. I'll add a photo next time I make them.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Poached Eggs with Zucchini Fritters and Red Pepper Coulis

tasty and very healthy

recipe #157

I have taken a serious second look at the The Cafe Pongo Cookbook and now love it. Cafe Pongo was a small breakfast and lunch place in Tivoli, NY where my husband and I went to college. My husband, actually lived above the restaurant. I bought him the cookbook a few years ago because he had such great memories of the chicken salad sandwich (great sandwich) and slaw (amazing slaw). I made a few things from it and then, for the most part, shelved it.

Upon a second look there are a bunch of really wonderful breakfast recipes. Most take a fair amount of prep and most reference other recipes in the book. Still all dressings and condiments are terrific on their own and worth having in the fridge.

Heres a particularly good one:

Pouched Eggs with Zucchini Fritters and Red Pepper Coulis

For Fritters
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup flay leaf parsley, chopped
1 table spoon lemon zest
2 pounds zucchini grated (6 cups)
1 cup all purpose flour or brown rice flour
4 large eggs lightly beaten
2 cups vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

For Coulis
2 cups roasted red peppers
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup blanched almonds
Juice from 1 lemon
salt and pepper
I also added minced garlic to this and thought it was great with it

To Finish
8 eggs

For the Fritters:
Fold together garlic parsley and lemon zest. Stir in grated zucchini then flour and eggs. Add salt and pepper. (You might want to drain or pat dry the zucchini after grating it. When I made it the fritter mixture was to wet).

Form thin 2 inch wide cakes. Make sure that they are flat and not round like meatballs or they will not cook properly. Heat oil, add fritters and cook until golden brown.

For the Coulis
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until evenly pureed.

To Finish:
Pouch the eggs and place 1 egg on top of 3 or 4 fritters for each serving. Spoon the coulis over the eggs and serve

Serves 6

This a terrific breakfast. The red pepper coulis could be used for tons of other recipes. It would be great on sandwiches, over hummus, on pasta, for a crostini topping. It is a nice alternative to aioli.

Friday, January 26, 2007

My First Vegan Cookbook

vegan french toast that didn't really work out

recipe #158

I got my first vegan cookbook for xmas, La Dolce Vegan! by Sarah Kramer. I was really excited--checking out cooking from another perspective, it looked cool, healthy, blah, blah, blah.

I spent a lot of time flipping thru it while on vacation. I marked recipes, made shopping lists and planned to cook exclusively vegan for a week or so. Then I really started to read the recipes and I'm pretty sure most don't have an end product that will taste good. Not because they lack bacon and cheese, but because they lack a nice mixture of flavors. Also I can not take the author. She is cute and rockabilly but ultimately the picture of her looking thrilled standing next to Vanilla Ice (the rapper, not dessert) did her in. Anyways, she has a website too.

I have made a few recipes from the book, all I heavily modified but kept vegan.

This is the first recipe that I made from her book. My modifications are next to the original recipe in ():

Freedom French Toast:
3/4 cup silken tofu
2 tbsp maple syrup (skip this or the toast will stick to the griddle)
3/4 tsp cinnamon (add more)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup apple juice or water (add vanilla soy milk instead)
1 tbsp oil (almond oil)
4-6 large slices of bread, stale (gluten-free wheat bread)

Blend all ingredient except the bread in a blender or processor. Dip bread into batter, fry in oil until golden brown.

Makes 2 servings.

Well, the time I made this I put maple syrup in the batter and it stuck to the griddle. All and all the flavor was good. My son loved it. He actually made mmmmmmmmmmmm. . .. sounds the entire time he was eating it. He couldn't care less that it looked awful and didn't brown properly.

I found a similar recipe on the Whole Foods website that I'll try soon and compare.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Food on the North Shore

Mango Mama's is a good solid take-away choice for morning coffee and baked thing

When we are here we pretty much stick to the North Shore and more or less have only eaten places in Hanalei and Kilhuea. Over the years been to all the places mentioned below at least twice.
Tahiti Nui has the best Mai Tais on the island and is right next to the best hangover breakfast too!

Tropical Taco in Hanalei is good. Solid choice. Good lemonade. It used to be just a van, now they are to the right as you drive into town.

Sushi Blues in Hanalei .. nothing to crow about and you have to listen to live 'blues' while you eat your manhattan priced sushi. . .

Pau Hana Pizza in Kiluea . . .used to be pretty awesome, but I did eat at the best pizza places in Brooklyn in the past 2 months, so maybe I'm just more judgemental. They have a crust to topping doneness issue. Crust undone, topping cooked. Actually, come to think of it I find this a problem nationwide. Maybe ask them to make it well done and the crust will be okay. The pizza with pineapple, ham and chipolte is the best one.
they also have anice bakery and coffee

Hanalei Pizza. I've only been there twice, but they will make a pizza for you to bring home and cook. They are also really nice .
no. no. no.

Light House Bistro in Kiluea. . avoid, avoid, avoid. . . even if you have a coupon. Even if your option is a sandwich in your hotel/tent/renal cottage. Go home, light a candle and eat your PB&J outside by candlelight and you'll be happier.

Bar acuda or Baracuda in Hanalei. Tapas. Fine wine list. Nice desserts, great dessert wines. Extremely expensive for Hanalei. The host staff acts like you are trying to get a seat at Babbo at 7 on a Saturday. Avoid.

Lepperts in Princeville next to Foodland. Ice cream. . . do not avoid. go now. Buy a ticket to Kaua'i and go there . . . now. It is the kind of ice cream that makes you unable to sleep if there is any in the freezer at night.

Banana Joe's just outside Kiluea. . . good produce. They have mint growing out front that they let me pick for free.
banana joe's is known mostly for the smoothies that they make

Foodland Groceries (Kaapa'a vs. Princeville). . . Specifically Poke. It is good if you buy it in Kaap'a. Cheap and tasty. It is basically a tradition that I buy it first thing on the way to the house from the airport and eat it in the car. When purchased at the Princeville Foodland there is a good chance you will get ill from eating it.

Princeville Resort. . . The best place I have ever been for cocktails at sunset. Brunch is also nice. The New Years Eve party is pretty good too, although slightly more conservative a party than I would generally enjoy. Lunch and dinner are fine with a much better view and nicer staff than Baracuda for the same price. They do not scowl at you if your kids are running around like manicas.

Safeway (in Kapaa) is lame and more expensive than Foodland.

Fish Taco Van at Annini Beach. . . good. nice location. Just head to anini beach on the 'no outlet' road and the fish taco dude is usually parked around the picnic area. Buy the tacos and then drive to the very very end of the road to eat them.

goooood tacos. photo by malcome

Kihuea Fish Market. . . pretty much the best bet on the north shore. Fresh, good, laid back, nice location. Good for kids, good without kids. The poke here is far far better than foodland. The mahi mahi sandwich is terrific. It is just across from Kong Lung in Kihuea.
the best poke I have ever had came from here

There is nothing at all to eat at the Lihue Airport so if you have a long flight on any airline that wants to sell you a 'Bistro Box' or some shit like that stop in Kaap'a and pick something up. Or, there is Ono Burger. Ono means good in Hawaiian. This place is good. In my opinion the best burger on the island.
The menu, double click to see a larger image

a local boy and and old fashion.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Chicken Lu'au

tastes better than it looks

Basically I could just go out and pick everything in this dish. This island is rotten with wild chickens, but they are hard to catch (not that I have spent much time trying). There is taro everywhere and coconuts are so plentiful they actually kill more people at year than sharks do. True fact. I swear.

actual photo of a real sign. by Malcome.

This is a very hawaiian, traditional meal. There are premade frozen versions on all grocery stores.

Chicken Lu'au
6 cups frozen coconut milk
5-6 lbs either chicken thighs or cooked squid
4 tsp salt 6 cups water
9 lbs taro leaves (luau leaves)

Cooking Instructions:
Place chicken in pot with 3 tsp salt and 3 cups water. Simmer uncovered until tender. Remove bones and cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. Set aside. (If using squid, cut into 1/2-inch pieces).

Wash taro leaves, remove stem and strip tough part of rib. Place leaves, 3 cups water, and 1 tsp salt in a deep saucepan. Simmer for 1 hr. Change water and cook 1 hour more until bitter "sting" is out of leaves. Squeeze out excess water. Add drained chicken or squid and coconut milk to cooked leaves. Heat thoroughly and serve immediately. Adjust flavor with salt.

This looked pretty disgusting during the cooking process. I was not happy at first, but add some hot sauce and you've got yourself a very hearty, healthy and satisfying meal.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Hawaiian Snack Foods

an aquired taste snack

Both of my favorite snacks on Kauai are fish based. Not surprising.

I love the saki ika aka squid jerky. You can find it regular and spicy in almost every grocery stire and gas station shop on the island. I had it in NY first, I think my friend Josh made me try it (thanks, Josh!). In Kauai it is about 3.50 for a large bag.

sadly this poke made us sick. it was the only picture of took of poke, tho

Poke, although arguably not a snack, is my very favorite thing to eat here. I tried to make it, but I couldn't fine any kikui nut paste anywhere. I looked all over the north and western shores for it.

Poke should really only be eaten if acquired from a good source, and only on the day it is purchased. If it is grey, green, or weirdly shiny either toss it or fry it up. Both my husband and I have lost the Poke lottery and were very sick afterwards. It goes bad fast.

Here is a recipe for Poke from a great source for all traditional Hawaiian recipes.

Ahi Poki
Onion Green Onion (scallions)
Sesame Oil
kikui nut paste

Cooking Instructions:
Ahi - It is imperative that you get the choicest and freshest fish possible. I now am on the mainland and use a seafood wholesaler to ensure that I get the best cuts. I tend to use sushi-grade fish (#1). You can use #2-plus and #2 fish, but check them out beforehand to ensure the best cuts. Traditionally, Ahi is Yellowfin Tuna and Aku is (darn, I forget) another Tuna. Sometimes, it can be difficult to get Ahi or Aku, I have used Bigeye Tuna with great results. Just don't use Starkist (Sorry, Charlie).

Shoyu - Personally, I like Aloha Shoyu. So much so that I import it from Hawaii by bringing gallons in my luggage or bothering my cousin to send me some. Aloha Shoyu has just the right amount of caramel and saltiness as to not be overpowering. Some alternatives might be that green label light Kikkoman (not bad) or another shoyu of your choice. Do some experimenting and let me know your results.

Garlic - I personally like fresh garlic, chopped into tiny bits. But you can get away with the prepared garlic that is already crushed (I've done that a number of times with great success).

Onion - Take the onion and slice it up into slivers and add to the mix. I think I tried a poke with Maui Onions and that was pretty good. Any white onion will do, be sure that it is fresh!

Green Onion - Also known as scallions, they come in long stalks. Take the majority of the stalk, both the green and white parts (but discard the ends) and chop. Add and mix.

Sesame Oil - This is battle ingredient of Poke. Without it, you've got a bunch of fish and veggies in a bowl with shoyu- sashimi. With the right amount of Sesame Oil, you've got an aphrodisiac! Anyway, use the Asian/Oriental type of Sesame oil. This is the one in bottles that look like they're been browned because the color of the oil is brown. Supermarkets have another sesame oil that is clear in color (clear like vegetable oil), but I haven't tried it and cannot recommend it. It is the nutty flavor of the oil that makes it. Some say use it sparingly, I say use it to taste!

Ogo - What the hell is Ogo? It is also known as Limu Kohu. Ogo looks like twiggy-like seaweed and can be found at FoodLand Waialae, but seemingly nowhere on the mainland. If anyone knows where I can source this on the East Coast, I will be thankful. I go to FoodLand, buy up pounds of it, freeze it and fly it home. The Ogo should be chopped up and mixed in. I keep my ogo frozen and just hack off a chunk and chop it up. I include the seawater ice that comes off to add whatever flavor it might impart (you know, a taste of the Pacific).

Hawaiian Salt - I do not normally use this because I make Shoyu-style Poki. But follow the rest of the ingredients and substitute Hawaiian Salt for the Shoyu. If you use both (like I did once), it becomes a bit too salty and not very pleasant. Just Lomi the salt in. If you don't have Hawaiian Salt, you can use Kosher Sea Salt from Mortons just as well or rock salt (but not the kind you put in water purifiers).

Kukui Nut - Not something that I have really used much of in Poki. I don't know quite where to source it. Be careful if you do get kukui nuts. While they are good for burning as a candle, too much in your poki will make you burn a path in your floor to the restroom. It can be used to soothe constipation in the right dosage, so use sparingly in your Poki!

Here is a poke recipe that seemed to be a favorite from the semi-finals of Top Chef.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Grilled Spam & Cheese with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce

Simple, to the point, terrible for you, but quite good:

Grilled Spam & Cheese with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce

The sandwich
Sharp or extra sharp cheddar
spam - orginal or spicy
hearty wheat bread
olive oil

assemble sandwich, heat pan, add a touch of the oil and grill until cheese melts.

2 tbs. good quality honey
6 dashes hot sauce


Monday, January 01, 2007

New Years Breakfast

Breakfast. Photo by Jordan

Pomelos, are for the most part something I would never buy. Maybe I would pick one up in Chinatown if I was feeling flush and lucky, but the cost is prohibtive, so I stick to grapefruit when I'm feeling like a large cirtrus.

Here, we have a pomelo tree. There is actually a whole orchard. There are limes, lemons, oranges, star fruit, avocados, pomelos, tangelos, tangarines, papayas and mangos (maybe others stuff too).

We are next to a guava plantation. In the guava plantation there is a jackfruit tree, which is pretty exciting as most Nothern Americans will never see one and if they are lucky enough to taste jackfruit it is likely from a can.

Anyway, pomelos, or Chinese grapefruit, pummelo, pommelo, jabong, or shaddock.

So I'm going to work with them. After I got tired of just soaking them in rum, this is what we made for New Year Breakfast:

Candied Pomelo Peel
(1) Peel pomelo, taking care to remove as much of the pith as possible, and reserve fruit for another use. Cut the peel into 1⁄4-inch-wide strips. Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the pomelo peel and
(2) blanch for 1 minute. Remove peel and drain. Repeat 3 times, changing water each time (this removes some of the peel’s bitterness). After the third blanching, refill pot with 2 cups fresh water and 2 cups sugar. Dissolve sugar over medium-low heat. Bring to a boil, add the peel back to the pot, and reduce heat to low until the peel is translucent and almost no liquid remains, about 1 hour. Remove the peel from the pot and
(3) cool on a wire rack. Toss in granulated sugar (or dip in melted chocolate). Store in airtight container for up to one week.

I think this recipe was from NY magazine.

The recipe worked, but Kauai is pretty humid and they never really turned into a solid candy. They remained pretty sticky and floppy.

But, they were a nice garnish for our New Years Breakfast:

FrenchToast with Pomelo Syrup
French Toast:
* 1 cup whole milk
* 1 egg
* 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
* 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
* 4 (3-inch) slices of any bread you choose
* 2 tablespoons butter
* Black pepper
* 1 teaspoon salt

Mix it up and use the butter to fry up the french toast.

pomelo syrup

Pomelo Syrup
1/2 cup pomelo juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
a bit of pepper
1/4 cup of sugar
a wee bit of red pepper flakes (optional)

mix, add to sauce pan and reduce for 20 minutes over medium heat.

mmmmmmm. . . .

Then there was the ultimate mimosa. To make it you have to get up at dawn, in Kauai, pick clemintines and oranges, juice them and them mix them with Veuve Clicuot. I would never normally mix that bubbly with anything, but the juice was equal to the champagne. It was a lovely morning.