Sunday, December 28, 2008

Watching turtles and fish, eating loco moco

I haven't been writing in my blog because I have been out of wireless range in Hawaii. We just moved to an oceanfront place and it has wireless, so here I am. We are about halfway through a very relaxed trip, and I am doing a couple of my favorite things, cooking with local ingredients and watching sea life.

There are a few sea turtles that frequent the tidal pools and rocky shores under our lanai here. They like to come up in the afternoon and sun themselves while munching on the seaweed growing there. About 50 feet out in the deeper water there are several schools of yellow tangs that are easy to pick out when the sun is shining on the water. Their presence tells me that there are a lot more cool fish hanging out there around the lava shelf. But there is a lot of surge down there and it would be challenging to get to, so we shan’t climb down to snorkel there. We will, however, walk south about 100 yards on a path to a little sandy beach and walk into the water to see what we can see. I am scared to death of the water – nearly drowned when I was about 10 – but my desire to see the neato fish pushes me forward anyway. Probably tomorrow.

Brunch this morning was loco moco. This is a very Hawaii-specific dish. In its basic form it is white rice topped with a hamburger patty and a fried egg, covered with brown gravy. Sometimes served with a scoop of macaroni salad. (More on mac salad, Hawaiian-style, in a minute.) Our version was a little more luxe. Last night I made fried rice with diced Portuguese sausage, carrots, egg, and green onions. It was a huge batch, meant to last for a week of breakfasts or lunches. So I heated up two portions of fried rice, and cooked some patties I made by mincing tenderloin trimmings. I also made some Knorr brown gravy and fried some eggs. (Knorr is closest to the traditional gravy I get.) I cook the eggs sunny-side up but cover them to ensure that the white is still cooked with a runny or very soft yolk. Rice goes on the bottom of the plate, then meat, eggs, and gravy. Put a scoop of mac salad on the plate and VOILA! A deluxe loco moco.

Hawaiian mac salad is quite different from macaroni salad you may have had. It consists of a grated carrot, a pound of overcooked macaroni, and a cup or more of Best Foods/Hellman’s mayonnaise. Some salt and pepper, and let it sit until everything is well-absorbed. Then add a little more mayo if you like it moist. I happen to like it very much, and Costco here on the island used to sell a very good version. I couldn’t find it this time so once we got to a place with a wireless connection I did some research to find some recipes that resembled what I wanted. The result was very close to what I have enjoyed at the greasy spoon “plate lunch” places around here. If you’ve never heard of “plate lunch,” it is an entrée like fried chicken or fish or teriyaki beef or curried beef stew served with two scoops of white rice and a scoop of mac or mac/potato salad. It is usually an inexpensive, wickedly bad for you, and quite yummy meal.

Back to turtle watching and working on a “healthy glow” on my face, while sipping some champagne.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Canning tomatillo salsa

Tomatillos looked really good at Cash and Carry this week, so I bought a 2-pound bag. That made a lot of salsa, even after taking some to a couple of parties. So I decided to can it. It always seems like canning is going to be a hassle, and why only can three jars of something? But every time I start on canning with a small batch of something it really isn't a hassle, nor does it generate a big mess. And now I'll have some good salsa in the pantry. That makes me happy.

Multigrain bread

One of my weekend cooking projects was bread with some "oomph." This bread includes hazelnut flour, whole wheat flour, and dark rye flour in addition to bread flour. It looks a little dense but the texture is great and it's not heavy at all. It tastes nutty and a little sweet from the honey I used in it. Great for toast!

Friday, December 12, 2008

What's cooking: Rice pudding

With this nasty wet and windy storm outside, I started thinking about comfort food. Just so happened that I had four cups of leftover popcorn rice and some half-and-half that needed to be used up. I’ve never made rice pudding before but I really like it. So I reviewed several recipes and settled on this:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk two egg yolks with 1/3 cup sugar. Whisk in ½ cup half-and-half until smooth. Whisk this mixture in a large oven-safe saucepan with 3 ½ cups of half-and-half, another 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon vanilla, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon. Add four cups of cooked rice. Stir constantly over medium heat, breaking up lumps of rice, until the mixture comes to a simmer. Put pan in oven and cook for 1 ¼ hours, stirring once. Allow to cool and serve at room temperature or chilled.

Just the ticket for a cold blustery day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What's cooking: spicy chocolate fudge marshmallows

This experiment started in October when I decided to fulfill a commitment to my nephew James – to make chocolate marshmallows.  I went through a few rounds and came up with something that was quite good, using a fudge syrup in the gelatin.  For a champagne tasting we’re going to tomorrow night, I wanted something a little more “adult.”  So I have taken the base recipe and added  some pasilla chile powder for flavor, a bit of guajillo chile powder for flavor and heat, and some freshly ground cinnamon. Kind of a Mexican chocolate thing going on. Right now the KitchenAid mixer is whipping its little heart out; it takes at least 15 minutes on high to get the mixture whipped up nice and light.  Then I’ll pour it on a buttered sheet pan dusted with a mixture of powdered sugar, cornstarch, and cocoa and let it sit overnight before cutting it up with a pizza cutter.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

What's for dinner: Ruth's lasagna

Ruth is Dave’s mother. Unfortunately I never got to meet her. He says she was a big fan of Julia Child, so I suspect we would have gotten along pretty well. Last night was my first time making this recipe, though in the past I have enjoyed this lasagna when Dave made it for a crowd. You can feed 8-10 people with this easily.

Ingredients A: 2 lb hamburger 1 lb Italian sausage 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 T parsley (I assume dried, but we use 3 T minced fresh parsley) 1 T basil (dried, we use 3 T fresh or frozen) 2 t salt 2 - 14 oz cans tomatoes or puree (or one large can) 2 - 6oz cans tomato paste 2 t sugar 1 C grated Parmesan cheese

Ingredients B: 1 10oz pkg wide lasagna noodles (you’ll need 12 noodles)

Ingredients C: 24 oz ricotta cheese (the original recipe uses large curd cottage cheese; I prefer ricotta) 2 eggs, beaten 2 t salt ½ t pepper 2 T parsley flakes (I use 6 T fresh minced parsley) ½ C grated Parmesan cheese

Ingredients D: 1 lb mozzarella cheese, sliced very thin or shredded


A: Brown meat slowly, spoon off excess fat. Add rest of “A” and simmer uncovered until thick, about 45 min, stirring occasionally.

B: Cook noodles until tender, drain and rinse under cold water.

C: Combine ingredients

Put a bit of sauce on the bottom of a 10x13 deep casserole, just to cover. Place half of noodles in pan (about six noodles). Spread half of C over evenly, add half of the mozzarella cheese and half of A. Repeat layers. Top with a little shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil. Bake in moderate oven (350) for 45 min then uncover and bake another 15 min. Let stand 10-15 min before serving.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Preserved lemon recipe

I got several requests for this recipe after posting my carrot salad recipe. So here is what I do. 2 dozen medium size fresh lemons Sea salt or kosher salt 1 quart glass jar with lid

Slice half of the lemons from top to bottom into quarters, but don't cut all the way through so that the lemon has four "petals." In a mixing bowl, toss the cut lemons generously with salt, packing some inside each lemon. Place the salted lemons into the quart jar. Juice the remaining lemons and pour the juice into the jar. Fill the jar to the top. Secure the lid and let sit in a cool dry place for at least 3 days. The lemons can set longer and will keep in the refrigerator. I keep mine for a very long time so I cover the whole thing with some olive oil. You don't have to make so many, you can just do a couple, once you have them covered in salt then just put in lemon juice to cover. Also note that if you are using a canning jar and a canning flat as a lid, you should cover the jar mouth with plastic wrap before putting the lid on to avoid corrosion of the lid.

To use, remove a quarter lemon and pull out the pulp. I usually put the pulp back in the jar to keep the volume of liquid up. Dice or thinly slice the peel. These can be used in chicken stew, even dice up the peel and put a little in tuna salad. I make ahi tartare (minced fresh raw tuna) and add some to that along with my other seasonings. And of course in that carrot salad. Any time you have a savory dish that calls for lemon zest or juice and has salt, you can use some of this for an interestingly different flavor.

Friday, December 05, 2008

What's for dinner: Moroccan-style carrot salad

Well, really it’s miso-marinated flatiron steak and Russian banana potatoes (fingerlings) and the carrot salad. But the carrot salad is the interesting part. And it makes a pretty picture.

I took 2 cups of sliced carrots and tossed them with ½ t each salt, cinnamon, and cumin and ¼ t ground white pepper. Then I microwaved them for three minutes until they were just tender. Added 1 T juice from preserved lemons and 1 T chopped preserved lemon while they were still hot. I know most of you haven’t even seen a preserved lemon – you can use fresh lemon juice and lemon zest, you might need to adjust the salt a little bit as the preserved lemon is salty. Once the carrots are just warm, add 1/4 C minced sweet onion, ½ C minced parsley, and enough olive oil to barely bind it all together and give it a sheen.

Monday, December 01, 2008

What's for dinner: Braised lamb shanks, chanterelles, and butternut squash

Lamb shanks are on our list of “favorite things.” All that connective tissue that gets so yummy when you cook them low and slow in moist heat. I use some north Africa-inspired seasonings, some dried apricots, raisins, carrots, and tomatoes in the sauce. After browning the lamb, I just put all the rest of the stuff in the pot and put it into a slow oven (300-325 degrees) for 3 or 4 hours. In this case it’s longer because Dave’s working late, so I reduced the oven to 200 after the meat was tender, like it is in the photo.

I picked up some very clean chanterelle mushrooms at the farmers market today and will do a quick sauté with some shallots – when the mushrooms are really good, you want to mess with them as little as possible. I’m also roasting some butternut squash cubes, and we’ll start with a little salad.