Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Samosa Lettuce Wraps with Simple Yogurt Sauce

I like to play with flavors and concepts when I cook, taking two things I like and melding them together like in this recipe which combines the flavors of an Indian samosa with the idea of a lettuce wrap. I love samosas, those great little deep-fried pastry triangles of peas, potatoes and Indian spices but I don't love what deep fried pastry does to my bottom half. I thought if I put them in lettuce, I could still get the flavors but make it much healthier. In addition to being a great lunch to take to work or easy dinner, they work great as a pupu/appetizer. This recipe is made to be "tinkered" with--use whatever ground meat and curry or spices you like--the way I usually make it is below. I switch out the lettuce; green leaf lettuce, iceberg lettuce cups or sometimes baby lettuce leaves (as shown in the picture above) which are great for appetizers. Samosa Lettuce Wraps
2 medium waxy potatoes (about 1 cup when diced)
2 Tbsp olive or canola oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 gloves garlic
2 Tbsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 lb ground turkey breast
3/4 cup frozen green peas
1 Tbsp Nigella seeds* (optional)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Lettuce leaves or lettuce cups for serving
Simple Yogurt Sauce (recipe below)
Cilantro, mint and cucumber slices for garnish

Either boil potatoes until tender (10-15 minutes), let cool slightly peel and crush into small lumps with your hands or peel and dice raw potato into small cubes and cook in microwave about 5 minutes until tender. Set potatoes aside. Heat oil in a medium non-stick pan and saute onion about 5 minutes, add garlic, curry powder, cumin, turmeric and cayenne and mix with onion. Add ground turkey, mix into onion, spice mixture and cook turkey until lightly brown and done through. Mix in potatoes and frozen peas and cook mixture about 5 minutes until heated through. Add in Nigella seeds and cilantro. Serve in lettuce leaves or cups with Simple Yogurt Sauce, cilantro, mint and cucumber slices to garnish.

*Nigella seeds, if you aren't familiar, are black seeds that are frequently used in Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. The seeds taste like oregano and have a bitterness to them like mustard-seeds. You can omit them or substitute black mustard seeds. I put them in because I like the way they look and taste and I had a whole tin of them that came in an Indian spice set to use up!

Simple Yogurt Sauce
1 cup Greek yogurt, drained
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp mint or cilantro, finely chopped
Salt & pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and season to taste with salt & pepper. Let sit at least an hour, preferably overnight for flavors to meld. *The sauce stays mixed better if you drain the yogurt first using either a coffee filter or cheesecloth in a colander or a yogurt strainer. You can also add grated or chopped cucumbers to this sauce--just salt cucumbers, place in colander,drain off excess juices and pat dry with paper towel before adding to yogurt.

Other things to do with samosa mixture:
  • put it in a pita or tortilla style wrap
  • eat it on top of a salad
  • eliminate the potato in the recipe and use it to top a baked potato or
  • bake potatoes, halve and scoop out insides, (use this for potato in recipe) put the mixture back in potato shells for an Indian twice-baked potato
  • eat on top of rice or cous-cous

Monday, April 28, 2008

Spinach Soup with Goat's Cheese Toasts

I LOVE soup and I LOVE making soup in my Le Creuset Round Dutch Oven in the best color ever...Lemongrass. It sits on top of my stove always and gets used frequently. There is something about stirring whatever ingredients I have together in this big, solid pot that just make it taste all the better. This is a soup recipe I cut out from a magazine--unfortunately I am bad about noting which magazines my recipes come from, but I am going to guess either Good Food or Fresh from the UK.

Spinach Soup with Goat's Cheese Toasts
Serves 6, Prep time 10 minutes, Cooking time 20 minutes

30g Butter (a smidge over 2 Tbsps)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 medium potatoes, peeled, diced
500 grams frozen spinach, thawed (about 18 ounces or I just used two 10oz packs)
4 cups (1 liter) chicken stock
1/2 cup (125 ml) cream

Goat's Cheese Toasts
8 baguette slices, toasted
1 garlic clove, halved
100g (3.5 ounces) soft goat cheese
1 Tbsp snipped chives

1) Melt butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Saute' onion and garlic for 3 minutes until soft. Stir in potato and spinach. Add stock and bring to boil. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes, until potato is tender. Cool slightly. Puree with a hand blender, stir in cream and season to taste. Reheat on low.

2) Meanwhile, make Goat's Cheese Toasts. Rub baguette slices with cut sides of garlic. Top with cheese, chives and a grind of pepper. Serve with soup.

The soup was good; a pretty basic spinach soup. When/if I make it again I will probably add some curry to the recipe to give it a bit more punch. I had to cook it about 25 minutes to get the potatoes tender--so dice them pretty small if you want to do it quicker. I used a seeded baguette and some garlic-chive goat cheese I had for the croutons and they really elevated the flavor of the soup, as did the lemon juice I squeezed in the soup at the end to brighten up the flavors. Not sure why you would be making 8 toasts for the 6 people the soup says it serves--unless you have two favorite people who get two toasts each, but you could make more or less toasts easily. (I would recommend more!)

A good soup for a lazy afternoon...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

"Mystery Cake" for Retro Recipe Challenge #11

With my first recipe "Challenge" (Weekend Cookbook Challenge#27) under my belt, I decided I should go for #2 this weekend; Retro Recipe Challenge #11: Your Mother Should Know, hosted by Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness. It was similar to the first challenge in that it asked for a retro recipe but this one had to be from a year before your Mother was born. I thought I was set because I have several vintage cookbooks but it turns out my earliest one was published in 1933 and my Mom was born in 1931. Luckily I found an excellent resource at Amazon.com, called Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads by Sylvia Lovegren. (This is a fun book, very interesting to read and I plan to cook a few more retro recipes from it). Looking through the recipes and information on the 20's and 30's I had several contenders in my mind but it finally came down to two choices, both cakes, because this is supposed to be a challenge and once again (with feeling), I AM NOT A BAKER! I do admire bakers more than I can say and occasionally aspire to be one but frankly I am much better at "tinkering" with recipes and measurements than sticking to them to the letter which means I usually end up with about a 60% success record when baking. But enough about my issues and on to the finalists...

I was torn between two cakes; a Pineapple Upside Down Cake and a Mystery Cake by Campbell's Soup; basically a spice cake with a can of tomato soup as the secret ingredient. The Pineapple Cake sounded better, I love a good upside down cake and it provided a nice connection to my home in Hawaii but I have made similar cakes before. Although not being either a spice cake or tomato soup fan, I still could not resist the weirdness and kitschy appeal of the Mystery Cake, frosted with Philly-Vanilly Frosting so that was the winner.

Sylvia Lovegren writes about the Mystery Cake: "One of the newest and most popular cakes was a mystery or surprise cake--not surprising because everyone in the Thirties seemed to love "clever" cooking. This cake was a 1925 culinary contribution from Campbell's Soup and tasted surprisingly good. "But," said Joy of Cooking (1964) "why shouldn't it? The deep secret is tomato, which after all is a fruit." Mystery Cake was most often frosted with another brand named product--frosting made from Philadelphia brand cream cheese."

Mystery Cake
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon or mace
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup seedless raisins, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, well beaten
1 (15oz) can condensed soup
Philly-Vanilly Frosting (below)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices together in a medium sized bowl. Toss the raisins to coat with 1/4 cup of the flour mixture. Cream the shortening in a large bowl. Add the sugar gradually to the shortening, creaming until light. Beat in the eggs until thoroughly mixed. Add the flour mixture alternately with the soup to the egg mixture. Stir until smooth. Fold in the raisins. Pour into two greased, floured 8" layer pans. Bake until cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Frost with Philly-Vanilly Frosting.

Philly-Vanilly Frosting
1 (8-ounce) package Philadelphia brand (of course) cream cheese
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the cheese until soft in a large bowl. Work in the sugar, then beat in the melted butter and vanilla. Continue beating until very light.

Both the cake and frosting were very easy to put together. The cake batter was an interesting orange color from the soup--for some reason I was expecting red?! I used golden raisins as I thought it would look better in the cake. I also checked my cake at 25 minutes and it was done--so watch cooking time. I baked the cake last night and frosted it this morning. The cream cheese frosting is good but the cake looked a little "blah". Trying to imagine what I might do if I were a typical "house-wife in a hurry" in the 20's-30's, I decided to "jazz it up" simply by zesting an orange, mixing in a bit of sugar and sprinkling it on the top of the cake, then sort of "swirling it with my knife into the frosting. I think it gave the cake a bit more visual interest and the hint of orange in the frosting complimented the flavor of the cake well and looked nice against the orange color of the cake when it was sliced.
The cake was pretty darn good actually! There was no discernible tomato flavor, just a mildly spiced cake, very moist. I don't think anyone would guess the mystery ingredient if you didn't tell them it was in there. Since I have only made and frosted one or two other layer cakes in my life, due to a traumatic cake making incident in my early teens (I'll cover that another time), I was very pleased with the results. A success for my second challenge entry!

Friday, April 25, 2008


Poke, (pronounced po-kay) is a dish from Hawaii that I truly love. Poke basically means "to cut or slice into pieces" and it consists of small, approximately 1" cubes of raw fish, most commonly ahi tuna), seasoned with salt, spices and depending on the type of poke, a variety of ingredients like seaweed, onions, sesame oil, chili oil, shoyu, etc. It originated when early Hawaiian fisherman cut up their raw fish and seasoned it with whatever spices and things they had available.

I try to get my visitors to Hawaii to try it and have some success, usually dependant on whether or not they eat sushi, as unlike ceviche, poke is most definitely raw fish and not "cooked" by citrus juice. Unfortunately, not everyone sees the beauty in the small cubes of glistening dark red fish and when you throw in the seaweed as in the limu, poke at left above, I usually get a crinkled up nose and a "that's OK" when I offer it to them. For those who do try it however, they are usually quickly converted and want to eat it throughout the rest of their visit.

You can buy poke most anywhere--fish markets, grocery stores, roadside trucks, etc. It is considered home or comfort food here--you will find it at buffets, parties and cook-outs but you will also find it on the menu at upscale restaurants. You can make it at home, but to be honest it is far easier to just stop and pick some up.

I eat poke often, for lunch or dinner, with rice or a salad or most often just the poke itself scooped up on a taro chip. That's when it is best--especially when it has been one of those days. Not a bad day necessarily, but let's say a day at the end of a long week. A day when you got up really early to go to work to take a 5-hour facilitator-led computer class on line that started at 5:00 AM, then that was followed by another long meeting and although you vowed to leave work by 1:30 or 2:00 at the latest, the time slipped by and you left work just in time to hit Friday traffic. That's when a quick stop at the grocery store (not the finest poke but certainly the most convenient) results in 1/2 pound each of limu and shokyu poke and a bag of garlic-taro chips. Then you drive home, put it in a bowl, find a favorite pair of chopsticks and dig in, relaxing, (watching the new Grey's Anatomy you DVR'd last night and then realizing eating small red chunks of raw fish is maybe not the best food to eat while watching bear mauling victims and surgical contests--"intestines in the hands!" so then turning off the TV), reflecting on your week, enjoying the fresh local flavors and thinking "Lucky you live Hawaii" where you can enjoy as much poke as you want.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Banana-Pineapple-Coconut Muffins

The Banana Snack Cake was such a hit at work and I still had two "ugly bananas" left so I decided to make something slightly healthier and found these "Calypso Muffins" also from Allrecipes.com. (Why with well over 100 cookbooks must I constantly go online for recipes?).

I made them as specified except for using the pineapple juice to cook the oats (as someone mentioned in the comments below) and also taking out the nutmeg, adding cinnamon and upping the coconut extract a bit, (I am not a nutmeg fan and wanted to taste the tropical fruit more). I also chopped some macadamia nuts, mixed them with some shredded coconut and brown sugar and sprinkled the mixture on top of the cupcakes before baking. Over all they were pretty good; very moist, maybe slightly"sticky" (for lack of a better word) from the oats and pretty flavorful. Like the snack cake, they came to work and are being demolished fairly quickly.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


When most people come to Hawaii they want “local” food, but if you come and visit you should try some Greek food or “Mostly Greek, Not So Fast Food” as it is stated at one of my favorite places to eat The Olive Tree Café in the Kahala area of Honolulu. Long before I moved to Hawaii, when I would travel here for work, this little place was where I would ask my hosts to take me for dinner whenever given a choice. (It got me a reputation as a pretty cheap date as the food is relatively inexpensive but oh it is GOOD!) The Olive Tree Café is a simple but always crowded little place, BYOB with a small “glass” fee; where you order at the counter, jockey for a table and go pick up and pay for your food when they call your name over the speaker—cash only. Because it gets so crowded every night, it can be a trick to find parking and maneuver for a table which you do by staking out a few feet of territory, patrol it staring down (politely) anyone who looks like they are eyeing “your” tables while hovering over the diners already seated, praying that they will finish and get out so you can sit down. Because I have little patience for this and it is on my way home for work, I typically call in my order to go, park illegally at the nearby post office, dash in to get my food and head for the safety of my own home.

If I am eating with a group we get some pupu’s—the hummus is killer; garlicky, spicy and complex with grilled pita (order extra pita as you’ll need it), the mussels ceviche marinated in lime juice and spices, the giant beans in tomato sauce-yum! What keeps me coming back several times a month however is their version of Shaorma—a wonderfully spiced patty of ground lamb served in a pita with cucumber, tomato and sesame-tahini dressing; served with a salad topped with the best Greek-feta dressing ever. It is so good I order it about 98% of the time to the exclusion of everything else on the menu. If I do order something besides shaorma, like the delicious lamb shank special, I usually end up slightly regretful, thinking the whole time of my beloved shaorma. Theirs is not traditional, as sharoma is usually a middle eastern style sandwich with shaved lamb, goat or chicken but trust me it hits the spot. (Here is my last take-out container of the Olive Tree's Shaorma--excuse it's appearance, it should be prettier but I dropped it on the way in to my house!)

My friend Natalie, who is a very talented cook, loves the shaorma too and got it in her head to try and recreate it at home quickly and simply, using a falafel mix after noticing the similarities in the spices and flavor. After hearing her idea I had to try it too. Now ground lamb is very hard to find here. Safeway used to carry it and then stopped (maybe I was the only one buying it?) Natalie used ground turkey and since I had a pound of ground buffalo that I needed to use I made my first attempt out of that and my second attempt a few days later out of ground turkey breast. It is not exactly like my beloved Olive Tree Shaorma but it is quick, tasty and a great way to stretch a pound of ground meat. (See the pictures below from my first attempt the other night with the buffalo--I got six good sized patties)

Quick & Easy Shaorma
1/2 box or about 5 ounces Falafel Mix (I generally use Cashbah or Fantastic Foods. Save the other 1/2 of the falafel spice for another time)
1 lb ground meet of your choice
1 small onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic,
1/4 tsp cayenne (or more if you like it spicy)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
olive or canola oil for frying patties
Following package instructions, combine 1/2 of package falafel mix with 1/2 the water on package directions and let mixture sit for about 15 minutes to set and form a paste. Meanwhile finely dice onion and crush garlic gloves. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, except oil and mix together well so everything is combined. (I find much like meatloaf, using your hands to mix is easier and more effective). Form patties in the size and shape desired out of the mixture. (If you are planning to put it in a pita, an oblong patty works best. I usually just eat mine with salad and/or rice, so I either make small or larger rounds). Heat a large pan over medium heat. When hot, add oil and cook patties until browned on both sides and cooked within. Usually 3-5 minutes per side--dependent on size of patty. Serve warm, in pitas with humus or tahini sauce, lettuce. tomato, etc. or eat with salad and rice, serving humus/tahini on the side.
Although most of the seasonings are in the falafel mix, I find extra cayenne and cumin give it a flavor boost. You can play with the spice quantities or add different spices based on your preferences.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Banana Snack Cake

I am not exactly sure why there were several large bunches of really ugly looking bananas with a "Help Yourself" sign on the kitchen counter at work but I felt I had to do my part and take a small bunch home. Since in addition to being a strange greenish color with brown spots, they were much too soft for my taste so I needed something to put them in. I had this Banana Cake recipe from Allrecipes.com saved that I have been wanting to try--probably more for the topping than the cake itself. I threw it together and in the oven tonight. It went together quickly and baked up well, (which my lack of patience and baking skills appreciated!) The streusel like topping of chocolate chips, chopped peanuts and brown sugar was rich and almost a little bit too much for the moist tasty cake underneath. However I did manage to eat a small piece and the rest is going back to work--a big improvement over the bananas it came from.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Lamb Chops with a Spicy Rub from 5 Spices, 50 Dishes

I am on a roll with the curry this weekend! I made a recipe from a great cookbook I bought a few months ago: 5 Spices, 50 Dishes, Simple Indian Recipes Using 5 Common Spices by Ruta Kahate. The cookbook's premise is that you can create diverse and wonderful Indian dishes by using coriander seeds, cumin, mustard seeds, ground cayenne and turmeric and some easily available ingredients. I have tried several recipes so far from this book but this simple one for lamp chops has to be my favorite so far.

Lamb Chops with a Spicy Rub
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger (about a 2-inch piece)
1 tsp finely grated garlic (about 2 large cloves)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp cumin seeds, finely ground
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
8 lamb rib chops (about 1 lb, 4 ounces)
3 tbsp canola or olive oil

In a bowl large enough to hold the chops, mix together the ginger, garlic, salt, cayenne, cumin, coriander and turmeric to form a thick, slightly dry paste. Rub the chops well with this mixture and set aside to marinate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours in the refrigerator.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add the oil. Sear the lamb chops to the desired doneness, 4-5 minutes on each side for rare. You may also grill the chops on a BBQ grill over high heat. Let rest briefly before serving. Serves 4.

If you like your food slightly less spicy you can reduce the cayenne to 1/4 tsp. Ruta Kahate recommends you serve it with a salad and mashed potatoes or Crusty Russet Potatoes with Coriander (also from the book and delicious). When I like to go all out with the curry, I serve it with this Curried Quinoa Salad.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Weekend Cookbook Challenge #27 Vintage Cookbooks--The Nancy Drew Cookbook

Part of my desire to start a blog was to be able to take part in events like the Weekend Cookbook Challenge. When I saw this this month's, hosted by Carla at Chocolate Moosey, I knew the exact cookbook I wanted to choose: The Nancy Drew Cookbook, Clues to Good Cooking, originally published in 1973. Growing up, I loved Nancy Drew and so wanted to be a girl detective just like Nancy. This was until I realized that Nancy was constantly investigating scary places, being tied up by bad guys and just generally getting herself in bad situations. At heart I am basically a big chicken and wouldn't want to be in those situations at all, thus I decided I needed a new career goal but never lost my admiration for smart and spunky Nancy! My older sister had most of the Nancy Drew books in our house and I coveted and borrowed most of them. She also had the Nancy Drew Cookbook which I also coveted for years until seeing a copy in a used book store a few years ago, I bought my own. The cookbook has recipes named after characters and places from the Nancy Drew books and notes and tips "from Nancy" at the bottom of each recipe which are fun to read. I had never cooked from it before but quickly settled on two recipes: Ivory Charm Shrimp Curry and Fire Dragon Spiced Fruit. I could see Nancy inviting her friends Bess and George over for a "girls night" of exotic, sophisticated (for the times) food and conversation and serving these two dishes with a simple green salad.
Ivory Charm Shrimp Curry
2 cups cooked rice
1 10-ounce package of frozen cooked shrimp
1 can frozen condensed cream of shrimp soup*
1 cup sour cream
1 large onion
1 tbs butter or margarine
1/2 tsp curry powder
Parsley flakes

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Thaw shrimp as directed on the package. Spread cooked rice in the bottom of a baking dish. Chop onion into small pieces, melt butter in skillet and cook onion over low heat until tender but not brown. Stir in the soup until smooth. Add sour cream and curry powder until ingredients are blended and add shrimp. Pour this mixture over the rice, sprinkle with paprika and parsley flakes. Bake for 20 minutes. Serves 4.
Nancy's notes: "Foreign Flavor: For Far Eastern intrigue, serve small bowls of crushed salted peanuts, chopped hard-boiled eggs and chutney for guest to sprinkle over the shrimp dish."

*I am not sure I have ever seen frozen condensed cream of shrimp soup in Hawaii or any where, so I asked myself "WWNDD?" (what would Nancy Drew do?). I think that if Nancy discovered that Hannah Gruen, her beloved housekeeper, had not restocked the freezer with the condensed soup, and being the resourceful girl she was, she would have headed over to her cupboard and used a can of Campbell's Cream of Celery Soup as a suitable replacement.
Fire Dragon Spiced Fruit
2 cups peach halves
2 cups pear halves
1 small jar maraschino cherries
2 1/2 cups pineapple chunks
1/3 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Drain all fruit and dry on paper towels. Arrange fruit in a 2 quart casserole, mixing the pieces. Melt butter in a skillet over low heat. Add brown sugar and curry powder and stir until smooth. Pour over the fruit and bake uncovered for 1 hour. Serve with meat or salad.
"Nancy's Helpful Tip: This fruit dish becomes even tastier if it is left covered in the refrigerator overnight. Before serving, reheat it for 20 minutes at 350 degrees."

The Results: Not too bad! Very kitschy and 70's I think but kind of fun. The friend I bribed with cupcakes from my favorite place to come and try it said, "Pretty Good! It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be!" This is not the normal reaction I like to hear when I cook but in this situation, I'll take it! We both wanted more curry flavor--it was a small amount and a little subtle but I wanted to keep as true to the recipes as possible. Having the chopped egg, chutney and chopped cashews (I was out of peanuts) helped add some "Far Eastern Intrigue" as promised by Nancy, The dishes were pretty rich and filling and if I were Nancy, I would feel more like taking a nap after eating them than solving a mystery, (OK that might have been the cupcakes talking!). I liked the curry in the brown sugar on the fruit and since I like to serve ice cream with grilled fresh pineapple as dessert, I might try playing around with the brown sugar, butter, curry as a dessert topping. Overall a fun experience for my very first blog event!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tuna (or Salmon) with Burnt Lemon & Caper Dressing

I love reading Delicious Magazine from New Zealand--why are the food magazines from New Zealand and Australia always so much better? A recipe for Smoked Salmon with Burnt Lemon & Caper Dressing from the March 2008 issue caught my eye as I love most anything that has lemon and capers in it. I didn't have smoked salmon but did have some small tuna medallions that I thought would work well. It turned out great, caramelizing the lemons added a whole new layer of flavor and adding the fresh herbs to the baby salad leaves made the whole dish taste of springtime. It was very quick and easy and I will definitely try it again with the smoked salmon this time. The recipe below is from the magazine with my modifications noted at the bottom.

Smoked Salmon with Burnt Lemon & Caper Dressing
2 lemons, halved
1 tbs capers, rinsed and drained
2 tbs honey
1 tbs Dijon mustard
100 ml (about 3 1/2 oz) extra-virgin olive oil*
salt & pepper to taste
4 cups mixed baby greens
300g (10.5 oz) smoked salmon*
1/4 cup each of dill sprigs, flat-leaf parsley, chervil sprigs, and coriander (cilantro) leaves*

Heat a pan over high heat. Cook lemon halves, cut side down for 4 minutes until caramelized. Remove from heat, cool slightly, then juice lemons into a bowl. Add capers, honey, mustard and oil. Whisk to combine, then season with salt & pepper to taste. Divide salad leaves among 4 plates. Place folds of salmon on top and scatter with herbs. Drizzle with dressing and serve immediately.

*I felt like this was a bit too much olive oil for me and since I was making it for two and needed a smaller portion of dressing anyway, I put in about 1/4 cup. As I did, you could substitute any cooked fish for the smoked salmon. I baked my tuna medallions in a 375 degree oven for about 10-11 minutes. For the herbs, I only had dill and cilantro and I mixed them in with the baby lettuce leaves and put the fish on top.

Recipe from Delicious Magazine, Issue 69, March 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

CSA Box & Avocado-Yogurt Spread

About two years ago I was reading a lot about CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) Boxes and wondered if they existed in Hawaii. After some research, I found "Just Add Water", in Kailua, on the east or Windward side of the island. I signed up for their weekly box of organic, locally-grown (all islands) produce, getting their single size, gourmet box. The thing about CSA boxes in Hawaii is that you can get them all year long (good) but the lack of seasonality here means you don't get a huge variety of items throughout the year (not so good).

Opening my box each Thursday (this week's pictured above), I can usually expect to see a bag of mixed salad greens--sometimes with a few edible flowers, a head of romaine, a bag of mixed dark leafy greens--usually kale and chard, a couple of bags of sprouts, a bunch of apple bananas, a bag of basil and a couple of avocados. Beets, bok choy, cabbage, pineapple, citrus fruits and papayas are frequent visitors. Then comes the occasional "surprise and delight" items that pop up every so often like a bag of spiny reddish rambutan, sunny yellow lilikoi (passion fruit), little tangerines and tangelos, a daikon radish and sometimes strange fruits like the jabong or pomelo (similar to grapefruit) that I have to take in to work to have someone identify.

The boxes give me access to fresh, local organic produce that lasts much longer and tastes much fresher than the grocery store produce flown in from the mainland or Latin America. It also ensures that I cook with and eat my veggies because you just can't let it go to waste.
Tonight, I still had last weeks avocados to use up so I whipped up some Avocado-Yogurt Spread which is a great alternative to guacamole and good a way to cut some of the fat/calories and pump the protein up a bit. It is great as a sandwich spread in a wrap or a dip for crackers or veggies. I got this recipe from a magazine several years ago and it is a regular staple in my refrigerator.

Avocado Yogurt Spread
1 or 2 ripe avocados mashed
1/2 to 1 cup of non-fat plain Greek yogurt*
1/3 cup of chopped cilantro
juice of two limes
salt and pepper to taste

*I use about the same amount of yogurt as I have avocados. If not using Greek yogurt or you want a thicker spread, drain the yogurt for an hour or two before using.

Mix the first four ingredients together, add salt and pepper to taste. (You can also add Tabasco if you prefer it a bit spicier). Refrigerate for an hour or two before serving.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lime & Coconut Macaroons--You put de lime in de coconut

A favorite chef and food writer of mine is Jill Dupleix from Australia. She does a lot of simple, fun recipes and has great quick ideas sections in some of her books. Under one of those sections in her Good Cooking, The New Basics book is a great little recipe for a cookie: Lime & Coconut Macaroons. I have slightly adapted it by adding more zest and mounding the cookies rather than cutting them into rounds as specified. You can throw them together quickly and the tropical flavors will make you think you are relaxing on a beach in the warm sun. Excellent with a Mojito and very cute wrapped in a steamer basket as a gift like the ones above for my friend's Birthday!

Lime & Coconut Macaroons
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups unsweetened dried coconut
2 egg whites
2 tsp grated lime zest
1 tsp lime juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Using your hands, mix the above ingredients together into a thick paste. Use a small melon baller to make little mounds or haystacks. Bake them on a cookie sheet until lightly golden--about 12 to 15 minutes. I find it helpful to use parchment paper on the baking sheet and to let them cool before transferring them as they are a little sticky. Makes about 16-18 cookies depending on the size of your scoop.

Adapted from Good Cooking, The New Basics, Jill Dupleix

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fort Street Open Market

This morning I had an early breakfast seminar on a not so exciting topic downtown. Because the commute is often pretty bad, my co-worker and I left our houses plenty early to meet up at the office and head downtown. Defying all laws of traffic logic and coming from both sides of the island we ended up at the seminar site a full half hour before registration even started. After some grumbling about the extra sleep we could have had, we found ourselves walking around Downtown Honolulu and at the Fort Street Open Market which is apparently held Tuesdays and Fridays. We had caught it once before and were excited to see the stalls of fruits, vegetables and other wares set up--a great way to pass the time and drop some cash. It's pretty much a small hodge-podge of booths mixed with some locally grown and produced foods and some not so locally grown or produced. There are some organic things and some not. (Interestingly there were two bins of beets in one stall--one bin saying "Organic Beets" and one saying "Healthy Beets"--apparently downtown at least healthy wins over organic as the healthy beets were all gone when we got there!). 15 minutes, three bags and about $27.00 later, I was loaded up--I have no willpower at farmers markets.

So what does $27.00 buy you at the Fort Street Open Market?
  • 3 small sweet Maui onions
  • one Rainbow papaya
  • a bag with one red and one yellow pepper
  • a locally grown heart of romaine lettuce
  • two Japanese cucumbers
  • 15 locally grown tangerines
  • one bunch each: mint, dill, rosemary and Chinese parsley (aka: cilantro)
  • one plastic container with sliced strawberries and a few blueberries for color that looked so good I couldn't resist
  • one small Ziploc of trail mix the sign said had "one dozen ingredients" and it did! I bought it because it had pieces of dried kiwi in it which I have never tried or even seen before (Interesting texture but the salt from the trail mix distracted from it's flavor)
I have no idea how that would compare on the mainland as I have become numb to the sticker shock after living here long enough. A picture of my bounty is below:

I ate the berries and shared the trail mix before I could get them home so I used my camera phone for a quick picture at my desk:

Also at one table at the market was a pile of odd looking fruit (at least I guessed it was fruit) that looked like a cross between a potato and a kiwi fruit with a hand lettered sign that said "Chico $1.50 each". I had never heard of Chico's before and there was not anyone available to ask about it--what is it, what do you do with it, etc. so I didn't purchase one. When we got back to the office we Googled it and this is what we learned:

It is actually called a Sapodilla a.k.a. Chico, Sapote, Zapote or Chicle and the description is "a uniquely flavored fruit, the soft brown flesh of the sapodilla tastes a bit like a sweet mix of brown sugar and root beer. The sapodilla tree is also the source of chicle, a chewing gum component. Native to the Yucatan, Guatemala, and Belize, it is now grown in much of the tropics and is usually eaten fresh as a dessert fruit."

Now I am disappointed I didn't get one to try, I'll definitely pick one up next time.

Here's a picture from the web. The ones at the market were slightly smaller and not quite as round. Interesting!

Monday, April 14, 2008

OK, so now you have a blog of your own...

Coming late to the world of blogging, I had to ask myself are there too many Blogs already out there? I know I have over a hundred food blogs alone bookmarked in my Favorites and probably read at least 30 or so of them regularly. I have always "lurked" at the fringe of the blog world; reading about everyone's lives, trying new recipes but rarely responding or commenting on anything. Always feeling that to actually try to join in the community would be like I just walked up and sat down at the lunch table with the "cool kids". There are so many wonderful and talented people out there--it is pretty intimidating.

So why start a blog now? I think mainly I need a creative outlet. I love my job--actually scratch that-I love the people I work with but the job has become very dull and routine of late and I am definitely NOT loving it right now. Cooking is a way for me to relax, have fun and try new things and I think writing about it is a great next step. Eventually I would also like to "connect" more with others who are interested in the same things I am. Everyone seems to be having so much fun out there.

What can you expect from this blog? It will mostly be about cooking and eating food but also a little bit of everything I am interested in such as all things food, recipes, restaurant visits, culture, living in Hawaii, movies, books, thoughts on new products, things I've tried, etc. And I will have pictures as I just bought a camera that actually works. (Just don't expect them to be very good at first as photography is not one of my skill sets and I am still learning to work the camera).

So here we go...