Saturday, May 31, 2008

Baked Fish in a Spiced Broth--Cook's Book Club

I have pretty fortuitous in surfing food blogs and finding blogging events I want to get involved in like the Barefoot Bloggers, Royal Foodie Joust, Blog Party, etc. My timing was a bit off for this next event because I found it today and the deadline for the first posting was yesterday. I stumbled across a great site called Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, and this post which led me to another great site: Hooked on Heat where Meena has created a perfect event for me, her Cook's Book Club. I am not sure how I missed this one, as much like Meena, I am obsessed with books and cooking--a look at the number of overflowing bookshelves in various rooms in my house (including my embarrassingly large number of cookbooks) will confirm this fact. I love her idea of picking a book to read and then cooking a dish inspired from it. Couple this with the fact that the book picked, Serving Crazy with Curry is one I read and enjoyed several months ago and then found and read the all author's (Amulya Malladi) other books except for her newest which is in the "going to read it soon" stack by my bed. and you can see why I decided to throw a dish together and throw myself on Meena's mercy and get it in a day late.
Serving Crazy with Curry is the story of Devi, who as her life is unraveling, (being fired, suffering a miscarriage, etc.) trys to commit suicide. Saved my her meddling mother, Devi refuses to speak and communicates instead through her cooking--taking traditional recipes and adding her own unique ingredients and twists to them. Although the subject matter could be perceived as a downer--there is hope, growth and humor in the novel and the descriptions of the food Devi cooks are intriguing and sound delicious. A favorite couple of lines in the book for me are when Devi makes her first dish--a unique ginger-apricot chutney (Devi calls it the "Anti-Saroj" Chutney" as it is completely against anything her mother does and is made and consumed with satisfaction as she is completely irritating her mother in the process.) "Devi told herself that she knew the difference between "afraid of suicidal person" praise and real praise. This was the real thing. Her chutney was a success. Pride swelled inside her and for the first time in a very long time she felt a small measure of confidence." I can relate to this because part of the joy I get from cooking is seeing and hearing the real pleasure and satisfaction things I cook give to others. You know when people really like something you make and the rush and feeling of confidence it gives is incredible!
So on to the recipe... Because I found the site only this afternoon and I had already gone to the store and did not want to return there, I had to look to my fridge and pantry for ingedients. I had some halibut that I was planning to make fish tacos with so I thought I should start with that. I thought about curry, but wanted something "brothy" and slightly spicy and with ingredients I could pull together quickly. I went to what has become a new favorite cookbook of mine: "5 Spices, 50 Dishes by Ruta Kahate" which I have cooked from on this blog before. (look here). I needed some inspiration and I found more than that--I found a wonderful recipe I could adapt and add some ingredients to change it up a bit, hopefully much like Devi might have done. An original recipe would have been nice but time was of the essence in this case! I felt the recipe fit the book as Devi makes a rasam (a South-Indian soup, usually thin and brothy and somewhat like a consomme, prepared mainly with the juices from tamarind or tomatoes) and this fish has a thin spicy soupy broth. I decided to add pineapple juice, crushed pineapple and chopped red bell pepper to give it a bit of a sweet/spicy flavor and a little Asian-Fusion.

Baked Fish in a Spice Broth
adapted from 5 Spices, 50 Dishes by Ruta Kahate
1 1/2 lbs long cod or halibut fillets, at least 1" thick
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
3 Tbsp canola oil
3 large shallots, finely minced (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 tsp finely grated fresh ginger (about a 1/2 piece)
1/4 tsp finely minced garlic (about 1 clove)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 medium Roma tomato, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 Tbsp minced cilantro leaves
Lemon wedges for garnish
(my additions)
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
1/4 cup pineapple juice
Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
Cut the fish into 3" square pieces. In a small skillet. toast the coriander seeds over low heat until browned and fragrant. Cool and finely grind the seeds. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the shallots, and stir until they turn golden. Add the ginger, garlic, cayenne (and red pepper if using additions) to taste and stir constantly over medium heat heat for another 30 seconds, taking care that the mixture doesn't burn. Add the water, salt, ground coriander, (pineapple juice if using additions), and bring to a boil.

Place the fish pieces in a casserole large enough to hold them in a single layer, and sprinkle the tomatoes (and crushed pineapple) evenly over the top. Pour the spicy broth on top and bake until the fish is cooked through but not over done, about 10 minutes. You can use a fork to test one of the pieces of fish discreetly; if it flakes easily, it is time to remove the fish from the oven. Serve sprinkled with the cilantro and garnished with the lemon wedges.
Serves 4This is a wonderful, easy fish dish with wonderful flavors. I liked the addition of the pineapple and juice for it sweetness--which nicely contrasted with the spice from the cayenne. I only had a small hand full of yellow and red cherry tomatoes (mostly yellow ones), the red pepper added color as well as a subtle crunch. I would make this recipe again either as it is from the book, with these additions or maybe even try some other ingredients. It's a perfect soupy dinner.


OK--we'll see if I can get this into Meena's round-up. If not, I still feel good about completing the first post and will be timely with the next selection at the end of June, A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Housseini. That should be interesting. I read Kite Runner and really loved it but have put off reading his second book because I had heard that it is very good but pretty depressing and I have been reading some lighter things lately. I guess I will find out!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Herbed Baked Eggs--Barefoot Bloggers First Recipe!

I stumbled across Tara's blog, Smells Like Home the other day and was very excited because not only does she have a great blog, it also happened to be the day she announced a new blogging event: Barefoot Bloggers (check it out here!) It turns out that a lot of us are like Tara and love the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, but maybe don't cook as many recipes from her books as we would like to. The Barefoot Bloggers will be taking turns selecting a Barefoot Contessa recipe and making it, twice a month on the second and fourth Thursday of each month. Having all of Ina's cookbooks, I signed right up and will be picking recipe #13 (or so I thought I signed up quickly! Hopefully it will be a lucky 13!). What fun--I have done a few different challenges and events in the past few weeks and it is great to get involved with a new one that is just starting up! Tara kicked us off with a simple recipe for Herbed Baked Eggs (you can find it here) or in Ina's Barefoot in Paris Cookbook (pgs 64-65).

I was really surprised by how much I liked this recipe. I don't think I would have ever picked it out to cook it myself as I like eggs but don't love them. I made sure to get great ingredients--so important in such a simple dish. I got fresh, local eggs and herbs from the farmer's market and good Parmigiano-Reggiano from the cheese and wine store. The eggs were very easy and quick to put together. Because the Le Creuset “Petite Au Gratins” I used are fairly small, I used two eggs in each. The herb mix of the garlic, rosemary, thyme, parsley and Parmesan was dreamy! I felt like I should be sitting in a little cafe in Paris while eating them. My only issue with the recipe was that although my eggs were cooked well for me (firm whites, runny yolks for dipping into) the cream made them seem a bit runny. Next time I would use less cream or even omit it, as I don't think it would hurt the recipe at all. I served the eggs with fresh croissants and little tomatoes from the farmer's market and listened to a little Edith Piaf (got to set that French Cafe atmosphere!) A great dish to kick the Barefoot Bloggers off with and one I would definitely make again.
Thanks Tara for an excellent idea and a fun blogging event. I look forward to the next one: Pasta, Pesto and Peas in a couple weeks!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Milk-Chocolate Creams

I love anything chocolate, especially something cold fudgy and creamy. This recipe is from the June issue of Martha Stewart Living and goes together quickly--just steam the milk, pour it over the milk chocolate and whirl it and a couple other ingredients in the blender.

Milk Chocolate Creams
Martha Stewart Living, June 2008
Prep Time 5 min. Total time 65 min
Serves 4
12 ounces milk chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup light cream
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
coarse salt
4 large egg yolks
Strawberries and raspberries, for serving
  1. Place chocolate in a blender. Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Immediately remove from heat, and pour over chocolate. Blend until smooth.
  2. Blend in vanilla and a pinch of salt. With the machine running, add yolks. Blend until well combined. Pour about 3/4 cup chocolate mixture into each of four serving bowls.
  3. Freeze, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Then refrigerate, uncovered, for 30 minutes. (The texture should be soft and creamy.) Serve cold with berries.

Note: The egg yolks in this recipe are not cooked. This dish should not be prepared for pregnant women, babies and other young children, the elderly, or anyone whose health is compromised.
For this recipe I couldn't find light or table cream in the store here so in consulting with my Food Substitutions Bible, (don't cook without it!) it stated to use 1/2 regular cream and 1/2 regular milk which seemed to work pretty well. Because of the raw egg yolks, it is important to use fresh eggs from a reliable source--mine were the local ones I picked up this weekend at the farmer's market. I like to serve desserts like this in my Japanese teacups which are a bit smaller than the bowls pictured, so I got 5 desserts instead of 4. I think based on how rich this dessert is--it was plenty. This is a great summer dessert with it's cool creaminess and one I would make again.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Raw Sweet Corn and Cashew Chowder

I have multiple vegetarian cookbooks and a couple of raw foods books as well. In principle, I want to be a vegetarian but in practice, I just can't make the break from animal protein. I crave protein pretty much constantly--not necessarily red meat (although I do love my lamb and ground bison) but especially turkey and any kind of fish. I can go a few meals, sometimes even a few days not eating "meat" but the siren always lures me back. That being said, I appreciate my grains and vegetables and love the variety of recipes my veggie cookbooks offer. Hawaii being pretty warm most of the time, makes the idea of raw foods appealing, although sometimes the amount of preparation and ingredients required to make raw food make it a little daunting. I am always on the lookout for raw food recipes and ideas for easy, good food. June's Food & Wine Magazine had some recipes from Ani Phyo, author of Ani's Raw Food Kitchen, and this one for Raw Sweet Corn and Cashew Chowder caught my eye. It seemed like an easy, healthy, warm weather, "Welcome Summer!" kind of dish and when I saw fresh, local Kahuku corn at the Farmer's Market, I knew I had to try it.

Raw Sweet Corn and Cashew Chowder
from Ani Phyo, Food & Wine Magazine, June 2008
15 minutes, 4 servings

3 1/4 cups fresh yellow corn kernels (from 4 large ears)
2 cups water
1/2 cup raw cashews
6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove
2 tsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp chopped cilantro leaves
Freshly ground pepper

In a blender, combine 2 1/4 cups of the corn with the water, cashews, olive oil, garlic and salt and puree until smooth. Pour the soup into bowls. Garnish with the remaining 1 cup of corn kernels, the cilantro and a sprinkle of pepper, then serve.
Make Ahead: The corn chowder can be refrigerated overnight.
One Serving: 402 cal, 31 gm fat, 4.6 gm sat fat, 30 gm carbs, 4 gm fiber

The soup was good, tasting very fresh, sweet and clean. I think I would up the amount of corn and reduce the amount of water a bit when making it again as it seemed a little thin to me. I also liked it more once it had chilled in the refrigerator a bit--I like my cold soups cold. I could see making this for a summer dinner party and serving it in small juice glasses or even shot glasses as it feels fairly rich and a little goes a long way.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

KCC Farmer's Market

I have not been to the Saturday Farmers' Market at Kapiolani Community College in a few months. I love the KCC Farmers' Market, which has over 50 vendors with local items from Hawaii, but what I don't love are the huge crowds. Even a couple years ago, if you got to the market early, right before the opening bell at 7:30, you could park, get your items and get out pretty easily, missing the larger crowds that came later. Now, EVERYONE gets there early and the large parking lot was full when I pulled in at 7:15 so I had to park on a side street and "hoof it" to the market.

My main intention in going to the market today was to pick up some local eggs and herbs for my first Barefoot Blogger's post this Thursday. (More on that later...Thursday to be exact!) The Hawaii Egg Producers Association was there, highlighting fresh island eggs and the last remaining four (only four!) producers in the state, all family owned and operated. After talking to the friendly people at the booth and reading the brochure, I will make every effort to seek these eggs out in the future--both for the quality and freshness and to support community based family farms.

Seldom do I stick only to my intentions when shopping and there was plenty more at the market that caught my eye (and my wallet!) and made me remember why I love the market so much.
Big Island Bees was there with their Organic Hawaiian Honey. I have seen their honey in the stores but getting to sample it and talk to the wonderful people who own and operate the company made me walk away with two jars: O'hia Lehua Blossom (a rare, native tree considered sacred in Hawaii that the bees feed on), which is described as a light, thick honey with a distinctive floral nose that pairs well with cheese, mixed with green or spread with butter on biscuits. Wilelaiki Blossom (a.k.a. Christmasberry), a orange hued honey with subtle, spicy notes, less sweet and good in savory dishes , marinades and in Chai tea. Both are single flower honeys which are rare because they require the ability of the location to feed the bee from one flower type. To think I didn't really like honey until recently....

I stopped at the Raw Essentials Living Foods booth and after talking to them and sampling some products, came away with a package of Savory Protein Sprinkle; a mix of nutritional yeast, dulse (kelp) and organic seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, etc.) to sprinkle on salads and grains. They also had jars of a unique, tangy, Miso-Arame Sauerkraut, with organic cabbage, wild arame (seaweed), chick pea miso and seasonings that I thought would be great served with fish or to top some brown rice. You have to love products that list "aloha" as the first ingredient as all of theirs do. They had several other products that looked good, including some raw desserts that I will have to try another time because I got my sweets another way:

Country Comfort Catering was there with Beignets! There is no picture because I took them up Diamond Head Road on the way home, sat on the wall overlooking the water and enjoyed the still warm, puffy, tender deep-fried dough, dusted with powdered sugar that they serve with a lilikoi (passionfruit) sauce. The beignets themselves are wonderful, but the sweet tang of the lilikoi sauce elevates them to the sublime and eating them while looking out over the (finally no vog!) blue sky and ocean was a nice little break.

For my lunch later, I had to get a bento from Xotic Eats, makers of tofushi, ahi and tofu cakes and other healthy items. I love their ahi cakes especially and this bento had an ahi cake, a tofu patty and a kind of tofu croquette with brown rice, edamame and kobacha squash. It tastes better than it looks I think!
All of that plus my herbs, fresh tomatoes, hearts of palm, cucumbers, corn (which is going in a raw soup tonight) and who could resist these bright little baby eggplants that they suggested using on shishkabobs? And bright red Kula strawberries, the best dessert ever when paired with freshly made vanilla whipped cream.
I have a lot of food now to cook and post about. Maybe it's better that I don't get to the market that often!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Israeli Couscous with Green Beans, Feta, and Pistachios

This is the second recipe I tried from May's Everyday Food Magazine. (Here is the the first one) I have cooked with Israeli couscous but I had never tried it in a cold salad before and that and the combo of ingredients intrigued me.
Israeli Couscous with Green Beans, Feta, and Pistachios
Serves 4, Prep Time 15 minutes, Total Time 15 minutes
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 cups Israeli (pearl) couscous
1/2 lb green beans (stem ends removed), halved crosswise
1 English cucumber, quartered lengthwise, seeded, and sliced
1 cup crumbled feta (4 ounces)
1/2 cup pistachios, toasted
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1) In a medium pot of boiling, salted water, cook couscous for 4 minutes. Add green beans, and cook until couscous is al dente and beans are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes more. Drain, and run under cold water until cool.

2) Transfer green beans and couscous to a large bowl. Add cucumber, feta, pistachios, raisins, vinegar, and oil. Season with salt and pepper, toss to combine.
This salad had good flavors and textures and went together quickly and easily, making it a good warm weather dinner option. I served it with some pesto salmon which might have been a little bit too much "green" on the plate. I loved the couscous cold and plan to play around with the salad idea using some different flavor combos.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Nairagi with Ginger-Miso-Butter Sauce

After reading multiple books over the past several months about eating local and sustainable food (Plenty; In Defense of Food; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; How to Pick a Peach etc.) in an effort to be at least a bit more of a localvore, I have been trying to become more familiar with all of the fish that are available here in Hawaii. Being a Northwest girl, I am most comfortable and secure in cooking with my beloved salmon and halibut. I do a lot with Ahi (tuna) and occasionally steam or bake some Opah (moonfish) but that generally is where my comfort level ends. Since the seafood department was featuring fresh, local Nairagi this weekend. I decided to buy some and try something new.

Nairagi is not a fish I knew much about before. It turns out to be a striped marlin, sometimes called “Au”, with a texture a bit more firm than tuna and a fairly mild flavor. The seafood guy said it was a fairly versatile fish--good raw, grilled or sautéed and that since it’s flavor is pretty mild, it lends itself well to sauces. I have been craving the flavor of miso and decided to sauté the fish and top it with a quick Ginger-Miso-Butter Sauce I threw together.

Unfortunately, midway through my sauce-making, I realized that I had a red or dark miso rather than the white miso I thought I had in my refrigerator so the sauce is not as it attractive as it would be with a lighter color miso. The white miso would also make a lighter, slightly sweeter sauce but still, even using a dark miso, the sauce's flavor was good. For the Nairagi, I just lightly coated a medium pan with oil and cooked it over medium heat for about 5 minutes per side.

Ginger-Miso-Butter Sauce
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 Tbsp White Miso paste
1 Tsp freshly grated ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup white wine or chicken stock
1 tsp shoyu

In a small saucepan, over low heat, melt butter and stir in miso paste and other ingredients until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Spoon over cooked fish or vegetables.

The Nairagi was delicious, moist and tender and the sauce complimented it well. I will definitely cook this fish again.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Chili Pasta with Lemon Tuna

It must be a Donna Hay weekend... Banana Fritters yesterday from one of her new cookbooks and Chili Pasta with Lemon Tuna from one of her older ones: New Food Fast. My friend Julie keeps asking me if I have tried this recipe yet, because she saw it and thought it seemed like something I would like. I finally made it tonight...good call Julie! Under the "10 Minutes (or so)" section of the book, this is a very quick and simple pasta dish with wonderful clean flavors. The combination of the tuna, lemon and wasabi is delicious and perfect for a warm, summery night.

Chili Pasta with Lemon Tuna
from New Food Fast, Donna Hay

400g (13oz) fresh chili linguini or angel hair pasta*
300g (10 oz) sashimi tuna
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp oil
1-2 tsp wasabi powder
2 Tbsp chervil sprigs
cracked black pepper

Place the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes or until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, chop the tuna into small, diced pieces. Combine the lemon juice, oil and wasabi. Drain the pasta and toss with the tuna, chervil and lemon juice mixture. Top with cracked black pepper and serve with a leaf salad. Serves 4.
*Note: This recipe is just as good with salmon or ocean trout. If fresh pasta is not readily obtainable, use 400g (13 oz) dry pasta, but the recipe will take a little longer than 10 minutes.

The longest part of this recipe is waiting for the water to boil. I couldn't readily locate chili pasta so I ended up using a fresh plain linguini. Since chervil is not an herb I see a lot in Hawaii, I used coarsely chopped cilantro instead. Because the tuna starts cooking immediately between the heat of the pasta and the lemon juice it starts quickly changing color to light pink. If making this recipe for guests and you want the dramatic color of the raw ahi, I would toss everything together except the tuna and bring the tuna chunks to the table in a separate bowl, tossing them in at the last minute before serving.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Banana Fritters

Every week I get a bunch of green apple bananas in my CSA box and I wait and wait for them to ripen...and then bang!!!! They are all ripe at exactly the same time and I have a lot of bananas to use up in a day or two. It never fails. I eat as many as I can, but always end up with some left over. Since I needed something to use them up in and I also needed to make something from a fairly recent cookbook purchase, I ended up with Banana Fritters with Maple Syrup from Donna Hay: Simple Essentials: Fruit. I of course, had to buy all four of Donna Hay's Simple Essentials books (the others are Chicken, Salads & Vegetables and Chocolate) when they came out last month to add to my Donna Hay collection of books and magazines. Even though some of the recipes in Simple Essentials appear in her other books, there are new recipes and of course Donna is the queen of "Food Porn" so just looking at the pictures is a fantastic guilty pleasure. But I digress from the fritters which are easy and delicious.

Banana Fritters with Maple Syrup
2 cups (300 g/10 1/2 oz) plain (all purpose) flour
3 tsps baking powder
2/3 cup (125g/4oz) brown sugar
1 cup (250ml/8 fl oz) buttermilk
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
20g (3/4 oz) butter
2 bananas, extra, sliced lengthwise, to serve
toasted flaked coconut, to serve
1/2 cup (125ml/4 fl oz) maple syrup
Place the flour, baking powder, sugar, buttermilk, eggs and bananas in a large bowl and mix to combine. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the butter and pour 1/3 cups (80ml/2 1/2 fl oz) of the mixture into the pan and cook, in batches, until bubbles appear on the surface. Turn the fritters and cook for 1 minute or until golden. Repeat with remaining mixture. Serve in stacks layered with the extra banana and topped with the coconut and maple syrup. Serves 4.

Notes: You can easily cut this recipe down to make a smaller amount as it makes a generous amount for 4. I found 2 fritters to be more than sufficient for a serving when you stack them with the bananas. I also threw some chopped toasted macadamia nuts on top with the coconut, which added a nice crunch. If you can get coconut syrup, it is also yummy drizzled on in lieu of, or combined with the maple syrup.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Turkey Chili (Aloha Aina Cafe)

I had a pound of ground turkey breast in the refrigerator and a hankering for some chili so I decided to try this recipe from By Request, The Search for Hawaii's Greatest Recipes, by Betty Shimabukuro, a columnist for the Honolulu Star Bulletin newspaper. This little cookbook is a collection of the most popular recipes requested by the readers. This chili recipe comes from the Aloha Aina Cafe in Wai'anae. I only ate there once, a couple of years ago, but it is a cute little place--an off-shoot of an organic farm with simple, good food.

Aloha Aina Cafe Turkey Chili
1 lb ground turkey
1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced or 1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp fresh chopped oregano
1 Tbsp cumin powder
1 cup canned pinto beans
1 cup canned black beans
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
2 Tbsp chili powder, or to taste
Salt & pepper to taste

Brown turkey and onion in vegetable oil. Add garlic, oregano, and cumin; saute. Add beans, tomato sauce, and chili powder. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
Serves 6-8

That's all there is to it--about 30 minutes to a quick basic turkey chili. I used ground turkey breast, olive oil instead of vegetable oil and added some chopped cilantro as it's my favorite herb. Not the world's fanciest or best chili but good overall flavor and excellent over a scoop of brown rice.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Coconut Bread Pudding--Weekend Cookbook Challenge #28

I had a great time doing my first Weekend Cookbook Challenge last month, so I decided to go for Round 2 since it is a great reason to pull out all those cookbooks and get creative. This month’s theme, hosted by its creator, Sara, at I Like to Cook , is TV Cooks; basically recipes from cooking shows or chefs from TV. I decided to go with well known Hawaiian chef, Sam Choy; known for being a founding contributor to Pacific Rim cuisine, having a homey, local style of cooking and the huge portions he serves at his restaurants. Sam currently has three restaurants, (two on Oahu and one on Guam) numerous cook books and has had his own television show, Sam Choy’s Cooking, since 1996. He has also guested on other shows like Iron Chef, Emeril Live, and Martin Yan’s Chinatown, thus easily qualifying him as a TV Cook.

I received one of his cookbooks; Sam Choy's Sampler as a gift a couple years ago and hadn’t really cooked anything out of it yet, but I had marked this recipe for Coconut Bread Pudding. Unusual for me since normally I am not a big bread pudding fan and it is usually one of my last choices on a dessert menu. On the other hand, I love all things coconut and something about the coconut milk and the toppings of coconut syrup, toasted coconut, pineapple and toasted Mac nuts sounded pretty good—how do you not love something drizzled with coconut syrup?

Coconut Bread Pudding (from Sam Choy's Sampler)

Makes 8 servings

3 eggs
¾ cup granulated sugar
4 cups milk
6 Tbsp coconut milk
8 cups bread, diced (about ½” cubes)
½ cup toasted macadamia nuts, chopped
½ cup toasted coconut flakes

Garnish (Per serving)
2 Tbsp coconut syrup
Toasted macadamia nuts, chopped
Toasted coconut flakes
Pineapple, diced
Whipped Cream

Whisk eggs and sugar together. Add milk and coconut milk, and mix thoroughly. Layer bread, macadamia nuts, and coconut flakes in a 9x13-inch pan. Pour custard mixture evenly over top, and let custard soak into bread. Bake at 325° F for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

When serving, drizzle about 2 Tbsp coconut syrup over each portion. Top with a swirl of whipped cream. Sprinkle with diced pineapple, macadamia nuts and toasted coconut flakes.

Although the recipe called for a 9x13 pan, I decided it would be more fun to do them in ramekins (especially since I have a couple of sets of cute ones that I don’t get to use that often). Because of making individual puddings, I reduced the cooking time to about 30 minutes for my 12 (4 oz) ramekins. I also reduced the amount of coconut syrup to 1 Tbsp per serving in each ramekin. I used regular french bread for my pudding but when I make it again, I may try it with some Hawaiian Sweet Bread and see how that does.
Garnish Notes:
Coconut Syrup—hopefully you can find this where you live because it’s sweet, gooeyness, totally makes the dessert.
Whipped Cream--I used my beloved Isi Whipped Cream Maker to make some Coconut Whipped Cream using a pint of whipped cream, 1 tsp powdered sugar and one tsp coconut extract). Can I just say: Yum!!!?!!! I may have to make coconut whipped cream for other desserts (because just spraying it directly from the Isi into my mouth is not cool and probably considered rude in most circles…)
Diced Pineapple—because I wanted small pieces for topping, I just thoroughly drained a small can of Dole diced pineapple in its own syrup and used that.
Toasted Macadamia Nuts--I bought unsalted roasted chopped Mac nuts and didn’t feel they needed any additional toasting.
Toasted Coconut—since I was using the oven to bake the bread puddings and I read you could toast coconut in the microwave, I decided to try it. Word of warninginstructions from two different sites said to place a thin layer of coconut in a microwave safe plat or shallow dish and toast about 3 minutes and the Pillsbury site said microwave on HIGH 4 ½-8 minutes! Because that seemed really long so I set the microwave for 1 minute, turned my back for about 35 seconds to get something from the cupboard and when I turned back around I had a plate of coconut burned in the center of the plate. I think my microwave is pretty normal and doesn’t burn like the fires from hell so I don’t how they do it??!! I found that nuking it for about 10-15 seconds at a time, making sure to stir the cocnut around in between each burst was much more effective. In the microwave the coconut sort of browns from the bottom first so it burns pretty easily if you aren’t careful. I had it pretty nicely browned and toasted in a bit over a minute by doing it that way.
Ice Cream—The cookbook states that at the restaurant this dish is served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. I don’t think it needs the ice cream necessarily and since I made the small ramekins, I didn’t initially serve it with ice cream. On the other hand whether you need it or not, ice cream usually makes everything better. I tried some later with a scoop of vanilla Haagen-Dazs and I have to say it was pretty darn good having the interplay of the warm pudding and cold ice cream--either way, I think you will enjoy it!
I would make this recipe again. It’s easy to put together, yummy and would be great for a gathering or with its tropical island vibe, excellent to make for guests staying with me.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Blog Party #34--The Buffy Bash: Spiked DoubleMeat Sliders & Garlic Fries with Hellmouth Dipping Sauce

Blog Party is an event that I have wanted to take part of for awhile now. Hosted by Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness, each month has a theme and you have to make an appetizer and drink that match it. I was excited when I saw the theme of this month’s party, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer inspired event. For some reason I didn’t watch BVS, when it first came out but a few years ago ran across some episodes in syndication and liked it so much I kept watching. I can’t say that have seen every single episode but I think I have seen most of them by now.

So food and Buffy, hmm... I kept thinking of things I could make—mostly things that come in (S)layers—(S)layer cake, (S)layer dip, etc… but nothing seemed quite right. Then I finally thought of one of my favorite Buffy episodes: DoubleMeat Palace, where Buffy has to take a job at the aforementioned fast food restaurant; home of the DoubleMeat Medley: “A pure beef patty above the mid-bun…and a slice of processed chicken product below the mid-bun. Plus pickles and the secret ingredient.” (from the DoubleMeat Palace training video).

Since we are talking appetizers here I figured “Spiked’ DoubleMeat Sliders were the way to go. Spiked refers to the spikes holding these bad boys together—not added alcohol, also in tribute to Spike, my favorite BVS character. He has one of my favorite lines in the show: “Yeah, and you chose to be in the consumer service profession and I’m a consumer…Service me!”

I decided what better to accompany the sliders than some Garlic Fries (you need lots of garlic at a Vampire inspired party of course) with Hellmouth Dipping Sauce, a spicy curry ketchup with Sriracha chili sauce.

What to drink? Well at first I thought a Zombie would be a good match but in looking on, I ran across the perfect beverage for the occasion, a little drink called the “Soylent Green” (A mix of blue Curacao, vodka and orange juice). Perfect since Buffy spends a good part of the episode trying to identify the secret ingredient in the DoubleMeat Medley and ends up at one point believing that it is people. Running into the DoubleMeat Palace dining room, she tries to warn all of the patrons “Its not beef it’s people! The DoubleMeat Medley is people!” (A nod to Charleston Heston’s lines in the 1973 movie Solyent Green—where the food product served in the future turns out to be made of people).

For my DoubleMeat Sliders, I stuck to the basic idea of a ground beef patty and a ground chicken patty, (no secret vegetable protein patties cooked in beef fat for flavor here!), with a toasted mid-bun seperating them. I made the mini patties pretty standard—salt, pepper, garlic (of course), and Worcestershire sauce with small round dinner rolls serving as the buns. Topping them were standard burger fixins of mayo, ketchup, mustard, pickles and lettuce. The “spikes” were turkey lacing spikes—to keep the layers together. I tried to find something that looked a bit scarier and "spikier" but couldn't locate anything.

Thinking about making two pounds worth of mini burgers and cutting and toasting all the the buns did not put me in the mood for making homemade Garlic Fries so for this I went pre-made. My garlic fries were aptly enough Ore Ida “Fast Food Fries”, which I doctored up with plenty of crushed garlic, garlic salt, paprika and pepper. Truth be told I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to setting my mouth on fire so although it had a nice kick to it, my Hellmouth Dipping Sauce was probably closer to "Heck Mouth" but you can easily add more Sriracha sauce to it if you really want to feel the burn.

The burgers were tasty although a bit unwieldy with all the layers. I wish they had photographed a bit better--still learning with the camera. The fries were nice and garlicky and the spices in the Hellmouth Dipping Sauce set them off nicely. I probably wouldn't get in the habit of ordering Soylent Greens but who could resist the name! The recipes for the dipping sauce and drink are below. (I'll trust you can make your own mini burgers and flavor your own fries!).

Hellmouth Dipping Sauce
½ cup ketchup
2 Tbsp Spicy Mustard
2 Tbsp Sriracha Chile Sauce
2 tsp Curry Powder

Mix all ingredients together—if desired add more Sriracha sauce to taste.

Soylent Green
Recipe from; submitted by Jack, Little Rock, AR
1 1/2 oz. vodka
1 oz. blue curacao
4 oz orange juice

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice then pour into a collins glass filled with ice.

So it's off to the party. I can't wait to see what people came up with. Here's a toast to Stephanie for hosting and a great theme and a little more Buffy dialogue to leave you with...

DoubleMeat Palace Training Film:
"This cow ('moo!') and this chicken ('bawk!') don't know it yet, but they're destined to become part of it as well. So what happens when a cow and a chicken get together? Why, that's a Doublemeat medley! Let's take a look now at the process of harvesting these two special meats." (panicking animal sounds)

Buffy: "Holy crap!"

Manny the Manager: "Interesting, isn't it?"

Buffy: "Oh, yes! Like how the cow and the chicken come together even though they've never met. It's like Sleepless in Seattle if Meg and Tom were, like, minced."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Quick & Easy Turkey Curry

I am tired, stuffy and coughing tonight. There has been a lot of "Vog" in the air that drifts over from Kīlauea, the most active volcano in the world on The Big Island, for what seems like forever now (and supposedly will get worse next week-yippee!). Plus I had to be up at 5:00 and at Ala Moana Beach Park by 6:00 for a charity run/walk our company sponsors and spent several hours outdoors which didn't help the breathing. Between the vog and whatever is blooming in the air right now I am a delight to be around, either coughing up a lung or blowing my nose. Although I am supposed to be at a Bachelorette Party tonight, I begged off and have (what I hope is) a good Chick Flick to watch at home as I am not fit company for anyone.

I also wanted, no NEEDED, something very quick, easy and comforting for dinner. Curry is often comfort food to me, warm, creamy, slightly spicy and I can spend hours chopping and simmering ingredients to make an authentic one. Tonight however I didn't have the time or patience for that and wanted to whip something up quickly and use up some leftovers in my cupboard, fridge and freezer. I had some turkey breast, coconut milk, a couple red potatoes, cilantro and yellow curry paste that needed to be used. (Can you believe I opened my cupboard a few weeks ago and had 14 cans of coconut milk in there!? I think I kept buying it thinking I needed it--I am through about 1/2 of it right now). I also had a bunch of bags of steamed vegetables in the freezer that I need to work through. Food snobs and curry purists should sniff and pass by the recipe below because this is really more like a curried Turkey Ala King, than a traditional curry, but if you are like me and sometimes just want something really easy but good, it works. You can vary the meat and veg to your liking.

Quick & Easy Turkey Curry
1 Tbs olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 gloves garlic, chopped
1 can lite coconut milk
1/2 cup 2% milk
2 Tbs yellow curry paste
1 tsp turmeric (makes it a bit more yellow)
1 1/2 cups chopped, cooked turkey breast
3 small red new potatoes, diced into 1/4" cubes
About 1 1/2 cups mixed frozen vegetables (I used 2 small packages--one with broccoli, carrots and cauliflower and one with peas and mushrooms)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the olive oil in saute pan and add onion and garlic, cook about 5-6 minutes until onion is translucent. (Meanwhile steam potatoes about 3-4 minutes in steamer or covered bowl in the microwave until just soft and then steam frozen vegetables microwave a bout 4 minutes until done). Add coconut milk, milk, curry and turmeric and stir until curry is thoroughly mixed in. Add potatoes and frozen vegetables to curry and simmer about 5 minutes more. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix in chopped cilantro.

That's it--about 20 minutes after I started I had something hot and yummy. Rather than rice tonight, I spooned the curry over a split Thomas English Muffin (there is something about creamy curry in all those "nooks and crannies" that spells comfort!), there is plenty left for lunch tomorrow with rice. I had a half-used jar of some locally made mango chutney and a bit of that accompanied the curry perfectly. It doesn't photograph that pretty--but it was good!

Time to turn on the movie; P.S. I Love You. I read the book a few years ago and liked it--hope I like the movie too...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sesame-Lime Rice

The May issue of Everyday Food has a few recipes I marked to try. This one combines the flavors of sesame and lime to jazz up basic rice. I used jasmine rice and lessened the oil by about 1/2 and used sesame oil instead of vegetable oil, which added to the nutty sesame flavor. I would try a brown long grain rice like basmati next time as I try to eat more brown rice than white. The magazine also suggests replacing the vegetable oil, lime zest and juice with the same amounts of olive oil, lemon zest and juice and replace the sesame seeds with a 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts.

Sesame-Lime Rice
Serves 4, Prep Time 5 minutes, Total Time 25 minutes

1 cup long-grain white rice
1 1/2 cups water
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 Tbsp sesame seeds toasted
1 Tbsp vegetable oil, such as safflower
1/2 tsp finely grated lime zest, plus 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1) In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add rice season with salt and pepper, and return to boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook just until tender, 15-17 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
2) Toss rice with sesame seeds, oil and lime zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste and fluff gently with a fork.

I served the rice with lamb chops with a ras el hanout rub. Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice blend that means "head of the shop" because shop owners create their own blend sometimes containing up to 50 ingredients. The blend I used included coriander, curry turmeric, caraway, cumin and chili pepper. I mixed the ras el hanout with olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper to form a paste, rubbed the lamb chops and used a grill pan, 4 minutes per side and then put them in a 400 degree oven for another 4 minutes to leave them medium rare.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Seared Ahi Tuna and Avacado Tartare

One recipe I got from a magazine that I cook a lot is this one from the September 2004 Bon Appetite from Michael Shrader. It is more like a ceviche than a tartare but it is good! I love the interplay of the flavors and textures; a little spice, a little tang, the clean fresh taste of the cilantro, the creaminess of the avocado with the crunch of the red onion. A great dip for parties; the magazine suggest tortilla chips but I prefer either taro chips or rice crackers. Sometimes I make it for a light dinner (I just realized I eat a lot of things on chips or crackers for dinner!) and eat the rest of it on top of salad greens for lunch the next day.

Seared Ahi Tuna and Avocado Tartare
1 6-ounce ahi tuna steak
3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large avocado, peeled, pitted, diced
1 serrano chile or jalapeño chile, seeded, de-veined, minced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano

Heat heavy small skillet over high heat 2 minutes. Brush tuna with 1/2 tablespoon oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in skillet and sear until brown outside and almost opaque in center, about 3 minutes per side. Cool tuna; dice finely. Combine tuna, remaining 3 tablespoons oil, and all remaining ingredients in medium bowl. Using fork, mix just to blend. Season tartare to taste with salt and pepper and chill.

Note: I rarely add the oregano and usually put in a bit more cilantro. Don't overcook the fish, he lime juice will "cook it" a bit more. Don't over mix or it gets mushy. I usually mix all the other ingredients, then add the tuna and avocado and just mix it in lightly. Makes about 2 1/3 cups.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Kale and Chickpea Soup

Once a week before I go shopping I reach in my basket of recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers and without looking I pull one out to try. The rule is I have to make what I pull out, but I do get one option to "trade" and can pull out a second recipe to make instead--but I have to make one of the two recipes. After preparing it, if I don't like the recipe, it gets tossed and if I like it, it gets put in a folder and eventually into a recipe album. This doesn't make a huge dent in the recipe basket, I clip far too many recipes for that, but it at least makes me feel as though I am moving through them.

This week's recipe is Kale and Chickpea Soup, excellent because I already had the Kale and most of the other ingredients already. I am not sure exactly what magazine this came from--I have got to get better at noting that. It is a simple recipe and goes together easily. The flavor is fairly mild, save for the spice in the Andouille sausage but over all this is good basic soup and I'll keep the recipe.

Kale and Chickpea Soup
1/2 pound kale
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 1/2 cups low-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Dash nutmeg
2 tsp. sugar
14 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
6 oz chicken Andouille sausage or sausage of your choice, diced in 1/4'' pieces
Salt & pepper to taste
Wash kale, remove center ribs and discard. Finely chop leaves and set aside. In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, saute onion and garlic in oil until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add potato, chicken broth, water, bay leaf, thyme, nutmeg and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat and stir in Kale, chickpeas and sausage; simmer about 5 more minutes. Remove bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste. Make 12 servings.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Frozen Key Lime Pie

So a few Saturdays ago I had the Food Network on and saw a Quick Fix with Robin Miller episode. She made a roasted asparagus soup and beef tacos with a roasted asparagus salsa but for some reason I became fixated on a simple frozen pie. It was Frozen Key Lime Pie with only 5 ingredients (frozen whipped topping, sweetened condensed milk, key lime juice, lime zest and a prepared graham cracker crust). Lets face it--it really is the fast food edition of a Key Lime pie but it looked cool and creamy and good and I wanted it. Since it is so easy it practically makes itself, I decided to try it the next time I came across key limes or key lime juice in the grocery store. On my shopping trip this morning, there they sat, a small bag of decent looking key limes so I bought the rest of the ingredients and whipped it up this afternoon. Easy, pretty tasty with nice creamy texture and tangy lime flavor, it would hit the spot on a hot day or after a spicy meal.

You can find the recipe here

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Mango-Pineapple Lassi

When its a warm, slightly muggy day (like today was) even if I am hungry I want something easy, light and cooling for dinner. That's when I make a lassi. A lassi, if you aren't familiar, is an Indian drink, traditionally made by blending yogurt, water, salt and spices until frothy. Nowadays they often contain fruit and honey or sugar to sweeten them. I make them with all kinds of fresh and frozen fruit; mango, pineapple, strawberries, cherries, etc. One of my favorite combos is mango and pineapple. Tonight I wanted it quick and simple so I used frozen organic mango chunks and crushed pineapple, honey and rose water and cardamon to give it an "exotic" taste. This recipe makes about 2 cups so you can reduce it by half or keep the extra up to 24 hours in the fridge. I drink it on it's own or pair it with some hummus and chips for a light meal.

Mango-Pineapple Lassi
1 cup plain yogurt (I usually use low fat Greek yogurt)
1/3 cup nonfat milk (I often use almond milk)
1/2 cup frozen mango chunks
1/2 cup canned crushed pineapple in it's own juice 
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp rose water (optional)
1 tsp ground cardamon

Place all ingredients in blender and blend about 1-2 minutes until well blended and frothy. Pour into a glass and serve. 

*You can replace the mango and pineapple with one cup of the fruit (or fruits) of your choice.