Sunday, August 31, 2008

Curry-Crusted Mahi-Mahi Fillets

I have not been very good about cooking and posting local fish lately so I thought it was time to get back to it, this time with some Mahi-Mahi. Also known as Dorado or Dolphin Fish (not to be mistaken with our friendly mammal the dolphin), Mahi-Mahi is caught year-round but is most abundant in late spring and early fall. It is a firm, slightly flaky fish with white/light pink flesh that turns white when cooked, It has a medium fat content and a somewhat delicate, slightly sweet flavor. It is a good fish to marinate and works well grilled, broiled, sauteed or steamed. It is a very popular fish in Hawaii but has never really been a huge favorite of mine. I think that is because you often find it served in random sandwiches or cooked poorly at buffets and I forget what it tastes like when it is fresh and cooked well. Since I am crazy for anything curry, I thought it would work well to make a curry flavored panko crust for the mahimahi and then cook it with a little oil in a pan on the stove to make it nice and crisp.
Curry Crusted Mahi-Mahi
serves 2
2 (5-6 oz) Mahi-Mahi fillets (or substitute another firm, white-fleshed fish)
1/2 cup flour
1 Tbsp and 1 tsp curry powder
1 egg
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 tsp salt plus extra to season fillets
1/4 tsp pepper plus extra to season fillets
2 Tbsp olive oil
Rinse mahimahi and pat dry, sprinkle with salt and pepper. On a shallow plate, mix flour and 1 tsp of the curry powder together. On a second plate, pour 1 egg, beaten, on a third plate, combine panko, remaining 1 Tbsp of curry powder, salt and pepper. Dip each side of fillets first in the flour mixture, then into the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs, pressing them lightly into the fish. Heat olive oil on medium-high in a skillet or pan, add fillets and cook about 4 minutes per side, until fish is golden brown and cooked.

Results: Excellent. I added the curry to both the flour and the breadcrumb mixture to make sure it had a good curry flavor. The sweetness of the mahi-mahi complimented the slightly sweet, spicy curry. The panko coating was nice and crisp and the fish tender and flaky. I served it with a saffron couscous (I'll write about that in a later post) and salad.

The curry-encrusted fillet also makes a great and exotic fish sandwich with a bit of Indian spiced yogurt spread and vegetables on a whole wheat bun and served with tandori-spiced papadum chips.

How Max enjoys his Labor Day Weekend!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Carpaccio of Raw Zucchini

I used to want to be on Food 911 on the Food Network, basically just so that Tyler Florence would come and hang out with me in my kitchen. Pretty adorable and he can cook--it works for me! Since I have been a bit behind from my "Cook from Every Book" plan to work my way through my cookbook collection, cooking at least one recipe from each book, I thought it was a good time to pull out Tyler Florence's; "Eat This Book". All about "cooking with global fresh flavors," there are several recipes I had tagged in this cookbook. Since it was a pretty warm, slightly muggy day and the zucchini at my natural foods stores looked fresh and firm, I decided to make his Carpaccio of Raw Zucchini for a nice refreshing lunch.
I looked on Food Network to see if he had made it on one of his shows, (I vaguely remembered seeing him make it) and found he had done it twice. Once was on a Food 911 episode called "Lo Cal High Flavor" and that time he used shaved Parmesan cheese instead of the ricotta called for in the book. (You can see that one here) He also prepared it on a special called "All-Star Healthy Makeover" this time using the ricotta (That one is here). I decided to stick with the book and use the ricotta.

Carpaccio of Raw Zucchini
Eat This Book, Tyler Florence
30 minutes / Serves 4-6

2 zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds total), sliced into paper thin rounds
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs such as chervil, dill, chives and chive blossoms
1 young leek, white part only, sliced paper thin
1 cup ricotta cheese
fresh mint leaves for garnish

Shingle the zucchini slices into a single overlapping layer on a platter. Dust with salt and pepper, then drizzle with a 3-count of olive oil and the lemon juice. Sprinkle with the herbs. Now scatter the leek over. Put that in the fridge for about 10 minutes to give the flavors a chance to get into the zucchini. Then garnish with the ricotta cheese and mint leaves.

Notes: I halved the recipe and ended up only using part of the zucchini on a medium serving plate. I used my "chop box", a poor woman's mandoline that I have had for years, on the zucchini and leek. (One day I will buy a mandoline but I am sure I will lose fingers or maybe a limb when I do get one as I manage to cut myself on any kitchen tool with a sharp point or edge). Tyler says: "The secret to this dish is that the zucchini be as thin as possible so that the squash takes up the flavor of the lemon and herbs." I used the fresh herbs I had available which included dill, flat leaf parsley and a little fresh tarragon. Since the mint leaves I had were so large, I chopped them as well.

Results: Why have I not made this before?! I loved it--the combo of the olive oil, lemon and herbs is wonderful on the zucchini. It is easy, great for a hot day or evening and would be an elegant presentation for a party. I ate it for lunch and will probably make it again and eat it tomorrow with the other half the zucchini I didn't use today. It would have been perfect if Tyler was there to make it for me but oh well, close enough!

Hope you are having a great Labor Day Weekend!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash

I love spaghetti squash because it is great when you want something "pasta like" but you don't want all the calories and carbs of pasta. (A half cup of spaghetti squash has about 25 calories and it also has vitamin C, beta-carotene and anti-inflammatory properties) It is quick and easy to fix and you can find it year-round, although it is best and most plentiful in early fall through winter. You can put almost any topping that you would put on pasta on it or you can just saute it with olive oil or butter.

It is very easy to prepare and there are many different methods of preparing it. I usually bake it on a cookie sheet in the oven. You just split it in half, scoop out the seeds (easier if you use kitchen shears to cut around the edges first). Next you put it cut side down, on a baking pan in the oven. I bake mine at about 375 degrees in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until you can pierce the skin easily with a fork. Let it cool until you can comfortably handle it and run the tines of the fork over the cut side, "combing it" so the flesh separates into spaghetti-like strands. Keep "combing" and pulling out the strands until you reach the shell or skin. Top the strands anyway you like. (This squash made about 2 heaping cups of cooked spaghetti)

These pictures aren't the best and I guess I didn't take one of the cooked squash before the "combing" but you get the basic idea.

Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small, sweet onion
2 Tbsp capers
Juice of 1 lemon
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups spaghetti squash
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
2 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan; add onion and garlic and sauté until soft. Add capers, lemon juice and cherry tomatoes and cook about 4-5 minutes more. Gently mix in spaghetti squash and heat through. Place in a bowl, add crumbled feta and garnish with parsley and rosemary. Salt and pepper to taste (with the capers and feta you should not need much salt).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Butterflied Chicken--Barefoot Bloggers

The final Barefoot Bloggers recipe for August is Butterflied Chicken and was selected by Stefany of Proceed With Caution. At this point I am not sure that there is anyone who has not heard of the Barefoot Bloggers but if I am wrong you can read all about this wonderful group cooking our way through Ina Garten's recipes here. Ina's recipe for Butterflied Chicken can be found at the Food Network here from an episode called "Jeffery's Surprise Party" where Ina surprises her husband with a beach BBQ. (Yep, that Jeffery is a lucky man!)

My chicken is not actually butterflied (sorry Ina!) since instead of buying whole chickens, deboning them and splitting them down the middle not quite all the way through so they lay flat, I bought some lovely organic, bone in, skin on chicken thighs. Yes, I know it's cheaper and "foodier" to buy the whole chicken and cut it myself but to be honest that is so NOT fun to me. I feel the time I saved, the effort and the avoided "gross out" factor from too much raw chicken handling were well worth my splurging on the individual pieces. For those of you worried about my health (thank you by the way for your concern!), I do realize boneless, skinless breasts would be the less fatty choice but given the fact that the organic thighs were on sale and roughly half the price of the organic breasts and even cheaper and way more appetizing than the regular chicken breasts, that's what I chose. I do think I should get some points for buying organic! My chicken is not grilled over a fire either, (Remember I explained my non-existent grilling skills in a previous post). Instead I grilled them on both sides in my trusty grill pan and then so they wouldn't be charred, finished them up in the oven at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes, which cooked them perfectly. So what does my chicken have in common with Ina's recipe? The seasoning baby! It's all Ina--I followed that part to the letter!

Butterflied Chicken
Barefoot Contessa, The Food Network

1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary leaves, plus 2 sprigs
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
Good olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 roasting chickens (2 1/2 to 3 pounds each), deboned and butterflied
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced

Mix the chopped rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together in a small bowl to make a paste. Place the chickens on a sheet pan, skin side up, and loosen the skin from the meat with your fingers. Place 1/2 of the paste under the skin of each chicken. Rub any remaining paste on the outside and underside of the chickens. Turn the chicken skin side down and scatter the lemon slices and sprigs of rosemary over each chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Roll each chicken up, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Heat a grill with coals. Spread the coals out in 1 dense layer and brush the grill with oil. Unroll the chickens, place them on the grill and cook for 12 minutes on each side.

Results: Chicken is not my favorite protein but this was GOOD. The lemon, garlic and rosemary are wonderful compliments to the chicken and it was some of the most moist chicken I have had in a long time. I liked the fact that tucking the paste under the skin of each thigh meant that even when I pulled the skin off of them before eating (I was trying to be good!), there was still lots of yummy flavor in the meat. It also plated up beautifully (I think) with the lemon slices and some extra rosemary scattered over the top.

I served the chicken with a green salad and some 'Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash" mixed with fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, capers, feta cheese, parsley and a bit of the leftover rosemary. Delicious! The chicken was a great recipe pick from Stefany. You can check out the other Barefoot Bloggers and see how their chicken turned out here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Shrimp Arnaud

Before I decided to go with appetizers from Campbell's "Easy Ways to Delicious Meals" Cookbook for my Blog Party "retro offerings", I was considering making some things from the Gourmet Cookbook, from Gourmet Magazine, published in 1950. (Also purchased at the Friends of Hawaii Library Book Sale for $4.00) Convenience and kitsch won out over elegance in that battle but when I ended up with some leftover cooked shrimp I remembered one of the hors d'oeuvre recipes I tagged; Shrimp Arnaud and decided to try it. Not being familiar with the name, I googled it and found that it seems to be named after Arnauds Restaurant, a famous historic restaurant in New Orleans and is a type of remoulade (think of a kind of tarter sauce like condiment served with meat and fish). Louisiana remoulades are usually red and have either a mayonnaise, ketchup or oil base. Although Gourmet's recipe wasn't quite like the one the restaurant serves, it sounded good. Plus the "recipe" itself is pretty funny--it leaves a lot to interpretation--no real measurements--"very little chili sauce" for example!

Shrimp Arnaud
The Gourmet Cookbook

"Blend vinegar and olive oil in equal parts and flavor with green onion, finely chopped, garlic, crushed, very little chili sauce, and very little Creole mustard. Toss cold cooked shrimp with this dressing and let the shrimp marinate overnight. Sprinkle with paprika and serve."

I served it with a yellow rice that I had leftover and some salad but it would be good with some red beans and rice or over salad greens as well. Can you believe I forgot to sprinkle it with paprika!? The phone rang and I was simultaneously talking on it, fixing the plate and feeding Max his dinner and I completely spaced until after I took the picture and was almost done eating it. Oh well! It has a nice tangy, lightly spicy flavor. I would make it again and make sure to add the paprika this time!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Magical (Flourless) Peanut Butter Cookies From Paula Dean

You probably won't see a lot of Paula Dean recipes on my blog. Its nothing personal, I like Paula but she uses a lot more butter and cream than even Ina and much more than I need. Imagine my surprise the other day when I was doing some work and had the Food Network on and Paula said she was "cooking healthy" without mayonnaise, cream cheese or butter. She made several recipes but the one that caught my eye was for "Magical Peanut Butter Cookies", made without flour, using a sugar substitute. They looked really good and made me crave a fresh-baked peanut butter cookie.

Paula's recipe called for a sugar substitute and she recommended Splenda. Not being a huge Splenda fan --it's artificial and that scares me a little, I decided to try it with Xylitol. Xylitol is derived from birch trees and is supposed to have less impact on blood sugar (no spikes). You are supposed to be able to bake with it and I had made some brownies with it that turned out pretty well. Well it must work better in cakes and brownies than it does cookies because it made the cookie dough very soft and they spread all over the baking pan. They also had kind of a funny taste that I didn't notice in the brownies. (See bad cookie below)

So I remade them with an organic natural, unbleached sugar and reduced it to 1 cup. Maybe it defeated the purpose but it made a good tasting, firm peanut butter cookie with four ingredients that you couldn't tell didn't have flour in it. Great with some cold milk.

Magical Peanut Butter Cookies
Paula's Home Cooking, Paula Dean

1 cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
1 1/3 cups baking sugar replacement (recommended: Splenda)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet. In a mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter, 1 cup sugar replacement, the egg, and vanilla, and stir well with a spoon. Roll the dough into balls the size of walnuts. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet. With a fork, dipped in sugar replacement to prevent sticking, press a crisscross design on each cookie. Bake for 12 minutes, remove from the oven, and sprinkle the cookies with some of the remaining sugar replacement. Cool slightly before removing from pan.

Oh and by the way, Paula did end up using 2 Tbsp of butter in her asparagus in this episode--baby steps I guess!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Chinese Five-Spice Seared Ahi Salad

If you couldn't tell from previous posts, I love ahi. I love its flavor, its versatility and how with it you can have something that looks wonderful and tastes great on the table in just a few minutes. I especially like to sear it and to play around with different spices and seasonings.
For this salad, I decided to coat the ahi with a mixture of Chinese Five-Spice Powder, toasted sesame seeds, salt and pepper. (Chinese Five-Spice powders are usually a combination of at least 5 spices--usually cinnamon, anise, fennel, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns; the idea being it reflects the 5 flavor elements of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent). I tip I read somewhere is to score the ahi block before coating and searing it so that it slices easier. I mixed the five-spice, sesame seeds, salt and pepper on a plate and coated the ahi block with it. A quick searing, about 30-40 seconds per side (do all four sides) in a hot, oiled pan and it's ready to slice and serve.

I put mine on a salad made up of what I had in the veggie drawer--lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, grated carrot, cilantro and some chopped mango and topped it with a sesame-lime vinaigrette, the ahi and then a light sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

Sesame-Lime Vinaigrette

Juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
1 clove garlic crushed
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame seed oil
1/8 tsp Stevia or 1/4 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together and drizzle over salad.

Easy, quick, cool and refreshing with lots of flavor--a perfect warm weather meal.

Friday, August 22, 2008

FoodBuzz Hawaii Featured Blogger Dinner at Tokkuri Tei

I had the pleasure of expanding my blogging horizons a bit more this week by having dinner with some wonderful fellow bloggers. Hosted by Nate and Annie of House of Annie, the dinner was funded by FoodBuzz as part of their Featured Blogger Program, which I joined recently. Nate and Annie were here on vacation, visiting Nate's family and eating their foodie way through the island and they had the brilliant idea of trying to get some of the Hawaii FoodBuzz FPs together. We were a small but fun group; in addition to meeting Nate & Annie, I got to meet Albert from Pizza Therapy and hang out some more with my foodie friend Michelle from The Accidental Scientist.
Nate and Annie have good taste, they picked Tokkuri Tei as our restaurant, which I had heard about but had not tried yet. Tokkuri Tei is considered some of the best Japanese food and the first and best Izakya restaurant in Hawaii. (If you are not familiar with Izakyas the term usually refers to a casual "pub-like" restaurant where the food is mainly served small plate style and often consumed with beer or sake.) They have a pretty huge menu which I didn't have to spend too much time perusing as we voted Annie to do the ordering for us. (Its always refreshing to eat with a group of foodies who have no "don't/won't eat" foods and a sense of adventure for trying new things).
Annie did a spectacular job of ordering a ton of different dishes and once she ordered they just kept coming and coming, faster and faster. (Did you see the episode of "I Love Lucy" where she is trying to wrap the chocolates on the conveyor belt and the belt speeds up and she keeps shoving candy in her mouth to try to keep up? That's how I felt with all the food--trying to look at it, take pictures and eat it when it seemed like it just kept speeding up). We asked a server if they could slow it down but she said once the orders hit the kitchen they just come out--no slowing or stopping them. That would be my one real complaint with Tokkuri Tei, the food is very good and I wanted time to appreciate each dish a little before getting the next one (or the next 10!). I finally stopped taking pictures of all we ate because I didn't feel I was getting great pictures in the rush of food. I managed to get a few shots of some of the food (maybe a third of our dishes) but for much better pictures check out Nate's here.
The food quality was very good--the fish was incredibly fresh. (We went on Tuesday--as those of you who read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential know, Tuesday is the best night for getting fresh fish--never on a Monday!) Nate and Annie said they picked the night for that very reason--again, don't you love Foodies!?! The breaded, deep fried miso butterfish was sweet and melted in your mouth and the salmon and scallops were fresh and tender.
The hamachi was "like butter" The Spider Poke roll was a standout--poke, softshell crab and garnished with fish roe, a delicious combo of colors, flavors and textures. The portabello mushroom was delicious too in its buttery miso sauce.

Tokkuri Tei was a bit less successful on the yakitori dishes (grilled meats on sticks). Both meats, pork with shiso leaf and beef tongue, were a bit tough and didn't have as much seasoning and flavor as they could have. They weren't bad but they were not great.

The company was terrific as well. We got to chat about blogging and I am definitely the newbie in the group in terms of blogging experience. Nathan is a techno-wiz and Albert a pizza guru (he has an e-cookbook on the subject) and Annie, Michelle and I had no problem talking about one of our favorite subjects--food. It was a very fun evening with great company, lots wonderful food and it was free too thanks to Foodbuzz--how can you beat that? I am glad I became a Featured Publisher in time to join them all for dinner! (Apparently a yearly local blogger dinner, potential tickets to Foodie Events and other perks are all part of the FP program) Thanks again to Nate and Annie who arranged it and to Foodbuzz for footing the bill for a delicious evening.
Tokkuri Tei
611 Kapahulu Ave.
Lunch: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. daily.
Dinner: 5:30 p.m.-midnight daily.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Grilled California Pizzas--Barefoot Bloggers

The August Barefoot Bloggers Bonus Recipe (an optional recipe chosen by the person who links the most visitors to the Barefoot Bloggers site the previous month) is Grilled California Pizzas, chosen by Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake. The recipe can be found here at The Food Network. I flip-flopped with this recipe; I'm trying it, I'm not trying it, I am trying it, OK I'm definitely not trying it! I had a couple of issues with the recipe. First off, I am not much of a "griller" at all. I have a grill but have cooked on it myself once or twice. When it is used, it is by house guests or dinner guests that I coerce into grilling. Next up, I am not a baker and also not a bread maker--things with yeast intimidate me. Finally, I am in the thick of a busy week with quarterly business reviews going on at work and limited time.

However, remembering that the whole reason I joined the Barefoot Bloggers was to try new recipes that I might normally not try and the fact that I ended up getting to leave work a bit early had me rethinking it. I thought I would be able to get home in time to attempt the recipe and still get to eat by 7:30 PM, however I still did not want to fire up the grill. The same pizza recipe is in The Barefoot Contessa Parties (pg 48), baked in the oven instead of grilled but I wanted that "grilled look and favor". Could I get the same or similar effect by using my round grill pan on my gas stove? I decided to try.

Grilled California Pizza
Barefoot Contessa
For the dough:
1 1/4 cups warm (100 to 110 degrees F) water
2 packages dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons good olive oil
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the toppings (select 8):
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 pound fresh mozzarella, grated
1/2 pound Italian Fontina, grated
1/2 pound mild goat cheese, such as Montrachet, sliced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and julienned
1/4 pound prosciutto, thinly sliced and julienned
1 bunch arugula, cleaned and dried
6 plum tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
4 pork or turkey sausages, cooked and sliced
1 bunch basil leaves, cleaned and dried
4 garlic cloves, roasted
Crushed red pepper flakes

For prep:
1/2 cup good olive oil
For the dough, combine the water, yeast, honey, and olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 3 cups flour, then the salt, and mix. While mixing, add 1 more cup of flour, or enough to make a soft dough. Knead the dough on low to medium speed for about 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking to the bowl. When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured board and knead by hand a dozen times. It should be smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and turn it several times to cover it lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into 6 equal parts and roll each one into a smooth ball. Place the balls on a baking sheet and cover them with a damp towel. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

If you've chilled the dough, take it out of the refrigerator approximately 30 minutes ahead to let it come to room temperature. Roll and stretch each ball into a rough 8-inch circle and place them all on baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal. (You will be able to fit 2 pizzas on each 18 by 13-inch baking sheet.)

Light your grill and wait until it's hot. Place the pizzas directly onto the grill and cook on 1 side for 1 minute. Turn the pizzas over and brush with olive oil or garlic oil. Top the pizzas with any toppings you wish, piling them high. Drizzle each pizza with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Put the lid on your grill and cook for 5 minutes more, until the crust is crisp and the toppings are cooked.
Prep Notes: I halved the recipe because it was just for me and it came together pretty easily. I kind of over olive oiled it in the bowl I think--I kind of "gluged" more in there than I thought. I heated my grill pan on high and once heated, added some olive oil and then put in the pizza round (I had to do one at a time). I am not sure exactly what I did to my first one, maybe rolled it a bit thick, but it got thick and puffy in the pan--not quite the pizza crust I had envisioned. I had enough dough for two more, so I made the second one thinner and cooked it. Much better--not too thin, not too thick, but maybe a bit more "charred" than I wanted. Since I was planning to top this first one in a different way (see Topping the Pizzas below), I just put bacon on top, then set it aside and put my final round in the grill pan, lowered the heat a bit and got it right, it was nicely browned with grill marks but not over done.

Topping The Pizzas:

Pizza 1: We sometimes use a lunch delivery service at work that delivers food from different restaurants, one being California Pizza Kitchen. Most of the time I am good and order a salad but when I feel like being bad, I order their California BLT Pizza. This pizza comes topped with bacon (warm) and then has lettuce mixed in a kind of mayo dressing, tomatoes and avocados (cold) to put on top. It's like a pizza and salad in one. Since I had a nice ripe avocado and some bacon, I decided to recreate this pizza. I made a ranch-style dressing with 2% Greek yogurt, garlic, onion salt, pepper and parsley flakes while my dough was resting. I topped the cooked pizza and bacon with the lettuce mixture, tomatoes, avocado, some additional bacon, a spot of the "dressing" in the center and sprinkled pepper on the top.

Pizza 2: For this one I kept it simple, a little prosciutto, some crumbled goat cheese and a sprinkle of basil. I grilled the pizza for one minute, flipped it, lowered the heat slightly, added the toppings and placed a lid on the pan and cooked it about 4-5 minutes more.

Much easier than I thought it would be. I liked the crust a lot, the sweetness of the honey, the fruity olive oil and the slight crunch of the cornmeal. Other than my first "puffy" pizza, the texture was good and my crust was nice and slightly chewy. My California BLT pizza was my favorite--I love the combo of the warm and cold toppings and avocado just makes everything better! The second pizza crust was cooked a bit better and the toppings were flavorful but still fairly light. I would try this recipe again, maybe even on the actual grill--although the pan works well as long as I watch the heat and the timing a bit more. Who knows, I may even try making bread after this! My plating and pictures of the pizza are not my best work but I MADE PIZZA! (And I was hungry and wanted to eat it ASAP!)
Thanks to Rebecca for a great recipe pick and tune in next Thursday for Butterflied Chicken. Since this is an optional recipe not all the Barefoot Bloggers may post it but you can check out who does here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Blog Party #37 "Retro"-- (OK, Maybe A Bit Too Retro!)

Blog Party, that wonderful event started by Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness, starts off its 4th year of fun this month and it's also my 4th time at the party--although I may not be invited back after I present my recipes! The theme of this month's Blog Party is Retro, meaning that the appetizers and accompanying beverages should be from the 1920s to the late 1960s. I have mentioned that I have been in a bit of a funk lately in regards to cooking--whether it is lack of time, a perpetual stuffy head, or maybe feeling just plain LAZY, I just haven't felt like making a huge effort with anything.
That being said, I do love a good party and I thought for some easy, low effort appetizers, I would look to the year 1967 and my copy of A Campbell Cookbook: Easy Ways to Delicious Meals, "465 Quick-to-Fix Recipes Using Campbell's Convenience Foods". I purchased this little gem at the Friends of Hawaii Book Sale for .50 cents and noticed that it is dedicated: "To all the modern, young thinking cooks who enjoy convenience foods in quick, easy recipes... to make family meals more tempting, party meals more exciting, and their own lives more satisfying." I mean who among us doesn't want all that?!?
Apparently cooking and entertaining in the 60's was all about "swanky" but easy food as the "modern cook" had access to all kinds of mixes, soups, frozen products, etc. to make her life easier. In fact the Campbell's Cookbook states that "You need only spend an average of 90 minutes a day in the kitchen as compared with the 5 hours your mother used, thanks to convenience foods and better packaging." It also mentioned that a study was done showing that meals made with convenience foods could save a cook an average of 10 hours a week, compared to "cook it yourself" foods and that these foods could save money as they were prepared commercially, in large quantities at the "peak of supply".
For my pupus, I went straight to the "Tasty Appetizers and Snacks" section of the book and found two recipes to try: "Pizza-Flavored Hot Cheese Dunk" and "Chicken Cheese Teaser". Apparently Campbell's wasn't much into cocktails for entertaining but believed firmly in "Refreshing Sippers", stating that "A mug of soup or "soup drink" makes refreshing sipping, hot and warming on a cold day, cool and refreshing on a hot day--sheer wizardry as a pick up, any season." I thought a "Beef Fizz" sounded intriguing but knowing there was no way I could get anyone to try all this without some alcohol, I threw in some Frozen Daiquiris too. Although the original Daiquiris, on the rocks, came from Cuba in 1905, "exotic" frozen blender drinks were hugely popular in the 60's and 70's.
Pizza-Flavored Hot Cheese Dunk
Campbell's Easy Ways to Delicious Meals
"Quick seasoning adds zesty pizza flavor ready without heating the oven"

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed Cheddar cheese soup
2 Tbsp ketchup
1/8 tsp oregano, crushed
1 small clove garlic, minced
Toast, cut in squares
Stir soup until smooth; blend in ketchup, oregano, and garlic. Heat; stir often. To serve, invite guests to spear toast squares with fork and dunk. Makes 1 & 1/4 cups dip. (I went out on a limb here and put olive oil and garlic salt on my bread before toasting in the oven for extra flavor)

Chicken Cheese Teaser
Campbell's Easy Ways to Delicious Meals

1 can Swanson Chicken Spread
1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp finely chopped celery
1/4 tsp curry powder
Mix all ingredients. Chill. Thin to desired consistency with milk. Serve as dip or spread on crackers. Makes about 1 & 1/4 cups.

Beef Fizz
Campbell's Easy Ways to Delicious Meals
1 can (10 1/2 oz) condensed beef broth
1/2 cup club soda
lemon twist
Pour broth over ice in 3-4 large glasses. Add soda to fill. Garnish with lemon. 3 to 4 servings.

Frozen Daiquiris
Cocktails A-Go-Go, Susan Waggoner & Robert Markel
1 1/2 ounces light rum
Juice of 1 1/2 limes (approximately 1 1/2 oz)
1 tsp sugar
1 cup cracked ice
Combine ingredients in blender and whir just until smooth. While this recipe can be multiplied to make several drinks at once, don't make more than will be served immediately, as the delight of a Frozen Daiquiri is its soft, fresh slushiness. Garnish with a thin slice of lime if you like.

Results: There are things from the past that stand the test of time. In 1967 there were the movies Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and The Graduate; The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Door's Strange Days albums came out, Julia Roberts and Jimmy Kimmel were born,the first home microwave from Amana came out and Gatorade was invented. Other things like the recipes above, should probably stay in the vault! The pizza dunk was fine--not sure you get the full on "pizza" experience with it, but I think the kids would like it. Chicken Spread, while certainly more palatable with cream cheese and curry mixed in it, is not going on the favorites list. Cold beef broth mixed with club soda is just WRONG even with a squeeze of lemon! The Daiquiris were delightful however.

My plan is this--duck in the door at the Blog Party, fire up the blender and start passing out glasses of tangy, frosty lime goodness and see if Stephanie will put on my 60's playlist below to get everyone in the mood. Then I'll whip out the fondue forks for the pizza dunk, pass some crackers with the chicken teasers and once everyone has a good buzz going maybe we can use the beef fizz as a dare or something! I figure I'll let the better things I have bought for my first three BPs carry me on this one and beg everyone to forgive me for my kitchsy 60's convenience indulgence. I may have to do some work to get my "Foodie Cred" back!
Thanks to Stephanie for being a wonderful hostess as usual! Here's to many more Blog Parties (I am toasting with a Daiquiri--not a Beef Fizz!)

Deb's Gimme Some Magic Mushrooms and Another Beef Fizz 1967 Playlist
Light My Fire, The Doors
Happy Together, The Turtles
Gimme Some Lovin, Spencer Davis Group
Brown Eyed Girl, Van Morrison
Respect, Aretha Franklin
People Are Strange, The Doors
Somebody to Love, Jefferson Airplane
Ain't No Mountain High Enough, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
I'm a Believer, The Monkees
All You Need is Love, The Beatles
That's Life, Frank Sinatra

Uh oh, Max had one too many magic mushrooms and Beef Fizzes!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Foodie Friend Fun at the Made in Hawaii Festival

Once I had dinner with Michelle from The Accidental Scientist and realized she was not going to hack me into pieces as one of my friends thought (see post here), I knew I had found a wonderful new foodie friend. Foodie friends are great because they understand and sometimes even share your little foodie quirks like having more cookbooks than a reasonable person should own, having a unnatural fascination with kitchen gadgets, being able to spend 30 minutes transfixed in front of a shelf of olive oils, etc. They understand when 90% of your vacation photos are of the food you ate and that a splurge dinner with a pricey tasting menu is an occasional necessity. They are just plain great to do foodie kind of things with, things that would make some of your other friends impatient--so when Michelle asked if I wanted to go the the Made in Hawaii Festival, I of course said yes.

This is the 13th year of the festival, which features products all grown or made in Hawaii. Although not exclusively food, there was certainly a lot of it there, along with a lot of people; the festival has over 400 booths and attracts about 35,000 attendees. We made plans to meet there at 10:00 when it opened and Michelle was there early waiting with our tickets in the line that was snaking around the center to get in.

Once inside we made our way through the booths, sampling (no lunch needed) and looking at all there was to see and buy. We seemed to spend the most time at the food booths (big surprise there!) and ended up buying some similar things--I love anyone who likes chocolate and tea as much as I do. It was nice going with someone who didn't feel a need to mention that I had already bought two things of tea--"did I really need another one?" We both got excited to get a free Hawaii Seasonality Chart for produce (yes contrary to popular belief there are growing seasons here in Hawaii too), mine is already hanging with pride in my pantry cupboard.

So what goodies did I come home with?
  • Waialua Estate single origin chocolate from Oahu's North Shore (extra dark, 70% cacao) in 5 little .35 oz bars.

  • Lemon Mamaki Tea --a blend of lemongrass and mamaki (a Hawaiian herbal tea that is grown in remote areas of the island--thought to cleanse the body of impurities). This tea blend with Rooibos is supposed to help with digestion, immunity and promote healthy skin--just hope it tastes good!

  • Very Berry Passion Ice Tea Blend--a black tea with passion fruit and berries

  • Tutu's Organic No Salt Seasoning--a mixture of different spices, herbs, citrus peel, etc.

  • Old Fashioned Baked Mango Chutney from Maui--yum!

  • Sparkling White Wine Mango Jam--a delicious jam (I am a sucker for jams and preserves)

  • A Hawaiian Vanilla Company vanilla bean in a bottle to make my own vanilla extract. (After seeing the extract Kat made, I have been wanting to this. The guy at the booth recommends rum instead of vodka for more flavor--hmm...)

  • Hawaiian Vanilla Company--Rainforest Vanilla Rooibos Tea--it smelled SO Good!

I could have bought a lot more--we tried some really good things but I tried not to buy too much. I can also feel good that my dollars went to local vendors and growers. It was a great way to spend a few hours on Sunday, just hanging out with a fellow foodie--thanks Michelle for suggesting it! I look forward to more foodie exploration and excursions.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Omnivore's Hundred List (Or Man Have I Eaten A Lot of Funky Stuff!)

I saw this on Stephanie's site and it looked like fun to do. It comes from Andrew at Very Good Taste and is a list of things he thinks every Omnivore should have tried at least once in their lives. Since Andrew is from the UK, a few things were not as familiar to me but he has the links to look them up on Wikipedia on his site. (For instance I didn't know "clotted cream tea" meant having tea taken with scones and clotted cream--which I have done), It's a pretty eclectic list and I was surprised that I ended up having tried 75 of them! I feel very lucky (I think!) to have traveled a lot, through Asia and the UK for work and to have spent time with people that liked to make me eat unusual things! It said to cross out things you would never try and I hate to say never so I didn't cross anything out but I am honestly not looking to sample snake, horse, headcheese or sweetbreads anytime soon!

Here are the details if you want to see how many you have tried!

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison

2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat (I have had goat in a tagine but not curried)
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Let me know if you do the list. What do you think is missing? Would you add anything? I think fresh churned homemade vanilla bean ice cream and fresh picked peaches should be on every foodie list too!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Barcelona" Crescents--Olive Oil, Chocolate and Sea Salt

A combination of work, watching the Olympics, needing to re-stock the refrigerator and just life in general have made it tough for me to kick it back into gear with cooking and posting this week. It seems like I have eaten a lot of meals out (but nothing so spectacular to make me want to take pictures of it) and have not cooked much. I thought I should post something while waiting for some inspiration and initiative to strike and I made these the night my fridge crashed (comfort was needed!). I bought a can of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls because I had a random idea for them that I wanted to try. In New York, I tried a wonderful thing at The Chocolate Bar called a Barcelona--which was a baguette with olive oil, chocolate and sea salt. Loving it so much, I made it into Barcelona Bites for Stephanie's Blog Party (you can find that post here). I started thinking that it would be a good combo inside some flaky pastry as well and not wanting to make pastry myself, thought I could put them in a crescent roll to "test my theory".

I whipped these babies out with some organic semi-sweet chocolate chips, a nice fruity olive oil and a light sprinkle of some sea salt. Then rolled them up and baked them following the package directions. (I also sprinkled a little sea salt on top of the crescents before I baked them).

The Results: The combo is unbeatable and just as tasty inside pastry as it is on a baguette. They were delicious as an after-dinner treat all nice and melty, and good the next day for breakfast too. I think it would be delicious in a puff pastry as well. It's a quick and easy chocolate fix when you want something sweet and salty.