recent recipes

Recent Adventures

Sunday
Apr082012

shrimp and cilantro tacos with radish, cabbage and mango

Well, hello again!  It's been awhile but I'm happy to be back with a new recipe for y'all.  And you're in luck...this is a good one. 

My husband and I spent all day out in the garden today removing what felt like a lifetime's worth of weeds in preparation for planting this year's veggie crops.  After a long day of gardening and bonding with our weed wacker, or what my Australian friends call the whipper snipper, we were more than pleased to heat up the "barbie" and devour these fantastic shrip tacos.

Ingredients:

(makes four tacos)

1 lb jumbo shrimp (I used 15 ct)

1 bunch of cilantro (stems removed)

2-3 cloves garlic

1/2 head of red cabbage 

2 tbsp olive oil

Juice from 2 limes (about 2 tbsp)

1 tsp salt

Flour or corn tortillas

Bamboo skewers (6-8)

1 bunch of radish

2 mangoes (diced - I used manilla mangoes)

2 limes (cut into quarters)

 

Step one is to soak your bamboo skewers in water while you get the cilantro marinade going.  Just place them in a lasagna pan with water and set aside. 

Now you're going to want to clean and de-vein your shrimp.  It's a very important step.  If you don't know how to de-vein a shrimp, it's easy - simply use a pairing knife and make an incision down the back of the shrimp.  You'll easily be able to see the vein.  Run the shrimp under cold water and remove the vein.

Next step is to make the cilantro and garlic marinade.  Cut the stems off the cilantro and put in the food processor. 

Add 2 tbsp of olive oil and pulse for about 10 seconds.  Remove the top of the food processor, push the cilantro down and pulse again for another 10 seconds.  Add the 2-3 cloves of garlic (whole) and the lime juice and pulse again until smooth.  It should have a beautiful pesto-like consistency.

 

Take your cleaned shrimp and cover with the cilantro mixture.

 

 

Once the shrimp is mixed well with the cilantro, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

This is the time when we went out to do our yard work.  By the time we were done, about 2 1/2 hours later, our shrimp was perfectly marinated.  

Now it's grill time.  We have a Big Green Egg which is amazing.  Love it.  A grill and smoker combined. Heat whatever kind of grill you have up to about 400 degrees.  While your grill is heating up, get your garnishes ready.

Once your grill is heated up and ready to go, remove the bamboo skewers from the water and skewer those shrimp.  Once skewered, sprinkle them with salt and pepper.

Before you put your shrimp on the grill, oil it down a bit just to be sure the shrimp don't stick.  The shrimp are only going to take 4-6 minutes to cook, so make sure your garnishes are ready to go.

Place the shrimp on the grill and flip after 2-3 minutes.

Flip the shrimp and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  You do not want to overcook the shrimp so keep a very close eye on them.  They should be perfectly white on the inside and beautiful tanish-peach on the outside.  They shouldn't shrink too much and look dry.  The picture below are perfectly cooked shrimp moments after removing from the grill.

 As soon as your shrimp are done, quickly brush off the grill and throw your tortillas on for just a few seconds until they begin to warm and have some grill marks.

Now all you have to do is load up your tacos, squeeze with a bit of fresh lime juice and enjoy!

Tuesday
Mar132012

in the land of cheese and brats

Sure, Wisconsin has much more to offer than cheese curds and brats. There's Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesen in Spring Green, Milwaukee's Third Ward, and the Horicon Marsh - one of the largest freshwater marshes in the United States. 

But I'll be frank, as a girl from Wisconsin who loves food, the curds and brats are a few of  the things I get nostalgic about.  Having just returned from a trip to America's Heartland, I want to share a bit of a food-centered recap.

One of my favorite Wisconsin pit-stops is Brandon Meats and Sausage located in, you guessed it, Brandon.  As you can see from the picture below, Brandon is a sleepy little town, but it's worth the trek if you're in the neighborhood. 

Brandon Meats really has a great selection of fresh sausage, smoked sausage, cheese, smoked cheese, cheese curds, steaks, pork chops, you name it...I mean, come on, take a look at all of those awards on the wall!

And, during the winter months, they'll happily ship cheese or smoked meats. 

In addition to the the carnivore and dairy-loving items, there are a number of really tasty treats made from local producers such as local fruit jams and preserves and delicious real Wisconsin maple syrup.

My sausage, cheese, sweet treat bounty was a good one this time! Not only did I ship a bunch of stuff so it greeted me on my California doorstep the day after I got home, but I froze a bunch of brats and put them in my suitcase.  I can just imagine what TSA thought of me and my suitcase.  

According to Brandon Meats' website, they're the "Makers of the Famous Five Foot Summer Sausage." While I was not aware of that trivia...

If you haven't had summer sausage, it's a Wisconsin staple.  I think it's pretty common throughout the Midwest and Canada, but I've only had the Wisconsin varietal.  It's absolutely delicious sliced with a piece of cheddar on a saltine cracker.  I mean that.  A little tang and full of lovely smoked flavor.  

The picture above is a small section of Brandon Meats' summer sausage selection.  You can get all sorts of flavors of summer sausage, but I opt for just the original.  Summer sausage is typically made of pork, beef and/or venison.  I happily grabbed one of these bad boys and put it in my box to ship home.

Now we need to discuss cheese curds. 

What is a curd you ask?  Well, it's the squeaky and delicious cheddar cheese in it's natural shape before being processed into the cheese blocks you see at the store.  Eat them plain or fry them up, either way, they're tasty. They're evidently very popular in Canada too (google poutine, it's delicious!).  I've tried curds made in California, and with all due respect to my lovely state and its happy cows, it's just not the same.

Add some bits of smoked beef sticks and you've got what folks in Wisconsin call "party mix."  In case you were wondering, yes rest assured, party mix is avaialble at every gas station in Wisconsin for a little late night driving snack.

Wisconsin is truly known for brats. You can get pork, beef, venison, or any combination there of.  The traditional brat is pork and it's usually grilled up and soaked in beer.  

Now, everyone from Wisconsin knows that you don't boil your brat in beer or you'll loose that fantastic flavor. However, get a big pot, warm up some beer and onion and after you grill your brats, toss them in the beer.  I dare you to find something tastier.

The first time my husband came to Wisconsin we stopped at Brandon Meats and there was a brat fry across the street. He was sold instantly.  Don't be mistaken, at a brat fry nothing is actually fried.  Just grilled and soaked in beer.  If I see a brat fry, I pull over the car.  It's a given.

My brat above is missing one key ingredient (which one of my friends pointed out to me), and that is sauerkraut.  I go back and forth on adding sauerkraut, the day I got that brat, I wasn't feeling it. However, it's a fantastic addition. 

Now that I have enough smoked meats and cheese to last us a year, I'm content until my next trip to America's Heartland.  See you next year, Wisconsin! 

 

Wednesday
Feb222012

spicy lentil and black rice soup with kale, leek and spinach

Ok, people, I want to talk to you about my new favorite thing.  Lentils.  Specifically, green lentils.  They are amazing and hearty and, from what I understand really really good for you.  So, why not make an amazing vegetarian soup?!  This is a fantastic recipe to make on a Sunday and nibble on throughout the week. The soup is hearty enough to be a full meal or served as a first course of your next party!

Ingredients:

2 cups green lentil

1 cup black, brown or wild rice

2 cups diced carrot

1 red onion (diced)

1 leek (sliced)

3 garlic cloves (minced)

2 celery stalks (diced)

1 bunch kale (chopped - I used purple kale but you can use any type)

1/2 bunch fresh spinach (chopped)

2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp cracked black pepper

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp cayenne

1 tsp cumin

(additional salt and pepper to taste)

4 cups veggie broth

10 cups water

Start by soaking your beautiful green lentils in water while you dice up all of your veggies.  In order to fully embrace my obsession with the lentil, I did some research on this amazing little legume. I used a French green lentil, but there are many different types - about a dozen.   

According to Wikipedia, about 30% of the calories from the lentil come from protein, which in a nutshell, means they have very high protein.  Lentils also contain lots fiber and vitamin B...and green lentils contain the most fiber of all of the varietals.  I'm a fan.

Ok, so while your lentils are soaking in the water, chop up your  carrots, celery, garlic, onion and leek.

On the leeks, if you're not used to cooking with them, just use the white part.

Once all your veggies are chopped, heat up the olive oil in a stock pot over medium high heat and add the diced veggies.  Cook just until the the onion and garlic softens, about 7 minutes or so.

While your veggies are cooking, chop up your kale and get it ready to go, but don't add it yet.  You don't need to worry about chopping the spinach leaves, when it comes time to add them, just use the whole leaf.

Once your veggies are cooked, drain your lentils and add them and the rice to the veggies.  I used a lovely black rice (pictured below) and it went really well with the rest of the flavors.  If you can't find a black rice, just use wild rice. 

Give the veggies, rice and lentils a stir and then add your veggie broth, water, kale, spinach and all of the spices and turn the heat to high.

Keep the burner on high just until the soup boils, reduce the heat to low and cover for 25 minutes. Covering the soup will ensure that the lentils and rice cook thoroughly.  

After the soup cooks covered for 25 minutes, remove the cover and continue to cook on low for another 30 minutes or so.  I added another 1/2 tsp of salt and a bit of pepper for flavoring at this point and it was a perfect balance. 

After the final 30 minutes, simply serve and enjoy!  

Saturday
Feb182012

a trip to ikaria, greece...via oakland

So I haven't been to the Greek Isles yet (on my to-do list) but I kind of felt like I was there in a recent stop to Ikaros Greek Restaurant in the Grand Lake district of Oakland.  The restaurant was just lovely, family owned and a great vibe.  Sure, we weren't surrounded by beautiful beaches and white-washed villages, but that's ok.  

Ikaria is a small Greek island named after Icarus, who, according to Greek mythology, fell into the sea nearby after his wings of wax melted because he flew too close to the sun.  I guess he should have listened to dad on that one.

I started out with a delicious Greek coffee.  Not too sweet, but just sweet enough.  Talk about a blast of caffeine.  This is how coffee should taste.  Careful of that last sip though, it can be a little murky!

Our appetizer was truly fantastic, something I'll definitely come back for.  It's called tirokafteri, which is a spicy feta cheese spread made with peppers, olive oil and spices.  The pita bread that Ikaros serves is really tasty, too.

Did I mention how tasty this dish was?!

We ended up at Ikaros because I was having a massive craving for a gyro, so that's just what I ordered. The pita bread was soft and warm, the gyro meat was perfectly spiced, and the tzatziki (a yogurt based sauce with cucumber, amongst other delicious things) was amazing...and I love a good tzatziki.  I will definitely be back to get one of these again!

My husband ordered the lamb souvlakia - skewered lamb, marinated with fresh herbs and cooked over an open flame.  I got the rice pilaf with my gyro and he ordered the french fries.  They were perfectly cooked, crisp on the outside and nice and soft on the inside.  Good choice, hubby.

Sadly, there was no room for dessert after everything we ate and we only had a small taste of the deliciousness offered at this restaurant.  After our experience here, I'm quite confident that everything will be just fantastic.  

If you're in the neighborhood and are looking for a lovely meal in a lovely restaurant, give it a try.  I'm inspired to book my trip to the Greek Isles now!

Sunday
Feb122012

dark chocolate brownies with strawberry cream cheese

I know, I know...Valentine's Day is a holiday that has turned into another opportunity to spend money and set unrealistic expectations. That said, as much as I didn't want to fall for it (again) this year, I was compelled to make something sweet.  Don't think you need  to have a Valentine in order to celebrate.  I think we should all try to be our own Valentines this year.

This recipe is adapted (quite a bit) from Cooks Illustrated. 

Brownie Ingredients:

4 oz unsweetened chocolate

1/2 bittersweet chocolate chunks

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

4 tbsp butter

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup white cane sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tbsp vanilla

2 tbsp vegetable oil

Strawberry Cream Cheese:

8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)

1 cup fresh strawberries

2 tbsp white can sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

Start by removing the stems of your strawberries, cut them in half and put them in a bowl.  Sprinkle the 2 tbsp of sugar over the strawberries and set aside while you make the brownie batter.  The sugar will soften the strawberries and they'll get nice and juicy.

Now preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Chop up the unsweetened chocolate and place in a medium sized metal bowl with the butter and coconut oil.  You'll turn this bowl into a double boiler by placing it on top of a pot with about 2" of water in the bottom.  Turn the burner on medium and let the butter, chocolate and coconut oil melt, stirring occasionally until fully melted.  

Once the chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from the top of the pot but be careful, it will be hot!  Set aside to cool slightly.

In a separate bowl, whisk your eggs, egg yolks, sugars and vanilla.

Add the butter, coconut and melted chocolate mixture.  Fold in the flour.

Add the bittersweet chocolate chunks  and salt and stir until fully mixed but don't over stir the batter.  Mix in the canola oil.

Take a 9x13 lasagna pan and line it with tin foil.  Spray the foil with cooking spray and scoop the batter into the pan, reserving about 1 cup.  This batter is a little on the thicker side, so just use the back of a spoon to even it in the pan.

Once the brownie batter is in the pan, get started on your strawberry cream cheese topping.  

Add the strawberries, cream cheese, egg and vanilla to a food processor and blend until totally smooth.

Once the cream cheese topping is nice and smooth, slowly pour it over the top of the brownie batter and smooth with the back of your spatula or spoon.

Take the reserved brownie batter and put it in clumps on the top of the strawberry cream cheese.

Bake your brownies for apx 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  After 30 minutes you should be able to insert a toothpick and it will come out clean.  Make sure you don't over bake these!  I learned the hard way after baking for about 35 minutes, the brownies were a bit too dry.  Keep in mind that once you remove the brownies they'll still bake a bit, so it can be misleading.

Once you remove the brownies from the oven, let them cool for at least 45  minutes. After the brownies are cooled, just lift the tin foil out of the pan and place the brownies on your cutting board.  Get the heart shaped cutter ready!

Simply use your heart shaped cookie cutter to cut 8 brownies.  You can get creative with what's left over, it's totally edible!

Garnish with some sliced strawberries and get your sweet tooth ready!  Happy Valentine's Day to you and whoever your Valentine might be!

 

Monday
Feb062012

mâche and sunflower sprout salad with pomegranate, pistachio, radish, celery root and a blood orange vinaigrette 

After all of the delicious Super Bowl weekend treats floating around, it's nice to start the week with a light and crisp salad.  Enter my new favorite lettuce...mâche.  If you haven't tried it, it's a really lovely French lettuce - NPR actually did a story on mâche a few years ago, who knew it was all the rage!

To really have success with this salad you should have a mandolin handy.  If you don't have one, it's not the end of the world, you just need to be extra careful to shave the radish and the celery root very very thinly. 

Salad Ingredients:

(serving size 4-6 salads)

14 oz package mâche

1/2 cup sunflower sprouts

4 radish (shaved paper thin)

1/2 celery root - about 1/2 cup (peeled and shaved paper thin)

Seeds from 1/2 of a pomegranate (about 1/4 cup)

1/4 cup pistachio 

1/4 cup shaved parmesan 

Freshly grated pepper

Rinse the mâche and sunflower sprouts really well.  I also trimmed the ends of the sunflower sprouts to clean them up a bit.   Sunflower sprouts are soooo good!  One of my favorite little additions to a salad.

Celery root is a funny little root.  It certainly doesn't look very cute from the exterior but boy oh boy does it taste good.  Again, you'll want to use your mandolin or a super sharp knife to get the celery root super thin.  To remove the hard exterior, just cut it off using a sharp knife.

Once the celery root is shaved, shave the radishes super thin too.

Cut your pomegranate in half, remove the seeds and clean them up a bit.  Put them aside until it's time to put the salad together.

 

Dressing:

Juice from one blood orange

2 tsp olive oil

1 tsp whole grain mustard

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Pinch of salt

Pinch of pepper

 

Mix all of the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.  

Now it's time to assemble the salads.  I plated each salad instead of having one big bowl.  Start with the mâche, add the sunflower sprouts, shaved celery root, radish and top with shaved parmesan.  Dress very lightly with the blood orange vinaigrette, add the pistachio and pomegranate seeds and finish with fresh cracked pepper.

This is a really lovely, light and crisp salad.  Enjoy!

Friday
Feb032012

dungeness crab, bacon, cream cheese and scallion puffs

I'm not into cutting corners when it comes to cooking, but every once and awhile, it's ok.  The Super Bowl is just around the corner and I want to make something delicious yet easy.  I also wanted something with a New England flavor, my husband being a Patriots fan and all!  So, I opted to use pre made puff pastry dough instead of making my own...and I'm ok with that.  They taste really good.

Ingredients:

2 puff pastry sheets (thawed)

4 oz of cream cheese (1/2 cup softened to room temperature)

1/4 lb fresh crab meat - I used dungeness crab (1/2 cup)

1/4 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup diced scallion

1 egg yolk

3 slices of applewood smoked bacon

Pinch salt

Pinch pepper

Thaw your frozen puff pastry dough by following the directions on the box.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and cook your bacon.  The key to a nice thick slice of bacon is cooking it on low heat.  Take the bacon out of the pan once it begins to brown slightly on the edges.

Grab a large bowl add the ricotta, crab meat and cream cheese to the bowl and mix well.  Add your diced scallion.

Add the scallion and egg yolk to the cream cheese and crab mixture and stir it all up.  Once everything is combined, set the mixture aside while you work with the puff pastry dough. 

The puff pastry dough is surprisingly easy to work with.  Once it is thawed, just lay it out on a lightly floured surface and begin cutting the dough using a medium size cookie cutter.  You'll have some extra puff pastry which you can use creatively in another recipe if you wish!

Once you've cut out all of the pastry dough circles, and you should have enough for 9 or 10 little bites, simply place about 1-2 tbsp of the crab, cream cheese and ricotta mixture on one of the rounds.  Place a second puff pastry on top of the mixture and press down lightly.

Place the assembled puffs on a lightly greased cookie sheet and place in the oven on the middle rack.

Bake the puffs for 15-17 minutes or until lightly brown.  Let cool slightly, serve and enjoy.  I sure did!

Tuesday
Jan242012

kimchi fried rice with pineapple

I have a new obsession - kimchi fried rice. This recipe is another inspiration from my recent trip to Hawaii. The sourness of the kimchi paired with the the sweetness of the fresh pineapple is fantastic.  A great vegetarian option too.

Ingredients:

4 cups cooked white rice (preferably day old rice - prepare 2 cups dry rice to make 4 cups cooked)

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp sesame oil

2 cups kimchi

1/4 cup green onion (diced)

1/2 cup onion (diced)

1/2 of a fresh pineapple (about 2 cups diced)

1/2 cup frozen peas

pinch salt 

pinch pepper

This recipe is really quite easy.  Prepare your rice a day in advance if possible.  Then start by dicing up all of your veggies and the pineapple and put it all in a large bowl.  You're only going to use half of the pineapple, so while you're at it, why not make a few daiquiris to pair with your kimchi fried rice!

 

 

Now it's time to get the kimchi ready.  If you've never opened up a jar of kimchi, get ready!  I was pretty overwhelmed with the smell of the delicious, yet pungent fermented cabbage and other lovely veggies.The brand I bought was really good, I found it in the refrigerated section of my local whole foods. 

 

 

 

Take about 2 cups of kimchi and dice it up, just as you did with the pineapple and veggies.  Add the kimchi to the bowl of diced veggies.

 

 

Heat your coconut oil and sesame oil over medium-high in a large pan.  Even better, use a wok if you have one. Once the oil is hot, add all of your veggies, pineapple and kimchi and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add your frozen peas. 

Next, add the four cups of cooked rice and mix well with the veggies.  Once the rice and veggies are combined, press the rice with the back of your spoon so that it is compressed and flat.  Let the rice cook without stirring for about 1 minute, stir and scrape the rice off the bottom and repeat.  Continue this menthod until the rice begins to show golden brown bits.

It should take about 10-12 minutes to fully "fry" the rice and it will take a bit of elbow grease to really scrape those toasted bits off the pan.  It's worth it though!

Once your rice is done, you're ready to serve.  This recipe is perfect with some Sriracha and kalua pork - check out my recipe!

 

Or just eat it straight up and enjoy!

 

Saturday
Jan212012

kalua pork sliders with sriracha aioli

Inspired by my recent trip to Hawaii, I just had to make some kalua pork.  It's a classic Hawaiian dish, and since I don't have a pig pit in the back yard, a slow cooker will do the trick just fine.  Add a nice crisp pickle and some Sriracha aioli and you can just imagine those island winds blowing through your hair.

This recipe will yeild an enormous amount of kalua pork.  Make some tacos, serve it with kimchi fried rice or just eat it straight up.

Kalua Pork Ingredients:

5-6 lbs pork butt

2 tbsp black Hawaiian lava salt

1 1/2 tbsp liquid smoke

slider buns

dill pickle slices

lots of time (16 - 20 hrs)

Sriracha Aioli Ingredients:

2 egg yolks

1 cup canola oil

2 tbsp Sriracha

juice from one lemon

pinch of salt

 

This recipe really couldn't be easier.  Take your pork butt, poke a bunch of holes in it with a knife and rub with the Hawaiian salt and liquid smoke.

The black Hawaiian salt is rich in trace minerals and has the stunning black color from purified volcanic charcoal.  It's really a lovely salt.

After you thoroughly rub your pork but with the the salt and liquid smoke, put it in a crock pot on low for 16-20 hrs.  It's a fantastic meal to start the night before you want to eat it.  Let it cook all through the night and all day at work and you'll have a great surprise when you get home from work the next day.

The picture below shows what 20 hrs of slow cooking will do to a pork butt!  it is so tender you could pull it apart with a spoon!  And, the black salt gives it a fantastic color.

The kalua pork should be finely pulled apart.  It's easy to pull apart by grabbing two forks and just getting to work.  Mix the meat up with all of the delicious simmering sauce and keep it on warm.

Now it's time for the aioli.  

Simply add your egg yolks, Sriracha, lemon juice and a pinch of salt to bowl of your food processor and blend until the eggs are slightly frothy, about 1 minute.  Once the eggs are beaten, slowly add your canola oil while the mixer is running.  Go slow on this one.

Get your pickles and buns ready to go and it's time to assemble your sliders!  I should mention here, you can also use a slice of pineapple if you have one.  Anything acidic or sweet will be a great contract to the salty smokiness of the kalua pork. Enjoy!

Thursday
Jan192012

eating my way through oahu

After a week worth of basking in the sun and eating my way through Oahu, I'm ready to share some of my most amazing dining experiences. I was so lucky to have a local pal give her best insight on where to go and what to try.  Thanks, Leslie!

Ok, let's start with Spam.  I never thought I'd use Spam and amazing in the same sentence, but I'm not joking, a good Spam musubi is just that - really good!

It looks a little like a Spam sushi roll, huh?  Well, it's simple - a bed of rice and a grilled piece of Spam wrapped in nori (seaweed).  I tried one Spam musubi (not the one pictured above) and it wasn't good. It was dry and tasted like grilled cat food.  However, I'm no quitter, so I found a little local food stall in an open air market in Honolulu and tried again.  I got it right the second time.

This version has "teri" sauce (teriyaki) and it was moist, hearty and really tasty. 

What's the best way to eat one of these tasty little treats?  Well, with you're pinky finger up of course. It's classy like that.

While the Spam musubi was great, something caught my eye in a market and it scared me.  I was terrified yet drawn to it with morbid curiousity.  Spam flavored macadamia nuts?  Yes, they exist. 

Next stop on the eating train was some that was really truly fantastic.  Probably the best thing I ate all week.  Fresh grilled Kona coast abalone from Big Island Abalone.  They have a stand Honolulu's best farmer's market near the Kapi 'Olaini Community College.  

The farmer's market is hosted every Saturday moring and it is just great.  I'm used to busy farmer's markets in the Bay Area, so the crowd didn't bother me one bit.  All of the vendors are using locally grown and harvested products from Hawaii.  It's really great.

The abalone was simple, pure and such a treat.  Something I don't eat often and really cherish the opportunity to try it.  We added a bit of lemon juice, soy sauce and a dash of Tabasco. It was meaty yet light, with a bit of chew but certainly not too much.  This is what I consider a true island treat.

I think it's safe to say that you're not really eating Hawaiian food if you haven't had any ahi.  We ate it almost every day, whether in the form of poke (a Hawaiian classic), on a salad or in a burger.

On our way to the North Shore of Oahu for a little fun in the sun, we stopped by what turned out to be one of my favorite meals, a grilled ahi burger with pieces of avocado the size of a dinner plate at Kua 'Aina in Haleiwa.  

Okay, back to the burger.  Did I mention the size of the slices of avocado?  They were HUGE!  I didn't know avocado even grew that big.  Well, on the island they do. 

One of my favorite details about this burger was the coarse Hawaiian sea salt that was sprinkled on the avocado.  It was so perfect, I could have just eaten that straight up.  

The sandwich was pretty simple really, lettuce, tomato, fresh grilled ahi steak and avocado.  This was one messy sandwich, but in a very good way!

Now it's time for another local favorite.  If you know anyone from Hawaii, I'm sure they have mentioned loco moco, and for good reason.  It's delicious.  

I'll admit I tried this island favorite a few times throughout the week (maybe not the healthiest week when I reflect on my trip).  My favorite was from a local dive called Rainbow Drive-In in Honolulu. 

Inspired by a recent episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, I had to make it to this stop. If it's a favorite with the locals, it's a favorite with me.

So, what's loco moco you ask?  It's two scoops of rice (a pretty standard starter in a lot of meals in Hawaii), hamburger patties (that's right, two haburger patties on the loco moco I tried), topped with gravy and two eggs.  Sounds good, huh?

This loco moco was fantastic.  Certainly not something I want to get into the habit of too often, but worth the calories in my humble opinion.   Oh, I forgot to mention that everything seems to be served with macaroni salad or "mac salad"  in Hawaii.  I'm not complaining. 

The trip is over and I'm back home, thinking nostalgically about my aloha time, and am I'm planning to make kalua pork this weekend, another Hawaiian favorite.  

Until my next visit, it's time to clean the sand out of my suitcase, gaze longingly at all of my fantastic salts, spices and chili water souvenirs, and pack my swimsuits away for what feels like an eternity.  Oh ya, I also need to pack my bag for the gym.