recent recipes

Recent Adventures

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.

Wednesday
Jan112012

rustic brie toasts with cranberry and wild mushrooms

Talk about a delicious treat!  I was committed to a French inspired New Years Eve this year, and the first thing that came to mind was melted brie cheese.  I know, a little cliche, but it's true.  The sweetness of the cranberries with the creamy melted brie is simply fantastic in this recipe.  No other way to describe it.

Ingredients:

2 - 2 1/2 cups wild mushrooms of your choice (finely diced - I used oyster)

1 shallot (finely diced)

1/4 cup dried cranberry (juice sweetened if possible)

1 tsp fresh thyme (finely minced)

1 rustic baguette

1 tbsp olive oil

1 wedge of beautiful brie cheese

Pinch of salt and pepper

Start by pre-heating your oven to 350 degrees.  While the oven is pre-heating, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and add the shallot, diced mushroom, cranberry and thyme.  Sauté for a few minutes until the shallot begins to wilt and then season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

Take your baguette and slice it into 12 pieces that are about 1" thick.

Place each piece of brie on the bread.  Follow with a spoonful of the cranberry, mushroom and shallot mixture and place on an oiled cookie sheet.

Bake the toasts for 15 minutes or just until the brie melts.  I think you'll find it hard to have just one!

Monday
Jan092012

bacon wrapped dried figs

As many of you may already know, I think bacon is a perfect accessory to most dishes.  Really want to wow your guests at your next dinner party without breaking the bank or breaking your back in the kitchen?  Try this recipe on for size.  The sweetness of the dried fig is a perfect pairing with the savory saltiness of the bacon.  Enjoy!

 Ingredients:

About 12-14 dried figs 

1/4 lb of applewood smoked bacon

toothpicks

Really, the only thing difficult with this recipe will be finding a good quality dried fig.  Once you have the figs, you're ready for action.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and while the oven is pre-heating, simply wrap the dried figs in a slice of bacon, securing the wrapped bacon with a toothpick.

Once the figs are wrapped, place them in the oven and bake until the bacon is brown and crispy, about 20-30 minutes.  It's just that simple.

Sunday
Jan012012

the scotch egg

Happy New Year!  I have a new favorite recipe as it turns out  - the Scotch egg.  A perfect combo of many things I'm interested in - savory snacks, sausage, egg and fried stuff. It's kind of scary how easy this recipe is.  While the Scotch egg is certainly something delicious, it's probably not something you want to make a regular basis!  I think they're a perfect little treat for any dinner party - your guests will definitely be impressed.

Ingredients:

6 large eggs 

2 eggs (beaten and used for the coating)

16 oz pork sausage

2 cup panko breadcrumbs (or regular bread crumbs)

4 cups vegetable oil for frying

So, step one  is to hard boil your eggs.  Now, while this might seem simple, I'm amazed at how often hard boiled eggs taste like chalk and have that gross greenish bluish rim around the yolk.  Not cool. 

An easy way to avoid all of that is to boil your water in a decent sized pot, once the water is boiling, add your eggs and set your timer for 9 1/2 minutes.  As soon as your timer goes off, remove the eggs and put them in a bath of cold water.  Easy, huh?  No excuses for overcooked eggs anymore.

Once your eggs are cooked and shells are removed, set up an assembly line with the beaten eggs, sausage meat and bread crumbs. 

Now you'll want to take about a 1/4 cup of the ground sausage, form a disk and begin to shape it around the hardboiled egg.

 

Take the sausage-covered egg and dip it in the beaten egg.  Next step is to roll it in the bread crumbs until it is generously coated.

 

The final step is to fry those eggs up!  Once all of your eggs are coated in the bread crumbs, heat up your oil over medium high heat.  

You'll know your oil is at the right temperature when you drop a few bread crumbs in the pot and it begins to sizzle.  Take care not to add the eggs to the oil to early - if the oil isn't hot enough it will just saturate the bread crumbs and it won't be as tasty.

Drop two eggs at a time in the hot oil and cook them until very golden brown, about 6-7 minutes.  Make sure you give the eggs enough time in the oil so the sausage fully cooks.

Remove the fried eggs from the oil and place on a plate with paper towels to remove the excess oil. Cut the eggs in half or quarters and serve while hot.  Mmmmm....Happy New Year!

Friday
Dec302011

slow cooker pot roast with potatoes, pearl onions and carrots

There's a certain nostalgia about a hearty pot roast simmering in the slow cooker all afternoon and I just couldn't the idea of making one out of my head yesterday.  So, after a stop at our local butcher, operation pot roast was on.  Seven hours and a couple of cheese and cracker snacking episodes later, the wait was well worth it. 

Ingredients:

3 lbs boneless chuck roast (trimmed of excess fat)

2 cups pearl onions (red or white - I happened to use red)

1 tbsp olive oil

8-10 red potatoes (rinsed but kept whole)

2-3 carrots (peeled and diced)

2 springs fresh thyme

2 bay leaf

1 tbsp tomato paste

1/4 cup red wine

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp cracked pepper

 

The key to the success of this recipe is a good cut of beef and lots of time - at least 6 to 7 hours.  My take on the traditional pot roast includes a bit of red wine, which gives it a really fantastic and rich flavor. Start by rubbing your chuck roast with the salt and pepper.

Once your roast is coated well with salt and pepper, heat up a large frying pan with the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Give the pan a few minutes to  heat up and then add your roast.  It should sizzle quite a bit.  (This is the time when one of my dogs runs for the hills to hide. He hates the sizzle of the stove, even though we're usually cooking something he's very interested in, such as pot roast or bacon. He seems to have connected the sizzle of the stove with the kitchen smoke alarm going off, which he hates even more than the sizzle.)

Cook the roast on one side for about 2-3 minutes or until it browns, then flip it and cook the other side.

Once both sides of the roast are browned, remove it from the heat and place in your slow cooker.  Now get started on the veggies.  I'm a sucker for all things "miniature" so any opportunity to use pearl onions is a great opportunity for me.

 

Once all of your veggies are peeled, cleaned and chopped, add them all to the crock pot.  Then add your tomato paste, fresh thyme, bay leaf and red wine. Put the cover on the crock pot, turn it to high and set the timer for 6 to 7 hours.  

After about 1 1/2 hours, you should stir everything and mix the tomato paste up with the wine and veggies.  I checked on my roast about every 2 hours and gave it a stir, but that's not totally necessary. This is something that is great to get started in the morning and have ready for dinner when you get home from work.

A little rustic bread and a glass of German Dunkel and you're ready to brave the winter!

Thursday
Dec292011

roasted root vegetables with pistachio and grapefruit vinaigrette 

It's been a few weeks since my last post, and now that the holidays have settled, I'm ready to share this fantastic vegetarian roasted root vegetable salad with pistachio and fresh grapefruit juice. Pistachios are my new favorite little treat, I think they're a great addition to a salad and a fantastic little snack.  I came up with this recipe because I was craving cauliflower and pistachios.  I know, it's weird, but it's true.

Ingredients:

1 fennel bulb (diced)

1/2 kobocha squash (seeded and chopped into 1" squares - skins can be left on)

2 parsnips (peeled and chopped)

1 head cauliflower (chopped)

1/2 cup pistachio

1 grapefruit

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

 

This recipe really couldn't be easier.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and then rinse, clean and chop up all of your veggies and put in a bowl.  You can leave the skin on the kobocha squash, it's actually really nice and tender after roasting.  Mmmmm....

 

 

Add your pistachios to the bowl of diced veggies and season with the salt and pepper.  Take care not to over salt the veggies, because the pistachios are fairly salty and you don't want to go overboard.

Now you can juice your grapefruit and get ready to make the vinaigrette dressing.

 

 

In a small bowl, combine the grapefruit juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard and balsamic.  Mix well and cover your veggies with the vinaigrette and mix it all up.

Once the veggies are covered evenly with the vinaigrette, place in a lasagna pan and put it in the heated oven on the middle shelf.

 

Cook the veggies for about an hour, stirring half way through.  The veggies should be nice and tender when fully roasted.  Let the veggies stand for about 5 minutes and then serve and enjoy! We paired this dish with a German bratwurst and a glass of Pinot Noir and it was fantastic!

Sunday
Dec112011

pozole with radish, cabbage and avocado

Holy pozole! I love this stew. Hominy (dried maize), is a key ingredient to pozole and you can find it at any Mexican grocery store or a larger grocery store like Whole Foods.  This soup is pre-Colombian, and for a bit more history,  read into the ritual uses of pozole during the time of the Aztecs.  Very very interesting.  

Ingredients:

2 lbs boneless pork rib roast, butt or shoulder

1 tbsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tps cayenne

1 onion (diced)

3 cloves garlic (diced)

29 oz can of hominy  (drained and rinsed)

7 cups chicken broth

Additional 1 tsp cumin

Cabbage for garnish

Radish for garnish

Avocado for garnish

2 limes cut for garnish

When I first learned of traditional Mexican stew,I literally made it every weekend for three months.  I tried many different combinations but have come to enjoy this simple recipe. I really like using pork rib roast for the pozole.  You can definitely use shoulder or butt too.  Whatever you use, just trim the fat and dice the pork int 1" squares.  

Once all of the pork is diced, heat the olive oil in a soup or stock pot over medium high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the pork, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, and salt.

Saute until the pork is cooked and just browned on the edges, about 10-12 minutes. While your pork is cooking, drain and rinse the hominy.  

Once the pork is done and slightly browned, remove with a slotted spoon, place in a bowl and set aside. 

Reduce the heat to medium and add the diced onion, garlic and hominy to the pot the pork was cooking in and cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions are soft.

Add the cooked pork back to the pot with the hominy and cook for about 2 more minutes.  Add the chicken broth and bring heat to high just until your soup begins to boil.   Reduce heat to low, add the additional 1 tsp cumin and simmer for 1 hour.

While your soup is simmering, get your garnishes ready.  The garnishes are a key element to the success of this soup, not to mention a pretty addition!

Once the stew has simmered for about an hour, season with salt and pepper and ladle the stew into a bowl.  Garnish with the crisp and spicy radish, the clean and crunchy cabbage, the creamy avocado and the tangy lime juice.  It is hard not to fall in love with this stew.

Tuesday
Dec062011

creamy pasta with wild mushrooms, peas and chorizo

Decadent, rich and a little spicy, just how I like my....pasta.   Surprisingly, this pasta was pretty easy to make and even easier to eat!  Does this pasta have a slimming effect?  No, not really.  Is it delicious? Yes, for sure. Don't worry about it, just go for it. 

Ingredients:

3/4 lb ground chorizo or apx 3 links (you can use veggie chorizo but will need to add 2 tbsp olive oil when you saute)

10-12 oz of your favorite wild mushroom (I used 6 oz portabella, 2 caps; and 6 oz chanterelle, 3 caps)

1/2 onion (diced)

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup frozen peas (thawed)

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

16 oz pasta (I used fresh casarecci, but you can use penne, fusilli or something similar)

Start by sauteing your chorizo over medium heat.  If you've purchased ground chorizo, perfect.  If you have links, you'll need to remove the sausage from the casing (sorry vegetarians, I've been told that is gross. Sadly, that's what it is called.  Vegetarian chorizo also has a casing).  Cook for about 10 minutes and remove the sausage with the slotted spoon and place in a bowl.  Set the bowl aside while you cook your mushrooms. 

Do not drain the pan, just add the iced dmushrooms and onion, and saute over medium heat until soft, about another 8-10 minutes.

Add the cream, the cooked sausage, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Give it a stir and reduce the heat to low.  Add your peas and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the sauce thickens.  

Concerning the peas, you'll see I've  suggested frozen. I love fresh English peas, so when they're in season, use fresh peas.  They're not in season now, so frozen will do just fine.

While your sauce is simmering, bring water for the pasta to a boil.  I love using fresh pasta when at all possible.  If you're using fresh pasta, it should take only a few minutes to cook once the water is boiling. 

Once the pasta is al dente, drain it and pour it into a large serving bowl.  Add the sauce and mix well so all the pasta is covered. Grate some fresh parmesan on top and get ready to feel really full (and pleased).

Sunday
Dec042011

vik's chaat corner - street style indian in berkeley

Maybe one of the original street-style food vendors in the Bay Area, VIK's Chaat Corner is a right of passage in my humble opinion.  They've recently moved out of their pretty modest warehouse-type space into a fancier warehouse-type space.  Still on 4th Street in Berkeley, still packed, still a fight for a table, still delicious food, just nicer bathrooms now.

VIK's started as a market and grocery store and the restaurant was born in 1989, specializing in street-style food (chaat) typically prepared by push carts or stall vendors. The market is still going strong today and it's just wonderful to get lost in the three or so aisles.  It's not huge, but I'll admit that I get overwhelmed at times, but in a very good way.  

 

A confessional moment here - I don't cook Indian food as much as I should.  That said, it's a pledge of mine to learn some techniques and branch out a bit.  

 

On to our lunch, which I must say was absolutely fantastic.  However, I'll also admit that when I'm at VIK's I'm "that person" - you know... the one staring at what everyone is eating.  I do it because it all looks so good and I'm not entirely sure what to order.  It bugs me when others do that to me, but I guess there's a time and a place. The line at VIK's moves quick and you need to know what you want. Visual eavesdropping is required.

We decided on three dishes:  samosa cholle (which we always order), vegetarian dosa, and lamb baida roti.  We chose correctly, as it turned out.  Once we got our table we sat and listened to the sound of names being called over the sound system, until we heard finally heard what we were waiting for...."Jason."

VIK's samosas are nice and spicy, served with cholle and chutney.   The cholle is a generous portion of spicy chick peas.  The potato stuffing in the samosa is spicy, with a pronounced amount of fennel.  Our only mistake in ordering the samosas is that we ordered two orders without realizing one order would be plenty.  Not to worry, we finished it all.

The dosa was really great. If you aren't familiar with dosa, it's a thin crepe stuffed with all sorts of stuff. Ours was spiced potato and peas, served with two amazing sides - sambar (a vegetable stew) and chutney. The chutney is amazing. It was creamy and cool, a perfect balance to the spice still lingering from the samosa.

The dosa is prepared on a taava (tava, tawa) or a large flat griddle, kind of like a crepe.  The dosa is crisper than naan and amazing when torn off to dip in the sambar and chutney.

The lamb baida roti was the winner of the afternoon.  It was so good.  I'm a sucker for roti, which is a flaky buttery bread.  Stuff the roti with minced lamb and you have a real winning combination.  The stuffed roti is served with a really fantastic mint chutney, which we cleaned up entirely.

On this lovely Saturday afternoon, we walked into VIK'swith a healthy appetite and a lot of enthusiasm, which quickly turns into the an inability to walk, based on an unbelievable level of fullness, but again, in a good way.

Saturday
Dec032011

spicy texas style chili

'Tis the season for some chili.  Well, every season is chili season in my humble opinion.  But yours truly is an award willing chili cook, as some of you may know.  That's right, my husband and I took 2nd place in the 2009 International Chili Society Regional Cook-off at Molloy's Irish Bar in Colma.  Now, if that's not something to brag about, I don't know what is.  

Ingredients:

2 lbs tri tip (cut into 3/4" chunks)

4 cups chicken broth

1 jalapeno pepper (seeds removed and diced)

1 fresno pepper (seeds removed and diced)

2 tbsp tomato paste

29 oz can tomato sauce

1 can El Pato tomato sauce

1/2 onion (diced)

3 cloves garlic (diced)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp chipotle powder

1/2 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp lime juice (about 2 limes)

Shredded cheddar cheese (technically, this is optional)

Sour cream (again, technically this is optional)

Bread and butter  (barely optional)

If you think you're getting the secret winning recipe here, you're wrong.  But this is really good chili.

You may have noticed there's no beans in this chili.  That's how it should be if you ask me, most people in Texas, and the International Chili Society.  Like the title says, this chili is spicy.  If you're sensitive to spice, I'm surprised you want to make chili. But, regardless, just take out one of the whole peppers if you can't handle spice.  

Here's a trick for easier cutting of your tri tip - put it in the freezer for about an hour before cutting it.  It won't be frozen when you remove it, but it will be a bit harder and easier to dice even pieces.  

Once your tri tip is diced, heat up the olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat and saute your onion, garlic, hot peppers  and tri tip.  

Once the tri tip begins to cook and the onions wilt (about 10 minutes), add all of your chili powders, cinnamon and salt, and cook for a few more minutes.

From here on out, it's pretty easy.  Add your tomato paste and tomato sauces and stir.  Add your chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 2 hours.  After two hours, add your lime juice and simmer for another 30 minutes or so.  Season with salt and pepper and get ready to serve.

Ring the dinner bell and get ready for some delicious chili!  I love me some grated cheddar, a dollop of sour cream and a chunk of bread and butter with my chili.  Oh ya, a nice cold beer.  Yee ha!