Maui Girl Cooks

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti


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Saturday is Market Day

Have you been to your local farmer’s market recently?  If not, you are missing out on some fabulous fresh food, fresher than your local supermarket produce department can offer, and probably for less money.  And it feels good to pay your local farmer directly for the food you enjoy. Super fresh food that’s less expensive.  What more could you ask for?

The refrigerator is not quite free of last week’s produce; there is still a little washed arugula & red leaf lettuce, 2 beets which I cooked yesterday, plus a bag of unwashed arugula.  I guess we did pretty good getting through most of it.  But today is Saturday, and Saturday is Market Day. . .always.  I used to go to the Upcountry Farmer’s Market in Pukalani, about 5 minutes from our house, but my husband has taken over that activity.  He is willing to leave the house before 6:30 am to get the good spinach & the best of everything else; I am not.  If you don’t get there early, someone else buys up all the good spinach and the cilantro.  So, I eat breakfast and head out on my morning walk around 7:00 am, and when I return, the dining table is filled with fruits and vegetables for me to prep and find room for in the refrigerator {which can be a challenge!}.  Here is a photo of this week’s bounty:

IMG_0380

since you can’t really identify everything, here is what we have for this week:  eggs, cilantro with roots,

Cilantro with roots final

spinach {the good spinach!}, tomatoes, lilikoi {passion fruit}, sugar cane, 8 avocados, celery, 5 carrots, 2 big beets, radishes, red lettuce, 2 bunches arugula, 4 potatoes, 2 bunches Swiss chard, dandelion greens, 4 green peppers, 4 jalapenos, asparagus and 2 bunches green onions.  Yikes!  That is a lot of food, but this is the way we eat.  I will spend a good deal of time this week preparing healthy and delicious meals; my husband and I prepare many of our meals together, and eat most of them together.  I know that everyone doesn’t have the time or the inclination to make everything from scratch, but food is my passion: reading about it, writing about it, eating it and preparing it, so I am happy to spend time in the kitchen.  Today I made a pickled beet that uses the same dressing as the Japanese cucumber namasu recipe that I have been making for years.  I call it Beet Namasu and I must say it tastes pretty good; the fresh ginger really complements the beets’ sweetness.  I reduced the sugar from the original recipe, so if you want a sweeter pickle, you can increase the sugar.

Beets final

Beet Namasu

2 large beets, steamed whole until tender
1 cup white wine vinegar {you can use unseasoned rice vinegar if you like}
2-4 tbsp sugar {I used 2 tbsp}
2 tbsp julienned {cut into fine strips} fresh ginger {do not substitute powdered ginger-it is not the same flavor}
¼ tsp salt

When the beets have cooled, peel them & cut  into ½” chunks.  Mix the vinegar, sugar, ginger and salt until the sugar dissolves and pour over the beets.  Marinate for at least a couple of hours before eating.

Japanese Cucumber Namasu
Recipe from Hawaii Cook Book {1973}

3 cups very thinly sliced cucumbers
½ tsp salt
1 tsp finely chopped ginger {I like a lot more than this!}
½ cup white wine vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp monosodium glutamate {I never use this.}
Partly peel the cucumbers leaving strips of green, and slice very thin.  Add salt to cucumbers and let stand for 15 minutes.  Combine remaining ingredients.  Press excess liquid from cucumbers and add to sauce.  Chill and serve as a relish or salad.  Sometimes small pieces of thinly sliced mushrooms, carrots or abalone are added to this dish.  I always shredded a carrot & put it in for color.

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Would you pack this vegetable in your lunch?

You know, when you get your first asparagus, or your first acorn squash, or your first really good tomato of the season, those are the moments that define the cook’s year. I get more excited by that than anything else.” by Mario Batali

Raw asparagus in glass final

Asparagus is one of the definitive signs that spring is finally here, along with buttery daffodils, sweet peas and fragrant lilacs.  I don’t notice the change in seasons so much in Maui. Even though the weather does change discernibly in the spring and fall, it isn’t as striking a change as it is in the Pacific Northwest, where we lived before making the wise decision to move back to the Hawaiian Islands.  I’m not aware of daffodils or lilacs growing in Maui, but asparagus makes a springtime appearance at the farmer’s market.  When asparagus comes to you directly from the farmer, you have beautiful dark green spears, just waiting to be roasted in a hot oven, steamed and then adorned with freshly made mayonnaise or aioli or made into a silky soup.  Before we get to the recipe, let us go back to the title of this post.  Would you pack this vegetable in your lunch?  I think you know what I’m referring to here-the totally normal malodorous after effects of eating asparagus.  You may think that you do not have pungent pee after you eat this springtime delicacy, but in fact you do.  However, according to Web MD, only about a quarter of the population has the gene that allows them to detect asparagus’ sulfurous amino acids that break down into smelly chemical components in everyone.  People have noticed this phenomenon for centuries. In 1913 French novelist Marcel Proust noted that asparagus “transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume.” A British men’s club is purported to have put up a sign that said, “During the asparagus season, members are requested not to relieve themselves in the hat stand.”  I am one of the lucky 25% who has the gene and just in case the person who follows me into the ladies’ room does too, I usually choose to enjoy my asparagus at home.  How about you?

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon & Thyme

1 pound asparagus washed & dried, ends trimmed {I snap the stems off at their natural breaking point.}
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground salt & pepper
Fresh thyme sprigs
Thin slices of lemon, halved

Put asparagus on a cookie sheet & drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Roll the asparagus around so that the spears are filmed with oil.  Don’t put too much, or your asparagus will be greasy.  Season with salt & pepper, and then distribute thyme sprigs over all.  Top with thin slices of lemon.  Roast in a 375 degree oven for 7-15 minutes, depending on how thick your asparagus is.  I start checking for doneness around 7 minutes.  I like the asparagus to be tender, but not so tender that it bends when I pick it up.  Be sure to eat the lemon slices with the asparagus {if you have organic you can eat the rind too-it’s good for you}.

Roasted Asparagus final


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Salted Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

“Raisin cookies that look like chocolate chip cookies are the main reason I have trust issues.”  Unknown Author
I’ll start by saying that I’m pretty popular when I take these cookies to work, or to a sunset beach BBQ.  People seem to like them. . . a lot.  I am amazed at how many people screw up their faces when they hear that a sweet treat has salt on it.  There is no surprise here.  Salty + sweet = something delicious.  Case closed.  Remember how good a chocolate milkshake and French fries tastes? Indeed, putting the right kind of salt on your cookie can be quite tasty.  This recipe is an adaptation of Jules Clancy’s {Stone Soup} adaptation of Molly Wizenburg’s {Orangette} recipe.  I have reduced the sugar, changed the flour to whole wheat pastry flour & added walnuts.  I have strong feelings about nuts in cookies.  In my opinion, no self-respecting chocolate chip cookie goes into the oven without nuts {big pieces please, not finely chopped}.  The combination of butter, brown sugar, chocolate and walnuts is one of the tastiest I know.  It’s delicious before and after baking, especially with salt; Maldon salt to be exact.  The dough itself has no salt; it is all on the outside of the cookies.  Big, crunchy flakes of white salt from France.  It isn’t inexpensive salt, but a little goes a long way, and it lasts a long time.  Whatever you do, please do not use the stuff in the blue box.  It will not taste good on your cookies or anything else for that matter.  Once you get used to good salt, there is no going back to iodized table salt.  This recipe goes together quickly, especially if you use a scale instead of measuring cups, and it’s easy to make all the cookies exactly the same size.  Invariably, my balls of dough would vary in size before I started weighing my cookie dough.  Bonus: clean-up goes quicker too!

Salted Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

10 oz. unsalted butter, softened
13 oz. light brown sugar {2 packed cups}
2 eggs
16 oz. whole wheat pastry flour {3 ½ cups + 1 tbsp flour}
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
16 oz. dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate {I use Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chips}
2 cups broken walnuts

Cream the butter & sugar together until light & creamy.  Add eggs & mix until well combined.

Whisk flour, baking powder & baking soda together.

Stir butter mixture into flour just until combined.

Stir in chocolate chips & nuts.  Cover & refrigerate at least 15” but no longer than 72 hours.  The dough is difficult to work with when it is cold, so I like to make the balls while it’s soft, and then refrigerate it.

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment & preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place 1 ½ oz {about golf ball size} balls of dough onto the prepared cookie sheet, allowing room for them to spread.  Sprinkle liberally with Maldon salt flakes.  {I sprinkle the cookie sheet with salt before putting the dough balls on it.}

Maldon_Salt

I start checking for doneness at 10” and usually bake them about 14”. I declare them done when the outside edges are set & the center is still moist; this will give you a cookie that is crispy on the edge & soft in the middle, just the way I like it. When baking on 2 trays, reverse cookie sheets’ positions halfway through baking. Cool cookies on the tray.

Makes about 24 cookies

Salted Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies on plate

Some people like their cookies with milk, but I’ll have mine with a nice cup of tea.

Up close chocolate chip cookie with Maldon salt

Take a look at that big flake of French salt!

I hope you’ll bake a batch of these cookies for the chocolate chip cookie lovers  you know; they will love you for it.  And I’m sure you won’t mind either!


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Butter & Buttercups

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”      James Beard (1903-1985)

My family is from the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, where I lived for just a few years as a child, because my dad was in the Air Force, so we moved around every four years or so.  The saying in my family was that if you held a buttercup flower under your chin, it meant you liked butter.  Of course, I tried it, and my chin glowed buttercup yellow.  Whose wouldn’t?  But it’s a nice thought.

Buttercups

There are those, like my husband, who like the butter to melt into the toast.  I prefer thin, cold slices of butter sitting on my toast, so I know that the butter is really there; I can see it.  I’m like my dad that way.  Of course, I would prefer thick slices of butter, thick enough for my teeth to sink into it, but all things in moderation, at least most of the time.  I generally use unsalted butter for baking.  But for buttering bread, frying eggs or buttering potatoes I’ll take delicious organic pasture butter.  What is pasture butter?  Pasture butter is made from organically raised cows who nosh on what cows are supposed to eat, grass.  It is a starred food from The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: the Surprising, Unbiased Truth about What You Should Eat and Why {Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.} which I talk about on my Useful Resources page.  Imagine my delight when I saw butter as a starred food; pure joy! Bowden recommends butter from pasture-fed, organically raised cows as a “good fat, alongside nuts, eggs, fish, coconut, avocados and certain oils.”  Mary Enig, Ph.D., one of the country’s most respected lipid biochemists, points out that “butter has been used for centuries and that 30% of the fat from butter is from monounsaturated fat {the same kind that’s in olive oil}.”  Enig states that it is a good source of CLAs {conjugated linoleic acid}, which have anticarcinogenic properties and glycolipids, which have anti-infective properties.  I’m not advocating eating huge amounts of butter, but a little here and there adds enjoyment to one’s dining pleasure, and eating should be a pleasurable experience.

A simple & delicious way to use butter: Mash a clove of garlic into a paste & add it to softened butter.  Mix in salt to taste & whatever finely minced fresh herbs strike your fancy.  Lemon/lime juice or zest to taste is nice.  Add some freshly ground pepper too, if you are so inclined.  Delicious on bread, potatoes, popcorn, fish, etc.  I just made the herb butter below with garlic, chives, marjoram, lime juice, freshly ground pepper & flaky sea salt to taste {I used Maldon, my favorite flaky sea salt!}.

Herb Butter

Information from:  The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: the Surprising, Unbiased Truth about What You Should Eat and Why by Jonny Bowden


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Jack the Kitchen Supervisor

When I was young, I loved to watch my Dad shave or to be in the kitchen with my Mom while she was cooking.  Our cat, Jack, loves to be with us in the kitchen when we are preparing our meals.  He enjoys looking out of the kitchen window, but he isn’t allowed in the window when it’s time to cook because he has to walk on the counter to get to the window.  Of course, we sanitize the counter before we start to cook, & then Jack settles in on his Kitchen Supervisor Chair.  He seems to know when he his relegated to the chair & is content to keep an eye on things until it’s time for him to eat, which isn’t nearly as often as he would like.

Jack Looking through the chair

 


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Did You Know?

Did you know. . .

………that small onions are better for you than large onions, and that the more pungent the onion the better it is for you?  According to Jo Robinson author of Eating on the Wild Side, food scientists have discovered that small onions have less water, and therefore a higher concentration of phytonutrients.  Although sweet onions are tasty & easy to eat, they do not provide the same health benefits, such as thinning the blood, as the stronger varieties do.  Slicing pungent onions super thin makes them easier to eat raw on sandwiches, salads, etc.  Eat onions & eat them often!

 


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Immersion Blenders

immersion blenderWhat is an immersion blender & why would you want one?  An immersion blender is a kitchen tool that makes quick work of blending soups, sauces & other liquids in the container in which they are being prepared.  Instead of dragging out your blender  to puree a hot soup, using an immersion blender allows you to puree your soup right in the pot.  That means less clean up, because you generally can’t puree the whole pot of soup in the blender, so you have to do it in batches, which means. . .more dirty dishes.

Your immersion blender may be cute & colorful, but it is not a toy.  Use it carefully, so you stay out of the emergency room.

A side effect of immersion blending can be spattering-be prepared.  A handy trick to reduce spattering is to tip the pan, so that the soup collects on one side of the pot, then blend.