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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The Anatomy of a Simple Summer Salad

“Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”  ~ modified from Edward Stanley

Tis the season for salads!  Welcome Summer!  Even here in Maui, where it always feels like summer during the day, we have growing seasons for our locally grown fruits and vegetables.  Truth be told, we eat salads all year long, and did even in the depths {and despair} of cold, rainy Pacific Northwest winters {paired with something hot and hearty, of course}.  The fresh flavors and textures of salads, created from myriad ingredients, including vegetables, fruits, herbs and grains cannot be beat. Salads need not be complicated to be delicious.  They can be as simple as arugula with thinly sliced onion, salt, pepper, fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.  This is one of my favorite flavor combinations.  Today’s lunch salad was not only gorgeous, it was a gastronomic delight!  Select whatever greens you like, but I think it is best with a tender lettuce like red leaf, Manoa, butter or some other soft variety.  Once you cut the fruit off the mango, use your impeccably clean hands to squeeze the pit, because it will release a lot of delicious juice that will become part of the dressing; I hold it over my salad and squeeze until it has given up all it has to give.   It is impossible to cut every bit of flesh off of a mango, so this is my way of getting every last bit of goodness from this tasty fruit.

 

Salad with steak, purslane & cilantro blossoms

 Salad of Greens, Mangoes, Tomatoes, Purslane and Steak

Salad greens, washed and spun dry {your choice}
Green onions, thinly sliced
Tomatoes, diced
Mangoes, diced
Steak, cut into bite size pieces
Cilantro leaves, fronds & blossoms
Purslane clusters
Champagne vinegar, or other mild white vinegar {white wine, unseasoned rice}
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Put greens in a bowl and top with onions, tomatoes & their juices, mangoes and steak.  Top with a few purslane clusters and cilantro leaves, fronds & blossoms.  Season salad with salt and pepper.  Squeeze the mango pit over the salad to release all the juice you can.  Drizzle with champagne vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to taste.  Enjoy!

Notes:

  • If you don’t have green onions, a sweet onion like Maui, Vidalia, Walla Walla Sweet, etc. would be delicious.
  • Add any protein you want, or none at all.  Chicken, salmon or shrimp would all be nice.
  • I used cilantro fronds & blossoms because I have one overachieving plant that has outgrown all the others, which are too small to harvest, and I am trying to use the whole plant.  Use whatever you have.  Mint and/or basil would be fabulous!
  • If you don’t have purslane in your garden, try to get some from the farmers’ market.  If you see little black seeds around the leaves, lucky you!  Plant those seeds and grow your own purslane, which is what I did.  It is doing quite well, thank you very much.
  • Papaya would also be good in this salad, but you won’t have any juice like with mango.
cilantro plant

Cilantro-don’t forget to use the fronds and blossoms; they are pretty & delicious!

purslaneplant

Purslane is easy to grow. In fact, you may have some in your yard, as it is considered a weed {a healthy weed}.

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“Good soup is one of the prime ingredients of good living.  For soup can do more to lift the spirits and stimulate the appetite than any other one dish.”    Louis P. De Gouy, ‘The Soup Book’ (1949)

Have you noticed a change in the weather in your area?  Maybe the mornings are a bit dewier than they were last month, and a sweater hits the spot in the evening.  We have noticed that the mornings and evenings are a little cooler here on Maui, even though the days feel about the same, nice and warm.  The first day of autumn is just around the corner {9/22}, which means it’s time to get out the soup pot.  Our soup pot is never far from the stove.  Even though we live on Maui, we eat a lot of soup, and surprisingly most of it hot soup, not cold.  We live at about 1200 feet altitude, on the slopes of Haleakala Volcano, so it is often cool enough to enjoy soup, especially when the trade winds are blowing, as they are now.  While it may feel warm outside in the sun, the breeze can feel cool in the house.  We eat soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The soups we enjoy are all healthy; they are full of vegetables, high in vitamins and minerals and nutrient dense.   I realize that people who live in places with 3 or 4 seasons probably don’t eat much hot soup in the summer, but like I said earlier, ready or not, autumn is on its way.

If you haven’t made home made soup, I encourage you to try out a few recipes; you will be rewarded with several delicious meals that don’t have to be complicated to prepare.  There are some elaborate soup recipes out there, but the ones I make are pretty straightforward.  I assure you that the soup you create from top notch fresh ingredients will be far superior to any soup you get from a can.

This minestrone is one of our new favorite soups, and I highly recommend it.  This is the link to the original; what follows is my adaptation.

Lentil, Celery and Tomato Minestrone

adapted from the recipe by Martha Rose Shulman, who is the author of “The Very Best of Recipes for Health.”

1 cup lentils, rinsed
1 onion, halved
A bouquet garni made with 2 sprigs each thyme and parsley, a bay leaf, and a Parmesan rind
1 1/2 quarts water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 medium carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced {mince & let sit for 10 minutes for health benefits}
Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with liquid
Pinch of sugar
3 tablespoons tomato paste
About 1/2 small head of green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Very thinly sliced celery, from the inner heart, for garnish
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
1. Combine the lentils, 1/2 onion and the bouquet garni with 1 quart water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add salt to taste, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

2. Chop the remaining onion. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes, and add the garlic and a pinch of salt. Stir together until fragrant, about 1 minute, and add the canned tomatoes with their liquid and the sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down somewhat and smell fragrant.

3. Add the lentils with their broth, the tomato paste, salt to taste, an additional 2 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. During the last 10 minutes, add the cabbage.  Taste and adjust seasonings. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper, stir in the parsley and serve, garnishing each bowl with thinly sliced celery heart if you want some crunch, and passing the Parmesan at the table.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6Celery Minestrone Ready to Eat

Like most soup, this is even better the next day.

Nutritional information per serving (4 servings): 276 calories; 4 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 49 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams dietary fiber; 392 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 17 grams protein

Nutritional information per serving (6 servings): 184 calories; 2 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 0 grams polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 32 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams dietary fiber; 261 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 11 grams protein

Notes:

* You may use any lentils that you like.  I usually use brown lentils, but if you like your lentils to hold their shape, you may want to use the French green lentils {lentils du puy}.

* I highly recommend the celery & Parmesan garnish.  Generally speaking, I find that if a recipe has a garnish, it’s best to put in the extra effort to put it on your soup.  A garnish can take your soup to a higher level!

*Please, please, please do not use what they call “Parmesan cheese” that comes in the green can!  Use the real thing; if you don’t use the real thing, you won’t have the Parmesan rind which adds a huge amount of flavor to your soup.  It really does make a difference!  Get more ideas on using Parmesan rinds to elevate your dishes to a whole other level here.

* If you do not have any kitchen twine, put it on your shopping list, and then you can tie your bouquet garni with a green onion top or chive {don’t tie too tight or they will break!}.

Bon appetit!


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Salad with Purslane & Ribbons of Parmesan

“When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it.  If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.”  Author Unknown

I do not know if purslane comes out of the ground easily or not, but I have seen it defined both as a weed and a valuable plant.  Purslane is purported to be a healthy plant that we should be enjoying.  It is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  Check out the articles at the end of this post if you would like to read more about purslane’s health benefits.  My husband bought our first bunch of purslane 2 weeks ago, at the Upcountry Farmers Market.  It’s great!  What I like most about purslane is its chew, due to the fact that it is a succulent.  I think it has a subtle flavor, not at all assertive, but just tasty. . .green.  Apparently it grows everywhere, but I can’t say I’ve encountered any on my walks around Pukalani, where we live.  You will most likely not find purslane at your local grocery store, but look for it at your farmers market.  Or grow it yourself; from what I’ve read, it is easy to grow.

When I cleaned the first bunch of purslane, I meticulously removed the leaves from the stems.  I discovered on the second bunch that “de-leafing” {is that a word??} the stems is not necessary, and that the stems also add a bit of chew to a salad.  The leaves are in clusters on the stems, so that makes them pretty in a salad.

Salad with Purslane & Ribbons of Parmesan

This is not a tossed salad, but more of a composed salad, which I think is prettiest served on a plate. The ingredients are few and the salad is delicious.  When you start with excellent ingredients, you do not need much to create great food.

Place a layer of tender lettuce on a plate.  Some good choices are Bibb, Manoa or red leaf.  A crunchy lettuce like romaine doesn’t work in this salad.  Texture is important in this recipe; there is a pleasant “chew” but it isn’t a crunchy salad.

Top the lettuce with some onion that you have sliced paper thin.  Use whatever type of onion you prefer, although I wouldn’t choose green onions for this.  Slicing the onion super thin makes it seem less pungent, making it easier to eat for the “non-onion types.”

Now add a scattering of paper thin purple cabbage.

Top with purslane, preferably in clusters of leaves, as opposed to individual leaves; this adds to the salad’s texture.

Sprinkle the salad with some pumpkin seeds that you have pan roasted, preferably in coconut oil.

Season the salad with freshly ground salt and pepper, then sprinkle with fresh lemon juice {about 1/4 of a juicy lemon per salad} and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil.  Use a light hand with the dressing, as you don’t want your salad to be swimming in dressing.

Finally, take a vegetable peeler and shave some nice ribbons of fresh parmesan cheese over the salad.

Salad with Purslane and Ribbons of Parmesan

Related articles

Bon appetit!


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A Farmers Market with a View

Are you one of the regulars at your local farmers market?  If not, try to shop directly from your local farmers soon-you won’t be sorry.  If you are, good for you!

Here are some scenes from the Upcountry Maui Farmers Market:

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Tips for Shopping Your Farmers Market

The early bird catches the worm, so get there early !
~ Some vendors sell items that are highly sought after {i.e. fresh fish, asparagus, etc}; they will sell out quickly.  If you want something that is a hot seller, you had better get there early, or you just might be out of luck & have to settle for next best.

Bring cash, more than you think you will need {so you don’t need to worry about running out}, in small denominations
~ Vendors aren’t going to have the cash to make change if lots of people give them large bills.  Try to have small bills/change as much as possible.

Be friendly!
~ Most of the folks you will encounter at the farmers market are looking for the same things you are looking for-high quality foods for reasonable prices.  Just about anything is more fun with a smile.

Take plastic/cloth bags for your produce.
~ Many vendors do not provide bags.  Find some big bags & reuse them.  For example, Swiss chard does not fit in a gallon bag, so it is nice to have the larger bags.  Big beautiful heads of lettuce need a big bag too, so they don’t get crunched up.  You can put multiple things in each bag, and separate them when you get home.

You will need something in which to carry your purchases.
~ Some people use bags, while others have cool baskets to carry their market finds home.

Get to know your vendors; develop a relationship with the vendors you like to patronize.
~ When the vendor knows that you are a regular customer, you may get an extra eggplant, or they will select the best head of lettuce for you.
~ You may get a better price.
~ It’s fun to get to know the people who are working hard to provide you with the food you will eat that week.
~ If you see something you don’t recognize, ask your farmer how she likes to eat it.  Give it a try, and then report back the following week.

Relax & have fun purchasing healthy foods to nourish your body!

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”    Julia Child

Ruffled Pink Hibiscus final

I left early for my walk this morning, though not as early as I should have.  I departed at 7:30, but the sun felt sizzling hot, just like it did yesterday, although today there was a nice cloud that stole the sizzle every now and then; I like that on a hot day.  The difference from yesterday’s walk is I left 3 hours earlier today, and yesterday’s walk ended up at the community swimming pool, while today’s walk ended up in the kitchen. For me, both are excellent destinations.  Following is a run-down of my kitchen adventures with recipes.

Upon returning from my 3.4 mile walk, I made some freezy Banana Mocha Frozen Yogurt with Crunchy Walnuts, satisfying & scrumptious.  Did I mention that it’s hot today?  This little snack really hit the spot & helped me to cool off.  It’s not super frozen, but more of a soft serve that tastes enough like ice cream to satisfy me.  You can put it in the freezer if you want it firmer.  If you leave it in the freezer until it freezes solid, you can bring it back to creaminess by whizzing it in the food processor again.  I find it easier to just make it and eat it right away, or within an hour or two.  My recipe is an adaptation of a tasty vegan Banana Soft Serve; find that recipe here.  After you look at the Banana Soft Serve recipe, take a spin around the Choosing Raw blog; Gena has lots of fabulous recipes.  You do not need to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy her site.

Banana Mocha Frozen Yogurt with Crunchy Walnuts
¾ cup plain, unsweetened yogurt {We use Nancy’s Plain Yogurt in the 64 ounce container.  Our yogurt is nonfat or low fat, whichever one has the latest pull date.}
1 ½ frozen bananas cut into small pieces {When our bananas are getting too ripe, we peel them, cut them in half and freeze them on a cookie sheet.  Pop them into a freezer bag, and they are ready for banana bread, banana muffins, smoothies, “frozen yogurt” and whatever else you might fancy.}
1 tsp cocoa powder {like Hershey’s}
¼ tsp espresso powder
Grind or pinch of sea salt {brings out the flavor}
20 chocolate chips {preferably dark chocolate, because it’s healthier}

Put the yogurt, cocoa powder, espresso powder and salt in a food processor or high speed blender.  I have a little Cuisinart mini food processor that works great.  Pulse a few times to mix. Add chocolate chips and ½ a banana and pulse to get things going.  Once the first banana is blended in, you can add the rest of the banana pieces and process until smooth.  Top with crunchy walnuts or your nut of choice and enjoy.

I do not put any sweetener in this recipe, because the bananas are sweet enough for our tastes.  We have been eating plain yogurt for a long time, and find the sweetened stuff way too sweet.  If you need sweetening, try a little maple syrup or honey.

Banana Mocha Frozen Yogurt

The cilantro is washed & happy in its jar, which was formerly the home of kalamata olives.
Cilantro in Kalamata Jar final

Dandelion greens {a new favorite of ours} have been cleaned and are ready for salad with mustard vinaigrette.  This is my gateway recipe for mustard vinaigrette, from A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg. I love this book, and her blog Orangette.  I highly recommend that you stop by when you have a minute; you will be happy you did.  She tells great stories and her recipes are wonderful.

Dandelion Greens

Mustard Vinaigrette {from A Homemade Life}
In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp Dijon mustard and 1 tbsp + 2tsp red wine vinegar.  Add 3 tbsp olive oil & whisk well to emulsify {thicken}.

I actually just wing making mustard vinaigrette now; I start with a big plop of Dijon {smooth or grainy}, minced shallot, garlic {mashed to a paste with a little kosher salt} & vinegar of choice {I use Bragg’s apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar, and occasionally I will use balsamic with a squeeze of lemon.}.  Whisk together to combine and then whisk in olive oil until it is the consistency you like.  If it is too sharp for your taste, add a little honey.

I steamed some asparagus, which we enjoyed with a dollop of freshly made mayonnaise, freshly ground salt & pepper.

Mayonnaise {adapted from The Best Recipe by Cook’s Illustrated}
1 egg {pasteurized if you are worried about eating raw egg}
2 tsp white wine vinegar
5 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice {original recipe is 3 tsp}
about 2 tsp Dijon mustard {I don’t measure, but just put in a nice plop; original recipe is ½ tsp}
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups neutral oil {I use canola}

Put egg, vinegar, lemon juice and salt in bowl of food processor.  Pulse a few times to mix.  Turn on the processor and drizzle in oil, until all of it has been added.  My Cuisinart’s feed tube has a hole in it, so I just fill it with oil until it’s all in, and then turn off the processor.  I don’t like the mayonnaise to be super stiff, so I turn off the processor as soon as all the oil is in.

There was a bit of broccoli, not your “regular” broccoli, but something like broccoli rabe, leftover in the refrigerator, so we ate it in the same way as the asparagus.  Delicious!

Broccoli Rabe final

The beets are tender now, from their time in the steamer.  Not sure if I will get to it today, but I am going to make Beet Namasu.  This is our new favorite way to enjoy pickled beets.

P.S. I did not get to making Beet Namasu.  We went out for pizza & beer at Flatbread Pizza Company in Paia.  Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

Jack on his afghan finalThis is the reason I weigh close to 20 pounds; I lounge about most of the day!


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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