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 kitchen, reasonably enough, was the scene of my first gastronomic adventure. I was on all fours. I crawled into the vegetable bin, settled on a giant onion and ate it, skin and all. It must have marked me for life, for I have never ceased to love the hearty flavor of raw onions.”  James Beard (1903-1985)

First of all, I have to tell you that I am super excited about the class that I signed up for, which starts this Tuesday!  It’s called Science & Cooking:  from Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science.  It is offered through Harvard {yes, that Harvard!} and it’s free.  Scientists and chefs will be getting together to teach this course about the science of cooking.  Check it out!

This week’s farmers market find- freshly dug sweet Maui onions!  Yum!  We have been waiting for these & now they are here.

Group of Maui onions 1 Just about everyone has an opinion about onions.  We go through a lot of onions at our house, which is a good thing, because onions are a healthy food to eat, and they add great flavor to food. Group of Maui onions 3 We love all kinds of onions- green onions {aka scallions}, shallots, leeks, white onions, pearl onions, yellow onions and sweet onions {Maui, Walla Walla, Texas Sweets, Vidalia, etc.}.  They can be enjoyed raw, cooked or caramelized so that they are brown, sweet and jammy. Closeup of peeled  new Maui onion This onion was delicious in a salad with arugula, steamed beets and thinnings from the basil seeds I planted a few weeks ago {apologies to those who will not be growing basil outside for awhile!}.

Young Basil Seedlings 1

I hadn’t thought to pair basil with arugula, but it was a good match.  I consulted the Flavor Bible, which is one of my favorite books, and that is where I saw that basil and arugula go well together. Arugula salad with basil thinnings I dressed this salad with my usual arugula salad dressing of fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground salt and pepper. Closeup of arugula salad with basil trimmings I have not always been an onion lover.  Like many kids, I ate my spaghetti with butter {I still love noodles with butter!}, salt and pepper.  I don’t remember if I had cheese on it, but if so, I’m sure it was that awful stuff in the green cylindrical can; you know the one to which I’m referring.  I think it was the onions in the spaghetti sauce to which my immature palate was objecting, but I’m not really sure why I didn’t want to eat spaghetti sauce.  I had no problem eating chili or beef stew, which definitely contained onions.  My mom’s {and now my recipe} delicious potato salad was eaten {by me} before the celery and onions went in.  It must have been the crunch, in addition to the onions, that I did not care for.  Crunch did not belong in creamy soft potato salad, in my opinion.  Mind you, I was not really a picky eater.  I ate just about everything, except celery, onions and this dressing that my grandmother made to dress dandelion greens.  It was some kind of cooked dressing, and I really did not like it.  In fact, I amazed my relatives with the quantities of food I consumed.  “Does she have a hollow leg?” they wondered.  “Where does she put it?” they inquired. Raw onions became a part of my diet in my early 20’s, when my husband returned from a business trip to Atlanta, GA with a sack of Vidalia onions.  He bought them at the airport, like tourists buy Maui pineapples at the Kahului Airport.  Boy, were those onions ever good; nice and sweet and perfect mingling in a bowl with sliced cucumbers, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  My mom makes great cucumbers and onions with apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper; I’m sure I just ate the cucumbers way back when.  Now, I can’t get enough onions.  Thankfully, most kids grow up and expand their food horizons to include foods they wouldn’t touch in their youth, but now find delicious. Several techniques can be employed to make onions more palatable, as well as make them more suitable for a particular dish.  The way an onion is cut makes a huge difference on how it tastes in any given recipe.  Click here to view a Fine Cooking video on a few different onion cutting techniques. I usually cut onions 4 different ways: Large Dice– Large dice is great for onions that will be cooked in spaghetti sauce, stew, vegetable soups, this quesadilla filling and that type of thing.  The large dice holds its shape during cooking, but at the end will be soft and pleasant to eat. large dice onion Minced- Minced onions belong in guacamole, potato salad, coleslaw, some bean salads and places where you don’t want to bite into a big piece of raw onion, especially when that onion isn’t a sweet variety. Minced onions Lyonnaise– Lyonnaise is also called “pole to pole” because you are cutting the onion in crescent shapes from the root end to the blossom end.  It is my favorite way to cut onions!  I love this cut for green salads, cucumbers and onions, pickled beets and recipes where I want to see the onion, and taste it, but not have big chunks.  When I cut this way, I always thinly slice the onions if they are to be served raw.  Even a strong onion {i.e. not a sweet variety} is palatable when thinly cut pole to pole. Lyonnaise cut onions 3 Sliced- Sliced onions are cut across the equator, and are great served raw or caramelized on a burger, sub {hoagie, grinder, etc.} or other sandwich.  I think onions for sandwiches should always be sliced paper thin; pile them on, but they must be thin or they will slide right off {Tomatoes too should be thinly sliced, but my mom will disagree with me here.} Sliced red onions If you are tired of your green onion slices rolling off the cutting board, try slitting the white part of the onion lengthwise, so you have half-moon slices-no more mischievous onion slices rolling around!

Not just a tasty vegetable and seasoning for many foods, onions have numerous health benefits.  Click on this link to the National Onion Association for nutritional information, tips and recipes.

This is  how one amongst us spent his day. . . not an ounce of friskiness in this pussycat! Jack napping

How do you enjoy onions?

Bon appetit!

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“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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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