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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“Cheese – milk’s leap toward immortality.”  Clifton Fadiman

Before we get to tonight’s dinner, these quesadillas, I have some lovely flower pictures from today’s walk to share with you.


And now for the quesadillas!

quesadilla on plate

There are quesadillas, and then there are quesadillas worth eating.  If you would like a quesadilla that is more than a white flour tortilla filled with melted cheese, then keep reading.

Our quesadillas are filled with cooked spinach or Swiss chard {a lot of it}, roasted peppers & cheese.

We love quesadillas and have been tweaking our current recipe for over 5 years, and think they are now just about perfect.  There have been several versions of this recipe, each change making an improvement on an already good thing.  It is our favorite meal to cook, and one we make weekly.  This is truly a “team meal” for us.  I prep everything and my husband does the cooking.  While he is cooking, I clean everything up so that we only have 2 plates to wash when we’re finished eating.  We are a well-oiled machine when it comes to making quesadillas!

Before I get into the details of how to make these scrumptious quesadillas, I should tell you about the tortillas we use.  We eat food that is good for us {at least 95% of the time}, so it was important to find tortillas that are healthy and taste good.  Often times, breads that are healthy taste like cardboard, or if you’re lucky, hay.

Perhaps you have had the unfortunate experience of buying tortillas for a recipe, and then having them go moldy in the refrigerator.  These are the tortillas that we like & here is how we take care of them so they are ready when we want a quesadilla or a wrap.

Fresh Tortillas in Bag  These are tasty tortillas that we can feel good about eating!

blog freezing tortillas  Stagger your tortillas on a cookie sheet & freeze.  They will curl a little, but you can easily put them bag into the bag you bought them in.  They won’t stick together like they would if you just put the whole bag in the freezer.  I used to separate them with a piece of wax paper; totally unnecessary!  When you are ready to use them, put them on a plate, and flip them a few times while they thaw, so that they aren’t as curled.

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Quesadillas with Spinach {or Swiss chard} & Roasted Peppers

This is more of a guideline than a specific recipe, as far as amounts are concerned.  Feel free to adjust quantities & ingredients to your liking!

2 large whole grain tortillas

2 quarts raw spinach or Swiss chard, washed carefully and thoroughly dried, then cut into strips {I mince the stems & sauté them with onions, jalapenos & garlic}

Peppers, cut so that they are in relatively flat pieces {bell peppers, poblanos or Anaheims are all great here}; we use 1 bell pepper, or about 3 smaller size peppers

1/2 small onion, finely diced

1 jalapeno, finely diced {add more or less depending on how much heat you like}; or you can use dried red pepper flakes, Serrano peppers, etc.

3 cloves garlic, minced & allowed to sit for 10 minutes {to achieve the health benefits}

Approximately 4 ounces of cheese, thinly sliced {we like Gruyere because it is a delicious low fat cheese that melts well}

The most time consuming part of this recipe is the prep; once everything is sliced and diced you are ready to put your quesadillas together.

Spray a large pan with pan spray, and then add a film of olive oil.  Sauté the peppers over medium heat, until they have a bit of color and are beginning to get tender.  They do not have to be completely tender.  Remove peppers to a plate lined with a paper towel, and blot to absorb any extra oil.

In the same pan, sauté the onion, jalapeno, garlic and stems over medium heat until almost tender. Add the leaves and toss everything together for about a minute, or until leaves are just wilted.  Remove from the heat.  The leaves should be glossy, dark green and gorgeous.

You are now ready to put your quesadillas together!

Place tortilla on a dinner plate.  On half the tortilla, place the cheese, top with peppers and then the greens. Spray a skillet {we use cast iron} with pan spray and then film with olive oil.  Fold the tortilla in half and put in the skillet preheated to medium to medium-low.  The objective is to crisp the tortilla, heat everything through, melding the cheese with the greens and peppers, without burning the tortilla.  Flip the quesadillas several times;  if you flip one, flip the other.  My husband, the quesadilla cook, said he flips them at least 3 or 4 times.  Adjust the heat so that they do not brown too quickly on one side.  Serve them with the cheese on top, so gravity can draw it down through the greens and peppers.

Cut into thirds or fourths & eat immediately.  I cut the quesadillas with my kitchen shears, cutting through the top tortilla first, and then cut the bottom tortilla with the filling; this ensures the filling not squishing out when you cut them.  We eat ours with Tapatio Hot Sauce {a lot of it!}, and sometimes with a little sour cream or plain yogurt {ok, I sometimes put plain yogurt on mine}.

Notes:
My husband says that a nice glass of red wine is really nice while you are cooking these, and I concur!
* We tried soft goat cheese in these, but weren’t crazy with the results.  We love goat cheese, but not here.
* Go easy on the oil-you don’t want your quesadillas to be greasy.
* Be sure your greens are thoroughly dry, so that they aren’t too wet {soggy quesadillas not great}
* Use a sturdy tortilla.  We tried brown rice tortillas, and while they were super tasty, they cracked right down the middle when we folded them.
* The first time you make these, you may want to make a thinner quesadilla, for ease in turning.  They can be a bit tricky to turn over.
* Jarred roasted peppers are fine!  Before we moved to Maui, we used the jarred piquillo peppers from Trader Joe’s.
* I LOVE a good mouth burn, and usually get one with these quesadillas.  But if you don’t, leave out the hot peppers, simple as that.
* If your quesadilla is a little spicier than you like, sour cream or plain yogurt cools it off very nicely.

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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“Large, naked, raw carrots are acceptable as food only to those who live in hutches eagerly awaiting Easter.”  Fran Lebowitz

I’m okay with raw carrots, I really am.  But I think carrots really sing when they are cooked.  They belt out their ultimate deliciousness when they are roasted.

You know how roasting vegetables caramelizes them and makes them nice and sweet?  And tender and delicious?  Well, dribble some coconut oil and a heavy dusting of Moroccan spices into the mix and you’ve got a winner.  I would be proud to serve these vegetables to anyone.  Next time I will add some chunks of onion and garlic.  Make a lot, because you will not want to run out.  Consider yourself warned!

Roasted carrots and potatoes with Moroccan spices final
Roasted Potatoes & Carrots with Coconut Oil & Moroccan Spices

1 large potato {peeled if not organic}, cut into chunks
3 large carrots {peeled if not organic}, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
Coconut oil
Freshly ground salt & pepper
Moroccan Spice Mix {recipe below}
2 cloves of garlic, mashed into a paste

Cut the potatoes, carrots & onions into pieces that will cook in about the same amount of time.  Put in a bowl large enough to comfortably {& neatly} toss the vegetables with the coconut oil & seasonings.  Start with about 1 tbsp. of coconut oil; if that coats all the vegetables nicely, then that’s enough-you don’t want greasy vegetables.  Season with plenty of freshly ground salt and pepper, and a generous dose of the Moroccan Spice Mix.  Line a sheet pan with foil, then spray with pan spray to prevent sticking {I used coconut oil spray}.  Arrange the vegetables on the pan in a single layer.  Roast in a 375 degree oven, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.  You can leave them in for a while after they are tender, because they will turn a lovely golden brown, which makes them super tasty.  When they are golden brown, put them back into the big bowl.  Add the garlic paste and mix it all up.  The heat from the vegetables will cook the garlic and impart a delectable garlic flavor.

Serves about 3 roasted vegetable lovers

Moroccan Spice Mix

2 tsp ground cumin {preferably whole seeds toasted, then ground}
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chili powder  {I used my homemade chili powder; use whatever chili powder you like}
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Pinch of ground cloves
Mix it all up & store in a tightly lidded jar.

Homemade Chili Powder

3 T sweet paprika
1 T ground cumin {preferably whole seeds toasted, then ground}
2 T oregano {preferably Mexican}
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder {yes, there is the occasional use for garlic powder!}
1 whole dry ancho chile, broken up
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 tsp coriander seed

Put all ingredients into a small food processor or blender, and process until the pieces of ancho chile are ground.  Store in a tightly lidded jar.

Bon Appetit!


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“Reach as high as you can, and then reach a little higher.  There you will find magic and possibility.  And maybe even cookies.”  Marc Johns

If you have ever landed at an airport in Hawaii, one of the first things you probably noticed while walking through the naturally air conditioned part of the airport, is the balmy air and the sweet scent of tropical blossoms.  I love that!

large jasmine treeI am fairly certain that this tree is responsible for the sweet scents of jasmine flowers wafting into our house.  Sometimes the fragrance floats in on gentle trade winds, and other times on blustery winds that are commonly felt {and heard} in Pukalani.  A little jasmine aromatherapy while you are washing dishes or on a walk is a pleasant reminder that you live in paradise!

Jasmine

Sauteed Green BeansI made these green beans last night. . .they are. . .in a word. . .amazing.  There is a high probability that I will never, ever steam green beans again.  Unless the planets line up just so, I will probably never, ever blanch and then sauté green beans again.  I sautéed my beans in a smidgen of Organic Valley Pasture Butter {1 tbsp to be precise}, in my trusty cast iron skillet, over medium high heat.  I stirred them around until they started to sizzle and develop a tasty char, and then covered them for about 5 minutes, until they were perfectly cooked.  Into the pan went a minced clove of garlic and some crunchy fleur de sel.  The result was a mélange of delicious flavors from the butter, the perfectly cooked beans, crispy garlic bits and crunchy salt.  These beans were polished off quickly, and will be made again and again.

Last week, I made these delicious cookies to take to work.  I had a whole plateful of them. . .apricot bars topped with sliced almonds and sprinkled ever so lightly with gold pearl dust powder. . .on a coral plate. . .they looked gorgeous.  And guess who forgot to photograph them for her blog?  Didn’t even occur to me until I was washing my empty plate.  So 3 days later, I made them again, and took them to work {the people who were there both days were happy!}.   I decided to carry them in the 8″x8″ dish I made them in, for easier transport; not as pretty as a coral plate for sure.  So I took a few out and put them on a coral plate to photograph.  This picture does not do them justice, and for that I apologize, but I assure you they are quite spectacular to eat.  Next time I make them, I will repost this recipe with a beautiful picture of these cookies in all their splendor.  Hmmm, when should I make them again?

apricot bars

Apricot Bars

About 18 graham crackers
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
6 tbsp butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs from about 8 full sheets
3/4 cup sliced almonds
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes {shreds will work, but I like flakes better}
3/4 cup chopped apricots

Line the bottom of 8 or 9 inch square baking pan with graham crackers. You can put 3 full sheets in one direction, and then fill the remaining space with however many crackers will fit.

Combine milk, water and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture comes to a full boil; remove from heat, stir in butter.  When the butter is almost melted, stir in graham cracker crumbs, sliced almonds, unsweetened flaked coconut and apricots {read a short bit about the difference between California dried apricots and Turkish dried apricots-we prefer California apricots}.  Spread hot mixture over graham crackers. Top with 9 more graham crackers. Press down until even and firm.  Top with icing, then sprinkle with sliced almonds.  I happen to have pearl dust, so sometimes I like to sprinkle a little golden shimmer over the top-very pretty.

Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp soft butter
½ tsp almond extract {don’t be temped to use vanilla; the almond extract makes these cookies}
About 1 tbsp milk

Beat together adding milk as needed. Sprinkle with sliced nuts if desired. Chill until firm.  These cookies improve with age, so don’t gobble them up too early.  Cut into small squares.

Reading: 
Vegetable Literacy {Deborah Madison}
Eating on the Wild Side {Jo Robinson}
Yes, Chef! {Marcus Samuelsson}

Musically Speaking-On the Playlist:
Alt-J

Matthew Dear
Underworld
Jaguar Ma


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In honor of Julia Child, who would be 101 years of age on 15 August 2013. . .
. . .”This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”  Julia Child My Life in France 

There was some beautiful produce plus one unusual {at least for us} item at the farmers market today.

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After work last Tuesday, we received an invitation to Kamaole 3 Beach Park for a sunset BBQ on Wednesday.  “Yes! Yes! Yes!” was the reply to the invite.  We jump at any opportunity to have a sunset beach BBQ; good friends, good food & gorgeous scenery is only a 40 minute drive away.  I made this chocolate cake to share.  The cake is delicious & quick & easy to make.  It’s not a fancy cake, but then I’m not a fancy baker.  Decorated cakes are lovely, but I am not big on decorating my cakes.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Chocolate Sheet Cake adapted from In the Sweet Kitchen: the Definitive Baker’s Companion

Cake:
3 c flour {I use whole wheat pastry flour}
1 3/4 c sugar
1/2 c natural unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Ghiradelli or Hershey’s
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
12 T vegetable oil
2 T white vinegar
2 t vanilla
2 c cool water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda & salt to an ungreased 9”x11” baking dish.  Stir well to mix.  With the back of a spoon, make three indentations or wells in the dry mixture: one large, one medium & one small.  Into the large well, pour the vegetable oil.  Into the medium well, pour the vinegar.  Into the small well, pour the vanilla.  Pour the water over everything.  With a fork, stir the mixture until the ingredients are well-blended, making sure you reach the corners & sides to catch any dry pockets.  Do not beat this batter, but mix just until most of the lumps are smoothed out, & there are no little patches of overly thick or runny batter.  A few lumps won’t hurt, & it’s important not to overbeat at this point.

Bake for 35-40” {I always start checking at 28” so as not to overbake} or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs & the top feels springy when lightly touched.  Cool completely on a wire rack before turning out, frosting or cutting.

Frosting:
1/2 c cocoa powder
2 2/3 c powdered sugar
6T butter
4-5 T milk or water {I always use milk, or cream if I happen to have some}
1 t vanilla
Pinch of salt {brings out the chocolate flavor}

Whisk cocoa, powdered sugar & salt together. Cream butter & add powdered sugar alternately with milk.  I don’t necessarily follow the recipe exactly as far as the milk goes, but just add enough milk to get the consistency I want {I like it soft-not runny & certainly not stiff}.  Spread on cooled cake.

Pita Breads

We went to another sunset BBQ last night, but we were in someone’s condo, not at the beach.  Two of the ladies who were at the first BBQ are visiting from the Mainland, and invited us over for dinner.  I decided to make hummus {post to follow on another day} to be eaten with homemade pita bread.  I’ve made pita bread a few times and it was always tasty, but the pockets didn’t always form.  I tried a new recipe, and it worked great!  I will definitely use it again.  I used half whole wheat flour and half bread flour.  It is from The Fresh Loaf website, where there are many recipes that I will be trying.

Borscht

We love eating soup & I enjoy making soups; most of the soups I make are vegetarian.  Today I made borscht.  I’ve made it before and have wanted to make it again; I finally got to it today.  It was great for lunch.

Russian Cabbage Borscht adapted from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen.

1 ½ cups thinly sliced potato
1 cup thinly sliced beets
4 cups water or stock

Put potatoes, beets and water in a medium saucepan and cook until everything is tender {save the water}.

2 tbsp butter
1 ½ cups chopped onion
1 scant tsp caraway seeds
1 ½ tsp salt
1 large sliced carrot
1 stalk chopped celery
3 cups chopped green cabbage
Optional: 1 tbsp raisins
Black pepper, preferably freshly ground
¼ tsp dried dill weed
1 tbsp + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp honey
1 cup tomato puree {I pulsed a 14 1/2 oz. can of tomatoes in my food processor}

Melt the butter in a large soup pot and add the onions, caraway seeds and salt.  Cook until onion is translucent, and then add carrots, celery and cabbage.  Add the cooking water from the beets & potatoes, and cook, covered, until all the vegetables are tender.  Add potatoes, beets and all remaining ingredients.

Cover and simmer slowly for at least 30 minutes.  Taste and correct seasonings.

Serve topped with sour cream or plain yogurt, extra dill weed and chopped fresh tomatoes.

Note: The next time I make this soup, I am going to chop the beets and potatoes instead of slicing them.

Take some time to prepare & enjoy delicious food.

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!


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“There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast” Anonymous

This is so true!  Jack has all kinds of tricks to wake us up when he thinks it is time for him to eat his breakfast.  He’s just like Simon’s Cat.

It’s late, so this is going to be short.  Breakfast is important because if you think about it, when you wake up, you probably haven’t had any food for 10 hours or so; it’s time to nourish your body.  We had a simple, but tasty breakfast this morning.  Rye toast topped with my husband Gerald’s eggs fried in a little coconut oil and pasture butter, broccolini with a bit of home made mayonnaise and a beautiful mango with freshly ground salt and pepper.  And tea, of course!

Eggs, Broccoli & Mango

“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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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