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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A Favorite Lunch

Did you know. . .
. . . that sardines packed in their own oil or extra virgin olive oil are full of good for you omega-3 fats?  It is thought that just 1/2 gram of these fats can significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.  Avoid sardines packed in vegetable oils, as they are not healthy fats.

Anyone for anchovies?  How about sardines?  I know, I know, these are a couple fish that cause many people to turn up their noses.  Not me though; I love them both.  My intention was to write only about sardines, but I figured as long as we are on the subject of unpopular fishes, I may as well tell you how we like to eat anchovies.  Perhaps our way of eating anchovies will work for you as well, that is, if you want to give them a try.

Once upon a time, I too was among the myriad of folks who did not care for anchovies, as was my husband.  One rainy evening, we were eating pizza at Tony’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant, a favorite Italian restaurant of ours in Bremerton, WA.  That is the night we learned how to eat anchovies.  The secret to liking/loving anchovies on your pizza, according to our waitress, is to order them on the side.  Wow, that really makes a difference!  The salty, fishy flavor permeates the pizza if you bake the anchovies on the pizza, but if you have a little plate of anchovies on the side, it tastes pretty good.  You get an occasional salty punch from the little bits of anchovy.  We have happily eaten anchovies on our pizza ever since!

I have been eating sardines for as long as I can remember.  We had tins of sardines in our pantry when I was growing up, and I admit that even though I ate them, I thought they looked kind of gross.  My recollection is that they were not like the nice sardine filets that we eat now, which are every bit as nice looking as a beautiful piece of fresh salmon {except they aren’t pretty pink}.

Wild Planet Sardines

One of my favorite quick lunches is a “fish cracker” and a salad.  And no, by “fish cracker,” I am not referring to those fishy-shaped crackers that you are probably familiar with. . .the ones with no redeeming nutritional value.  My idea of a “fish cracker” is a Ryvita cracker with a plump, meaty and delicious sardine on top.  Of course, there are additional toppings to make it extra tasty.  This is a favorite lunch of mine because it is quick, tasty and super healthy.

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I understand if you don’t like anchovies, and don’t want to give them a second {first} chance.  But if you like fish, and haven’t gotten into sardines, I highly recommend them.  The health benefits of sardines {& anchovies} are many:

  • They are low on the marine food chain, so toxins like mercury do not accumulate in them.
  • Anchovies and sardines are chock full of healthy omega-3 fats, which impact mood, circulation, glucose, insulin metabolism, blood pressure and heart health.
  • In particular, sardines are high in protein, B vitamins, selenium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese.  Talk about a powerhouse of nutrition in one little can!  They are my idea of a great “fast food!”

Sources:

The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.

The Perricone Promise, Nicholas Perricone, M.D.

A simple salad of arugula {aka “rocket”} and thinly sliced onions, dressed with fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground salt and pepper, goes well with fish crackers.  It’s one of our favorite salads.

Arugula Salad with Onion and Lemon Vinaigrette

Arugula Salad with Onion and Lemon Juice & Extra Virgin Olive Oil


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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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The Bee’s Knees & Catnip

“We lived for honey.  We swallowed a spoonful in the morning to wake us up and one at night to put us to sleep.  We took it with every meal to calm the mind, give us stamina, and prevent fatal disease.  We swabbed ourselves in it to disinfect cuts or heal chapped lips.  It went in our baths, our skin cream, our raspberry tea and biscuits.  Nothing was safe from honey…honey was the ambrosia of the gods and the shampoo of the goddesses.”    Sue Monk Kidd  The Secret Life of Bees 

People eat honey for a variety of reasons-as a sweetener, because it tastes good, it has health benefits {if you eat the correct honey}.

Honey Bear  Before we go any further, let’s talk about The Bear.  If you eat honey from The Bear,  I am suggesting right here and now that you give up the plastic honey bear.  Sure, he’s convenient and cute, but how tasty is plastic squeeze bottle honey?  And, how many nutrients are in plastic squeeze bottle honey?  The “bear honey” bears no resemblance whatsoever to raw unfiltered honey; they are completely different foods.  If you want some health benefits from your honey, look for local honey that hasn’t been filtered or heated.  This kind of honey contains plant polyphenols called flavonoids; these flavonoids have antioxidant activity and are important to human health.  In general, the darker the honey, the better it is in terms of its antibacterial and antioxidant qualities.  Also, the harder the honey, the better it is for you.  We do not eat a lot of any kind of sugar, but we love this Maui Wildflower Honey that we find at the Upcountry Farmers Market .  Without a doubt, it is the best tasting honey we have ever eaten, it is dark and delicious with complex flavors.  It’s the bee’s  knees!

Maui Wildflower Honey

How do we eat honey?  Here are a few of our favorite ways to eat this sweet treat:
* drizzled on yogurt
* a wee bit in salad dressing {i.e. French dressing, mustard vinaigrette} smooths out the dressing’s acidity
* on freshly baked biscuits, cornbread or muffins
* in yeast bread
* licked off the spoon!
* great in hot tea or hot lemon water in the unfortunate event of a sore throat-this really works!

How do you like to eat honey?  What kind do you like?

Honey is still sugar, so I’m not saying that you can eat it with abandon.  Moderation is the key here, as it is with many things.  Please do not feed honey to children under one year old, as there is a risk of botulism.

Just a spoonful of honey

Sources of information:
* Super Foods Health Style: Proven Strategies for Lifelong Health {Steven Pratt, M.D.}
* The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth {Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.}

The Actual Cat Mint

Catnip

Occasionally, Gerald and Sharon like to enjoy a glass of Cabernet while they are cooking dinner.  Gerald bought me a pot of catnip {highfalutin cats may call it catmint, but I’m told that the end result is the same} at the farmers market, and I sometimes enjoy some before dinner; in fact, I find that when I have a bit of “nip” I don’t tend to eat as much, and I feel fantastic!  it’s a win-win situation, because Gerald and Sharon are watching my figure.  Sharon snapped a few photos of me after I noshed on some catnip this afternoon.  I highly recommend regular nibbling on catnip for felines everywhere!
~ Jack

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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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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.