Thursday, October 27, 2011

Island Style, Part 2

Classic Ahi Poke at Hookipa Beach, Maui

Two very common things on the Hawaiian food scene here are poke and Spam. First what can I say about Spam, the canned mystery meat?  If you grow up here it's part of your culture and considered a comfort food. Its history here in the Islands dates back to the days of the war in the Pacific; it was the only meat available to the soldiers and it remained to this day a common meat choice. I respect that, but will pass on it because I am not used to eating out of cans. Now poke I like, its raw marinated fish that is really good as a quick snack or a appetizer. Its found it just about everywhere with many varieties, Ahi tuna being the most common. Other varieties may include octopus, salmon or maybe even marlin. There is a heavy Asian influence in its seasonings which can include sea salt, soy sauce, seaweed, green or Maui onions, sesame oil and Sambal chili for the spicy versions. What sets poke apart from other raw fish recipes is that the fish is still kept in its raw state without the use of a citrus juice to "cook" it like a ceviche. A recent discovery that I found is Korean style poke with spicy kim chee added- yum!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Island Style 2011, Part 1


In this lush rain forest like Island of Maui are just about every kind of tropical and non tropical fruits and vegetables that you can think of, a lot of times it grows wild. I went out this morning and picked guava fruit from the trees to go with my breakfast and now I have discovered  local pumelo which is a form of grapefruit but the size of a honeydew melon, Normally these that are found on the mainland are quite sour with a very large layer of bitter white pith between the gold skin and the massive fruit segments, these local tree ripened fruits are sweet with a low amount of acid. They are now giving me the idea of making them into a salad with sliced avocado that is also growing here on our North Shore property..

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fall Curried Butternut Squash with Chick Peas

It's hard right now not to go to your local market without tripping on the huge displays of fall squash; it's that time of the year and that turned out to be my inspiration for tonight's dinner. One of the best ways to cook squash is roasting at a high temperature, which intensifies the flavor and produces a smooth texture. I also had the thought of using it into a Indian style curry along with sliced onions, chick peas and a good quality curry paste.

To start I cut a medium butternut squash in half leaving the skin on, next scoop out the seeds and place flat side down on a parchment covered sheet pan, then into a preheated 400F oven for about 45 minutes. Cook until the outside side starts to brown. While the squash is cooking, peel and thinly slice a yellow onion and put into a heavy pan with a dash of olive oil to slowly cook and soften, then add a spoon of curry paste. The paste will have to cook slowly for a few minutes to bring out the flavors, then add precooked chick peas and a splash of vegetable stock or water to make a thick stew. By this time the squash is cooked and somewhat cool to touch, peel off the skin and cut into medium dice, add to stew, carefully stir then check for seasoning. I added a pinch of chopped cilantro. This would good served with a scoop of steamed brown rice for a very healthy and delicious meal.           

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Napa Oktoberfest Party

The Custom Firepit

Oktoberfest Sausage's

Just Getting Started
Distant Valley View

I had the pleasure of attending my friend's annual Oktoberfest party high up on his mountain-top property. The air was still warm for this late in Fall, with the plump and sweet grapes just about ready to be picked any day. There was lots of good food cooked in a amazing custom-built wood fire pit, also five live bands playing a wide range of music for every taste. Being in Napa Valley there was almost too many wines to try and some people I think, did came close to trying them all. Lots of fun as usual.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Comfort Food

Soft Polenta with Stewed Tomatoes

Comfort food is any kind of food that you are familiar with, maybe its a dish that your mom used to make for you as a child, it can be foods from your home Country if you have relocated. For me one of the first foods I cooked was creamy soft polenta with sausage and peppers, this is a variation of that using just tomatoes, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil. When it gets cold outside a hot bowl of this is what gets me going and takes me back to when I first started cooking.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wednesday Night Pasta

Ouick and Easy Pasta

Leftovers?? Not really, but ingredients from another night's dinner are born into a new dish. Last night's roast chicken becomes a ingredient with rigatoni pasta, roast peppers, fresh basil and Parmesan cheese. While the pasta boils in salted water, the other ingredients are quickly sauteed in lots of extra virgin olive oil. Ten or so minutes later, it all comes together in a preheated bowl. Good stuff and minimal work.

Farmers Market Food Find: Falafel Sandwich

Food Stall Falafel Sandwich

One of my favorite snacks is Falafel, Middle Eastern fried chick pea fritters. These were put into warm pita bread and topped with a spicy yogurt sauce, pickled vegetables and peppers. There are lots of food choices at the farmers market now but I keep going back for it, delicious.

Panini Pressed Sandwich

Roast Chicken and Heirloom Tomato
Pressed and ready to eat

The Panini is an old-style sandwich with new interest and it's found everywhere these days. It's simply a sandwich that is pressed between two hot grill plates, warm and toasted on the outside. I made one tonight using roast chicken, heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and fragrant basil on crusty Acme bread from Berkeley, California. Lots of great flavors and textures.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Blackened Snapper with Beans & Rice

Blackened Red Snapper
A old favorite of mine is the Southern classic blackened red fish with beans and rice. I made it using Pacific red snapper or also called rock fish, and this fish has been coated with Chef Paul Prudhomme's blackened redfish spice. Its the spice and technique that made him famous at his New Orleans restaurant K-Pauls. The spice seasoned fish goes on a very hot cast iron pan to quickly cook giving it a dark almost crunchy texture. Lots of smoke happens in the process, so windows open and the fan on!
Serve with slow-simmered red beans and Southern style rice. A cooling mayonnaise based remoulade sauce would go good, but tonight it's just lemon. Good stuff.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Baby Grilled Vegetables

With a few rainy days happening now it's really last call for Summer vegetables. I found this assortment of baby zucchini, eggplant and peppers at the Sunday farmer's market. Simply grilled and seasoned, then add a very generous splash of extra virgin olive oil and some torn basil. Looking at this pile of vegetables gives me the idea of putting them on pizza.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Hawaiian Plate Lunch

My Plate Lunch

As a tourist in Hawaii you probably won't see it on restaurant menus, but as a local it is the common lunch sold just about everywhere: the Hawaiian plate lunch. This inexpensive meal will always include two scoops of steamed rice, macaroni salad and some kind of protein such as pork, chicken or fish. At work this week we hosted a Polynesian day featuring music, dancing and my plate lunch. I served marinated pork wrapped and slow roasted in banana leafs and kim chee with the other traditional ingredients. It went over well. The origins of this dish go back many years to the days of plantation workers needing a cheap and filling meal while harvesting sugar cane. I will be in the Islands soon and report on it with a few posts and any recommendations.

Oxbow Public Market, Napa Valley, California

The growing town of Napa in the world famous valley of the same name is home to a new market complex of specialty shops and restaurants. The Oxbow Public Market is the same group that gave San Francisco the Ferry Building Marketplace, foodie ground zero. The Oxbow Market has a wide range of small restaurants that are perfect for a quick bite or gathering supplies for a vineyard picnic. There are a few retail stores inside with antiques, food and wine. I tryed Pica Pica restaurant which serves small tapas style Venezuelan food; it's concept is to serve food in a fresh corn type of bun. It was OK, not great. Next time I will try C CASA Taqueria which looked really good. Definitely visit the market next time you are in the area, it's easy to find located right across the bridge from downtown Napa.

The Oxbow Public Market

Pica Pica Restaurant

Pica Pica Pork Sandwich

Oxbow Public Market, 610 First Street, Napa, California 94559