Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Try Share -- Kauaians Do It Best

Across the corrugated tin "fence" that separates our yard from Priscilla and Henry's orchard, I receive a 2 x 2 foot box filled with mountain apples. 

The tree she stands beneath is massive; it must top out at 40 feet and is at least 10 across. The blossoms fall in hot pink strands that carpet the soil, in what I imagine, any 6 year-old girl would drool to have on her bedroom floor.

Such a vibrant tree putting out a pretty fruit that's disappointingly bland. This strange fruit is more pear than apple really; the flesh is soft and its shape too, reminds me of a pear. 

Priscilla routinely gives me quantities of whatever is fruiting in her yard. I can't possibly keep up with her generosity, so I try to come up with new ways to hand her a bit of her own harvest back over the fence. 

I've baked with mountain apples in the past, with mediocre results. But this time I'm armed with a new discovery, a book given to me by my husband earlier this month: Home Made Winter, by Yvette Van Boven. I could gush shamelessly about the charm, reliability and genius of this tome, but I'll leave it to you to visit for yourself. 

So far I've followed her guidance on making yogurt, butter, cakes, and now for the mountain apple, her chutney. I replace the apples with mountain apples and the tomatoes with canned tomatoes. I am also a fan of the organic dark brown sugar for its molasses content. The results were fantastic. Chutney is an Indian condiment, but for me it's divine on buttered bread or as my friend Meg advised, a fun addition to her coleslaw. Regardless, it's a wonderful remedy for an abundance of fruit.

In a second batch I made use of the choyote squash; farmers markets are overflowing with them right now. I used equal amounts of each. 

Mountain Apple Chutney

21/4 lb mountain apples or equal amounts choyote and the apple
2 cans of diced tomatoes with juice
2 onions
2 clove garlic
1/2 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon black or yellow mustard seeds 
12 tablespoon hot style curry powder
a grind of nutmeg
2 teaspoon salt
21/2 cups cider vinegar

In a large pot place the diced fruit in 21/2 cups water. Simmer for 25 minutes. Don't allow to dry out. Add a bit more water if necessary. 

Add remaining ingredients. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 3 hours. Stir occasionally.

Spoon the hot chutney into sterilized jars. Makes around 41/2 cups and fills three large jars and one small. Wash double lidded jars in soapy water, rinse and put in a 285 degree oven for 10 minutes. Don't use metal lids, as they react with the acid of the tomato.

Seal and set them upside-down until cool. Yvette suggests waiting a month to eat. I gave away and my impatient friends said they ate immediately and loved it. So there ya go!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Joni-Mitchell-Would-Eat-This Granola – Naturally Sweet Yet Feisty

When I moved into the dorms at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona in 1983, my first roommate dubbed me a “granola” after her survey of the cassettes on my shelf. Jersey girl, Sharon MacKenzie nailed it. I was and still smack of all things hippy. Even my husband ribs me when we pass the rainbow children thumbing it to the North Shore.

“Hey babe, look, there’s your people.”

It’s annoying. And at the risk of cliché I’ll add: You can take the girl out of the tie-dye but you can’t get the tie-dye out of the girl. 

But this isn’t a blog on hippy cultural terms, this is a bona fide recipe for a maple syrup sweetened granola that sings with rustic clarity. Bear with me, I’m smitten.

As much as I love Anahola Granola, and include it in every care package sent to friends on the Mainland, I weary of its sweetness. Then I discovered granola guru, Megan Gordon; a chic in Seattle killing it with her savory granola blends. This recipe is an off-spring of her granola base and 101 instruction she shared with, where she is a contributing writer. I recommend visiting her site as well. 

I have a hunch I’m not saving money making my own, considering we devour one full recipe in two weeks and I’m baking a new batch before the last jar has even emptied.  

It’s that good.

JMWET Granola

Yield: 6 cups
Set out all of your ingredients.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Step 1.
3 cups oats
½ cup sesame seeds
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup almonds

Step 2.
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom 
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
Stir into oat mixture.

Step 3.
In a separate bowl, combine: 
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup coconut oil
½ cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Add to spiced oats, mixing well.

Step 4.
Spread mixture on a parchment lined rimmed cookie sheet. Bake 38 minutes, turning every 15 minutes for even baking. Three minutes before the end of baking add:
1 cup of coconut flakes.

Step 5. 
Dried fruit and roasted nuts go in after baking is through. Once out of the oven add:
1 cup roasted pistachio, chopped
1 cup dry cherries, chopped roughly

Cool, then store in mason jars. It’s so pretty you’ll want to store in glass just so you can admire the toasty beauty.

Since we’re on a hippy tack, here’s a poem about hippy babies I wrote eight years ago while sitting in Kilauea Bakery. 

Day of the Dread

Hippy babies are taking over all the funky cafes. Hippy
babies in their patchouli soaked diapers with their natty 
dread dolls. Hippy babies with their Buddha bellies 
spilling over their hemp diapers; running between your legs 
as you walk across the hard wood floor with caramel rivers 
of coffee rolling from palm to elbow; scalding your 
fingers. Hippy babies bouncing off table legs in striped pants 
and polka-dot shirts with tassels snapping in their wake. One hippy 
baby shows up and a commune of organic scone-flinging babies is sure 
to follow. As the floor blooms with all-natural crumbs, the hippy 
babies divine spirits from soymilk stains on the tables. Hippy 
babies swing from the philodendra vines, laughing too loud and smiling 
at all the seated babies with napkins tucked in their shirts. Hippy 
babies drooling 100% organic cookie drool down Bob Marley 
T-shirts that cost a dime at the Hippy Baby Boutique. Hippy 
babies chanting with bodhi beads and bangles around emaciated
wrists, playing ukuleles and drowning out Greg Brown and Natalie 
Merchant in their ganga-stained hippy-baby voices. We ask them
politely, please sit, please clean up after yourself. The hippy 
babies won’t have any of it. Who are we to infringe upon their freedom?  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Baby food For Grown-ups – Thai Green Risotto

Cardamom pods and their dusky inhabitants.

Triple happiness: garlic, ginger and The Heat

Lemon grass: olfactory bliss.

Green onion, earth's own sparklers.

Soupy goodness.

Breakfast is served; baby food for grown-ups
8:20 a.m. I return from a dog walk hungry. 

You know a dish is comforting when you can lift the lid from the pan still sitting on the stove top from last night’s dinner, spoon it into your mouth, and sigh. 

This green curry began as a recipe from where it was called a “porridge,” and rightly so, it has all the trappings of a fairy tail that ends with a nap. 

Nine days ago my 85 year-old mother moved in with us. I’m exhausted. Being her caregiver means assuming the physical body of another person: fetching, bending, lifting, wiping and the inevitable cheer leading, required to buoy the spirit. And my feet hurt. In a very unHawaii-like fashion, I’ve taken to wearing shoes indoors due to the dozen dead lifts performed each time I move her from point A to point B.

This green curry is pure comfort; as nurturing as a warm bowl of polenta fresh off the fire or a chocolate chip cookie still all melty and messy. It really was exactly what I needed Sunday night; and apparently this morning too.

Even my mom ate it. A person I consider the very opposite of a “foodie.” As long as I can remember, this little woman has been on diets. As long as I can remember, she’s lived on cottage cheese, butter Buds (a god-only-knows-what, butter substitute) and egg white biscuits. 

My husband and I love ethnic foods bursting with heat and flavor. Mom’s intolerance for big flavors naturally influences our usual daring menu. The coconut cream, cilantro and spinach base of the curry, combined with the sweet meat of a yam, worked to satisfy everyone. In fact, my mother has never liked rice. And yet, she wasn’t able to identify the brown rice so saturated with sauce it was reminiscent of a risotto, thus the new name.

Thai Green Risotto

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons fresh lemongrass, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 kefir lime leaves
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 ¾ cups uncooked brown rice
5 cups water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 14-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon minced ginger, peeled
2 Hawaiian peppers, more for extra heat
1 cup cilantro
½ cup green onion tops
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed
2 yams, boiled whole and peeled
Cilantro for garnishing

Warm olive oil in a deep pan, add kefir lime leaves, coriander and rice. Stir constantly until rice is toasty and fragrant, 7 minutes. Add the water. Stir in a teaspoon of salt and allow to simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 35 minutes or until many of the grains have burst.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Simmer whole yams for 12 minutes until al dente, peel and cut into bite-size chunks.

While the rice simmers, combine coconut milk, lemongrass, ginger, chile, cilantro, garlic, green onion tops, spinach and a teaspoon of salt in a blender. Blend into a smooth sauce. I chose to reserve ¼ cup of this yummy sauce to have on hand for another dish later in the week. 

Add the green sauce and yam to the rice soup and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. I add one cup of stock at this point because I like it soupy, but that is preferential. Up to you.

Serve in bowls garnished with cilantro and green onion or just stand by the stove and eat directly from the pan in the morning. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Is That a Banana? What's a Girl to Do With a Huge Rack

A Banana Blossom

The Extraction

My Mule

Dehydrated Bananas

Brushed with Chocolate

And Sprinkled with Macadamia and Coconut

Monday, March 31, 2014

Nana's Cookbooks -- Mrs. R. Forster's Meatloaf

The day before my mom arrived to live with us, I discovered three of her mum's cookbooks in zip lock bags wedged between cookbooks on my kitchen shelf. I completely forgot I had them.

When a sister and I emptied our childhood home five years ago, they were one of the few things I brought home to Kauai. The cookbooks are from the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, Evangeline Chapter, Halifax Nova Scotia. Those are the words on the yellowed cover.

Hundreds of tiny paragraphs describe everything from Fairy Fluff to Meatloaf. For my mother's first meal, I made a meatloaf contributed to the cookbook by a "Mrs. R. Forster." Yes, the vegetarian household took a radical turn, and yum, it was delicious, and no, Wes did not partake.

Here's the recipe exactly as Mrs. R. Forster wrote it. I clarify some points at the end of the recipe instructions.

1/2 pound sausage meat
2 lbs. round steak ground
1 egg lightly beaten
1 can condensed tomato soup
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cups soft breadcrumbs
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 salt, pepper
2 tblsp. poultry seasoning
Turn into a greased loaf pan, and bake in a pan of warm water in a hot oven for 1 hour.

I used organic ground beef from Costco and the ground pork from Cost-U-Less. I didn't have canned tomato soup. I used half a can of tomato paste. My mom says a "hot" oven is 375 degrees. I reduced cooking time to 48 minutes because I prefer meat undercooked a bit. This is a rock solid recipe that made really good sandwiches for the following week.

Enjoy! We did.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

One Confession, One Digression, a Haiku and Soursop Coconut Scones

Scones are my super power. 

And with great power comes great responsibility. For one, a person with a super power should use it only for good. So my wielding It as a bribe for doing good in the world of non-profit organizations is justified, right? 

The confession: Take for instance the two years I worked as volunteer coordinator for Kauai Humane Society. Record numbers of volunteers would turn out for mailings if I sweetened the deal with fresh baked scones. 

Proof positive, there are too few bakers in the world, so a flaky pastry warm out of the oven is a much coveted thing. 

In 1985, at Macy’s European Coffee House in Flagstaff, I trained to be an early morning baker with a hippy chic named Sue Bug. Sue was the only employee with a “bug” at the end of her name, the rest of us answered to “bob,” as in Tim Bob, the owner and Lynn Bob, the manager. Friends I still know from that time refer to it as the Macy’s “Bob” era.

It wasn’t long before other people began to notice how my scones were different from those made from the same recipe. At Macy’s in the 80s we measured dry ingredients in giant metallic scoops and our spices, by the handful: x scoops of flour and sugar to x handfuls of cinnamon, cardamom, all spice or what-have-you. 

Another baker working there at the time explained the excellence of my scones according to karma: “You had a grandmother who baked scones for you in a past life.” 

I don’t know about karma or if the size of my hands happened to be the best size for measuring dry ingredients. What I do know is when Sue Bug trained me, she emphasized texture and appearance of the dry ingredients as I added liquid at the end of preparation. This is why the following recipe has no exact measurement for the soursop juice. Because of the humidity of our tropical climate, I can’t count on an exact measure. I begin with a scant ¾ cup of juice and drizzle in according to texture from there.

This is not the Macy’s recipe. The original recipe came from Julia Smith, a lovely Westside kupuna who has since passed, so I’m unable to trace its roots. I’ve been tweaking this recipe for 10 years so feel pretty safe calling it my own. 

At the Café 

Crossed legs, chin on fist
Her gaze studies vacant air
Words collect like dew 


Location: Sitting at a window in Ha Coffee Bar in Lihue, I sigh with contentment. In five days my 85 year-old mom moves back in with my husband and I. To my left is my friend Lois Ann working on a paper for her teaching program and across from her is Kim, writing a post for her blog. I’ve been writing with these two women for 8 years. Ours is a friendship that grew from our love of story and matured into a hui of respect and mutual support seasoned with laughter. This writing life would be so lonely without them.
Back to the recipe:

I begin with a base that evolves into either date/cherry, date/cranberry, mango/coconut, carrot/walnut and most recently, this soursop/coconut version. I change sugar types according to the texture I seek, and introduce wheat or rice flours on occasion. This recipe is amenable to many types of fresh or dry fruit. Just add fruit to dry ingredients and feel free to switch the liquid according to taste. I use either buttermilk, orange juice or soursop juice. I always prefer something grown close to home and the soursop is 30 feet from my kitchen door. 

Soursop Coconut Scones

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Notes: I use a food processor, but it’s not mandatory. If you don’t have a processor, work the butter into the dry ingredients until it is the texture of gravel. They will still come out flaky and perfect.
I live in a hot climate so always use frozen butter.

3 cups flour
½ cup white sugar
1 Tbl. baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup frozen unsalted butter
Mix until gravelly.
Transfer from the food processor into a large bowl.
¾ cup coconut flakes. I prefer the wider ribbons vs. the thin shredded style
2 cups chopped Madjool dates
½ cup sour cream. Mix in lightly.
Add a scant 3/4 cup liquid, in this case soursop juice. Only add enough to pull dough together. There should be dry ingredients still visible in the dough. Plop spoonfuls of dough on to an ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Scones bake faster on the black cookie sheet. If using black, bake 18 minutes; if using aluminum, bake 22 minutes.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Another Ode to Mother Nature’s Condiment -- The Sunflower Seed

Macy’s European Coffee House in Flagstaff, Arizona is where I cut my teeth in a commercial kitchen. The word “commercial” hardly captures the glow of this funky café and eatery on Beaver Street just blocks from Northern Arizona University, where I went to school.

Macy’s is where I fell in love with the kitchen as an entity; a magical environ where cinnamon, folk music and hippy women ruled. Filling three-quarters of the kitchen was the bakers’ table – a waist high stage where mounds of dough were tossed on a floured surface and coaxed, twirled and stretched into sugary danish, scones and bagels. 

The joy of working with dough on a wide surface, where the body can gain leverage with ease, makes the average home kitchen an annoying space in which to bake. That aside, Macy’s is where I met myself as the woman I would grow into with age. I couldn’t know this at the time, but it is in the kitchen where I commune with the best parts of myself. 

Macy’s was primarily espresso drinks and vegetarian meals. The sandwiches, soups and salads were simple and everything was made fresh. We tossed tamari sunflower seeds on green salads, and today, my own kitchen is rarely without them.Where sprouts offer a fresh, bright crunch, these have a  totally different mouth feel and flavor. 

Here’s how you make them:
Pour a pile of say 2 cups raw seeds into the center of a rimmed cookie sheet. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons tamari or shoyu sauce. Spread in an evenish layer on the sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 7 minutes. Cool and scrape from sheet to pour into your container of choice. There is always a jar of these toasty, brown darlings on our counter top.
Yes they can be bought on Kauai for around $10/pound at Papayas, or $7/pound at Hoku Foods, but that’s pretty pricey and they are so quick and easy to make.