August 31, 2009

Seasonal Ingredients

The more frequently I shop and go to the farmer's market the more inspired I am to cook what's in season and what's freshest. And the more I learn about seasons! I know, I know, I'm on Maui and everything is fresh, but it wasn't always that easily available. Only recently have some of the large supermarket chains such as Safeway started offering Island Fresh produce. And some of the produce in the supermarkets did not necessarily always look like it was even still edible, the markets are doing remarkably better nowadays.

I am so happy to have discovered things like red swiss chard, baby bok choy or jicama and purple sweet potatoes. Red Swiss chard has the largest green leaves and a wonderful stem that is similar to beet greens. I love when I can get fresh sugar snap peas or chinese pea pods. And here on Maui getting fresh Kula corn year round is pretty amazing.

Yet, it is easy to overlook certain vegetables that look intimidating. I know that there are a variety of vegetables at the market, all kinds of leafy greens and other things that I will not even try. Why? I don't have a way to cook them.

So, when I finally decide to try something new I have to come up with a recipe. Sure, it's easier to find something to do with swiss chard. However, I will admit, it took many many months before I bought this vegetable. Why? My mother would never buy it and so I just avoided it. Habit I suppose. I love it. I cut it chiffonade style (See Below) and quickly saute and add lemon and sea salt and serve under fresh fish or with chicken. It's fabulous and colorful and cheaper than spinach.

Chiffonade is a cooking technique in which herbs or leafy green vegetabels are cut into long, thin strips. This is generally acomplished by stacking leaves, rolling them tihgtly, then cutting across the rolled leaves with a shar knife, producing fine ribbons.

Instead of using white potatoes for mashed potatoes try purple ones. And since purple potatoes go well with coconut milk I use that instead of milk or cream. Purple potatoes are firmer and starchier so they take a little longer to cook.
It is easier to go for what you are used to and what you are familiar with. However, if you open your eyes you will discover amazing varieties of vegetables and other ingredients that were always there but you never noticed. It's fun to open your eyes and discover.

And remember, when you get seasonal ingredients they are more abundant and cheaper. Use what is available and eat fresh. It's fun to try something new and good for you too!
Always Fresh, Always Delicious, Always with Aloha!

August 27, 2009


I know that most people love cinnamon but I think that it is underused in most recipes. Most recipes call for maybe a teaspoon or even less. Forget it. I say add a tablespoon. I add it to as many recipes that make sense! For example, if I am making a pie crust with a gingersnap crust I add lots of extra cinnamon. If I am making applesauce you better believe that I am going to add more than a pinch. And I add it to baby carrots with honey and butter. You can get very creative and add it to salads such as waldorf or even carrot and apple salad. I know that I want the flavors to stand out. And cinnamon is good for you too! You can also use in savory meat dishes.

Today, it’s widely known that cinnamon is harvested from the bark of tropical evergreen trees. There are two main varieties of the bark: Ceylon cinnamon and cassia. There is a very high oil content in cinnamon which produces a spice with a deep, reddish-brown color, intense fragrance and sweet, red-hot-candy-like flavor. I know that my "red hot" candy craving is cured when I pour on the cinnamon. I even have been adding cinnamon to hot water and adding honey. If you ignite the branch of the cassia tree native to Vietnam it will spark, that's how high the oil concentration is.

A Canadian Magazine, Weekly World News (1995 article) on Cinnamon and Honey says:

WEIGHT LOSS:Daily in the morning one half hour before breakfast on an empty stomach, and at night before sleeping, drink honey and cinnamon powder boiled in one cup of water. If taken regularly, it reduces the weight of even the most obese person. Also, drinking this mixture regularly does not allow the fat to accumulate in the body, even though the person may eat a high calorie diet.

IMMUNE SYSTEM:Daily use of honey and cinnamon powder strengthens the immune system and protects the body from bacteria and viral attacks.. Scientists have found that honey has various vitamins and iron in large amounts. Constant use of Honey strengthens the white blood corpuscles to fight bacterial and viral diseases.

I have been using Saigon Cinnamon from Costco that is amazingly intense, so different from the cinnamon that I have previously experienced. The intensity is remarkable and the flavor is distinct. It's about $4 for a 10.7 oz. container of ground cinnamon! Wow! Pour it on. And you know, even if they say use less, I say USE MORE! I am all about bringing out the distinctive flavors and really tasting what you use. You tend to eat less and have less cravings because you are more satisfied.

Cinnamon Cocnut Macaroon Crumble Recipe
2 cups unsweetened shredded flaked coconut
2/3 cup all purpose unbleached flour
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tbls. ground cinnamon
4 1/2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced (to make vegan use coconut oil, a little less than 1/3 c.)
NOTE: you can also add ½ c. chopped pecans

For macaroon crumble:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss coconut, flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and pecans in large bowl to combine. Using fingertips, rub butter or coconut oil into mixture until clumps form, add honey or maple syrup. Spread mixture on baking sheet, patting down slightly. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool. Break crumble into bite-size pieces.

NOTE: you can use this for ice cream, pudding toppings, layered parfaits, or for nibbling! Freeze and enjoy.

August 24, 2009

Risotto - Made Easy

I love risotto. I love that it looks creamy and tastes creamy, but no milk or cream are used in this wonderfully versatile Italian dish. The key to making risotto is selecting the correct type of rice, otherwise you will not get the texture desired. Technique is important and once you know how to do it, you can multi-task and whip up fresh risotto in no time.

For me it doesn't take a lot of effort to stir and incorpore the liquid, as long as you only add enough liquid for it to absorb quickly, about 1/2 c. at a time. I use vegetable broth or chicken broth made from the remains of a roasted whole chicken. You have to keep on med-high heat and watch when the liquid absorbs so that you are prepared to add more and incorporate it quickly. Don't overstir.

The other important aspect is to use olive oil and butter at the beginning to soften the chopped onion and garlic (if desired), sweat them out and do not brown. Then add the rice. Then the white wine, about 1/2 cup. You can add a little salt with the onion, but finish seasoning at the end. I do add fresh chopped rosemary during the cooking.

I keep adding the liquid and watch as the risotto absorbs. I don't like super wet risotto. The key is to be sure to not allow the rice to overcook so keep tasting periodically. You can salt and season just before it is done. And just before it is done remove from heat. At this point if you want to prepare ahead for fresh risotto with a meal immediately layer on a sheet pan. It will stop cooking. You can add cheese and extra wine when you heat ready to serve. The risotto will remain perfectly for adding roasted asparagus, garlic prawns, buttered mushrooms, etc...
When you are ready to serve prepare all of your ingredients (shrimp, mushrooms, etc...). Reheat or gently adding warm broth and a little wine if desired. Do not overstir. Remove from heat, add grated Pecorino Romano, making the mixture very creamy. Add more butter if desired (I usually don't do this). Taste for seasoning, add more salt and pepper if necessary. Add your ingredients: shrimp, mushrooms, asparagus, artichokes, corn, etc...these should all be prepared and pre-cooked before adding.


Risotto is a traditional Italian rice dish. It is one of the most common ways of cooking rice in Italy. Its origins are in North Italy, specifically Eastern Piedmont, Western Lombardy, and the Veneto (where Vialone Nano comes from), where rice paddies are abundant. It is one of the pillars of Milanese cuisine. To be correctly described as a risotto a dish needs to be made following the established process described below; otherwise the dish is a rice dish. The main feature of a risotto dish is the maintenance of starch at the end of cooking that binds the grains together as a cream.

A high-starch (amylopectin), low-amylose round medium grain rice is used to make risotto. Such rices have the ability to absorb liquids and to release starch and so they are stickier than the long grain varieties. The principal varieties used in Italy are Carnaroli and Vialone Nano and to a lesser degree Arborio. Carnaroli and Vialone Nano are considered to be the best (and most expensive) varieties, with different users preferring one over the other. They have slightly different properties: for example Carnaroli is less likely to get overcooked than Vialone Nano, but the latter being smaller cooks faster and some say absorbs condiments better. Rice designations of Superfino, Semifino (varietie Maratelli) and fino refer to the size and shape (narrowness) of the grains, not the quality.

Basic preparation
There are many different risotto recipes with different ingredients, but they are all based on rice of an appropriate variety cooked in a standard procedure.

Grains of arborio rice
The rice is first cooked briefly in butter or olive oil to coat each grain in a film of fat, this is called tostatura; white wine is added and has to be absorbed by the grains. When it has evaporated, the heat is raised to medium high and very hot stock is gradually added in small amounts while stirring gently, almost constantly: stirring loosens the starch molecules from the outside of the rice grains into the surrounding liquid, creating a smooth creamy-textured liquid. Tasting helps to indicate when the risotto is ready, a total time of about 17 minutes from when the wine evaporated. At that point it is taken off the heat for the mantecatura when diced cold butter and finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese are whipped in to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible. It may be removed from the heat a few minutes earlier, and left to cook with its residual heat but this requires fine judgment as to how much liquid will be absorbed by the rice while it waits.

Properly cooked risotto is rich and creamy but still with some resistance or bite: al dente, and with separate grains. The traditional texture is fairly fluid, or all'onda ("wavy"). It should be served on flat dishes and it should easily spread out but not have excess watery liquid around the perimeter. It must be eaten at once as it continues to cook in its own heat and can become too dry with the grains too soft.

by Ann-Marie
Makes 6 large servings
4-5 cups homemade or purchased chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cloves finely chopped garlic
3-4 Tbls. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt

3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined (about 14 shrimp)
4 cloves finely chopped garlic
2 tbls. butter
1 tbls. olive oil
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preparation for Roasting Asparagus

NOTE: I use Herbamare, a sea salt mixed with herbs, available at health food stores or other fresh food markets, available in the seasoning section.

Preheat oven to 450˚. Prepare cookie sheet and brush with olive oil. Wash and dry asparagus. Trim tough ends. Cut into small 1 inch pieces. Toss in olive oil to cover and toss with chopped fresh garlic. Sprinkle with sea salt. Spread evenly onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet. It should be a single layer. Put cookie sheet in oven. These should be done in about 10-min. Periodically watch that the asparagus are not browning too quickly. They should be tender yet not over-cooked. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a large sauté pan heat oil, butter and garlic. Make sure pan is very hot and put in shrimp. Be sure to season shrimp with salt and pepper. Don’t allow garlic to burn. Cook shrimp just until pink on one side and turn. Test the shrimp to be sure they are thoroughly cooked, only about 2 minutes per side. Just before removing from heat add lemon juice, cook for another minute or two on high heat to absorb some of the liquid. You can chop shrimp in medium size pieces or leave whole as desired. Make just before adding to risotto.


Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Keep broth at a bare simmer, covered.
Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter and olive oil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Do not allow to brown. Add chopped rosemary. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute, coating thoroughly. Add wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until absorbed. Stir in 1/2 cup broth mixture and briskly simmer, stirring frequently, until absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is creamy and tender but still al dente (it should be the consistency of a thick soup), about 17 minutes. (There will be leftover broth.) Be sure to taste the risotto periodically. There is a fine line when it is just about done so you must pay attention to it as it gets closer to being finished.

NOTE: If you want to prepare ahead stop at this point. Remove from heat. Add half the cheese.
Layer in a sheet pan and allow to cool completely. Store in covered container in refrigerator, up to 2-3 days. When you are ready to serve warm some broth and heat risotto, not over stirring.
Remove from heat and stir in Pecorino Romano, salt and pepper to taste. Add a little extra butter if desired. Stir in freshly cooked chopped shrimp. Stir in roasted asparagus. Add any other ingredients. Delicious fresh risotto ready to eat.

August 20, 2009

Creating Recipes and New Dishes

I really enjoy watching Food Network more than ever just to see what the stars are creating and what dishes they are dishing up. Everyone has different tastes, life experiences and backgrounds on how to create a "delicious". Everyone has a little different take on a dish. And everyone has a little different idea of "delicious." And each person has a different idea on how to use a specific ingredient. It's so interesting to observe when you watch from that perspective.
Last night the new season's Top Chef was interesting. One of the chef contestants decided to use seitan (a wheat gluten vegetable protein/meat substitute) in her stuffed pepper. The judges were not pleased. It's not that she didn't try to use a new ingredient, it was that the final taste was what mattered. She tried to use a product to be "different" to prove something, instead of simply incorporating her flavors in a dish in a way that made HER stand out. Instead she was the first one sent home, not a particularly high honor on Top Chef. The judges always want something that tastes good, that's number one, no matter what.
My culinary point of view definitely leans towards fresh gourmet ingredients, not always emphasizing the protein. If I never learn to cut a slab of beef properly I'll be ok. Does that make me lesser of a chef, perhaps I couldn't ever compete with the big guns because of that handiap. In saying that, I believe that I have to be true to my particular style of cooking, which doesn't come overnight. What I do recognize is that what matters when cooking for others is TASTE. Taste matters. Flavors and ingredients that people want MATTER. Yet, within those parameters creativity can flourish. I will not use an ingredient or create a dish because I think it will prove something to you. Instead, it's important to hear what you want and then I can can be the creative side to bring something to light that you envisioned and I executed. Sure it will have "my" visionary slant on it, but it still is lined up with what you want. Even if I use tofu it better taste good. If I use asparagus they better not be soggy or tasteless. My take on chocolate mousse will be just a little different than yours, that's a good thing!

So last night if the contestant was listening and watching prior shows she would have realized the significance of creating "tasty" dishes as one of the most important criteria. Just because a dish is fancier or more complicated or uses exotic ingredients does not necessarily win rave reviews from the judges. So in hindsight her own sense of trying to make a point had the judges making a point and sending her home. It was a tough one.

Food is a metaphor for life. Take anything you do in life and own it. Take something and make it your own. People pay attention and you stand out because your voice begins to be heard and people begin to listen to your song.

Always fresh. Always delicious. Always with aloha.

Your Life Story on a Plate

What would your life look like as a 4-course meal? Where have you come from, what inspired you to follow your dreams, what reminds you of the dream you created, and where are you going as you create the next phase of your life? Tonight's last episode of Top Chef Masters on Bravo was exceptional and really inspired me. The 3 remaining chefs had to cook a meal that told a story of their journeys as chefs and where they came from and where they are going.

Could you create a 4-course meal that depicts your life? It doesn't matter if you are a chef or not. What matters is that you could describe your journey in a way that comes alive and expresses yourself in your unique way. It could be expressed as a favorite dish at a restaurant, one your mother cooked, or one that you cook. What is your story?
My Life Story as a 4-Course Meal
1. What dish would you create that tells us where you came from and reminds you of childhood?

My first course would be a roasted tomato fennel soup with fresh basil, pecorino romano cheese and a garlic cheese toast. The memories I have growing up are of my father's love for food and my grandmother's passion for cooking Italian cuisine. I grew up in a household where food was important and was influence by an Italian grandmother who appreciated the raw ingredients that went into a meal. My Sicilian grandmother Zena taught me the importance of using fresh whole ingredients, caring about creating a meal and then lovingly sharing it with others. This roasted tomato soup is comfort food and has my favorite ingredients highlighted. Soup is comfort food and reminds me of childhood memories that make me feel warm fuzzies inside.

2. What dish would you create that gave you your inspiration to become a chef (or whatever inspired you to follow your dreams)?

My friends and acquaintances were my inspiration for following my passion for cooking and creating a career out of it. I have had many people over the years tell me what dishes they love and that they really enjoyed my cooking. I dismissed these compliments most of my life. I never believed cooking could be my way of expressing my creativity, I was always searching for something more important. My second course would consist of a series of appetizers, dishes I created from my passion for cooking and inspired by my love for food over the years. APPETIZER COURSE: Spanakopita (spinach pie with French Feta); Marinated Roasted Portabella Mushrooms with Herbed Goat Cheese; Fresh Salmon Corn Cakes with sweet chili sauce or tarragon cream sauce.
3. What dish would you create that is a reminder of your first restaurant (first business, creation, etc...)?

My journey to create my company Maui Fresh Chef has certainly been influenced by the fresh ingredients of Hawaii and the Pacific and fusion cuisine. My third course would be fresh seared ahi with lemon pesto butter and mango pineapple salsa; rosemary risotto with buttery Big Island mushrooms; and roasted garlic asparagus. I could not have created my present life without my 7 years in Hawaii. This course represents my inspiration to build a future and be creative in the culinary field. This course reminds me of where I am now and inspires me to be even more creative in my day to day life.

4. What dish would represent your future, and where you are going?

I love dessert and a meal is not complete without dessert. My life is about layers. It's about colors. It's about flavors. It's about something that stands out and makes a statement. I would create a passion fruit cream trifle with a passionfruit chiffon cake layered with triple-berry sauce, mango sauce, and a pineapple sauce. Each layer would create a beautiful blend of colors and the dessert would be a showcase and an ending to a meal that people would remember. It reminds me of how life is about the journey, not the destination. Life is about creating a story and about creating the layers of life that make you stand out and what people are reminded of when they think of you.

So what is YOUR story as described on a plate? Can you remember where you came from? What inspires you? What brought you to where you are now? And where are you going? Can you describe it in colors, through food, through words? Your story is unique to you and it's important to remind yourself of your past so you remember your present and remind yourself that you have a journey yet to follow.

Bon appetit!

August 19, 2009

Basil, Basil and Basil

I love basil. It's one of those must have ingredients in my Italian style cuisine. I have fallen in love with this herb. Basil is used for medicinal, culinary and aromatic purposes. I just love the flavors.
Some of the varieties include: Sweet basil, Thai basil, Genovese basil, Lemon basil, Cinnamon Basil, Licorice basil, Lettuce Leaf Basil, and even Dark Opal Basil, to name a few!

Sweet basil is my favorite, it originates from Africa and tropical Asia and is now commonly known as European or French basil, as it is used widely throughout Mediterranean Europe in France, Spain and Italy. Sweet basil is also cultivated in North and South America. It is an annual herb, which grows up to two feet in height. Sweet basil has aromatic oval leaves and fragrant white or pink flowers, when exposed to heat.

I have a friend at the farmer's market on Saturdays who makes sure I get my fresh basil! This past weekend she had 10 lbs waiting for me! WHOA! That's a lot of basil. So here's what I did with it.

1. Basil Oil - basil pureed with oil and oil strained
2. Pure Basil Pesto - No Nuts (smooth)
3. Basil Pesto with Sundried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts (chunkier)
4. Basil Pesto with Artichoke Hearts and Black Greek Olives and Walnuts (chunkier)

Basil Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Basil Leaves
Blend the basil leaves with as much oil as you want to preserve. Puree in food processor. Use a sieve and take a spoon to press leaves for pure oil. I took a smaller strainer over a funnel to remove any extra debris and bottled. Pure basil oil should be preserved in a refrigerator.

Pure Basil Pesto
Basil Leaves
Garlic Cloves
Pecorino Romano
Sea Salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I always blend clean basil leaves in processor first. It's ok if the leaves are a little wet because the moisture does add to the smoothness of the pesto. The leaves should have stems removed, any brownish leaves removed and dried as much as possible. Then I add garlic, cheese, salt. And then the oil. I add just enough olive oil to blend and make smooth. Trick to keeping pesto green: add a small layer of olive oil on top after each usage. And you can freeze pesto in jars or even plastic resealable bags.

Basil Pesto with Sundried Tomatoes
Basil Leaves
Garlic Cloves
Pecorino Romano
Sea Salt
Oil from Sundried Tomatoes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil if necessary
Sundried Tomatoes

Follow Pure Basil Pesto above and add sundried tomatoes after adding olive oil. PULSE for a few seconds until just blended. Leave a little chunky. If necessary you can add extra oil. This is a chunkier, less oilier pesto.

Basil Pesto with Artichoke Hearts and Black Greek Olives
Basil Leaves
Garlic Cloves
Pecorino Romano
Sea Salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Greek Black Olives
Artichoke Hearts (drained)
Follow Pure Basil Pesto recipe above and add black olives and artichoke hearts after adding olive oil. PULSE for a few seconds until just blended. Leave chunky. If you need to add more olive oil for the right consistency you can add it now.
Enjoy with bread, pasta, spread for wraps and put on meats and fish just before serving. I also add a little pesto to a balsamic/olive dressing for extra flavor and thickness. Be creative and enjoy one of the most luscious summer herbs!

August 17, 2009

Ingredient Find - Fresh Fig

Yes, I really do get excited about an ingredient find that I just fall in love with! And that's the fresh fig. Fresh figs are very delicate and perishable. They should be eaten within a day or two of purchasing.

I have eaten fresh figs before, but now that I am experimenting in the kitchen an ingredient I don't get often is an exciting opportunity for me. I recently was able to get my hands on fresh figs. Someone had used them in a salad and so I decided to experiment and come up with a few salad recipes myself. I really enjoy the taste and the texture and the fresh flavor. A fresh fig is definitely not like a dried fig.
I really enjoyed the flavor combination of figs, walnuts and blue cheese. SEE RECIPE BELOW.
"Figs are not only the main ingredient in a very popular cookie, the fig bar, but are a culinary delicacy par excellence. Part of the wonder of the fig comes from its unique taste and texture. Figs are lusciously sweet and feature a complex texture that combines the chewiness of their flesh, the smoothness of their skin, and the crunchiness of their seeds. In addition, since fresh figs are so delicate and perishable, some of their mystique comes from their relative rarity. Because of this, the majority of figs are dried, either by exposure to sunlight or through an artificial process, creating a sweet and nutritious dried fruit that can be enjoyed throughout the year.
Figs grow on the Ficus tree (Ficus carica), which is a member of the Mulberry family. They are unique in that they have an opening, called the "ostiole" or "eye," which is not connected to the tree, but which helps the fruit's development, aiding it in communication with the environment.
Figs range dramatically in color and subtly in texture depending upon the variety, of which there are more than one hundred and fifty."
Some of the most popular varieties are:
Black Mission: blackish-purple skin and pink colored flesh
Kadota: green skin and purplish flesh
Calimyrna: greenish-yellow skin and amber flesh
Brown Turkey: purple skin and red flesh
Adriatic: the variety most often used to make fig bars, which has a light green skin and pink-tan flesh
ABOVE from

Bunch of Watercress (washed and some stems removed)
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
NOTE: soak in salt water, debris comes to surface for easy removal
Toasted Walnuts
Roasted Beets
NOTE: Roast beets by washing and cutting of top stem from beet. Puncture with fork so that sugary juices can release. Roast at 450 degrees for about an hour, a knife should easily go through the beet. Wrap individually in foil or layer a roasting pan with foil and cover securely with another piece of foil to allow beets to roast.
Fresh Figs quartered
Balsamic Vinegar
Gorgonzola Cream
¼ c. cream
¼ c. gorgonzola cheese
2 tbls. lemon juice
1 tsp. balsamic
2 tbls. Olive oil
¼ c. water (to proper consistency) c. gorgonzola cheese
2 tbls. lemon juice
1 tsp. balsamic
2 tbls. Olive oil
¼ c. water (to proper consistency)
Extra crumbled gorgonzola cheese
Blend all dressing ingredients, but pulse on food processor. Do not overblend. If you like you can add in a little extra crumbled gorgonzola cheese to make the dre
ssing a little chunkier.
Lightly toss cleaned arugula with small amount of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt. Place on bottom of plate.
Top with sliced roasted beets.
Top with toasted walnuts.
Place quartered figs around plate. You can lightly drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar and drop of honey if desired.
Drizzle with gorgonzola cream! ENJOY!

August 14, 2009

Farm Fresh Vegetables


I do love vegetables. It is wonderful to live in a place where fresh fruits and vegetables grow year round. I will admit, I'm not a gardener. I do love knowing the gardeners. This woman on the left brings her fresh herbs and vegetables from Oahu each weekend. Thanks to her I can make lots and lots of pesto!

I love the fact that Pacific'O and I'O and Feast at Lele restaurants here on Maui have their own farm and grow their vegetables. They are leaders and really dedicated to food and making a difference. I have been to the farm twice now and learned so much both time. The photo of the red branches is RED QUINOA! SEE PHOTOS LEFT AND BELOW of O'O Farm.

I really did pick those asparagus. And if you don't pick them when they mature they flower.

The watermelon radish on the right was quite fabulous and has such a vibrant color and adds quite a blast to any plate. Try adding some fresh fennel bulb to a vegetable tray for an absolutely fresh and delicious crunch.

I think that eating vegetables can be as exciting as eating anything else. It's just that you have to find a source for different produce to make it exciting for you and your family. Try adding different raw vegetables and sprouts to a plate such as fennel, sunflower sprouts and daikon radish. Experiment. You don't have to buy a lot. Just try a few things and buy small quantities to start.

Quinoa - Yes, it comes in colors.
Red quinoa has just as much wonderful healthy goodness as regular white
quinoa. It's a complete protein like its pale sister, offering you all the essential amino acids that you need to build strong bones, muscles, skin, and blood. You can substitute rice in any dish with quinoa, which is great since it has more than twice the amount of protein than rice. Compared with white quinoa, the red variety has a slightly earthier flavor.

Cooking Quinoa in a pot:

Boil 2 cups of water.
Add 1 cup of quinoa, cover, and turn down the heat to low.

After about 15 minutes, lift up the cover and stir.
You'll know it's done when the grain turns slightly transparent, and the curly string-like germ has separated from the circular part.
Quinoa is great on its own when eaten with a stir-fry, but you can also make it its own dish, similar to a rice pilaf. Simply sauté your favorite veggies and add them to the cooked quinoa. For even more flavor, cook quinoa in veggie or mushroom broth instead of water.

I cook quinoa in my rice maker. I take 1 1/2 cups short grain brown rice and 1/2 cup white or red quinoa. Add 4 cups water. Add salt to water. The consistency is PHENOMENAL.

You can create a wonderful rice/quinoa salad. Fresh julienned pea pods, shredded carrots, some garlic, fresh diced tomatoes and a little feta with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar (try white balsamic if you can get it).
Remember. Always fresh. Always Delicious. Always with Aloha!

August 13, 2009

Simply Summer Fresh

Simply Summer Fresh Celebrating

I do love parties and I do love sharing special events over food! It really doesn't have to be a special event, any event becomes special.

This summer I had a good friend come and visit. And a friend of mine on the island had her sister and friend here as well. Time to celebrate.

I found some fabulous cheeses: creamy Delice de Bourgogne and Five Pokes raw white cheddar. I found these at Costco! Needless to say the guests oohed and ahhed, I threw in some dried cherries, candied ginger and some cashews and macadamia nuts to round off the cheese platter. I servd with thin slices of ciabatta lightly toasted.

Dinner was a simple avocado tomato basil and garlic salad with some garlic toasts. There were teriyaki chicken and tofu skewers with peanut sauce for nibbling. There were some of my famous rosemary sweet potatoes that are always a hit. And for dessert I outdid myself with my triple berry trifle by adding a layer of mango puree! Needless to say the guests were in trifle heaven.

Share with friends. Appreciate the moment, and make it a special event. Add a twist to your family recipe to make it even a little more memorable and make it your own. And remember to eat well with those around you and make today special. Make the table bright and cheerful with an array of dishes that showcase a variety of ingredients with lots of colors. Add a few colored candles. Make your guests smile with a little extra effort of something that reminds them of YOU as you spread your Aloha Spirit with them.

Always fresh. Always delicious. Always with Aloha.

August 12, 2009

Cooking Class on Maui

Cooking Class for 4

When I do a private cooking class I really try to make it specific to the people taking the class. In July 4 women took a class from me. We roasted vegetables, made chicken with rosemary and white wine, made cinnamon crepes filled with mango and a berry sauce and rosemary sweet potato fries as well as my orzo sundried tomato basil feta salad. It's just as much fun for me! I really enjoy the feedback and interacting with the people I am cooking for.
The hardest part for me is to make sure my recipes are right on! I have a hard time keeping up with writing my recipes and keeping an accurate record. I am getting better at it!

Cooking is about the preparation, the ingredients, but most importantly how much fun you have making the food and sharing it with friends! I could hardly get the crepes plated and photographed before the ladies were devouring the crepes that we topped with fresh sweetened whipping cream accented with orange extract.

It's about being creative in the kitchen. It's about sharing with others. It's about making something delicious. And it's about putting yourself into the food so that when you share it with others they taste a little of you! Making a dish is like sand art. It doesn't matter how long it took to make it or make it look beautiful, it can disappear in a bite!

Eat well and enjoy the people in your life!

Filled Mango Crepes with Sweet Orange Cream and Triple Berry Sauce

Add cinnamon to basic crepe recipe

Mangoes or peaches finely diced

Sweetened Oange Whipping Cream :
2 c. Heavy Cream
1/2 c. powdered sugar,
1 tbls. orange extract
Beat to high peaks.

Cinnamon for spinkling

Triple Berry Sauce:
4 cups frozen mixed berries
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. lime zest
1 1/2 tbls. cornstarch
1 tsp. lemon juice
Thaw frozen berries with sugar and zest. Take juice and heat with cornstarch. Add thawed berries. Add lemon juice to taste. Can be made and refrigerated for several days.

Take 1 prepared crepe.
Add 1/4 c, diced mangoes or peaches on 1/3 crepe.
Place 2 tbls. berry sauce on plate.
Roll. Top with 2 tbls. more berry sauce
Add dollops of orange whipping cream and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Mango Season on Maui


Mango season on Maui comes once a year. It's a time of year that I really look forward to. When I first moved to Maui I think I had a mango or two. However, it wasn't until last year that I really started noticing the mango trees on Maui. It was as if a blindfold had been removed from my eyes. They were everywhere. This year I had access to a mango yard of 10 trees!

Mango season came a little later this year because of the colder weather earlier. It's now August and we are still seeing some mangoes. My friend Debbie and her husband Bob visited from the Washington, DC area in July and I know that the mangoes were a highlight of the visit. We had fun picking mangoes, making mango smoothies, eating mango bread and dehydrating mangoes.

How can something like mangoes be so intriguing? I do not know why they excite me so much, but they do. I get so excited just thinking about them, finding them, cooking with them, sharing them with friends. Mangoes are a very lush and sweet fruit and they grow so abundantly, nobody has to do anything, they just appear. It's really quite amazing. The trees grow dozens of feet high. The mango is so delicious when you get it ripened from the tree. I am aware that most people will never have experienced the lusciousness of a tree ripened mango.

I know for sure that mangoes have inspired me. They inspired me to come up with new recipes. They have helped me make new friends. They put a smile on my face. I look forward to waking up in the morning and foraging for mangoes. I look forward to finding the deep red/orange ones that are perfectly ripened and ready to eat. I look forward to peeling, slicing and pureeing mangoes. Mangoes, they have created moments for me, good memories. Mangoes have taken me to a place of appreciation, awareness and creativity. It's really quite amazing how a fruit could do that!