September 19, 2009

Farmer's Market Excitement


I had to do a lot of shopping for this week and I was so looking forward to my visit to the farmer's market this morning. I really was looking forward to shopping and seeing what I was going to find. I was not only delighted but surprised at the wide variety I was able to get today. I really like that I am committed to my Saturday journey to the market, because I discover such amazing things each week. I learn something new and I try to go in without expectation and that makes it so much fun!

I decided to do a photo shoot of the wide variety of produce I got today. I got everything from Rambutan (red furry outside and white chewy inside), Tahitian passion fruit (bright orange outside, edible inside), Star Apple Fruit (inside looks like a star), guava, Dinosaur Kale (exterior looks ancient), organic papaya, juicy tomatoes, local strawberries, huge avocadoes, Japanese cucumbers, fresh white corn, sweet Maui Onions, apple bananas and Thai Basil, Sweet Basil and young ginger.

I was like a kid in a candy store. I had SOOOOO much fun. I had as much fun returning from my shopping spree and looking at my loot. I had to take photos of this amazing display. I feel so abundant and grateful to have access to such incredible fresh produce.

What I know for sure is that my creativity increases when I see what nature has produced. It's amazing that there is such a vastness in the world we live in. I love the fact that the colors of nature are so vibrant and make me feel alive. Yes, I feel more alive with fruits and vegetables in my life! And I feel grateful for the farmer's and sellers that are dedicated and show up each week to provide us with their labor of love.
Now I get to delve into this amazing selection and create dishes that are bold, unique, colorful and freshness oozes from each bite.
Always Fresh, Always Delicious, Always with Aloha...

September 9, 2009

Salads and Dressings

Lots of people don't like salads and "salads" get a bad rap. I think it's because they think of head lettuce and a slice of cucumber or tough tomato set on top.
Times have changed. I recently was reading in a cookbook on Mediterranean cuisine how one chef years ago was one of the leading advocates of bringing fancy greens to our tables. Think about it, how many years ago would never have heard of "baby field greens" or "mache" or "arugula?" It is interesting because when I was at O'o Farm the farm manager was explaining how the chefs in the restaurant demand the really pretty stuff, such as watermelon radishes and baby beets and a wide variety of vegetables that aren't normally seen in your everyday supermarket. And then he said that they are finally getting more supply that they can use, and perhaps that's how a new vegetable variety gets introduced to the mainstream, and then people want it. I do know how excited I get when I go to the farmer's market and I discover something new such as New Zealand spinach or rainbow swiss chard, I just want more of it.

Times have changed. And when you think of the array of availability wherever you are in the country it's simply amazing. Here on Maui it's a blessing to have Costco because we get a variety of produce that doesn't grow here on Maui (blueberries, raspberries, figs) at reasonable costs. And also organic produce (baby field greens, carrots, spinach) that we also could never buy in such quantities at the price.

Back to salads. I grew up in an Italian household and my mother loved salads and at my grandmother's house she always served an Italian salad of romaine lettuce, escarole, tomatoes, cucumbers and a great red wine vinegar and olive oil. However, it was a great salad because it had those nice crunchy greens. I started getting creative and added the extras of carrots and nuts and other veggies.

For me I call a salad anything that consists of vegetables with some kind of dressing. Marinated vegetables are salads. And of course even a main course salad with fish and a hardboiled egg and lots of veggies is a salad. Being creative with salads keeps people wanting to eat a salad.

I was recently requested to make a papaya seed dressing. I did a little research and discovered it consisted of rice wine vinegar and honey! I made a few adjustments and it got rave reviews! The recipe follows.

I also make dressings where I use orange juice to sweeten it up. I try to use less oil. Another trick to thicken it a little is add dijon mustard.

For my sesame dressings I add sesame oil and sesame seeds blended. Again, for a little sweetener I would add honey.
Papaya Seed Dressing
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. mashed papaya
1 tbls. dry mustard
1 tbls. dijon mustard
1/2 c. rice vinegar
1/2 c. orange champagne vinegar
1 tbls. sea salt
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 c. papaya seed
2 small sweet onions
In a blender or food processor blend the sugar, the honey, papaya, mustards, vinegards and salt until the mixture is smooth. With the motor running add the oil in a stream and blend the dressing until it is emulsified. Add the onionand the papaya seed and blend the dressing until the papaya seeds are the consistency of ground pepper. Dressing keeps covered and chilled for 2 weeks.

September 6, 2009

Dishes that Are Puzzling Good

Do you know the feeling when you eat something new or different and you really want that flavor profile again? There are certain items that most people never make at home and they either are bought in a store or eaten at a restaurant. I usually go on a mad quest to figure out how to make some of those dishes. It could be a simple side dish or even a main dish, but it's something I have to know how to make so I can have it when I want it.

Namasu and pickled ginger are 2 of those items that I really wanted to know how to make. And they are so simple! What is namasu? Namasu is a Japanese pickled dish consisting of thinly sliced vegetables or vegetables and seafood, marinated in rice vinegar and sugar for several hours and can be stored for longer.

You usually find it as a pickled cucumber side dish at a Japanese restaurant. I found some really fresh Japanese cucumbers at the farmer's market on Saturday (these are the thinner ones with less seed) and decided to make my version of namasu so I could eat it as a healthy side dish when I got the craving.

4 med. Japanese Cucumbers (washed, with peel on)...note, the ones I used were med. size and not the huge ones
1 tbls. Sea Salt
1/4 Pickling Juice from Pickled Ginger (store bought or homemade, see recipe below)
1/4 c. Sugar
1/4 c. Rice Vinegar
1/4 large red onion finely sliced
1 large carrot cut in very thin 2 inch matchstick pieces
1/4 c. finely chopped pickled ginger

Wash and dry cucumbers, do not peel. Finely slice the Japanese Cucumbers with a sharp knife or in a food processor or other slicing device. Put cucumbers in large bowl and sprinkle sea salt on top. Allow to sit for 20 min. so that the liquid is extracted from cucumbers. Drain. Blot dry.

While cucumbers are sitting in sea salt mix the ginger juice, rice vinegar and sugar, mix well. Add the sliced onion, sliced carrots and pickled ginger. When the cucumbers are ready add them to the mixture.

Allow to sit for several hours before using. These can last for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. I store in a tightly sealed canning jar. Serve with fish, top on salads, eat as a side dish with wraps and sandwiches. Enjoy.

Here's the recipe for pickled ginger. Please note that there is a difference in the TYPE of ginger you use for this. I discovered that young ginger is what is used for the sushi type of ginger that most people are accustomed to eating. I also thought that the pink coloring was an additive (read the ingredients if you buy pre-packaged). I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that young ginger when it is very fresh turns naturally pink after pickling in rice vinegar and sugar. I found that the freshness of my homemade version unbeatable and the taste absolutely invigorating. I'm a ginger fan, so of course I was excited to be able to make my own.

Here's a great link for everything you want to know about ginger:

1 lb. fresh young ginger
2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 c. rice vinegar
1 c. sugar
Wash young ginger and gently rub skin off. Thinkly slice ginger. You will need a very sharp knife or you can use the thinnest blade on your food processor or slicing device. Put salt on ginger and allow to sit for 1 hour. Allow water and juices to extract. Drain and blot dry. Put the ginger in a sterilized jar or container.

In a saucepan boil sugar and vinegar. Allow to come to a boil. Pour hot mixture over ginger slices. Allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate. NOTE: the freshest young ginger will anturally turn light pink. Serve as a condiment with sushi, fish, rice dishes or any time you want to cleanse your palate. Stores for months in the refrigerator.
Explore, create and invigorate through your taste buds as you take yourself on your own culinary journey!