Category Archives: Hawaii

Best Banana Bread!

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This banana bread is my great grandmother’s recipe except for a single addition, a little trick I learned in Hawaii. It has Cocoa Nibs added. They are pure chocolate which does not have any sugar or butterfat added. They do not melt, but remain crunchy and full of chocolate flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 2 cups self rising flour, plus more for pan
  • 4-5 medium very ripe bananas peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 cup full fat yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup cocoa nibs

Method:

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  • Heat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mash bananas and stir in the yogurt/sour cream and vanilla
  • Using a mixer beat the butter, add eggs one at a time, beating till fluffy.
  • Blend remaining ingredients in a bowl and using the mixer beat in a little at a time till fully blended.
  • Place in a buttered and floured bread pan.
  • Bake for 70 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool slightly, then serve with sweet butter!

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Prickly Pear Sorbet

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This recipe is quite simple. You will need an icecream maker of some kind, but even the very inexpensive ones work well for this. You will also need a fine sieve.

8 Prickly Pears (they call these Tuna) in Mexican markets. They come in yellow, orange and pink. My favorite is pink.

1 cup of simple syrup (half water/half sugar till sugar melts) or light agave syrup. Sometimes I put fresh mint in the syrup too.

Juice of three limes

1/4 cup raspberry liqueur  such as Framboise. This step can be eliminated if you do not want the liquor.

Often times you can find these pears growing wild and in gardens. In Mexico they also candy them. In Italy they are used to make gelato ad sorbet in the fall.

When making your simple syrup, you can add spices, in this case I used one cardamom pod, mint, a cinnamon stick and 3 star anise. These just flavor the syrup slightly.

Using a fork, cut off the ends of the prickly pear. Commercial pears like you would find in a hispanic grocery will have the little prickles removed. If you harvest them your self, you will need to be more careful. Hold the fork on one end, stand the pear on the other end and using a sharp knife cut just the skin from the pear. Then cut into large chunks and place in a food processor. Pour in the simple syrup, lime and liqueur. Pulse until the mixture is smooth.

Strain carefully, there are a lot of seeds inside. Cool the mixture.

Process as you would in any ice cream or gelato machine. Pack tightly in freezer containers. It will be ready to eat within a couple of hours.

Jalapeno Martini: A Sassy Cocktail

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One of my favorite cocktails is the Jalapeno Martini. I first had one at Hilo Bay Cafe when living in Hawaii. It was not at all difficult to figure out the recipe for this really refreshing drink. I am not truly much of  a martini drinker, but I do love all things jalapeno. Here is the recipe for you to try.

Ingredients: 

2 jiggers of good vodka

2 drops of dry vermouth

1/2 a jigger of juice from pickled jalapenos (save those peppers to add to cornbread or use in recipes)

1 large Gorgonzola stuffed olive ( I make my own, just find nice big olives and remove the pimento)

Method: 

Fill a martini glass with ice to chill it while making the drink

Put the vodka, vermouth and jalapeno juice in a shaker with ice and shake about 20 times.

Remove the ice from the martini glass, strain the martini into it and garnish with the olive. So good and so easy!

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

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Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

The Cupcakes
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 
3/4 teaspoon baking powder 
3/4 teaspoon salt 
2 large eggs 
3/4 cup buttermilk 
3 tablespoons vegetable oil 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
3/4 cup warm water 

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line mini muffin tin with paper liners. Whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add eggs, buttermilk, oil, extract, and the water; beat until smooth and combined.

Spoon the batter into liners about two-thirds full. Bake approximately 15 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Transfer tins to wire racks and allow to cool for 10 minutes; turn cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 1 month in air tight containers.

To finish, use a paring knife to cut a cone-shaped piece (about 1/2 inch deep) from the center of each cupcake and throw away the pieces (or eat them). Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons warm Salted Caramel Filling into each hollowed-out cupcake. You will notice the caramel will sink into the cupcake a little, just fill it up a bit more. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over filling.

Use a pastry bag with a medium open-star tip and pipe Dark Chocolate Frosting onto each cupcake, swirling tip and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Garnish each cupcake with a pinch of sea salt. Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are filled and frosted. Store at room temperature in airtight containers – do NOT refrigerate. 

Salted Caramel Filling
Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups sugar 
2/3 cup water 
1 tablespoon light corn syrup 
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream 
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, preferably fleur de sel 

Directions
Heat sugar with the water and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over high, stirring occasionally, until syrup is clear; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan and stop stirring.

Cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush as needed. Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelized and just reaches 360°F. Remove from heat and slowly pour in cream; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in sea salt.

Use immediately; if caramel begins to harden reheat gently until pourable.

Dark Chocolate Frosting
Ingredients:
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water 
2 1/4 cups (4 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature 
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 1/2 pounds best-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Directions:
Combine cocoa and boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved.

With electric mixer on medium-high, beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the cocoa mixture. 

Frosting can be refrigerated up to 5 days, or frozen up to 1 month in an air tight container. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat on low speed until smooth again. Pipe onto cupcakes. 

Week Night Dinner: Chicken Piccata

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So easy, so delicious and made with just a few simple ingredients. I served it with pasta as the extra sauce goes perfectly with it. We had a salad as a final course. I buy boneless breasts on sale and freeze. I  always have  lemons and capers on hand. and of course you can do this with veal or pork cutlets too.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • fresh cracked pepper ~ or Lemon Garlic Pepper
  • crushed red pepper to taste
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice (I used Meyer)
  • 1/2 cup brined capers
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

METHOD

  • Put the chicken breasts between two pieces of waxed paper and pound them with a meat hammer to about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut them up into pieces a little smaller than the palm of your hand.
  • Put the cheese and a bit of parsley into a mini processor and process till the cheese is about the size of couscous.
  • Mix together  flour, salt, peppers, and grated Parmesan.  Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, until well coated. *Note some people like a thicker coating, if you do dredge in plain flour first, then in an egg wash and finally in the cheese and flour mixture. I like mine lightly breaded.
  •  Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add half of the chicken pieces, do not crowd the pan. Brown well on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve to an oven proof pan. Place in a warming drawer or a 300 degree oven. Cook the remaining chicken pieces,  remove from pan. Keep warm in the oven while you prepare the sauce.
  • On medium/low heat. Add the wine & lemon juice to the pan and stir to deglaze and loosen. Add capers to the pan. Reduce the sauce by half.
  • Plate the chicken and serve with the sauce poured over the chicken. Garnish with remaining parsley. Use extra sauce on pasta and toss.
  • If you have left over breading, you can toast it on a silpat and use it as a topping for other things.

Shrimp and Pumpkin Curry

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Based on a Thai Pumpkin Curry that I make, this silken & spicy dish definitely qualifies as SASSY in my book. It is easy to make, healthy and makes great leftovers. I steamed some Jasmine Rice with a few Kaffir Lime leaves and made my own sassy version of cucumber salad (recipe to follow on the next blog post.) I used the Japanese Kabocha  pumpkin that is abundant year round in Hawaii, but you could use any tender squash or pumpkin. Kabocha is sweeter and more tender than most and you can even eat the skin. It cooks rather quickly as do the shrimp, which makes this a prime recipe to whip up on a week night. The splash of cognac adds another dimension of flavor.

Garlic Man is the mascot for The Sassy Spoon! He will be featured somewhere in every post!

Ingedients: 

1 Kabocha Pumpkin cut in to 1″ squares

2 tablespoons curry paste (You can choose any style of curry paste, I have used yellow, green and red with this before. This time I used red).

2 cans of coconut milk

6-8 fresh kaffir lime leaves (there is no real substitute for this, but you can use lime zest).

1/2 pound of large raw shrimp (I used 18-21 per #)

2 tablespoons palm sugar (or dark brown sugar)

2 Tablespoons coconut oil

8 cloves fresh garlic finely minced

4-6 Shitake mushrooms, sliced thickly

splash of cognac (My “splash” is generous, about a jigger full)

Chopped cilantro for finishing

Method: 

In a large hot wok put a large spoon full of the cream from the coconut milk and stir in the curry paste, allow the paste to warm up completely, then pour in one can of the coconut milk & the kaffir leaves, stirring constantly as it thickens.

Add pumpkin and cook for 10 minutes, add the second can of coconut milk and the sugar. Check pumpkin to see if it is cooked thoroughly, be careful not to over cook it or the pumpkin will be mushy. Turn off the heat.

In another pan add the coconut oil, shrimp and mushroom slices. Saute till the shrimp turns pink, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and slightly brown it.

Add a splash of cognac and cook for 30 seconds more. Add all of this into the wok, turn the heat back up and simmer for a minute, then sprinkle with cilantro and serve over rice.

Candied Prosecco Poached Pears Filled with Brie and Wrapped in Bacon

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This recipe came about, as many do, with an inspiration from another cook. My friend Caterina Borg who has the fabulous food blog Good Food Gourmet. She made this post back in October about poached pears stuffed with Brie. She was inspired by another food blog Palachinka. Here is Palachinka’s original post with a different spin on the theme. Palachinka’s post was inspired by a recipe in Sale&Pepe magazine, Serbian issue for December 2009.

I had planned to make this as an appetizer, but could not find small pears, so I made it as a first course, served in bowls with a reduction of the poaching liquid spooned over. This would also go great on some lightly dressed greens.

My spin was of course quite different, from the poaching liquid to the finish, and yet all three of our dishes have the same basic components, pears, cheese and bacon. What is not to love? Here is my version of the concept which dazzled my dinner guests last night:

Ingredients: 

6 pears

Enough wine to cover 6 pears in a pot (2-3 bottles). I used prosecco, but you could use any wine you like. Port is great for this as would be a merlot. Each with their own distinctions.

Aromatics: I used fennel, pink pepper corns, thyme, cinnamon sticks, big slices of orange peel and cloves. Star anise would be nice this too.

A small wheel of Brie Cheese (You will have leftover cheese.)

12-14 slices of bacon

1 1 /2 cups brown sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons of  Chipotle powder

Method:

  •  Peel pears and place in a large pan so that they are in a single layer.
  • Cover with wine and add aromatics
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, remove pears to another bowl for cooling.
  • Turn the burner up to a rolling simmer and reduce the poaching liquid by half.
  • When pears are cool, cut in half, scoop out the center with a melon baller and fill the cavities with peeled brie, then put back together.
  • Wrap each pear with 2 slices of bacon, if you have a really large pear, you might need three slices. Hold together with toothpicks.
  • Roll the pears in the seasoned brown sugar
  • Place standing up on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or until the bacon is crispy.
  • Place each pear in a bowl, mine were laying down, but you could place them standing up too.  Spoon the remaining poaching liquid with the aromatics over each pear. Serve with a sharp knife so the bacon is easily cut through.

Aloha Rolls

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These slightly sweet rolls are quick and easy to make. They freeze well and the dough can be saved in the refrigerator for up to a week so you can make them fresh for each meal. If you want a more traditional Hawaiian Sweet Bread Roll add another egg or two.

Ingredients:
2 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast or about 1 tablespoon 1 cup lukewarm water (105 to 115 F)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
3/4 cup raw sugar or honey
1 1/2 cups warm water (more if needed)
6 1/2-7 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Butter

Method:

  • Dissolve the yeast in a large mixing bowl with 1 cup of lukewarm water and let it stand for about 5 minutes
  • Add the oil, egg, sugar or honey, salt and the rest of the water and mix it with a whisk, let stand again for a few minutes
  • Add the flour and mix on medium with a dough hook until the dough forms a ball. It should be a moist dough, but not very sticky. Add a little more flour if needed. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes then knead  for 5 minutes
  • Put a small circle of olive oil in the bottom of a large bowl and put the ball of dough smooth side down into the bowl, then flip it over and cover with plastic wrap. And allow to rise for 90 minutes or until doubled
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and get a large sheet pan spray with cooking spray or line with partchment paper or silicone mat
  • Punch down the dough and pinch off pieces of the dough and roll into golf ball size for dinner rolls or “slider” buns, or tennis ball sizes for sandwich rolls. Arrange the dough on the pan about 1-2 inches apart then cover with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with olive oil or Pam. Allow to rise for 20 minutes. The rolls will not quite double in bulk on the second rising
  • Bake rolls for 18 to 30 (shorter time for small rolls) mintues or until golden brown. When they come out of the oven brush lightly with olive oil or take a stick of butter and rub on the tops. You can also add seeds to the tops immediately after buttering. These can also be made into hot dog buns by making 4″ X 1 1/2 inch torpedo shapes and allowing to rise in the same manner. They make AWESOME hamburger buns too!

Soba Simpatico!

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On Saturday I got to experience something really special. The Puna Hongwanji hosted a professional soba maker from Japan to teach a workshop on making soba. Mr. Yamaguchi came from Fukui Japan to teach us his craft. And I use the term teach loosely, as it takes an entire year of making soba three times a day before you can actually be considered a professional.  In Japan, soba and other noodles are made both by hand and also by manufacturing equipment. The handmade noodles are revered and sought out. Mr. Yamaguchi’s shop is one where the noodles are made daily, every day of the week, every week of the year by his wife, himself and a worker. He and his wife take separate vacations so that the shop never closes. In the shop, the soba master works behind a glass cage so that the customers are assured they are getting the freshest handmade product. Often there will be a slightly misshapen piece of noodle added to each bowl so that the customers are once again assured of a completely handmade product.

Before you read further, here is the video:

The heart of soba making is in the region of Japan called Fukui where a long tradition of growing and harvesting buckwheat is centered. Buckwheat is not a grain, but the seed of a flower.

The 54 year old soba maestro has traveling equipment set up that he stores in Hawaii because he comes here so frequently to do demonstrations. His equipment involves a large wooden shallow bowl for mixing the buckwheat flour and water that comprise the noodle dough, a 3’ X 3’ rolling surface which comes apart in three pieces, a 3’ X 1’ cutting board with 2 little folding legs to hold it onto the rolling surface, preventing slipping, an interesting device that has a hand guard for cutting the noodles and a very large long steel cleaver that is used to precisely cut the noodles. His final 2 pieces of equipment are the rolling pins, two long dowels about 1 ½ inches in diameter and 3’ long. Each piece of his equipment has a handmade quilted bag to protect it when not in use.

Soba (そば or 蕎麦?) is the Japanese name for buckwheat. It is synonymous with a type of thin noodle made from buckwheat flour, and in Japan can refer to any thin noodle (in contrast to thick wheat noodles, known as udon). Soba noodles are served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soup. It takes three months for buckwheat to be ready for harvest, so it can be harvested four times a year, mainly in spring, summer, and autumn. In Japan, buckwheat is produced mainly in Hokkaido. Soba that is made with newly-harvested buckwheat is called “shin-soba”. It is sweeter and more flavorful than regular soba.

Since soba also means “next to,” there is a unique Japanese custom called “hikkoshi-soba (moving-in noodles).” People who have just moved into a new neighborhood, give their new neighbors soba while introducing themselves.

On New Year’s Eve there is a custom to eat “toshikoshi-soba (year-crossing noodles).” Because soba is fine and long, people eat them to wish for a long life. This became widespread in the Edo period.

The style of Mr. Yamaguchi’s noodles is is Echizen oroshi soba, or Summer Noodles. They are served cold with bonito flakes, spring onions and a sauce made of freshly grated daikon that was mixed with seasoning. The cooking liquid is also served alongside as a tea.  The seasoning for Echizen oroshi soba is usually made with soy sauce, mirin, water and sugar, but in this case because Mr. Yamaguchi believes that the daikon in Hawaii is sweeter than in Japan, he brought a bittering agent to counteract that sweetness.

Mr. Yamaguchi does not speak English, so an interpreter from the Puna Hongwanji was available to translate his meticulous instructions. First the dough is made. This process takes about 30 minutes. Special flour made from the heart of the buckwheat is ground into flour. Mr. Yamaguchi brought his custom made flour in pre-measured bags. Each bag made one batch of soba. He had to make 3 batches to feed the 40 people attending the class. He starts by emptying the bag of soba flour into the bowl and adding a precise amount of water a tiny bit at a time. He works the dough by hand assuring that the hydration occurs evenly. As he incorporates more and more water, the dough begins to form and he kneads it over and over into a smooth and elastic dough. Finally after working the dough into complete submission, he flattens it into a disk and then starts the rolling process. The disc eventually is flattened and thinned into a square shape. This process takes another 20-30 minutes. The entire time my head was spinning as I was thinking how much easier it would be with a pasta machine to roll it out. Then when the dough is as thin as it needs to be, the square is folded over three times with extra flour to keep it from sticking and the cutting begins. The noodles are quite thin, thinner than the commercially made soba that I have experienced. Each bunch of noodles consists of 28 cuts. The noodles are then shaken to rid the excess flour and laid out on a sheet to rest. At this point you could cover the noodles and refrigerate for up to three days, but it is best to use them fresh.

A large wok-pot on a commercial wok burner was filled with water and set to boil. Once boiling the noodles are added and cooked using a long set of chopsticks to occasionally stir. In about 5 minutes a noodle is removed and tasted and when the noodles are at the ready they are placed into a colander and immediately dunked into ice water and “washed”. Then they go through the process a second time in fresh ice water. They are then immediately drained and served in bowls. The daikon in sauce goes on top, then some green onion slices and finally a generous hand full of bonito flakes.

A cup of soba noodles has 113 calories. That compares with about 200 calories for a cup of white-flour pasta. The calories in soba noodles still are made up mostly of carbohydrates, at 24.44 g. That compares to about 40g carbs in a cup of regular pasta. There are 5.77g protein in soba noodles and 0.11g fats. About 92 percent of the calories in the noodles come from carbs, 20 percent from protein and 1 percent from fat.

If your are interested in learning more about the Puna Honwanji, you can go to their website or facebook page.