Category Archives: Travel

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.

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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.

HUSK…. America’s Best New Restaurant

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HUSK…. America’s Best New Restaurant

Bon Appetit hailed it as the Best New Restaurant in the US…. accolades have been streaming ever since. It is not all hype, the food is amazing, creative and interesting. Husk is the newest offering from James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock of McCrady’s and the Neighborhood Dining Group. He transforms the essence of Southern food.

Rudderfish with Rice Grits and Peas

Led by Brock and Chef de Cuisine Travis Grimes, a Lowcountry native, the kitchen reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area, exploring an ingredient-driven cuisine that begins in the rediscovery of heirloom products and redefines what it means to cook and eat in Charleston.

Executive Chef Sean Brock

Starting with a larder of ingredients indigenous to the South, and set within a building complex dating to the late 19th century, Brock crafts menus throughout the day, responding to what local purveyors are supplying the kitchen at any given moment. The entrance beckons with a rustic wall of firewood to fuel the wood-fired oven and a large chalkboard listing artisanal products currently provisioning the kitchen, but like the décor that inhabits the historic building, the food is modern in style and interpretation.

At Husk there are some rules about what can go on the plate. “If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door,” says Brock, who has even stricken olive oil from the kitchen. As he explains, the resulting cuisine “is not about rediscovering Southern cooking, but exploring the reality of Southern food.” This modern approach results in playful dishes such as Deviled Eggs with Pickled Okra and Trout Roe, and new classics like South Carolina Shrimp and Chopped Okra Stew with Carolina Gold Rice and Flowering Basil.

Sweet Tea Brined Kentuckyaki Glazed NC Chicken Wings with Sea Island Benne Seeds and Scallions

BBQ Pig Ear Lettuce Wrap with Pickled Peppers and Cilantro

Seed-saving, heirloom husbandry, and in-house pickling and charcuterie efforts by the culinary team are the basis of the cuisine at Husk. The restaurant is as casual as it is chic, evoking a way of life centered on seasonality and the grand traditions of Charleston life—one lived at a slower pace, preferably with a cocktail and a wide porch in the late afternoon. It is a neighborhood gathering place for friends, and a destination dining spot for travelers, with a little bite of the South for everyone’s palates.

Nathalie Dupree and Holly Herrick

These photos are from my lunch there with Nathalie Dupree and Holly Herrick, two Charleston based friends of mine than rank in the upper echelons of Food Writers.  And so we were treated to many things that we did not order. I must say that the most amazing thing that day was totally unexpected, the fried chicken skin with honey and hot sauce. It is a dish I have reconstructed back in my home kitchen in Hawaii, within 2 days of my return.

Fried Chicken Skins with Hot Sauce and Honey

HUSK Bologna with Sorghum Mustard and House Pickle and Kentuckyaki Glazed NC Chicken Wings with Sea Island Benne Seeds and Scallions

SC Beef Tenderloin with Spinach, Caramelized Onions, Baby Carrots and Turnips, Carolina Mushroom Jus

Even the centerpieces are local... dried okra pods

Citrus Pana Cotta in a jelly jar

Brown Sugar Pecan Tart

The Compassionate Chefs of Charleston

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The Compassionate Chefs of Charleston

I have some sweet memories rolling around my head right now. Last weekend I found myself in the midst of several hundred foodies and fourteen amazingly generous chefs. We were at Lowndes Grove Plantation along the slow and winding Ashley River in Charleston, South Carolina. We were there for a barn raising, quite literally. Keegan Filion Farm owned by Annie and Marc Keegan supplies many of Charleston’s restaurants with free range poultry, eggs, grass fed beef and heritage Tamworth Hogs. On December 4th a young turkey knocked over a heater and the barn built in the 1930’s was consumed by fire. More than 100 turkeys died in the fire as well as turkey and hog feed, farm equipment and tools.

Chef Nico Romo of Fish Restaurant and Randall Goldman, CEO for Patrick Properties rallied the troops. A barn raising, was planned in a little less than two months. Chefs offered their services and food. Patrick Properties provided the spectacular venue and the public came in droves to taste and celebrate together. Enough money was raised at the event to build the new barn.

The food was amazing of course! Here are some pictures of the wonderful treats we were served.

Here is the perfectly executed Lasagna with Lamb Bolognese and Goat Cheese by Chef  Jacques Larson of Wild Olive

From the culinary program at the Art Institute, this beautiful Foie Gras Custard with Pickled Red Onion Mousse

From FIG, here is yet another “play with lamb dish”, AMAZING soft pillows of gnocchi with a velvety lamb ragu. This just might be the best gnocchi I have ever tasted.
It literally melted in my mouth. Chef Mike Lata is an artist in the kitchen. I would go back to Charleston just to sit at one of his tables.

House made Charcuterie on Focaccia by Craig Deihl of Cypress

Pulled Pork Tamal with Black Bean Sauce and a Kicker of Green Chile Salsa

Cassoulet with house made bacon

And then there were the OYSTERS! I miss oysters so much living in Hawaii. Low Country Oysters are unique and so very good that I often dream of them.

The handsome Chef Nico Romo of Fish Restaurant

In the low country oysters are roasted, this does not mean that they are cooked… they are steamed just long enough to encourage them to open.

Big thanks to the generous chefs who at the end of Restaurant Week still found energy and gave their all to the cause:

Nico Romo from Fish Restaurant, Sean Brock from McCrady’s and Husk, Ken Vedrinski fromTrattori a Lucca, Marc Collins from Circa 1886, Fred Neuville from Fat Hen, Craig Deihl from Cypress, Sarah O’Kelley from Glass Onion, Matt Russell from EVO, Nathan Thurston from The Ocean Room at Kiawah, Jacques Larson from Wild Olive, Mike Lotz from Triangle Char and Bar, Frank Lee from SNOB, Mike Lata from FIG, Jeremiah Bacon from Macintosh.

Ahhhh… I miss the Low Country already and I have only been back in Hawaii for a few days.

And here is a shout out to my host in Charleston, Holly Herrick… it was so much fun exploring the city and dining with you. More on her soon.