Monthly Archives: January 2012

Over the years, Roger and I have been fortunate enough to journey to the breathtaking island of Maui many times. During each of our visits to this tropical island paradise, we’ve also had the privilege of eating at many fabulous restaurants. This latest visit was no exception!

Roger and I were on Maui to attend an ophthalmology conference that was held in the small town of Wailea (we were staying at the Grand Wailea hotel). In the evenings, after the lectures had concluded, we got to catch up with friends and colleagues over some tasty vittles. Normally, when Roger and I dine out alone, I fly my foodie freak-flag by taking copious notes, snapping lots of pictures, and peppering the wait staff with lots of questions. Since I try and suppress this geeky behavior when dining with others, I had to bide my time until our dinner for two at Kō.

Kō is located at the Fairmont Kea Lani hotel. The name Kō means “sugarcane” in Hawaiian and the cuisine represents the island’s culinary and cultural heritage.  There have been many hard-working immigrants who moved to the islands looking for work on plantations and leaving their food footprint behind in the process. Kō showcases Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, and Filipino dishes on their menu. A wide-range of cooking methods is also visible on Kō’s menu. There are dishes that are pickled, steamed, boiled, and cured. Kō’s menu reflects fusion at its best.

The meal began with house-made rice crackers imbedded with sesame seeds and served with an edamame puree dip. The flavors of garlic and EVOO were obvious in the puree, but, unfortunately, there was a serious lack of salt. Roger told me that he doesn’t particularly enjoy eating “Styrofoam,” so he left them to me to eat. I, in turn, left them on the platter. Without the appropriate amount of seasoning in the puree, the crackers, being merely a vehicle for the puree, simply weren’t worth losing valuable stomach space.

For starters I ordered the Portuguese bean soup and Roger ordered the oishi sushi (which translates to “good sushi”).  The soup was a sweet tomato broth that contained chunks of Portuguese sausage, kidney beans, lima beans, and small dices of carrot, celery, tomato, and onion.  It was delicious! Roger’s sushi was filled with sashimi-grade ‘ahi and seasoned sushi rice. The rolls were then wrapped with the standard nori, however, they were tempura battered and fried! The tempura was ultra-light and it added a pleasant crunch factor to the rolls, without being greasy. It was very different and very tasty.

The star of our main courses was the mahi-mahi that was encrusted with macadamia nuts.  If you’ve ever visited the Hawaiian Islands, then you know there is always a macadamia nut encrusted something or other on the menu. It’s standard faire over there; however, this was not your average macadamia nut imprisoned protein.  The crust was a mixture of  finely ground macadamia nuts and pink. Rather than deep-frying the fish, it was drizzled with a little butter and baked in the oven.  The menu description of this main course was, “Macadamia Nut-Crusted Mahi-mahi with Olowalu Nui Tomato and Ginger” and the recipe follows below the image.

Macadamia Nut-Crusted Mahimahi with Olowalu Nui Tomato and Ginger (yields 4 servings)

  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 4 (5oz) mahi-mahi fillets
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the nut crust:

  • ½ cup finely chopped macadamia nuts
  • ½ teaspoon chopped parsley
  • ½ cup panko (Japanese style bread crumbs)
  • ½ teaspoon paprika

For the tomato ginger sauce:

  • 1 cup seeded and diced (1/4 inch) tomato
  • ¼ cup finely diced Maui onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely sliced green onions
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced pickled ginger
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

To make the nut crust, chop the nuts and parsley per the instructions in the ingredients list. Mix the nuts, parsley, panko, and paprika in a shallow pan and set aside.

To make the sauce, prepare the tomato, onion, green onions, and ginger per the ingredients list. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat; add the chopped onion and cook until soft. Add the diced tomatoes and pickled ginger and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the butter. When it has melted, turn off the heat and add the green onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the sauce to retain heat.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan or the microwave. Season the mahi-mahi fillets with salt and pepper. Coat the fillets with the nut crust mixture.  Put the fillets in a baking pan and drizzle with the melted butter. Bake the fillets in the 400 degree oven until the crust is nicely browned, about 10 minutes.

Presentation

Serve the cooked fish on top of the finished tomato and ginger sauce.

Maui Nō Ka ‘Oi – Translates to Maui is the best!

Aloha!

April

Food Nostalgia

For about a month now, I’ve been an uneasy passenger in the “kids’ car” while my 16 yr old daughter, Monica, learns how to drive. Anyone who has the task of teaching their teenager how to drive knows that virtually every moment you’re riding shotgun is a moment filled with anxiety, regardless of how well they may be doing. My older son, Jeffrey, and I had our share of exasperated moments in the car when I was instructing him. Thankfully, Monica seems more open to accepting “constructive” criticism without getting hot under the collar. The mood in the car with Monica is much more relaxed, and the music much more fun!

This past Saturday morning Monica was driving me downtown. Before we left the driveway she turned on the radio and set the station to KJazz 88.1.  KJazz broadcasts swing music from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday morning. It’s been a very long time since I’ve listened to swing and I was instantly transported back to my grandparent’s kitchen watching my grandfather make my breakfast before school (I was lucky enough to live with them in my early years of elementary school).

My grandfather, Bupup, has some special dishes in his repertoire, but I’m particularly fond of his farm-fresh scrambled eggs (sadly, he no longer cooks). I know what you’re thinking, “Wow, scrambled eggs, woopty-do!” However, after much thought this week I came to the conclusion that there are many ingredients that make up an exceptional food experience. First of all, I would drive over to the farm with my grandmother to buy the eggs, straight from the farmer. Or sometimes their kind neighbor Russ would come calling with an extra basket of eggs he just couldn’t use up fast enough. The smiling farmer, and sometimes Russ, were the first important ingredient of those special scrambled eggs.

The second special ingredient was the time I got to spend alone with Bupup. In the winter it’d be dark outside and Bup would have the wood stove red-hot before my slippers hit the floor. The pan of water standing on top would be emitting a steady stream of vapor. I’d climb into my favorite chair and watch Bup get the eggs ready. He’d ask me about this and that while whisking the eggs into a golden froth.

The third special ingredient was the music. If we had extra time before the bus arrived, Bupup would have me stand on the top of his feet while he held my hands as if we were waltzing. We would dance around their small kitchen like we were Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. If only I could go back in time and relive those moments again. I’d be happy with just a few seconds of it.

The final special ingredient was, of course, Bupup. I’m sure you’ve all figured out what an amazing guy he is without my uttering another word. I’ve been blessed to call him my grandfather.

Anyway, here’s Bup’s recipe for scrambled eggs. Try and think about the extra-special ingredients Bup added to the recipe as you gobble them up. Perhaps the recipe will taste even better!

Ingredients (serves 1, or 2, it depends on how hungry you are!):

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 saucepan (a frying pan will brown the eggs and dry them out)

Break up the butter with your fingers and drop it into the bowl.

Add the eggs and cream and a pinch of salt/pepper.

Scramble it all together until it’s well combined. Place your heat on medium and add the eggs.

Using a wooden spatula, slowly move the eggs around the pan. As soon as you have your first curd, turn down the heat.

What are your fondest food memories? I hope this blog post triggered some great ones.

“What keeps me motivated is not the food itself but all the bonds and memories the food represents.” Michael Chiarello

Ciao!

April

Poached Pears

As a gift we recently received a ginormous amount of pears from Harry & David. There were so many pears that I decided to poach some, vacuum pack them, and freeze them. I’ve discovered over the years that poached pears are a delicious and useful thing to have around for last minute entertaining.

It’s very important that you use only firm pears and if you make the mistake of using mushy pears, you’ll probably end up with a pear coulis. My first step was to scour our wine refrigerator to see what I could come up with for a poaching liquid. I discovered a bottle of dry Riesling, which happens to work brilliantly for poaching pears.

Riesling’s an aromatic grape varietal found in cooler climates and can be found in a dry, medium, or a sweet style. You can find quality Rieslings in the US, Africa, South America, and Australia, however, Germany is the home of this grape varietal.

In Germany, Rieslings are classified as QbA (Qualitatswien bestimmter Anbaugebiete) and they’re usually fruity and refreshing with a medium sweetness. The wine I used for this recipe is a dry QbA from upstate NY.

Pradikatswein is above QbA in quality and comes in several styles:

  • Kabinett – Light in body, high in acidity with green fruit notes. Usually medium sweetness and light alcohol, but can also be dry with medium alcohol.
  • Spatlese (late harvest) – A bit more body than kabinett. More citrus and exotic fruit notes.
  • Auslese – Even more body and exotic fruit notes. This is the highest Riesling category of dry wine, however, most Auslese wines are medium or sweet.
  • Beerenauslese and Trokenbeerenauslese – Sweet wines made from noble rot grapes.
  • Eiswein – Sweet wine made from frozen grapes

Pradikatswein will have the style (or Pradikat) printed on the label.

I also looked around and decided to use two saffron threads (for color), 1/2 cup of pistachios, 1/2 cup of sugar, creme fraiche, and 1/2 of a Tahitian vanilla bean. Here are the steps.

  • Open your bottle of Riesling and pour it into a shallow pan large enough to hold four to six pears.
  • Add 1/4 cup of sugar and your saffron threads to the Riesling.
  • Slice the top layer of your vanilla pod lengthwise. Splay the pod open with your knife and drop it into the Riesling.
  • Peel your pears quickly or they’ll begin to oxidate and discolor. You can squeeze and rub a little lemon juice over the peeled pears to slow down this process.
  • Core your pears when they’re all peeled.
  • Bring your liquid to a simmer until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Add your pears to the simmering liquid. Continually bath them and spin them around in the liquid for approx. 30 minutes. They’re done when they’re tender but not mushy.
  • While your pears are simmering use a spice grinder (I use a coffee bean grinder reserved for spices, seeds, and nuts) to pulverize your pistachios into pistachio dust.
  • Once your pears are fully cooked, remove them and let them cool.
  • Use a fine chinois (or cheesecloth) to strain your cooking liquid.
  • Reduce your liquid until it’s syrupy.

  • Once your pears are cool enough to handle, trim the bottom flat so they’ll stand independently.
  • Cut the pears in half and hollow out the inside of one pear. Be sure to leave enough of the pear intact so that it retains structural integrity.
  • Spoon some creme fraiche into the hollowed out half of the pear.
  • Carefully set the pear into the pistachio dust, rock it back and forth, and sprinkle the dust on the inside area (avoiding the creme fraiche as much as possible).

  • Add the other half of the pear (minus the creme fraiche) to the pistachio dust and repeat.
  • Place both halves together in a bowl.
  • Pour the warm sauce around the pear.
  • Add some decorative mint leaves to the top.

The pistachio dust mimics the pear skin and the mint mimics the stem. It not only looks good, but it tastes good too!

“Age appears to be best in four things; old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.” Francis Bacon
Ciao!
April