Sunday, November 29, 2015

Avocado with Roasted Peanuts and Agave Nectar (serves 2)

On places like Maui if you plant an avocado from a seed or young growth you may end up with a 30 foot tree with more fruits than you can ever eat. Our friends Sam and Frances have such a tree. Sam is a 96 year old WWII veteran with many interesting war stories. Every time we visit them he tells us about his world travel assignments. This visit Sam got a bit philosophical. He tells us that he plays solitaire to keep his mind sharp and he advises us to do what we enjoy because life is too short. He thinks that watching TV all day is very bad for the health. For years (on Maui) he worked on his garden daily up until recently. A task in which he found enjoyable.

Every time we visit them we always get some fresh avocados off their tree. These avocados are huge, about 1 1/2 times the size of the Haas. They are creamy and just so delicious. I can eat one or two every day and not get tired of them. If they are picked from the tree chances are they are not ripe yet. I usually put them in a bag in place for 3-4 days to speed up the ripening process. I would highly recommend checking on them daily or every 2 days for readiness to eat. If you forget they will rot and become moldy quickly, especially in the tropical heat and humidity. 

Here is a dessert using just 3 ingredients. Recently I roasted some peanuts and they are still fresh and crunchy. Use another kind of nut such as macadamia nuts if you prefer. A drizzle of agave nectar adds a nice sweetness that satisfies my taste buds. Add as much or as little of the peanuts and agave nectar as you wish. If you do not have agave nectar try adding honey or just raw sugar. This is a quick, tasty and healthy breakfast or snack.

Avocado with Roasted Peanuts and Agave Nectar (serves 2)

Ingredients:

Meat from 2 ripe large avocados
A few drizzles of agave nectar
About 1 1/2 Tbsp crushed Roasted Peanuts

Method:

Remove the meat from avocados, drizzle the agave nectar on top and sprinkle peanuts over everything.

avocados on tree
avocados
sunrise over Haleakala (2015)
Below are a few photos from one of the hikes that my husband and I took. This is known as Pipiwai Trail (in Kipahulu) to the 7 sacred pools. Along the hike we came across a large stretch of bamboo forest. It is beautiful but it is invading certain regions of Maui. Wherever you notice bamboo growing almost none of the other plants or trees can survive. This particular bamboo was planted years ago and is good for eating. It is not used for construction since it is too weak. According to one of the rangers, trekkers can harvest the bamboo shoots for consumption to help stall the invasion. The best bamboo shoot season is around April. Be sure to boil the bamboo to rid of the toxins before eating. This same ranger tells me he boils it twice and then soaks it in cold water to firm up. He tells me he keeps a stock of the prepared shoots in the freezer until ready to use. During this hike we encountered a fairly large banyan tree in the middle of our path. It's not as impressive as the tree in Lahaina but it's still quite amazing. At the end of the hike we were rewarded with a 400-foot waterfall. That is by far the tallest waterfall that I have ever seen. Despite the rain for most of our hike, the overall trail is still pretty spectacular. Be sure to bring some mosquito repellent, sunscreen, and plenty of water! If you get hungry there are some wild fruits such as coffee cherries and guavas you can eat along the way.

bamboo forest
that's me with the banyan tree
400-foot Waimoku Falls

Sauteed Taro Leaves with Ground Pork and Butterfish (serves 2-3 as part of a shared meal)

I cooked what I think is a really tasty dish and I can barely consume it. I am going to blog about it so that you do not make the same mistake that I did. This dish would have made a good meal if I had actually used taro leaves instead of the inedible elephant ear leaves. They both have heart shaped leaves except the taro leaf has the stem further in from the edge and the elephant ear has the stem on the edge. When I saw the leaves a brief thought entered my mind that these "taro leaves" looked a tad thick and off. I should have known it was too good to be true. I trusted that our friend who has been living on Maui for decades knew his taro well especially since it came from his own yard! He is a generous man and told me several times that I can harvest all of the leaves. I harvested them alright...washed each leaf carefully, removed the thicker veins, sliced them into strips and boiled them for a whole hour to get rid of the oxalic acid. If you eat raw or poorly prepared taro leaves you will immediate feel your mouth and tongue start to get this tingling prickling sensation which is similar to when I ate the initial few bites of this sauteed elephant ear with ground pork and butterfish. My immediate instinct was that after an hour of boiling the taro leaves, rinsing them and squeezing out the liquid were not enough. My next thought was that I cooked the wrong leaves! While surfing the web I came across Maui Jungalow, Taro vs. Elephant Ear (Telling Them Apart). It was not at all comforting to me knowing others have made the same terrible mistake. I hope this post will help prevent some of you from eating the wrong leaves!

When you use this recipe be sure to use TARO leaves! Eating the elephant ear probably will not kill you (since I am still alive to write this) but the sensation is quite unpleasant and can last for several hours. Long enough for me to consider the consequences and not repeat it in the future!

taro leaves
Not only did I cook the wrong leaf, but for this dish I also used a new type of fish that was not what it appeared to be. Butterfish or white tuna has been dubbed as an "ex-lax fish" by some people if one consumes more than a 6 ounce portion. The wax ester content from the fish can cause mild to severe gastrointestinal distress ranging from nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps to explosive diarrhea. There are quite a few on-line stories on this fish under the name escolar. Escolar is banned in Italy and Japan.

Sauteed Taro Leaves with Ground Pork and Hawaiian Butterfish (serves 2)

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp oil
1 thumb nail size turmeric, minced or grated
1 thumb nail size ginger, minced or grated
3 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1/2 medium Maui onion, chopped
About 0.45 lb ground pork (about 1 cup)
15 taro leaves, large veins removed, sliced into strips, boiled in water for an hour, strained, rinsed, and squeezed out the liquid
About 1 cup coconut milk
1 chicken bouillon
About 0.70 lb wild Hawaiian butterfish, cut into 2-inch cubes
About 1 tsp fish sauce
About 1/4 t sugar

Method:

1) Heat oil over medium high heat in a wok or large pan. Once the wok/pan is hot add turmeric, ginger, garlic, and onion. Saute about 5 minutes or until the onion is soft.
2) Add pork and cook until the pork is partially cooked, about 2-3 minutes.
3) Add the cooked taro leaves. Spread the leaves out evenly on the wok/pan. Cook about 2 minutes.
4) Add coconut milk and bouillon, saute about 2 minutes.
5) Put the fish on the bottom of the wok/pan and cover with the leaves to help cook the fish. Cook until fish is cooked (about 5 minutes).
6) Season with fish sauce and sugar. Remove from heat.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Vietnamese Braised Salmon Belly (serves 2-3 as part of shared meal)

Vietnamese braised fish or ca kho
This braised salmon belly is known as "ca kho" in Vietnamese. It is a classic and popular dish that is often eaten with steamed rice and fresh or steamed vegetables and herbs. Such a dish can last several meals. The savory liquid can be used to extend by more than one meal as a dip for steamed vegetables. I have never seen salmon belly sold in stores in the Mainland (US). I was lucky to come across some on Maui. The belly is great for this particular dish because it has a lot of fat and this prevents it from drying out even when cooking for prolonged period of time. I like garlic so I use a lot of it. You can scale down if you prefer less garlic breath! I also season this dish according to my taste. When you make yours just season it to your own personal taste.

Vietnamese Braised Salmon Belly (serves 2-3 as part of shared meal)

Ingredients:

1 lb salmon belly (preferably with de-scaled skin on), cut into 2-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp oil
1 1/2 tsp raw sugar
About 1/4 cup coconut water

Method:

1) Marinade the salmon with garlic, fish sauce and soy sauce for 15-20 minutes in the refrigerator.
2) Heat oil in a small pot over medium high heat.
3) Once the oil is hot add the marinaded fish. Cook for 5 minutes on each side.
4) Sprinkle raw sugar over the fish and add coconut water. Cook until the liquid is reduced by about half to a third. May season further with fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar according to your taste before turning off the heat.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Seasoned White Crabs 2 Ways (raw and lightly sauteed)

Located at the deli counter at Foodland (grocery store) on the island of Maui there is a huge selection of fresh and delicious poke (seasoned raw seafood). One type is white crab poke. I ate some directly from the deli and find it too salty. The ingredients for the crab poke consists of sectioned crab body with some legs, sambal (chili pepper), kim chee mixture, nuts and sesame oil. These crabs remind me of the salted raw tiny crabs found in the southern part of Vietnam especially in Soctrang and Chau Doc known as "ba khia". I like to eat the raw crabs but I prefer to add a few extra ingredients such as a sprinkle of raw sugar and a squeeze of lime juice. Once these 2 ingredients are mixed in the crabs the taste is more balanced and is 'ono' (that's tasty in Hawaiian). By the way this is how ba khia is also eaten by some people in Vietnam!

ba khia or Khmer salted crab
(Chau Doc, Vietnam)
Another way to eat these seasoned crabs is to lightly sauté them. I discovered this by accident. I had some crabs left over in the refrigerator from a previous day. I prefer to eat raw seafood same day or not at all since the freshness is gone and there is a higher risk for bacteria growth. Instead of discarding perfectly good crabs I add the seasoned crabs (straight from the store) with a sprinkle of raw sugar (for a pound of the crab poke I used about 1 teaspoon of sugar) and sauté with a little hot oil. Adjust the sweetness to your taste. I remove the crabs once they are just cooked. These crabs are tasty with plain rice. 

white crab poke with sugar and lime
lightly sautéed white crabs

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Avocado and Pinepapple Gold Smoothie (makes 2 drinks)

A friend brought us an avocado. It's about 2 times the size of the Hass avocado. I had some cut Maui Gold pineapple in the refrigerator so this was the most obvious drink to make this morning. This smoothie is thicker than normal since I added more fruit solids than liquid. With only 1/8th of a pineapple used in the blend, the avocado has the stronger flavor in this drink. Add more pineapple if you prefer less avocado flavor. When it comes to smoothies you can add whatever fruits you have available and it will turn out delicious!

Avocado and Pineapple Gold Smoothie (makes 2 drinks)

Ingredients:

1 large avocado or 2 small (Haas) avocados
1/8 pineapple Gold (may add 1/4 pineapple)
About 1/4 cup yogurt
About 1 cup milk
About 4 ice cubes

Method:

Put everything in a blender and blend until smooth.

early morning view from
Pukalani Terrace  (Maui, 2015)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Wild Coffee & Tropical Fruit Breakfast Blend (makes about 4 1/2 cups or 2 servings)

breakfast--my Maui style!
If you are a coffee drinker then you drink what is extracted from the roasted seeds. However, have you ever considered eating or drinking the fruits? This outer layer of the coffee fruit does not have caffeine but it makes a nice smoothie that is full of fiber and probably anti-oxidants. While on a hike with my husband and a couple of friends on the island of Maui we harvested some wild guava and red cherry coffee beans. We ate most of the guava during our hike and took the coffee beans home. Once home I squeezed each fruit to remove the seeds. I soaked the seeds in water to ferment them for a day, then dried them to make coffee later. I was amazed how healthy looking these coffee trees were; insect and fungus free. These trees seem to thrive very well in the wilderness. Here is a smoothie using carnation instant powder given to me by my brother Dan. However, you can add pretty much anything you prefer to concoct your own special blend. 

After I wrote up my mini post I did a search on-line seeking out a good article on coffee fruit. Here is an interesting one: Discover Coffee Fruit, Nature's Wasted Superfood. I particularly like the notation that there may be some youthful benefits to the coffee pickers!!

strawberry guava on tree
(tasty and very fragrant)
wild coffee
freshly harvested wild coffee
red coffee cherry fruits (above)
coffee seeds squeezed out (below)
Wild Coffee & Fruit Breakfast Blend (makes about 4 1/2 cups or 2 servings)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup wild red cherry coffee fruits (seeds removed)
6 wild ripe strawberry guava (preferably tree ripe)
About 1 cup ripe papaya (preferably tree ripe)
1/8 pineapple (see post on How to Prepare a Pineapple)
2 apple bananas (or about 1 williams banana--found in most stores in the Mainland US)
1/2 Tbsp brown sugar (optional)
1 1/2 cup milk (may use soy milk)
About 4 ice cubes (more if interested)
1 packet Classic French Vanilla Flavor Carnation instant breakfast essentials*

Method:

Put everything in a blender and puree until smooth.

*Instead of the instant breakfast essentials you may use half to one cup of yogurt.

sunset view from Pukalani Terrace (Maui, 2015)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Paul's Calamondin Limeaide (makes 1 glass)

My husband has a mild cold with lots of sneezing, runny nose and a sore throat. I think he is over-worked. Even though he is supposedly on vacation he has been working remotely every morning. He just needed some good rest and vitamin C. I made this drink especially for him with organic calamondin limes that he planted and harvested and a dollop of agave nectar. The result is surprisingly tasty. The calamondin limes are round, about an inch in diameter, very aromatic and are mildly sweet and sour in comparison to the regular limes. Prior to cutting them open I like to roll each lime on a hard surface with my palm to help soften it and for easy squeezing. Every batch of lime will yield a different quantity of juice depending how much water the tree had been receiving. For the ones I have, 3 limes yield about 3 tablespoons of juice. Add as little or as much of the ingredients as you prefer. I like mine with a little stronger lime taste.

Here is a little more info on Calamondin from Wikipedia.


Paul's Calamondin Limeaide (makes 1 glass)

Ingredients:

Juice from 3 calamondin limes (about 3 Tbsp)
About 1 Tbsp of agave nectar (more or less depending on your taste)
Water to fill the glass (about 1 1/2 cup)
A few ice cubes

Method:

Mix the juice and nectar before adding water and ice.

organic calamondin limes

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sweet Dumpling Squash Soup (makes about 18 cups)

My neighbor, Marshall gave me a few organic farm grown sweet dumpling squash. I have never cooked or eaten these squash before so I did not know what to expect. Having made soups from roasting acorn and butternut squash numerous times over the years I decided to make a similar type of soup. I was impressed to find it is quite tough to cut into the squash because the skin and flesh are almost woody. I used a heavy duty cleaver to split each one open and then chop into pieces for easy roasting. Half way through chopping them I was sure that I had damaged my kitchen counter. Thank goodness my counter was stronger than I thought and handled the abuse well! I would advise you not to use your best knifes to cut them. I roasted the cut pieces at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes the flesh was tender but I added another 10 more minutes of roasting time to help soften it further. My husband and I removed the flesh from the shell using both a knife and spoon. We found that either utensil works well. The roasted flesh is sweet hence the name "sweet dumpling"! You may make this soup vegetarian by using vegetable stock instead of chicken. Season the finished soup with salt if interested. I thought it was tasty without the additional salt.



Sweet Dumpling Squash Soup (makes about 18 cups)

Ingredients:

4 sweet dumpling squash, washed, sliced into 2-3 inch widths
64 oz of chicken stock (low sodium, low fat)

Method:

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2) Place the squash slices in roasting pans in a single layer and into the preheated oven.
3) Bake for 30-40 minutes until the flesh is soft. Remove and let it slightly cool before handling.
4) Remove the flesh.
5) Puree part of the flesh with a few cups of stock at a time. Work in batches until complete.
6) Cook the puree flesh and stock in a large pot over medium high heat for about 25-30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

photo taken in Exeter, NH (2015)