I've just gotten back from a week back home in Hawaii.
It was warm. The beach was beautiful, and I ate a lot of shave ice, specifically from Baldwin's (3x) and Waiola (1x). I had great intentions of trying Ice Garden in Aiea and Shimazu's near Frog Lane in Kalihi, but the week was short. I also usually skip Matsumoto's and Aoki's on the North Shore. Matsumoto's is usually pretty crowded and can also have a lot of bees in the parking area.
Shave ice makes me very happy. I think I like shave ice more than I like coffee. It is the very first stop upon arrival and the very last stop prior to departure.
If you are keeping score, it would be Shave Ice - 4, Starbucks - 0. And it would have been even higher except Baldwin's is closed on Mondays, and I took a nap and missed the 'afternoon shave ice' window on another day.
Just like ordering your grande, decaf, non-fat 2-pump vanilla latte, there is specific jargon for shave ice. Size first, add-ons, then flavors, and only when they ask you. For example, you could order a keiki (child-sized) with azuki, mochi balls, condensed milk and li-hing powder. Then add strawberry and vanilla flavors. That could easily be a sugar-bomb of a meal. I prefer plain shave ice to get the full, pure flavor of the syrup.Baldwin's
is my favorite. Reasonable, super-friendly, family-run, and a choice of three flavors
. The li-hing
are the best I've had. My sister highly recommends vanilla, pineapple
, and coke
. They used to have a lemon peel flavor but no longer, likely because it tasted like cough medicine (but props for trying something new!). My happy combos are Li-hing/vanilla/banana, Li-hing/banana/ pineapple. My kids recommend lilikoi
and say in general, all the flavors are very distinct compared to other places (not just sweet).
Despite what you see on Hawaii Five-0, Waiola Shave Ice (in Kapahulu, off Mokihana Street and the original one on Waiola, near Kapiolani and University) does not have a humongous happy Hawaiian man making shave ice. It's more expensive than Baldwin's and you have a choice of 2 flavors. However, the texture of the shave ice is like liquid velvet. Any combination of haupia (a Hawaiian coconut cream jello dessert flavor), melona (an Asian/ South Korean honeydew melon cream flavor) lilikoi (passion fruit) and guava will make you very happy.
Would love to hear of your favorite shave ice places, or even just other happy food places! Aloha :)
The sweet, shiny. deep red/pink of fresh, line-caught ahi was calling out to me at the Japanese grocery store. That ahi turned into a lip-smacking dish of poke that we all fought over at dinner.
Why am I calling it 'ex-pat' poke? Traditional poke typically includes some kind of limu/ogo (seaweed) and a bit of inamona
(a kind of paste made from kukui nuts). I've tried to get fresh ogo here, even to the point of calling a fish distributor, but no luck so far. And getting inamona would be a crazy cooking hoop to jump through. Thus, 'ex-pat' poke for the Hawaii people who love poke but cannot get these requisite items.The most important and critical element is to find the absolute freshest ahi you can get.
Fresh means not previously frozen, not slimy and it shouldn't smell like 'fish'.
It's also better to get a chunk of ahi and slice it yourself rather than the pre-sliced stuff. The reasons are 1) the pre-sliced stuff is what my father disparagingly calls "rubbish ahi" or the fish equivalent of hot dogs and 2) air degrades fish, so the fewer exposed surfaces, the better.Click here
for the recipe.
Everyone who knows our house realizes that I do not bake very well, and that my husband is an extraordinary baker. The way I see it, cooking is more a liberal arts (i.e., art history) activity and baking is a science (i.e., electrical engineering).
Cooking tends to be far more forgiving, and doesn't typically punish a free-flowing, qualitative, don't-exactly-measure, and make some educated substitutions methodology. Soup going bland? I can add something to fix it. Too spicy? I can fix that too.
Baking, on the other hand, is all about precision and science. Measure. Stir too much give you a flat cake. Stir too little--lumpy flour balls in your cake. Put hot liquid into cold beaten eggs too fast and you're stuck with bastardized scrambled eggs. Do it slowly and the most miraculous custard emerges.
So when I decided it was time to make Vanilla Cranberry Bread Pudding, even my kids were skeptical. "Why don't you wait 'til Dad comes home?" and "I think he said he was coming home REALLY early."
For the record, I did this all by myself. I did not have a baking menehune come in the afternoon to make it for me. However, except for pouring hot cream into beaten eggs, this recipe is extremely forgiving. The size of the loaf of the bread can vary, and the ingredients are very straightforward. And I learned that if ladle hot cream into cold beaten eggs slowly while stirring (and holding your breath and praying), you do not get scrambled eggs.
Next time, I'm doing this with dried apricots and maybe adding a little lemon juice. Or coconut and pineapple. Or maybe I should just quit while I'm ahead.Click here
for the recipe that even I can make well.
The Valentines' issue for Bon Appetiti is chock-full of "ultimates," and "Supers."
Who can resist "Best-Ever Brownies" in the coveted upper-left placement and a chocolate-pin-up of 4 lovely brownies gracing the cover? Not my husband-who-bakes and not my daughter-who-loves-chocolate. Before I knew it there were brownies cooling on the kitchen counter.
As I was playing around trying to mirror the BA cover, I realized that while I love the cooking 'zines and books, they can also be the food-equivalent to the 50 Most Beautiful People. Real food can be pretty but it's usually pretty messy too.
So here is my husband's version. First of all, these are amazing brownies
. That's saying something because I do not like chocolate. (And yes, I realize that this is against nature.)
It's unbelievable to me that unsweetened cocoa, which pretty much looks (and tastes) like dirt can be transformed into this feat of brownie awesomeness.
Our glamour shot has 3 brownies. Not because I'm cheap, but because 4 is the ridiculously unlucky number in Asian cultures. I could never stack an even number, least of all 4 of something. And those were the last ones left :)Click here
for the recipe.
To get into the spirit of St. Valentine, I'll be delivering flowers for a friend of mine who is a florist. I do this every Valentines Day, and it's great fun because people are so happy to see you. And for the rest of the week, here's what's coming up.Monday
--Pizza My Heart takeout (aka "What We Do For Our Kids") I get the pun and give them points for cleverness. My daughter's class is having a fundraiser. On Valentines Day. So isn't pizza romantic? However, I will be treated to Vanilla Cranberry Bread Pudding
for dessert. And probably more of that Darioush Cabernet Sauvignon that I started on last night.Tuesday
--Crock Pot Kalua Pig
& Bri's Butternut Squash
. This is really the Valentines' Day dinner. It's love.Wednesday
(if I can find some) & Edamame Rice
or Teriyaki Salmon
& My Mom's Japanese ColeslawThursday
& a nice green saladFriday
--Sloppy Joes from Scratch
(with ground turkey). Or I might try a brand-new Salt and Pepper Shrimp recipe I just found.
Have a great Valentine's Day to all! Eat Well. Be Well.
I added a new section, christened the Greenhouse
. I've been experimenting with a lot of new recipes lately, and some of them are closer to being vetted, or finished to my taste than others.
I dog ear and bookmark incessantly to find new dishes that add variety to the household palette but that are also easy to make. Or in the case of PDQ Hot and Sour Soup
, a tried-and-true favorite that can be altered to maximize the taste vs. prep time curve.
Check out what's cooking. Eat well. Be well.
What do a stomach virus, a Friday-night date and warmer-than-expected weather and have in common? They threw off last week's dinner plans, although, really it doesn't take much to toss menu plans around in this house.
(yes, this was yesterday)--"Make Your Own Wraps", aka "Cleaning out the Leftovers". Leftover NY steak
from Alexander's (the previously mentioned date) got sliced up and voila--carne asada
. Salmon and spinach
wraps got a facelift with guacamole and salsa
. And Superbowl pork chili verde
I did make fresh guacaomole and Jalapeno cheese dip that we didn't get around to having for our Superbowl party. 15 minutes of work to empty 3 Tupperwares, and use 2 leftover avocados, an errant lime and 7 slices of Jalapeno cheese. All before they turn into biological hazards.Tuesday
--Hot and Sour Soup
. Stomach virus and 73 degree weather in February put the ix-nay on this last week. All are healthy and it's suddenly February-cold again. I have a piece of pork and am ready to go today.Wednesday
. That carton of grape tomatoes that look like a good candidate for roasting, plus two red peppers and an orphan zucchini. And I need an eggplant.
--Korean Chicken Soup
. (with thanks to my FB-Liker Lisa G :) ) Bean sprouts and bok choy were beau-ti-ful this week. All I need is to buy a new jar of kim chee.Friday
--Maybe Techie Gnocchi
, or something with okinawan sweet potatoes, or the kabocha I have in the pantry. Also making Quinoa Salad
for my daughter's potluck, so hopefully I'll finally get a good snapshot of that.
Last night, I had a perfectly lovely dinner at Alexander's Steakhouse
. It's a 1-star Michelin restaurant, so it falls squarely into 'splurge' category. I don't much care for red meat, but I turn into a full-fledged carnivore here. Ranks up there with Alan Wong's
I'll probably blog about the actual meal later, but the most memorable talk of the night was the end of dinner coffee
. Kopi Luwak $50
. Is that a typo? Nope. $50 for one French-pressed cup of coffee
. Literally translated, Kopi Luwak means Civet Coffee
in Malay. It is billed as the most exclusive, low-production coffee in the world, costing hundreds of dollars for just one pound.
Kopi Luwak coffee beans are 'processed' by a civet, which is a kind of nocturnal cat. They prowl around Southeast Asia and Indonesia eating only the choicest coffee fruits. I'm not sure how they figure this out, but let's just say their cat-ESP lets them do this.
The civet eats the coffee for the fruit. The actual coffee bean (seed) is not digestible, and so makes a merry journey through the digestive enzymes of the civet's intestines and then passes out of the civet. That's right, the civet poops out perfectly amazing coffee beans.
According to our server, who said all of this with a totally straight face, the enzymes of the civet's gut take away all the astringency and bitterness and result in an amazing smooth coffee
. I thought he was joking. I was entertained/grossed out/stunned speechless. How did someone even figure this out? And why? But it's true, and the New York Times
even published an article on it.
So where does Kopi Luwak come from? The rear end of a cat
. And no, I did not have any. I'm sticking to (human) hand-picked coffee. 100% Kona or Swiss-water processed decaf Mocca Java.
And don't even think of feeding Fluffy coffee cherries and harvesting her litterbox.
Until last Thursday, I really stunk at stir-frying. Over-cooking, under-cooking, too much salt, adding water at completely inappropriate moments. I was a disaster.
While it was definitely not a religious experience, I am definitely cured and converted. How did this happen?
Technique is everything. Unlike soup or oven cooking, which tend to be far more forgiving with cooking time, stir-frying is very fast and simple, but you have to pay attention. Or as my husband says, "Focus, for once."
He's right. And it worked. 30 minutes, start to finish. Dinner was finished before the rice was cooked. Click here
for the recipe.