Sunday, July 31, 2011

Laulau inspiration

Laulau is a local favorite in Hawai’i. Here is a pretty good explanation what it is Simply put, modern laulau is a piece of salted fish or meat, wrapped with taro leaves, covered with Ti leaves and steam cooked. Back on the Islands, when we make laulau at home, it is usually a special occasion or celebration. Other Polynesian Islands have similar versions of the same dish. My big Samoan “braddah” once tried to convince me to add coconut cream to the meat. He didn’t realize my Kumu was right behind him. I can still remember a very stern voice said: “She is not Samoan and she cooks Hawaiian.”

I love laulau, especilly fish laulau. It was a real treat today that I found fresh taro leaves (also known as lu'au leaves) from Hawaii at an Asian store that I don’t usually shop at. 
I just have to make a few classic pork laulau for my hula sisters and my Kumu. I also thought of my non-meat eating friends. Back in Hawai’i, fish laulau is usually butterfish. I have seen my fish guys carry it every now and then. Butterfish is actually known as Black Cod on the Mainland. Unfortunately they didn’t have any today, however there was some beautiful Opah (Moon fish). I found a nice piece of whole fillet. I decided to cook it whole. Here it is my version a modern Baked Fish Laulau, since this is not really Hawaiian, I added coconut milk for flavor, fat and moisture. It made the fish very buttery and smooth. The coconut flavor compliment the leaves very well. I hope you like it.
Baked Fish laulau with coconut milk
1.5 lb of firm white fish fillet, I am using Opah, cod will work very well in the recipe too. Cleaned, remove the skin. Pat dry.
7-8 large taro leaves, trim the stems and discard, wash and raise thoroughly.
3 Tbsp Hawaiian Alaea red salt
1 12”x12” piece of banana leaf (I am using frozen leave which you will find at the frozen food section in most Asian store.
Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees
In a large bowl, rub Hawaiian salt generously on the fish fillet. Let stand for about 10-15 mins.

Lay the banana leaf in a baking pan..
Top with the largest piece of taro leaf first, then layering the smaller ones on top.
Place the fish in the center of the leaves.
 Gather the leaves around the fish, pour in coconut milk.
 Wrap the fish with the leaves. Turn the taro leave seam down to the bottom, if the coconut milk leaks, not to worry about it.
 Wrap the fish package with banana leave (as if you are wrapping a burrito) then roll the package so that the seam is on the bottom of the pan
 Tightly cover the baking pan with foil. 
Baked for 1.5 hrs.

To serve: Place a whole package on a shallow serving platter. Cut the banana leaf open in the center; 
tear back the leaf to revile the vegetable and the fish. 
This is a dish great to serve family style with rice on the side. The fish is so tender; you don’t need a knife to cut it. Make sure you serve the fish with some of the vegetable and top with a couple spoonful of the sauce.
Serve 6.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

A pile of potatoes and a giant zucchini

Week 3 of my CSA offers the usually buttery red leaf lettuce, beautiful kale and swiss chard, wonderful shallots and a special variety of red beets that resemble those that grew in Hawai’i. (sigh, I miss my Islands home) Oh… let’s not forget the micro-greens and the raspberries. The challenge this week is the big crop of heirloom red skin potatoes and a giant zucchini!
I had a few ideas as to what to do with these guys. I am going to pay tribute to my Jewish Mama Phyllis. I met Phyllis at my first job in New York. I was a youngster, clueless and tried to figure out the real business in the fashion world. Phyllis took me under her wings. Gave me advise and watched over me. She also taught me everything I knew about Jewish cooking and culture. Hmmm.. I used to believe that each kosher hot dog was individually blessed by a rabbi… (kind of like the arch-bishop or the Pope). I was watching PBS program about Russian Jew, they mentioned the immigrants brought bagels to America. I ran into Phyllis’s office first thing in the morning, and I said: “Did you know Bagel is Jewish and it came with the Russian?” I was so proud!! (Hey, just remember I came from the Islands, we ate sweet bread, bagels were not that popular back then).  I can still hear she says: “What am I going to do with you?” She calls me her Chinese daughter and she is my Jewish Mama. We don’t see each other often these days, but she is in my heart every day.

I love Jewish food, chopped liver and potato latke were my favorite. I thought of making latke with the potatoes, but I need to do something with the zucchini. I still have another 2 smaller week left from last week. Potato Kugel came to my mind… so here is a lighter version. Apart from adding the zucchini, I am going to use the shallot instead of onion in this recipe. It will give the kugel a little more “kick”.

Potato Zucchini Kugel
6 medium potatoes, cleaned and peeled, grated. I added 3 small purple one just for color.  (about 6 cups grated), 

3 medium zucchini (or one giant one like mine), about 3 cups grated
4 shallots (or 2 medium onion) finely chopped, about a cup.
½ cup all-purpose flour
6 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Tbsp sea salt
Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a 9x13” metal baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. For this dish, I prefer a metal pan, I found that the kugel crisps up better.
Grate the potatoes and zucchini in a food processor. 
Let stand 3-5 minutes. Squeeze out excess liquid,
Try to reserve as much “starch” as possible (It’s the white residue in the bottom of the bowl.
Add chopped shallots to the potato-zucchini mixture.

Mix in flour, eggs, oil, season with salt and pepper.

Pour mixture into a baking dish, pack lightly
Bake, uncovered, for 1 1/4 hour or until golden brown on top and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let the casserole stand for 10 min, cut into squares and serve.

12 large serving as a side dish.



Wednesday, July 13, 2011

T’is the season for beets and potatoes

Cooking is a very relaxing and creative activity for me. I love creating recipes and new ideas on the weekends. I pick up my CSA every Friday and I look forward to working with the surprise goodies in the box. I got more potatoes, different variety.  I couldn’t recall the name, these was quite rustic with white flesh. There were more scape and mint. Beets were the big feature this week. Ahhh.. more beets. Mr. Wonderful was drag racing last weekend, so we were off to the track! I didn’t get a chance to do much cooking
My work week started out pretty stressful. I had to miss my Tuesday night hula class and rehearsal.  I needed to take my mind off work. I decided to do a little cooking, something simple. I was not really in the mood for more beet soup. I also still had a bunch of kale left from the CSA share a week ago… hmmm what could we do with that?

Here is a vegetarian weeknight one-pot meal. It’s pretty simple and quick. Beet greens, Swiss chard and balsamic vinegar work well together. The Swiss chard also adds a little green to the dish when it is cooked, a nice contrast to a mainly red color dish. The Vidalia onion adds sweetness and the potatoes help thickens "the sauce" and give the dish a comforting hearty feel. You can add meat, such as some cut up rotisserie chicken if you preferred.
Beet greens, Swiss Chard and Potatoes Stew (Serve 3 as a main course, or 6 sides)

1 bunch of beet greens, we are using the leaves and stems only. Save the beet roots for other used. – Wash and rinse thoroughly for a few times, roughly chopped, about 2.5 cups
1 small bunch of Swiss chard – Wash and rinse thoroughly for a few times, roughly chopped in the same size as the beet greens. About 2.5 cups.
1 large potato (or 2 medium size one), washed, peeled and cut into ½” cubes. About a cup.
1 tablespoon chopped scape (about 2 small scape), this can be substituted with 1 Tbsp of chopped garlic
1 large Vidalia onion, clean and chopped into ½” pieces.
1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
3 Tbsp ghee or melted butter, use olive oil if you prefer vegan
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Ready-made Asian fried onion for garnish
In a medium size pot. Heat 3 Tbsp of ghee or butter till hot. This is more butter than I would usually used. You need the fat and the flavor in this dish.

Add chopped scape or garlic and sauté for about a min.
 Add onion. Cook till onion is lightly caramelized.
Add potatoes, mix well.  Brown potatoes for a few mins. Lower heat to medium low. cook for about 5-10 mins till potatoes are cooked. If you are using a regular pan, the potatoes will stick a little. Not to be too concern, Season with salt and pepper.
Add chopped beet greens, mix well. Cook for a few mins till the green wilt.
 Add chopped chard, mix well. Let the stew cook for about 5 mins till the stems are tender.  
Potatoes bits will thicken the “sauce” lightly.
 Fold in chopped sage. 
 Drizzle in 3 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat thoroughly for about a min.
Plate as main course or side. Top with a Tbsp of fried onion just before serving.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cold Beet and Hot potatoes… in honor of Grandmama Mattus.

Pickled beets in a jar are a pretty common item in our household fridge while I was growing up. I was also one of those odd kid that loved borscht soup. I learned to really appreciate the beautiful vegetable even more at the Mattus' house.
Matt’s mom introduced me to cold borscht with hot potatoes one summer. I loved it and I started making this every summer when the vegetable is bountiful.

This recipe is my version and it is my tribute to Grandmama Suzi, a woman who took me under her wings when I came to Mainland. I loved cooking with her and I thought of her often when I made some of her dishes. Miss you much!!!

Cold beet soup with hot potatoes

2 bunches of beets, I am using red and golden beets here. About 2 cups cleaned, peeled and cubed.
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
3 cups of water
Juice of ½ lemon.
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

4 yellow potatoes, I am using German potatoes from this week’s CSA, otherwise I would prefer Yukon
½ cup low fat Greek yogurt
Finely chopped chives.

Soak the beets in cold water, brush and clean off the soil. Remove the leaves, separate the stem. Peel the root and cut into cubes. Keep the stems and chopped into small ½” pieces.
You can sauté the greens and serve as a side dish. In this recipe, the leaves will not be used.

In a medium size pot, heat 2 tbsp olive oil till hot over med high heat.
Sauté and caramelize the onion.

Add beets and stems. Sauté for a couple more mins.

Add 3 cups of water, you can use vegetable stock. Grandmama used beef stock for this. These were organic beets and they were very sweet. I found taste is much brighter and the sweetness of the beets came through better with water.

Season with salt and pepper. Squeeze in juice of 1/2 of a lemon

Bring to a boil and lower to med low heat. Cover and simmer the soup for about 30 mins till the beets are tender.

Remove the soup from heat and let rest for 5 mins. Prepare the blender, puree the soup to a thick texture. Taste and correct seasoning.

Remove from the blender into a storage container. Chill soup for about 1.5 hours till cold.

15 mins before serving. Boil potatoes. Peel and cubed into ½ inch piece.

When ready to serve:
Please ¼ cup of hot potatoes cubes in the bottom of a soup bowl.

Top with cold beet soup

Garnish with a Tbsp of Greek yogurt, sprinkle generously with chopped chive.



Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with Scape

I didn't realize I have not posted any recipe for a month!!! Yes I am still here. June has been a busy month, apart from being busy at work, there were a couple of weddings and shower.  My sister, Kawailani was back in MN with her hubby for her step-daughter's wedding.  She "hired" me to photography the wedding... it was my first time shooting "human" vs stuffed animals. The bride was happy with the shots. Whew... I can breathe now.We also had a Halau BBQ at the house after the wedding. We had a lot of fun visiting. I miss my sis so much, I wish we live closer to each other...

Now, you know the reason for my MIA... back to a little cooking challenge

I picked up the 1st CSA box for the season, There were scape in this box. A friend of mine asked me for some ideas what to do with them… so I am going to make this a “Scape”day!!
Most of the greens and potatoes I used this week is from The Tangletown CSA share. 

Scape is a relatively new “vegetable in the scene. It is actually the blossom and the stem of garlic. They are usually cut before the flower blooms to keep the stem tender.
I love the mild garlic flavor and the crunchy texture of the stem. 

It's 4th of July long weekend. I am staying home while Mr Wonderful is off at the lake with his grandson. I need some "down" time. The recipes here, can easily be doubled or triple if needed.

All American Breakfast for 1
Egg Scramble with Scape, potatoes and green. Top with blue cheese
1 egg beaten egg
1 scape, chopped
1 cooked Yukon potato, cubed.
1 Tbsp blue cheese crumble.
A few tender leaves such as spinach or arugula. (I am using arugula today), cut or tear into small pieces.

In a small fry pan (preferable non-stick), heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Sauté the chopped scape for 1-2 mins till they are bright green

Add potato, lightly fried till light brown, season with salt and pepper

Add egg, fold in lightly. Fold arugula in with the egg mixture.

Cook a min or so till the egg is set.
Top with blue cheese. Turn heat to low, heat till chest starts to melt
Transfer to a plate and serve immediately.

Mexican inspired Lunch for 1
Nacho with scape fusion salsa

1 scape, chopped
2 small tomato, chopped
1 tsp chopped Thai Basil
1 tsp chopped summery savory or cilantro
1 tsp chopped mint
Juice of ½ lime
1/8 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
¼ tsp grounded cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

I use whatever herb available in my garden. I am using 2 of my favorites here: Thai basil and mint. Since I am out of cilantro, I am using summer savory instead.

The scape gives this salad its garlicky favor.

Simply blend everything together and let it sit for about 10 min.
Store in a glass jar in the fridge. Must used within 2 days. (make about a cup)

Nacho building:
2 ozs (or ¼ cup) of grated cheddar jack, or any cheese of your choice
1 Tostada
¼ cup shredded dandelion leaves (or other greens of choice)
2 tbsp scape salsa

Break up the tostada on a oven/microwave proof plate

Sprinkle ½ of the cheese on the shell, follow by 1 tbsp of Salsa.

Top with ¾ of the shredded leaves.

Follow by the reminding cheese.

Broil or microwave for 1 min till the cheese melts.
Garnish with the reminding leaves and salsa.

Fusion Asian Dinner
This may sound odd. I grew up with fish cakes being a staple in the household. My favorite is the Thai version. A few years ago, I discovered Morning star Thai burger.

The texture and the taste reminded me of the fishcakes my Thai auntie used to make. I started using a product in other ways. This is a very simple preparation. Just remember: you don’t need salt in this recipe. The sea-beans are salty.

Thai mock “fish-cake” with scape and sea-beans

2 Morning star Thai burger, defrosted and cut into wide strips. You can easily use Shrimp of fish instead of the burger strips.
½ cup of sea beans
3 scape – cut into 1” bite size pieces
2 tbsp low salt shoyu
1 tbsp Asian sesame oil

Soak the sea beans for ½ hour in cold water, please make sure you change water a couple to time. We need to draw some of the salt out of them. Drain and roughly chopped the beans up into bite size

In a small bowl combine shoyu with sesame oil

In a small fry pan, heat 2 tablespoon of olive oil over med high heat. Saute scape till bright green.

Add burger strips. Cook for 2  min or so, stir constantly to make sure the strips are not sticking.

Add sea-bean. Toss and let cook for an additional min.

While the pan is very hot, pour in shoyu mix. Toss immediately and remove from heat.

Plate and serve while hot! Serve 2! (I will have leftover tomorrow :) )