Showing posts with label challenges. Show all posts
Showing posts with label challenges. Show all posts

Friday, December 3, 2010

Iron Foodie 2010: My Entry--Two Pepper Seared Ahi with Avocado-Dulse Yogurt Sauce, Porcini-Dulse Brown Rice & Smoky Lotus Chips

My mom, wise woman that she is, gave me the title of "Procrastinating Perfectionist"--meaning that I put off doing certain things until the very last minute and then give myself the extra stress of not only jamming it out, but expecting it to go perfectly. It's true... I can't deny it. It's not that I don't want to get things done early, I just have to analyze it repeatedly, change my mind a dozen times, and strive to get whatever it is I am working to it's best possible state. It would probably be better if it didn't actually work for me, but I do seem to do my best work under pressure be it a work assignment, a home project or a cooking task, like the Marx Foods / Foodie BlogRoll Iron Foodie 2010 Contest and my entry, Two Pepper Seared Ahi with Avocado-Dulse Yogurt Sauce, Porcini-Dulse Brown Rice & Smoky Lotus Chips.

Not surprisingly, I was in the kitchen the afternoon before the deadline (which is today), coming up with my dish and the recipes for the four components. It's not that I haven't thought about what I would make ever since I got the box of secret ingredients, I just kept changing my mind and changing direction up to the last minute.

The objective of Iron Foodie 2010 Contest is for the 25 bloggers selected to take at least three of the eight secret ingredients we were sent by Marx Foods to create an original recipe and a dish that is Iron Foodie-worthy to compete with.

The Eight Secret Ingredients:
  • Dried Aji Panca Chilies
  • Bourbon Vanilla Beans
  • Fennel Pollen
  • Dried Wild Porcini Mushrooms
  • Tellicherry Peppercorns
  • Dulse Seaweed
  • Maple Sugar
  • Smoked Sea Salt
An interesting list which first begged the question of doing something savory or something sweet. Since I went sweet with Kabocha Cupcakes with Maple-Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Icing for the last challenge, I decided to go savory this time. Once I determined that I was choosing savory, I knew I wanted to work some local ingredients into the mix, namely ahi and avocado. I also wanted to do something with an Asian flair and maybe get some lotus root in there somehow, because I have been wanting to cook with them.

I went with an appetizer or small plate dish (or pupu as we call them here in Hawaii) and used five of the eight ingredients: Aji Panca Chilies, Dried Wild Porcini Mushrooms, Tellicherry Peppercorns, Dulse Seaweed, and Smoked Sea Salt. Some of the items are used in more than one component of the dish and all the secret ingredients used are highlighted in the recipes below.

Notes/Results: The dish may seem complicated, with a lot of steps and ingredients, but it goes together pretty quickly--cooking the rice takes the longest and you can prepare everything else while the rice cooks. The ahi should be cooked about 10 minutes before serving so it can sit for a few minutes before slicing and the lotus chips made right before serving so they are hot and crispy. (BTW--the ahi is cooked about 4 minutes so just the outside is seared--perfect in my book, but if you really need your fish cooked, buy a cheaper grade of ahi ;-) rather than the sushi-grade and cook it longer.)

The flavors all work well together--you get hits of spiciness from the chili (I left the seeds for grinding in but it is still a rather mild chile) and the black pepper in the ahi, which is cooled by the creamy-tangy yogurt sauce. The mushrooms and dulse add an earthiness to the nutty brown rice, and the chips give good textural contrast. A little (the flavor goes a long way) smoked sea salt in three of the four dishes also ties the flavor together. Sure, from a plating standpoint, having something like a green veggie would have looked nice but overall I am extremely happy with my entry. I would make all of these recipes again in combination or as separate components in different dishes. "Procrastinating perfectionism" works again Mom! ;-)

The Recipes:

Two Pepper Seared Ahi
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 2 Servings)

1 dried Aji Panca Chile
1/2 tsp Tellicherry Peppercorns
1/4 tsp Smoked Sea Salt
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 sushi-grade ahi tuna block (about 10 ounces)
olive or canol oil

De-stem chile. In a small pan, dry-toast the chili over medium heat until fragrant, about 7-8 minutes. Let cool and chop into small pieces. Place the chile pieces and peppercorns into a spice grinder or coffee grinder until a fine powder and pour into a bowl. Add smoked sea salt and sesame seeds to powder, mix thoroughly and pour mixture on a plate.

Preheat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Meanwhile dredge ahi block in the pepper mixture, covering all sides and shaking off the excess. When pan is hot, add tuna and sear for 1 minute on each side (for a total of about 4 minutes). If you want a less-rare tuna, you can sear it longer. Remove ahi block from the pan and let site for a few minutes. Slice into 1/4 inch slices and serve.

Porcini-Dulse Brown Rice
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 3 1/2 Cups Cooked Rice)

about 1/3 cup dried Wild Porcini Mushrooms
1 cup brown rice
1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp brown rice vinegar
2 Tbsp Dulse Seaweed, chopped into small pieces
Smoked Sea Salt (1/2 tsp or to taste)
1 heaping Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in 2 1/2 cups hot water for about 20 minutes. Take the mushrooms out of the broth, squeezing out the excess liquid. Cut porcini into small pieces.

Use the 2 cups of mushroom liquid to cook the brown rice in your preferred method. When rice is cooked add the soy sauce and brown rice vinegar and fluff with a rice paddle or fork.
Add the chopped porcini and dulse and season with smoked sea salt to taste Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.


Avocado-Dulse Yogurt Sauce
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)

1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1 medium ripe avocado, peeled, pit removed, and cut into chunks
juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp Dulse Seaweed
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
water, if need for blending
salt and pepper to taste

Place yogurt, avocado, lime juice, dulse and sesame oil into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add water if needed to get dressing to the proper consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Smoky Lotus Root Chips
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

1 medium lotus root (about 6-8 inches)
peanut or canola oil (enough to fill wok pan for deep-frying)
Smoked Sea Salt

Peel lotus root, slice into 1/8" slices with a mandoline, and pat dry with paper towels. Meanwhile, heat oil (about 2 inches deep) in a large wok or deep-sided pan. When oil is hot, add lotus root slices, a few at a time and cook until golden brown. Remove from oil. place on a plate covered with paper towels and while lotus root is still hot, quickly sprinkle with a small amount of smoked sea salt. Serve immediately.

On December 7th the polls will open for voting on the Food BlogRoll to award one person the Iron Foodie 2010 title and a $300 credit to Marx Foods, so I will post the link when the poll is up and if you like the looks and description of my dishes (remember I used 5 ingredients lol!), I would really love a vote from you.

BTW: On a Marx Foods related note--although I am tempted to keep this secret so I have a better chance of winning, Marx Foods is offering a Specialty Sausage Giveaway, giving away a pack of 12(!) varieties of Specialty Sausage. Click on the badge to go check it out.

Win Twelve Varieties of Specialty Sausage at

Happy Aloha Friday!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Spectacular Side Dish Turkey Sliders" for the Thanksgiving Dinner Burger Challenge

When my good friend Kim from Stirring the Pot announced her Thanksgiving Dinner Burger Challenge, I knew immediately I had to join in and I knew my burgers had to include my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal, stuffing! I like my Mom's version which uses turkey sausage, bread, celery, onions and sage. I wanted to incorporate the sausage ingredients and flavors into the turkey burger itself, and since I was using turkey breast, I wanted to make sure it was plenty moist by cooking down the stuffing mixture and adding some grated apple.

Also adding to the moisture is a drool-worthy Lemon-Sage Mayo, I mixed together using sage from my herb garden. To get even more spectacular sides into the mix, I added homemade cranberry sauce, leftover Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Lemon & Poppy Seeds, and served these sliders (mini burgers are always more fun) on potato rolls for a nod to mashed potatoes. And so there you have them, my Spectacular Side Dish Turkey Sliders. Juicy, messy and full of flavor.

Spectacular Side Dish Turkey Sliders
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 12 sliders)

Turkey Stuffing Slider Patties:
1 Tbsp butter or olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 leaves fresh sage, minced
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
dash of red chili pepper flakes
1/2 cup whole wheat panko or bread crumbs
1 lb ground turkey breast
1/2 tart apple, grated (I used a Honeycrisp)
1 Tbsp olive oil

In a medium pan, heat pan over medium-high heat. Add butter and when melted add onion, celery, and garlic and saute until vegetables start to soften and turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add sage, parsley, rosemary, thyme, fennel, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper and chili flakes. Mix well and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add bread crumbs and stir well, cooking until breadcrumbs start to lightly brown, about another 5 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, place ground turkey and grated apple. Add cooled vegetable mixture to bowl and mix together gently but thoroughly without over-mixing. (Hands work best). Form into 12 small slider patties and set aside. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat lightly with olive oil. Cook sliders about 3-4 minutes per side until the sides are lightly browned and the burgers cooked through.

To assemble the sliders:
Prepare potato roll slider buns by slicing in half and toasting in a lightly oiled pan until browned and toasted. Spread bottom buns with Lemon-Sage Mayo (recipe below), and top with a small scoop of shredded lettuce or warmed Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Lemon & Poppy Seeds (recipe here). Place a Turkey Stuffing Slider Patty on top of shredded sprouts, and garnish with a dollop of fresh cranberry sauce and the top bun. Serve warm with lots of napkins and enjoy!

Lemon-Sage Mayo
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 tsp whole grain mustard
5 sage leaves, minced
zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp lemon juice
salt & black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.

Notes/Results: Yes, there is a lot going on in these sliders but it actually all works together--like eating a plate of the best side dishes of Thanksgiving. The burgers turned out to be very moist--I just don't make turkey breast burgers anymore without grating an apple or some zucchini into them, and I liked the texture that the little pieces of cooked onion and celery added. (BTW--if you think the burgers look pink in spots, that is from the apple--I left the skin on when I grated them and the burgers are fully cooked!) These are 2-napkin burgers--I am unable to make a tiny, flat slider, but messy can be fun. ;-) The Lemon-Sage Mayo is really good if you are a sage fan and would work well on a turkey sandwich too. For the cranberry sauce, I just did a basic version--sugar, water, cranberries, fresh orange juice and orange zest, simmered and cooked down on the stove. The Brussels sprouts were a bit of an afterthought but I really liked them, slightly warm on the burger. The potato buns were store bought and tasted great toasted. I was very happy with how these turned out from top to bottom and would make them again.

If you have a Thanksgiving Dinner Burger Challenge inspiration, check out Kim's blog post here for all of the details and you must go take a look at her decadent Sausage-Stuffing Inspired Burgers topped with Baked Creamed Pearl Onions. Yum! Kim will be rounding up the burgers on her blog on December 1st.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Random Bits: Ming is Coming to Hawaii!, Giada's Sauteed Shrimp Cocktail, Iron Foodie Challenge Update & My Kabocha Cupcakes Need Some Votes Please!

I seem to be saying this a lot lately but it has been a really crazy-busy week. I had a bunch of projects and three events going on and I got behind on everything else by working on them. Then there was another few hours with the doctor yesterday trying to figure out why my bronchitis didn't go away and getting more drugs to hopefully get rid of it this time (fingers crossed). So my friends, you are getting a whole lot of random things that I didn't get posted during the week. Starting with a little Ming Tsai news, moving to my I Heart Cooking Clubs dish this week, and finally a little update on challenges.

Look at that face! I had to break my limiting cookbooks vow to buy Ming Tsai's new "Simply Ming One Pot Meals: Quick, Healthy and Affordable Recipes" because Ming is coming to Honolulu Tuesday! Through Macy's Culinary Council, Ming will be demonstrating his "East Meets West" cooking style at Macy's Ala Moana, sharing quick and easy recipes and signing books. As many of you know, I really loves me some Ming Tsai so I of course will be there with a few friends watching Ming and having dinner at Alan Wong's Pineapple Room after. (The night will be perfect if Alan's Ginger-Crusted Onaga is on the menu!)

If you are going to be in Honolulu this Tuesday, November 16 at 6:00 PM, you should definitely check it out--it is free, open to the public and a must-see since we so rarely get these kinds of events here in Hawaii. Here are the details.

And here's a little picture of the last time I saw my man Ming at a charity "walk-around" two years ago. Here's hoping for a better photo next week!

I could feed you a big story about how Giada's Sauteed Shrimp Cocktail is the perfect fit for the "Kid At Heart" theme. Maybe something about kids liking to dip things, or kids liking shrimp, or maybe the maple syrup and mustard in the dip--but frankly my friends the truth is I was just cooking out of my freezer and pantry at the last minute and looking for something as low-effort as possible. I had everything I needed to quickly whip up a batch of the shrimp, sauteed with herbes de Provence and for the dip--right down to the brand of whole grain mustard Giada recommends. I was also really curious how the shrimp would pair with the interesting combination of ingredients in the dip.

You can find the recipe here at Food Network.

Sauteed Shrimp Cocktail
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis
(Yields 4-6 Servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled, tail left on, deveined
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups plain yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard (recommended: Maille)
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup freshly chopped basil leaves

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and herbes de Provence. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 2 minutes each side.

In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, maple syrup, turmeric, and basil until smooth. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Place the yogurt mixture in a dipping bowl.

Place the bowl of dipping sauce on a serving platter with the cooked shrimp.

Notes/Results: Shrimp + herbes de Provence = really delicious. I wouldn't really have thought of partnering them but it works so well together. The shrimp were succulent and slightly sweet and the combination of herbs really enhanced that. The dip was a little odd but actually pretty tasty--the maple, mustard, turmeric and basil give a little sweet and savory contrast and the yogurt adds a little tangy zing. Together with the shrimp it is different but good and it certainly sets itself apart from the normal shrimp cocktail. Not sure that it really channeled my inner child this week ;-) but I will definitely make the shrimp again and would probably make the dip.

You can see how the other IHCC celebrated being a "Kid at Heart" by going to the post here and following the links.

Thanks to all of you who left such nice comments on my entry post for The Foodie Blog Roll and Marx Foods "The Next Iron Foodie" post last week.

I am happy to say that I got selected as one of the 25 challengers and will be receiving my box of 8 mystery ingredients next week and using at least 3 of them for a dish for the contest. (I am pretty sure it was my Mom's Chicken Fricassee food porn that got me in.) I am excited to get creative with some great ingredients from Marx Foods and nervous too--there are so many talented bloggers in the mix. I only hope I can keep up. I'll keep you posted and let you know when the voting begins!

Speaking of mystery ingredients and voting... here is my quick, last minute pandering for votes for the Recipe Impossible Joanne Eats Well With Others Edition--Squash. The poll was broken until this week and I didn't get a chance to mention that it was working again. As of right now my carrot-cake style Kabocha Cupcakes with Maple-Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting are sadly, embarrassingly, in last place. ;-( If you haven't voted and you liked my cupcakes, I would love for you to pop over to the poll here and give me a vote.

Not expecting to win, but a few more votes would be nice for saving a little face. ;-) They really were delicious! Maybe I needed a catchier name...? In any case the voting ends at midnight, this Sunday the 14th.

Max says "Vote for My Mom's Cupcakes!" (At least I think that is what that last meow meant, it is either that or "Give me a snack now!") Actually this is just a picture of Max stuck in for his favorite fans Foodycat and Ed & Rene' who have mentioned that they haven't seen any Max pictures lately. ;-) Here he is in his favorite spot on top of the glass table on my lanai.

So that is one whole bunch of random for this week!

How is your week going?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I Want to Be the Next Iron Foodie 2010!

When I saw an email about the Iron Foodie 2010 Contest, sponsored by Marx Foods and The Foodie BlogRoll I knew I had to enter. 25 challengers are selected to receive a mystery box of 8 wonderful secret ingredients hand-picked by Marx Foods. The object is to use 3 of those ingredients in an original, creative, Iron Foodie-worthy winning recipe. It gets both my creative and competitive juices flowing! To enter, all interested participants need to answer five fun and thought-provoking questions for the judges to select the 25 challengers by... so here goes!

Why do you want to compete in this challenge?

I am a junkie for cooking competition shows--Iron Chef, Iron Chef America (Morimoto crush alert!), Chopped, Top Chef and I love to watch what the chefs create with the ingredients they are given and try to determine what I would have done with the same ingredients. I recently had a blast in the Marx foods and Joanne Eats Well With Others Recipe Impossible Winter Squash competition. (My entry of Kabocha Cupcakes with Maple-Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting is here.) Getting that box of mystery ingredients was a total thrill and call me greedy but I want more--more challenge, more mystery and of course more of Marx Foods great ingredients!

Limitations of time/space notwithstanding, whose kitchen would you like to spend the day in & why? Julia Child, Thomas Keller, Ferran Adria, James Beard, Marie-Antoine Careme, or The Swedish Chef?

Although Julia Child and James Beard would be right up there, the sheer fascination of spending the day with Ferran Adria would have to win out. I have spent many an hour salivating over his "A Day at El Bulli" book at Barnes & Noble and I would love to spend a day in his workshop watching him create and perfect his "deconstructionist" recipes and then get to enjoy his 30 course tasting menu.

What morsel are you most likely to swipe from family & friends’ plates when they aren’t looking?

I'm not too proud to admit that I will swipe an endless variety of food items off of my family and friends' plates when they aren't looking and even when they are. (I do usually ask first!) Being a complete food lover with a Libra's inability to make decisions, I am happiest having dinner with you if you are willing and eager to share bites from our respective plates--the more different tastes the better. Also I tend to try to order side salads with my burgers and sandwiches in order to feel better about myself, so if you got the fries, beware...I am stealing some! ;-)

Sum your childhood up in one meal.

My mom's Chicken Fricassee with mashed potatoes and her warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies for dessert congers up childhood to me. Making simple, homey, comfort food is something my mom excels at and her fricassee with it's moist chicken and creamy gravy was/is my only choice for my Birthday dinner. She also makes the best chocolate chip cookies--soft, chewy and addictive.

The one mainstream food you can’t stand?
OK, I may actually get kicked out of America for this but I really can't stand pumpkin pie. There is something about the pureed pumpkin and the combination of spices that just doesn't work at all for me. It is everywhere this time of year--lattes, teas, even smoothies--yikes! It gives me the shudders just thinking about it.

Keep your fingers crossed that I get selected for the challenge round please! ;-) Even if I don't, answering the questions was fun. I'll keep you updated...

BTW: Judges--I tried a bazillion times to get the badge to look right but it doesn't seem to want to work on my blog. It looks fine in preview. ;-( I assure you my cooking skills are better than my technical skills!

Iron Foodie 2010 | Here's Why that will be me: -- Fine Bulk Foods The Foodie BlogRoll

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kabocha Cupcakes with Maple-Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting (& Other Adventures with Kabocha Squash) for Joanne's "Recipe Impossible Challenge"

When my good friend Joanne of Eats Well With Others announced her "Recipe Impossible: Joanne Eats Well With Others Edition" I just knew I had to enter. First off, I love Joanne and helping her feed her winter squash addictions and turn orange to get her mom off her back for being so pale seemed like a great cause to me! ;-) Secondly, the chance to receive a "Top Secret Mystery Package" with 8 ingredients from the wonderful Marx Foods was too good to pass up. It feeds into all my Iron Chef / Chopped fantasies to be challenged to use at least two of these ingredients in an original recipe. Finally, I am a recent fan of winter squash, having spent many years avoiding it like the plague, so getting creative with this orange veggie seemed like a good growth opportunity.

Probably would have been better to take a picture of the ingredients before I used them!

I was excited to be selected as one of the 10 challengers and the box from Marx Food arrived just a few days later revealing the mystery ingredients:
  • Aji Panca Chilies: mild, fruit, "poblano-esque"
  • Pasilla Negro Chilies: mild and "good in moles"
  • Maple Sugar: pure maple syrup sap made into sugar
  • Coconut Sugar: coconut sap made into sugar, sweet and nutty
  • Ginger Salt: pure sea salt blended with ground ginger
  • Espresso Salt: sea salt blended with ground espresso beans
  • Fennel Pollen: the most intense form of fennel, intense flavor
  • Madagascar Vanilla Beans: rich vanilla flavor and an abundance of seeds
The mission? Use at least two of the eight ingredients in an original recipe using some type of winter squash. My squash pick: Kobocha (aka Japanese pumpkin), because it is plentiful and locally grown and it was the first winter squash I really decided I quite liked. Kabocha, like all winter squash is rich in beta carotene (necessary for making Joanne orange), iron, vitamin C, potassium, and other nutrients.

The decision to go sweet or savory was the next step and since Kabocha is such a naturally sweet squash to begin with, I decided to go that route. Since I know that Joanne loves cupcakes and believes in balance, I decided to go with healthy carrot-cake style, almost a muffin Kabocha Cupcakes, topped with a not-so-healthy, decadent Maple-Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting, dusted with Maple Sugar. Between the cake and the frosting I would be using three of the eight ingredients: vanilla beans, coconut sugar, and the maple sugar.

For the cupcakes, I looked at a couple of healthy carrot cake recipes and my mom's zucchini muffin recipe and melded parts of them together with my own touches to come up with this cake. Without the frosting, it is a less-sweet muffin, perfect for breakfast. With the icing, it becomes a dessert-like treat.

Kaboacha Cupcakes with Maple-Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 12 Large Cup Cakes)

1 vanilla bean
2 eggs
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup packed coconut sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup natural applesauce
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups grated kabocha squash
1 (8 oz) can drained crushed pineapple in natural juice
1/2 cup flaked unsweetened coconut, toasted (see note below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fill a 12-cup cupcake pan with liners.

Scrape the seeds from the inside of the vanilla bean into a medium mixing bowl. Add eggs, orange zest, cinnamon coconut sugar and brown sugar and beat until thick. Stir in the applesauce. Sift the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and baking soda into a large bowl. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Fold in the grated kabocha, pineapple, and toasted coconut.

Using a medium ice cream scoop, spoon the batter into the prepared cupcake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the center cupcakes comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in their pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a rack before frosting.

Note: For the coconut: I used large coconut flakes/chips and toasted them in the microwave in 15 second bursts, stirring each time until browned. Once cool, I ground them for a few seconds in my mini-chop food processor until coarse.

Maple-Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes enough frosting for 12+ cupcakes)

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 vanilla bean
2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup maple sugar + extra to garnish
1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon

With a mixer, beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Scrape the seeds of a vanilla bean into the mixture and add powdered sugar, maple sugar and maple syrup and continue beating until well combined and smooth. Refrigerate until firm and pipe or spread on completely cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle frosted cupcakes with maple sugar. Store frosted cupcakes and leftover icing in refrigerator.

Notes/Results: Delicious! The frosting is very sweet and creamy and compliments the less-sugary sweet, moist and dense cupcake very well. The cake has the texture of a carrot cake but has more of a pumpkin/squash flavor and it retains its moistness with the pineapple and applesauce filling in for oil. The frosting is very soft, so it is probably better spread than piped, and should be stored in the fridge--but it is so creamy and good that seriously, I could just sit and eat a bowl of it. ;-) And the maple sugar--OK, yum--I will be sprinkling that on top of toast, oatmeal, ice cream, my tongue, etc. ;-) I will make make both the cupcakes and the frosting again. I can see Joanne eating and enjoying these after a run (to work off the frosting!) Much thanks to my visiting sister Phyl for being my chief taster and frosting piper!

I was having so much fun with my mystery ingredients and I still had a bit over half of my kabocha squash left after making the cupcakes. I got to thinking that with Joanne being a grad student, I knew she wouldn't want me waste anything so I set my own challenge to use the rest of my mystery ingredients and the rest of my squash, even the seeds.

I cut the rest of my kabocha into wedges about 1/2" thick and tossed them with some olive oil and black pepper, sprinkled them with the ginger salt and then roasted them in the oven at 400 degrees F. for about 20 minutes, turning them once, until they were soft and slightly caramelized. The ginger salt with its little zing of flavor, paired really nicely with the sweet squash and the wedges make an excellent snack or side dish.

I had saved out the kabocha seeds and washed and dried them. Liking the pairing of chile and coffee on meat, I thought it would also be good on roasted squash seeds. I ground one of each chile with their seeds into a fine powder and mixed it with the espresso salt and a dash of the fennel pollen to coat the seeds before roasting them.

Chili-Espresso Roasted Kabocha Seeds
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 1 1/4 cup or more, depending on the size of squash)

seeds from kabocha squash, cleaned and dried
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Aji Panca chile
1 Pasilla Negro chile
1 tsp espresso salt
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fennel pollen

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

Chop the chilies coarsely and grind them with their seeds in a spice grinder or blender until a fine powder. Mix 1 tablespoon of the chili powder with the espresso salt, sea salt and fennel pollen in a small bowl. Toss kabocha seeds with olive oil in a medium bowl and sprinkle with chili-espresso powder mixture and mix until evenly coated.

Spread coated kabocha seeds in a single layer on lined pan and place in over. Cook about 15 minutes or until seeds begin to pop. Cool thoroughly on pan and then store in an airtight container. Use for snacking or on salads, in soups as a garnish, etc.

Notes/Results: Very tasty--these are mild chilies so no heat, just a rich, savory taste that my sister called "kind of addicting." You catch a little of the espresso taste and the fennel pollen just adds a complexity to the flavor. A tasty little snack that provides protein, vitamin K, iron and copper, and is also a good source of magnesium, phosphorus and manganese.

And that ends my adventures in kabocha squash and the Joanne Eats Well With Other Recipe Impossible Challenge. An entire kabocha squash plus all of the mystery ingredients put to good use, and a whole lot of fun working with such great and diverse quality ingredients.

You'll be able to see my Kabocha Cupcakes with Maple-Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting and all of the other entries at the Marx Foods site (and you can vote in the poll for your favorite--hint, hint!), on November 1st. I am sure that collectively we will have Joanne a gorgeous golden shade by Thanksgiving.

This also seems like the perfect dish/post to link to the Heart 'n Soul Tuesday Blog Hop hosted by my friend girlichef and other fabulous bloggers (A Moderate Life, Hunger and Thirst, and Frugality and Crunchiness wth Christy), featuring good food cooked from the heart that feeds the body and the soul.

So, what's your favorite squash?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kalua Pork & Cabbage Pasta with Lomi Tomato-Pineapple Salsa

I was having a craving for some Kalua Pork--a local dish where traditionally a pig is slow roasted in an underground pit until it is fall-apart tender and smoky from the fire. Of course unless it is a luau or a large, traditional family event, most people nowadays cook their kalua pig in the oven or a slow cooker, sometimes wrapped in banana or ti leaves and often with a little liquid smoke to recreate that smoky flavor. The shredded pork is usually served with cabbage here. I like to cook my pork butt and then use it for sandwiches, in quesadillas or tacos and lately I have been thinking it would be fun to create a pasta dish featuring the pork and cabbage.

I wanted the dish to have some brightness and acidity to work with the smoky flavor of the pork. At Whole Foods the other day, one of the produce guys was sampling chunks of local tomatoes and pineapple with a sprinkle of Hawaiian Red Alaea Sea Salt, on toothpicks. I liked the combination and thought it would be fun to do a variation of it as a salsa to top the pasta. Lomi is a Hawaiian word meaning massage or crush and here it refers to the small diced pieces of tomato and pineapple in the salsa. (Plus it just sounds fun!) ;-)

My Kalua Pork & Cabbage Pasta with Lomi Tomato-Pineapple Salsa is a different and delicious take on some traditional dishes.

Kalua Pork & Cabbage Pasta with Lomi Tomato-Pineapple Salsa
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 6)

1 (12 ounce) package pasta (I used a whole whet penne)
1 Tbsp olive oil + 1 Tbsp sesame seed oil, mixed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium head cabbage, cored and shredded / chopped (about 4 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red chili pepper flakes
2 cups Kalua Pork (
see recipe below)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
Lomi Tomato-Pineapple (recipe below)

Cook pasta according to directions on the package, drain and set aside in a large bowl. Heat the oils in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes until onion begins to soften, then add cabbage, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook about 15 minutes or until cabbage is tender, stirring occasionally. Add kalua pork to mixture, taste and add salt and pepper, then heat through. Add the kalua pork and cabbage mixture to the bowl of pasta and toss until mixed. Serve warm, topped with sesame seeds and lomi tomato-pineapple.

Easy Slow Cooker Kalua Pork:

4-5 pounds Pork Butt Roast
2 cups warm water
2 Tbsp liquid smoke flavoring
about 1 Tbsp Hawaiian Red Alaea Sea Salt (or substitute regular sea salt)

Trim any excess fat from pork butt. Using a fork, pierce the pork butt all over and place in the slow cooker. Mix the liquid smoke into the warm water and pour over the pork. Sprinkle pork with with salt. Cook on low for 12-16 hours depending on size of roast (Two 2.5 lb roasts took about 12 hours, one 4.5 pound roast took about 16). Turn roast once during cooking time. Remove pork from slow cooker, reserving the cooking liquid. Shred pork, adding some of the drippings/cooking liquid if needed to add moisture to the meat. Allow the surplus dripping / cooking liquid to cool; skim fat from the top and use if needed for sauce or gravy.

Lomi Tomato-Pineapple Salsa:

1 fresh tomato, seeded and diced
1 cup pineapple, diced
1 red chili pepper, seeded and diced
3 green onions thinly sliced
2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
pinch of Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt (or substitute regular sea salt)

Mix diced tomato, pineapple, chili pepper, green onion and cilantro together in a small bowl. Sprinkle mixture with a pinch of Hawaiian sea salt. Serve on top of pasta.

Notes/Results: I love it when a recipe "experiment" that has been living as an idea in my head translates well to the plate. This is a simple and very tasty dish. Once you have your shredded kalua pork cooked, it goes together really quickly--everything can be chopped while the pasta water boils and the pork & cabbage mixture cooked as the pasta cooks. The sesame oil gives a nutty taste and the red chili pepper flakes and fresh red chili in the salsa provide a little kick. There is a little smokiness from the meat and finally the sweetness and bright acidity of the pineapple and tomato and it all actually works together in this dish. I used some whole wheat penne for this recipe, but I would like to try it with some saimin noodles (a local noodle that is similar to, but larger and softer than ramen noodles), or a similar style of noodle. I will make this again.

For other things to do with kalua pork, check out these Kalua Pork Quesadillas and these Swedish Kalua Pork Cabbage Rolls (sounds funny but it was for an event you can read about on the post!)

I am sending this dish to two fun events--Ruth's Presto Pasta Nights being hosted this week by Katie of Thyme for Cooking. Katie will be posting a bevy of yummy pasta creations at her site on Friday.

I am also sending it to Natasha's monthly 5 Star Makeover: Pasta over at 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventures, where the task was to "Create a PASTA dish with a twist. You can make any kind of pasta (homemade or purchased) and incorporate many different kinds of ingredients in various combinations to create interesting flavors, sweet or savory, inspired by any number of cuisines of the world." I think this fits that criteria! ;-) Natasha will be rounding up all the pasta creations after May 2.

I hope you are having a wonderful week!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lemony Piccata Compound Butter on Sautéed Opakapaka (Pink Snapper)

I don't sleep well as a rule. Even when I am tired, I struggle with getting my mind to settle down and stop all the random thoughts and ideas that run through it. Although it drives me crazy at times, I do come up with some of my best food ideas and recipes after midnight, like this one for a Lemony Piccata Compound Butter. It all started when the very creative Natasha at 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventures introduced her March Recipe Makeover dish; creating a "compound butter with a twist"--incorporating different ingredients with butter or a butter spread to come up with a unique sweet or savory blend.

Last night (at about 1:00 AM), I finally decided I need to get my act together and decide what to make or the month would pass by me by. At first I was thinking curry, maybe mixed in with some cashews and other ingredients to serve on chicken or fish. Then thinking about chicken and fish got me thinking of one of my very favorite ways of preparing these foods, piccata style.

From Wikipedia: Piccata is an Italian word, the feminine form of the word piccato, meaning "larded." It is also spelled "piccata" "picatta" or "pichotta. When used in reference to a way of preparing food, particularly meat or fish, it means "sliced, sautéed, and served in a sauce containing lemon, butter, and spices." The best known dish of this sort is chicken piccata, using chicken, but the term is also used with veal (veal piccata).

A piccata sauce usually includes lemon, garlic, capers, butter and sometimes other ingredients (white wine, shallots or onions, parsley, etc.) depending on who is making it. So why not put some of those same ingredients into the compound butter?! Bonus, I had everything I needed to make the butter in my fridge and pantry.

For the base we had the option of using a butter substitute like I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (who is kindly providing a prize pack for a winner of this challenge event) or using butter. Since butter is in my freezer and using a substitute required a trip to the store, I went with butter. Plus if I am going to indulge, I gotta be honest and say I prefer the real stuff (no offense to butter substitutes or butter substitute lovers--my Mom is a big fan!) For the other ingredients, I had a small Maui onion which I cooked until almost caramelized to bring out even more of the sweetness, and of course garlic was a must. For big lemon flavor, I zested two lemons and added a couple of tablespoons of the juice and I also brought in some parsley for flavor and color. Finally the star of the show--capers! I wanted to keep much of the shape and texture so I pulsed them in at the end.

I made the butter in the morning and was out most of the day and into the evening hours so I wanted something relatively quick to cook when I got home. I stopped by Whole Foods and grabbed some local opakapaka (pink snapper), a bunch of local asparagus and a couple of scoops of a brown rice blend from the cooked grain section of the salad bar. Once home I steamed the asparagus while the fish cooked (sautéed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper), heated up the rice, and a delicious dinner was on the table in about 20 minutes.

Lemony Piccata Compound Butter
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

1 tsp olive oil
1/4 onion, sliced thinly (or shallots would work well)
2 cloves garlic, minced
zest from 2 lemons
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp fresh parsley leaves
8 Tbsp butter at room temp or a butter spread such as I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
2 Tbsp capers, drained
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add onion slices and cook on medium-low stirring frequently until soft and starting to caramelize (about 10 minutes). Add garlic and saute another 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Combine onion garlic mixture, lemon zest, lemon juice and parsley in a food processor and blend into a thin paste consistency. Add butter (should be at room temperature) or spread and pulse several times until mixed (Don't over-mix). Add capers and pulse another few times. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Either roll into a log in a plastic wrap or place in a small bowl or ramekin and chill in fridge until firm. Serve on top of fish, chicken, veal or vegetables.

Notes/Results: Pretty darn amazing if I do say so myself. Wonderfully creamy and lemony with that wonderful slightly briny-tangy flavor that capers give a dish. This butter has BIG flavor--a little goes a long way, (good when we are talking about butter!), and it took a simple basic piece of fish to a whole new level. The bites of asparagus with the butter were amazing as well so this is a great one for livening up all kinds of veggies (spinach or other greens, potatoes, zucchini, and artichokes all come to mind--I mean can you imagine it with an artichoke?!), as well as chicken, veal, shrimp, etc. I made a small butter roll and put the rest in a little dish. Both worked fine and although I thought it about it after the fact, I think next time I would put it into little candy molds for some fun shapes and more visual appeal. This one was worth losing some sleep over! I will make this again whenever I need a little decadent indulging. ;-)

If you want to create your own creative compound butter or compound butter substitute, you have until Sunday, April 4th and you can get all the details on the 5 Star Foodie site (just click on the button above). Natasha will be posting a round-up of all the creative recipes on Monday, April 5th so be sure and check it out.