The Free Range Gourmet Free range thoughts on the finest ingredients, cuisine, and fine dining in Hawaii.

Range Gourmet

  Local Hawaii ingredients used with an international flair

        ^BNanette^K^H (Gone but not forgotten) 1946-2020


Thursday, March 31, 2011


Organic farming may indeed feed the world as climate gets warmer

Rodale's researchers have been comparing crop yields and taking soil samples on these test plots for 27 years. Their latest findings? The three systems have produced equivalent corn yields over the years, while "soybean yields were the same for the manure and conventional system and only slightly lower for the legume system."

So the old canard about how organic ag produces dramatically less food than chemical ag has been debunked, yet again.

But it gets more interesting. As the globe warms up, increased droughts are likely to reduce global crop yields. The ag-biotech industry is scrambling to come out with "drought-resistant" GMO crops. But organic ag might already have that covered: "In 4 out of 5 years of moderate drought, the organic systems had significantly higher corn yields (31 percent higher) than the conventional system."

Moreover, while conventional ag struggles with the "superweed" problem, brought on by Monsanto's herbicide-tolerant GMO crops, organic ag is showing it can coexist with weed pressure without sacrificing yield:…

[Grist, Organic farming just as productive as conventional, and better at building soil, Rodale finds, 3/25/2011]

Read the full article to learn why organic can outperform conventional agriculture under the conditions we will probably face as a result of global warming.


Bonus greens–eating veggies “nose to tail”

by Nanette Geller


Joan Namkoong had a nice piece on beet tops in yesterday’s Star Advertiser. We love beets, and always look for vibrant green tops to use as a leafy vegetable. Beets are very closely related to chard, one of my favorite greens. It kills me to see people throw away beet tops and then spend money on chard!

When I get home from the market, I cut off the greens from beets, radishes, turnips, or other root vegetables with tasty, nutritious leaves. I wash them, steam them in the water clinging to the leaves, and put them in the refrigerator labeled “bonus greens.” I feel so virtuous when I use these freebies. It reminds me of the way many chefs now boast of using every part of an animal, “nose to tail.”


bonus greens


Baby hakurei (Japanese turnips) and French breakfast radishes from Ma’o Organic Farm

Those leaves look so alive. It would feel like murder to toss them

Below are a few ideas on how to use these gifts from the farm



Gyoza soup 1


A very quick dinner made with frozen gyoza from Costco

Bring some stock to a boil (I use Kitchen Basics chicken stock). I like to add a couple of slices of ginger and a splash of shaoxing rice wine.

Throw in frozen gyoza. While they cook, cut the greens into bite size. If I have it, I’ll also cut up some green onion.

When the gyoza are almost done (about 6-8 minutes), add the greens. Bring back to a simmer. Serve. Enjoy.

Since I had calamansi, I put some out to add at the table. Optional, but it does add a bright note. Lemon or lime wedges would also be good.



Dandelion with Egg


Serve greens topped with a poached or fried egg. This happens to be dandelion, but bonus greens would work as well.

If you want to get fancy, toast a thick slice of country-style bread, rub with a cut garlic clove, drizzle with olive oil, and serve either underneath or next to the greens.


When I describe something made with “greens” it’s probably bonus greens and I don’t even remember exactly what went into the mix of leaves. You could use bonus greens in this rustic pie. Mix them with the peanut dressing described here. Serve warm or room temp with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Use chopped greens on a pizza. Add to soups. Add to pasta sauce. You get the idea. And while you’re eating, remember that you got all that flavor and nutrition for free.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Hawaii-grown spices, fresh from the farm

by Nanette Geller


We’ve been ordering most of our spices from Penzeys for almost 20 years. Quality is consistently high, and the product is always fresh. And with spices, freshness really matters. Here in Hawaii, we’re fortunate to be able to buy some spices fresh from the farm. Wailea Ag Group is at KCC Farmers Market a couple of times a month. They are best known for fresh hearts of palm but sometimes have Big Island spices as well.


Spices 2


All of these spices are from Wailea Ag Group, except the green peppercorns which are from Frankie's Nursery.

Bay leaves

Cinnamon leaf


Whole nutmeg with mace attached

Shelled nutmeg

Green Peppercorns


Bay leaf, of course, goes into pretty much any simmered dish – soups, stews, beans, tomato sauce, etc. Try adding a bay leaf when cooking rice for a subtle flavor. Dried bay leaves lose most of their flavor after about a year. Supermarket bay leaves are often so old that they're virtually tasteless when purchased. Also, some leaves, sold as “California bay leaves” are not true bay laurel. The California bay leaves are larger and much stronger, with a coarser flavor; they aren’t really a good substitute. The Wailea Ag Group sells branches of the true bay laurel. The fresh leaves are better than dried for things like stuffing into a whole fish before roasting or skewering between other ingredients for a kebab. I stand the branches in a container in the kitchen and pull off the leaves as needed. Even after they dry, they are wonderfully fragrant and flavorful. I haven’t verified this, but bay leaves are supposed to help keep bugs out of dried rice or other grains.

I’ve written before about the difference between true Ceylon cinnamon and cassia, which is usually sold as cinnamon in the US. I keep the branches of true cinnamon I buy from Wailea Ag Group together with the bay branches, and use the leaves pretty much anyplace I use bay leaves. I especially enjoy it in tomato sauces, or any simmered dish with tomatoes. The branches can also be used. My friend Nan recently made a marvelously fragrant syrup with a cut-up branch and some of the leaves.

I never really enjoyed clove until I tried the ones from the Big Island. Even though they are already dry, they are still fresh-tasting and don’t seem to overwhelm other ingredients. Clove is indispensable in Indian cooking. I’ve been using it in pasta sauces and in braised dishes, especially meats.

Nutmeg is two spices in one. Mace is the lacy outer covering of the seed. When allowed to dry, it is easy to remove. The remaining “nut” can then be cracked to extract the inner seed, which is the “nutmeg.” Like cinnamon, Americans usually use nutmeg only for sweets but it’s also wonderful in savory dishes. I follow the Italian lead, and use it with cooked greens and cheese dishes like this rustic pie which includes both. Even after drying, the Big Island nutmeg is still fresh and not as hard as other nutmeg, so it grates easily. Nutmeg loses it’s fragrance quickly once ground and should always be grated just before using. No need to buy a special grater, the microplane works perfectly (and is also the best tool for grating hard cheeses, citrus zest, ginger, etc.). Even the fine holes on a regular box grater will work on the fresher, softer local nutmeg.


Recently Frankie's Nursery has been bringing fresh green peppercorns from Waimanalo. These are the immature form of our familiar black pepper and are normally available in the US only freeze-dried or canned in brine. One well-known use in French cuisine is steak in a green peppercorn sauce (steak au poivre vert), which was my inspiration for the chicken dish below. I crushed them lightly with a mortar-and-pestle, releasing their flavor and fragrance, before adding them to the sauce and simmering a couple of minutes.

Green peppercorn chix


Skinless, boneless chicken thigh in a green peppercorn sauce with shallot, white wine, and crème fraiche

Whole wheat couscous with green onion and saffron

Butter-steamed sugar snap peas

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Naan “pizza”

by Nanette Geller


Naan pizza

As much as I love to cook, sometimes we get home late, tired, and hungry. Takeout? No way! This may not be a proper New York or Neapolitan pizza, but it was better than “delivery” and took less time.

I had a package of naan (Indian flatbread) from Costco. It’s not as wonderful as what you’d have at a good Indian restaurant, but it’s not bad. While the toaster oven preheated to 450 degrees (less than 10 minutes), I prepped my toppings: leftover broiled Portobello mushrooms, leftover cooked Italian sausage, mozzarella, and Muir Glen canned pizza sauce. Yes, canned pizza sauce. The Muir Glenn (available at Kokua, Whole Foods and elsewhere) is tasty and organic, with pretty much the ingredients I’d use myself.

The fresh Italian sausage is from Whole Foods’ butcher counter. I remove the casing and cook it, then keep it on hand for pasta, pizza or whatever. Two sausages weigh about 2/3 pound and it’s enough for 3 meals for the two of us. Having it already cooked is a huge timesaver with no loss of quality.

I made two naan “pizzas” but baked them one at a time since they wouldn’t both fit on the 12 inch pan (the largest size my Cuisinart toaster oven accommodates). We were sharing the first one about 20 minutes after we got home, while the second baked.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Another Japanese dinner

by Nanette Geller

The sardines I cooked last Sunday were enough for twice. Here is how the leftovers were served a few days later. Again, this was a simple meal of homey comfort food.


Japanese dinner 1

Sardines simmered in sake and mirin with ginger and umeboshi (pickled plum), served with purslane and sprigs of shiso buds

Roasted asparagus and grated daikon radish with finely sliced green onion. The daikon, which acts as a dressing for the asparagus, was seasoned with calamansi juice and a little salt

“Tataro” taro salad, steamed greens with peanut dressing, and sugar snap peas simmered in dashi (Japanese fish stock)

Sake (Kurosawa)


Soup and rice



When we’d finished our sake, I served chirashi sushi rice and a clear soup of dashi with enoki mushrooms, green onion and a touch of ginger.



Sardines from Whole Foods (frozen). They’re much smaller than the fresh sardines I used to buy in Japan. Ginger and sugar snap peas from Pit Farm. Purslane, daikon and green onion from Otsuji Farm. Shiso buds from SKA Tropicals. Asparagus from Milner Farm. “Tataro” taro salad from Taro Delight (we like this so much I buy it every week).

The peanut dressing for the greens is super simple: mix peanut butter with a bit of rice vinegar or citrus (I used calamansi juice), mirin, and dashi or water to thin to the desired consistency. I sometimes use ginger syrup from PacifiKool instead of mirin. Proportions? Just keep tasting until you like it.

The rice was Sunday’s leftover rice, warmed in the microwave, mixed with canned chirashi sushi mix (Shirakiku Chirashi Sushi no Moto, available at Safeway, Longs and elsewhere) and served room temperature. Enoki mushrooms from Don Quijote.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Thinking about Japan, so I had to make a Japanese dinner

by Nanette Geller

It’s hard to focus on everyday life when tragedy strikes. Once we knew the risk in Hawaii was past, our attention was riveted on Japan. The horrific images of the quake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant explosions are magnified for us by memories of the 16 years we lived in Tokyo. My way of coping with a terrible situation I can’t do anything about is to cook. I found myself urgently needing to cook Japanese food. I wanted homey comfort food, not a fancy restaurant style meal. Here is what we ate for Sunday dinner.


Japanese Dinner  110313

Sardines simmered with ginger & umeboshi (pickled plum), served on a shiso leaf

Sugar snap peas simmered in dashi (Japanese fish stock)

Steamed greens in a peanut dressing

Broiled portabella mushrooms served with grated daikon radish mixed with shredded shiso.

Baby hakurei (Japanese turnips) lightly pickled in a rice vinegar dressing


When we’d finished our sake, I served rice with furikake (seasoned seaweed sprinkles) and a clear soup of dashi with green onion.

Somehow, we felt just a little better.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


In honor of Pi Day, a rustic chard & feta pie

By Nanette Geller

March 14 is Pi Day (3.14…) so I thought I’d demonstrate an easy technique for making a rustic pie.

Whoever coined the phrase “easy as pie” must have meant it ironically. Pie (at least the crust) is anything but easy for a beginner! First comes the dough, which can turn out tough if it’s handled too much. Then rolling it to the right size. Then getting the top on without tearing it.

I find this style less intimidating, and we love the results. You could actually make it with any pie dough, but I really like this Whole Wheat Yeasted Olive Oil Pastry from the New York Times. It’s easy to make, very forgiving, easy to handle and tastes great. The photos are of a savory chard & feta pie, but I’ve used the same dough and technique for a delicious apple pie. Since there are just two of us, I used 1/4 of the dough and made it on a 9 inch pizza pan. Leftover dough freezes well.

The filling is chopped cooked chard, sautéed chopped onion and feta cheese, seasoned with fresh-ground black pepper and freshly grated Big Island nutmeg, and bound with an egg.


galette 1

This dough is easy to roll thin. I used a Silpat, so it needed very little flour. No need to keep it round.



galette 2

Unlike regular pie dough, which can be tricky to transfer, it was a cinch to pick it up and place it on a lightly oiled 9” pizza pan.


galette 3

The filling is centered on the dough and smoothed out with damp hands, leaving plenty of room at the edges.


galette 4

Start folding the dough towards the center, overlapping as you go. Size is whatever it turns out to be. No need to keep it symmetrical.


galette 5

Ready to go in the oven: 375 degrees for about 30-40 minutes.


galette 6

Let it cool a bit, so the filling settles. We actually prefer it room temp.


galette 7

A small wedge (1/6th of the pie) made a lovely lunch. For dinner, I serve 1/4 pie if it’s the main course.


You can use any filling as long as it’s solid enough to stay together without pan walls to hold it in.

By the way, this kind of free-form pie is often called a galette. You may also see it called a crostata. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious, versatile, and easy as pie!

For more about Pi Day, see the official web page here. And here is some music to accompany your Pi Day pie.

Monday, March 07, 2011


Leftovers repurposed as an Indian dinner

by Nanette Geller

curry 2This Indian dinner from last week includes several repurposed leftover dishes. We had dinner the night before at the new Bangkok Chef in the Weyerhauser building and didn’t finish the chicken satay. Actually, it was dry and not very tasty but we took home the leftovers. I was inspired by chicken tikka masala to try to improve it. I sautéed a lot of ginger and onion with a couple of green chilies, then added a can of chopped tomatoes, cinnamon & bay leaf and a couple of cloves. Simmered to reduce, added the chicken and a spoonful of crème fraiche, and left it on low for the chicken to pick up some flavor and moisture. Shortly before serving I added some sugar snap peas and simmered until they were done. Not an authentic chicken tikka masala, but it tasted wonderful!

The toor dal was already cooked earlier in the week with ginger, cinnamon, cloves, chili and turmeric. I sautéed more ginger with onion, curry leaf & chilies, added tomato, cooked until the oil started to separate, then added it to the dal with a bunch of chopped purslane and cooked until the purslane was tender. I could eat this every day and not get bored.

I had some leftover kale with anchovies, garlic and sherry vinegar. It was tasty but I was a bit over-enthusiastic with the anchovy, so it was too salty to eat in large quantities. It worked well as a stand-in for a salty Indian pickle or relish.

A couple of spoonsful of leftover avocado & lime paired well with some Greek yogurt to make an improvised raita.

We had some frozen Indian flatbreads, which I won’t buy again – not bad, but Larry’s homemade chapatis are way better. That’s leftover frisee in the center. And yes, I’ve “repurposed” a pizza pan to use as a thali (Indian plate, usually metal).

An authentic Indian dinner? Not really, but it sure was good!

Sunday, March 06, 2011


Same beans, different taste

by Nanette Geller

Cooking for just one or two people sometimes seems like more trouble than it’s worth. It can be just as much work to make one serving as it is to make a big potful. Why not just nuke a package from the freezer and call it dinner? Make more and keep eating leftovers? Boooring.

Not necessarily. With just a little creativity, and very little effort, the same dish can morph into something new.

Case in point: last month I cooked about 2 cups of dried cannellini beans. I soaked them overnight, then cooked them simply with a couple of whole garlic cloves, a bay leaf, a few peppercorns, a sprig of thyme and a glug of olive oil. I added salt when they were almost done.

The first night I served them at room temp with just a drizzle of olive oil and a touch of sherry vinegar. The next night I mixed them with Andy’s salsa from Bueno Salsa (a staple in my fridge, available at KCC and some stores). A couple of days later I mixed them with pesto from J’s seasonings (available at KCC a couple of times a month). Same beans but very different flavor profiles with no extra effort.  A few days later the weather turned chilly, so I made a delicious and nourishing soup with the remaining beans together with their cooking liquid and some veggies (not pictured).

As you can see, some of the accompaniments remained the same. We don’t mind that. There was enough difference to keep things interesting.




Cannellini beans with olive oil & sherry vinegar

Clockwise from the beans: braised escarole, feta cheese marinated with olive oil and thyme, roasted potatoes with smoked paprika, purslane salad, diced avocado with lemon juice, French Breakfast radishes.

I rarely see escarole at the farmers market, so I was happy to find it at Ma’o Organic Farm. Braised with olive oil, anchovy, garlic, onion, and a touch of sherry vinegar, it became seductively silky and a perfect foil for the beans.




Cannellini beans with salsa

Clockwise from the beans: braised escarole, marinated feta, roasted potatoes with Penzeys Singapore seasoning, avocado, roasted broccoli.



Cannellini beans with pesto

Clockwise from the beans: avocado, mizuna, tataro salad from Taro Delight (available at farmers markets and some stores), marinated feta, braised escarole

Saturday, March 05, 2011


Dinner tonight: duck noodle soup

by Nanette Geller

Duck Soup 110305Seeing the mustard greens at Pit Farm this morning was the inspiration. On the way home from the farmer’s market we stopped at Nam Fong on Maunakea Street for half a roast duck.

I brought a quart of chicken stock to a simmer with a couple of bay leaves and cinnamon leaves, star anise, half a dozen whole peeled garlic cloves, about 1/4 cup julienned ginger, 1/2 cup shaoxing rice wine, and the duck drippings Nam Fong includes with the duck. I softened brown rice noodles (pho/fettuccini style) in hot water, then drained and rinsed in cold water. Cut up the Tokyo negi (Japanese long onions), mustard greens and choi sum. All this took less than half an hour.

When we were ready to eat I removed the cinnamon & bay leaves from the stock and added the onions. When they were tender I added the greens and put the noodles back in hot water to reheat. Noodles went into the bowls, then the veggies. The duck was warmed briefly in the stock before adding to the bowl and ladling over the stock.

That’s shaoxing in the glass.

Mustard greens, choi sum & ginger from Pit Farm, negi from Milner Farm, cinnamon & bay leaves from Wailea Ag Group.


KCC farmers market finds (March 5)

by Nanette Geller


market finds 110305

Made in Hawaii Foods: cherimoya & mango

Wailea Ag Group: bay leaf & meyer lemons

Kogachi Orchids: marungay

Milner Farm: russet potatoes, asparagus & Tokyo negi (Japanese long onion)

Ma’o Organic Farm: hakurei (Japanese white turnips) & radishes

Pit Farm: sugar snap peas, mustard greens & choi sum

Ba-Le Bakery: whole wheat fig bread

Otsuji Farm: baby romaine

SKA Tropicals: frisee

Friday, March 04, 2011


Too tired to cook, so here’s what I cooked

by Nanette Geller

RavioliAs much as I enjoy cooking, there are times when I  need to just get dinner on the table with minimal effort. That’s when I rely on a few prepared ingredients I keep on hand, plus whatever’s in the fridge. This took less time than delivery or takeout, and no more effort.

I washed and cut up a leek and a zucchini (which took less than 10 minutes) and started them sautéing in olive oil, then put a pot of water to boil. By the time the water boiled the veggies were soft. A splash of white wine, a glug of chicken stock, and simmer while the ravioli boiled for three minutes. Add the ravioli and a bit of the cooking water to the sauce and continue cooking another minute, then turn off the heat and stir in some pesto. At the table, grate some parmesan and grind black pepper. We ate well!

Leek and zucchini from Pit Farms. Safeway Select brand portabella mushroom ravioli (a staple in my freezer). Basil & macadamia pesto from J’s seasonings (available only a couple of times a month at the KCC farmers market). Kitchen Basics chicken stock. Olive oil & parmesan from Costco.


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