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


Saturday, April 30, 2011


Spanish tortilla: potatoes + onions + eggs = perfection

by Nanette Geller


There are some dishes in which a few simple ingredients combine into perfection on a plate. Case in point: the Spanish tortilla. How can potatoes, onions, and eggs taste so wonderful? (OK, good olive oil is important too.)

Slice potatoes and onions, season with salt & pepper, and cook slowly in olive oil until very tender but not browned. In Spain, the tortilla is sometimes made with just potato and egg but for me onion is an essential part of the equation.

Authentic recipes call for lots of olive oil (often a cup of oil). When the potatoes and onions are done drain off any excess oil, which will have picked up the onion flavor; store in the fridge. I use less oil (2-3 tablespoons) in a non-stick pan and cover the pan until the potatoes and onions are almost tender, then uncover and stir gently a few times until they are done.

Mix the potato and onion with beaten eggs and cook on medium heat in a covered nonstick pan with a little olive oil until lightly browned on the bottom.

Either flip in the pan to cook the other side or put under the broiler for a couple of minutes (my preference). Cool to room temperature. Enjoy.

If I feel like gilding the lily, I add some chopped fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, or chives are nice). A bit of Spanish smoked paprika works well.  Some chopped Spanish chorizo, cooked with the potato & onion, would still be authentic. Just use a light hand with any additions; the idea is to enhance, not overwhelm.

In Spain, the tortilla is often cut into small pieces as a tapa. It would be equally at home with local-style pupu. It also makes an awesome sandwich. Leftovers keep a few days in the refrigerator but remember to bring it back to room temp.

When you are working with just a few ingredients, they have to be top quality. I believe we can taste the difference when we shop at the farmers market. Here, I’ve used Yukon gold potatoes from Milner Farm, red onion from Pit Farm, and eggs from Blue Lotus. Also for dinner: French breakfast radishes and hakurei turnips from MA'O, purslane from Otsuji Farm. Behind the wine glass is dark rye from Ba-Le/La Tour. Simple perfection.

Friday, April 29, 2011


Cornish hen with goat cheese & pesto

The Cornish hen, or Cornish game hen, is a small hybrid chicken. Although it’s often served as a single serving, we find one bird is ample for two.

cornish hen 4


Cutting along the backbone and flattening the bird allows it to cook quickly and evenly. This is called butterflying and is easy to do with kitchen shears.

I mixed pesto with fresh goat cheese and stuffed it under the skin. This technique both flavors the meat and keeps it from drying out. Basil-macnut pesto is from J’s Seasonings.

Rub olive oil on the skin, season both sides with salt & pepper, put in a lightly oiled pan on top of sliced potatoes. As you can see, the potatoes absorb the juices and come out incredibly flavorful. These are Yukon Golds from Milner Farm.

Roast at 375. While it was cooking Larry kept sniffing the smells coming from the kitchen with a big smile and eyes closed.

The best way to check for doneness is with an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh; it should be 160-165 degrees. If you don’t have one: the leg will wiggle easily and the juices will run clear when you pierce the thigh with the tip of a knife. I forgot to note the time, but I think it took about 40 minutes (check after 30). Allow it to rest at least 10 minutes before cutting through the breast into two portions.


cornish hen 2


This was a very luxurious dinner but not a lot of work. Perfect for letting Larry know he’s special.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Sunday brunch: lox and – rye bread?

by Nanette Geller

We’re from New York City. That means Sunday brunch is the most important meal of the week. And the ultimate Sunday brunch is lox and bagels. OK, technically lox is salt-cured not smoked, but both our families preferred Nova Scotia salmon (“novi”) which is smoked. We still called it lox. Mandatory accompaniments included cream cheese, onions, coffee or tea, and the Sunday New York Times. Optional: black olives, capers, various fresh vegetables. We sometimes had other smoked fish as well (sable, whitefish, sturgeon). Bagels had to be purchased, still warm, on Sunday morning. And you ate at home, surrounded by family.

No problem finding smoked salmon in Honolulu. In fact, Costco has a pretty good smoked wild Alaska salmon. Bagels? That’s another story. First of all, these days it’s even hard to find a really good bagel in New York . They’re too big and too soft. A proper bagel should be chewy. And please, don’t even mention the weird flavors. Blueberry bagels? I’d sooner eat anchovy ice cream. There are a couple of places here that make passable bagels – not perfect, but they’ll do in a pinch. But they’re not open Sunday and a reheated bagel just isn’t the same thing. I pretty much gave up on enjoying lox & bagels on Sundays.

Fortunately, I had the idea of trying a dense rye bread, the kind that is often used with gravlax in Scandinavia. Not the same as a bagel, but equally delicious.

My other innovation is to substitute fresh goat cheese for the cream cheese. More flavor, lower fat. Not just “as good” but better.


lox 2


White plate: smoked salmon, dark rye bread, red onion

Metal plate (ok, it’s a pizza pan): goat cheese, pesto, lime wedges, capers

Red onion from Pit Farms, lime from Wailea Ag Group, pesto from J’s Seasonings, mizuna from MA'O, radishes from SKA, pomelo from Milner Farm.


lox 1


Here the emphasis is on the fresh veggies.

Japanese cucumber and red onion from Pit, baby romaine from Otsuji, hakurei (Japanese turnips) and French breakfast radishes from MA'O.

On the plate with smoked salmon and goat cheese: key lime from Wailea Ag.

That huge tangerine is a Dekopon we bought at Whole Foods. Good, but we’ll stick to local citrus. Maybe someone will grow it here.

The coffee is an Americano which we prefer to regular brewed coffee. We buy our espresso beans from Koko Crater at KCC.



black bread


This is the best brand of dense-style dark rye I’ve found.

It’s imported from Germany and keeps unopened for months, but refrigerate after opening. It’s already sliced – I cut the slices in half for a more convenient serving size.

I used to find it in a couple of places but now the only place I see it is Whole Foods. There are several flavors, all good.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Choucroute garnie

I love sauerkraut. When I was a vegetarian I was at a party where they were serving hot dogs. I asked for a bun with no hot dog and lots of sauerkraut. With a little mustard, I was a happy camper. I’m an omnivore now, but I still think sauerkraut is the only reason to eat hot dogs.

Choucroute garnie is the best thing that could happen to sauerkraut. It’s usually a pretty elaborate dish, made with several kinds of meat. I make a simple version that still brings the flavor. It’s important to use fresh, raw sauerkraut, not canned, which is pretty nasty stuff. You can find Bubbies brand in jars at Kokua and Whole Foods.

Choucroute garnie is usually winter fare, but yesterday was kind of rainy, a good day for some comfort food.


Choucrout Garni


Preheat the oven to 350. Drain the sauerkraut. If you want to reduce the salt, you can rinse it (I do). Squeeze dry. Put in a glass, ceramic, or other non-reactive casserole with a cover.

Mix in a sliced onion,  several whole cloves of peeled garlic, some black peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves, and a couple of cloves. Add dry white wine to cover. An Alsatian Riesling would be perfect but I just use whatever I have on hand. Not something oaky though (like many American Chardonnays).

Top with thick-cut bacon cut into 2 inch lengths. For two servings I used one slice of very thick-cut bacon.

Cover and bake at 350 for about 1 hour. Most of the extra liquid should have cooked off, but if the cover is very tight it may not. You can continue to cook uncovered until the sauerkraut is moist but not swimming in liquid.

Put in one cooked sausage per person. This is bratwurst, but knockwurst is also nice. Even hot dogs will do. Push down into the sauerkraut. Cover and bake until the sausage is hot, about 20 minutes.

On the side here: carrots, potatoes, and sugar snap peas.

Serve with mustard. I like to use both Dijon and a grainy mustard. Dark rye bread is nice too.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Lots of greens this week

by Nanette Geller

At last Saturday’s KCC Farmer’s market I couldn’t resist the gorgeous green chard at Milner Farms, even though I already had some baby beet greens (from Otsuji Farms)  and hakurei (from MA'O) which I knew would give me a stash of “bonus greens.”  Here’s how I used them, separately and together. No repeats.


cooked greens 0402


When I got home from the market I separated the chard stems from the greens, After washing everything, I cooked them in the water clinging to the leaves. Cooked greens keep better than raw, and take much less space in the fridge. Plus, it’s that much faster to get dinner on the table during the week.

Bonus greens: baby hakurei leaves & baby beet leaves.

Swiss chard stems. In France, they are often served as a separate vegetable, treated like asparagus. Even if I plan to combine them with the leaves, I like to cook them separately since they take a bit longer.

Swiss chard greens.



sausage with chard 0404


Chard leaves served room temperature with calamansi. Most greens benefit from a touch of acid to brighten the taste. Conveniently, acid is also supposed to increase nutrient availability.

Chard stems marinated in smoked paprika vinaigrette (olive oil, sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, Spanish smoked paprika, salt & pepper), served room temp.

Knockwurst (served hot, of course).

Roasted potatoes with Penzeys Turkish seasoning (also hot).

Next to the mustard is a plate of the tiny baby beets that came with the beet greens. They were OK raw but not something we’re going to seek out. We only ate a few.


lentils with bonus greens


Lentils with chopped bonus greens and lots of Andy’s salsa to brighten things up. I use French green lentils which taste great and don’t get mushy. I cooked enough to have some ready for another night. Next to the lentils: the baby beets lightly pickled with salt, Japanese rice vinegar, and PacifiKool ginger syrup. Much better than raw – this we’d seek out.

“Tataro” taro salad from Taro Delight, avocado with lime, roasted cauliflower with Penzeys Singapore seasoning, roasted asparagus.

Meyer lemon wedges to squeeze over the lentils. The acid brightens and balances the earthy taste of the lentils. After using the juice we drop the peel into our water or seltzer. We do this with pretty much any citrus peel – just make sure it’s organic or at least unsprayed and unwaxed. Who needs soda?


mediteranean chard


A classic Mediterranean preparation for greens is sautéed in olive oil with raisins, pine nuts, and sometimes garlic. In fact, Joan Namkoong mentioned this in her article on chard last week. In Spain, it’s usually made with spinach.

My mother lived for many years in Nice, where chard is the vegetable of choice. I’ve brought my own “local” variation to potlucks for years, and always get asked for the recipe. My secret? Locally grown shallots instead of imported garlic, and lots of julienned ginger. I usually serve lemon on the side so the greens don’t discolor from the acid. Best served at room temperature.

Here, I sautéed the shallots and ginger in olive oil, then added a coarsely chopped mix of chard greens, chard stems, and bonus greens together with some raisins which had been plumped in hot water. I didn’t have pine nuts, so I toasted and coarsely chopped some pecans instead. Nice variation.

In the deeper bowl in back: lentils with green onion, a couple tablespoons of Dijon mustard, and olive oil. The sharpness of the mustard is a perfect foil for the earthy lentils.

Roasted cauliflower, hakurei, cucumber.

Meyer lemon for the greens.


Sunday, April 10, 2011


Vietnamese tofu in tomato pepper sauce

by Nanette Geller

Vietnamese tofu

We love Vietnamese food but I don’t cook it very often. I was inspired by a recent episode of Luke Nguyen's Vietnam on the Cooking Channel to try this dish, which looked pretty easy and seemed quite different from the Vietnamese food we generally see in Honolulu restaurants.

I made a few minor adaptations, substituting extra firm tofu for silken tofu and canned chopped tomatoes for fresh. Instead of frying the tofu, I tossed the cubes with a little oil and crisped it in the oven at 450. It’s not quite as crispy as deep fried, but it’s healthier and makes an acceptable substitute. 

Since I had fresh green peppercorns I lightly crushed some and added along with the tomatoes. I still included the black pepper added at the end. The flavor of the green peppercorns married well with the overall flavors of the dish.

I love fish sauce but it’s very salty. Instead of 2 tablespoons, I used about 2 teaspoons and made up the difference with shao xing (Chinese rice wine). I also left out the salt called for in the recipe. That’s shao xing in the small glass.

The resulting dish was light, deliciously spicy, and well balanced. We enjoyed it served over brown rice noodles (pho/fettuccini style). Maybe not authentic, but really good. It wasn’t difficult to make, so I plan to serve it again soon.

I guess if we want Vietnamese food outside the usual Honolulu fare, I’m going to have to learn to make it myself.


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