Local Hawaii ingredients used with an international flair
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Help stamp out illegal honey sales that hurt Hawaii beekeepers
by Larry Geller
American beekeepers are struggling to remain in business even as the US government, with the assistance apparently of large retailer such as Costco, appear to be working against them.
Probably most people are familiar with “colony collapse disorder,” the not-yet-understood malady that is drastically reducing bee populations in many areas of North America.
Colony collapse disorder and other bee maladies are a clear threat to Hawaii honey production. But it’s not just honey. Bees are necessary to sustain agriculture. Without beekeepers and their armies of little pollinators, farmers would be missing the crops that depend on the bees. So it should be recognized that we need to keep both the local bees and their keepers in business.
The news would be really good in Hawaii if our local honey were not competing with illegally labeled, cheaper, and often adulterated honey. The “resurging” hasn’t started here, and it won’t if cheap imports can compete illegally.
Beekeeping is not a terribly lucrative business to begin with. When a big box store sells a cheap, illegally labeled import, it hurts domestic producers. American honey is supposed to be protected by Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) if sold in interstate trade. Like this honey you can buy cheaply at Costco:
On the left side of the label is a little USDA seal. Here’s a blowup of that:
Since the label carries a “USDA Organic” seal, the regs require that it also say, on the same label, "Product of" followed by the country, or countries, of origin.
Without the country of origin, the assumption is that the honey is made in the USA. But this honey is not. And because of that, we can’t even trust that it is “Pure” as it says, because honey can be cut with sugar syrup or other adulterants.
Here's the back label. Still no country of origin. It’s just the nutrition facts.
The customer has no way of knowing where this honey comes from.
A slightly indented stamp elsewhere on the bottle says “Made in Brazil.” It’s exactly the color of the rest of the bottle. If the manufacturer tried to hide this information, they could not have done better. In fact, it’s not clear whether just the bottle is made in Brazil or the honey as well.
What to do? Dr. Michael M. Kliks, President of the, Hawaii Beekeepers' Association, is very concerned. He suggests that Hawaii should have its own Country of Origin Legislation, as several other states do (and thanks to Dr. Kliks for the two label pics)..
Until the next legislative session, though, if you are interested in supporting both beekeepers and sustainable agriculture in Hawaii, how about writing to the USDA to ask them to enforce their regulations, which they could easily do on a phone call to Costco. Or write to Costco yourself and ask them to pull this illegal honey off their shelves.
For the USDA, here’s a contact, including phone number:
Julie Lewis, Acting Chief
For Costco, here’s their corporate address and phone. Tell them that selling this illegal honey hurts all American beekeepers, including ours in Hawaii. Who to ask for? I usually start at the top. Hey, this is a violation of federal law, you’d think their CEO would be concerned.
Costco Corporate Office
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Spaghetti alla Carbonara with half the calories, all the flavor. How? Make one simple change.
by Nanette Geller
Spaghetti alla Carbonara is fast, easy, and delicious. It’s also convenient, made with staples we usually have on hand: pasta, bacon, eggs, cheese, black pepper. Problem is, it is very rich. Looking at this recipe by Mario Batali, it’s just too rich to justify even as an occasional treat. And there’s no way we’re going to compromise with bastardized versions made with “low fat” bacon, eggs, and cheese. With something this simple, use great ingredients or don’t bother.
Fortunately, there’s another way to bring the calories down. Here’s the simple change that cuts calories and fat in half: change the words “Servings: 4” to “servings: 8.”
Bear with me. If you look at almost any American pasta recipe, a pound of pasta is used for four servings. Occasionally it will say four to six. But if you look at a box of pasta, a serving is two ounces and a pound of pasta is meant to serve eight. Supersize me?
By serving a modest portion of pasta with plenty of healthy, low-calorie vegetables on the side, we get to savor one of the world’s great dishes without feeling guilty. And savor it we do!
Don’t get me wrong. Even with smaller portions this is hardly diet food. I did a rough calculation and it comes out about 700 calories, so this is still an occasional splurge. But it’s a lot more reasonable than 1400 calories.
In Rome, where the dish seems to have originated during or just after WWII, the meat of choice is guanciale and the cheese is Pecorino Romano. Thick-cut bacon or pancetta can be used instead of guanciale, and some recipes use Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Spaghetti is the usual pasta, but other shapes can be used. Sometimes onion or garlic is added. American recipes often include cream, which I personally think detracts from the balance of the dish.
I pretty much follow Mario Batali’s recipe, making a quarter recipe for the two of us.
We’ve switched to whole wheat pasta for hearty sauces, but prefer a good-quality semolina spaghetti for Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Whole wheat changed the balance of the dish.
I sometimes use bacon or pancetta but guanciale really does taste best. I keep it in the freezer and cut off what I need.
One addition to the Mario Batali recipe: after rendering the fat from the guanciale I sauté a sliced onion in the fat. Of course, I think everything’s better with sautéed onion.
Since we always have a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano in the fridge, I follow Batali’s lead and use that instead of pecorino. Grating it fresh really does make a difference. You can see a plate with the cheese and grater behind the wine glass, ready to add extra at the table. (Click on the photo to enlarge.)
If I have a duck egg (from Blue Lotus at the KCC farmers market), it gives the dish extra richness and depth of flavor. Since I’m using only one egg for two servings, I can’t serve a raw yolk on each plate. I just add the yolk along with the white. If I were making this for an odd number of people, I’d round up on the eggs (two eggs for three people, etc.).
I coarsely grind lots of Penzeys Tellicherry black pepper just before cooking and we add more at the table.
Here, I’ve substituted sliced shiitake mushrooms sautéed in olive oil for the guanciale. As in my vegetarian versions of Salad Lyonnaise, the shiitake provide a “meaty” texture and flavor.
I’m not sure if I can get away with calling this a “vegetarian Spaghetti alla Carbonara”, but it makes a very satisfying dinner.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Easy broiled shrimp with pesto
by Nanette Geller
A couple of weeks ago, I bought “colossal” frozen shrimp on sale. Words like “colossal” “jumbo” “medium” etc. have no real meaning for shrimp. These were “13/15” which means they run 13 to 15 shrimp per pound. Lower numbers mean larger shrimp, and these were quite large. They were also “easy peel” which means the shell was split along the back and the vein removed.
Since they were still frozen, I left them in the refrigerator to defrost slowly overnight. Defrosting them quickly, either in the microwave or under cold running water, results in significant loss of quality. Besides flavor loss, they get an unpleasant mushy texture. Defrosting them at room temperature risks spoilage as well as lower quality.
Even with the slow defrost, frozen shrimp can be improved by soaking briefly in cold, very salty water. It firms the flesh and brings out the shrimp’s naturally sweet taste. I soaked these for about fifteen minutes, then drained, rinsed, and patted dry. If they were smaller or without shells I would have soaked them only five to ten minutes. This should be done just before preparing them.
I marinated the shrimp for about twenty minutes with pesto (from J’s Seasonings) and olive oil (enough to make the pesto runny), then broiled them, turning once. Cooking shrimp with the shells gives me a little leeway on timing – shelled shrimp go from undercooked to overcooked in seconds. Shell-on shrimp also taste better and are fun to eat. Since these are split, some of the flesh is exposed so there’s plenty of contact with the marinade.
Roasted Yukon Gold potatoes (Milner Farm), sugar snap peas (Pit Farm), baby romaine (Otsuji Farm).
Hidden behind the water glass: the pan juices from the shrimp for spooning over or mopping up with bread; calamansi to squeeze over everything.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Sunday morning: can pancakes be both healthy and delicious? (And really easy to make.)
by Nanette Geller
I'm not a morning person. I love breakfast but I’m not coherent enough to cook until after I’ve had my breakfast (including coffee). Fortunately, Larry is a morning person. While he doesn’t do much cooking at night, he has become a breakfast master. My usual weekday breakfast is oatmeal, which Larry cooks to perfection. Sundays, however, he likes to let loose with something special, like these cottage cheese pancakes. I actually adapted them about 40 years ago from a recipe by Edward Espe Brown and taught Larry how to make them. They’re still one of our favorites.
These are really easy to make and way healthier than most pancake recipes. Even made with low fat cottage cheese, they’re so moist and rich-tasting that they don’t need butter on top.
Here’s the basic recipe for one serving. It’s easy to multiply.
1/3 cup cottage cheese
- Mix the cottage cheese, egg yolk and flour
Here, Larry used cardamom and frozen blueberries (the blueberries are hidden underneath). Cardamom seems to go especially well with blueberry.
There’s sliced banana and real maple syrup for topping. Not strictly necessary, but it does taste good! The pancakes are already moist, so we can use just a little syrup for flavor. I also like to squeeze on a little citrus. Here, we have calamansi for a sweet-tart accent.
Also on the menu: mango, Americano coffee (espresso diluted with hot water) and conversation.Thanks, Larry! I’m a lucky lady.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Remembering Ohana Seafoods’ Jeffrey Yee part 2: miso butterfish
by Nanette Geller
Last week I wrote about the passing of Jeffrey Yee and described how I had used his Korean sauce with ahi steaks. The other Ohana Seafoods marinade that I always keep on hand is the Japanese-style white miso sauce. Miso is often used as a pickling medium in Japan, with white miso being used most commonly for seafood and chicken, and red miso for red meats or vegetables. White miso is especially good with oily fish like butterfish, which is how we often see it here in Hawaii. The salty miso cuts the “fishiness” while deepening the rich flavor and accenting the luxurious texture.
In Hawaii, miso butterfish is commonly cooked in a pan with the marinade, which is used as a sauce. This is, in fact, the method that I use for salmon with Korean sauce and sorrel. For butterfish, however, I prefer to use it as the Japanese do. After marinating the fish for one to three days I lightly rinse off the marinade, pat the fish dry, and broil it. The result is succulent, moist flesh contrasting with crispy, savory skin.
The butterfish (from Straight from the Source at the Wednesday farmers market at Blaisdell) was marinated for two days. In Japan, broiled fish is often served with grated daikon radish to cut the oiliness and aid digestion. It’s also delicious, one of those felicitous pairings that are better than the sum of its parts.
Broiled shiitake mushrooms with a bit of soy sauce, calamansi juice, and ginger.
Japanese cucumber thinly sliced, salted, and left with a weight on top for half and hour to draw out the excess liquid. Squeeze dry and taste for salt. If too salty rinse and again squeeze dry. Mix with Japanese rice vinegar, a little sugar, and just a touch of soy sauce.
Greens dressed with peanut butter, mirin, and key lime juice.
When we’d finished our sake, I served rice with furikake (seasoned seaweed sprinkles) and clear soup with wakame seaweed, green onion and ginger.
The fish is cured by the salty miso marinade, so it keeps well for a few days in the refrigerator. I usually make extra so we can enjoy a second dinner later in the week.
I was thinking of Jeffrey Yee while I prepared this dinner with the leftover miso butterfish. Nobu Matsuhisa is famous for his miso-marinated butterfish (black cod), but his restaurants are far too pricy for most of us to visit even once. How fortunate we are in Hawaii that this exquisite dish is available at an affordable price in local restaurants or to be prepared at home! Ohana Seafoods marinated miso butterfish is available in some supermarkets and even at Costco but I prefer to buy it (either the marinated fish or just the marinade) at KCC Farmers Market. I will miss chatting with Jeffrey, but his family is carrying on with both the products and the farmers market stand.
Leftover butterfish, reheated in the toaster oven, served on a shiso leaf with grated daikon, broiled shiitake and calamansi.
Pit Farm had long, thin green peppers they labeled as “sweet peppers.” Although they were longer than the ones in Japan, I was pretty sure they were shishito peppers, which are sweet but with a mild heat as well. I cut off the stems and sautéed them whole with a little oil and a pinch of salt over high heat until the skins were blistered all over. Add mirin and soy sauce, reduce to a glaze, and allow to cool. Just before serving I added some shaved katsuobushi (dried bonito).
Lightly pickled baby hakurei turnips.
Cucumber (prepared as above) with wakame seaweed.
The sake is Tsukinokatsura. It was our favorite when we lived in Japan but until recently we couldn’t find it here. It’s now available at The Sake Shop and Tamura’s.
We opted to skip rice and soup in order to leave room for a luscious, perfectly ripe cherimoya for dessert.
Friday, May 06, 2011
Remembering Ohana Seafoods’ Jeffrey Yee
by Nanette Geller
When I arrived at KCC Farmers market last Saturday, I was saddened to learn that Jeffrey Yee of Ohana Seafoods had passed away. He has been a friendly presence at the KCC market almost from the beginning. Even before that, we used to buy his wonderful Asian-style marinated fish at the Manoa Marketplace farmers market.
We especially enjoy the misozuke butterfish and Korean style saba (mackerel). If you have bought miso-marinated butterfish, or eaten it in a restaurant, it was probably his. Fortunately for Honolulu fish lovers, his family will carry on his legacy.
A couple of years ago, instead of buying already marinated fish, I started buying jars of Ohana’s sauces to use with fish purchased elsewhere. Both the miso and Korean style sauces are staples in my fridge. In fact, just a few days before, I made misozuke butterfish and planned to use the leftover fish for dinner Saturday. When I saw that Fresh From the Source was making a rare KCC appearance with auction-fresh fish, I decided instead to buy some locally-caught ahi and in Jeffrey’s memory prepare it with his Korean sauce.
The ahi steaks were marinated for about an hour in Ohana Seafoods’ Korean sauce, then patted dry with a paper towel before sautéing in a little butter until medium-rare. While the ahi rested, I deglazed the pan with dry sherry, then added a spoonful of crème fraiche and a little bit of the marinade. The sauce was allowed to reduce a little. In went a handful of chopped green onion and it was ready to serve. The sauce brought out the “meatiness” of the ahi without overwhelming it.
The Yukon Gold potatoes were prepared in a way popularized by Jacques Pepin. The potatoes are first cooked, covered, until almost tender in chicken stock with a little butter. The cover is removed and the stock is allowed to boil off. Press down lightly on each potato to crack it slightly. The potatoes are then browned on both sides in the butter. Here is a recipe. Potatoes and baby romaine from Milner Farm, tomatoes from North Shore Farms.
It may seem odd to combine a slightly spicy shoyu-based sauce with butter and cream, but in fact they complement each other quite nicely. I like to use the Korean sauce for salmon which I marinate for a couple of hours and then cook in a covered pan with the marinade, some crème fraiche, and a lot of chopped sorrel. The salmon steams while the marinade, cream and sorrel come together into a sauce which is rich, tart, and complex.
We love mackerel, but it isn’t available fresh in Honolulu. The frozen fillets are improved by marinating for a day or two in Ohana’s Korean sauce before patting dry and broiling. It’s equally at home as part of a Western dinner or a Japanese dinner.
The company name is Ohana Seafoods but that doesn’t mean their sauces should be limited to fish. The Korean style sauce is terrific with meats or vegetables as well. Go ahead and experiment! Jeffrey would approve.
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
Gyoza soup: warm, comforting and easy fare for a rainy night
by Nanette Geller
With all that thunder and lightening Monday night, we wanted something warm and comforting for dinner. At KCC Saturday I bought a bunch of beautiful choi sum from Otsuji Farm and Tokyo negi (Japanese long onions) from Milner Farm. Perfect for gyoza soup! We didn’t take a picture, but I do have a photo taken a couple of weeks ago with pretty much the same ingredients. Click on the photo if you want to enlarge it.
This is a more elegant version of a very quick dinner I wrote about in March. Even with the embellishments, it’s still fast, still easy, and definitely comforting.
For the broth: a quart of chicken stock simmered with some shaoxing (Chinese rice wine), a sliced carrot, a couple of peeled garlic cloves, lots of julienned ginger, and a couple of star anise. Simmer until the carrot is tender. Instead of salt I added about a teaspoon of nam pla (Thai fish sauce).
Add frozen gyoza (potstickers) and boil until almost cooked, about 5 minutes.
Add Tokyo negi cut into 1-2 inch pieces and choi sum (or other greens) cut into bite size. Boil until the veggies are just tender.
Serve in large bowls topped with cilantro and finely sliced green onion. If the gyoza come with dipping sauce serve it in small individual dishes. On the table: calamansi, more cilantro and green onion to be added to taste. It’s not in this photo but on Monday we drank shaoxing, which certainly upped the comfort level.
By the way, I know that I really should call those dumplings “potstickers” but after 16 years in Japan I’m imprinted with “gyoza.” Whatever they’re called, they’ve earned a place in my freezer. In addition to using them for a quick Chinese-style soup, I sometimes serve them like ravioli. You’d be surprised how well they take to pesto!
Sunday, May 01, 2011
Riffing on salad Lyonnaise: meaty, vegetarian, vegan
by Nanette Geller
Salad Lyonnais is a French bistro classic. Simple: frisée or other hearty greens tossed with a hot bacon dressing and topped with a poached egg. We love it.
Frisée doesn’t do well in hot weather, so we’re getting to the end of the season. I always check for it on Saturdays at SKA Tropicals and if they have frisée we’re having salad Lyonnais for dinner.
I order both duck and chicken eggs from Blue Lotus Farm, so I know they’re fresh. Chicken eggs are fine, but poached duck eggs are truly luxurious. The yolks are larger and richer.
A note on poaching eggs: most recipes say to poach them for 3 to 5 minutes but I find that anything over 2 minutes leaves the yolks too firm. Maybe it’s because I start with room temperaure eggs. I bring about 2 inches of water to a boil in a skillet with a cover. I don’t add vinegar, which isn’t needed if the eggs are fresh (and I wouldn’t eat soft-cooked eggs if they’re not perfectly fresh). Break each egg into a separate dish and slip them into the water. Turn the heat down to keep the water at a bare simmer. Cover and set the timer for 90 seconds. By the time I actually get the eggs out, using a slotted spoon, it’s almost 2 minutes and the eggs are perfect. Drain briefly on a paper towel.
Wash the frisée and tear or cut into bite-size pieces.
Cut thick-sliced bacon crosswise into strips. Cook slowly until most of the fat is rendered. I like to remove the bacon before making the dressing, then add it to the salad at the end. That way it stays crisp.
Sauté some chopped shallot or onion and a pinch of salt in the bacon fat until soft and just starting to brown. The salt helps the onion to soften by releasing its water. I use either shallots or red onion from Pit Farm.
Add red wine vinegar, coarsely ground black pepper, and a touch of Dijon mustard. Add a bit of salt if needed but taste first because the bacon and mustard both add salt. Take off the heat; it can be reheated before adding to the greens.
While the eggs are poaching, toss the salad with the hot dressing and divide onto individual plates. Add the bacon and top with the poached eggs.
The soft egg yolk combines with the dressing for an incredibly rich flavor and unctuous mouth feel that contrasts perfectly with the slight bitterness and hearty texture of the greens.
Here, I added roasted Yukon gold potatoes from Milner Farm and crumbled ricotta salata cheese. Ricotta salata is made from sheep's milk ricotta that is salted and aged. It’s similar to feta but firmer and less salty. I often find it at Kokua Market.
I find guanciale at Whole Foods. I’ve also used pancetta. All delicious.
Cured meats such as bacon, pancetta, and guanciale are loaded with umami, the “fifth taste” which seems to make the entire dish taste better. True Parmigiano-Reggiano also is very high in umami (unlike generic “parmesan” cheeses). Using both makes this combination exceptionally satisfying.
I sometimes make this ovo-lacto vegetarian variation using fresh shiitake instead of bacon. We enjoy it just as much.
Mushrooms, especially shiitake, have lots of umami which gives them a “meaty” flavor and makes them a good stand-in for bacon. The shiitake texture also is “meatier” than other mushrooms. Still, any fresh mushroom, even inexpensive white mushrooms, would be good.
I start by sautéing thick-sliced fresh shiitake in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat. When sautéing mushrooms, don’t add salt until they’re cooked through. Adding salt at the start would draw out the water content, so they steam and wind up limp, instead of sautéing to a slightly crisp exterior with tender interior.
The mushrooms will immediately absorb all the oil but there’s no need to add more. As they cook, they will start to release some of the oil. When they are done, sprinkle with salt to taste and remove from the pan. Don’t wash the pan, which should have a flavorful residue from the shiitake.
Add some chopped onion or shallot to the pan with a pinch of salt, and a little more olive oil if needed. To up the umami quotient, I sometimes add a couple of diced sun-dried tomatoes with a little of their oil; you will not need to add any extra olive oil. Sauté until the onion is soft and just beginning to brown. As with the classic version, add vinegar, Dijon mustard, coarsely-ground black pepper and salt to taste, toss the hot dressing with the greens, plate individually and top with a poached egg. Here, I added shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. (Use a vegetable peeler to shave hard cheese.)
I wondered if I could come up with a vegan main dish salad that would be as satisfying as salad Lyonnaise. The base, of course, is the vegetarian shiitake salad minus the egg and cheese, which by itself makes a wonderful first course. But I wanted a proper main dish that would stand on its own merits and could be enjoyed by everyone.
It always irritates me when I see vegetarians and vegans offered a main course that simply removes the meat or dairy, leaving what amounts to a side dish. I also don’t care for meat substitutes. Tofu sometimes works, but it can be a non sequitur. Here, it just wouldn’t give me the texture and flavor I was looking for.
I decided on cannellini beans, which have a lovely creamy texture and mild flavor. In general canned beans can be pretty good, but the canned cannellini I’ve tried all had a mushy texture and tinny taste so I always use dried beans. Just soak overnight and cook until tender in plenty of water with a couple of cloves of garlic, a bay leaf, a few black peppercorns, a glug of olive oil, and maybe a sprig of fresh thyme. Add salt towards the end. And make enough for leftovers.
I marinated the beans with olive oil, fresh thyme, and a little minced garlic. I wouldn’t call them a stand-in for the poached egg, but they did provide a nice creamy texture to contrast with the sturdy greens and the flavor balanced the sharp dressing without clashing.
I still wanted something to make this vegan salad seem special, not just an adaptation of a dish that normally contains meat. I tried papadums toasted briefly under the broiler. Perfect! The crispy, salty, savory papadum was just the finishing touch it needed.
OK, this is getting pretty far from the original. I don’t think I can get away with calling it a “vegan salad Lyonnaise.” But I wouldn’t hesitate to serve it to anyone, including carnivores.
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