Sweet tastes at Waikiki farmers’ market

Waikiki farmers' marker
As on the mainland, farmers’ markets are thriving in Honolulu as more and more people embrace fresh, local foods. The best market for visitors—who don’t have to gather all the ingredients for dinner—may be in the pretty atrium at the Hyatt Regency in Waikiki (2424 Kalakaua Avenue). It’s held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. and has a nice array of exotic fruits, such as the spiny red and slightly acidic rambutan or the sweeter lychee. There are also plenty of options for a quick snack, such as bowls of diced mixed fruit or coconut juice straight from the shell. The market is also a great place to pick up food gifts for the folks back home. You’ll find local coffee and coffee jelly, green tea, ginger chips, sea salt, and an array of fruit butters, including guava, mango, lilikoi, and haupia.

Waikiki farmers' market fruit Several bakers also set up tables offering everything from malasadas, or “Portuguese donuts,” to loaves of guava bread and pineapple-macadamia nut muffins. I was most intrigued with the muffins, though no one was willing to share their recipe. Those that I sampled were very tasty but quite dense and perhaps a little too moist. I’m guessing that the bakers used canned crushed pineapple, since the enzyme in raw pineapple breaks up protein chains and messes up the way baked goods rise. But I liked the flavor combination and the textural contrasts of the pineapple and nuts, so I decided to come up with my own version once I got back home.

I started with a classic muffin recipe that can be altered to add fruit and nuts, and crossed it with an unusual recipe for dried fig muffins from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book. I thought I would like to use dried pineapple, but those pineapple tidbits can be tough compared to the soft crumb of a muffin. The fig muffin recipe called for soaking the figs in hot apple juice. I thought orange might go better with pineapple, so I grated the peel, squeezed the juice, heated it, and added the pineapple bits. They soaked for 10 minutes, and voila!, I had pineapple with the right texture for muffins and without the sogginess of crushed fruit.

PINEAPPLE MACADAMIA NUT MUFFINS

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

Wakiki farmers' market pineapple mac muffins2 juice oranges
1 cup dried pineapple cut in raisin-sized pieces
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1/2 cup tart yogurt
1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Directions

Grate peel from the oranges, then cut and squeeze for juice. Heat juice and peel to near boiling. Add pineapple pieces and soak 10 minutes. Remove pineapple and grated peel from juice with slotted spoon and reserve.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease 12 muffin cups,

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, ground nutmeg, and baking soda. Whisk to mix thoroughly

In another bowl, beat together eggs, yogurt, and milk. Beat in brown sugar, melted butter, and vanilla.

Add the egg-sugar mix to the flour mixture and stir just enough to moisten all the ingredients. Batter will be lumpy. Fold in the reserved pineapple and orange peel and add the macadamia nuts.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full (a rounded quarter cup of batter). Place in oven and bake 14–16 minutes—until tops begin to brown and toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Cool on rack.

28

03 2016

Home cooking rules at Highway Inn

Highway Inn in Honolulu
Monica Toguchi has to smile when diners at Highway Inn take one bite of their beef stew, lomi salmon or kalua pork and cabbage and ask—only half in jest— “is my mom standing in the kitchen?”

Toguchi’s grandparents Seiichi and Nancy opened the first Highway Inn in 1947 and “we’ve tried to preserve their recipes,” she says. “My focus is on serving local people—from workers in the neighborhood to governors, congressmen, and presidents of banks. You leave your pretenses at the door.”

Highway Inn grilled banana bread No one, it seems can resist chef Mike Kealoha’s secret-recipe smoked meat or the lau lau of pork shoulder and salted butterfish placed on a bed of luau leaves and then wrapped tightly in ti leaves and steamed for two hours. “Hawaiian food is simple,” Toguchi says, “but the preparation can be long and tedious.”

Toguchi left a doctoral program in Oregon to return to the family business, which she took over in 2010. I applaud her commitment to helping maintain the island’s traditional food culture. It’s precisely that mix of good, local cooking and contemporary chefs with international chops that makes dining in Honolulu so fascinating, varied and delicious.

After starting with grilled banana bread (above right), I settled on a light lunch of chicken long rice soup—a local favorite that shows the influence of the Chinese who came to Oahu to work on the plantations. I could imagine every mother on the island serving this soothing soup of chicken and noodles in a heady ginger broth to a child who complained of the sniffles. I knew that it would be just the thing for a cold winter day back home in New England and Monica was kind enough to share the recipe.

Highway Inn has two Honolulu locations: 680 Ala Moana Boulevard #105, 808-954-4955, and inside the Bishop Museum of cultural and natural history at 1525 Bernice Street, 808-954-4951, www.myhighwayinn.com.

CHICKEN LONG RICE


Highway Inn chicken long rice soup Long rice can be found in most Chinese grocery sections of supermarkets or in Asian food stores. It is not really made from rice. It is mung bean thread and is sold in cellophane packages of tangled nests of noodles.

Serves 8-12

Ingredients

2 inch piece of ginger root
3 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 qt water
salt and pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon shoyu (or strong soy sauce)
16 oz package long rice
3-4 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions

Peel and slice the ginger, then mash the slices in a mortar and pestle. Cut chicken thighs into bite-size pieces.

Add vegetable oil to large pot and fry ginger and chicken until chicken is lightly browned.

Add 2 quarts water and simmer for about one hour, or until chicken is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add chicken broth and shoyu and bring to a boil.

Soak long rice in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain and chop into 5-inch lengths. Add chopped long rice to chicken soup and cook another 10 minutes, or until long rice is tender. Stir in sliced green onions and serve.

23

03 2016

Hawaiian food with a French twist

Chef Mavro in Honolulu
Perhaps it’s because he’s French, but George Mavrothalassitis, known to everyone simply as Chef Mavro, is the most romantic of chefs. He’s still recalls his first morning in Honolulu, looking over Waikiki Beach to Diamond Head at sunrise. “I fell in love at first sight,” he says. Almost thirty years later, the love affair continues.

Chef Mavro art-filled interior Born in Marseilles, Chef Mavro developed an early appreciation for fresh fish paired with the strong Provençal flavors of olive oil, garlic, fennel, rosemary, bay laurel, and other herbs. “I never worked with cream and butter in my life,” he says, noting that it was easy to translate his approach to cooking to using fresh ingredients from the Hawaiian archipelago. He first cooked at some top hotel restaurants on Oahu and Maui and was one of the founding chefs of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement. When he opened his eponymous Honolulu restaurant Chef Mavro (1969 S King St, Honolulu; 808-944-4714; www.chefmavro.com) in 1998, his romanticism carried over into the design. He went to great pains to get the lighting just right. “I wanted women to look wonderful,” he says. “The light caresses you.”

Chef Mavro zucchini tempura Of course, any woman will also look pretty blissed-out as she savors each step of Chef Mavro’s four- or six-course tasting menu. Some chefs treat tasting menus like a band playing a medley of greatest hits. Chef Mavro treats dinner like a symphony that builds from the amuse-bouche to a crescendo of the fish and meat dishes to the teasing envoi of cheese, pre-dessert, dessert, and miniature pastries. Rather than having a wine list, he recommends wine pairings to complete the experience of each dish.

Chef Mavro - Confit hamachi “I cook technically,” says Chef Mavro, referring to his technique developed from nouvelle cuisine. He notes that he uses all the ingredients in his backyard and is inspired by the mix of ethnic cuisines of the islands. “I put my craziness on your plate,” he adds with a smile.

One person’s crazy is another person’s delicious.

lobster dish at Chef Mavro.The range of foods he gets from Hawaii—mainly from Oahu and the Big Island—is really impressive. He served me the zucchini tempura appetizer (above right) on a coulis of amazing fresh tomatoes. For the hamachi confit (above left) he uses fish farmed off the west coast of the Big Island, in this case giving it a spectacular garnish of lemon shave ice—a delightful savory riff on a favorite Hawaiian dessert. Even the Maine lobster (right) was local, in a sense. A special facility on the Big Island flies in lobster from Maine, then holds the crustaceans in tanks of cold deep-sea water for weeks or more until they have fully recovered from jet lag. As a result, Chef Mavro always has truly fresh Atlantic lobster on the menu. For my tasting menu, he roasted it and served it with an emulsion of the lobster juice and Basque espelette peppers.

I kept ticking off fantastic local products as I ate—from the medallions of Wagyu beef (another Big Island specialty) to the mousse made with Big Island Goat Dairy cheese, to the watermelon refresher course and the yuzu ice cream. When I commented how pronounced the flavors were, Chef Mavro shrugged.

“Life is too short,” he said. “I decided a long time ago to eat only what is delicious.”

You will see what he means if you try his recipe for Confit Hamachi. This is a little different from the one pictured above, since it uses sour cream to make the lomilomi that goes under the medallions of hamachi. Since hamachi is hard to get in most fish markets, you can substitute amberjack (usually sold for sushi), skipjack, or, more commonly, wild-caught salmon steaks.

CONFIT HAMACHI

Chef Mavro Lomi Hamachi
with lomi lomi salmon, tomatoes, sour cream, salmon roe

4 servings

Ingredients for the hamachi:
4 pieces hamachi medallions, 3 ounces each
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for the lomilomi salmon:
4 tablespoons sour cream
juice of one-half lemon
1 medium tomato, peeled, core removed, diced
1 medium shallot, minced
4 ounces smoked salmon, diced
1 tablespoon sliced green onions
sea salt and pepper to taste

For garnish
4 tablespoons salmon roe

Directions
In a small sauce pan, bring the olive oil to 140° F (60° C). Poach the hamachi for 8 minutes (make sure the fish is totally submerged in the oil).

In a mixing bowl, combine sour cream, lemon juice, tomato, shallot, salmon, green onions, and salt and pepper to taste.

Place the lomilomi salmon in the center of an individual plate with the hamachi on top.

Finish by placing 1 tablespoon of salmon roe on each piece of hamachi.

14

03 2016

Starting a day in paradise at the fish auction

Honolulu fish auction
The sun was barely up when I arrived at Honolulu’s commercial fishing port and headed to Pier 38 for the Honolulu Fish Auction. By standards of the 140-vessel fishing fleet, the day was far advanced. Boats start unloading the catch about 1 a.m. for the auction, which begins at 5:30 a.m. and lasts until every fish is sold—usually sometime between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Brooks Takenaka and Chef Mavro at Honolulu Fish Auction Whether in a fine restaurant or a beachside bar, I have never enjoyed tastier or fresher fish than in Hawaii. I was curious to get a glimpse at the only fresh tuna auction in the United States and thrilled when Chef Mavro, one of the island’s top talents, asked me to join him on a visit.

The United Fishing Agency started the auction in 1952, explained general manager Brooks Takenaka, who joined us as we walked through the big warehouse-like facility where fish lay on palettes covered with crushed ice. (That’s Takenaka standing with Chef Mavro on the right.) Takenaka’s agency sells the fish on behalf of the fishermen, who leave that day with money in their pockets. “Fishermen risk their lives; they want to get paid,” Takenaka told me. “I pay them today.”

big eye tuna at Honolulu Fish Auction The auction handles between 20 and 28 million pounds of fish per year. Bigeye tuna and swordfish are the primary species, followed by yellowfin tuna. But on most days, there will be more than 20 species available for chefs, markets, and wholesalers. After an ozone wash to remove bacteria, the fish enter the facility to be weighed, tagged, and inspected. Those in the know can determine a lot from a small cut of flesh taken from the tail. “The redder the flesh, the better,” said Takenaka. “It means that the fish is fresher.” He also noted that fish with more fat has more flavor and is the most highly prized.

Chef Mavro buys fresh fish daily through a broker and personally visits the auction a few times a month to see what is most abundant and what looks really good. “I buy the best and I tell my chefs not to destroy it,” he says. “The idea is to protect it and bring out the natural flavors.”

The auction is a model of efficiency. Staff lay out fish on long palettes and buyers circle round. There is no yelling or waving of number placards. I had to listen carefully to even hear any hints of discussion or bidding. A few minutes and a few subtle gestures and a palette would be packed up and sorted by buyer and another would appear in its place.

Tours of the Honolulu Fish Auction are offered on Saturdays from 6 to 7:30 am. To register, see www.hawaii-seafood.org/auction/tour.

“We can process up to 175,000 pounds a day,” Takenaka told me. I thought he might crave a good steak after being surrounded by fish all day. But Takenaka is loyal to his industry. “I eat fish every day,” he told me. “I never get tired of it.”

Like Chef Mavro, Takenaka and his wife Cynthia like to keep preparations simple, so as not to overwhelm the fresh flavor of the fish. They kindly shared one of their favorite recipes.

FISH HAWAIIAN STYLE

The fish can be either pan-sautéed or cooked on the grill. In either case, the Takenakas caution not to overcook the fish. Feel free to substitute any herb of your choice for the parsley. Typical fish for this method of preparation might be sablefish (aka “black cod”) or opakapaka (Hawaiian pink snapper).

Ingredients
1 pound of fish fillets
1 egg, beaten *
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1 tablespoon light cooking oil (canola, grapeseed, or even mild olive oil)
4 limes, quartered

Directions
Combine egg, salt, pepper, and parsley. This is the egg wash.

Coarsely chop macadamia nuts, then place in a blender or grinder to chop fine. Alternately, chop fine with a knife. These are the crumbs to “bread” the fish.

Dip fish pieces into egg wash, then roll in chopped nuts to coat.

Add oil to pan and heat over medium until oil is hot but not smoking. Add fish fillets and sauté on medium heat until flesh is opaque—90 seconds to 3 minutes, depending on thickness of fillets. Remove from pan and let sit a few minutes.

Serve with quarters of fresh lime for squeezing over the fish.

* If grilling the fish, leave out the egg. Instead, mix cooking oil (2-3 tablespoons), chopped parsley, salt, pepper, and chopped macadamia nuts. Coat the fish with mixture. Fish cooks very quickly on the grill, so watch it closely. Squeeze fresh lime on cooked fish.

06

03 2016

Say cheesecake in Kaimuki

cheesecake
With its bright red and yellow exterior, Otto Cake (1127 12th Ave., Honolulu; 808-834-6886; ottocake.com) is one of the most colorful storefronts in Kaimuki—and proprietor Otto is easily one of the neighborhood’s more colorful characters. Otto, who uses only one name (“like Sting,” he says), plays bass in the band 86 List and is a cheesecake maker extraordinaire. He opened his shop in Kaimuki in 2013 and tempts customers with nine different flavors per day from a total of 270 that he has developed.

cheesecake with otto On any given day he might draw from the flavors of the island for haupia (coconut milk) or lilikoi (passionfruit) cheesecakes or for a combination such as macadamia-pineapple-coconut. Less subtle choices might include chocolate peanut butter, orange chocolate chip or Chinese almond cookie. He also delights in finding just the right crust to complement the flavors of the filling. He uses an orange cookie crust for the lilikoi cheesecake and pairs a cinnamon crust with a Mexican chocolate filling.

Otto declined to share a recipe. But he did offer a few tips to help home bakers avoid some of the most common mistakes in making cheesecake. To begin with, he says, all ingredients should be mixed by hand to avoid over-emulsified, pasty results. And neither the crust nor the filling should be overly sweet. If you are using ingredients that have a lot of natural sugar, he says, cut down on the amount of added sugar.

“Timing in the oven is the most important thing,” he says, noting that most people overcook their cheesecake. If your cakes tend to be crumbly, that’s probably why. Finally, he says, “do not use a water bath.” That might be fine for a pudding, but not for a cake.

And, it almost goes without saying: Have fun!

25

02 2016

Going loco for Koko Moco

Koko Head Cafe in Honolulu
New York-born chef Lee Anne Wong cooked in restaurants around the world before settling on Oahu and opening Koko Head Cafe in Honolulu’s Kaimuki neighborhood in 2014 (1145c 12th Ave, Honolulu; 808-732-8920, kokoheadcafe.com). She may have been a newcomer, but she had an unerring sense of what people would want to eat when they gather for brunch in this very Hawaiian take on a modern diner, right down to the varnished plywood counter and orange vinyl banquettes.

She also seems to belong to the school that holds that brunch really should hold you all day. Wong’s inventive dishes range from kimchi bacon cheddar scones to a hearty congee with bacon, ham, Portuguese sausage, cheddar cheese, scallions, and cinnamon-bacon croutons.

But I was most taken with her “Skillets,” which come to the table in small, piping-hot cast iron pans. The Chicky and Eggs, for example, highlights her easy way with Euro-Asian fusion dishes. It features Japanese-style fried chicken, French-style scrambled eggs, house-made pickles, and maple Tabasco sauce.

Wong’s version of the Hawaiian staple Loco Moco, demonstrates how quickly she absorbed local foodways and made them her own. Introduced on the Big Island in 1949, the extremely filling Loco Moco features a hamburger patty on white rice, topped with brown gravy and a fried egg. Wong calls her take on the comfort dish Koko Moco. She uses local grass-fed beef for the patty and high-quality sushi rice cooked in garlic oil until it develops a crunchy crust as the base. In addition to the gravy (in this case, a meatless mushroom version) and a local egg cooked sunny side up, Wong gives the whole dish a shot in the arm with garnishes of scallions, toasted sesame seeds, peppery togarashi (a Japanese spice mix with hot red pepper), and tempura-fried kimchi.

Koka Moka dish

KOKO MOCO

Serves 4

Beef Patties
1 1/2 lbs high quality grass-fed ground beef
1 tablespoon shoyu (Japanese soy sauce)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
salt

In a small bowl combine the shoyu, Worcestershire, and black pepper, mixing well. Pour over the ground beef and massage with your hands until well-mixed, being careful to not over work the meat. Form the beef into four 6-ounce patties, about 4″ in diameter and 1/2″ thick. Refrigerate covered until needed

Garlic Oil
12 large cloves peeled garlic, smashed/crushed
1 cup vegetable oil

Combine the oil and garlic cloves in a small pan or pot. Simmer on low heat until the garlic begins to turn golden and the oil is fragrant, about 20-30 minutes. Allow the oil to cool to room temperature. Remove the garlic cloves and save for another use.

Savory Mushroom Gravy
1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms soaked overnight in 4 cups water
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely minced yellow onions
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
2/3 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons Maggi seasoning
3 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups cremini mushrooms, quartered, trimmed, stems reserved
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon dried sage or 3 tablespoons fresh sage, minced
oil for sautéing mushrooms

Remove the rehydrated shiitake mushrooms from the soaking liquid, squeezing out excess liquid. Reserve the mushroom water. Remove the stems from the rehydrated shiitakes, set aside. Slice the mushrooms into 1/4″ thick slices, set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat and saute the onions for 5 minutes until they begin to soften, stirring often with a wooden spoon. Add the minced garlic and cook for one minute more. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir well until incorporated, it will become thick like a dough. Slowly add in the mushroom soaking liquid, stirring out any lumps (use a whisk) until all of the liquid has been added. Continue to whisk and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add the Maggi, mushroom soy, sugar, and black pepper.

Combine the shiitake mushroom stems and the cremini mushroom trimmings and stems and add to the cup of cream. Add the minced sage, bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce to low heat and cook until the stems are tender, about 5 minutes. Puree the cream and mushroom mixture on high in a blender until it is a smooth puree. Add the puree to the mushroom gravy pot.

Bring the mushroom gravy to a boil, whisking until smooth. Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Puree the gravy in the blender on high in small batches (be careful to only fill the blender pitcher halfway and keep the lid held tightly on with a toweled hand). Return the finished gravy to a clean pot.

In a large sauté pan, heat up a few tablespoons of oil over high heat and add the quartered cremini mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Add the sliced shiitake mushrooms to the pan and cook, stir frying vigorously for another 3 minutes until all of the mushrooms are cooked and tender. Drain on paper towels then add the cooked mushrooms to the mushroom gravy. Keep warm or refrigerate until needed.

Assembling Koko Moco

4 six-inch cast iron skillets or a small 6-8″ nonstick pan.
4 six-ounce beef patties
garlic oil
4 cups steamed white rice
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
4 large eggs
1 green onion, minced
salt
togarashi
toasted sesame seeds

Heat the skillets on high heat until they begin to lightly smoke. If using a small nonstick pan you will need to fry four batches of rice, or you can use a large nonstick pan and cut the rice in quarters once finished. Add a tablespoon of oil to the skillets and press one cup of rice into the bottom of each skillet. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook until lightly golden brown. Add a 1/4 teaspoon of fresh minced garlic on the top of the rice and gently stir in. Season the rice with salt.

Separately: Season the beef patties with salt and pepper. Grill or griddle the beef patties to desired temperature.

Fry the eggs individually sunny side up in a nonstick pan using garlic oil to fry; season with salt and pepper.

Warm the gravy in a small pot. To assemble, place the cooked burger patty on top of the seasoned garlic rice. Ladle a generous portion of gravy over the burger (1/2 to 1 cup). Top with a fried egg and garnish with sliced green onion, togarashi, salt and toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

14

02 2016

Beets provide tasty twist on Hawaiian poke

Kaimuki in Honolulu, where Ed Kenney serves beet poke One of the great things about the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival is that the schedule allows plenty of free time to check out the rest of the local food scene. I was particularly curious about Kaimuki, a residential neighborhood north of Diamond Head and about two miles east of Waikiki Beach. Waialae Avenue and its side streets are full of a tantalizing mix of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Thai restaurants that provide the Asian zing to Hawaii, as well as a great ice cream shop Via Gelato (1142 12th Avenue, 808-732-2800, www.viagelatohawaii.com) that makes such fabulous flavors as green tea chocolate chip, black sesame, lilikoi, and guava.

Two chefs have made the greatest impact in turning the neighborhood into a dining destination. Ed Kenney has three eateries within hailing distance of each other. He first opened Town (3425 Waialae Avenue, 808-735-5900; www.townkaimuki.com) about ten years ago with a focus on San Francisco-style Italian dishes made with highly local ingredients. As Town evolved, it became ever more Hawaiian, but its Italian roots have always shown. Last summer, he branched out with Mud Hen Water (3452 Waialae Avenue, 808-737-6000, www.mudhenwater.com). It took food inspirations from around the world and executed them with a Hawaiian sensibility, demonstrating conclusively that the New Hawaiian culinary revolution has a new generation up-ending the status quo.

In between, Kenney launched the wonderfully old-fashioned Kaimuki Superette (3458 Waialae Avenue, 808-734-7800, www.kaimukisuperette.com) which serves very 21st century sandwiches such as poached octopus with celery seed and tarragon aioli or slow-roasted pork with fennel aioli and arugula. The Superette’s grilled lemon lemonade can’t be beat on a hot day—and the Superette’s inventive salads, such as watermelon with chile-lime salt, cilantro, and jalapeño, are equally refreshing.

Beet poke at Kaimuki I was most taken with Kenney’s Beet Poke, a colorful dish that he first created for Mud Hen Water and is so popular that it’s also in the deli line-up at the Superette. As Kenney explained, it’s a variation on the iconic Hawaiian dish usually made with seafood. It also seems to sum up his approach to bringing a modern touch to traditional dishes and local ingredients. Thanks to the seaweed, sesame, and wasabi, the flavor profiles are surprisingly like traditional poke—but with sweet, gingery beets in place of fish.

Kenney’s Beet Poke has several steps and calls for a few ingredients not always readily available to mainlanders. But Kenney has suggested some simplifications and substitutions that still result in a delicious dish. For example, at the restaurants he roasts his beets “lawalu style” in the dying embers of a fire, but notes that most cooks will simply want to roast them in the oven. He also smokes the macadamia nuts, but again points out that even raw chopped nuts work fine.

Beet poke

ED KENNEY’S BEET POKE

This dish (shown above) is essentially a roast beet salad where the beets are tossed with pickled seaweed, thinly sliced sweet onion, and some toasted sesame oil. A mash of avocado with wasabi and lemon juice is served on the side as a counterpoint. The recipe is given here in steps. Be sure to read through for all the ingredients. It’s a good idea to roast the beets and pickle the seaweed the night before. Then it all goes together in a flash. I’ve given Kenney’s directions for smoking the nuts, but I made the dish without smoking and found it was fine.

Roasted Beets

4 tennis-ball-sized red beets (whole, tops cut off, unpeeled)
1-inch finger of ginger (smashed or coarsely shredded)
1 orange
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

beets roasting for beet poke Preheat oven to 350° F.

Place beets and ginger in an oven proof dish. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice over the beets. Add the halves to the dish. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil. Roast in the oven for one hour or until a knife can be inserted into the beets without much effort. Don’t overcook or they’ll be like the awful beets served in grade school cafeterias.

Allow beets to cool. Peel the beets and cut into random 1/2 to 1 inch chunks.


Pickled Seaweed:

3/4 cup limu (fresh seaweed) or rehydrated hijiki or wakame (available at Asian grocery stores or most branches of Whole Foods)
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar

Rinse the seaweed well, then toss the seaweed with salt, place in a colander, and allow to sit and drain for one hour. Meanwhile, bring the remaining ingredients to a boil to make the brine. Allow the brine to cool for 5 minutes, then pour over the seaweed and place in the refrigerator. Seaweed will be ready to use in 2-3 hours and will keep for up to a week.


Mashed Wasabi Avocado:

1 teaspoon wasabi powder
1 teaspoon warm water
1 ripe avocado
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper

Combine the wasabi powder with warm water and mix well until a thin paste is formed. Allow the wasabi to sit and bloom, covered, for ten minutes.

Mash the avocado in a bowl with a fork, add the wasabi paste, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Refrigerate.

Smoked Macadamia Nuts

1 cup macadamia nuts
wood chips

Place the nuts to one side of a deep pan. Place the wood chips in a small cast iron (or fire proof) bowl that will fit in the other side of the deep pan. Ignite the wood chips with a torch until they begin to smoke. Place the smoking wood chips in the deep pan with the nuts and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow the nuts to smoke for 30 minutes.

Repeat the process one more time with fresh chips for a total of one hour of smoking time. Chop the nuts roughly and reserve.

To Assemble:

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup sweet onion (shaved thin)
1/4 cup green onion tops (sliced thin)
1 striped or golden beet (raw, shaved thin) placed in iced water to crisp.

Place the beets in a bowl with the seaweed, 2 tablespoons of chopped macadamia nuts, sweet onion, and sesame oil. Toss with salt and pepper to taste.

Place a dollop of the avocado mixture on a plate and spoon the beet poke next to it. Garnish the poke with three wheels of shaved raw beet and sliced green onion tops.

04

02 2016

Provisions provides pitch-perfect Boston bistro

Braised beef cheeks and rigatoni at Provisions
We wondered if the opening of State Street Provisions (255 State St., Boston; 617-863-8363; statestreetprovisions.com) during December’s holiday blur was like Hollywood releasing its most promising films just before Christmas to make them eligible for award consideration. In that case, Provisions wins Best Boston Bistro of 2015. But that hardly makes the place out of date for 2016.

Readers of HungryTravelers know we rarely write about our home turf, but Provisions seems so representative of dining trends we’re seeing in Europe and the U.S. alike that we couldn’t resist. Also, we expect a lot of visitors to Boston this year, and we’re happy to send them to this waterfront bistro/gastropub where they’ll get good value (and great food and drink) for their money.

dining room at Provision Executive chef Tom Borgia has piped a pitch-perfect menu for the location and probable clientele. The menu draws heavily on local suppliers—it is just steps from Boston Public Market, after all—and Borgia has used those local ingredients to assemble meal offerings that are somewhere between the simplicity of a Dublin gastropub and the heartiness of a neighborhood Parisian bistro. The backbone of the menu is the pantry of fresh breads, housemade sausages and preserves, pickles, cheeses, and charcuterie. The prepared dishes are inventive without being precious—chicken liver pâté with a cranberry mostarda, for example, or a grilled chicken sandwich with feta, roasted peppers, pancetta, and aioli.

The number of seafood options initially seems surprising, given that famed fish restaurant Legal Sea Foods is just around the corner, but Provisions does seafood differently. We loved starting with fried oysters served with ginger aioli, dashi broth, radish, and some flaked bonito. Fried oysters are usually more about the breading than the oysters, but the accompaniments brought out the succulence of the shellfish.

The dish that ultimately made us swoon was a pasta appetizer of rigatoni—those 2-inch long open tubes that are perfect with a thick sauce. (Provisions makes its own pasta and also offers a pasta of the day.) They were served with braised beef cheeks (a luscious dish on a cold night), and roasted mushrooms and Brussels sprouts. The recipe is below; the photo (courtesy of Provisions) is above.

Cocktails at the bar in Provisions Desserts at Provisions are very bistro-ish as well—baked custards and the like. But the main after-dinner draw is the same as the main pre-dinner draw: the bar. In addition to a good craft beer list and some distinctive wines by the glass, Provisions has an active and inventive cocktail program. And you have to love a bar that has Amaro Lucano on tap.

PROVISIONS’ RIGATONI & BRAISED BEEF CHEEKS


You could substitute a good grade of commercial pasta for the home-made rigatoni, especially if you don’t have a machine to extrude pasta. But note that the Provisions pasta is made using only egg yolks instead of whole eggs—creating a silky, densely colored rigatoni. The optional poached egg creates a genuinely yummy sauce.

Makes 6 appetizer servings

Dough for rigatoni
1/4 lb. semolina flour (generous 3/4 cup)
1/4 lb. all purpose flour (generous 3/4 cup)
1/4 lb. egg yolks (6-7 large yolks)
1 Tablespoon water

Braised beef cheek
2 lb. beef cheek
3 Tablespoons canola oil
1 carrot peeled and rough chopped
1 stalk celery rough chopped
1/2 Spanish onion peeled and rough chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
2 quarts chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Roasted oyster mushrooms
8 ounces oyster mushrooms (stems removed)
3 Tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon minced shallot
salt and pepper to taste

Roasted Brussels sprouts
8 ounces Brussels sprouts quartered
3 Tablespoons canola oil
salt and pepper to taste

Make the pasta:
Mix all ingredients together in a large mixer or food processor until it forms a uniform ball. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Push through pasta extruder with hollow rigatoni attachment and cut into 2-inch lengths.

Cook the beef cheek:
Season beef cheeks with salt and pepper and then brown on high heat with canola oil in a thick bottomed stainless steel or cast iron pan. Remove beef cheeks and add rough chopped vegetables.

Lower heat to medium and brown vegetables slightly. Add tomato paste and allow to cook for 2 minutes on medium heat. Add browned beef cheeks back to pan and add red wine.

Allow red wine to reduce until thick. Add chicken stock, cover, and reduce heat to low and cook until beef cheeks are very tender (about 1 hour). Remove beef cheeks from the pan, strain braising liquid and reserve. Dice the beef cheeks and reserve.

Roast the mushrooms:
Toss all ingredients in a mixing bowl until mushrooms are well coated with oil, salt, and pepper. Spread seasoned mushrooms on a baking sheet and roast at 350° F for 8 minutes. Reserve.

Roast the Brussels sprouts:
Toss all ingredients in a mixing bowl until quartered Brussels sprouts are well coated with oil, salt, and pepper. Spread seasoned sprouts on a baking sheet and roast at 350° F for 12 minutes. Reserve.

To Plate:

Boil the rigatoni in heavily salted water until tender (2-3 minutes). Meanwhile, heat diced cheeks, mushrooms, and Brussels sprouts in the braising liquid. Add pasta and heat for an additional 1 minute. Place a small amount on each plate and garnish with chopped parsley and grated Pecorino Romano.

Optional:
Top each serving with a poached egg. Heat a small amount of salted water and vinegar to about 180°F. Stir and crack an egg into it. Keep water at 180°F for about 4 minutes. Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and place ever so gently on top of pasta. Then garnish with parsley and grated Pecorino Romano.

And the winning Champagne is…

Barons de Rothschild blanc de blancs with raspberry tart

What was our best bubbly of 2015? We’ve been fortunate this year to enjoy some spectacular sparkling wines, from a range of proseccos to an elegant pink Franciacorta to several cavas and crémants that we simply drank without taking notes or photographs. (Even wine and food writers are entitled to a day off.)

Barons de Rothschild brut But the champagnes of Barons de Rothschild (www.champagne-bdr.com) really took us through the seasons. We started off in warm weather with the non-vintage brut, which is the company’s anchor champagne. It’s blended with 60 percent chardonnay (mainly grand crus in the Côte des Blancs) and 40 percent pinot noir (principally from the villages of Verzenay, Ay, Mareuil-sur-Ay, and Bouzy). It has a Rumpelstiltskin straw-gold color, a faintly yeasty aroma, and fine and persistent bubbles, The full mouth feel and abundant acidity make it an excellent food wine, even with something as complex and spicy as mole amarillo. (Mexico did have a French emperor for a while, after all.) The BDR brut retails around $80.

BDR rose Come fall, we moved along to the non-vintage rosé, which might be our favorite sipping champagne of BDR’s non-vintage portfolio. It is produced from 85 percent chardonnay (again, mainly grand crus in the Côte des Blancs) and 15 percent pinot noir from the Montagne de Reims. Some of that pinot noir juice goes in with the chardonnay at first fermentation, and some is fermented as a red wine before being blended together. The blend marries in the cellar for at least three years before dosage, then another six to nine months after disgorgement. The result is a wine with strong fruit and floral characteristics, with undertones of raspberry, rose petals, and sweet-tart wild strawberries. The color is a salmon pink, which accentuates the spiral of bubbles from the bottom of the glass to the top. We like watching the dance of the bubbles. How long do they last? They’re still prickling the tongue when we empty the last glass. The BDR rosé retails for around $105.

For our money (about $115), the blanc de blancs is the most elegant of BDR’s non-vintage champagnes and the perfect wine for the winter holidays. It is crafted entirely from chardonnay grown in the signature Champagne crus of Avize, Cramant, Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, and Vertus. It is a little paler than the brut, slightly more acidic, and infinitely more sophisticated. Although it has a citrus-like freshness, some of the flavor notes include raw almonds and white peaches. The bubble profile can only be called creamy. It’s great by itself, but we think it’s the perfect pairing with a fresh raspberry tart (as shown above), since the bubbles cut through the unctuousness of the butter crust and pastry cream, while the acidity and mineral notes accentuate the flavor of the raspberries.

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Whimsical cake beets all

Culinary students at Hawaii Food & Wine Festival
Of all the culinary students assisting guest chefs at the Chopstix & Cocktails event of the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, those assigned to Bill Corbett certainly seemed to be having the most fun sampling dishes from the different tables (above).

The whimsy wasn’t lost on guest chef Corbett himself. Named one of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional Magazine in 2013, Corbett is currently executive pastry chef for the Absinthe Group of restaurants in San Francisco. He turned a savory dish into a sweet by creating a Beet Cake with Fromage Blanc Frosting.

“It’s kind of a joke,” he told me. “At one time everyone in the Bay Area had the same beet salad on the menu: beets, goat cheese, walnuts, maybe fennel or citrus. So I figured why shouldn’t the same thing be on the dessert menu.”

Cut into small squares, Corbett’s cake was better suited to fingers than chopsticks. With its rich red color, it would be a good addition to a holiday dinner. Note that the cake can be made ahead and frozen, which will help cut down on last-minute party preparations. Instead of fromage blanc, Corbett used a local goat cheese produced by Big Island Goat Dairy.

BEET CAKE WITH FROMAGE BLANC FROSTING


Makes 4 dozen squares beet cake at Hawaii Food & Wine Festival

Chef Corbett notes that soft goat cheese works well as a substitute for fromage blanc, which can be harder to find.

For the cake
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups olive oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups beets, grated and squeezed of excess liquid

Preheat oven to 325°F. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip eggs and sugar on medium speed to full volume. Drizzle in oil and vanilla while continuing to whisk.

Sift all of the dry ingredients, then add in three stages to the egg mixture. Once emulsified, fold in the beets. Split cake batter between two 12×18 (half sheet) pans lined with parchment paper.

Bake until cake springs back to the touch and slightly pulls away from the sides (about 1 hour). When almost fully cooled, wrap and freeze.

For the frosting

1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 cup butter, soft
1 cup fromage blanc or goat cheese, room temperature
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped as garnish

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, slowly mix cream cheese and half of the sugar until completely smooth. Add the butter and remaining sugar and continue mixing until smooth again. Pass fromage blanc through a wire strainer. (Goat cheese does not need straining.) Add fromage blanc or goat cheese to cream cheese/butter mixture and incorporate until smooth.

To assemble
Remove parchment from cakes while frozen. Cut each cake into two equally sized squares and place back in freezer.

Spread 1 1/2 cups of frosting evenly on each layer of cake, stacking as you go. Use an offset spatula dipped in hot water to smooth out each layer.

Spread a very thin layer of frosting on the cake to hold in crumbs and refrigerate until firm. Then frost the cake more thickly to finish and garnish with toasted walnuts. Cut cake into small squares with a clean knife dipped in hot water.

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