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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

mahimahi with tropical fruit salad

while on our vacation, we spent a lot of time with fruit. we ate it. we drank it. we battled the sugar ants coming for it. the opportunity to take a break from root vegetables and ingest a little sunshine was just what ol' man winter ordered. 

the fruit superstar for the week was definitely papaya. sooo incredibly delicious. we had them with breakfast and coffee on the lanai every morning, snacked on them in the afternoon, and, the one night we cooked, papaya was half the plate! (i love the pacific northwest, but can someone please figure out a way to grow papaya here? maybe a big ol' tropical biodome in a p-patch? my life feels empty without it!)

we bought all of our fruit from this guy at the west maui farmer's market. as we looked over the papaya, he asked, "you need for today, or for tomorrow?" we answered both. plus the next day. aaand the next day... he picked out 4 fruits for us in varying stages of ripeness and plunked them in our hands-- "for today, for tomorrow, for sunday, for monday." he knew his papaya! i heard someone next to us ask for one for tomorrow, and he answered in the matter-of-fact and somewhat punchy manner of a fast-moving guy who knows his stuff, "what time tomorrow?" 

i had planned that we would cook at least one night while we were away, and read dozens of recipes using island ingredients before we left. the ones that stood out the most to me were various fish dishes with fruit salsas. after our magical evening at mama's fish house, i found that their website included a perfect recipe for us, especially considering we already had half of the ingredients in place-- mahimahi with tropical fruit salad. done.

mahimahi with tropical fruit salad
from mahimahi macadamia nut saute with tropical fruit salad, mama's fish house 

2 mahimahi filets
salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbps butter, divided
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 of a fresh lemon

1 ripe papaya, halved and seeded
1 cup mango, peeled and medium diced
1 cup fresh pineapple, peeled and medium diced
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
one fresh lime

for salad:
sprinkle papaya halves with a pinch of salt and fresh lime or lemon juice. set aside. mix mango, pineapple, onion, cilantro, and mint, and toss with fresh lime juice to taste. season with a pinch of salt. chill for one hour. 

for fish:
season both sides of mahimahi with salt and freshly cracked pepper. heat olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat in heavy saute pan. cook fish 1 to 2 minutes, turn, and cook 2 to 3 minutes more, until cooked through, depending on thickness of fish. don't overcook. remove fish from pan and cover to keep warm. add remaining 1 Tbps butter to pan, lemon, and wine. cook, stirring or whisking, until sauce begins to thicken. 

to serve:
heap fruit salad in papaya half. serve with fish topped with lemon-wine pan sauce. 

mama's notes that ahi, ono, opakapaka, or any fresh fish can be substituted. 

the buttery, salty fish with the sweet and tangy fruit was absolutely perfect. ahhh, and so was the view.

Monday, February 22, 2010

restaurant review-- mama's fish house, paia, maui

when planning our trip to maui a couple of weeks ago, two friends said, without reservation, "go to mama's fish house." mama's is an oceanside restaurant in a shabby-chic converted beach house on maui's north shore. opened in 1973, mama's was the first fresh fish restaurant on the island. not only is all of the fish served caught that day or the day before, but produce is grown on the island as much as possible. mama's is all about sustainability and local producers. they even list the fishers, vessels, and catch locations on the menu! the food was out of this world, the service exceeded both of our expectations combined, and the whole experience was more than worth driving an hour from where we stayed. 

let's start with drinks (as one does). we arrived about an hour early for our 4:30pm reservation, so they sent us to one of the bar areas for a pre-dinner cocktail, a welcomed stop after a somewhat stressful drive along part of the beautiful, but winding and narrow (sometimes one lane!) mountain road, the road to hana. for me it was a mai tai, a vintage recipe from the 1930s from trader vic himself, because let's face it, one simply can't visit hawaii without enjoying a mai tai from a glass tiki head. rob's drink was the surprise-- gin with guava and lime, and a powdered ginger and sugar rim. we both agreed, though he loves gin and i am no fan, this was one amazing cocktail! 

one of our first glimpses of the magical experience that is the service at mama's was when, as i twirled the orchid from my drink in my fingers, the bartender asked if i'd like to wear the flower in my hair. wull yah! he held up a toothpick and asked, "can i help?" he skewered it, i tucked it in. cool.

now that i was accessorized, it was time to eat. we started with an amuse-bouche of a bisque of some kind. i didn't quite hear the description when it came out, but it was wonderful-- tasted packed with cilantro. next was one of the best appetizers i've ever ever had ever. polynesian seared beef, with mixed vegetables in a zippy lime and herb dressing, served in a grilled papaya. oh man, that was good stuff. the beef absolutely melted... (i really shouldn't be writing this post before lunch!)

for the entrees, rob's was a mahi mahi stuffed with lobster, crab, and maui onion, baked with a macadamia nut crust and topped with a lobster tail. 

mine was a chef's special in honor of valentine's day. (note the "hearts" of palm...) the fish was monchong, topped with crab and macadamia nut, and served with a passion fruit sauce. (passion? valentine's? get it?) forbidden rice, honey gingered carrots, and asparagus made up the rest of the plate. 

after ordering coffee and turning down dessert, a staff member placed two spoons on our table. "i sense a complimentary dessert," said rob. sure enough, our waiter swept in with two scoops of banana ice cream and said, "couldn't let you leave without something sweet. it's on me." i'm not normally interested in banana-flavored anything, but this was either exceptionally wonderful, or i was too blissed out to notice. probably both. 

from the open window, inviting in the ocean breeze and the occasional bird, we watched the roaring pacific ocean and a steady flow of beach visitors, including a wedding party having their photos made. (tip-- if you have an early reservation and show up before dinner service begins, you're more likely to get a window-side table!)

mama's was an experience that kept on giving. she's generous enough to have a couple of recipes on the website, which we took advantage of the next day in order to continue our mama's fish house experience from our west maui condo. that post coming next...

mama's fish house website. it's flash, so i couldn't post any specific links, but there's a lot of fun info here. also, it plays island music so you may want to mute before clicking! 

want. to. go. back...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

bacon-wrapped vegetable gratins. not a diet food.

heh. i thought i was getting tired of root vegetables until i wrapped them in bacon. edible seattle's recipe maven jess thompson presented a recipe last january for winter root vegetable gratins as an idea for a super bowl snack. this past sunday, i took her up on it. uh, can i just say, YUM?

recipe here: bacon root vegetable gratins 

the recipe says to use a mini-muffin tin, but my vegetables were big, so i used the regular muffin tin. also, i trimmed the bacon to wrap around, which ended up being 6" or so lengths, rather than the 3" pieces the recipe calls for. i used an uber sharp cheddar-style cheese, and just sprinkled a little on each layer. the 2 Tbsp of cheese in each layer called for in the recipe has to be a misprint! toothpicks were to secure the bacon as i put the gratins together, but were removed before cooking.

baked 30 minutes, et voila...

... an incredibly decadent way to experience winter veggies! 

speaking of winter, rob and i are heading to sunny hawaii tomorrow for what is a well-earned vacation on his part, and an aren't-i-lucky-he-wants-me-to-come-too trip for yours truly. know what i'm looking forward to as much as anything else? FRUIT, that's what. juicy, drippy, tangy, sticky, tart, sweet, fruit. i'll be sure and get some pics. 

catch y'all a little later!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

roasted celeriac soup

roots and greens, roots and greens... seems like it's the same ol' song at the farmers market these winter days. but, spring is on its way, and in the meantime, i'm really getting to know some roots and greens. 

this is celeriac, or celery root, a type of celery grown for it's root rather than the stalks and leaves. the flavor is very similar to stalk celery, though milder, sweeter, and not nearly as bitter or salty. i've been using it as a celery substitute in some of the stocks and soups i'm making this winter, since celery isn't available. i've also mashed it with potatoes as a side dish and roasted it with other roots. 

it may look like a baseball-sized wart, but it is fresh, earthy, and delicious.

i've found it's easiest to slice off the thick, knobby skin rather than try to peel. at this stage, the celery aroma really comes through. 

once inside, its pretty little tortoiseshell pattern is revealed. 

this time, the celeriac became a smooth and creamy soup that looked a lot like cream of wheat, but tasted fantastic. the little bit of sweetness in the celeriac is intensified by roasting it, and a thorough spin in the blender creates a silky texture. this is a wonderful soup, but i think it would be best served as a small starter to a meal. a big bowl of it got to be a little bit intense for me, as is the case with most blended soups, i've found. 

roasted celeriac soup
(serves 2-4)

2 cups celeriac, peeled and cubed
olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced 
1 potato, peeled and cubed
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/4 cup milk
salt and pepper

toss cubed celeriac with a little olive oil and roast at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

heat 1 Tbps olive oil in soup pot over to medium. add onion and saute until softened, then stir in garlic and cook for about a minute, careful not to burn the garlic.

add potato, stock, and thyme. bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, 20 minutes. add roasted celeriac and simmer another 10 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through. remove from heat and cool slightly.

add soup (in batches, if necessary) to blender and blend until very smooth. (can also use an immersion blender, but i've found the countertop blender most effective when i'm after a smooth texture.)

return to pot, stir in milk, and season with salt and pepper.

*the original recipe called for celery, leeks, fresh tarragon and parsley. as i had none of these on hand, they didn't go in the pot. however, i suspect these would all be wonderful additions, and would add a little more green to the color. 

celeriac-- full circle farm 
potato-- olsen farms 

Friday, February 5, 2010

ugly, cheap and yummy-- split pea soup

split pea soup is not sexy. not one bit. but, it is tasty. and it's cheap!

we're eating on-the-cheap these days, partly because i'm trying to save money, and partly because i think it's fun. i love to see what i can make out of ingredients we already have on hand. i've had the split peas around for so long that i don't even notice them anymore-- they're just a part of the pantry landscape. finally, this week they caught my eye. i only needed to purchase a big fat ham hock and i was ready to go. the soup even made use of the half celery root i had in the fridge-- another victory over the compost bin!

from german split pea soup

1 Tbsp extra virgin live oil
1 Tbsp bacon grease
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1/2 celery root, peeled and finely chopped
kosher salt, to taste
1 Tbsp flour
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 small bay leaf
1/2 lb split peas, rinsed and drained
1 large ham hock
4 cups water

heat oil and bacon grease together in heavy soup pot. saute onions, carrots, and celery root on medium heat until softened, about 5-10 minutes. season with salt. stir in flour and cook, stirring, 3 minutes.

tie thyme sprigs together with kitchen twine. add to pot along with peas, hamhock, and 4 cups water. bring to a boil over high heat. reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until peas are tender, about one hour. (i cooked closer to an hour and a half until the peas were total mush.) add water if the soup looks too thick for your taste.

remove thyme and bay leaf. remove ham hock and allow to cool. pull off and chop any meat from the hock, and discard the fat, skin, and bone. add chopped meat to soup, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

i like this soup thick and lumpy, but it can be thinned with water and pureed, before adding ham, for a smooth texture. the original recipe calls for cooking bacon as the first step, and serving the soup with the crumbled bacon. i'll likely go this direction next time since i'd have liked a little more pork in the soup. the ham hock didn't yield very much. still, a very yummy soup for the price of a pig bone! 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

pork, fruit, and wine mix-and-match

you know that feeling when you find a recipe that, no question, you know you're going to love? the comforting feeling that sure, it won't be high-adventure, but it also won't let you down? that's how i felt when i opened up edible seattle's fall 2008 issue for the first time and saw the recipe for pear and hazelnut stuffed pork tenderloin with sour cherry syrah sauce from PCC printed on the inside cover. 

as is so often the case, i made substitutions to the original recipe. this time, more than usual. it's almost comical. i didn't have pork tenderloin, so figured i would stuff some pork chops. my pear had languished too long in the fruit bowl, so i changed it out for an apple. for the sauce, i had some merlot already open, and while i thought i grabbed the dried cherries jar, it was, instead, the dried cranberries jar. i got the hazelnuts in there, though...

so, if you want to make pear and hazelnut stuffed pork tenderloin with sour cherry syrah sauce, click here. if you want to make apple and hazelnut stuffed pork chops with cranberry merlot sauce, read on...

apple and hazelnut stuffed pork chops with cranberry merlot sauce

for chops:

1 Tbsp butter
1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
pinch ground clove
1/3 cup roasted hazelnuts
salt and pepper
olive oil
2 pork chops, at least 1" thick

for sauce:

1/2 cup homemade chicken stock, or low sodium
1/2 cup merlot (or whatever's open)
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 Tbsp cold butter
salt and pepper

melt the butter in a saucepan and add apple, cranberries, syrup, balsamic, clove, and nuts and  cook until the apples begin to caramelize, and the liquid is reduced. season with salt and pepper. remove to food processor and give mixture a rough chop. (can be done ahead.)

season chops with salt and pepper. cut a slit in the side of the chops, as deep as possible, taking care to not cut all the way through. open up pocket and stuff with the apple and hazelnut mixture. tie butchers string around chops to secure filling. (maybe not a necessary step, but i had string, so i went for it.)

heat oil to medium in a heavy skillet. add chops and sear both sides until golden. lower heat slightly and continue to cook until meat thermometer registers 155 degrees, turning a few times as needed. (or, transfer to roasting pan and cook in 400 degree oven until meat thermometer registers 155 degrees, about 7-9 minutes, depending on thickness of the meat.) juices should run clear.

remove chops to plate and cover with foil. return pan to medium heat. deglaze by adding chicken stock and wine to pan drippings, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom. add syrup and cranberries and cook, stirring, as it thickens and reduces by about half. remove from heat and stir in the cold butter, season with salt and pepper.

serve pork chops topped with sauce.

pork chops-- skagit river ranch 
apples-- high meadow orchards
roasted hazelnuts-- holmquist hazelnut orchards