Monday, August 1, 2011

A Renewed Love Of Cabbage

Kalua Pig and Cabbage, Rice and Mac Salad
I don't know what's happened lately, but I have a huge lust for cooked cabbage. Perhaps the most loved dish in Hawaii is Kalua Pork and Cabbage. Talk about a dish that is filled with love. I would dare to say that anytime you dig a pit in the ground (an Imu), put in a whole pig, hot coals, tea leaves, burlap, bury it with earth and let it cook for a whole day, you are talking some serious food of love.

Fortunately, there is a short cut to that process. You can walk into any L&L Drive Inn in Hawaii and for about seven bucks, get a heaping portion of Kalua Pork, cooked with cabbage and served with the mandatory couple scoops of white rice and mac salad. 

This has become a bit of an addiction, and an especially handy one after being at the beach and not feeling like cooking dinner (it happens). However, it's probably not the healthiest of dishes, unless you're trying to bulk up for a winter of hibernation. Which, of course, sometimes I am. 

But for those other times, and in case you don't have an Imu dug in the back yard or an L&L nearby, it's possible to make a cabbaggey bacony concoction that will satisfy your craving. And let me just say this: In case this craving comes around when there is a storm that knocks down a bunch of power lines in your neighborhood and keeps the power out for waaay to long, all you need to do is fire up the gas grill, pull out a cast iron pan and work it still! I'm just saying ....
Bacon and red onions 
Chop up some bacon and onions and saute until bacon is crispy. Then add chopped cabbage and cook until tender.  

Bacon, Onion and Cabbage

Ok, I have a big craving and I must go cook cabbage. Enjoy!

"A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.
~Thomas Keller

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Morning Muse

Sunday morning. A blue sky outside, the soft hush of tradewinds, the dog at the foot of my bed, the house quiet and empty except for us. I could be doing anything. Do you realize how rare these moments are for me? I live with people. Lots of them. Most of them children - far outnumbering the grown-ups, life continually swirls around us; work, school, rides, needs to meet, places to go, people to be fed, deadlines to be met, bills to pay, laundry to do, kitchen to clean, it never ends

But this morning is one of those very, very rare times when I am alone. A questionable breakfast beverage in hand (no comment), my newest food mags next to me, and my computer screen feeding me inspiration.    

Sometimes this is all I need to get my mojo back. My muse deserts me sometimes, but I'm getting to know her/him/it a little better and I have noticed that it likes it when I am happy. When my mind is clear. When my heart is at peace. When I am overflowing with love. This muse of mine is a party animal, I'm learning. All the stress, drama, emotional bullshit - she(he/it) can do without all of that and, in fact, runs like the wind when that stuff is overpowering the mood. Heck, I don't blame her (him/it)! But when I am in this space, it shows up and inevitably leads me to beautiful images, words, thought, and then takes me by the hand and leads me into the kitchen, pours us both a cocktail and watches me do my thing.

SO that's where I'm headed now. Send my muse some love, because she(?) seems to be back, and I am oh so thankful.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Homemade Flour Tortillas!

Spicy, slow cooked beef quesadillas on homemade tortillas.

So my girl from way back has moved to Hawaii and is staying with me until she gets settled, have I mentioned this? And let me tell you, girlfriend can cook, and needless to say, we are a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen! My soul sister in so many ways, yesterday she woke up with homemade tortillas on the brain. Ah, a girl after my own heart....
As she stood in the doorway to my room, we talked of a sacred, taboo, subject: lard. Yeah I said it. LARD. Uh huh, that's what we needed to fulfill this fantasy of homemade tortillas. Because we would be venturing into the annals of my home-girl's childhood memories of her Mexican & Puerto Rican aunties, making tortillas from scratch because, well, that's what you do.

So in-between school supply shopping, haircuts and dealing with a freaking out cell phone, we did it. A tub of lard now lives in our pantry.

Even in Hawaii, we managed to come across an authentic tub O' lard.  
Alright, now before you start listening to any guilt ridden, holy-crap-this-will-go-straight-to-my-butt kind of nonsense, let me just say that there are some things that you just don't screw around with. And this is one of them. It's been done this way for a million years (yes that's historically accurate) so just put aside your issues with the word, the concept, the image, and for the love of all things TORTILLA, just GO with it. And I swear, the foodgasm you experience will blur your vision, curl your toes and leave you shivering for more. Trust me on this one.

If you can make a biscuit, a pancake or the like you can make this. Flour, salt, baking powder, water and the L word. That's it!

Roll the dough into ping pong ball size and then roll out.

Roll out the tortilla pretty thin, it will puff up a bit when cooking. 

Beef and Cheese Quesadilla
The finished product garnished with avocado, sour cream, lettuce & cabbage, and a corn salsa with a  dried corriander & oregano dressing.

We packed these up and took them to the beach for a sunset dinner. And now I am forever ruined on store bought tortillas. Great. Just like my new homemade pasta addiction. How do you ever go back after this? Well, I don't believe you need to. It's a little more work, yes. But if you have your best friend over, crack open some beers and just enjoy the experience of the whole process it makes everything taste better!

Oh, and as for filling, we cooked some beef in the crock pot for a few hours with some onions, garlic, canned chipotle chilis, some wine or beer (or both), cumin, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Then when it was done, here's the big secret: Take a few corn tortillas, rip them up and then throw them & the remaining sauce from the meat into the blender. This will make the most rockin sauce - you will want to slather yourself in it! This whole tortillas in the blender concept is new to me, but holy cow, it works!

Flour Tortillas


  • 2-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 cup Lard Or Vegetable Shortening
  • 2 Tablespoons (additional) Lard Or Vegetable Shortening
  • 1 cup Hot Water
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large wooden bowl. Stir together.
Add spoonfuls of lard or shortening (use 1/2 cup PLUS 2 tablespoons), then use a pastry cutter to combine the ingredients. Cut mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
Slowly pour in hot water, stirring to bring mixture together. Lightly knead dough 30 to 40 times, or until it becomes a cohesive ball of dough and is less sticky. Cover with a tea towel and allow dough to rest for at least an hour.
Roll into ping pong size balls, place on a tray, cover with a tea towel, and allow to rest for another 20 to 30 minutes.
Heat a cast iron griddle to medium/medium-high heat. One by one, roll out balls of dough until very, very thin. Throw tortillas (one by one) onto the griddle. Cook on each side for 20 to 30 seconds, removing while tortillas are still soft but slightly brown in spots. Remove and stack tortillas, and cover with a towel to keep warm. Serve immediately or allow to cool before storing tortillas in a container. 
Helpful tips:
* Make sure the water you pour in is very warm.
* Allow the dough to rest, both after kneading and after forming into balls.
* Roll out very thin.
* Get the heat right on your stove: Too hot, and the tortilla will burn in spots. Not hot enough, and the tortilla will begin to crisp before you can get it to brown. I get my stove between medium and medium high heat; that seems to do the trick.
* Use a dark griddle or cast iron skillet to brown the tortillas.
* Cook just long enough to lightly brown the tortilla in spots; don't cook too long or tortillas will crisp. You want them to be soft and pliable when you serve them.

Corn Salsa
Cut the kernals off of a few ears of corn
add chopped tomatoes, onions and garlic
Combine a few Tbs. citrus juice, a Tbs or so of sugar, a splash of balsamic vinegar, 1Tbs ground corriander, 1Tbs dried oregano, 1 Tbs fresh oregano, 1 chopped chive stalk, plus a few Tbs of Olive oil, some salt & pepper and toss with veggies. 
Serve on top of quesadillas 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Shave Ice Cocktail

Ok. Who doesn't love shave ice? If you don't live in Hawaii, this is the equivalent to a snow cone only shavy-er. And if you don't live in Hawaii, where there's a shave ice place on every corner, well, then I don't know what to tell you.

But if you DO live here, did you know that you can order a shave ice with no syrup, just the ice for like 50 cents and then take it home and make your own shave ice cocktail?! I know, right!!??

Why oh why, haven't we thought of this before?

Well, in case you happen upon such an opportunity, here's a suggestion of what to do with your sad, naked, shave ice: Take it home and take your jug of ginger juice that you've recently purchased from costco, a shot of vodka, and maybe some simple syrup and a splash of orange or some such juice, shake well in a cocktail shaker and pour over your rapidly melting save ice and voila! An unvirginized shave ice cocktail for your summertime sipping pleasure!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Getting Your Hands Dirty Is A Good Thing!

Let's just say it's been a long couple weeks, months, whatever. Finally the metaphorical fog has cleared a bit and I realized we needed to just get OUT. So, the other day I shoved all of my work and household responsibilities aside and started cooking at about 1:00 while my kids were still in school. I made roasted potatoes with parmesan, bbq'd some chicken, and packed up a bunch of snacks, gatorade for the kids, beer for me, dog food for our beast, and decided to pick them up right after school, even put off the homework for a while and head to the beach until sunset.

And let me tell you, it was just what the doctor ordered. 

Heads full of sand, knees scratched up from the coral, salty air on our faces, and best of all, dirty hands full of bbq sauce. Forget about the napkins and just go jump in the ocean. A huge moon rose over Diamond Head right before we left and my tribe and i realized the beauty in those moments. The dirty moments where you're a mess and you just don't care.    

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I'm looking for my Muse

Hi. Remember me? I'm the terribly inconsistent blogger who has seemingly abandoned the love of eating, drinking and being merry, clammed up, disappeared, packed up, shipped out. But no! I haven't really. I don't know what has happened to my Muse, but she/he/it has been, well, missing. Perhaps it's been drowned by the worries of life; bills, kids, changes, loves, joys, other writing projects, angst, spiritual quest and renewal, extreme yoga, busy with the real job, yadda yadda yadda....

 I don't even know if there is anyone out there anymore who is waiting for me to Swig and Grind and share it. I have, however gotten several messages etc... over the last few months, basically asking "wtf??!, if I see that damned picture of the pasta machine one more time....." Well, I'm sorry. I've been missing the blogosphere, I really have. I have eaten great food. I've discovered great wine. I've shaken up whacky cocktails, and even photographed the whole dang process. But when I sit down to write, I'm pulled in a thousand different directions.

So here I am today, basically confessing my writing iniquities, and writing about my lack of writing. Touche Renee. It's a start. I decided not even to post a picture, because I needed to just WRITE! Argghhhhh!!!!!

So all of this to say. I shall repent and return to my debaucherous ways and if there's any readers still out there after my long sabbatical, than we shall resume our adventures together. Anyone? Anyone???.......   

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Homemade Pasta

Miracle Pasta Machine
Somehow in the hustle of the holidays and the newness of the new year, I have neglected to tell you how in love I am with this shiny little machine that turns flour, eggs and salt into something so spectacular! This year I decided to get all artisan-y with some holiday gifts and put my new machine to use. There were a couple of days where my kitchen was covered in flour, chairs were unusable thanks to their duties as pasta drying racks and my fingers were endlessly caked with the remnants of crusty dough. But I thought: How cool this will be to give something with so much love poured into it. I made the recipe a couple of times before I set out on this adventure so I was feeling pretty good about it.   

 I used Anne Burrell's recipe from the Food Network site. Then I added some smoked paprika & garlic salt to one for a red (orangeish really) dough, and to the other I added a ton of chopped herbs for the green dough.
Super thin dough

Once I put it through the magic machine a few times, I got these beautiful sheets of dough, so thin you could see through them! 
Drying pasta sheets
Once they had dried a bit, the magic machine cut them into spaghetti & fettucini and I cut some larger papardelli by hand. It was glorious! But of course, two crazy things were going to happen to this pasta.

Papardelli, fettucini, and spaghetti drying 
The first crazy thing was that I decided to include some as a gift to my guy's parents who live in Massachusetts. This seemed like a great idea at the time, since he is always bragging to them about me being a decent cook and all. So I made some red wine pasta sauce and put it into a cute canning jar, bagged up the pasta all cute with raffia and little tags saying what kind they were. Then they went into a box of stuff he was sending to them. An un-refrigerated box, which then made the four thousand mile trek to the East Coast. Do I really need to say what happened next? Yes, you guessed it. The box then sat under the tree for a week or so as they dutifully waited for Christmas morning to open it. Right, so by then they were starting to look around the house for what was causing the strange smell that they couldn't quite place. 

Now of course, when they finally do open the damn box, the jar of sauce had broken into a bloody mess which surrounded not only the other gifts in the box but also the bags of MOLDY pasta, all not-so-cute any more in their darling little bags, the eggs from which it was made had long since gone south.  

We got a call from them on Christmas morning and I hear him absolutely dying, crying with laughter. Good thing they have a sense of humor because this became the funniest thing they had ever seen and one of those Christmas stories that will live on in their family for, god help me, forever. 

I had to laugh too, but I still have to shake my head in a sway of failure. But it really is hilarious.    
Herb Pasta Sheets & Red Pepper and Garlic Pasta Sheets
And that's just the first of two crazy things that happened with this pasta. The second was when I decided to throw a spontaneous Italian Feast Extravaganza on Christmas Day since my kids were with dad. (Mind you, I had refrigerated my stash of the pasta). So there was a delightful gathering of the seven of us, of course all crammed into my very hot kitchen. We cranked up Luciano Pavarotti, clanked our glasses of red wine together as arms tangled in the preparations. We made a few different homemade pizzas and of course the pasta. It wasn't until I was standing in the middle of the kitchen that I had the fearful realization that I was cooking for a real live chef of a very nice Italian restaurant, as well as the manager of Honolulu's finest french restaurant. Oye vey. They were wonderful though. They became my sous chefs as my chef friend gently alerted me that the pasta was a little too thin, or was it thick? I don't remember.... no one else noticed!

Thankfully, everything was pulled off okay and as we gathered in my living room, the Christmas tree and a bunch of candles lighting the faces of my dear friends who I was feeding, we decided that this would have to be an annual event. It was beautiful, but man, I'm glad it's over!

 I haven't made any pasta dough since, but I realize now that my horror of the gift box and my anxiety of feeding real live food people has passed, and my kitchen is once again ready to be covered in flour. And I will never again forget to refrigerate fresh pasta.

"Everything you see I owe to spaghetti".
~Sophia Loren

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Collection of Perfect Things

Are there really things we can deem as a "perfect thing"?

 I have this possibly strange thing I do. I collect perfect things. Well, not the things themselves, I suppose, but a list of them. This wasn't entirely my idea. Years ago a book showed up in my house called, "14,000 Things To Be Happy About", by Barbara Ann Kipfer. It's basically a giant list of things that make Barbara happy. I thought it was cool enough, but I realized I didn't want to just read about what makes her happy, but that I wanted my own list. 

So I pulled out a little Chinese journal that a friend had given me, which had yet to find itself a significant purpose and began to collect.... Those next few years would turn out to be my darkest and most tumultuous, and this little red journal containing simple, beautiful, nourishing things became a sort of therapy. When things in my life were painful and fragile, I would write down their opposites. 

There was no real rhyme or reason to the way they poured onto the pages. Any page could go from "The smell of newborn skin", to "having a history", to "The thesaurus", "the Sun on your face", "dark chocolate" to "running through the sprinkler fully clothed".  This simple exercise dragged my mind from my own turmoil and gave it a place to rest, cushioned with all of the things, people, experiences, tastes, smells, emotions, philosophies and memories that truly bring me happiness and peace.    

Of course, me being me, there seem to be a lot of perfect things that revolve around food and beverages in my collection. So I'm gonna go out on a limb and share some of them with you here. 

 Bacon. Lobster. Great wine. The smell of raw corn on the cob. Watching a child eat something they love. Cheese. The smell of a tomato plant. Dark chocolate. Thai iced tea. Farmers markets. Coffee. Picky Dinners. Martinis. Chunky Monkey ice cream. Cooking leisurely. A table full of friends. Homemade cranberry sauce. Family recipes. Fortune cookies. Homemade jam. Balsamic vinegar. Melona bars. Sugar cubes. Herb roasted potatoes. Sandwiches. S'mores. Margaritas. Hot chocolate. Fingerling potatoes. Jasmine rice. Gum. Toaster ovens. Roadside fruit stands. Lemon-aide stands. Thanksgiving. BBQ chicken pizza. Blueberries. Red onions. Sauteed mushrooms. Wooden spoons. Homemade chicken stock. My mom's cinnamon rolls. BBQ ribs. Goat cheese. Carving pumpkins. The perfect rows of orchards. Thyme. Green peas. English muffins. Lunch with a girlfriend. Mortar & Pestles. Roy's chocolate soufle. A fridge full of stuff you love. Warm cookies & Milk. Warm french bread. Ceviche. White rice with butter & salt. Crab with melted butter & lemon. Shirley Temples. Sweet potatoes with butter and brown sugar. French onion soup. Gelato. Hot wings. Ice cold Hefewiezen with lemon. The smell of fresh baked bread. Frosty mugs. A beach side clam bake. Brownies with walnuts. Wild strawberries. Toasting marshmellows. Asparagus wrapped in bacon. Banana splits. Roasted garlic. Raspberries. Homemade pasta. Heirloom tomatoes. Mason jars. Meyer lemon trees. Saffron. Carmel corn. Lemon zest. Pork roast. Saving/using bacon fat. Godiva chocolate and red wine. Successfully flipping an omelet. Meat counters where the butcher wraps your order in paper. Swanky parties. Country Ham. Dinner at mom's house. Gourmet food stores. Talking about food. Pomegranites. A cup of tea. Secret ingredients. Jelly Bellies. Garnishing the finished dish. Cast iron pans. Your favorite coffee cup. A thirst quenching beverage. Cracking your own nuts. Drinks served in old jars. Handed down recipes with no real measurements. Mimosas at brunch. Keawe wood in the BBQ. Raw oyesters. Avocado with salt. Anything flambe. Wild rice with butter and salt. B.J.'s BBQ and Deli. Peach Cobbler. My sister's crazy breakfasts. The spice of life. Carrots plucked from the ground. Cooking shows. Chicken pot pies. Unconventional hanging pot racks. Greek food. Sidewalk cafes. Citrus blossoms. Dr. Pepper. Prime rib. Eating a bowl of pomegranite seeds. Bed and Breakfasts. Viking Subs in S.F. French toast. Vanilla beans. Leonards Malasadas. Anthony Bourdain. Chicken and Dumplings. Root beer floats. A freezing cold beer. Indian Naan bread. Falafles. Sourdough toast.. The "grannies" in popcorn. Fried bread. Sundried tomatoes. Sunday brunch. Muddeling cocktails. Italian sodas. (Are you bored yet??) Paninis. Gnocchi. Fresh squeezed juice. Ripe mellon. Teddy's Burgers. Wine shops. Cheese stores. Milk shakes. Cucumber Tzatziki. Floral patterned china. Outdoor kitchens. Pickled beets. Champagne. Tiramisu. Onion bagles. Mochi ice cream. Steel cut oats. The word "fancy" in product names. Don's Drive In. Thick pork chops. Lattice pie crusts. Mashed potatoes with butter. Ginger snap cookies. Red and yellow cherries. Sushi with my sister. Cream soda. Planting seeds. Oatmeal with butter and brown sugar. Spitting watermelon seeds. Cheers-ing. Breakfast in pajamas. Chopsticks. Having a drinking buddy. Olives with seeds. Risotto. Italian Delis. Carmel. Small boxes of raisins. Banana Bread. Polish sausage. Lobster ravioli. Chinatown markets. Tomato mozzerella and basil salad. The smell of coffee beans. Opening a wine bottle with a hammer & screws. Breakfast sandwiches. Steak Au Poivre. Pizza stones. Blueberry pie and vanilla ice cream. Cocktail shakers. Aged, dark rum. Having a tiki bar. Calzones. Riff- Raff Thanksgivings. The kids making you breakfast for no special reason. Omnivores. Grocery shopping. Coffee in bed. Ginger and mint tea. Honey mustard. Raspberry jam. Guiness beer. Mix Cafe's tuna sandwiches. Wishbones. Tagines. Herbs in small vases. Growing vegetables. A clean kitchen. Cookbook collections. Chipotle Tabasco. Elaborate cheeseburgers. Shrimp scampi pizza. Having a wine collection. Lychee martinis. Maple scones. French onion soup. Oyester shucking. Feeding frenzies. Food fights. Bowls of spice in foreign markets. Pistachios. Espresso machines. Microwaves. Open kitchen shelves. Cutting boards. Tait's "The Ballbuster' wine. The smell of a peach. Sidewalk tables. Making popovers. Green papaya salad. An Imu. Old enamel spoons. A keg of good beer. Brie and grape quesadillas. Harissa. The pop of a cork. All day cooking. Gravy. Ginger Martinis. Quiche on Christmas morning. Indian spices. Sausage meatballs. "Plungerhead" wine. The gift of Christmas meat. Bonnie Maman's Blueberry jam. Hot buttered rum. Yellow tomatoes. Eggplant and goat cheese rolls. Making something out of nothing. Chocolate shops. Ice cream sandwiches. Pepper Jack cheese. Garam Masala. Chicken tacos with lime.  Cooking on a campfire. Animal cookies. Crepes. Blenders. Roasting hot dogs on a branch. Leeks. Green tea ice cream. Flour. Having pizza dough on hand. Sugar. mountain apples. Yeast........... And the collection continues.

Of course there are plenty of non-food entries of things like: Painting your nails black when you're feeling pissy. Hockey announcers. Fringe benefits. Courage. Antique mirrors. etc, etc..... but I shall keep those to myself and leave you with the beauty of things that nourish the body and the soul as only food and drink can. I encourage you to start your own list, or at the very least, add to this one. It really is so great whether your life is unravelling or in perfect order, it's nice to remember the little things that make you happy. And please oh please, don't leave without dropping one (or more) of your favorite things in the comment section!          

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ginger Martini

Ginger Martini with Lemon Thyme & Ginger Sugar Rim 
The ginger martini at BambuTwo in downtown Honolulu has aroused a new love of ginger in me. Although I loathe that soapy tasting pickled ginger that comes with sushi, I love ginger in all of it's other forms. Turn it into a sugary syrup and mix it with some citrus vodka & you are really speaking my language! I had one on Friday night and then over the weekend, decided to try to reinvent one at home. I think I came pretty close. Since it's been a long time since I featured a cocktail on Swigs and Grinds, I figure this will make up for that!  

Minced Ginger
 I was actually reading a recipe for something else when I came across the instructions to throw the ginger into the food processor, skin on, in order to keep it from turning into total mush. Seems counter intuitive, I know, but it really does give it more of a chopped consistency, so do it.  I put in about a 3-4 inch piece, then added it to 2 cups water and about a cup and a half cup of sugar, and a tablespoon or so of lemon juice then simmered until it became a decently think syrup.
Ginger Syrup
 Let syrup cool and then strain mixture. Reserve ginger for other exciting uses. (I mixed some in with some sauteed carrots later that night and they were divine!)
Lemon Thyme & Ginger Sugar
 While the ginger syrup is cooling, combine sugar, lemon thyme & a bit of the reserved minced ginger and mush up with a mortar & pestle. I would have put in some lemon zest if I had it, but noooo.... instead I added a bit of lemon grass instead. Pour sugar onto a plate, then wet the rim of your glass and roll around in the sugar. As it dries it becomes like a sugary, gingery candy on the rim of your glass.

Combine 1/3 Cup (or however much you like) of the ginger syrup with a shot of citrus vodka and a couple of wedges of lemon (squeezed into shaker) and ice into a cocktail shaker. Shake and then pour into your swanky, sugar-rimmed glass & enjoy!
Ginger Martini

Quote of the Day:
"If you were to ask me if I'd ever had the bad luck to miss my daily cocktail, I'd have to say that I doubt it; where certain things are concerned, I plan ahead."
Luis Bunuel

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Eat The Street

Two cool things happened this morning.  1). I discovered a great new website/blog called Street Grindz. Sounds like a site after my own heart, right? Right. This site is dedicated to all things street food, specifically food trucks. And 2). Upon making this discovery, I learned of the Eat The Street event coming up next Thursday evening.

Street Grindz features eleven different food trucks on their website. Everything from tacos, coffee, deli, jawaiian jerk, ice pops, mexican, soul food, and the one I am most excited to try: a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich truck. And here's the great news: they will all be in one place on Thursday, January 27th from 6-9 p.m. for Hawaii's first food truck rally!

It sounds so hip. So metropolitan. And yet we can enjoy it here, in 70 degree weather in January, in Hawaii! Does it get any better than this??!

I hope you can make it down to Kapiolani Blvd. next week. You know I'll be there, grazing my way from truck to truck. And of course I will do some serious show & tell afterward!

Cheers to Hawaii's food trucks!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chinese New Year in Honolulu

Chinese New Year Good Luck Items
Kung Hee Fat Choy! This is the traditional greeting, meaning Happy New Year, that you will be greeted with as you peruse the streets of Chinatown during Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year begins according to the Georgian and lunar-solar calendar systems. Because the track of the new moon changes from year to year, Chinese New Year can begin anytime between late January and mid February. The celebration traditionally starts with the new moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon, 15 days later. This year's Chinese New Year officially falls on February 3rd, but if you are in Honolulu, you can enjoy a month long celebration during the entire month of January.

2011 is the year of the rabbit. If you were born in the year 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999 or 2011, you have extra cause to celebrate because this is your year!

Chinatown - Honolulu Hawaii
 Chinese New Year celebrations center around tradition, family, friends, food and prosperity. In fact, more food is consumed during these celebrations than at any other time of the year. During this time, every meal, social event, religious ceremony and ingredient have superstitious value and meaning. From the day you visit friends and family to the day you stay at home, your prayers and offerings, the foods you eat and the color of clothing you wear, it is all believed to make a difference in your prosperity and happiness in the coming year.

Chinatown Storefront

Chinatown Sidewalk Wares
A few Chinese New Year Do's and Dont's:

Do: Have firecrackers ready to send out the old year and welcome in the new.

Do: Have every door and window in the house open at the stroke of midnight to let the old year out.

Do: Wear red clothing. Red is considered a bright and happy color sure to bring any wearer a sunny, bright future.

Do: Try a vegetarian dish called Jai on New Year's Day. It consists of many ingredients believed to usher in everything from male offspring to wealth and happiness.

Don't: Include tofu in your dishes. Because of it's white color it is considered unlucky and is associated with misfortune.

Don't: Wash your hair on New Year's Day because it could wash away good luck for the new year.

In case you want to have your Chinese friends over for dinner, here are some foods that will surely put you and them on the way to a prosperous and happy new year.

Present a whole fish. This represents togetherness and abundance.

Serve chicken as it represents prosperity. However I must caution you, it must have the head, tail and feet intact, as this symbolizes completeness.

And don't forget noodles! Make sure they are uncut as this represents a long life.

Lion Dance In Front Of The Hawaii Theatre
 So whether you are Chinese or not, superstitious or not, you will be in the know, eating the right food, wearing the right colors and at the best celebrations if you join the fun! There are plenty of festivities on Honolulu's calendar of events to make sure you can celebrate all of the important gatherings. Lion dances, fireworks, art, and of course, plenty of food!

If you're in the neighborhood, be sure to check out the following:

FRIDAY & SATURDAY, January 14 & 15, and January 21 & 22
From 10am-10pm the United Chinese Coalition presents: Chinese New Year Festival

Chinatown Cultural Plaza. At this four-day event, food vendors provide a variety of Chinese and other Asian cuisine favorites. Exhibits and entertainment include feng shui presentations, arts and crafts vendors, martial arts demonstrations, Chinese fortune readings, and Chinese dancing and singing.

SATURDAY JANUARY 22, 5:00-10:00pm
Open to the public, tickets available by calling 533-3181
Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii presents: Coronation Ball

Hilton Hawaiian Village. At the Coronation Ball, the new Narcissus Queen is officially crowned with much pomp and grandeur as the Chinese Chamber celebrates the 62nd Anniversary of the Narcissus Festival. Former Chamber Presidents and Narcissus Queens will make a special appearance. Fantastic entertainment, beautiful setting, historic video, and a sumptuous banquet are in store.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 28, 6:00 – 10:00 pm
Open to the public, Free
Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii presents: 62nd Annual Narcissus Festival and Choy Cheng, Traditional Lion Dance Blessing, and Chinatown Open House

In Chinatown and at Chinatown Cultural Plaza. The evening begins at 8 South King St. with the traditional Chinese lion dance blessing -- Choy Cheng. The Narcissus Queen and her court will visit Chinatown businesses and their patrons. Stores celebrate by lighting firecrackers and offering lisee (good luck money envelopes) to the dancing lions. Meanwhile, the Chinatown Open House celebration takes place at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza, with food vendors, arts and crafts booths, and entertainment.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 29, 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Open to the public, Free
Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii hosts the Chinatown New Year Celebration

Chinatown Cultural Plaza. Food vendors provide an assortment of Chinese ethnic favorites, including jai (vegetarian monk’s food), gin doi (Chinese doughnut), gau (New Year pudding), and jook (rice soup). Entertainment includes ethnic dance troupes, local musical groups, and martial arts and weapons demonstrations.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 29, 3:30– 5:30 pm
Open to the public, Free
Chinatown Merchants Association presents: Night in Chinatown Parade

The “Night In Chinatown” Parade begins at 3:30 p.m. on Hotel Street at the State Capitol and proceeds to Maunakea Street. Parade participants include Festival Queens and their courts, cultural organizations, kung fu martial artists, lion and dragon dance associations, including a special performance by a 150 foot dragon.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 29, 9:00 am – 10:30 pm
Open to the public, Free
Chinatown Merchants Association presents: Night in Chinatown Festival

On Maunakea Street and Smith Street. This all-day block party features booths with home-cooked Asian food and traditional New Year’s arts and crafts, as well as, entertainment on two stages with martial arts, cultural demonstrations, and Chinese lion and dragon dance performances. Visit Keiki Land where there are activities for children of all ages, from inflatable rides to games. Join the Little Miss Chinatown activity and have an opportunity to participate in the parade. Also, special guests, including lion dance performances and other fun activities will occur throughout the day. Don’t miss this major opportunity to purchase special food or items to welcome the Lunar New Year!On Maunakea Street and Smith Street. This all-day block party features booths with home-cooked Asian food and traditional New Year’s arts and crafts, as well as, entertainment on two stages with martial arts, cultural demonstrations, and Chinese lion and dragon dance performances. Visit Keiki Land where there are activities for children of all ages, from inflatable rides to games. Join the Little Miss Chinatown activity and have an opportunity to participate in the parade. Also, special guests, including lion dance performances and other fun activities will occur throughout the day. Don’t miss this major opportunity to purchase special food or items to welcome the Lunar New Year!

Kung Hee Fat Choy! See you in Cinatown....

Lion Dance

Chinatown's Great Architecture

Friday, January 14, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan, A Love Story...

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 The memories of the sun warming it’s aubergine skin always brought back a primal, interconnected feeling.  It had traveled quite a distance. Over dusty roads, hand after hand after hand passing it from one place to another, until here, on a chilly shelf, next to others who had traveled much the same trip, the rotund, portly eggplant now sat.

Hands still fondling it, eyes still upon it, even an occasional nose to  sniff it, it waited. Until it dozed off into a shallow sleep, peppered with vague dreams of dirt and butterflies. And then something slippery and dry wrapping itself around it.  A stifling blanket  of some sort. A plastic bag. Jostling, mingling with the others, a dark ride somewhere. The kitchen.

The bath was nice, if a bit brief. Then something shiny. A twinge of fear, but then a sweet sense of surrender and purpose. This was what it would all come down to. An act of sacrifice. It had been chosen and now the time had come.

The first slice was a bit of a shock, But there was no pain, in fact if an eggplant were able, this one would surely have let out a sigh and settled in with a smile. Allowing itself to be overtaken by the rhythm, being dredged, dipped, encrusted and lovingly lowered into the hot oil. Like a weary soul in a spa treatment, it laid back, flipped & bubbled, all the while being transformed yet again.

Out to drain for a moment, then a carefully thought out process began. A thick red wine sauce became the pillow that it began to be tucked into. Blanketed with layers of cheese and more sauce, the sense of contentment deepened as it was slid into a warm oven, where it’s metamorphosis became complete.

Realizing that the trip had come to an end, it rested, feeling that it had arrived. Until the fork approached and guided it into the waiting mouth that soon after it’s role of mastication was complete, began to utter it’s praises. Such adjectives spilled forth from that portal, that the eggplant may have actually blushed under all of it’s saucy, cheesy layers. It was “delicious”, “amazing”, “sexy”., and it made them “full”. Full of contentment, nourishment and dare I say, joy.

From there was a world of wonderful, complete darkness. A purpose fulfilled.  

Eggplant Parmesan - contruction

Eggplant Parmesan - going to the oven...

Eggplant Parmesan
I recently saw a Throwdown with Bobby Flay where it was battle eggplant. This Italian family won, and the technique was to remove the skin of the eggplant, then slice really thin, bread them, fry them, then assemble almost like a lasagna with layers of sauce, eggplant & cheese. Now, I haven't been a lover of eggplant, but this recipe has made me a believer. Give it a try, you will make yourself and an eggplant near you very happy and content!


"English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it? If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? Have you noticed that we talk about certain things only when they are absent? Have you ever seen a horsefull carriage or a strapfull gown? Met a sung hero or experienced requited love? Have you ever run into someone who was combobulated, gruntled, ruly or peccable? And where are all those people who ARE spring chickens or who would actually hurt a fly? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm goes off by going on.."
~ Author Unknown