Hawaiian Poke

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The first time I ever tried poke was, appropriately, in Hawaii. I was having dinner at Sam Choy’s Diamond Head restaurant in Honolulu a few years ago and the waiter brought around an amuse bouche of raw ahi tuna, tossed with flecks of onion, nori seaweed, edible flowers and the most magnificent sauce I’ve ever tasted.

Ever since then I’ve been obsessed with recreating the dish. One of my go-to cookbooks is Martin Yan’s Chinatown, and coincidentally, it contains Yan’s adapted recipe for Choy’s tuna poke. I made this one day when I was feeling especially wistful for Oahu and you know what? I might not have to get on a plane again to taste that memorable poke.

Tuna poke

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon mirin
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1 pound sushi-grade ahi tuna, cut 1/2-inch cubes
1 small tomato, diced
1/4 cup chopped onion, preferably sweet
1/2 sheet nori seaweed, shredded

1. Stir the soy sauce, vinegar, mirin, sesame oil and chili garlic sauce and cilantro together in a large bowl until blended.

2. Add the tuna, tomato, onion and seaweed to the bowl and toss until coated. Marinate for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve.

Spaghettini with Fried Eggplant and Capers

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If I had to choose, eggplant may very well be my favorite vegetable. When undercooked, it tastes terrible, but when cooked properly it becomes sublime, buttery perfection. I’m no stranger to eggplant and pasta dishes, so when Food and Wine ran a Sardinian-inspired version, I had to try it. I adapted the original version to my own tastes, using less oil, substuting the Pecorino for Parmesan, using brined capers in place of salted ones, and omitting the homemade croutons altogether.

This version might just replace my standard southern Italian-style pasta and eggplant recipe, which includes tomatoes and ricotta salata. That’s the thing with eggplant dishes – you can never have enough.

Spaghetti with eggplant and capers

Ingredients:
1/4 cup brined capers
1 lb spaghettini
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Large pinch of crushed red pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with salt an let stand for 15 minutes. Lightly pat with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. In a bowl, rinse the capers and squeeze dry. Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghettini until just al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking water.

2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the oil until shimmering. Add the eggplant, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the sliced garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until the garlic is softened, about 2 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a small pan, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of oil until shimmering. Add the capers and fry over high heat, shaking the pan slightly, until the capers are golden and puffed, 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the capers to a paper towel–lined plate.

4. Add the pasta to the eggplant. Add the Parmesan and the reserved cooking water and simmer, tossing, just until the water is nearly absorbed, about 2 minutes. Serve the pasta in bowls, sprinkled with the fried capers.

Hearts of Palm Salad with Shrimp and Avocado

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I first encountered hearts of palm at Pampas Grill, a Brazilian churrascaria in the Farmers Market in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. I have no idea how I’d gone so long without coming across the vegetable, but it’s been a favorite ever since then. I used them in making what is now one of my favorite salads:

Hearts of palm salad with shrimp and avocado

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cans hearts of palm, drained and rinsed
1 hard-boiled egg, shelled and chopped
1/2 pound cooked tiny shrimp
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
salt and pepper

1. In a bowl, whisk olive oil, vinegar, capers, lemon juice, shallots, mustard, and salt to taste. Cut hearts of palm in half lengthwise. Lay hearts of palm in dressing, turn over, and let stand for 5 minutes.

2.Lift hearts of palm from dressing and arrange on a large salad plate. Add shrimp to dressing in bowl and mix. Arrange avocado on salad. Spoon shrimp and all the dressing over the hearts of palm and avocado. Top with egg, and sprinkle with pepper to taste.

Crepes with Carmelized Apples, Rum Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream

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i don’t make desserts often, partially because i don’t have much of a sweet tooth and partially because i usually second guess my method if i’m baking. but every once in a while, i stumble across a recipe that instantly becomes a favorite, one of those i know i’ll turn back to time and time again. crepes with carmelized apples, rum sauce, and vanilla ice cream is one of those:

also:

spaghetti with scallops, white wine and chile-butter sauce


steamed asparagus with anchovy butter


calamari, papaya and cashew salad

here’s the recipe for the crepes:

3 eggs
1 cup milk
5 T dark rum
6 T butter
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 c flour
3 lbs medium golden delicious apples, peeled, quartered, each quarter cut into 3 wedges
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup apple juice
2 T lemon juice
1 t grated lemon peel
vanilla ice cream

1. mix eggs, milk, 2 tablespoons of the rum, 2 tablespoons of the butter, sugar, salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a blender until smooth. add flour in 2 additions, blending until smooth after each and scraping down sides of the container. let batter stand at room temperature for an hour.

2. heat nonstick skillet with 7-inch diameter bottom over medium-high heat. brush with melted butter. pour in 3 tablespoonfuls of crepe batter, rotating and shaking pan so batter covers bottom evenly. cook crepe until golden on bottom, about 45 seconds. turn crepe over and cook until light brown in spots, about 30 seconds. turn crepe out onto paper towel. repeat with remaining batter, brushing pan with butter before making each crepe.

3. melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in large skillet over high heat. add apples, saute until deep golden and tender, tossing often, about 15 minutes. add sugar, apple juice, lemon juice, lemon peel, and remaining 1 teaspoon cinamon. simmer until juices thicken and apples are very tender, turning with spatula, about 3 minutes. remove from heat.

4. butter large ovenproof rimmed platter. arrange crepes on work surface and spoon apples into center of crepes, dividing equally and leaving sauce in skillet. fold 1 side of crepes over filling; roll up, enclosing filling. arrange on platter, seam side down. stir ru into sauce in skillet. bring to boil, stirring.

5. preheat oven to 350F. spoon sauce over crepes. bake until warm, about 10 minutes. serve with ice cream.

Spicy Chinese Eggplant

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while its been pouring buckets outside, i’ve been inside cooking. (well i’ve been outside too, but that’s another story.) the theme this time was chinese.

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shandong stir-fry soup noodles

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spicy eggplant

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sizzling singapore chili shrimp

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chinatown roast duck

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daikon with bean thread noodles

here’s the recipe for the eggplant:

1/3 cup chicken broth
1 T hoisin sauce
2 t soy sauce
2 t lemon juice
1 t plum sauce
4 chinese eggplants (1 lb)
vegetable oil
2 t minced garlic
1 t minced ginger
1/2 jalapeno chili, sliced into thin rings
basil leaves
sliced green onions

1. prepare the sauce: stir the chicken broth, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, lemon juice, and plum sauce in a bowl until blended.

2. cut the stems from the eggplants, then cut them lengthwise into quarters, then cut crosswise into 3-inch pieces.

3. pour enough oil into a large saucepan to come to a depth of 2 inches. heat over medium-high heat and deep-fry the eggplant until tender. remove and drain on paper towels.

4. heat a wok over high heat until hot. add 1 tablespoon of oil and the garlic, ginger, and chili and stir-fry until fragrant, about 20 seconds. add the sauce and bring to a simmer.

5. add the eggplant and stir to coat. scoop onto a serving platter and garnish with basil leaves and green onions.