imageIt’s still ulu season and gnocchi is the perfect medium to celebrate this nutritious, flavorful, sustainable food.   Farmer’s April and Moloa’a Organica usually have ulu at the Saturday and Thursday Kilauea farmer’s markets and Kauai Kunana Dairy usually has them at the Saturday Hanalei and Tuesday Waipa farmer’s markets.  Get them while they last!

Gnocchi, a potato and flour based dumpling is considered to be the precursor to pasta.  It’s beginnings are unknown but it is most likely to have Middle Eastern origins dating back to the Roman Empire.  Historically known as peasant food, gnocchi has developed it’s own regional uniqueness throughout many countries.

Ulu is the perfect potato substitute for making gnocchi.  It’s starchy constitution requires less flour than potatoes for an easy to roll, non-sticky dough.  It’s mild and neutral flavor allow for a variety of different herb combinations  such as sage, thyme, basil, lemon basil, marjoram, parsley, chervil and oregano.  All are compatible with the dumpling adding to it’s uniqueness and versatility.  Another great reason to grow lots of fresh herbs in the garden!  Farmer April sells fresh herbs and Robin of “Heaven on Earth Organics” sells herb starts.  One stop shopping at the Saturday Kilauea farmer’s market!

Gnocchi is surprisingly easy to make.  The goal is to get a balanced ulu to flour ratio.  This is also the case when using potatoes.  Too much flour will make the gnocchi doughy and lack flavor.  A larger ulu will yield 6-8 cups of mashed ulu.  I start with using 1 cup of gluten free flour adding more incrementally as needed.   For a medium size ulu, the yield will be 4 cups and I start with 1/2 cup flour.

Ulu Gnocchi Recipe
1 firm ulu
1/2-1 cup gluten free flour
2 egg yolks
Remove skin from ulu.  Cut in quarters and remove core.  Cut into 1 inch cubes.  Boil for 20-30 minutes in salted water until soft and easy to mash.  Drain and mash.  Let cool to room temperature.  Whisk egg yolks,  add to ulu and mix.   Add 1/2 cup flour and incorporate.  Knead dough until it forms a ball that is neither sticky nor dry adding more flour if needed.

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Divide dough into 4 sections.  On a floured surface roll out each section to 3/4 inch.
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Cut into one inch pieces and pinch gnocchi in center to create an indentation.image
Boil gnocchi in salted water for 2 minutes.  Do not overcrowd them.  In a 2 quart saucepan I boiled 20 at a time. image
Removed cooked gnocchi from water and let cool.  Once cooled, saute gnocchi until golden brown with the aromatics and herbs of your choice. For this recipe I sauteed carrots, kale, julienned green beans, scallion, garlic, sage and thyme and added fresh tarragon and parmesan cheese at the end. I browned the gnocchi first, by itself, in butter.  Overcrowding it with the vegetables will steam them instead of browning them.  I then added the herbs and vegetables. The gnocchi is also delicious with pesto, tomato sauce, sausage, or eggs. I love this dish because there are so many Kauai grown vegetables that compliment it such as kale, chard, carrots, beans, eggplant, fennel, broccoli, spinach, cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper, and fresh herbs.  The variety and abundance of what grows here reminds me to be grateful for simple things.  Malama Kauai!

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These delicious turnip carrot cakes give new life to weekend breakfast. Turnips are like bush beans in that they produce all at once creating a comedic panic by trying to prepare them 10 different ways before they expire.  Of course I could space out the planting times and plant less more frequently however, this is not how I do it.  This is part of the fun (for me anyway) in growing food.  Hoping and praying each seedling makes it to maturity only to realize when they are ready to harvest,  I have once again over planted and am swimming in a sea of vegetables.  The rest of the fun is creating new and interesting ways to eat and appreciate the harvest.

I love a good breakfast hash and the turnips work great.  The slight bitterness of the turnips with the sweet carrots balance each other and the egg holds them together.  I garnished these with homemade tahini and garden cress, a delicate, peppery green in the Brassica family.  These cakes can also be seasoned with savory herbs such as thyme, marjoram, sage, and rosemary.  They can be made without the carrots as well.  The turnips on their own are delicious.

Turnip Carrot Cake Recipe
6 turnips tops removed and washed
2 carrots peeled
1 egg
1 scallion
2 garlic cloves
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
capers (optional)
Cress

Grate turnips and carrots. Add chopped scallion, minced garlic, add salt and pepper and whisked egg.  Strain excess liquid through collander.  Mix and shape into patties.  Cook over medium heat in olive oil until golden brown on each side.  Garnish with tahini, cress and capers.  Makes 8 cakes.

Tahini Sauce
1 cup sesame seeds
1 garlic clove
juice of 1 lemon
salt
water

Toast sesame seeds in oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool.  Place seeds in vita mix or food processor until mix becomes powder like and all seeds are ground.  Add garlic, lemon juice and salt and continue blending. Slowly add room temperature water until mix is sauce like.  Adjust salt and lemon to taste.  If sauce thickens add more water, lemon and salt.  Shelf life is 1 week. I usually make a batch of this weekly and store in the refrigerator.  It’s delicious on eggs, meats, root vegetables, peas, beans, grains and salads.  Sometimes I add chopped parsley and cumin for additional flavor.

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This delicate looking herb is a spicy green in the Brassica family known as cress.  It’s actually a general term for low growing Brassica’s with small, peppery leaves.  It tastes somewhat of a blend between arugula and mustard greens with a soft and feathery texture.  There are many varieties with differing levels of pungency and heat.  If I want to add a fresh peppery explosion to a dish, this is what I will use.  It is best raw and added to garnish a meal as it loses pungency when heated.  I use it in salads, mix it with salsa, or I use it as a garnish for soups and stews.

Cress is so easy to grow I always like to have a small space for it in my garden.  I create a small bed, 2 ft by 2 ft, till with a digging fork and add an organic nitrogen fertlizing amendment.  Cress will not need much since it is not a heavy feeder and has a short life span.  If I have just planted beans before I am planting cress I will not add an amendment because the beans will have added enough nitrogen.  I make 3 rows  in the bed about 1 inch deep and sow the cress seeds directly into the furrows.  I keep the bed moist until they germinate, about 3 days.  It is ready to harvest in 2-3 weeks.  To harvest, trim the leaves back and it will continue to grow back until it eventually begins flowering and going to seed.  The flowers and seeds are delicious to eat as well.  I continue harvesting and eating all parts of the plant until it dies off.  Cress is also very easy to grow in pots and containers.

pmm_20131009_470This traditional Mexican soup has been on my list of things to make for some time.  Inspired by a former co-worker who made Albondigas soup for our kitchen staff family meal.  Esteban was one of the best line cooks I have ever worked with.  Quiet, methodical, clandestine.  He had 10 plates working and made it look like two.  An ex-wrestler, culinary grad with a great palette.  The recipe was his grandmother’s.  His simple, flavorful soup is one of the best soups I have ever tasted.  My version has a different theme but my homage is still to the duo that perfected it.

Albondigas Soup Recipe
2 large onion
2 carrots
8 cloves garlic
4 cups kabocha squash
1 cup fresh chopped herbs (basil, tarragon, mint, oregano)
1/2 cup chopped mint
2 cups tomatillos or tomatoes chopped
8 cups stock or water
1 lb free range or organic ground beef or turkey
1 lb green beans
salt
1 green onion
black pepper
2 Hawaiian chile pepper
Olive oil

Peel and chop 1st four ingredients. Saute onion in a soup pot til soft and golden.  Add carrots, squash, 6 cloves of  garlic, and the 2 hot pepper and saute about 5 minutes until everything is coated with olive oil and heated.  Add minced herbs to pot for 2-3 minutes.  Add diced tomatillos or tomatoes.  Let this combination saute for 10 minutes stirring frequently adding olive oil if needed.  Add stock and bring to a soft boil.  Add meatballs.  Simmer 20 minutes.   Garnish with a pinch of fresh chopped herbs.

Meatballs
Add 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 cup chopped mint, 1 minced green onion, salt and black pepper to ground meat.  Mix thoroughly.  Roll into small meatballs.

pmm_20131009_223pmm_20131009_283pmm_20131009_347For the meatballs I used Princeville Ranch Beef, a family owned ranch just 2 miles from our home.  It is not certified organic but the cattle are humanely raised and free of hormones and antibiotics.  Local meat  is not in abundant supply for retail purchase on Kauai.  The supply has increased recently but is still limited.  Princeville Ranch sells their beef at the Princeville Chevron.  Yes I wrote Chevron.  It is delivered on Thursdays and often sold out by Monday.  Some ranchers and farmers only sell their beef and lamb to restaurants or wholesale.  Kaneshiro Farms sells their pork and lamb wholesale directly and retail at Kojima’s store in Kapa’a and a handful of other stores.  Moloka’i and Big Island beef are also available in various markets around the Island.  The absence of federally certified slaughterhouses to process meat is the main reason there is not much available in the retail sector.  The Kauai Grown website is a comprehensive and streamlined site for finding local meat and locally made products.

pmm_20131009_056pmm_20131009_072pmm_20131009_113pmm_20131009_410We love kabocha squash on Kauai because it grows so well and is one of the few squashes that will survive the nagging sting of the fruit fly.   It also tastes so wonderful, somewhat of a cross between a pumpkin and a butternut squash.  Hearty, not too sweet, versatile.  It does take a bit of space to grow so if this is not an option they can be found at most farmer’s markets.  If a kabocha is not available use a squash or potato grown  in your area.  Fellow farmers Jillian and Gary Seal’s have a CSA and just yesterday announced butternut squash in this week’s CSA boxes!  They are at kauaifarmconnection.com located in Kilauea on a beautiful 12 acre working farm, the real deal! Organic Sweet potatoes grown in Kilauea can also be found at the Tuesday Waipa market at 2 pm and the Thursday Kilauea market at 4:30 from Ben Ferris of Kolo Kai Farms.

pmm_20131009_354pmm_20131009_383Herbs.  Grow as many as you possibly can.   Grow them in pots, on your lanai, in your yard, on your kitchen window sill.  Parsley, marjoram, basil, dill, tarragon, mint, lemon basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, cilantro, lovage, sorrel, chervil. Having a stock pile of  fresh herbs will change your relationship with food and with life.   Herbs are the impetus that inspire me to create .  They remind me of the close friends  that augment the joys of living and provide comfort in times of doubt. Herbs will transform any doldrum into a celebration reminding me that life is a series of incremental moments each replete with their own splendor.  This beautiful variegated Cuban Oregano produces large, luscious, pungent leaves.  It is so pretty in the garden I would plant it as an ornamental even if it wasn’t edible.

One last note about this soup is in regards to using either tomatillos or tomatoes.  Our one tomatillo plant has hundreds so that is what I used.  I love their tart, crisp flavor that is unique and refreshing.  Traditionally this soup calls for tomatoes but I am always willing to experiment with something that I have an over abundance of and take the chance that it will succeed.

Recently, I read a wonderful book by Tamar Adler “An Everlasting Meal”.  The Appendix of  her book is titled “Further Fixes”, en entire chapter devoted to fixing kitchen disasters.  The theme of the chapter is to take the risk, it can almost always be transformed into something else if the original intention failed.  Taking the risk is how exciting flavor combinations come to fruition.  It is being in the moment with intuition and understanding.  It is listening to ourselves, our palettes, our ideas, trusting with confidence, expressing, and enjoying.  More of a design for creating than following the recipe too closely.  I have a friend that is almost 90 years old.  He began painting some time in the last 20 years.  He always tells me when he looks back on his life, he wishes he had made more mistakes, because that is when he learned the most.

A hui hou! Until next time!

pmm_20130902_091Ulu, also known as breadfruit, is one of those exotic looking tropical foods that one often sees at a farmer’s market and wonders…”what is that and what do I do with it?”  I first became acquainted with Ulu while working at the Kunana Goat Dairy.  They have a lovely ulu tree that produces prolific amounts of ulu at the end of summer and on through winter.

Ulu is considered one of the canoe fruits, one of the plants considered important enough to the earliest Polynesian settlers to have brought it in their canoes, traveling to Hawaii from Oceania.  It is widespread throughout Asia and the South Pacific.  Ulu belongs to the Moraceae (fig or mulberry) family.  The fruit is actually thousands of little fruit growing together around a core to form a ball with polygonal markings at each fruit boundary.  The breadfruit tree is easily recognized by its bright dark-green leathery palmate or ruffled leaves, which are deeply lobed and can be up to three feet long. The branches reach out to a span of 30 to 60 feet.

ulu useThis tree is quite young, about 3 years old.

Why eat Ulu?  It’s delicious and nutritious.  Some refer to it as the “potato of the Pacific” however, when roasted, I think it resembles a plantain more than a potato.  It’s high in complex carbohydrates, low in fat, gluten-free, provides dietary fiber, calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium, thiamin and vitamins A and C.  It’s simple to cook with, freezes well and lends itself to almost any kitchen or cooking style.  Ulu is low maintenance to grow and produces high yields.  Definitely a sustainable food for Kauai.  It is also an important cultural food.  Historically, the tree’s trunk, leaves, flowers and sap provided timber, medicine, fiber, shade, caulking, glue, mosquito repellant, sandpaper and wood for furnishings, surfboards and canoes.  The National Tropical Botanical Garden website provides fascinating information as well as recipes for this tropical super food.

Ulu is quite versatile and can be cooked at a couple different stages of it’s life cycle for different results.   One stage is when it is mature and somewhat ripe just starting to get soft to the touch.  After cooking it resembles the flavor and texture of a potato or plantain.   Another stage is when it is very ripe and soft before it’s been cooked.  Just touching it will cause it to indent and your fingers to push right through.  This is the very sweet, pasty dessert stage.

There are several different ways to cook the different stages of ulu.  It can be boiled, baked, stewed, fried, broiled, you name it.   Determining when your ulu is perfectly ripe for the dish you would like to make, might take a little practice.  It did for me anyway.  I had a few trial and errors before deciding what I deemed “perfectly ripe”.  When the ulu is just soft to the touch it can be peeled, cored and is ready for use.  At this stage it will act as a “potato” type starch.  Once this soft ripening occurs it continues to ripen extremely rapidly however.  If you want to cook your ulu at this stage it has to be done that day or it will ripen to the point of the dessert stage by the next day.  I have refrigerated my perfectly ripe ulus or cooked them all at once and then refrigerated them to stop the ripening process.

Just after ripening the skin is easy to remove.  Simply shave it off with a knife as you would do an orange.  Cut it in half lengthwise and remove the core. pmm_20130903_043 (634x482)Cut away 1/2 inch of the area that was connected to the core.

pmm_20130903_063Cut into 1 inch cubes.

pmm_20130903_070Toss in olive oil, salt and garlic and roast it for 30-40 minutes at 350.  The garlic can be chopped, left whole, peeled or unpeeled.  After it’s cooled a little I toss it with fresh herbs.  The just ripe ulu that resembles a potato has a very mild, neutral flavor and will mostly absorb whatever herbs and seasonings you are using.

pmm_20130903_116 This is my favorite preparation.  It’s lovely tossed with tarragon and basil.  I often serve it in a green salad making the salad a bit heartier.  I also like to make a mash and serve under eggs, fish, beef or pork.  This can be done by placing baked ulu in a food processor and seasoning with salt, garlic and fresh herbs.  Ulu hummus is another preparation I love adding lemon, garlic, salt,  and parsley to the baked ulu and processing until smooth and creamy.

The most ripe ulu is extremely sweet.  It is so soft the entire core can be removed by pulling on the stem.  Once the stem and core are removed rub butter and cinnamon  into the center where the core was.  Bake the whole ulu for 45 minutes at 350.  After baking, cut in half and scoop out the meat for a thick, custardy treat.

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I will have many more ulu recipes and preparations in the months to come.  It’s ulu  season!!!!!

A hui hou!

 

swordfish The summer bounty is still rolling in with fresh tomatillos, stick cabbage, starfruit and my favorite sweet potatoes from Kolo Kai Farm!   To me, this dish exemplifies Kauai! It is layered with flavors, colorful, simple and fresh!

I love growing tomatillos during summer.  They are low maintenance and so abundant.  For me, it is somewhat of a replacement for the tomato which I and many others have difficulty growing due to the fruit fly.  I now almost prefer the savory tartness of salsa verde to traditional tomato salsa.  We usually only plant one plant as it sprawls and wants to take over.  It is so prolific there is only need for one!  We started this one from seed, transplanted it to a well composted area with at least 3 feet of growing space, and used a balanced fertilizer (Charfish from the Big Island).

Plants that are in the ground for three months  and produce a vegetable are known as heavy feeders.  They require more phosphorous and potassium than a plant that is only producing leafy greens like kale or lettuce.   Leafy green plants are know as light feeders and prefer more nitrogen.  If you have ever tried to grow tomatoes, eggplant or squash and you have lots of leaves but no vegetables it might be because there is an imbalance of too much nitrogen and not enough potassium and phosphorous.  Using an organic balanced fertilizer and matured compost will usually correct the imbalance.  I also use spirulina tea that adds minerals and promotes microbial activity.  My father-in-law Tom, in San Jose, brews his very own compost tea and grows 2 lb tomatoes!

Copy (2) of photo (713x950)Tomatillos are ready to harvest when the husk around the fruit is tight and splits.  Simply peel off the husk and rinse before cooking.

photo(10) (950x713)Tomatillo Cilantro Sambal Recipe
4 Cups Tomatillos husks removed
1  onion
4 garlic clove
1/2 bunch cilantro
2 Hawaiian chile
1 Lime
Salt

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Sautee onion until carmelized. Add garlic and sautee til lightly golden.  Quarter larger tomatillos and half the small ones.  Saute with onion and garlic until soft and tender. Simmer on low about 10 minutes.  Transfer to glass container to cool.  Once cooled add juice of 1 lime and half a bunch of fresh chopped cilantro.

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Cooking the sambal can be done a day or two to save prep time if needed.  The flavor is even better the next day.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
2 large sweet potatoes
4 Garlic cloves unpeeled
Salt
Olive oil

Scrub and rinse potatoes removing any dirt.  Cut into 1 inch cubes.  Toss in baking dish with garlic,  olive oil and salt to taste. Roast 30 minutes at 350.The garlic cloves will be for a garnish.  They pop right out of their skin and add a delicious, rich garnish.

Stick Cabbage
Please see my earlier post on stick cabbage for description.  This might be hard to find.  Kale, chard, or collard greens are a fine substitute.

1 bunch dark leafy greens rough chopped2 scallion
salt
olive oil

Saute scallion in olive oil and salt until a few of the pieces have a little char on them.  This gives an almost grilled flavor to them.  Add greens and a little more salt and oil.  Sautee until wilted.

Swordfish (Shutome)
Swordfish is a mild fish, simple to cook with a wonderful texture.  It’s somewhat meaty and therefore often grilled and used for soups and chowders. It is also wonderful pan seared with light seasoning.  Most swordfish for the U.S. is caught in Hawaiian waters.  It is most abundant January through May but usually available year round.  I purchased the swordfish from the Hanalei Fish Market which usually has a great  selection of fresh, local wild caught fish.

Two 6 oz swordfish filets
Cumin
Coriander
Salt

Season filets lightly on both sides with cumin, coriander and salt.  Return to refrigerator and let sit for 2-3 hours.  15 minutes before cooking remove fish and let sit to room temperature.  Pan sear fish on both sides on med high heat for 2-3 minutes on each side.  The better the sear color the better the flavor.

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For plating this dish start with a bundle of sweet potatoes in the middle of the plate.  Add sauteed greens on top, then swordfish.  Top swordfish with sambal and a few pieces of fresh starfruit and the unpeeled roasted garlic.  The garlic is fun and delicious to peel  and eat and enjoy with your meal.

Thanks for visiting! A Hui Hou!

 

 

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Experimenting with okra has become a consistent discipline I’ve come to appreciate this summer.  Having three plants producing a total of 1-4 okra per day has necessitated the practice.  It doesn’t sound like much but one can only eat so much okra.  Over time I’ve learned that three prolific plants are the perfect amount for two people.  After having made gratins and casseroles every week for the last month I tried something new inspired by a broiled eggplant dish I love.

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Broiled Okra Recipe

1 lb fresh okra

olive oil

parmesan cheese

salt

black pepper

Savory Herb Pesto

1/2  bunch fresh tarragon

1/2 bunch fresh basil chopped

2-3 Tablespoon fresh marjoram chopped

1/2  cup toasted macadamia nuts

1/2 -1 tsp Salt

2 cloves Garlic

Olive oil

For pesto, place all ingredients except olive oil in small food processor and mince.  Drizzle olive oil until it becomes a little more liquid than a paste.  Adjust salt as needed.  A mortar and pestle can also be used for the pesto if you don’t have a food processor.  Herbs and nuts can be substituted.  I have used lemon basil, mint and walnuts and it’s wonderful.

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For okra, trim ends off okra.  Slice down the middle lengthwise.  Place okra seed side down.  Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper.  Broil 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven and flip okra over seed side up.  Drizzle pesto over okra and top with parmesan cheese.  Broil another 3-5 minutes.

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Okra belongs to the Malvaceae family which also includes cacao, cotton and hibiscus.  Amazing that the three are related.  It’s easier to tell by looking at the leaves, flowers and pods than by comparing flavors and fruits!  The flower of the Malvaceae is quite distinguishable here in Hawaii because of the abundance of non-edible hibiscus plants here.  They are probably one of the most ubiquitous landscaping plants on the island.  If you compare the flowers of the hibiscus and okra plant you will immediately see the similarities.  The same is true for cotton.

okra2We planted the Clemson variety which began producing quickly when it was short and bushy.  Okra is a low maintenance easy plant to grow in summer. It  must be harvested when the pods are 3-4 inches long.  Anything longer than that and they will most likely be woody and inedible.  The pods grow an inch a day so they must be checked every day to harvest the tender pods.   I give it spirulina tea after transplanting and compost about 6 weeks after that.  It likes the long summer sunlight and not too much water.

DSC02145 (950x713) (2)Every day we collect our vibrant, green pods and at the end of a week we have approximately 20 or 25 okra.  Enough for a nice casserole or gratin with leftovers for a couple of days.

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This refreshing colorful salad is simple and quick to prepare yet satisfying and full of flavor.  It can easily be made into a dinner salad by adding a protein or enjoyed for lunch.  Most ingredients were recent harvests from our garden save for the Kauai Kunana Dairy chevre which is arguably the best part of the salad.  I could eat their cheese every day of my life for the rest of my life.  It’s the creamiest fresh chevre I have ever tasted.  My reasoning behind the cheese tasting so sublime is that the goats are treated like royalty. As they should be.

The Kunana Dairy is one industrious entity.  The Wooton’s make chevre (from milking their own dairy goats), grow a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs, make delicious baked goods, cultivate honey, make health and beauty products and give farm tours.  I probably missed something in there but you can see for yourself by going on their farm tour and seeing a successful working, family farm in action.

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For greens I used arugula because I love it and we have a ton of it.  This small crop is the second generation from the seeds we saved from the last crop.  It’s healthy, spicy and crisp! Arugula seeds are extremely easy to save.  Just let one of your prize arugula plants (one that was slow to go to seed, disease free and healthy) go to seed until the seed pods start drying out and turning brown.   Once they do this remove the plant, store it somewhere dry and cool (not in the sun) and hang it upside down for about two-three weeks.  Open seed pods, collect your seeds and plant them!

Bush beans! We had a 3 day respite from one crop to another and now we are back on.  Our first harvest was at least 2 lbs.  This crop is the “Provider” variety.  A little crunchier and fatter than our last “Tendergreen” bush bean but just as nice.  I sauteed these with garlic, salt and pepper in olive oil for 3-5 minutes.

The beets are just about the last from the spring crop.  It’s a little too hot for them in summer so we will plant more in the fall.  I boiled them for 20-30 minutes in salted water, dropped them in an ice bath until completely cooled and removed skins.  I then marinated them in balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper (this can be done the day before, the longer they marinate the better).

Fennel is the beauty queen of the garden pageant.fenneluseI could eat fennel every day.  It’s licorice/anise flavor is delicate and sweet.  It’s crunchy texture adds life and it is surprisingly versatile.  I often roast it with other vegetables such as parsnips, carrots, and beets.  I also roast it with chicken and herbs and use it’s beautiful sweeping tops for tea and stock.

Fennel is fairly easy to grow on Kauai.  It germinates well but is slow growing by nature.  It takes a full 3 months to reach maturity.  I should say it is slow growing for me because we usually eat it up before the next crop is planted.  I cut it at the base however, and a new bulb grows out of the original one which takes less time than to start again from seed.  I have grown fennel that has regenerated 3 times.  For the salad I simply cut off the tops and shave the bulb width wise using a mandolin or knife.  If the fennel is a little older cut out the core which is tough and inedible.

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If fennel is the beauty queen lilikoi is the princess bride.  Also known as passionfruit, lilikoi is a wonderfully unique addition to many dishes.   Lilikoi is  a trifecta in flavor components.  It’s a little sweet, a little sour, a little bitter.  It grows on a vine during summer.  This is the lilikoi flower which will grow into  a green tennis ball size fruit ripening to yellow or purple. lilikoi2useTo eat the lilikoi, simply cut in half and scoop out the seeds.  Lillikoi is a wonderful addition to fruit salad, savory salads, dressings, sauces, desserts, beverages etc.  It can be eaten with the seeds or blended and strained through a sieve to omit seeds.  Personally I like the crunch of the seeds for added texture.

The roasted pumpkin seeds are from the delicious kabocha squash.  The kabocha is one of the few (possibly the only) squash that grows on Kauai with a skin too thick to be stung by the fruit fly.  It’s a hearty, flavorful starch that  I love to use for soups, stews, and roasting.  The Regenerations International Botanical Garden harvested 300 from their food forest last spring. Some weighed 15-20 lbs!  Definitely a viable and sustainable food source for Kauai.

To get to the seeds, cut the squash open and scoop them out.  Remove pulp from seeds rinsing excess pulp off with cold water.  The seeds can be dried out for a couple of days in a cool dry area or they can be roasted in the oven right away.  I like to dry them out, they seem to have a little extra crunchy texture to them.  I season them with salt, black pepper, and olive oil before roasting for 20 minutes at 350.

 

Lilikoi Tarragon Chevre Recipe

8 Cups Arugula

4 beets

1 lb green beans

1 bulb fennel

6-8 oz chevre

1 cup pumpkin seeds

Lilikoi Tarragon Salad Dressing

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1 lilikoi

1/2  inch ginger

1/4 cup fresh tarragon

1 lemon or lime

1 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

honey to taste (about 1-2 tsp)

Place vinegar, lilikoi, ginger, tarragon, lime, salt, and pepper in blender and blend until smooth.  Drizzle olive oil into blended ingredients while blender is on to emulsify dressing.  This gives the dressing a nice, thick and creamy texture.  I like my dressing on the acidic side so always adjust to your own taste.  The goal is to have the salt, acid from vinegar and lemon and sweetness in balance.

Salad

Wash arugula and spin dry in salad spinner.  Saute green beans with olive oil, salt and black pepper until al dente, about 7-8 minutes.

Place lid on the beans about 4 minutes through to steam them a little but stirring frequently to avoid burning.

Boil beets for 20-30 minutes until soft.  Not too soft though.  Poke with a bamboo skewer or fork to determine if they are ready.  The skewer should slide through easily.  Place in ice bath to cool.  When cool remove skins and quarter beets.  Marinate in balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

Cut tops from fennel and shave the fennel thinly, widthwise.

Season pumpkin seeds with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast 15-20 minutes.

To assemble salad, gently toss arugula with salt, pepper and 1/4 cup dressing.  In a separate bowl mix green beans and fennel with enough dressing to coat.  Place green beans and fennel on arugula.  Next place beets on arugula.  Then add chevre and pumpkin seeds. This can all be done in a large salad bowl or on individual plates.  Serve immediately as arugula wilts quickly.  Salad ingredients can all be made in advance then dressed just before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

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Turnips grow very well and quickly in our garden.  They reach maturity in 30 days from the initial sowing.  After 14 days or so they need to be thinned.   I began transplanting the the thinned babies into a different row as an experiment.  I placed them 2 inches apart and gave them spirulina tea so the roots would be less susceptible to shock.  The tops  appeared to be dying for the first 2 days but on the third day the crowns appeared bright and green pushing through the soil.  In 2-3 weeks the transplants had flourished and produced an additional bed of beautiful healthy turnips.

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Turnips are surprisingly versatile adding a few different qualities to a meal.  Sometimes I julienne them and throw them in salads raw.  This adds a little texture, flavor and mild heat.  I also pickle them in vinegar with ginger, garlic and Hawaiian chile.  Similar to the pickled daikon recipe I posted earlier.  This is my favorite use for these.  They are hot, tangy, a little sweet, and super zesty. I love them on salads, in wraps or as a condiment on fish, lamb or chicken.

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With 40-50 turnips after our final harvest I knew soup would be the best route.  I pickled some and still had quite an abundance remaining.  The soup was quite simple and wonderfully thick and creamy.

Turnip Soup Recipe

3 Green Onion chopped

10 Turnips cubed

4 cloves garlic minced

4-6 cups stock

Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Saute green onion in la large stock pot until soft.  Add turnips and saute another 7 minutes, until tender.  Add garlic and cook another few minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add stock, enough to just cover the turnips.  Simmer on low for 30 minutes.  When turnips are cooked all the way through, transfer soup to a vitamix or blender and blend until creamy.  Transfer blended soup back to stockpot and continue process until all ingredients are blended smooth and creamy.

I didn’t have any stock so I added 2 cups of fennel and eggplant tapenade I had made previously to the turnips, along with 2 or so cups of water.  This worked beautifully.  The tapenade added body and  flavor.  This is my favorite way of preparing food.  Improvising and experimenting.  If you don’t have green onions it’s perfectly fine to use white, red or yellow.  If you have leftover roasted vegetables, throw them in the food processor and make a quick stock with them.

For a garnish, I grated a couple of tablespoons of parmesan cheese on slipmat and sprinkled fresh herbs on the cheese.  I baked it for 10 minutes at 350 and let it cool 10 minutes.  I then topped the soup with the cheese crisps.  My favorite herb in the crisps that matched the soup well was marjoram.  I made others with lemon basil and tarragon but the marjoram added another layer of flavor that was quite nice.  Roasted nuts or sunflower or pumpkin seeds with a dash of pesto would be a nice garnish for this soup also.

If you live in an area where mushrooms are cultivated I would add mushrooms to this soup.  They could be blended in with all ingredients or sauteed separately and added at the end for texture.

bean use

These baby beans became a bush bean explosion. bean 1 (950x713)

We plant these regularly to replenish nitrogen in the soil.  After a heavy feeding crop such as broccoli, cabbage,  daikon, parsnips, beets or carrots we plant beans.  We then plant a light feeder and fertilize with a well balanced fertilizer such as Char fish and Bio-Char from the Big Island, some bokashi, spirulina and compost.   After adding these amendments we plant a root crop or some brassicas in winter.  I like the bush beans because they reach maturity in 30 days and there is no need for a trellis.

To save beans seeds, leave some bean pods on a plant until they dry out.   Leaving them on the plant enables them to continue to absorb maximum nutrients until the end of their life cycle.  Once they have dried out, faded and  hardened  remove the bean pods from the plant and let them continue to dry  in a shaded area for another two weeks.  Open the beans and plant them 3 inches apart.

For the seared ahi recipe I simply trimmed the bean tips and tossed them with olive oil, chopped basil, green onion, garlic, salt and black pepper.  I also added our Japanese turnips to this mixture.  After washing the turnips very well I chop them into one inch cubes and roast all ingredients together in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

use (950x713)I’ll begin this recipe post with an explanation of my devotion to the Stick Cabbage.  Stick cabbage is by far one of my favorite, least expected treasures of this year.  Maybe not as treasured as the parsnips but pretty close.  A gardening friend Joe gave us this plant which I just stuck in the ground without expectations.  I find my serenity regarding gardening (and pretty much everything else) is in direct proportion to my expectations.  The higher my expectations the more precarious my serenity.  I had never eaten stick cabbage and didn’t know anything about it except for what Joe told me.  He said it was from the Azores and it was good sauteed.  My husband Paul’s family is from the Azores so we took it as a sign that we should try growing this plant.

After a couple of weeks stick cabbage was looking pretty good.  It started attracting some aphids but I sprayed it with a heavy stream of water every day for a few days and that took care of them.

I started doing a little research on it and it turns out it did not originate from the Azores but from Jersey, one of the Channel Islands near Normandy.  This was not a total disappointment however, because one of my favorite authors Victor Hugo, based an epic novel, Toilers of the Sea around this geographic zone.

Stick Cabbage has an interesting look to it.  The leaves look like collard greens or cabbage leaves but they propagate new clusters of leaves along the stalk creating multiple nodes every 3-4 inches as it increases in height.  One could essentially break off a node, put it in the ground and grow another stick cabbage. Which is exactly what we did.  The average height is 7 feet after 2-3 years but there is documentation of it growing up to 16 feet.

Historically, Stick Cabbage also known as Jersey Kale or Walking Stick Kale, was grown for multiple uses. Documentation of this Brassica began in the early 1900’s where it is reported to have provided food for the table, wrappings for butter and cheese, and an excellent and now forgotten fodder for sheep or cattle. Photographs of the time depict a dozen of them sheltering the door of a little hut, and big clusters grown to supply cattle with food.  Sixty plants would provide sufficient fodder for a cow for an entire year lasting four years without fresh planting since only the side leaves were used.  Sheep fed upon the walking stick cabbages were said to produce wool of the finest silken texture up to 25 inches long.  They can also be seen in a line along the edge of a garden, forming a picturesque tidy border and a quaint kind of fence.

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Cabbage stems were also used for roofing small buildings by the islanders, but their most lucrative transformation was into the production of walking sticks.  To yield a strong, straight stem the lower leaves were stripped off as the plant grew.  After several months the stems were dried and then smoothed, varnished, embellished and sold to tourists for a shilling.

The reason I am spending a considerable amount of time on this seemingly inconsequential plant is that it tastes so wonderful!  It’s versatile, flavorful, effortless to grow and unique.  I assume it’s nutritious because it’s a brassica and the deep green leaves indicate ample amounts of chlorophyll. I would like to say I had researched data on this but my research ended quickly when I googled “nutrition stick cabbage” and the only websites that appeared featured the “cabbage diet” and how to “stick to it”.  Obviously the internet is not the only source for data so I will continue my search for stick cabbage nutrition elsewhere.

My two favorite uses for the cabbage leaves are to saute them with green onion, garlic, fresh herbs and salt and to use them for wraps.  I have also used them in soup and roasted them with vegetables.  What is interesting to me is that they resemble collards in appearance but the flavor and texture is somewhat different.  A subtle blend of the tender Red Russian Kale and the flavor of broccoli.  The fact that it is such a high producing, long lasting plant is another big attraction for me.  I give it compost once a month and some bokashi and spirulina tea every so often and it remains healthy and pest free.  We planted ours 7 months ago and it is now 3 feet tall and we harvest from it 3 times per week.  It is definitely an appreciated staple in our home.

For sauteing, I cut the ribs out and lay about 3 stick cabbages on top of each other.  I then roll them up width wise and cut them into 1/2 to 1 inch strips.

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I then saute the strips in olive oil, green onion, garlic, fresh herbs,  salt and black pepper.  I’ve used savory herbs such as sage, marjoram, thyme as well as basil and tarragon.  Saute time is only about 3 minutes.  Just enough to soften it and bring out it’s rich flavor.  It’s compatible with most herbs but I have also sauteed it with just the green onion, garlic, salt and pepper and it is just as delicious.

For wraps I lay the leaf flat with the rib facing up.  I then run the knife from the middle of the leaf to the end of the stalk to flatten the rib.  This allows the leaf to be bent easily without breaking while wrapping and  makes it edible.  The rib is quite thick and difficult to chew.

For preparation of the Ahi recipe simply saute the strips of stick cabbage in garlic, green onion, salt, and black pepper, for a few minutes, until bright and tender.  I usually throw in an herb that is compatible with ginger miso dressing such as lemon basil, or cilantro.  Since I am already roasting the beans and turnips with  basil I will  use a different herb to add more dimension and to  layer the flavors.   Remove cabbage from pan and plate approximately 2 cups (or however much you like) of sauteed cabbage in center of plate.