31 July, 2007

Sunshine Markets: The Accidental Foodie in Kauai

A restaurant review in last week's NYT food section mentioned Okinawan purple yams on the menu. According to the article the chef has "A fascination with Asian flavors," huh. I got some pictures of that. Ask my mom what are her favorite things in Kauai, usually at the top of the list are the "Purple sweet potato," and the farmer's market at Kapaa. the Okinawan yam is not as sweet and a little more starchy than regular yams, and heck any vegetable that's purple has got to be good for you. Bake em up a little butter et voilà.

As for the farmer's markets the Sunshine Markets have been around for at least twenty years. I don't remember them from way back but my mom says they are pretty much the same. There are also private farmers markets. The first market we went to was in Hanalei:

I was very impressed with the market in Hanalei, wide selection of produce and the goat dairy which makes some very tasty cheese. We loaded up. But my mom said "Yeah it's good but we need to go to Kapaa."

We rolled to Kapaa Wednesday 3PM (15:00 for the continentals, 9:00 in Ethiopia) for the market.

With Kapaa, I suddenly realized, contrary to what guide books will tell you, up in Hanalei I wasn't "giddin down wid da locals." In fact, if I may digress a little, Hanalei has exploded in the last twenty years, from sleepy hippie hide away to packed mall for the Khaki short and white sock set. Don't get me wrong, whenever I wanted to go somewhere, I invariably ended up in Hanalei,

outside the Big Save in Hanalei. photo credit Ekarhu

but don't be disappointed if you don't see anyone that looks like they have been on the island for more than two weeks. (Notable exception: Tahiti Nui. I don't know about the food, but karaoke night was a hoot.)

Back to the show.

The first thing you notice about the open markets here is that there aren't any big produce trucks. everyone is selling their stuff out of the backs of pick-ups or station wagons. The prices were very reasonable, especially compared to the supermarkets where most of the vegetables come from California. And the Kapaa Market was CHEAPER than the Hanalei Market. Our litmus product was the ice cold coconut freshly hacked for consumption:

Hanalei, five bucks.

Kapaa two bucks.

'Nuff said. At this point, Gentle reader you may be thinking: But wait, Saucisson, didn't say in the previous post that you were staying on a farm, what you need a market for? Oh yeah, let's go pick some fruit.

Hands on Makai Farms. photo credit Ekarhu

On the property we had limes, grapefruit, lychee, tangerines, bananas, and avocados. SO now we had some cooking to do. With cheap basil from the Hanalei market, Bonne Femme made pesto, okay not totally local, but Hawaiian style:

Makai Macadamia Pesto

2 Cloves of garlic
4 c fresh chopped basil
¾ cup macadamia nuts
2 t Hawaiian pure cane sugar
½ c grated Parmesan
½ c olive oil
Juice of lime from yard

Combine in food processor blend until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.

And what did mom make? Makai lime pie of course.


23 July, 2007

Mambo Italiano

Are love and sausage severable? I don't think so. Today I was reading the first pages of Pampille's Table, a translation of Marthe Daudet's Les Bons Plats de France, by Shirley King, where Daudet, in 1919, wrote:

"...A good recipe does not guarantee a perfect dish. There is a certain something called la tour de main - a special touch - that contributes at least half the success of any dish....But even this special touch is not enough unless a little love is also an ingredient."

Generally speaking, I don't give into hokey excesses, I don't have any kitten callendars in the house exclaiming "Hang in there!", but in that moment, After reading those words, I looked up, over the municipal pool, where Henry and Emmet were paddleing around in their swim classes, and I thought: Food does taste better when it is made with a little bit of love. Food does taste better when it is made with care.

So how do you make sausage with love? Start out with recipe you like and and ingredients that have been loved. I have made the receipe from Charcuterie several times and I like it, and as for the loved ingredients, let's look in the garden:




Italian Sausage

(adapted from recipe in Charcuterie)

4 lbs (1840 g) Pork Shoulder cubed

33g Salt

20g Sugar

20g Paprika

13g fennel seed

7g coriander

5g black peppercorns

7g crushed red pepper

10g fresh Oregano

23g fresh Basil

125ml cold water

50ml red wine vinegar, chilled

Toast the fennel seed and coriander in a dry skillet over low heat until fragrant. Put toasted spices in spice grinder along with the peppercorns and grind fine. Chop up the basil and oregano and squeeze out any excess moisture. Combine all ingredients, except water and vinegar, and mix it with the cubed pork. Grind the mixture through the small plate of a meat grinder. Using the paddle attachment, or a really big spoon, stir ground mixture adding the combined cold water and vinegar. Stir until it starts to come together, about a minute. Stuff into hog casings and let it rest in in the fridge uncovered.

Now if you want that authentico look of salsicca Italiano, go a metro, don't twist them into links, grill the sausage then cut it into desired portions. Serve with grilled peppers or

with baba ganoush and sweet and sour coleslaw.


19 July, 2007

Mid-Summer Madness

Once again the mid summer has come and gone without the culminating blow out shindig that I always plan to do. I guess unless you live in the land of the midnight sun, The summer solstice doesn't mean much, the longest day of the year quietly passes into night.

However since our good friends from New Jersey were in town we took the opportunity to spin again some of the house favorites.

With a few things from the potager, I recreated the Chicken Liver Sausage, which we enjoyed for an appetizer.

We followed that with another edition of the mini-porchetta, this time instead of using pork shoulder, I wrapped a boneless loin with the pork belly.

To accompany the rôti de porc, La Bonne Femme, ripped a receipe from Gourmet, May 2007, for Aligot with Horseradish cream.

(ah-LEE-go) uh-huh.

For dessert mint ice cream on cornmeal sugar cookies (Gourmet, July 2007).

And we ended the evening as we began it: En pleine air avec trop de vin de citron et menthe.


The Accidental Foodie in Kauai

Fish Tacos Bonne Femme

The Accidental Foodie in Kauai

This is the Introduction in an occasional series about the Accidental Foodie in Kauai.

Lots of things happen by chance. Chance food, chance houses, chance islands. Sometimes it all comes together. Seven months ago my parents brought up the idea of getting the family together in Kauai; They have been married for forty years and they wanted to celebrate in a place that held many fond memories for all of us. Additionally I had promised my wife (La Bonne Femme) when we married that I would take her to Hawaii within five years, since we have been married for six years, the time was ripe. My mom found a house that fit the bill: North side, off the beaten path, near her favorite beach. The internet description of the house said it also included citrus trees and other tropical fruits for the picking. How quaint, maybe we could have an orange for breakfast one morning. Nevertheless we began to plan what we would cook as a family once we reached the Garden Isle.

“The Garden Isle” is Kauai’s nickname, because it is the most green most lush of the major Hawaiian islands. It claims the wettest spot on Earth, Mount Wai'ale'ale, (avg annual rainfall 460 inches), and Hawaii’s only navigable river, the Wailua. The Island has a rich agricultural history, starting over a thousand years ago with the introduction of pigs and bananas from the East, to today where south side of the island is home to the nation’s largest coffee plantation.

But my parents, some twenty years ago, didn’t choose to come the Kauai because they were foodie agri-tourists (us kids never had to say “do we have to take a tour of the jam factory?”). They came because it was a quiet place where you could slip off the trodden hula, ukulele, lei trail, and land in a hidden patch of sand and have it all to yourself. It still is.

Stepping off the jet in a clouded haze was not part of my plan. Sun and 81 degrees was the weather in Lihue but after ten hours in flight, my eyes were mostly cloudy. Youth on the other hand knows no time zone, the boys were jumping to go, if only they could drive.

With the boys strapped into an open top jeep (Bonne femme driving), I piloted the mini van with Grandma on shotgun. The twenty-five mile drive from Lihue to Kiluaea was like rolling into town for a high school reunion. I felt a certain power from being somewhere I had been many times many years before, yet I hardly recognized anything. Every landmark I looked for was still there, but the matching photos in my mind were fuzzy and faded. However, the smell remembered everything: A clean crisp floral scent pierced everything as soon as we cleared the jet way. Driving along the wind would carry it and mix it with salt air, then mix it with rotting fruit of a passing mango tree, and then, as we dipped into valleys, it would give way to a dense humid decay of the rain forest. I like the rain forest smell the most, some time ago I decided that it is the smell of the color green. Every place has a unique smell undetected by its residents. When I got back to Chicago, I was able to identify its smell as burnt coffee on hot steel; I was kinda depressed.

Turning into the pebble drive at Makai Farms it was immediately plain that the reality of the house far outstretched its internet image. On the left one neighbor had a large plot of vegetables going for market, beyond that a pineapple plat. On the right, a gentleman’s farm with a horse corral. We drove through a dip and around a bend, and found the house. It was bordered by a stand of banana trees on the right and a yard full of citrus on the left. Behind the citrus were two forty foot avocado trees loaded with football sized fruit. They were backed up by several sixty foot Balsa trees and, of course, there were several coconut palms lining the drive. We got out and looked around the yard, under the trees laid fruit rotting (as nature intended): Grapefruit, Tangerines, and oranges. We had work to do, what I had imagined as a kitschy come-on of a single small orange tree, turned out to be a sustaining grove that needed to be worked.

des bananes

We met the caretaker, Manfred, who took us through the house. It looked of a house where a family lived, good solid furnishing, designed to accommodate when friends were visiting. And then we got to the kitchen. After many years of improvising in rental kitchens with the ecko can-openers and worn out Oxo peelers it was refreshing to see a well equipped kitchen. Manfred showed us the recycling bins and asked us if we composted (“I got my pants on don’t I” I thought). The compost pile was in the banana tree stand. Once we have the place to ourselves I scrutinized the kitchen: Beyond the requisite blender, I found a six burner cook top, wall oven, a Cuisinart, and (the Holy Grail) a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. This is gonna be good.