Happy Thanksgiving, Liliko'i Butter Mochi!!

Some of you might wonder, why is she posting about Mochi on Thanksgiving?  Well, no special reason, it's just what I decided to make for dessert on this special day.  Luckily my daughter brought cheesecake, so there was  a choice. If you've (likely) never tried it before, mochi is more confection than cake.  Similar consistency to Applets and Cotlets, or nougat, and popular here in Hawaii.  I was going through my box of clipped recipes, which hardly ever gets looked at nowadays, since the computer recipe file I keep, and found this one.from the Executive chef at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, Ralf Bauer, clipped from a local airline magazine.

Truthfully, I did try my best to restrain fiddling impulses, but was not successful.  From 3 cups of sugar we went down to 2, and it was just right.  More would be too sweet, for me at least.  Also upped the amount of passion fruit juice from 3 tablespoons to 1/2 cup, also turned out good.  If you're going for liliko'i, otherwise known as passion fruit, let's taste it!  And, speaking of changes, the coconut milk called for was 12 oz.  Now where we live, the cans are 13.66 oz. for some odd reason, and that's what went into my mochi.  Would you throw the extra out?  Or I guess it could have gone into my cocoa drink, but hey, one of those spur of the moment choices we make.  You could do your own fiddling, and I might in future, perhaps orange juice for orange mochi, espresso for coco mocha mochi, or cranberry?  You get the picture.

All in all, excellent choices.  About 5:00 pm yesterday, I was about to sit down, for a much deserved rest with a glass of white, and have a test sample along with.  Just a taste.  From the sort of over-crisped edge.  And ended up eating one after another, right along that edge.  Not at all bad, quite good in fact.

Don't expect strict authenticity here.  Mochi is a traditional Japanese New Year's treat, a Shinto omen of good fortune, and should be steamed, not baked, in little balls or spheres preferably.  Also, it wouldn't have eggs, butter, coconut milk or baking powder.  Not to mention liliko'i juice.  Just saying.  I'm posting the recipe with my adaptations.

Liliko'i Butter Mochi

1 lb. mochi flour (check your Asian grocery stores)
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 can coconut milk (12 oz. +)
1/2 cup passion fruit juice

Mix all ingredients together, and bake at 350F for 45 minutes to 1 hr. in a 10x14 inch pan.  Check if it's getting too brown around the edges (mine did so I was forced to eat  it all :)

Let cool slightly.  While still warm you may glaze with a mixture of 2 tablespoons liliko'i juice and 2 cups of powdered sugar.  I didn't.  If you serve later, you may reheat in the microwave and then glaze if desired.  Chef recommends cutting with a plastic knife to prevent sticking.  I tried both and didn't have a problem.

A very moreish sort of treat.  I'll be sharing with everyone over at Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event  Drop by and check out some good cooking, restaurant food, etc.  Or jump right in with your own food related post.


Tomorrow There will be Apricots - in Lamb Tagine

Our current selection for  Cook the Books Club is, of course, Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots, by Jessica Soffer. Plenty of angst here.  Daughter, Lorca, longing for the love and affection of her cold mother (so remote we never even know her name) for her father, left behind, and not caring enough to fight for his daughter.  Lorca mutilates herself to escape the pain? I guess immediate pain knocks out the more existential sort.  Temporarily at least.  She longs to make her mother happy, and thinks preparing food for her, maybe finding the perfect dish will save her from boarding school. Then we have a grandmother who mourns her husband, gave her child away and now regrets it, a lifetime later.  The grandfather who mourns the loss of his child all those years ago.  The former mistress, Dottie, who mourns him as well.  The only character I really liked or identified with was Lorca's sweet boyfriend, Blot.  Yes, Blot.

I was dissatisfied with the end, as it didn't seem consistent with earlier sections.  If Joseph really believed that their child had been still-born, that certainly didn't come through in his POV sections.  If he told Dottie that later, it was most likely to protect his wife (and himself) from the shame of giving their child away.  That should have been revealed.  Also, at one point (P. 21)  Lorca's mother tells her sister that she had not tried to find her biological parents.  She hadn't wanted to.  Almost at the end, she tells her ex, and Lorca, "I found my parents... In the obituaries."  Doesn't really hold up, and seems more in tune with her character that she is lying.  Finally, Lorca is headed off to boarding school at the end, after nearly dying from her latest slashing episode.  Do we believe that the thought of her boyfriend and maybe father and grandmother visiting occasionally will stop more of this self-mutilation business?  Not really, but we can hope.  Bukra fil mish mish, the Arabic saying goes. Tomorrow, apricots may bloom.


Fish Wrapped with Leaves

 For some reason (Foodies will probably concur) I think this kind of thing is fun.  Breaks up the old cooking ruts.  Get a bunch of leaves, wrap up some fish with seasoning, and steam.  Those Asian bamboo steamers are great and come with several levels, so you can do lots or just other stuff at the same time.

I finely minced some kefir lime leaves, added ground "Grains of Paradise" (pepper will do) and salt.

Cut the banana leaf into two sections, about 10x12" or so each, set the fish on top (I used Ono, also known as Wahoo) then brushed the fillets with macadamia oil (olive would be fine), and patted on the seasoning.  Both sides.

Laid a pandan leaf, folded in half on top, then rolled it up and tied with another pandan leaf.  Or you could use cooking twine.  Hopefully, by this time your rice has almost finished cooking.

I had some tabbouleh left from the day before and got that out.

Now you get water boiling in the bottom of your wok, set the steamer on top with the lid on and let it steam about 5 minutes.


Maigret and the Chicken Paillard

Books and food, two of my favorite things, perhaps why I enjoy combining those subjects in a post.  The Inspector Maigret mystery series by Georges Simenon is one I've been working my way through.  Still more to go as he was a very prolific author, with close to 500 novels to his credit.  Simenon started very young, working as a newspaper reporter, which saw him visiting the seamier side of life in the city, but later provided plenty of material for his books.  The one I've just finished, Maigret and the Wine Merchant is typical.  They're all fairly lightweight, and not exactly cozy mysteries, but creative stories and interesting from a Parisian post-war perspective.  And I like his good relationship with Mrs. Maigret, who is always cooking up some delicious meal.

To go along with the French theme, we have a chicken breast, sort of a butterflied technique called paillard.  New to me, but maybe you all do up paillards on a regular basis.  I even had the grill, which had only ever been used, until lately for pancakes on the opposite side.  What a revelation, a use for something I already have.  Got to love that.  In case you're not familiar with the method, I'm going to lay it out for you from Serious Eats.  If you go to the link there will be photos of each step.


Asparagus Gratin and Rules of Civility

 Don't you just love coming across a new author, one who is witty, erudite, and just plain fun to read?  Rules of Civility, the very well-written debut novel of Amor Towles, hits all the high notes and then some, transporting us to the last years of the 1930's, .New York City prewar Cafe society,   Another time, and peopled with a cast of carefully drawn, singular characters, and an engaging narrative.  Highly recommended.

The book's heroine at one point determines that, being in a singular state at the time, is not going to stop her from enjoying a meal out on her birthday.  Dining alone was not usually something done by women.  Even today, it's not always an easy thing.  Assumptions are made.  She takes a taxi to a good French restaurant.

"After taking my name the maitre d' asked if I would like a glass of champagne while I waited.  It was only seven o'clock and less than half the tables were taken.  'Waiting for what?' I asked.  'Are you not meeting someone?'  'Not that I know of'.

This scenario is repeated with the waiter.  She perseveres however and orders an asparagus gratin and a glass of white wine, and for the entree, the specialty of the house: poussin stuffed with black truffle.

Now you have it. Where the urge came to make an asparagus gratin.  I've done various things with that lovely vegetable, but this was my first gratin.  Enough of a description was given to guide my selection of a recipe, and to make the appropriate adaptations.  Most had the stalks laid out whole, but I prefer eating them cut to a more reasonable size.


Skordalia and Horta - Not Just for Cretans

 I've just finished reading The Tomb of Zeus, by Barbara Cleverly, author of the terrific Joe Sandilands series.  This novel introduces her new series with protagonist, Laetitia Talbot, archeologist and occasional sleuth. The story takes place on a dig in Crete, where they will be searching for the legendary tomb of Zeus.  Of course a murder takes place and needs to be solved.

Her first night after arriving, Letty is served some local dishes, as her host, an eminent archeologist, is also a proponent of all things Cretan.  Their fare includes horta, and fried fish with Skordalia. His starter, which turns out to be a test of Letty's nerves, is a "chalky white mound of animal tissue folded in tightly curling waves and sitting in the middle of her plate...This culinary delicacy was surrounded by a moat of reddish-brown fluid..."  lamb's brains, just to see how she'd react.

I was not tempted to reproduce that particular dish, but the horta and skordalia piqued my interest.  Skordalia is a sauce (or dip) often served with fried, battered fish.  I wanted to try that.

When I visited Crete several years ago, it was during the off-season, and many restaurants were closed.  Nevertheless,  I do remember enjoying all of my meals. Complementary raki everywhere may have helped.  No one served me lamb's brains.


Meat Pies with Guacamole, Hooroo Curtis!

It's Hooroo Curtis week, we're saying goodbye, Aussie style to our currently reigning IHCC chef, Curtis Stone.  I don't always get a chance to participate, but have enjoyed the times I do.  For my farewell meal we had Meat Pies and Guacamole Curtis.

I lapped my pies over, empanada style however, and they paired nicely with his tasty guacamole, served on beds of crisp lettuce.  Here's the recipe from his web site, where you can find the meat pies as well.  Mine differs a bit, as I used left-over lamb stew from the freezer, which needed clearing out mate.  And, the extras make super lunches for the next day(s).  More on meat pies here and here.


Chilaquiles Verdes or Tortilla Casserole with Green Sauce

It's a real bonus when what you have, especially items that need to be used up, coincide with an easy, quick and delicious Mexican meal.  The IHCC theme this week was a Potluck with any of the past chefs, and Rick Bayless was my choice with his excellent book, Authentic Mexican.

I had just enough chicken, chicken broth, left-over tomatillo green sauce, the tortillas, and etc. etc.  Perfect.


The Bee's Kiss and Madeira Cake with Passion Fruit Glaze

This seems to be the season for slightly shady or shall we say perversely themed novels on my shelf.  The Frida thing done, I picked up The Bee's Kiss, by Barbara Cleverly, another in her Joe Sandilands mystery series.  I've enjoyed them so far, and am reading the books in order, this being her 5th in the series. The year is 1926 and Joe is back in London after a number of cases had kept the Commander in India.

A prominent, aristocratic feminist leader, Dame Beatrice, with high up connections, who turns out not not to be entirely what she seems, is bludgeoned to death in her suite at the Ritz.  Often mysteries will have a really unsympathetic and despicable character murdered at the start, and I am privately cheering.  This is definitely one of those.  Still the crime must be solved, the backstory discovered, and that is where we readers get involved and interested in the motives and whodunit.   Of course, this one does get resolved, not quite as we would expect, with all the internal betrayal, and upper level corruption going on, but still with unexpected twists and turns, solved in the end.