Rosey Tea and Pumpkin Pie

Tea in a basket.  This should actually be called a Tisane.  I collected from our gardens, Red Zinger hibiscus flowers and buds, lemongrass, some kumquats and a couple of allspice leaves.  Pour boiling water over and there's your tea.  Well, not exactly.  I just used a bit of zest from one of the kumquats.  I'm going to make a Starfruit Chutney and add the remaining kumquats to that (I love the word - just something about it, reminds me of an old W.C. Fields movie, where he calls Mae West, "My little Kumquat" in his inimitable style.

My daughter, granddaughter, and her Silkie chicken joined me.  It was a ladies' tea.  With leftover pumpkin pie.  Those hibiscus flowers and buds made the lovliest rose color in the pot.
Actually, there was one piece of pie left, and two custards with whipped cream.  With the extra pumpkin pie filling I baked two souffle dishes in a bain marie (larger pan filled with water in which souffle dishes are sitting).  For the pumpkin pie this year I used what was left after my soup, defrosted, dumped into the blender with some cream cheese, eggs, cream, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar, bourbon, and of course, the inevitable ground Wattleseeds.  They're finding their way into all sorts of dishes lately, as part of my ongoing experiment in using the suckers up.  In this instance, the flavor was there, not pronounced, but a presence bringing the usual pumpkin pie spices up a notch.  I added extra cream and cream cheese as I wanted a less dense pumpkin, more cheese cakey kind of thing, but not.  If you know what I mean.
This tea was also fine iced.  I just looooove the color.


Thanksgiving, Giving Thanks, Giving Time

These precious kids are busy working at a local collection site, to get OCC shoeboxes off to bless other kids all over the world.  Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritans Purse, an International Relief organization headed by Franklin Graham.  Each year shoe boxes are filled with things a child living  in a place of famine, extreme poverty, war, or other disaster hit areas, might need, or just be encouraged to receive - toys, toiletries, school supplies, clothing, even, yes, shoes.  Each box has a label indicating boy or girl, and which age range.  I've heard some amazing stories about boxes reaching a child with exactly what that little person had been needing, down to the perfect shoe size.

It's not too late to pack a box.  Find out how.  This is a splendid time to give thanks, in action as well as word.  Most of us (here in the cyberworld)  have so much to be thankful for.


Pumpkin, Chicken and Lemongrass - TGRWT #20

An organically grown, roasted pumpkin.  Isn't it lovely?
One of the most intriguing food events I've yet to come across, is called, "They Go Really Well Together", or TGRWT, and features a monthly challenge to combine two different foods, not ordinarily used together, in a recipe, and see how it works out.  I love things that stretch me in various areas, cooking included.  This month's combo is pumpkin and cooked chicken, with lemongrass as an additional option, hosted by John at Docsonz - the Blog.

This particular realm of the blogosphere seems to be inhabited primarily by chemists, doctors and chefs, so I'm definitely out of my orbit.  Zooming along irregardless with the big boys and girls.  The event was started by a Norwegian chemist, Martin Lersch, interested in molecular gastronomy, who states on his site, that it was: "to explore flavor pairings suggested by the hypothesis that if two foods have one or more key odorants in common it might very well be that they go well together and perhaps even compliment each other."

So, there you have it.  This month's pairing is actually not all that unusual - pumpkin and cooked chicken, even including the lemongrass.  You should just peruse some of the previous months for stranger ones.  I haven't gone through all of them yet, but it is one of my goals.  Anyway, this weekend, having some cooked chicken thighs left over, I took off the meat and reserved it.  Then used the bones, together with other saved chicken bones, and frozen vegetable scraps to make up a stock.  You can see where this is going.  Soup.

 Couldn't resist this picture, saved last year, the origin of which I've forgotten.
I  roasted a pumpkin, brushed with olive oil, for an hour (it was still slightly firm, so could have gone another 15 min.) and we had it with butter and blue cheese that night as a side.  The next night, all the  required ingredients were available, stock, chicken and pumpkin. The lemongrass was dug up from my garden.

As a side note, of which I'm quite proud, the seeds, separated out from the fiber, without too much trouble, dumped into a roasting pan with 2 tablespoons of butter and some seasoned BBQ salt, were stirred around,  then roasted at 400F for about a half hour, stirring several times.  I can't figure out why recipes tell you to wash them first??  I mean, what exactly is on those seeds anyway?  They've been enclosed inside a pumpkin, with a bit of pumpkin juice on them, which only adds to the flavor when caramelized with butter.  A very nice snack and too easy as well.

2 cups roasted pumpkin, cubed
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon ground wattleseed (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced galangal ginger
2 teas. finely minced lemongrass (white part)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1 zucchini, sliced
juice of 2 lemons
6 cups chicken broth
Cooked chicken (I used the meat from 3 thighs)
A hearty grind of black pepper, salt to taste
Lemon basil shreds to garnish

So, the next thing, after the various elements (chemistry term) are gathered together, is to bring the stock to a boil in your soup pot, then reduce it to simmering.   I added my chicken in at this point to soften a bit more, then removed and shredded the meat before adding it back in.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium pan, add the cubed (cooked) pumpkin and stir in the cumin and wattleseed powder (if desired -  I just bought some online, and am trying it out in various dishes  - an experiment). Cook til lightly caramelized, then remove and set aside. 

Heat the olive oil in your pan, then toss in the onion and zucchini, stir fry for a few minutes until the vegetables are softening, then add  the garlic, lemongrass and galangal (or regular ginger).  Cook maybe 5 minutes before putting everything into your simmering chicken stock, including the pumpkin.  Simmer 30 minutes or so to give all the flavors a chance to merge.  Add ground black pepper and additional salt to taste.  Garnish with shreds of Lemon basil.
I believe this could be called a Thai Pacific Fusion dish.  We all really enjoyed the flavor combination, pungent, yet not overpowering, umami, spicy and rich, as I did not remove the chicken fat.  There wasn't all that much.  So, take as much off your stock as you want.  I think a little adds flavor and the unctious element.
But, the next day, as a further experiment, the flavors having melded even more, I did remove fat from the top, and going with the Asian theme, stirred in about 3/4 cup coconut milk (one of those small cans) . So, ended up with fat after all.  But, the taste was just that added element up the scale of goodness. The only thing I'd possibly add would be turmeric when stir frying the vegetables, just for the color.  Not to mention health benefits.... Also, hindsight being what it is, I would definitely add more lemongrass. It combines well with the chicken and pumpkin, just needs to be more assertive.  Next time I'd add 2 or more tablespoons of the minced white lemongrass bottoms.  And, there will be a next time.


Fruit Crepes for Brunch

It's Brunch time on Monthly Mingle, an event hosted by Meeta of What's For Lunch Honey? A slight disclaimer is called for here. I'm not really a "Brunch Person" as such.  The closest we come to it is Sunday mornings.  Since we don't leave for church until 10:00,  it's the one day we both can sleep in a bit, and I can make something nice.  Actually the only day we eat breakfast together.  So,  I'll call it brunch.  At any rate, these fresh, fruit-filled crepes make a delightful breakfast or brunch. My absolute, hands down, favorite.

I use whatever fruit is fresh and seasonal.  These are filled with the last of the year's sweet and juicy white pineapple. Also particularly good are strawberries, mango or bananas lightly sauteed in butter.  I use a crepe batter recipe handed down from my mother-in-law, the only variation being a substitution for milk,  if I don't happen to have any, with a soy powder mix called "Better Than Milk", which is actually very good, and handy to have in your pantry.

The Crepes Ingredients
1 cup flour
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (approximately)
1 teas. vanilla (if making sweet crepes) optional
2 oz. butter, melted

I don't think I've ever added any sugar to the batter, as it isn't really necessary.  Whip the eggs, add a bit of the milk, a half cup or so, beat, then begin shaking the flour in, while beating the whole time, to prevent lumps forming.  Add more milk and continue until the consistency is like medium heavy cream.  Then, whip in the cooled, melted butter, and vanilla if using. The batter should coat a spoon dipped into it.

Heat a small crepes skillet, add a tiny bit of butter, melt, and pour in about 1/4 cup of batter, swirling immediately to coat the bottom of the pan.  Cook until it shifts when you shake the pan, then flip.  Cook a minute or so, then remove onto a plate, and repeat the process til you have a nice stack.

Chop your fruit in nice little chunks and put in a dish.  Arrange a selection of jams, syrups and sour cream or yogurt on the table, as well as a powdered sugar sieve if preferred.  I like the look and taste of sifted confectioners sugar on top of my crepes. The juxtaposition of flavors, tangy, yet sweet pineapple, guava jam, the light, egg crepe, and rich creamy yogurt, is outstanding.

 First a smear of jam, then the fruit, and top it with sour cream or yogurt (that's how I do it).
It's nice to let everyone fill and roll their own, as desired.  If you have more than one type of fruit available, so much the better.  This recipe is good for about 3 people.  We usually have enough left that I can make savory dinner crepes (canneloni) in a day or so.

Join us for brunch, there will be lots of tasty dishes to choose from at The Mingle Brunch.


This and That

We are drowning in Hawaii with all the rain that's been pouring down.  The entire Island is inundated.  I need to go out and pick lemons, starfruit, plant some things, do weeding, but gardening is definitely not a happening thing right now.  I am glad that the internet is up, so I can catch up on my favorite sites, we're warm and dry inside and that there is no need to drive anywhere through the flooded streets.

On an unrelated to anything in particular note, my grandson picked this hibiscus (our State flower) and brought it in for me a few days ago. So beautiful it needed to be featured here.

Rain from the deck roof goes down a copper chain, into a rain barrel and from there, via buried hose, to the pond.  Overflowing today.

As for cooking, this is a perfect day for soup, or baking brownies.  Or, both.


Breadfruit Time Again

We have been foraging breadfruit for years here on the Big Island.  Then, several years ago, when we bought a house in town to convert to an office, there was a tree in back, so no more need to go out and forage.  Now, this year for the first time, our young breadfruit tree at home has fruited.  Two whole breadfruits!  Small, but tasting fine.

I love the leaves on this tree.  They have been an inspiration for many Hawaiian quilters.

The last time I posted about breadfruit, it was a Polynesian  pudding type dish.. For that, you let the fruit sit out till soft and turning crusty brown on the outside.

With this fruit I boiled it while still green (the other is destined for a pudding experiment).  You simply cover  with water, cover the pot and bring to a boil.  Turn down to simmer and cook for about an hour.  Since mine was fairly small it only took 45 minutes.  Then, let it cool, cut in half, trim away the skin and core, and cut into slices or chunks, depending on what you are going to do with it.

I tossed the slices in seasonings and fried them in some macadamia nut oil til nice and crispy on the outside.  Serve as a side with anything you'd normally serve potatoes with.  If serving with a curry, I would just add them in to absorb the  flavors, without frying first.

A lot got eaten before I remembered to take a picture at the end of the process. I think my mind was on stuffing my face rather than photography or blogging?  This one had just a hint of the ripening flavor, which I love.  When it's greener, the flavor is blander, more like potato or taro.


Yes, Butter's Better

Real actual butter.  Accept no substitutes.
This is my smug butter post.  Feeling proud of myself for always being highly suspicious of margarine.  That stuff people, in the olden days, would  squeeze food coloring into themselves (before colored margarine was legal), and which is supposed to stand in for butter.

Recently I got an email (apparently this has been in circulation since June 2003), which I'm going to pass along, just because it confirms everything I believe about the subject anyway.  My favorite kind of information.  Self confirming, and self affirming.  Besides which, it is very timely, mentioning the word "turkeys", several times.  Actually, it was a lot more fun before I had to eliminate the turkeys and a few other unproven statements, thanks to truthorfiction.com  However, there's enough material left here to totally keep me away from the can't believe it stuff.  I will be basting my turkey with butter, thank you.

Pass The Butter .. Please.

Do you know the difference between margarine and butter?

Both have the same amount of calories.

Butter is slightly higher in saturated fats at 8 grams; compared to 5 grams for margarine.

Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53%, over eating the same amount of butter, according to a recent  Harvard Medical Study.

Butter has many nutritional benefits where margarine has a few and only  because they are added!

Butter tastes much better than margarine and it can enhance the flavors of other foods.

Butter  has been around for centuries where margarine has been around for less than 100 years .

And now, for Margarine..

Very High in Trans fatty acids. ( My note: All food labels must now disclose how much Trans fat a product contains and it has been eliminated from some margarine products).

Increases  total cholesterol and LDL (this is the bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL cholesterol, (the good cholesterol)

Lowers quality of breast milk.

Decreases immune response.

Decreases  insulin response.

These facts alone were enough to have me avoiding margarine for life, and anything else that is hydrogenated (this means hydrogen is added, changing the molecular structure of the  substance).

You can try this little experiment yourself:

Purchase a tub of margarine and leave it open in your garage or shaded area.  Within a couple of days you will notice a few things:

  *  no flies, not even those pesky fruit flies will go near it (that should tell you something)

  *  it does not rot or smell differently because it has no nutritional value; nothing will grow on it.  Even those teeny weeny  (a scientific term), microorganisms will not a find a home to grow.

I am recommending my grandchildren do the experiment for a science project.  Scopes has also reported on this internet forward.


French Onion Soup

This was my first ever attempt making French Onion Soup, the October challenge at Recipes to Rival.  It was a bit more time consuming and involved than I would ordinarily allow for a meal, but those savory aromas coming from the kitchen, first with simmering beef stock, and then my pot full of caramelizing onions, were a payoff, even before we got to the tasting part, three days later.  Day one making the beef stock from scratch; day two caramelizing onions, which for some reason took 8, instead of 5 hours, for me to get to the point described as a "rich, deep brown", unfortunately not in time for dinner that evening.  So, day three we ate the finished soup.  I now appreciate fully having it served up to me in a restaurant, by a smiling, sweat free waiter. 

First, in making the stock I skipped the step where you put a half onion, cut side down in a hot skillet and let it char black for 30 minutes.  Just couldn't see blackening my nice Le Creuset pot.  Instead I put it in the roasting pan after the bones were done, removing most of the fat first.  That worked very nicely.  Also, I used some of that reserved fat to coat the rest of the vegetables for roasting, in the same pan.  Not working in a commercial kitchen with lots of sous chefs helping, it's good to save on pans and washing up.

As I had mentioned, wanting to keep to the low temperature stressed in the recipe, this large (over 2 gallon) pot full of onions took me from 1:00 in the afternoon until 9 p.m. to reach the deeply caramelized state.  Next time, if there ever is one, I'd speed this process up a wee tad.  I had a question with the amount of onions called for as well.  It gives you about three times what is needed for the soup.  I'm not complaining here, friends, they'll be dandy in Pommes de Terre Boulangère, a recipe I noticed yesterday at The Wednesday Chef.  Basically, crispy fried potatoes with caramelized onions.  Luisa mentioned that she would have doubled or tripled the recipe if she'd known how good they'd be.  Well, here we are with a triple portion.  I'm going to make those potatoes  with eggs for breakfast tomorrow.

So, now on day three, all the elements are present and accounted for, combined in my big Dutch Oven pot, simmered for an hour, and then into individual, oven-proof?  soup bowls.  Topped with croutons and then cheese (I used Gruyere for the extra zap of flavor) and put them under the broiler for a few minutes.  I was a bit nervous at this step, worrying about the bowls cracking, things boiling over, and ended up not filling them as high as recommended. I think you just have to resign yourself to a mess, and go with the overflow.
Served with extra bread and a salad of arugula, fresh tomatoes and steamed green beans, it was very filling and the flavors were wonderful.  The rest (and I'm glad there is quite a bit) should be even better after melding together for another day or two.  Check out the recipe for a really delicious classic soup, hosted by Sara this month at Recipes to Rival.  For everyone's take on it, visit the blogroll.
PS - or The Morning After French Onion Soup
What can be done with some of those brilliant, sweet caramalized onions left over?  Lacking the potatoes mentioned above, I layered the onions, after they were nice and hot in the bottom of my skillet, and  to which I had added a bit more of that Sherry Vinegar, with eggs and topped it all off with thin slices of beautiful Serrano Ham.

Next on the agenda of things to do with them: French Onion Pizza - which you have to admit has almost everything the soup does: caramelized onions, cheese, bread.  Looking forward to it.