Turkey Paté Chinois or Pilgrims' Pie

Sometimes known as Shepherds' Pie or Cottage Pie, aka Paté Chinois, a name I was completely unfamiliar with, albeit quite familiar with the dish itself in its many guises, a veritable staple in the use of left-overs.

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2012 Hostess is Andy of Today’s the Day and Today’s the Day I Cook! Andy is sharing with us a traditional French Canadian classic the Paté Chinois, also known as Shepherd’s pie for many of us, and if one dish says comfort food.. this one is it!

According to Andy, the name for this dish, Paté Chinois, "translates from French as Chinese Pie. It’s an odd name for a French Canadian dish that doesn’t have any connection to Chinese food. The history of the name has been traced back to the Chinese cooks who worked at the camps for the railway builders in the late 19th century. Ground beef and potatoes were cheap and a dish could be spread out to feed many people."

My inspiration for this round of Daring Cooks' was turkey and breadfruit.  Using what's on hand being the main idea behind a Cottage Pie.  I was stumped on what to call it though.  Post Thanksgiving Pie?  Paté Pilgrim?  Of course, it would be the Pilgrims to Hawaii.  A later period in time.  Oh well.


Baked Guavas Stuffed with Cranberries and Sausage

These were originally meant to be Baked Stuffed Apples, as per Carolyn Hart's fictional character, the handsome, all around fantastic, Max Darling in Death Walked In.  A breakfast surprise he whips up for his wife.  How cool is that?  However I thought, this is Hawaii, and there are guavas at the moment, for which I have been feeling semi-guilty, due to neglect.  Hey they just were not calling my name.  Jam, chutney, compote, too cool for ice cream, been there, done that, boring.  But this, oh boy, oh boy, the potential!  Baked Guavas, stuffed with that sausage and cranberry combo, maple syrup drizzled over the tops.  As Rachel Ray would say, yum-o!

And they were, for sure, trust me, etc.  It was one of those experiments that come out just right the first time.  Tender, juicy, not too sweet, not too tart, flavorful ....deliciously perfect.  I did a riff off  Rachel Ray's recipe, due to Ms. Hart not providing one.  I will provide her version with my changes noted, and you can vary at will.

Since guavas are nicely tart, I skipped the vinegar, as well as the herbs, mustard, oil, salt and pepper.  You might want all those with apples, depending upon the flavor and sweetness of your fruit.


Lavender Scones and Mysteries

Mysteries and food, they make such a lovely pairing.  I can think of a number of writers who combine the two interests, and one of my favorites is Susan Wittig Albert.  This recipe for Lavender Scones comes from her 2004 mystery, A Dilly of a Death, featuring China Bales, sometime sleuth and proprietor of a small town herbal shop and tea room, somewhere in Texas.  Where is not exactly important, it is the fleshing out of characters, plot development and all the rest that make us come back for more.

Like these scones.  One of the more irascible characters quibbles that China should have left out some of the lavender.  That gave me pause.  But then you consider the person, and say no, I'll try it the way it's given.  What a waste of delightful lavender buds if you could'nt even get a taste.  And, I am here to tell you that there is just enough.  Perfection.  And, wait until you smell them baking; that by itself is wonderful.  Luckily I had some lavender remaining from an earlier experiment in marshmallow making, (Lavender Marshmallows, yum).


Feijoada - A Brazilian Feast for Daring Cooks

This is not to be confused with Black Bean Soup, which I and probably most of you have made many times.  What we have here is a cultural happening, a Brazilian feast comparable to Thanksgiving, for which one dish is not sufficient.  You don't just serve turkey.  At Thanksgiving there should be cranberries, sweet potatoes, stuffing....etc. etc.  Right?  It's like that.

Rachel Dana was our October 2012 Daring Cooks' Challenge hostess! Rachel brought Brazil into our lives by challenging us to make Feijoada and Farofa along with some other yummy side dishes traditionally served with Feijoada, which is a delicious black bean and pork stew.

Accompaniments to the main dish are Farofa (made with cassava flour), collards, (in my case kale since there were no collards) Vinaigrette (sort of pickled salad), sliced oranges, rice, and hot sauce.

For the pork in my Feijoada, part of it anyway, I used a "shoulder blade?" acquired by my friend Nancy's husband, from a naughty, roving wild boar, caught disturbing their gardens, and who came to a well deserved rest in our stew pots.

 I brined that chunk of meat with fresh sage, juniper berries, peppercorns and garlic.  And along with the blade, I used pork sausages and bacon.  All the meats are fried and browned separately before being added to the nearly cooked beans.

With this meal, it helps if you prepare it on a relatively free day.  I did it mostly Saturday, and spread out the prep time, doing things early and setting them aside.  Soaking the beans and brining the pork was begun the night before.

And actually,  I made my kale dish the night before as well.  We had some with our steaks  and there was plenty left to reheat for this extravaganza.  I like the method of par-boiling, after removing the stems and slicing thinly, then quick stir-frying in olive oil with garlic, salt and a bit of lemon.

In the morning while my beans started cooking, I made the garlic and onion base (see recipe below) and then the Vinaigrette.

This is a lovely, colorful side which can rest until dinner, conmingling flavors in the fridge while you rest between fixing all the various parts of your meal.

The Farofa comes together very quickly, while your stew is in the last few minutes of simmering or just sitting there all nice and hot with a cover.

I have to say that the Feijoada surprised me a bit, there weren't a whole lot of additional flavoring agents aside from the pork, beans, garlic and onions.  But the flavor rocked.  Just awesome.  Altogether, a marvelous meal and cultural experience as well, thanks to Rachel, our intrepid Brazilian leader. All her recipes will follow.  Everything you need for your own authentic feast.


Triple Cheese Stuffed Squash Blossoms, Baked

Another of those "bucket list" type foodie items, I'd been meaning, wanting, longing (maybe we're going too far here) to try.  Growing zucchini was not a success, as the snails kept eating my plants.  Then this week at our Hilo Farmer's Market, I spotted a large array of lovely squash blossoms.  Hurray!

Most recipes call for frying, so I was happy to find a baked version, which I thought might sit better on my stomach.  And it does.  Fried foods often create a heavy lumpish feeling there.  For me anyway.  Sorry Nancy.  She's from the South, where even salad might turn up fried.

The process was so easy, and the flowers tender, tasty and easy to work with.  I used the nicest looking ones for this stuffing experiment, and the rest (about half) will go into a Mexican soup tonight, from the Frida Kahlo cookbook


Hana Bay Banana Cream Pie

We do have a Hana here in Hawaii, on the island of Maui, however this is a Carabbean Hana, as in the rum, used in this pie for flavor.  Don't worry you tee totallers, it's cooked out.  Totally.  Trust me.

The trick with my version of Banana Cream Pie is actually not the rum, but lies in caramelizing the bananas first in butter and palm sugar.  Then you set that aside and make the custard, into which you stir all those lovely bananas.  The cream is in the custard and extra goes on top.  Yum.


Curried Chicken Salad on Watercress for Cook the Books Club

Our latest (Aug/Sept) Cook the Books Club selection was the lovely, and entertainingly intimate, foodie memoir by the late Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking.

The book reads like an extended, laid back conversation between a couple of good friends. You won't agree with everything anyone says, but the dialogue is never boring.  

For instance, I happen to love stuffing.  (She hates it) Prefer it to the turkey, in fact.  And a rolled stuffed flank steak, can be delicious, albeit like anything else, if done correctly.  Not haveing had a "gray and stringy" or overcooked one, perhaps I'm biased.  Still, reading that chapter gave me the impetus to try it her way, marinated and grilled fast, then sliced paper thin.  An excellent idea, especially as it is a much easier way of treating a good inexpensive cut of meat.

The chapter on "Repulsive Dinners" was especially reminiscent of that give and take sharing of experiences, between a few close friends, each outdoing the others with their most horrid dinner experience.  So freaking funny.  It begins:
"There is something triumphant about a really disgusting meal.  It lingers in the memory with a lurid glow, just as something exalted is remembered with a kind of mellow brilliance.....My life has been much enriched by ghastly meals..."
"For dessert we had a packaged cheesecake with iridescent cherries embedded in a topping of cerise gum and light tan coffee."


Spanish Paella with the Daring Cooks

Do you know, Paella is one of those dishes that has been on my cooking "bucket list" for a long time.  And, I finally got the kick in the pants that was needed to go ahead with the program..

Our Daring Cooks’ September 2012 hostess was Inma of la Galletika. Inma brought us a taste of Spain and challenged us to make our very own delicious Paella!

Being as Bob does not care for shellfish, a typical Paella was not on the menu, neither was I into doing a strictly vegetarian version. So I went out into the wilds of the interweb and did a bit of Spanish Paella researching.  It seems the original Valencian recipes didn't have fish, but did include rabbit, snails and beans. Ooookay, snails are plentiful here but again, Bob won't touch them, and doesn't much like rabbit either.  Beans are good, and some folks say rabbit tastes like chicken, so we are submitting a version of our own.  Based on what is available that Bob will eat.  Don't worry folks, I eat out often enough to get in my quota of all that other good stuff.

Paella is a bit like Risotto, except that the liquid is added all at once.  The rice is, ideally Calasparra or Bomba, similar to Arborio.  You want a nice starchy variety and Arborio, which I used, works fine.  Also it is briefly sauteed in olive oil first, as you would for a risotto.  I caramelized some onion, added lots of garlic, the diced chicken and ham, then the rice, before adding tomatoes, veggies and finally stock and herbs.  That, in brief, is the procedure.


The Daring Cooks Get Corny, Chalupas and Crusty Soft-centered Spoon Bread

 I have been looking into new ways of using cornmeal this past month.  Yes we like cornmeal pancakes a lot, waffles, tamales and even Corn Dodgers, polenta is a favorite, as well cornbread.  Still, we need to get out of our boxes.

Rachael of pizzarossa was our August 2012 Daring Cook hostess and she challenged us to broaden our knowledge of cornmeal! Rachael provided us with some amazing recipes and encouraged us to hunt down other cornmeal recipes that we’d never tried before – opening our eyes to literally 100s of cuisines and 1000s of new-to-us recipes!

The first recipe I tried was for a Crusty Soft-center Spoon Bread, which I had heard of and considered making in the past.  It sounds so yummy, I guess I just needed the impetus of this challenge to forge ahead.  Turns out to be a combination of cornbread  and pudding.  I added some grated cheese to the top, and we thought it was great.

The recipe, which was from my old Joy of Cooking, will follow. 

Next came Chalupas, a fairly obscure Mexican specialty, at least where we live, and I thought they would make a good entry for this challenge.  A type of tostada from south-central Mexico, particularly the states of Puebla, Guerrero and Oaxaca, they are much easier to make than tortillas (unless you are an accomplished tortilla maker), so tortillas for the amateur.  


Death by Darjeeling, and Tea-smoked Duck Breasts for Cook the Books Club

Our current read for Cook the Books Club is the cozy tea shop mystery, Death by Darjeeling, by Laura Childs.  If  death can be considered "cozy."  I've always wondered about that murder mystery appellation, though the tea shop and cafe she describes is certainly cozy enough to make me long for one in our town.

I've read others of her delightful books and come away with that same longing, as well as enlightenment on the subject of tea, the multitude of types with their unique flavors, from all around the world - India, Africa, South East Asia and China to a tea plantation in South Carolina, and, yes Hawaii.  We do have our own tea estates outside the town of Volcano, on the "Big Island."

I was so fascinated with the whole subject, thanks to Childs' book, that for purposes of burgeoning interest and research, I made an appointment to tour a local tea plantation,  Tea Hawaii, with hostess Eva Lee.

Eva Lee and her husband, Chiu Leong, founders of Tea Hawaii,  grow most of their tea in the understory shade of ohia trees.  I discovered that tea will thrive in shade or sun, and at various elevations.  Though, apparently the finest teas grow at higher elevations, due to the slower growth caused by a cooler climate.  Several cultivars  have been planted, and are kept pruned to just below waist height.


Golden Cauliflower with Penne, Prosciutto and Gruyere Mac 'n Cheese

I saw this lovely veg, sometimes referred to as a cheddar cauliflower, in a produce bin and, as occasionally happens to me in markets, it emitted a come and get me siren call.  I visualized colorful florets mixing and mingling with pasta in an upscale Mac'n cheese, with prosciutto and grated Gruyere cheese.   Luckily, the cheese aisle was right near, and I had the prosciutto.  Doesn't that  make you happy when an idea comes in time.  Not at home with ingredients missing.

According to an article in the Daily Mail, about the bright colored cauliflowers, "Some scientists have even claimed that they are healthier for you.  Andrew Coker, a spokesman for the plant company Syngenta - which is developing the plants in Europe - stressed that the colourful cauliflowers were not the result of genetic engineering, but came after decades of traditional selective breeding....
Tests of the orange cauliflowers in America found that they contained 25 times the concentrations of beta carotene in normal cauliflowers."


Saffron Scented Lobster, Sweet Potato and Green Beans, Baked En Papillote

Our July 2012 Daring Cooks’ host was Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie! Sarah challenges us to learn a new cooking technique called “Cooking En Papillote” which is French and translates to “cooking in parchment”.

Several years ago, baking in parchment became one of my favorite cooking methods, still it was good having the opportunity to expand upon it..  I wanted to try some new takes on the fabulous En Papillote.  For instance, I realized from the given recipes that various oven temperatures and cooking times were possible.  Previously I'd just stuck to a basic formula, with variations only in the ingredients, herbs, etc., on the theory that if it works, don't mess with it.

Fish seems to lend itself perfectly to this method of cooking.   So, for my first reprise it was salmon with sweet potato slices in a dressing of seasoned olive oil, paired with blanched kale, salted lemon and a few pats of butter.  I used fresh ginger in the sweet potato dressing, but those garlic chives got eliminated.

There is an element of fun in opening your mystery (to anyone else at the table) packet, aromatic steam puffing out, and dinner revealed.  They had just the right amount of moisture from the blanched kale, butter and sweet potato marinade.  Scoop it off the paper onto your plates and enjoy.

The next take involved a pair of overpriced lobster tails, saffron (they deserve each other), sweet potato again, just because it was so good, green beans and butter.  I sprinkled those garlic chives and blossoms on top after we opened the packets.

First cut out your 12x17" rectangles, then make a heart out of them by folding in half and cutting.  Now get all your ingredients ready.

I tossed the raw veggies separately in a mixture of melted butter, saffron, salt and pepper, then put the potatoes on the bottom, followed by green beans, and lobster tail, topping it all off with slivers of salted lemon and pats of butter.

You just make a nice little stack on one half of the heart.  Pretend you're a fancy chef plating up your creation.

And, remember the butter is good for you.  Everyone needs some healthy fat in their diet, to make sure all those fat soluble vitamins get utilized.

Now fold the other side over so the edges meet, make a seam, turning up a 1/2 inch or so to close the opening, then crimp little pleats to secure the edges.  Before closing off the top I added a tablespoon of white wine into each of my packets.  Bake at 400F for 15 minutes.  Let the packets sit for a few minutes before opening.

Just fabulous, decadent and so delicious with the saffron, butter and lemon scented lobster, the sweet potatoes and green beans done to perfection and then sprinkled with chopped chives.  Make yourself some and enjoy!

I still want to make the prosciutto wrapped asparagus, which was one of the recipes provided by our Daring Chefs hostess .  I'll add the directions for it after the break, as it is a bit different, being slow-roasted.  Our markets were out of asparagus, so my trial on that one may have to wait.


Salad Burrito with Green Olive Tepenade and Feta

Continuing with the salad variations for summer theme, this is a salad  burrito, which was inspired by a salad pita I saw online recently.  Pita, burrito, sandwich, breadlike thingy you put stuff in.

I have a long history of rutlike things I do.  One of which was only buying corn tortillas.  Recently I broke the mold, went hog wild and bought some flour tortillas.  So, we had a few.

This is not a recipe.  You don't need one.  It's just a thought.  Something you might like to try and then say, wow, so glad I did!  Many variations are possible.  I used feta, but you could lay some Mexican cheese on the hot tortilla, let it get a bit melty and then add on a bit of salsa and the salad.  I used Green Olive Paste or Tepenade, and that was quite tasty.


Crab Salad with Colorful Pasta Swirls

Going with the proposition that one can never have too many salads in the summertime, (and yes, you can be too thin - think anorexic) we have found another winning combination.  One with crunchy things, savory crabby notes, some green, some red, a carb or two (got to love those colored spirals), a hit of salty capers and a bite of daikon dice.  Just what your day needs to finish in a satisfying manner.  The actual elements can be varied according to what's available. 

The dressing has its own thing going with mayo and mustard, kefir, squeeze of agave nectar and lemon. It aims to please.  I think we need jolts of high intensity flavor when the weather is warmer.  Not to mention HOT.  It's not really here, but I know some of you are enduring real scorchers.   On the other hand, you folks in Australia and NZ might be more in the mood for hot stews.  With a side of Crab and Pasta Salad


The Lentil Salad to Die for, with Mangoes and Arugula

What in the world would summer be without salads?  Yes, a rhetorical question.  The answer being obvious.  When we are wilting, possibly melting into a puddle of sweat on the kitchen floor, who in their right mind wants to turn on that blasted oven?  No one, that's who.  We start thinking, from our nice lie down on the cool floor, of various and sundry salads.

This one begins with a foundation component of healthy flavor and protein, the lentils called in France, du Puy, renowned for holding their little shapes whilst being tossed about in a bowl with compatible associates.  We don't want mushy here.  This is not a curry.  It is a carefully composed work of art, with jewel like color, varied textures and loads of flavor.


Cannelloni di Magro for Daring Cooks

I was shocked to discover that Italians do not put chicken with pasta.  All these years I have been doing it  wrong.  Of course, I was also calling mannicotti, cannelloni.  And using the terms interchangeably.  Bad, bad, bad.  What was on my menu as cannelloni, it turns out, was actually mannicotti, since I have always used crepes instead of pasta.  Well, except when I bought the tubes of dry pasta on occasion.  So there you have the history of my culinary wrongdoing.

Manu from Manu’s Menu was our Daring Cooks lovely June hostess and has challenged us to make traditional Italian cannelloni from scratch! We were taught how to make the pasta, filling, and sauces shared with us from her own and her family’s treasured recipes!

I am now on a reformed course.  However, possibly I wasn't too, too off the mark, as far as chicken goes, since technically, the filling was in CREPES, not pasta.  So there.  It has always been a very handy way of using up a bit of left-over meat.

 I decided to do the Cannelloni di Magro version of the various ones suggested, using grated zucchini instead of spinach.  According to our hostess, “Magro” means “lean”, but when used in a recipe it actually means “without meat”, so it is a vegetarian dish."   Our market's organic spinach selection didn't look all that great, so going with locally grown zucchini seemed a better bet, especially paired with some fresh garden herbs.

A few green onions, basil and parsley were added to kefir cream cheese, Monteray jack, which I happen to prefer to mozzarella (so kick me) and parmesan Reggianito cheese, mixed together with the grated zucchini for my filling.  After grating your squash, be sure to salt and drain on paper towels for 30 minutes or so.  Then squeeze any extra liquid out before adding the other ingredients.

 The directions for the bechamel sauce and the pasta I followed as given.  I did notice that the amount of flour called for was more than what I usually need, but did it anyway.  Yes, as it turns out, I had to add more milk (and some wine) to get it right.  Other than that, everything went great.  The pasta was as easy as doing a batch of crepes.


Spiced Shortbread with Passion fruit Ginger Glaze

My Nephew, Kalani, back in Hawaii after several years away on the Mainland, informed me that he had made this shortbread for his co-workers there, to great acclaim.  I then asked, "...and where did you get the recipe?"  To which he said (as I knew he'd better), "From mom."  "And, where do you think she got it???" I asked.  Yes,  the end of the recipe trail, as you may have guessed, moi.  At least as far as our family goes. So, an old favorite here in an upbeat incarnation, with the addition of lillikoi (as we call passion fruit) syrup in the glaze.  When they are in season I make both jam and syrup, so we have it on hand all year.

It's  a wonderful buttery, crunchy shortbread, abetted nicely by spices and the fresh ginger, citric tangy glaze.  But even better, if that's possible, it bangs together so quickly.  Which is a good thing in my book, otherwise I don't usually have either time or energy to make dessert, unless for a special occasion.


Creamy Green Puna Penne with Three Cheeses

Our latest Cook the Books Club selection, The United States of Arugula, by David Kamp, has been on my shelf for at least two years, waiting I guess for this incentive to take more than a brief dip.  Just to dive in and immerse myself in "The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution" as per the book's sub title.  So glad I did.

This well-researched, historical commentary on the food movement, which however predates the more recent explosion of internet food blogs, is filled with tongue-in-cheek, and out of cheek foodie gossip, fascinating background information on food production in America, biographies of the culinary leaders of our day and their impact on The Art of Eating, as M.F.K. Fisher called it.

What grows in our own neighborhoods, and turns up at the local market, the big move to regional cooking, well covered in this history of the food revolution, inspired my take on the prosaic Mac 'n Cheese, well known in its often insipid, pre-packaged, boxed incarnations.  I loved the idea of a green revolution in this common, yet favorite dish.  Locally grown kale from my natural foods grocery and the cream cheese I make from kefir.  Creamy green goodness, proving that food can taste as delicious as it is good for you.


Gazpacho Sevillano for Summer

Another retro dish, or we could say a classic, popular in way more places than Spain.  Fabulous in hot weather, an icy cold soup full of  fresh vegetables that scream Summer is here!  I must confess to having some in a new favorite restaurant, and thinking, "This is not the way it should be.  I can do a much better job."  And I did.  So, no one is perfect.  They make great tapas.

My take is not going to please any purists, but as the original version, eons ago, had no tomatoes (this was before they hit the Old World), relying instead on almonds and lots of bread, do we really want to be iconic about it?  Anyway there are a gazillion versions out there. 

Here's the thing.  Just because it's hot, there is still soup stock to be used.  I recycle those bones and bits of veggies into my freezer bag until it is full, and then there is stock.  So, for this version, since a container of the stuff got defrosted to make something that didn't get made, I reduced it down to half, then let it chill out in the freezer.  A flavor boost of umaminess.  For all I know, this is a happening thing in Seville or Cadiz.


Satute to Julia, Beef Bourguignon for Daring Cooks

I am absolutely sold on this recipe for Beef Bourguignon.  It is positively, the best. Trust me. Our May 2012 Daring Cooks’ hostess was Fabi of fabsfood. Fabi challenged us to make Boeuf Bourguignon, a classic French stew originating from the Burgundy region of France.

The method called for mushrooms and small onions cooked separately to be added at the finish, but I used green beans, since I had some nice fresh ones from the Farmer's Market, and potatoes  just because Bob likes them with beef stew, or anything really. There were no tiny onions available in any case, but when they hit our market I will try caramelizing them, as per the recipe and adding at the finish.

We will be making more on a regular basis.  Tonight for instance.  There is some danger involved however; all those enticing aromas wafting out of your house could attract strangers in off the street. 


The Best Granola You Will Ever Eat Recipe

I was not satisfied with my old granola recipe, or any of the other versions attempted lately, and decided to do a bit more good old-fashioned research, online that is.  What finally called out to me from the Google stream was the funny Traveler's Lunchbox story of Melissa's search for the perfect cereal.  A must read.   After giving her recipe a try, I found it to be truly as fantastic as claimed, the best granola.you will ever eat.  Ever. Totally worth all of her experimenting to find that secret formula.  The "Lip Lady's" secret recipe is a secret no more.  Nice crunchy clusters full of flavor, goodness.

 It is pretty hard to tell from a photo how good a particular granola is, but I want to encourage you to give Melissa's version a go.  Having tried umpteen varieties of this popular breakfast food myself , you can believe me when I say, at the risk of being repetitive, it is the cook-off champion.