Ready, set, WAKE UP!!! I’m not kidding this is your 4am wake up call in paradise, seriously grab some Kona coffee put on your warm clothes (not kidding you will be in a freezer) and head out on the H1 Highway to Pearl City. The Honolulu Fish Auction is your destination, if you choose to take this crack of dawn food tour, please I beg you, go on the tour, but call ahead to make sure they are open I believe they are closed on Sundays. Have you ever wondered how fish is graded for sushi? How about watching the fishing boats unload their catch? This can all be done and I guarantee you will receive an education like no other and you will love it! Even better, bring cash with you and just like the fish markets and restaurants you can purchase your own fresh caught fish at a fraction of the price.
The prize I was after was a little know fish outside of Hawaii and the South Pacific, coming in anywhere between 1-18 pounds. Long about late summer when Hawaii’s waters turn cool the fish in deep waters develop a nice fat layer which adds a sweeter level to their flavor. I was after Hawaiian pink snapper, Opakapaka. This sweet and delicious fish is found at depths between 18 and 600 feet , all Opakapaka are caught by deep water hand line gear with power reels. The bright pink flesh garners a higher desire for its sashimi cuts because of delicate sweetness.
Once I found my prize fish I headed back to our condo and started my food prep, the Opakapaka was seasoned and wrapped in foil then placed in the fridge to marinate. In addition I sliced up some Hawaiian sweet onions and seasoned with salt and pepper, fresh cut pineapple spears were in a zip bag with teriyaki sauce and red chili flake. Chinese long beans were in a foil pouch with sesame seed oil, sliced fresh ginger, Hawaiian sea salt and pepper. Long about 5:00pm I turned on the rice cooker and out the door I headed with our food, I was set to go make friends with that spectacular and ridiculous sized Weber grill outside. Now is where I slammed on the breaks, I turned the corner at the BBQ area entrance and you know that feeling when you walk in a room and all of a sudden every eye is on you and you might possibly be getting the judgement stare. Well, welcome to my experience, however there was a great lesson to be learned.
I made my way over to a grill and started to place all of my items on the table, pretty quickly the other people a the grills were looking my way. Then the questions started, “what’s in the foil?” “What are those long green things?” “Why is that pineapple red?” “You have a whole fish in there, can we see it?” “You a chef or something?” Welcome to Kate’s Curious Kitchen impromptu cooking school, there I was teaching six men and their friends all about layering flavors, fresh caught fish and how to get out of a BBQ rut. I should have charged them but I got a few nice beers out of it so all is good.
The moral to this culinary story is simple, share. Always share your knowledge, someone somewhere does not know how to cook what you are cooking and if they are interested, show them. Be open to new flavors, I really shocked the men when I grilled off some of that pineapple they were set on not liking it and low and behold there i was texting them the recipe. Simple twists and ingredient changes can develop a whole new level of flavor. Just like the previous post I have included some links for you to make your Hawaiian food shopping a bit easier, in no way am I receiving any compensation for providing these links. I just want you to have fun coking your food!
Ok I will admit it I needed a change of view, the past two and a half years have been quite the bullet train ride of change and direction. I thought a good rest would help me focus on my blog, give me some recipe inspiration and it would also be a time for my family to just laugh, play and watch incredible sunsets. After unpacking the pantry in our new home I realized my stock of Hawaiian salts, spices, coffee and kiawe wood (guava wood) for my smoker were horribly low. With all of our bags packed we flew 3,750 miles from our Texas home to the beautiful northern most point of the Polynesian triangle, Hawaii! We landed on Oahu and made our way through Honolulu on the H1 highway to the west side of the Island. Ko’Olina was our home away from home with its pale brown sugar sand beach and that azure blue ocean I could feel my stress slipping away. As a bonus our home had a fully stocked kitchen and a beautiful outdoor BBQ area that just called to me.
I decided before we ever set foot on the plane that the majority of our meals were not going to be at restaurants, I was going to cook the bulk of them. I needed the prep to be easy because we had places to go and things to do, from exploring a coffee and chocolate plantation to a ride on the pineapple train. The extent of our food ingredients would be local and I wanted them as fresh as possible, I decided the best sources would be farmers markets, small farms, local stores and plantations. One important factor for me was time, my time! I was not going to spend all day in the kitchen cooking and cleaning while we were in Hawaii. Paradise provided only because I was willing to go on the quest!
We ate fresh caught fish, sustainably raised pork, chicken and shrimp I found organic fruit and vegetables that were grown about 10 miles from our condo. Every morning we drank coffee that was roasted just days before it was packaged from a coffee estate that welcomes visitors. I was able to source salt and seasoning blends made from ingredients right on the island. All right I admit it I even found Hawaiian shaved ice syrups for my children, in Texas shaved ice is a must when its 110 degrees and 99.9% humidity in August!
In the car and off for an adventure my family and I were set with one thing in mind, Kaluku garlic shrimp. Our island food scavenger hunt was on and this dish has to possibly be the North Shores best food destination. These shrimp trucks are world famous and I can not begin to tell you that a trip to Oahu is not complete with out driving up coast to the North Shore. It’s not the white sand beaches, the perfect waves at Waimea Bay or the miles of hiking in the lush rainforest in the Waimea Falls Park. Nope, it’s the garlic shrimp from the shrimp trucks of the North Shore!
At Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp Farm these delicious sweet and briny local crustaceans are sustainably farm raised gems of the Hawaiian aquaculture. Pull over and take the tour the farm it’s there for you to visit and see how shrimp are grown and the inventive way they collect the shrimp from one of the 80 outdoor ponds will shock you. Get back in your car and drive up the road to the shrimp truck capitol of Oahu, it’s at most a 5-10 minute drive depending on how many chickens are trying to cross the road. I’m not kidding if you have watched the Disney movie Moana, you will see Hei Hei the ridiculous rooster everywhere.
To make this recipe as authentic as you can, use a rice cooker and Hinode rice; the #1 brand Hawaiians have used for over 40 years. A large heavy duty aluminum pan is also key, because you have to get that pan screaming hot for the short cook time. I have also added a few website links so you can easily shop for your ingredients, I do not receive any compensation from these companies, I have provided the links to save you some searching time.
Mahalo and enjoy!
Kaluku Garlic Shrimp
2 pounds of jumbo shrimp, shell on, de-veined and patted dry.
15 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup flour, all purpose
3 teaspoons paprika
3 teaspoons Hawaiian Sea Salt or Sea Salt
3 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup fish stock or chicken stock
Chopped parsley or chives for garnish
In a disposable aluminum pan or pie pan mix together flour, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.
Dredge the shrimp in the flour mixture, remove and set aside on a baking sheet, throw away remaining flour in the pan if there is any.
Preheat your large skillet for 2-4 minutes on medium high heat, add the clarified butter to the pan, heat 2 minutes.
Add chopped garlic to pan and cook for about a minute.
Add your seasoned shrimp, cook for 3 minutes.
Turn shrimp over, cook 3 to 4 until the shrimp are a rich pink color.
Pour wine and stock into the pan and start to scrape all the caramelized garlic bits from the pan, cook for 2 minutes, taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
Serve over steamed rice, garnish with chopped parsley and the lemon wedge if you choose.
October 2nd 2017 was another usual Monday grocery store day. I was driving, listening to Tom Petty Radio on Sirius XM. There’s just something about the winding roads and rolling Central Texas hills sprinkled with live oak, pecan and mesquite trees. Listening to songs like Runnin’ Down a Dream, Good to Be King, Learning to Fly, Time to Move On and my personal favorite Walls (No. 3). There it was, the breakthrough announcement of his passing. My breath quickly left me like a deflated soufflé, my heart felt like it lost a beat and my body just stopped like so many others did in that moment. I thought “this is a joke, this can’t be real, someone has made a huge mistake. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had just finished their 40th anniversary tour seven days ago. He was on top of his game, resting and relaxing at his home in California.”
Tears started to trickle down my face and I knew I was not the only one. There were many others in the parking lot with me, just sitting in their cars in shock. I was watching their mouths “What? Tom Petty, NO!” I could not believe the sadness that just washed over me, there was never going to be another Tom Petty or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers new music album ever again. Just like the Traveling Wilburys, when “Lefty Wilbury”- Roy Orbison passed suddenly after a heart attack their music was never the same. The magic was gone.
That’s Tom to me, pure musical magic. Maybe because Gainesville, Florida is not too far from where my Grandfather spent time becoming a man. Working hard at learning under water plumbing and welding that one day would lead him to a career in the Navy and a Bronze Medal for his underwater demolition skills in WWII. I loved his stories about being that master plumbers apprentice the hot thick air, the Southern sound of music from the early 1930’s and how Florida was a place all on its own. But he also said once you have lived there you needed to move on from there if you wanted to become someone. Tom Petty said the same thing to Warren Zane, his friend and autobiographer many years later.
I entered the grocery store, found my cart and slowly pushed it through the aisles, not a single thing was calling to me. I had wandered to about the middle of the store then turned down an isle and there was the display of White Lily Flour. Suddenly Miss Edna Lewis and her buttermilk biscuit recipe came bursting through my sad heart. If you don’t know who Edna Lewis is, please keep reading, if by chance you do know then enjoy a brief recap of her many accomplishments. Edna Lewis, born in 1916 was the Granddaughter of a Virginia emancipated slave who helped start the community of Freetown, Virginia. She may be known to some as the African-American Chef who was graced by the USPS with her own well-deserved stamp in the Forever Stamp Culinary Professionals Issue. To others she was an award winning culinary artist, the Mother of Southern Food. In 1995 the James Beard Foundation created an award for her, the distinguished Living Legend Award.
Kitchen Aid Cookbook Hall of Fame inducted her in 2003, Les Dames d’Escoffier named her Grande Dame in 1999. She grew up cooking food, simple food, real food with layers of rich flavor and love that translated into some of this world’s best and loved comfort food recipes. She became the Chef at Café Nicholson and there she erupted the culinary world with refined Southern Cooking! Tragedy happened, Edith broke her leg and for a bit of time she was sidelined from cooking. Then a meeting happened with Judith Jones, yes that Judith Jones the one who discovered Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Julia Child. Miss Edna was encouraged to turn over her hand-written pages of stories and recipes to create The Taste of Country Cooking, which in 1976 was published by Knopf publishing house.
So many of today’s Chefs have this very book on their shelves and refer to it often. Some culinary schools require their students to read it. Don’t believe me? Go find that book at your local library or bookstore then after reading the pages and working the recipes start looking at today’s comfort food recipes. There you will see the imprint she has made on cooks and chefs for over the past 40 years. She brought pan fried chicken and its simplicity to home cooks, light and flavorful buttermilk biscuits, fresh garden preserves and hands down her corn pudding recipe is the only one you will ever need. If you search the internet, please do yourself a favor skip all the “adapted from” recipes and stick to hers, the original. They are simply the best and so is her technique in my honest opinion.
White Lily Flour has been in production since 1883 with the company tag line of “When you bake with White Lily, you’re baking with history, tradition, and love.” If you have not baked with White Lily Flour you are in for a treat, it simply creates the lightest textured baked goods because it’s a soft red winter wheat. White Lily is the Southern staple for making biscuits, pie doughs and cakes. Well there it was, buttermilk biscuits the comfort food I needed and craved. Once I was home I gathered all the simple ingredients, salt, homemade leavening (* see recipe at the bottom of this post), Tenderflake Pure Bakers lard and real buttermilk. Now this is where I am a stickler, in no way can you make buttermilk from milk and lemon juice or vinegar, that simply is soured milk and not the same. Don’t do it! The powdered buttermilk, don’t use that either it’s considered a sin for this recipe. Your oven will be set at a very high temperature, please make sure your oven is clean or the smoke alarm will go off. That intense heat will create the perfect crisp golden outer layer, there’s a slight crunch when your teeth break through that buttered top biscuit only to be rewarded with the melt in your mouth tender leaf layers of the softest biscuit you will ever make if you don’t overwork the dough. I had my ingredients, my music playlist was queued, Tom Petty of course and I knew this Southern comfort food would set my sad musical heart on the path of healing.
While the biscuits baked away in the oven I thought about all “my Tom moments,” Tom Petty was there for my first kiss, my first heart break, my first swim team win and my first solo drive after earning my driver’s license. He was there in the hospital NICU while I sang “Learning to Fly” to my little preemie twins. Tom helped me through long baking days and nights at my café, he was there with us in our car as we drove to our new home in Texas. He is there with me every time I hook up my vintage trailer and hit the open road to find my adventures. He is there with me when I cook in our new home. Tom’s there when my kids sing out of tune and help sort laundry. He will also be there again with me as I dance at my son’s wedding in a few weeks. Tom Petty will forever be a story teller to me, his song writing has truly been that famous Dick Clark quote “Music is the soundtrack of our life.” My personal soundtrack happens to have Tom Petty, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Mudcrutch sprinkled through it more than any other musician I know and for that I am damn lucky and proud.
Miss Edna will be there too, to comfort my heart with her time-honored recipes, stories and accomplishments. Maybe I will share her delicious corn pudding recipe with my new neighbors, it is almost Thanksgiving time. Next year I will get over to Fredericksburg, Texas and gather a few pounds of fresh picked peaches to make her mind-blowing peach cobbler. Hopefully I have sparked an interest for you to discover her amazing talents. There is no other Chef I would be able to recommend for Southern Comfort food; Miss Edna Lewis is the Grande Dame.
Those two amazing legends have helped carve memories, traditions and launched dreams for so many. I absolutely urge you to buy these publications. The first, Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes. The second, The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis. The third, The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis & Scott Peacock. You will love them all, trust me.
RIP Tom Petty, you lived sir, you truly lived.
Edna Lewis’ Hot Crusty Buttermilk Biscuits
This recipe is from the book The Gift of Southern Cooking, it is simply the best and in no way, could anyone improve it. All credit goes to the Author and Creator Edna Lewis with thanks and praise!
5 cups White Lily Flour, sifted then measured
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, aluminum free or homemade
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1/4 pound) packed lard, chilled
1¼ cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 450°F
Put the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl, and whisk well to blend thoroughly. Add the lard, and, working quickly, coat it in flour and rub between your fingertips until approximately half the lard is finely blended and the other half remains in large pieces, about 1/2 inch in size. Pour in the buttermilk, and stir quickly just until the dough is blended and begins to mass.
Turn the dough immediately out onto a floured surface, and with floured hands knead briskly eight to ten times, until it becomes cohesive.
Gently flatten the dough with your hands into a disk of even thinness; then, using a floured rolling pin, roll it out to a uniform thickness of 1/2 inch. With a dinner fork dipped in flour, pierce the dough completely through at 1/2-inch intervals. Lightly flour a 2½ or 3-inch biscuit cutter and stamp out rounds, without twisting the cutter in the dough. Cut the biscuits from the dough as close together as you can, for maximum yield. Transfer them to a parchment-lined baking sheet, placing them so that they just barely kiss. Don’t re-roll the scraps. Just arrange them around the edge of the sheet, and bake them – cook’s treat.
Put the baking sheet immediately on the center rack of the preheated oven.
Bake 10-12 minutes, checking after 6 minutes or so, and turning the pan if needed for even baking. When the biscuits are golden brown, remove from the oven and brush the tops with the melted butter.
* Homemade baking powder Edna Lewis
¼ cup cream of tarter
2 tablespoons baking soda
Mix well and keep in an air tight container for up to 6 months.
Welcome to California’s pride and joy of barbecue! This small to medium-size triangular muscle of the bottom sirloin subprimal cut (my God that was exhausting) screams for a good amount of spice, smoke and heat. I have done the official research and the credit needs to go to one man for making it as popular as it is today here in the golden state. Otto Schaefer marketed this cut back in 1950 in Oakland, California. But as far back as 1931 the cattlemen of the central coast, the Santa Maria area, were barbecuing meat on strings over hot coals with basic seasonings. Then the adoption happened Tri-Tip became Santa Maria’s ” signature pride and joy cut” truly barbequed beef was launched into a new territory. Go ahead, Google “Santa Maria Style BBQ.” I dare ya, oh and have a towel ready, you’re going to drool and go racing out to your nearest butcher to obtain this precious low-fat, full flavored cut of beef. I have two in my fridge right now about ready to kiss the grill any second.
There is a bit of a disappointing part, many butcher shops east of the California/Nevada/Arizona border do not market the tri tip cut-you’re going to have to ask for it. This is where you will start to build a relationship with the specialist; a butcher, a professionally trained expert in the animal protein world. If you already have a good relationship with yours it’s going to get even better. I don’t know a butcher around that does not want to market the “next best cut” and tri tip will do it in spades. I’m also guessing you will be able to purchase it for quite a bit less than us right now I paid about $9.95 a pound. The secret is to not overcook this marbled fat flecked beauty. Medium is about as done as you will want it. The soft pink hue throughout its center is the signature look with its crusty pepper, garlic, salt and onion seasoning that perfectly kisses the char marked and smoked tri tip is out of this world.
My son, Sean, has the say on this share, he’s kind of nuts over my barbecue seasoning and knows it’s one of my secrets. Before this entry is published I will send him the ingredient list so I can uphold my end of the bargain to let him know first above all others. I created my seasoning blend about 15 years ago, yes I was happily barbecuing away at age 24 living in my tiny two-bedroom home with my son Sean trying to make it as a single mom living humbly, very humbly. I would save my money all month I would budget correctly and buy one tri-tip then I would do the sin of the earth, I would cut that piece of beef into three smaller pieces so we could eat barbecue almost every Friday.
I would make a small pyramid of charcoal briquettes in my weber kettle grill then with a small well in the top I would crumple some newspaper and light it. When the coals were blazing red and covered in heavenly white ash I would place the grill grate over the coals and lightly oil it using a few paper towels crumpled together and soaked in a bit of cooking oil held with tongs and brushed over so the meat would not stick. I would wait about 10 minutes for that grill to get searing hot. Then I would throw a few mesquite wood chunks (not chips) on the hot coals just moments before the meat was put on the grill, quickly the backyard filled with sweet mesquite smoke the black pepper, garlic, onions and chili spice too. The sizzling and popping sounds from the searing meat and fat (I just drooled) were the symphony of a perfect Friday night Mother and son tradition. I would let that small portion cook on the grill for about eight minutes then I would turn the meat over and cook the other side about eight minutes longer. When it was ready I would take the tri tip off the grill and give it a good 10 minute rest time before slicing it. My choice is to slice it against the grain so the meat is most and tender, I would also make my slices about a ¼” thick, traditional tri tip cuts are about ½” thick. Sean would be waiting at our table in his seat just smiling away, as he ate I would watch my son melt in that tri trip’s smoky mysterious taste. I loved those Friday night dates with him, when he comes home on leave from the Army this one of the first meals he asks for.
If I was grilling a whole tri-tip it would be cooked a bit differently I would set up the charcoal in an indirect method, hot coals on one side of the kettle, empty space on the other. When it was time to put the meat on the grill grate you place it on the side without the heat directly below. Put the lid on and position the vent holes over the tri tip to: draw the smoke around it further to add to the richness of the flavor, have the vent holes about 3/4 way closed. After about 45 minutes it was done and off the heat with a resting time of about 10 minutes. If you’re using a smoker 225° for about four hours with good mesquite, apple, or even pecan wood but only for the first two hours. Adding wood chunks will produce one heck-of smoke ring; it’ll be a gem! Get out your grill, clean it down, oil the grills grates and go see your butcher.
Caprese salad, the beautiful Italian dish meaning “Salad of Capri.” By far you cannot find a salad any simpler that this fresh and flavorful creation. Thick slices of fresh mozzarella, garden grown tomatoes, lush green basil leaves and then add a little salt, pepper and some olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar too. I asked my friend Francesco who owns Sapssos Cucina Italiana what is it about this creation that honestly makes my eyelashes flutter and my bellyache with hunger pains? It is because Caprese salad resembles the colors of the Italian flag: red, white, and green. What Italy is all about is there on your plate.
Oh he’s right, the creamy mozzarella cheese, you can taste the fresh milk and its silky texture just melts with every bite you take. The sweet and acid burst of flavor from the seasonal tomatoes, honestly this salad is the reason why I grow so many varieties of tomatoes in my garden. I want to know is the Roma or Beefsteak the perfect tomato for this dish or is the Japanese Pink, Brandywine or possibly the Black Truffle tomato? Right now all my tomatoes are still slightly green and not quite ready for the salad bowl, however your area farmers market should have some beauties!
I believe this salad should start a meal, an antipasto, not a side dish to be added to your plate and not as an end of the meal; this is where your feast needs to start. Have a simple bowl of al dente pasta with a bit of shaved parmesan cheese and olive oil then to drink a lovely Chianti my pick would be Gaetano D’Aquino Riserva 2010 I promise your lunch or dinner will be perfect. Make sure to use a sharp knife when chopping the basil it will keep from bruising the basil leaves and the slices of tomato need to be on the thicker side I like a 1/2 inch slice. If you can find it purchase the mozzarella in a long log shape or the small mozzarella balls that is packed in water for freshness, sometimes they are packed in olive oil with herbs and spices- thats a good option too.
All of this has made me very hungry and I have the perfect tomato sitting in my fruit basket that is calling to me. Oh I forgot please, please, please I beg you- do not store your fresh bought or picked tomatoes in the fridge. That will ruin them. They like fresh air and room temperatures maybe put an unripe peach next to it and watch the magic that happens as the tomatoes helps ripen that peach in a matter of days. Food is magical, not only on the science front but on the sheer magic it holds and its ability to awaken senses you never knew were possible. To the Italian creative genius that coined this salad, I thank you, my taste buds thank you and my wonderfully hungry belly thanks you too.