Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Devilish Egg Salad

Sometimes I like egg salad plain and simple: just some chopped hard boiled eggs, a little mayo, S&P, maybe a touch of dijon mustard.

Other times, though, a little pizzazz seems called for in the boiled egg department. I had some eggs to use up, and didn't feel like messing with anything that required turning on the oven -- like a quiche, so here's what I did:

7 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered. (You could just as easily use 6, or 8. I had 7 to do something with.) Place in boil of food processor and pulse a few times to chop fairly fine. (I like my egg salad spreadable, as mostly I eat it on crackers and big chunks of egg white tend to fall off, usually into my lap or onto my chest, so small chop is better).

Dump the chopped eggs out into a medium mixing bowl. Into the food processor (no reason to wash, or even wipe it; why clean it twice?), add:
1/4 cup mayo (I like Hellman's/Best Foods Lite)
2 T plain yogurt
1 T dijon mustard
1 medium stalk celery in 2" pieces
1/4 cup (approx.) green onions, mostly white parts
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1 tsp curry powder (the hotter the better)
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
salt & pepper to taste (the mayo and mustard add enough salt for me, especially if I'll be enjoying on salty crackers, you might want more)

Blend it all together until the celery is well chopped up. Dump into the bowl of eggs and mix well with a rubber spatula.

A little diced ham would be a fine addition to this, if you eat ham. I don't any more, but times like this I miss it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lilikoi Pie

[arggh... I hate blogger formatting! No matter what I do the P-breaks here are f*ck*d up... sorry about that, will try to fix when I'm back on the other computer. Having computer problems, too, today. Double argh.]

I made a lilikoi (passionfruit) meringue pie a year or so ago, following Alton Brown's lemon merinque pie recipe from and substituting lilikoi pulp plus a little OJ for the lemon juice. It was quite good, although meringue pies in general don't get more than a toe-hold in my favorite desserts pantheon. If you love lemon meringue pie, I highly recommend making a lilikoi version sometime.

So I had all these lilikoi from the farmer’s market, and thought I would make a pie again. But not a merinque this time. Something like a key lime pie (i.e., curd-ish, no topping).

I made the crust by grinding up most of a package (I ate some) of Newman’s Own Ginger-O cookies in the food processor with ½ cup of unsweetened shredded coconut. I didn’t quite trust that to hold together, so added an egg white for structural stability. That turned out maybe a little too structurally solid. Next time I’ll try a few TBSP of boiling water instead (can't imagine that all those cookies require any additional fat to hold together!), see if that works.
With hindsight I see this would have been better as a tart, but I don’t have tart pan and didn’t feel like messing with trying to get a cookie-crumb crust to stick to the vertical walls of a springform pan, so took the easy way out and used a glass pie plate.
The filling is lilikoi curd, enriched (as if curd needs enriching!) with cream cheese. That bit was inspired by a key lime pie I had many years ago at Mangoes on Duval Street in Key West. When in Key West, one eats a lot of key lime pie. I did, anyway. Mangoes’ version was halfway between a typical KLP and a lime cheesecake. And it was very, very good.
So I read up on lemon curd and its various permutations in Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking (a great resource for any dessert-obsessed home baker) and came up with a plan:

1) Mix 1 cup lilikoi pulp (seeds strained out; or buy it frozen) with ¾ cup cane sugar and 1 T cornstarch and bring to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring so it doesn't lump up.

2) Cut 6 oz. of cream cheese into 5 or 6 pieces and pulse in the food processor to soften. Add about ¼ cup of the hot lilikoi-sugar and blend until very smooth.

3) Add 4 eggs + the yolk leftover from adding a white to the pie shell, one at a time, pulsing to blend after each4) Add the rest of the lilikoi-sugar and blend well.

5) Scrape it all into a 2-qt. stainless steel bowl and whisk over simmering water until temperature reaches 160.

If you stop here you've made lilikoi curd, which would be delicious instead of vanilla custard under a fruit tart, or between cake layers, but it's very soft, and needs oven time to firm up. So:

6) Pour the curd into the pie shell and bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes.
Here is it, ready to go into the oven:

7) Cool on a rack to room temp., then into the chill chest for several hours.

I followed the plan: 0h, yum! So smooth and creamy, and what a divine flavor!

As you can see, the filling didn’t quite fill the shell (I used a 9.5” deep-dish pan, will stick with the slightly smaller/shallower 9” one next time). Presentation would benefit from a corona of whipped-cream rosettes around the edge, but I didn't buy heavy cream and piping rosettes is the kind of thing I think about doing but rarely bother with.

Verdict: Extremely delicious!! A bit of a production if you start, as I did, with a heap of lilikoi to pulp and strain, but very worth the effort.

… but not perfect. To be improved next time:
* The crust is very tasty (the ginger-cookie flavor goes so well with lilikoi!), but you can’t taste the coconut at all, so why bother. Next time I’ll leave it out.
* The crust is too thick. Use fewer cookies: 18 instead of 26? Or maybe I'll make a different crust next time, just for variety: something with macadamia nuts in it, maybe? Or even chocolate???
* The filling is divine, but I might cut back on the sugar just a bit.
* Either 15 min. bake time wasn't quite enough or my oven wasn't really up to temp yet. I'll set the timer for 20 min. next time.
* I'm curious about doing this as a chiffon pie: separate the eggs, use just the yolks in the curd, and fold the whipped whites in before baking. Should turn out just as yummy, but fluffy.
This is a very rich dessert, so I don’t think I’ll be repeating it anytime soon. But sooner or later I’ll think back on this one when I’m pondering what to make for Cake Night, and will try the fluffy version. With that in mind, I’m going to pick up some more lilikoi at the farmer’s market and stock the freezer with a couple of 1-cup containers of pulp, so I’ll be ready.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What We Bought at the Farmer's Market

The Hilo Farmer's Market is such a treat!

and what a haul:

3 bunches of apple bananas
14 (that's not a typo!) small papayas
1 pineapple
15 lilikoi
1 thai watermelon
2 lbs. of lychees (yum!)
2 meyer lemons
1 head red leaf lettuce
2 heads green leaf lettuce
2 bags of kale
2 zucchinis
1 japanese cucumber
1 bunch basil
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch green onions
4 white onions
red and green bell peppers
3 avocados

No, I didn't carry it all myself (that's what husband's are for, right?) ... but I forgot to get tomatoes! (smacks self on forehead). That's okay, still got a couple left from last trip, and we'll be back again on Saturday. I'll need ginger and garlic by then, too.

Was tempted by local squashes, but our bags were pretty well full and our arms tired. And I pretended not to notice the orchids and anthuriums. I spend too much on orchids as it is, and have two in bloom. Rule is I can only buy another orchid plants when none of the ones I already have is blooming.

Thanks to the fine folks at for the photos!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Spicy Peanut-Sesame Noodles

Do you ever get a sudden craving for a food you haven't eaten in years? I did, not long ago, when the idea of udon noodles with spicy sesame sauce took up residence in the (large) area of my brain that occupies itself by thinking about food. So I picked up a packet of Eden Udon Noodles at the health food store, and rummaged about in the kitchen.

A browse through my cookbook shelf came up with a Sesame Sauce recipe on page 175 of Devra Gartenstein's "The Accidental Vegan" that looked like a good foundation for improvisation. I decided to use a combo of sesame paste and peanut butter, and nudged some of the other ingredient proportions up or down as my preferences guided. I also like spicy, so a good daub of something hot seemed in order, as well.

Here's what I put together, and oh my, is it good!

Peanut-Sesame Sauce

1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste: roasted, not raw)
1/4 cup + 2 TBSP peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
1/2 cup warm water
2 or more TBSP freshly grated ginger root (press through a sieve so you just get the juice without the stringy fibers)
2 TBSP reduced-sodium shoyu (soy sauce)
1 TBSP dry sherry
1 TBSP toasted sesame oil (regular or spicy)
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp or more Thai Kitchen brand Green Curry Paste
1-2 medium cloves garlic

Whiz it all up in the bowl of your food processor or in a blender. Makes about 12 oz. of not-very-thick sauce. If you like yours thicker, start with 1/4 cup of water, then add more if needed. This is slightly but not aggressively spicy with the smaller quantities of heat-producing stuff. If you want more fire, use the hot sesame oil and larger quantities of ginger, curry paste, and garlic.

This is an excellent dip for vegetables (make a guess what happened to the rest of the cucumber after I'd diced up the 1/4 cup for the noodle dish below).

It really shines with Udon noodles. I poured the sauce over a cooked (still hot) 8.8 oz. packet, and mixed in:

About 6 oz. shredded cooked chicken ('cause that's how much leftover chix I had to use up, nothing sacred about the quantity), and

About a cup of sugar snap peas, in 1" pieces ('cause I found them in the fridge while I was looking for cucumber); these I tossed into the pasta pot for the last 1 minute of cooking, so they were just barely done and already mixed in with the noodles.

Dished up the noodles/chicken into bowls, and topped with (total quantities here, not per serving):
1/4 cup diced tomato (seeded)
1/4 cup diced cucumber (peeled and seeded)
1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

This should serve four. Taraka and I both indulged in seconds (breaking my rule about never going back for more), and there's a good bit left over. If I have any self-control tomorrow, I will let Taraka finish it up.

1200% improvement

I haven’t been baking – or even cooking – much lately. Partly because it’s been sunny and hot every day. Hot, in Hilo, means mid 80s. Go ahead and laugh, I’m willing to concede it’s hotter where you are. But it’s humid here, and we don’t have air conditioning -- other than the trade winds, which lately haven’t been cooling anything off much. Steamy is not the kind of weather I associate with pleasant hours spent in a warm kitchen.

Also partly because our freezer has been well-stocked with both Chocolate Zucchini and Banana Cake, so we’ve been enjoying that on Cake Night.

And partly because in the wake of a stomach bug I didn’t eat more than a few mouthfuls of fruit and yogurt for three days. Probably started with something I ate, but my husband’s been fine, and he happily consumed all the likely culprits, too, with no ill effects, so go figure. Our produce is all local and either organic or at least unsprayed (or possibly some of the farmer’s market vendors are just telling us what we want to hear), and not suspects in the tomato-jalapeno-cilantro-phobia that’s sweeping the mainland. Oh well. Briefly unpleasant, but an effective way to drop a few pounds. Be nice if I can keep them off.

With a little help from the tummy uglies, I’m very close to my goal of getting back under 150 before I turn 50. And before that, my July 1 weigh-in was a success: down six pounds in six months, yay! That’s speed-of-light progress for me. And, if I’ve done the math right, a 1200% improvement in weight-loss rate over my measly 1 pound for all of 2007. So, nice progress, on that front.

Since I haven’t whipped up any scrumptious delights lately, I’m going to share the Sesame Noodles (see next post) that I whipped up at the end of June and just now got around to typing up. They were yummy. We ate them warm but cold they’ll make a good steamy-day dinner. Now that I’m eating again, I think I’ll go whip some more up…