Monday, July 30, 2012

Soupe á L'Oignon

French Onion Soup is one of my favorite things to order at a restaurant. It's because of the ooey gooey cheese melted over the bowl and the rich sweet and savory broth underneath. It always seemed so difficult to make for some reason. But, then I learned how (in Paris, of course), and it's like most French dishes: few ingredients, maximum amount of flavor, and not very complicated.

I had a ton of onions one week and I don't like them raw. Cooked only, please!

Onion soup sounded like a great solution to my overabundance-of-onions issue. I also had chicken stock in my fridge that needed to be used, and a bottle of white wine that I was opening to preserve my garlic cloves. So, I decided, even though it was not going to be a traditional onion soup, to do it anyway. Because, you see, onion soup is made with beef stock and red wine. I'm such a rebel.

So, here's how it's done (if you want the real deal, then please, please, please, use red wine and beef stock instead!):

First, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a stock pot or dutch oven. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and sautee for a few minutes on medium heat.

Add 3 sliced yellow onions, and cook on low heat for 20-25 minutes, until they look brown and soft, as pictured above.

Then add 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and stir to coat the onions. After than cooks a few minutes (to get rid of the raw flour taste), add about 1 cup of wine. To the pot, add about 8 cups (2 quarts) of stock. Let it simmer for 30 minutes to thicken a little bit.

In the meantime, prepare the cheesy toast. Use any type of bread - crusty French bread is the best - and toast it in a toaster or in an oven...or in a toaster oven! Traditionally, you can ladle the soup in an oven-safe bowl and top it with toast and grated cheese (ideally, gruyere, but if you can't find it - like me that day, you can use any melty white cheese. I used Asiago. Not perfect, but it worked). Stick it under a broiler until it melts...and voila! Soupe a l'oignon!!

I cheated and toasted the bread in the toaster, put it on a plate, topped it with cheese, and popped it in the microwave for 30 seconds. I plopped it on top of the hot soup and served it up. That works too. Top, pop, plop. Haha. I think I'm reaching my silly hour. I'll leave you here. Bon appetit!

p.s. The substitutions were ok. It tasted better after sitting in the fridge for a couple of days, but it wasn't bad with chicken stock and white wine, just not authentic!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Maui Babymoon & Food Tour

When we've mentioned taking a "babymoon," half the time we get blank looks in response. I guess it's a newer term than we thought. My husband surprised me with a trip to Maui this month to relax, celebrate, and enjoy our life as two before we become three. Our babymoon.

That's right, folks. A little baby Ringler is due to arrive in early November! We're almost 6 months along and I can hardly believe it. Blogging has already started to become difficult to fit in...I'm afraid I might drop off when our son arrives, but hopefully his coming into our lives will inspire me even more as a new mom trying to feed healthy and creative foods to a growing boy. We'll see!

For now, though, I had to post about this trip because of all the great places we discovered on the island of Maui. We were there for a short 5 days, but it did not disappoint. Along with the relaxed nature and beauty of paradise, the food there was amazing and I can't wait to go back. Here's where we ate and ate and ate...

Da Kitchen Cafe in Kahului Home cooking, island style, perfect for your first meal when you fly in to the airport (it's only 2 minutes away) and when you fly out! You will find Hawaiian plate lunches and more. But all I really wanted was Loco Moco: rice, hamburger patty and a fried egg topped with a lot of brown gravy. It was amazing. The husband had Kahlua Pork with brown rice. The pork was a little too salty, but the rice was really good - soft and sticky - surprising for a whole grain. We also tried the Chicken Katsu and Teriyaki Beef and Teriyaki Chicken. Those were all excellent. Each dish was enough to feed two people. We enjoyed our leftovers on the plane home!

Kihei Caffe We also ate here twice because we loved it so much. This little "dive" is in Kihei, the town between Wailea and Lahaina on the west coast of the island. You order at the counter and they bring your meal to you outside on the patio. The people that work there are so friendly, it's like coming home for breakfast (or lunch). And you can have breakfast all day - well, at least until 2pm when they close up. They are located across from a beach park, so I'm sure they get a lot of local surfers coming for grub. And is it goooooooood grub! We had the Breakfast Burrito with Chorizo and we also tried the Cinnamon Roll French Toast (with coconut syrup - yum!). Both were fantastic. They have pancakes and pork chop & eggs, and they even serve meusli and yogurt parfaits. It's fresh and the flavors are really wonderful.
Mama's Fish House This is the best-known fine dining restaurant on the island. It's expensive, but you get a great experience for the 4 dollar signs. It's located on the north shore, at a private beach outside of the town of Paia. It is a huge restaurant and you need reservations whether for lunch or dinner, on the weekend or during the week. The fish is caught fresh everyday and the service is excellent. They start by serving fresh baked bread and a tiny taster cup of tomato and ginger bisque. It is a perfect beginning to a meal. The cocktail and wine list are quite extensive as well. We ordered the Shrimp Wontons (whole shrimp wrapped in a wonton wrapper and fried), Pulled Wild Boar and Mahimahi, and the Opakapaka served upcountry style (pan-fried) with carmelized onions and bok choy. For dessert, we had French-pressed coffee and the Black Pearl Lilikoi Chocolate Mousse. Beautiful presentation and taste all around. Our whole dinner came to about $160 for the two of us.

Jawz Fish Taco Truck & Ululani's Shave Ice We met some locals at a happy hour, and they recommended Jawz fish tacos. We found the food truck on the way to Kihei so we decided to stop and give it a try. The fish is grilled and the tomato salsa on top was almost a little creamy. It was very good - but I'm not sure I would go back...maybe just to try something else. If nothing else, it's a cheap way to eat. Two tacos for $7.

Ululani's now has shave ice shops all around the island. With a 5-star rating on Yelp, you can't lose here. It was definitely one of the best authentic Hawaiian shave ices I've tried. It's super soft and finely shaved ice, with just the right amount of syrup. The ice cream and mochi add-ons are so yummy, and the "snow cap" of condensed milk adds a perfect sweet creaminess to the treat. I'm so glad we tried it!

Tommy Bahama & Lappert's Ice Cream & Coffee at the Shops at Wailea
Our favorite stops in Wailea, where we stayed, were the Tommy Bahama Restaurant Happy Hour, and Lappert's Ice Cream. Both are located in the same shopping mall. You may know Tommy Bahama's as a clothing store. Well, it is, but they also have a bar and restaurant! The happy hour was a deal with drinks at $8 and apps at $7-9 each. The prime beef sliders were our favorite, followed by the macadamia encrusted goat cheese. The atmosphere is great, and we met some great new local friends there.

Lappert's is an ice creamery in Kauai, which has stores on the other islands. The ice cream is so rich and creamy, and you get flavors you can only find in Hawaii, with coconut and kona coffee and macadamia shortbread pieces. Delicious.

I'm ready to go again. Maybe next year to celebrate baby's birthday?!? wink, wink.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Preserving Summer Produce, Part 3: Pesto

Spinach. It comes is big bags or bunches and it is a pretty sturdy green; meaning it lasts a pretty long time in the fridge. But I was headed out of town and wasn't going to chance it over 3 days, so I decided to save it by making a pesto.

First I tried to puree it in my blender. But I failed. Nothing happened. If only I had a Vitamix...

So I transferred everything to my food processor and added pecans. The pecans I store in my freezer to prevent from going rancid. You should store all of your nuts in the freezer if you can. They last a really long time that way.
Then I blended it to a pulp. Literally. I added olive oil and grated parmesan cheese. I should have added a little bit of lemon juice to keep it from turning brown, but I didn't have a lemon. So it turned a little dark green on the top after a day in the fridge.

When I got back from my weekend away, I cooked up some pasta and tossed in the pesto that I stored in a mason jar. It's nutty and fresh and cheesy. It made for a nice easy lunch at home.

Tonight we are enjoying the pesto on a pizza in place of tomato sauce. Bon appetit!

Spinach, Arugula, or Basil Pesto
1 bunch or 4 cups fresh spinach, arugula, or basil, roughly chopped
1/8 cup nuts (I've used pine nuts, pecans, or walnuts), roughly chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
1tsp lemon juice
Salt & Pepper to taste

Put greens in a food processor or a really powerful blender (mine did not perform for me). Add pecans and blend until well pureed. Then add parmesan cheese, olive oil, and lemon juice. Blend and taste. Add salt & pepper as you like. Store in an air tight container or jar for up to 2 weeks. If you freeze it, it keeps for just about forever.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Preserving Summer Produce, Part 2: Salsa

If you have peppers and/or tomatoes that need to be used, make salsa! It's easy and pretty quick. I made mine at 9pm and was in bed by 9:30p. I put the peppers on a lined baking sheet whole, and drizzled with olive oil.

They look awful, but that's what gives them a smoky roasted flavor.

Remove the stems of the peppers.

Puree it all in a food processor...

I found that the peppers I used made it a little more bitter than I like. So I added a little sweetness in the form of agave nectar, and a little heat in the form of Tapatio hot sauce. But, you make it how you like it - and depending on what you are using, you may not need either of these at all.
It was easy, fast, and really good with a quesadilla. What a great way to use up all those peppers and tomatoes in one go!
Roasted Pepper and Tomato Salsa
10-12 peppers & tomatoes, any combination
1/2 bunch green onions or 1/2 white or yellow onion (optional)
1 lime, juiced
1-2 cloves garlic (optional)
1T agave nectar or honey (optional)
1T hot sauce (optional)
Olive oil to cover the vegetables, about 4 tablespoons
Salt to taste
Roast the vegetables at 425F for 15-30 minutes - you can turn them half way through the cooking time - until charred on the outside and your house smells like salsa. Let cool for 15-20 minutes, then remove the stems off the peppers. Put everything into a food processor, add lime juice, and blend until smooth. Taste the salsa. Is it bitter? If yes, add a bit of agave or honey. Add Salt to taste. Store in an airtight container or jar.