Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Homesick Potato Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing

Homesick Potato Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing
Sometimes homesickness strikes. Even in the middle of the Pacific surrounded by blue ocean and warm breezes and endless summer. Real summer time is worst for homesickness as juicy, sun-warmed tomatoes and backyard blackberry patches are an ocean away and no amount of shipped-in store bought berries will scratch the itch. 

Being from the Pacific Northwest originally, we savored our summers like the last M&M in the package; the fall, winter, and spring being one, long gray mass of endless rain. Northwest summers meant garden tomato sandwiches for lunch with just a little salt and mayo, ripe blackberries in a bowl for dessert dressed in milk and sugar, and pan-fried patty pan squash for days and days. 

Summer meant sunsets at 9pm, extending our play time by hours. We'd hobble to the dinner table, fingers purple from berry picking, feet blackened by hot, melting tar on the road to gobble down barbecued chicken, corn on the cob, and green beans. Our bicycles must have logged thousands of miles each summer as we rode around and around the neighborhood, sneaking onto the golf course, or just racing. My shoelaces became untied and wrapped around the pedals one time and instead of unravelling them took my feet out and went flop, flop, flopping all the way home as my shoes banged against the sides of the bike. 

My mom's kitchen table in summer 
On lucky weekends, we'd go to grandma and grandpa's. We'd watch baseball all day long with grandpa, help out in the garden or in the kitchen, and eat grandma's German potato salad, vinegary coleslaw, and chicken and dumplings. 

Since I don't have lush garden tomatoes or sunsets late into the evening, this potato salad will have to do. I like the brightness of the lemon and the unexpected depth of the sun-dried tomato. Would be great for a beach potluck in Hawaii (that ends at 7:30 when the sun goes down) or anywhere you find yourself. 

Homesick Potato Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing
serves 8-10

2 lbs red potatoes (or whichever potatoes you like in salad)
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
3 TBL olive oil
juice and zest from 1 lemon
salt & pepper to taste
2 TBL capers
2 cups arugula, chopped
1 green onion, finely sliced

Wash and chop potatoes into bite sized pieces. Place in a large pot, fill with water until potatoes are just covered. Bring pot to a boil, then down to a simmer for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a fork. Drain into a colander. 

In a food processor, pulse sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, olive oil,  and lemon juice and zest until all is combined and finely chopped. Add salt & pepper to dressing to taste. 

In a large bowl, mix cooked potatoes, dressing, capers, arugula, and green onion until evenly distributed. Best if served 2 hours (or up to 3 days) after preparation so flavors can develop. Try not to miss home. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cream of the Crop: Kona Coffee and Dessert Tasting

Kona Rising Coffee Co. offering up their excellent cold brew

Where can you taste all the very best Kona coffee the island has to offer and work on a sugar high at the same time? At the Cream of the Crop event held every August at the Four Seasons Hualalai of course.

Elite Kona coffee farmers and roasters face off in cupping competitions to see who has the best cup of joe in categories such as organic and estate grown coffees. There is also an amateur and professional Kona coffee dessert competition. Winners will be announced soon, check back here. Entrance, parking and coffee and dessert tastings are all free to the public.

Although it can get very hot at this event, the outdoor venue offers plenty of shade and the ever mindful Four Seasons supplies ice cold water for all. Live music plays in the background and a it's only a short stroll to admire the shoreline or enjoy one of the resort's restaurants. In addition to coffee and desserts, there are plenty of other vendors offering locally made products such as art and clothing.

Coffee highlights came from Kona Rising Coffee Co. and Buddha's Cup. Good luck to all. If you missed the event this year, mark your calendar for next August.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Faking it

Grilled asparagus salad, recipe below

I'd decided to make the perfect birthday bbq fare for Dustin. Teriyaki marinated grass-fed beef burgers topped with swiss cheese, bacon, and grilled, caramelized pineapple slices. A fresh butter lettuce salad with sliced hard-boiled eggs, lemon vinaigrette, and grilled asparagus from the garden. Sticky pineapple upside down cupcakes. And for later, at home alone, a flourless chocolate cake with peanut butter ice cream.

I spent the better part of two days shopping, prepping, baking and assembling this menu, which didn't turn out the way I'd wanted. Per usual.

It all started at the grocery store. In an effort to maintain my locavore status, I sought out grass-fed beef for the burgers but to my despair ended up with a Costco pack of half a ground cow.  At home, the flourless chocolate cake defeated me single-handedly by refusing to combine when folding the chocolate into the egg mixture and by leaking out of the springform pan.

Undeterred, the assembly for the pineapple upside down cakes was a snap but then the teriyaki burgers came together half-hearted as there was not enough ginger and not enough teriyaki marinade and I was not going to the store again. Unfortunately, the pineapple upside down cupcakes decided to fight me when it was time to come out of the pan and turned out ugly. The flourless chocolate cake never did set in the oven.

The next day, a beautiful, sparkling ocean of a day, we headed down to the beach and set up our beach chairs and the bbq. Many of our lovely friends joined us for beers and waves and tree climbing with the kids. When, finally, the food was grilled and the plates set out a feeling of utter disappointment overwhelmed me. Here I was, some sort of food blogger who is supposed to be able to cook well serving too small teriyaki burgers that didn't taste like teriyaki.

The thing is I often don't really know what I'm doing. I never went to culinary school or got any training besides flipping burgers at a sports bar. More often than not, I just wing it and hope for the best. The best doesn't always come. Hopefully the food gods will forgive me, I just wanted everything to be perfect for Dustin's birthday.

Thankfully the pineapple upside down cupcakes were served in near darkness so no one saw how ugly they were. And Dustin liked his flourless chocolate cake anyway.

Maybe it was perfect after all.

Grilled Asparagus Salad with Parmesan, Lemon, and Olive Oil
Very slightly adapted from Cooking Light

  • 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 6 cups torn Boston lettuce (about 2 small heads)
  • large hard-cooked eggs, each cut into 6 slices 
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shaved fresh parmesan cheese

  • Prepare a hot grill. Place asparagus on a large piece of foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil, and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; toss well. Arrange asparagus in a single layer. Grill for 4-5 minutes or until crisp-tender, tossing once. Cool slightly. 
  • Arrange lettuce on a large platter. Top with asparagus and egg slices. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, juice, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over asparagus and lettuce. Top with cheese. Serve immediately.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hot Lava, Hilo, and Chickens

We went to Hilo last weekend to get some chickens. My sister lives there now so it was a chance to soak up some East side fun as well expand our animal family times four. It's nice to have a reason to get out of Kona and even nicer that we now have a place to stay in Hilo.

So we drove away from the dusty traffic and endless vog of Kona, up and over Saddle Road to my sister's cozy rental house near the university. Somehow, her house feels like our childhood home in Portland, Oregon. I don't know if it's the familiarity of her routines, the way she makes coffee at all hours of the day or the perpetual muted TV glow, but staying with her brings me back to my childhood and I wouldn't mind curling up on her couch with a cup of coffee and never leaving.

Being new to Hilo town, my sister and her fiance have been spending a lot of time getting to know the surrounding areas. They had an agenda planned for our weekend before we arrived, which as a planner-type person, made me very happy. First stop, Kilauea Lodge.

Located in Volcano Village, this restaurant and inn has rave reviews just about everywhere. My sister gushed about it as did some other foodie friends. I really want to like this place. And to some degree, I did but one can only conclude that we must have landed there on an off night. The ambience was darling, a fireplace adorned with German beer steins, painted wooden place mats, and stained-glass windows create a cozy space. The wine list was great and even our not-so-good food was definitely made from scratch, noodles and all. Maybe the chef that night was rushed, but everything was under-seasoned and well, just kind of sloppy.

Glowing lava doom in background. Cool, my face looks shiny even in the dark.

A mediocre meal is not the end of the world, in fact we were on our way to see how the world begins. Minutes away from Volcano Village is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, open 24 hours. Lava is most visible at night, think red-glowing fire, so we stopped by the active crater for a peak. I've now lived on Hawaii island for 7 years and have never seen lava, tried many times, but was never lucky enough to catch it. So seeing the glow, deep inside the crater, was special indeed. It felt like Halloween with all the people milling around in the dark, the background a spooky, glowing, steaming crater. Our dog, forever scared of everything, cowered at my knee tripping me every third step.

It wasn't until the next morning, when a 4.6 magnitude quake got me out of bed, rattling the fragile wooden frame of my sister's house, that I realized just how epic watching lava come out of the earth really is.

We drank many mugs of coffee and watched silent episodes of "Roseanne" while waiting for the boys to come home from surfing. Around mid-morning we set off for Kalapana to buy some chickens advertised on Craigslist and ended up in a remote-as-it-gets housing development along the wild Puna coastline. For every cute, well-built home in this neighborhood there was a less-cute, shanty-type home built from plywood, tarps, and screens. Alas, our chickens lived at a screen shanty with a man, probably our own age, who appeared to have never worn shoes. He lovingly gave us tips on caring for the chickens and sent us on our way with two plastics tubs of four full-grown egg laying chickens. Don't worry, there were air holes for them to breathe.

Pahoa Farmer's Market
On our way back to Hilo and eventually back home, we stopped at the Pahoa farmer's market. Pahoa is known for it's abundance of produce and hippies. This market did not disappoint in either area. What surprised me was the amazing number of prepared food choices. It being close to lunch time by then, I dove right in getting Russian potato pancakes with beets, sour cream, and a pickled egg for me and a smoked meat plate with rice and mac salad for Dustin. We shared a refreshing hibiscus tea, which I really ought to try making at home.

By the time I sauntered back to the car, the chickens were panting. This immediately broke my heart and I started to panic. I totally thought the chickens were going to over-heat and die right on the spot. So as much as I wanted to stay and admire the hippies it was back over Saddle Road for us, windows down and back gate up.

Thankfully, the temperatures really drop as you head up the Saddle because the road goes right in between two mountains and makes a hell of an elevation climb. Just as my panic began to subside, probably about half way home, we heard the fluttering wings of an escaped chicken. I caught the dog as he tried to leap for the back seat and Dustin squealed over in the emergency lane. We dove in the back, trying at once to restrain the yelping dog and grab the brave chicken. In seconds it was over, the chicken safely back in the box, and my nerves at code red.

We managed to make it home without further incident and the chickens now happily reside in their coop, made from old pallets. In a week they have already given us eight eggs. I'd say it was a successful trip.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

San Juan Islands Sailing

First of all, I have to tell you guys this has been the most epic summer of my entire life. Better than slip 'n slides and blackberry picking at eight, better than Latin American living at 16, better than hostel jumping at 20, and (maybe) even better than New York City last year. If you've been following this summer, you know that I spent most of my time leading a youth conservation corp team here in Hawaii and camping in some of the most remote places on the Big Island. To top it all off, I spent the last week of summer break sailing in the San Juan Islands in Washington state.

Some of you may know that we plan to drop everything in the very near future in favor of living on a sail boat. We will probably begin our adventures in the Pacific Northwest so we found a charter boat company that offered a "learn and cruise" trip to get some hands-on sailing experience. Through San Juan Sailing we sailed and lived aboard for a week with another couple and a captain who taught us to sail along the way. I am proud to say I am now a legit sailor. LEGIT. And I didn't even get sick once. For the girl who gets nauseous on a playground swing this is big news.

The sailing course included three written exams and a series of practical "tests" that we practiced at sea. Once you pass all three courses you can charter a boat from San Juan Sailing all on your own.

Most nights we anchored in a sheltered bay of one of the small islands where we could row on shore for a little hiking and beach combing. The water was stand-still calm. The other couple cruising with us got their crabbing license so we were lucky enough to have fresh crab on board a couple times. Meals were cooked and eaten family style and luckily all of us got along very well.

We also spent a night at the marina in Friday Harbor, an adorable little port town with scads of art galleries and teeny cafes. We pounded some oysters and sipped on local beer and just about died when the moon rose out of the purple sunset glow. The water is so clear around there, you can see starfish and all sorts of creatures everywhere.

Every morning we would get geared up and sail to a new anchorage. Being out on the water sailing was two parts challenging and two parts fun. I liked learning about navigation and charting and feeling pretty confident that with some practice I'll get the whole sail trimming thing down, too.

Mainly, I'm looking forward to eating fresh crab, fish, clams and mussels often and with gusto.

I spent a lot of time before this trip worrying about being a total sailor failure and letting my husband down. If it weren't for the confidence boost from leading a group of teenagers through a summer of the hardest physical labor ever, well let's just say that boost was needed.

This vacation will sustain me for a good long while.

I can still taste the oysters.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Sunrise over Haleakala from Kaho'olawe

It's hard to explain a place like Kaho'olawe. A place that's been ravaged for so long by bombs and artillery and bullets that in many ways it no longer resembles a place at all. Covered in thorny, invasive kiawe trees and scrubby fountain grass the red hard pan shines through in warning. No rain comes here, the hot hard pan chases the clouds away like bothersome children. The wind whips the red dirt around and around the lava rocks and dry stream beds and eventually out to sea. On land, only hope thrives.

We drive our trucks around the red roads, searching for a place to plant or a place to dig or maybe just a place to weed. These places are sparse because unexploded ordnance litters the island, preventing us from even entering most areas, let alone dig.

The Bell Stone sacred area
In ancient days, Kaho'olawe was known for being the navigational center of the Hawaiian islands. All long voyages began there. Not long ago, the island was used by the military to test bombs and weapons for many, many years. Throughout its history, Kaho'olawe was sparsely populated and after World War II, the islands' only resident leased the land to the military for testing. By that time, Kaho'olawe's plant life had been devastated by feral goats and red dirt swirled and was blown away even then. Local protesters led the fight to reclaim the island in the 1970s, some even lost their lives doing so. Today, the island seems more like a long-lost cousin forgotten or never known. It's cultural significance has not been forgotten, however and there is a strong effort to restore the island.

Crater left by bomb activity
It is an uphill battle with one of the biggest challenges being that only about 10% of the island has been completely cleared of ordnance, making most of the land and coastal areas a real danger. Few out-plantings have been successful with little water and even less soil.

Shadows of our youth

Maybe the youth we brought to see this place will be the ones to save it. One thing is for sure, there is a future for Kaho'olawe. To learn more about the island or to find out how you can volunteer to make a difference, visit: http://kahoolawe.hawaii.gov/. I went there as a team leader for Kupu's summer gateway program. 

Sunrise on Kaho'olawe


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...