Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Song of the Week: Ginger

Quote of the Week: Sandwiched

"Maybe you are in a sandwich. We're always sandwiched because we have a past, we have a present, and we have a future. We are sandwiched by our father, our mother, our child, Even timewise, we are sandwiched. We are sandwiched between breakfast, lunch, and dinner."

--Chogyam Trungpa

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Song of the Week: Coconut

Quote of the Week: Pass the Poi

"Mookalakaheeki, come on you want to lei me. Pass the poi, mahalo."

--Wayne Campbell, Wayne's World

And the Winner is...

I would not want to have been a judge in the slider throwdown. We all brought our A-game and were tough competitors--the final products of our cooking frenzy were some of the best quality, creativity, and tastiness. So who won?

The judges first informed us who won each category: I won for the slider (score!), Pat conquered with his pineapple-jalapeno margarita, and we all tied for sides. The ultimate overall winner was Sonya, I got second place, and Pat came in third. In any case we were all proud, stuffed, satisfied, and surrounded with good company. The throwdown was a success.

Next time (and there will definitely be a next time) I plan on taking home the gold along with the bragging rights, so watch out Son and Pat...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Slider Throwdown: Part III

Well, well, well--we've come to the last competitor in the throwdown. Pat busted out two pounds of bacon in an attempt to win over the judges. Because, come on, who doesn't love bacon? On his menu was German potato salad, pineapple-jalapeno margarita with candied bacon, and a steak slider with grilled peppers and onions and a blue cheese sauce.

I became seriously nervous when I saw that Pat had bought all that bacon. One pound went into the potato salad and the other was used for candied bacon. The idea for candied bacon on a pineapple-jalapeno margarita was brilliant. To make the candied bacon he just coated the pieces of bacon in brown sugar, lied them flat on a baking sheet covered in foil, and cooked them in the oven until the sugar had caramelized and the bacon was cooked through. The jalapenos added a nice heat to the margarita (though I added a little more to mine for an extra kick), and the candied bacon was certainly an  interesting and delicious garnish. Candied bacon is definitely making an appearance at the next bacon party.

Pat used a family recipe for the German potato salad, and I hated to admit that it was one of the best potato salads I've tasted. He also grilled up some steak, onions, and peppers and the slider and created a lovely blue cheese concoction for the slider. The steak was cooked perfectly--nice and rare--and the sauce was . As I sampled and enjoyed Pat and Sonya's culinary creations I started to worry that I was about to be put to shame in this slider throwdown.

It was time to the face the judges--who do you think would win? Would it be my mango-avocado dip with fried wonton chips, hibiscus margarita, and seared Ahi tuna slider? Or would it be Sonya's waldorf salad, apple-pear margarita, and sausage slider? Or would it be Pat's German potato salad, jalapeno-pineapple margarita with candied bacon, and grilled steak slider? Place your bets!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Slider Throwdown: Part II

While I was satisfied with my hibiscus margarita, seared Ahi tuna slider, and avocado-mango dip, I knew Sonya and Pat were forces to be reckoned with in the kitchen. Sonya used apple to tie all her dishes together and created waldorf salad, an apple-pear margarita, and a sausage slider. 

Sonya even roasted her own red peppers to create a tasty mayonnaise spread for the sliders. She roasted them on the gas top stove and then placed them in a ziplock bag. The steam in the bag made it easy to remove the skins, and they tasted so much better than store-bought roasted red peppers in a jar. It's definitely a neat trick that I'll be using myself in the future!

The salad was crisp and delicious, the margarita was nice and smooth, and both complemented the slider perfectly. The best part about Sonya's dishes is that they all went together really nicely--a sip of the margarita made you want to take a bite of the slider, and a taste of the slider made you want a forkful of waldorf salad. The incorporation of apple into every dish was a nice touch. Maybe too nice...

Slider Throwdown: Part I

While in Portland, Maine, I competed with two excellent cooks--Sonya and Pat. The challenge: create one slider, one side, and one margarita. The prize: bragging rights. And getting to taste all the food. 

I'm posting each cook's creations separately. First up is my avocado and mango dip with fried wontons, seared Ahi tuna slider, and hibiscus margarita.  

I decided on a Hawaiianish theme to tie all my dishes together. I made the avocado and mango dip first. I experienced this dish last summer when it was introduced to me by my friend Randy. It is perfect for the summertime. It consists of chopped mango, avocado, finely minced red onion, a squeeze of lime, and salt. I like to use Hawaiian Alaea sea salt, which is pinkish-orange and gets its color from clay. It has a very distinctive flavor that works great with the dip. I also added a splash of blood orange extra virgin olive oil for a little touch of citrus.

Usually I just serve the dip with tortilla chips, but I decided to elevate it a little by making fried wonton chips. This was a throwdown, after all. I bought a package of square wonton wrappers and cut them into triangles. Next I heated up some vegetable oil and once it was ready I placed the wontons in the oil one at a time. They fried very quickly so I just put in a few for each batch, flipped them quickly, and then removed them to a plate lined with paper towels to drain the excess oil. These wonton chips also got a sprinkle of Alaea Hawaiian sea salt.

For my hibiscus margarita I got some hibiscus and rose hip tea and steeped it in boiling water in a pot on the stove. Then I added some agave nectar to create a hibiscus simple syrup. The other ingredients included 1800 silver tequila and fresh-squeezed lime juice and orange juice. We took advantage of the newly purchased Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker to create our delicious margaritas. I lined half the rim of each glass with some more of that Hawaiian sea salt.

And now for the slider. First I made a wasabi dressing composed of grated ginger, wasabi paste, wasabi sesame oil, egg yolks, and lemon juice. I also steamed a little baby bok choy with rice wine vinegar. For the tuna I coated it in a mixture of black and tan sesame seeds and sea salt. I heated up some sesame oil and quickly seared the tuna on all sides. Choosing bread for the slider was the most difficult part. What could I use that would be light enough to complement the tuna without overpowering it? I lucked out by finding some mini-pita pockets. Perfect. I layered all the ingredients together, drizzled on some of the wasabi dressing, and topped them off with chopped scallions.

I was happy with the final products, but I still had to face the judges and compete against Sonya and Pat...