Our Oahu CSA experience

I was inspired today by reading a post about CSAs around the country from Family Foodie Survival Guide .  I’ve only been in Hawaii for 7 years, but already I tend to think it is normal to have fresh vegetables all year round and shouldn’t everyone have a mango tree?  So it was interesting to see what those on the mainland get from their CSA.

As part of the recent Eat Local Challenge we tried a couple of different CSAs.  I’ll be honest, I really really enjoy shopping at the farmer’s market so I would typically prefer to wander around the market checking out all the possibilities than receive a prechosen bag.  That being said though, the CSAs we have tried have really been a great experience.  We have gotten things that I would likely have not picked on my own.

We got the The Hawaiian Chef Luau boxes through Groupon.  So the above boxes are normally $50, but we got them for $25. The boxes were amazing – choice of bread from Baker Dude (not totally local, but really good!), choice of lilikoi syrup or dressing, dozen free-range eggs and piles of fruits and vegetables.   I do not know how she comes up with a value of $50 because adding up the individual items comes to far more than that.   And my favorite part is you just order it a week ahead, so you don’t have to set up a regular schedule.   I find that I waste less food when I can adjust my weekly shopping depending on what is in my fridge.  The only downside is that they are typically not prebuilt, so you can wait a while at the market while the box is assembled.  But it was well worth the money (and the wait)!

 We got two weeks of Oahu Fresh with on online coupon as well.  Their regular price is only $20, so the box is smaller and probably a better fit for our household.  We got greens, tomatoes, radishes, papayas, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and lilikoi.  The nice thing about Oahu Fresh is that you can add all kinds of extras to your box – Naked Cow butter, cheese, or eggs, Kuaiwi Ranch beef, PacificKool ginger syrup and even Ka’u coffee.  You could almost get all of your groceries just through their service.  Their only downside is that there are fairly limited pickup spots/times, so you definitely have to arrange your schedule around your weekly pickup.  We had a pickup site very close to our office, so it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience.

I’m really glad that we tried the CSAs and we will likely try others.  Ma’o Organic Farms is high on my list but I don’t know if I’m able to make the commitment.  For the moment I’ll stick with occasional Hawaiian Chef luau boxes and continue wandering the farmer’s market.

Lessons learned from a month of eating (almost) 100% local

After joining Kanu Hawaii’s local challenge in 2009, we started eating nearly all local.  We switched to local beef and chicken, limited our pork, and shopped almost exclusively at farmer’s markets.  The 2010 challenge was much easier than the first, so when we heard the 2011 was a full month, we thought it would be easy.   We were wrong.  Here are the things we learned from our Local Challenge month.

1 – Eating out 100% local is hard.  We eat out more than we realized and 100% local restaurant dishes are not easy to find.  The only 100% local restaurant meals we were able to manage were at Town and Downtown.  We were able to eat mostly local meals at several other restaurants, but they weren’t completely local.

2 – Buying 100% local can be expensive.   I love Whole Foods.  I really love Whole Foods.  It made doing this challenge much easier than it would have been otherwise.   It was the only place I could find local sugar and they stock nearly everything local available on the island.  However, we spent more at Whole Foods in October than I think we have in the last 6 months.  Farmer’s markets are much cheaper, but when the most inexpensive staples are unavailable (pasta, bread, canned beans), I think we would have spent more money even without Whole Foods.

3 – Cooking 100% local takes more time.  When frozen and canned vegetables and beans are unavailable, much chopping is required for meals.  We eat mostly fresh vegetables, but when you get home late and are starving, you can’t fall back on shortcuts.

4 – Eating, buying and cooking local makes you get creative and pushes you to find and try new things.  Guava Smoked Pork, local peanut butter, pomelo, dried aku, Oahu Fresh CSA, Hawaiian Chef Luau boxes.  Ulu for pancakes, mashed potatoes and stew.  Pa’i’ai  shredded in a salad or fried under an egg.   I don’t know if we would have tried most of those things if we weren’t pushed by the challenge.

The challenge was more difficult than we expected and we were not able to do 100%.  But it was a great experience and really pushed us even further in the right direction.  We did decide that we will never be able to go 100% local (unless my husband figures out how to grow wheat…), but we will definitely increase our percentage even more because of this challenge.

(this was also posted at KanuHawaii.org: http://kanu.me/ncsjct)

Charred Eggplant Soup

Local globe and Filipino eggplant

I have a love/hate relationship with eggplant.  Love the color/look, hated the texture/taste.

I hated it when I was little – bitter, mushy, strange color.  Fortunately I think my mom did too because it was one of the few vegetables we did not grow in our garden.  The only way I ever had it prepared that was remotely appealing was eggplant parmagiana, but given that all I ever tasted was cheese and marinara, I didn’t really consider that eating eggplant.  Periodically I would try a recipe, just to see if my tastes had changed, but no luck.

Then a couple of years ago I had a hot antipasto dish at a local Italian restaurant.  It was amazing and I was honestly shocked that I was eating eggplant.  It took me a while to duplicate but I finally figured out how best to cook it for my palate – salt, time, then broiling.  Best part is that it gave me confidence to try other recipes.

This soup was made with globe eggplant I received in last week’s veggie box from Oahu Fresh – they are from Ho Farms.  I supplemented with eggplant from the Honolulu Farmer’s market.  The only changes I made to the recipe were to use macadamia nut oil instead of olive oil and Maui onion instead of shallots.  So this recipe was entirely local (except for spices), all the way down to Maui Pineapple wine and homemade Greek yogurt from local milk.

We absolutely loved this soup.  It was time-consuming because of all the grilling, but well worth it.  Typical of eggplant it has a very meaty but creamy texture, but no bitterness at all.  This is definitely a recipe we will be making again.

And finally, I made this for Deb’s blog event, Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays over at Kahakai Kitchen.  I think she is joining me this week in eating local – this is the final week of the Kanu Hawaii Eat Local challenge.

Charred Eggplant Soup

(Williams-Sonoma)

  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling and brushing
  • 2 large eggplants, about 2 1/2 lb. total, peeled and cut crosswise into slices 1 inch thick
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, about 1 1/4 lb. total, cored, halved and seeded
  • 3 carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 5 shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 tsp. minced fresh thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 cup fruity white wine
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt

Directions:

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill. Brush the grill grate with olive oil.

Brush the eggplant slices and tomato halves with olive oil and arrange on the grill directly over the heat. Cook, turning as needed, until softened and nicely grill-marked, about 8 minutes for the tomatoes and about 10 minutes for the eggplant. Transfer to a cutting board. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skins. Coarsely chop all but 1 of the eggplant slices. Finely dice the remaining eggplant slice and set aside.

In a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high heat, warm the 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the carrots and sauté until just beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the shallots, garlic, thyme and cumin and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, coarsely chopped eggplant, wine and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially and simmer to blend the flavors, about 15 minutes.

Working in batches, transfer the mixture to a blender and process to a coarse puree. Pour the puree into a clean pot and add the 1 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper, to taste. Cook gently over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 10 minutes.

Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, garnish each serving with a dollop of yogurt and a few of the finely diced eggplant cubes, and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Soup, by Adam Ried (Oxmoor House, 2008).

[I found this recipe through gojee.com.  It is a great website I found recently that lets you put in your main ingredient, what you have in your pantry and what you hate.  Then it give you lots of options.  The pictures are fantastic, so it is a really inspiring site. ]

Mock Margarita

While my husband considers Kona Brewing Company, Maui Brewing Company and Hawai’i Nui/Mehana Brewing Company local beverages, I’m always on the search for local drinks that aren’t just made on island, but also from island produce.

We’ve  been drinking Koloa Rum for a couple of years, ever since my husband discovered them on a business trip to Kauai.  Their white, gold and dark rums are available all over the island, even in the commissaries.  They are really great rums and well worth the price.  On our latest trip though, we tried their newest addition – Kaua’i Spice.  Only available on Kaua’i, it is really interesting.  Has a taste similar to a top-shelf tequila.

I highly recommend going to Koloa Rum’s tasting room the next time you are on Kaua’i.  You get to not only taste their rums, but also learn how to make an amazing drink with their all natural mai tai mix.  Our hostess was hilarious as well as informative.  Definitely a must-visit place on Kaua’i.

So…for the local challenge I thought I’d try making a mock margarita.  We picked up a pomelo at the Wednesday Blaisdell farmer’s market and it turned out to be pink inside (so far I’ve had only white ones).  So with an ‘almost’ grapefruit and ‘almost’ tequila, I made an island margarita.

I started with a recipe from the LA Times and made the following modifications: pomelo instead of ruby red grapefruit, calamansi lime instead of standard lime and Kaua’i Spice Rum instead of tequila.  I also had to add some sugar because the pomelo was considerable more tart than a typical ruby red grapefruit.  The only non-local thing in the drink is triple sec because I couldn’t come up with an alternative.  I’ll keep looking though…

We really liked the drink, although I’ve got to figure out how to counter the bitterness of the pomelo.  Sectioning the fruit before juicing would probably be better – I was a little lazy and just threw the whole peeled fruit through the machine.  All in all though a really great start to making a favorite drink nearly all local.

Mock margarita

heavily modified from LA Times

7 ounces pomelo juice, with pulp

1/2 ounce calamansi lime juice
2 1/2 ounces Koloa Kaua’i Spice Rum
1 ounce triple sec
1 tbsp Maui sugar

Combine all into a cocktail shaker and shake oveer ice until shilled.  Strain into two ice-filled glasses.

Local Sprouted Chili

This dinner started with a mistake – but lots of my favorite meals do. 

Sprouted cranberry beans

Last week I picked up some beautiful cranberry beans from Jeanne at North Shore Farms/Big Wave Tomatoes.  During the tomato off-season she grows the most amazing heirloom beans, so I couldn’t resist.  This would let me make some completely local chili for Kanu Hawaii’s Eat Local Challenge.

After soaking them all day, I drained them but forgot to put them in the refrigerator.  The next morning I rinsed them, stashed them in the fridge, but was shocked when that night I saw sprouts.  I thought I ruined these great beans.  A google search told me that not only were they still edible, some people actually did this on purpose.  (For more info check out this site: GNOWFLIGNS)  I’d heard of bean sprouts, but never with larger beans.  There was even a chili recipe, so thought I’d give it a try.

I made a couple changes to the recipe aside from amounts.  It called for a can of tomato paste, but that doesn’t fit the challenge.  So I blanched, peeled and cooked down 1/2 lb tomatoes in place of the tomato paste.   I also added some Ancho chili powder because we like a little heat in our chili.  Since my sprouting was by accident, I’ve included the intential sprouting directions from the original recipe.

The result was some really great chili that cooks so much faster than with normal soaked beans.  This is definitely a keeper.  The only change I will make in the future is to deviate from the all-local theme and use tomato paste.  It just needed the flavor and thickness from actual tomato paste instead of tomatoes.

 

I was also excited that I made this in time for Deb’s Souper Sunday blog event at Kahakai Kitchen.  I’ve been reading her blog for quite a while, but was able to meet her for coffee  a couple of months ago.  Wonderful lady. huge inspiration, great recipes and amazing pictures! 

Local Sprouted Chili

adapted from Wardeh Harmon at Gnowfglins
(makes 2 generous servings)

1/2 lb dry cranberry beans
1/2 Maui onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb Maui grass-fed ground beef
1/2 lb tomatoes (peeled, chopped  and cooked down to paste)
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tsp Hawaii salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tbsp cumin
1/2 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
dash ancho chili powder (not in original recipe)

Soak the dry beans in water overnight, or for 8-12 hours.  After 8-12 hours, drain the beans and leave beans uncovered at room temperature.  For each of the next 2-5 days, rinse the beans well each morning and evening.  If the temperature is warm (higher than 72 degrees), add a mid-day rinse to keep beans fresh.  Watch for the beans to sprout.  When most of them have 1/8″ to 1/4″ sprouts, they are ready for cooking.

Brown ground beef, onions and garlic.  Once browned, add spices and cook until fragrant.  Combine tomatoes and stock in bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add to the meat mixture along with beans.  Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and let simmer for 20-30 minutes or until beans are done.  Season to taste.

Garnish with greek yogurt and green onions.

Goes great with red wine from Maui:

Day 10 of the Kanu Eat Local Challenge

Two years ago we impulsively joined Kanu’s first eat local challenge.  It was only a week but it really opened our eyes.  Even though we already shopped at farmer’s markets, we didn’t realize how much mainland food we ate.

This year we are following the challenge for a full month and it has been so much easier.  We are more familiar with some local produce that was  a mystery before – bok choy, breadfruit and pomelo.  Plus there is so much more available at farmer’s markets now than there used to be.  Naked Cow Dairy has expanded into yogurt.  Farmers are growing potatoes, jicama and mushrooms on North Shore and peanuts on Big Island.  And in addition to so many more farmer’s markets, Whole Foods has arrived with a huge focus on local produce.

So, it has been easier and even more adventurous than the first time…

Favorite shopping finds of the first week: 
Guava Smoked Pork from Honolulu Farmers Market
peanut butter from Aloha Coconut
Pa’i’ai from David Anthony
bulk local chocolate from Whole Foods
andouille and portuguese sausage from North Shore Cattle Company
dried beans from Big Wave Tomatoes
Luau box from Hawaiian Chef

Favorite meals:
100% Local breakfast from Town: steak, egg, pa’i’ai
Breadfruit pancakes with Hawaiian Chef lilikoi syrup
Greek salad for a potluck (friends couldn’t believe it was all local)
Kale with portuguese sausage
Taco salad with Maui ground beef, Big Wave Tomatoes black beans and papaya salsa
Local loco moco: Maui ground beef, Small Kine Mushrooms, Ka Lei egg, pa’i’ai

How to eat local

I think the phrase ‘lucky we live Hawaii’ is so true when it comes to eating local.  Many things have a season – mangoes, avocados, breadfruit, citrus.  But others are omnipresent – bananas, zucchini, tomatoes, lettuce, sweet potatoes, papaya, corn.  While people on the mainland striving to eat local are eating root vegetables and canned summer produce, we are still eating fresh.  And while others have to make exceptions for sugar, salt, coffee and tea – we can be sipping our very local Kona and Ka’u coffee sweetened with Maui sugar.

The catch is to eat local without making it a career and without going broke.

The easiest way to eat local is Community Supported Agriculture memberships.  We have many of these on the island now and, for a fee, once a week you go pick up a box of fresh produce.  The advantage is you get a great variety of  items you may never have tried before, many of the CSAs on the island are organic and there is a set price point.  The disadvantage is that you may get items you don’t recognize.  If you are a little picky or not an adventurous eater, it may not be the best way to spend your money.  But if you are adventurous they are fantastic.  CSAs have introduced me to many new things (kale, bok choy, choy sum, mountain apples), so I really enjoy the experience.

Farmer’s markets are the next option.  We have many on the island, and more being added every week.  The rules of the markets vary, some have all local produce while others have just some, so if your goal is to eat as local as possible you just need to pick your market carefully.  But these are great places to see lots of produce, pick what sounds/looks good for the week, and meet the farmers.  I didn’t start going to the markets for the social aspect, but it has become one of my favorite things.  The vendors are always happy to share their favorite cooking methods and suggest recipes.

Grocery stores are starting to carry more local produce, though you definitely have to watch the signs.  Whole Foods carries more local produce than any other, but they are definitely not inexpensive.  Times, Foodland, Safeway and even the commissary carry local produce if you look for it.  Pineapples are easy, but others can be more difficult to sort out.  Nice thing is that there is more local food all the time – I think that the main stores are even starting to carry local beef.

We have so many options here there is really no excuse to not eat local.