All Posts Tagged ‘Fish


sunday dinner: ahi tuna poke.


As Hawaii week comes to a close (although it will never really be over, will it), we must talk about the food. Oh, the food. It’s secretly/not so secretly the main reason I travel. I don’t feel I’m alone in this. My friends and family might give me the crazy eyes when I tell them I’m flying half way across the world to spend six days in Hawaii on a whim, but whatever, I’ll be the one drinking mai tais and eating fish caught fresh that day while watching a technicolor Hawaiian sunset, so who’s winning at life now?

The food we had in Hawaii was a fantastic mix of Asian cultures and local island favorites; we ate our way through China and Japan and Korea for days (all in one strip mall, in fact — yes, the BEST food in Hawaii is always found in a strip mall), and that’s not even covering the more traditional Hawaiian dishes like poi and kalua pork and lomi lomi salmon. I somehow escaped the islands without trying spam (which I really wanted to do!), but I made up for it by eating as many manapua I could get my hands on.

But. If we’re talking about the true hero of the trip, my absolutely favorite thing I consumed in my time in Hawaii, something I ate at nearly every meal, it’s poke. I could write an entire album of songs (probably even a multi-disc collection) about my love of poke. No, not the annoying, seemingly useless Facebook feature. I’m talkin’ Hawaiian poke (pronounced po-kay), and if you haven’t experienced this little Hawaiian gem, you’re not living life to the fullest, my friend.

A few things about poke for you to know. You must enjoy raw fish to enjoy poke. What is essentially the Hawaiian version of ceviche, poke’s main ingredients are typically raw fish (most popular is ahi tuna), soy sauce, some form of onion (spring, sweet, Maui or otherwise), and finely chopped macadamia or kukui nuts. Poke is usually served as an appetizer, or pu pu in Hawaiian, and it is deliciously addictive. Our first night in Hawaii I was invited to the house of my friend’s family for dinner. Pu pus came to the table and I casually swiped a piece of poke with my chopsticks and was so enticed by the salty, buttery, slightly sweet flavor I almost fell out of my chair. Picture me trying to be polite and gracious and charming while also trying to covertly shove as much poke in my mouth as possible. I’m sure I was the picture of manners; just call me charm school over here.

When I left Hawaii, I knew the first thing I wanted to attempt to make at home was poke, and tonight I have done just that. While searching out the ingredients will take a bit of effort (and unfortunately, there are a few things you just can’t get outside of Hawaii), actually putting it together is a breeze. The soy sauce does all the work for you, so all that’s required is a little chopping and you’re done. I’ve made some slight alterations based on my preferences (believe me, I tried about 500 different kinds of poke on your behalf, so consider me an expert in this field), but this is a pretty straightforward, ‘basic’ recipe. The flavors, however, are faaaaaar from basic.

OK, you ready? Let’s do this.

Hawaiian Ahi Poke (adapted from Hawai’i Magazine)

1 lb fresh ahi steaks, cut into cubed, bite-size pieces
¼ cup soy sauce (shoyu)
¼ cup chopped green onions (tops included)
¼ cup chopped sweet yellow onion (if you can get Maui onion, otherwise a nice Vidalia will do)
2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 jalapeño pepper, cored, seeded and diced (optional but highly recommended)
sea salt, to taste (if you use full sodium soy sauce, you won’t need this)
2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

There’s really not much to say in terms of prep other than chop everything up according to the above, place in a large container (I used a large tupperware, but you can just as easily use a big mixing bowl) and refrigerate for at least two hours. I’d recommend serving this as an appetizer, or you could eat as a main course alongside an asian-inspired salad and some rice. No matter how you enjoy it, it will, for if only a fleeting moment, give you a feeling of island breezes and a slower way of life. I will long for it dearly, I will dream of it often and I will one day return.


A few other foods I enjoyed greatly while bopping around Oahu are the following:

Malasadas (Portuguese donuts) from Leonard’s Bakery: pillowy soft, some rolled in cinnamon sugar, some filled with coconut cream or chocolate, some just a plain old delicious donut…no holes necessary. YUM.


Korean food from Kim Chee II Restaurant (heck yeah, strip mall feast): sometimes after a long day in the sun, you just want an explosion of flavor in your mouth, and Korean delivers strongly in that category. From short ribs to mandu to bi bimbap, it’s all delicious, all the time over here.

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Kona coffee, literally anywhere: not much to say here other than it’s so good it’s made for ROYALTY.


Hawaiian Plate Lunch and Slush Float at Rainbow Drive-in: think of it as a Hawaiian ‘meat and three’ (for those of you who have never been to the South, I don’t really know how to describe this to you other than it’s some good down home cookin’). You choose your meat — usually fried chicken, BBQ steak, fried fish, what have you — and it comes with a side of ‘mac salad’ and rice. You can reserve your gravy for your meat (as I did), or you can go crazy and put it on everything. Accompanying this is a magical concoction called a slush float, which is basically a 7-11 strawberry slushie that’s had a love child with an ice cream float. It’s sugary and sweet and oh so good, and it’s a perfect balance to the saltiness of the plate lunch. Listen, I never said eating in Hawaii was healthy. I did, however, say it was delicious.

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sunday dinner: roasted salmon with lemon relish & shaved brussels sprouts salad.

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Today is one of those magical days where the sky is blue and the birds are chirping and the flowers are blooming and you can just feel it in your bones that spring has arrived. I want to throw open my windows and sing like a Disney princess, you guys. The whole city comes alive on these days; we emerge from our dwellings to soak up the sun, still with a hint of trepidation. Can this be real? Can we really put winter in the rear view? Oh my, I do hope so.

When it comes to cooking on a day like this, gone are the cozy stews and the steaming bowls of pasta. I want something fresh and vibrant, something that tastes of the new season that is before us. Fish is ideal for this type of weather — it’s light but filling and it pairs well with the vegetables that are currently in season. Cooked simply and paired with a crunchy, bright salad, this is the perfect menu to welcome spring (I hope…fingers and toes crossed).

Slow-roasted Salmon with Meyer Lemon Relish

1 center cut salmon fillet, approximately 1-1¼ pounds
olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Meyer Lemon Relish:

1 large shallot, minced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (you can use lemon juice as a substitute)
sea salt
1 large meyer lemon
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
freshly ground black pepper

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

1 granny smith apple
1 pound brussels sprouts
1 cup pecorino romano cheese, finely grated


3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
¼ cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

It’s best to deal with the salmon first since it will take the longest to cook. Once you have it in the oven, you can focus on the relish and the salad. First, preheat your oven to 200 degrees and place a baking dish half filled with water on the bottom oven rack. This will help to slightly steam the fish as it cooks, which will result in a firm but tender finished product.

Take out your salmon fillet and place it skin side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Brush the salmon with some olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. When the oven is warm, place the sheet on the center rack and cook for approximately 45 minutes. Depending on the size and the thickness of the filet, it might take a little longer to cook completely, potentially up to 1 hour. Your fish is done when it’s firm to the touch and juices are starting to run. Once fully cooked, take your salmon out of the oven and set it out of the way to rest.

While your fish is cooking, turn your focus to the relish first, then the salad. For the relish, first take your minced shallot and place in a small bowl with the vinegar (or the lemon juice) and a pinch of salt. This will allow the shallot to macerate, which is a fancy way of saying ‘soften and absorb flavors’. As the shallot breaks down in the vinegar, it will absorb some of the vinegar flavor, which will help your relish not be overpoweringly onion-y. That would be no bueno.

While your shallots are a-maceratin’, grab your lemon and cut it into 8 wedges. Remove any seeds and cut out any of the white spongy core. Cut each wedge in half again, then turn and cut thin slices across the wedge (the result will be a bunch of tiny triangles with rind on one side). Add these to the shallots, followed by the olive oil and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Next, let’s make the dressing for the salad. So many condiments! I heart the condiments. Whisk the cider vinegar and honey together until well mixed, then drizzle in the olive oil in a slow stream until combined. Season with salt and pepper (this could literally be my life motto, I say it so often) and set aside.

Take your apple and cut it in half, then cut out the core. Then take each half, cut into thin slices, then cut each slice into strips. The end result will be a bunch of matchstick-like pieces. Stick these in a small bowl and toss with a bit of the dressing. This will marinate them slightly and prevent them from turning brown.

Rinse the brussels sprouts thoroughly, trim the ends and remove any weird looking leaves (by weird I mean brown and wilty). OK. This is where the salad gets potentially dangerous. Using either a mandoline or a sharp knife, you’re going to thinly slice the sprouts. If you’re not careful, there’s also a strong chance that you’ll slice your fingers off. So look alive, young chef. This is not the time for distractions. When you’ve cut all the sprouts, throw away the ends and any bigger pieces, and place the rest of the shredded sprouts in a serving bowl. Add the apples and the rest of the dressing and toss. Set aside and let rest for 15 minutes or so, just enough time to soften the sprouts and develop some crazy good flavor.

When you’re ready to eat, cut the salmon into pieces and serve the relish on the side. Add a healthy handful of pecorino to the salad and toss to incorporate.

The simple flavor of the salmon plus the brightness of the relish plus the crunchy, vinegary, salty/cheesy flavor of the salad will delight your palate in the most spring-like way. Your first step towards warmer temperatures and fresh flowers and a feeling that all is new again. That sounds mighty nice.