It’s unanimous.  Kaua’i is ruled by roosters who announce the day starting at 5 am.  I don’t understand why food is so expensive on this island since it is ruled by chickens that are beyond range-fee.  They are everywhere: side of public highways, parks and resorts.  Watching them makes me hungry.

After a 23 year hiatus, Warren, I and the kids are on the lovely island of Kaua’i at the Kiahuna Outrigger Plantation.  In a moment of rain weather weakness, we decided to get out of Dodge (Santa Cruz) and head off to the tropics during spring break.  Kaua’i is as breathtaking as we once remembered and the resort is excellent.   We booked the vacation thru Costco (cheap bitch) and so far we are delighted with the accommodations.  If you are interested, we are staying in condo #100 which is a 2 bedroom/2 bath unit with a small and delightful view of the ocean from our living room balcony.  The unit has been recently upgraded and looks better than my house.  Beware, though, if you are an air-conditioner addict, this is not the place.  Many units use the tropical breezes to cool off the rooms.

The wild rooster of Kaua'i

Now about the important stuff.  Since it is now 8:30 am, and we got to the condo last night, I’ve had no time to check out local food, except the Safeway and Foodland.  Foodland does carry organics and local produce but I am shocked at the prices, except for Japanese cucumbers and papaya.  So for breakfast, papaya with lime and Hawaii’s excellent coffee is a treat.

Since we had no time to make dinner last night when we arrived, I grabbed a rotisserie chicken at Foodland.  Usually these are fatty and overdone with sauce, but this was succulent.  The sauce was Huli-Huli and it is brain-dead to make.  Use it to marinate or barbeque on chicken, fish, beef or pork.

Huli Huli Sauce – prepare this in the morning

1 cup of soy sauce

3 heaping tablespoon of  brown sugar

1 teaspoon of finely chopped ginger

Salt and Pepper to taste.

Mix well soy, 2 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar, ginger.  Pour mixture over meat ready to marinate in a glass or ceramic container (I use my lasagna pyrex dish).  Put remaining brown sugar on top of meat and refrigerate. Turn over meat occasionally.  After 3 – 8 hours of marinating, roast, bake or barbeque meat.

Aloha. Pictures to be up as soon as I can find editing software.

I’ll start with appliance hell.  Our dishwasher from Hell (Frigidaire) died about a year ago, and we finally got fed up of hand washing.  Why did we put off the decision to buy a new dishwasher for so long?  Easy, we did buy a Bosch but it wouldn’t fit in the cabinet.  Years ago I hired a tiler to redo my kitchen floor and he tiled in the dishwasher.  Contractors in California are interesting, many got started in their trade to support a drug habit.  Now they are all reborn, but definitely brain cells are missing especially when tiling kitchen floors.

For a year we angst’ing whether to pull out our tiles from around the dishwasher, which I have no replacements of the old tile, or to pull out the old dishwasher by making a hole through our stucco wall.  Both solutions were expensive and imperfect.  Finally we decided to get a shorter dishwasher that would fit our space.

Now our choice was limited, shorter dishwashers are ADA-compliant, and for the most part, hard to buy since no one keeps them in stock.  Plus they are either super-expensive such as Miele or Asko, or have an old fashion design.  I really wanted a stainless steel front, steel tub, low noise and lower water usage, plus a hidden control panel.  All that was left in my price range was a Blomberg, a brand similar to Bosch, but not well established in the US.  With a leap of faith after reading the reviews (no one brand stands out), I ordered the Blomberg at HomeEverything.com.

One month later, no dishwasher.  I called HomeEverything.  “Yes, it will be here in 7 to 10 days”.  Two weeks later, (total of 6 weeks) same old story.  In fact until yesterday, the lovely guys at customer service were singing every two weeks the same song.  Yesterday, I called again and found out that there was a “Master” back order.  “What is a Master back order”, I asked Mr. HomeEverything customer serviceman.  “Well, it seems that there is a major amount of product that is overdue”, said the calm voice on the phone.   “And does this mean that I should expect my dishwasher in SEPTEMBER?” I said with a slight panic in my voice.  “No”, said Mr. HomeEverything, “but it will probably take another 2 to 4 weeks”.

That’s it.  These guys at HomeEverything have been stringing me on the line for 3 months.  They have totally lost their credibility with me.  I’ll never try buying anything from them again. Tomorrow I’ll go talk to the guys at Sears (you can haggle with them and the warranty is good) and get a Bosch.  Do you have another idea that might work?  Comments are really appreciated.

On another subject, here is the recipe for Shrimp and Celeriac Remoulade.  Celeriac (Celery root) is a celery bulb, a hairy, incredibly unattractive object that is wonderfully mild.  You’ll need to peel it with a very sharp knife, like a pineapple and use a food processor, a god-send to cooks around the world, to make the thin strips.  I first had remoulade at the Carlyle Hotel during a Sunday Brunch.  It was one of those perfect weekends in NYC, caught the evening show at Café Carlyle with Bobby Short, drank lots of champagne and luxuriated in a room at the hotel.  I felt like an adult “Eloise at the Plaza”, only I was at a better hotel, the Carlyle.

I like to add poppy seeds to my remoulade and you can substitute the shrimp with crab or lobster.  This 5 minute recipe is delicious, exotic and elegant.  But it ain’t cheap so make it for a special occasion.

Shrimp and Celeriac Remoulade – Serves 4 – 8 people.  Prep time:  10 minutes,  inactive refrigerator time:  ½ hour.

1 lb of cold cooked and peeled shrimp

1 – 2 peeled bulbs of celeriac – bulbs are usually slightly under 2 lbs each

1 cup of good mayonnaise – I use Best Brand or Trader Joe’s Organic

2 lemons – make sure that they are full of juice

2 tsps white vinegar such as white wine or white balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

1 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp freshly grounded pepper

1 tsp poppy seeds

Directions

Using the food processor and the shredding disk, feed chunks of the celeriac thru the machine.  You can also use a mandoline on a matchstick setting.  Place the celeriac shavings in a large bowl, add the lemon juice and kosher salt, mix well, and allow mixture to stand for 30 minutes to soften the bulb and add flavor.

In a small bowl whisk mayonnaise, white vinegar, Dijon mustard and pepper.  Pour over celeriac mixture, add cold shrimp and poppy seeds.  Refrigerate until serving time.  Garnish with additional poppy seeds.

This dish makes a delightful cold main course, with a light dry white wine, good bread, steamed asparagus and a light green salad with a shallot vinaigrette. Don’t forget to use your SaladSuccess Shaker!

On that tension-filled day, I never was the girl that got piles of cards on my desk.  Nor did I have boyfriends who smothered me with gifts of jewels, furs, trips and chocolates.  So over the years, Valentine’s Day has been a ho-hum holiday.  In fact, it really means that it is my best friend’s birthday, and she is a real sweetheart.

When we, my husband and I, moved out to California in the late ‘80’s, we made a pact never to spend a lot of money on flowers.  Plants grow so quickly and easily in California, it seemed ridiculous to plunk $60 on a dozen long-stem red roses.  Soon we found out that roses were to be had for $3.99 a dozen, and that sealed the deal: he could only buy me roses if he found them for under $7 a dozen. It was a smart decision.

He also found out that I’m not a chocoholic and that for people that are poor at planning, reservations on the California coast seem to be impossible to get on Valentine’s Day.  And so are babysitters.  So we’ve changed game plans; we have a day of love.  The kids make valentines for all of us, my husband usually finds a card at the last moment, and I cook to sweeten up the evening.

About that chocolate thing of mine; it is not genetic, the rest of the family loves the stuff.  But we have recently found a central ground.  We just can’t resist those Cella’s Milk Chocolate Covered Cherries with 100% liquid filling.  I know that they are crap but in three days, they’ll all be eaten. Being a cheap bitch, I already bought them on sale – one box per family member.  Happy, sweet indulgence.

And so I part with you a sweet recipe for Amaretto Shrimp.  It’s fast, easy to make, and irresistible to your crowd. My family of 5 powers through 2 lbs of shrimp, but for an intimate dinner of 2, I’d suggest ½ to 1 lb.  I make it with white rice, but you could use any delicate-tasting grain.  Top it off with a green salad, shallot vinaigrette and an Alsatian Gwerztraminer wine.

Sweet Shrimp in Amaretto – Prep time:  20 minutes, Active Cooking: 10 minutes or less, rice takes 50 minutes

2 lbs of raw shrimp

½ lb sliced bacon (pan fried or even better, roasted)

1 clove of finely chopped shallots

Olive oil

½ cup Amaretto

½ cup of heavy cream

Salt and Pepper to taste

For rice: 1 cup rice for every 2 cups of water.  In a pot, boil water and at full boil, add rice.  Come to a second boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cover pot with a tight lid.  Ready in 45 minutes to 1 hour.

For roasted bacon:  set oven at 400 degrees.  Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and place a rack on top of it.  I use a cooling rack.  Cook until crisp – about 20 – 25 minutes.  Be careful getting pan out of the oven since the fat from the bacon has dropped down to parchment paper.  When cool enough to handle, chop bacon and set aside.

For shrimp: In a large frying pan, add enough olive oil to cover bottom and place on a medium heat.  Add shallots and sauté for 1 – 3 minutes.  Add amaretto and cream, and cook until it begins to bubble (don’t boil).  Add shrimp & bacon – cook until shrimp turns pink – 3 to 5 minutes.  Take pan off of the heat, and serve over a bed of rice.  Add salt and ground pepper to taste.

For those of you without a SaladSuccess shaker, use 3 parts olive oil, one part sherry, wine or balsamic vinegar, a tsp. of Dijon Mustard, 1/2 finely chopped clove of shallots, 2 dashes of salt and a dash of pepper.  Toss into a jar with a closed lid, and shake until about 20 times.

We are in the middle of the rainy season here in central California and sniffing the air has become an art form.  I was driving my little daughter to a play date and just as I pulled into the driveway, I smelled it everywhere.  What was that delectable odor, what was that perfume?”  Finally, it dawned on me; and field of bay leaf trees growing wild.  So, as a good little cheap bitch, I quickly tore off a few branches, thus saving myself a small fortune in bay leaf purchases.

There are other freebies that are located in my garden and grow all year ‘round; parsley, mint, oregano, thyme and rosemary. Rocket (arugula,rockette, roquette), mache (rapunzel, field salad, or lamb’s lettuce), and chives are free too, since they reseed themselves.  We call them volunteers.  When I am in the grocery stores I’m stunned how much they are charging for a small packet of herbs and forget buying mache, it’s exorbitant.  And they are all so easy to grow.  So the next thing I am putting on my gardening list, is to buy a bay tree starter.  Just think of the years of enjoyment we’ll get from this one small purchase.  And it’s a real cheap bitch purchase.

Now talking about cheap, white fishes such as Dover sole, tilapia and skai are very inexpensive at the moment.  I found both skai and tilapia on sale at my market for $3.99 a pound and decided that for under $8 dollars we would eat regally, all 5 of us.  So instead of pan frying, I want this delicate white fish to be cooked in its juices with wine, lemons, onions and herbs.  To do that, and to have an easy cleanup, I cooked the fish “en papillote” or less elegantly, in parchment paper.  This is the best and healthiest way to cook a fish other than grilling which can dry out a low fat fish.  Parchment paper from the grocery store is expensive, but a large roll (don’t worry, it’s no larger than the 200 ft of aluminum foil at the grocery store) is cost-effective and I found it at Costco.

I also made a chicken and rosemary flavored polenta which is so more exciting than rice and once again, cheap.  Polenta is one of the simplest grains to cook, but if your cupboard is bare, okay, bring out the rice.  Of course don’t forget a nice salad – greens, rocket, mache, feta crumbles with a shallot vinaigrette and a glass of Reisling (if you want to go nuts, spend the wad on Jos. Meyer’s family of Reisling wines – they are from the Alsace region of France and totally to die for).

Poisson Blanc en Papillote (White Fish cooked in Parchment Paper – sounds better in French):  Prep – 5 minutes: Cooking time: ½ hour:  Serves 4-6

2 lbs of a white fish – Tilapia, Skai, Dover Sole

¼ cup of white wine – I use 2 buck Chuck from Trade Joe’s

¼ cup chicken broth

3 -4 bay leaves

1 -2 lemons

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Set oven to 375 degrees. Place fish on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut a similar sized piece of parchment paper.  Pour chicken broth and white wine over fish, place onion slices, lemons and bay leaves on fish.  Sprinkle salt and pepper.

With the 2nd piece of parchment paper, place over fish and fold 2x both edges of parchment papers together and staple edges so that it makes a sealed package.  When complete, pop into the oven for 30 minutes.

Chicken and Rosemary Infused Polenta: Prep – 5 minutes,  Cooking time – 20 minutes, Serves 4 – 6

4 cups water

1 cup polenta

1 tsp. of chicken broth –  Better than Bouillon found at Costco or better grocery stores. (If you have liquid broth, substitute 2 cups of the water for 2 cups of the chicken broth).

1 sprig of rosemary

Boil 4 cups of water (or 2 cups with 2 cups of chicken broth, bouillon, or stock) with “Better than Bouillon” in a medium size pot.  At full boil, gently add polenta, lower heat to a simmer and whisk mixture until there are no lumps.  Add sprig of rosemary. Serve in 20 minutes.

little-red-coatIn October, I found myself with my little daughter routing through the racks at Goodwill.  Her mission was to put together a Halloween costume, mine was to keep myself occupied.  Then I saw it, waving to me in all its redness.  Not just a little red coat, but a little red Pendleton stroller coat needing a new home.  Fifteen dollars later and the little red coat was mine.

Halloween came and went and finally during Christmas break, I was able to hem the sleeves of my beautiful coat and give it to the cleaners.  To my surprise, the cleaning bill was larger the cost of my little red coat but still was cheaper than buying it on Ebay (watch out for Ebay, often the prices start high – even for used clothing).  Finally, I brought my little red coat home from the cleaners and now on cold grey windy days, I am rather dashing and smiling wearing my little red coat.

I am always amaze how people can give up classical, beautifully constructed clothing that never show age and are always in style.  But I must remember the old adage, one person’s treasure is another person’s trash.  Thank you whoever you are, for my little red coat.

Now there is no segue to the next subject – Roasted Root Vegetable and Wheat Berry Salad except that it makes a wonderful side dish or meal on wintery days.  I was intrigued by David Lebowitz’s  recipe, tried it out, and have made some very necessary changes.  Most important, you must soften the wheat berry before cooking, either by soaking it overnight, soaking it for two hours in warm water or cooking it forever.  I cooked mine for 1 hour and that did not soften the berries enough.  Secondly, I did not like roasting the beets at 425 – they came out burnt and still uncooked.  My advice on beets, is to chop them, and microwave for 15 – 20 minutes, then add them to the salad.  Lastly, his salad was a bit bland and David used too much salt for my taste – we have a family member on a salt restricted diet. Instead of salt, add a sherry – shallot vinaigrette, some feta or gorgonzola cheese, and if you aren’t a vegetarian, several slices of steak. Presto, a fabulous meal.  And of course, amazingly cheap especially if you buy the wheat berries in the bulk section of the grocery store (I got mine at Whole Foods for $0.99 a pound).

Roasted Root Vegetable and Wheat Berry Salad wheatberry-salad
Six to Eight Servings
The wheat berries will take more salt that you might think, so salt the water generously that you boil them in. If you taste it, it should approximate sea water. And any assortment of firm-fleshed root vegetables will do (or butternut squash), but they should be all about the same size when diced.
This salad is open to lots of variations and interpretations.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cup (300 g) wheat berries or farro
one bay leaf

2 pounds (1kg) assorted root vegetables; carrots, rutabagas, butternut squash, celery root, parsnips, and salsify, peeled and cut into thumbnail-sized cubes
1 large red onion, peeled and diced
1/3 cup (80 ml) plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
10 or so branches of fresh thyme
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 cup (60 g) dried cranberries or cherries, coarsely chopped

DIRCTIONS
Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC).

1. Bring about 2 quarts (2l) of well-salted water to a boil, then add the wheat berries and bay leaf. Cook until tender, but still chewy. Depending on the variety, they’ll take between 40-60 minutes to cook.

2. While the wheat berries are cooking, toss the diced vegetables on a baking sheet with the onion and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and thyme, seasoning with salt and pepper.

3. Roast the vegetables in the bottom third of the oven, stirring once midway during baking, for 20 minutes, or until cooked through and browned on the outside.

4. Once the wheat berries are cooked, drain them well, plucking out the bay leaf. Transfer the wheat berries to a bowl and mix in 1/3 cup (80 ml) of olive oil and the dried fruits, stirring well. Taste, seasoning with more salt if necessary

5. Stir in the root vegetables (I don’t mind the thyme branches in there, but you can remove them if you want) and do a final check for seasoning and add more salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and additional olive oil, if desired.  Add a shallot vinaigrette (3 spoonfuls of olive oil, one spoonful of sherry or balsamic vinegar, ½ spoonful of French Dijon mustard, dash of salt and pepper, one finely chopped clove of garlic, and whisk well)

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Storage: Can be made up to three days in advance, and refrigerated. Let come to room temperature before serving.

Here are some possible additions to add to the finished salad:

Microwaved beets

Toasted and coarsely chopped pecans, hazelnuts, or walnuts

Diced dried apricots in place of the cranberries or cherries

Cubes of feta or bleu cheese strewn over the top

A big squeeze of fresh lemon or tangerine juice, or some zest

Sautéed mushrooms tossed in with the root vegetables

Wilted greens, cooked with garlic, coarsely chopped

A generous handful of spicy arugula or flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Green Scallions

Steak slices

Thanks you David for this recipe – recipe provided courtesy of David Lebovitz

pork-loinSo after I spent a small fortune on New Year’s Eve Dinner – the lobster tail threw my budget out of whack- I’m back to being a cheap bitch.  This is going to really take the test, since my new year’s resolution is to cut back drastically on grain-fed beef, especially cattle that are fed predominately corn.  My eldest daughter, Suzanne, is particularly stressed to hear that most cattle are feed corn, and need antibiotics to keep them alive since the corn is not part of their natural diet.  Since my blood sugar has been elevated, I figure that keeping corn (you know, that starch-sugar-carb thing) out of my diet might be a good idea.  And I should cut down serving all meats for a healthier life. But when pork loin roll sells for $1.67 a pound (on sale), I’m a sucker.

Sometimes being cheap isn’t intuitive.  To really get me going, I visit Dee Dee’s blog at Every Day Frugal/ Every Day Green.  I’ve known Dee since I was a junior at Princeton High School in New Jersey and even in those days, she knew how to stretch a dollar.  As young women, we would hop in my car and go visit Pennsylvania outlets.  Our best score was the day we found the cashmere sweater outlet.  How we would agonize over which sweater to buy at outlandish price of $17.

Now when it comes to being cheap – oh, excuse me – frugal and thrifty, Dee has me beat.  She turns used cashmere sweaters into wonderful scarves, finds designer dresses at church bazaars for nearly nothing, can make dinner for two on a dime (no, she doesn’t have small children that throw tantrums if there is no steak), is committed to recycling, eating locally grown produce, and keeping a small footprint on the Earth (hers is size 5).  But if you have ever seen her house (pre-revolutionary war), her wardrobe and her life style, you would think that the woman lived the Town and Country dream life.  And she does, only with a lot less money and a lot less waste.

So these next three blogs are a salute to you, Dee.   There is no reason that inexpensive ingredients can’t make a wonderful meal.  The only thing that would make it better is to have you at my dinner table.

Pork Loin Roll with Tarragon, Onion and Fennel:  Prep – 20 minutes, Cooking time – 1 ½ hours

I usually buy a 4 – 6 lb pork roll, and cut it so that I can make at least 4 meals out of it.  I keep one for the night’s dinner and freeze the other 3.  Sometimes for veggies, I might use parsnips and turnips, or even apples.  Other times I just want fennel and onions (no potatoes, carrots or celery) and I would use ½ as much wine and water.

1 to 1 ½ pound of pork roll

2 finely sliced onions

2 sliced fennel bulbs – chop of the tops and cut out the hard center

¼ cup dried herbs – like herbs de Provence

½ cup white wine – I use “2 Buck Chuck ‘ that is found out Trader Joe’s

½ cup of water

4 – 6 potatoes – quartered or sliced – I use yellow or Yukon Golds.  Fingerlings or babies work well too.

4-6 carrots nicely sliced

3 sticks of celery – rough chop

Olive oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

In a large Dutch oven, pour enough olive oil to cover bottom and when hot, sear all sides of the pork.  Take out the pork from the oven, place it on a cutting board on one of its flat sides (this will make it look tall) and stick a large knife deep into it down the center (don’t go sissy on me, use this to relieve tension).  You probably won’t be able to go all the way to the bottom but try.  Then stuff tarragon and the herbs into the opening.

Saute the onions and fennel in the Dutch oven.  When soft, add the pork roll, wine, water, potatoes, carrots and celery.  Cover and cook at medium temperature.  After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to a low setting.  Cook for another 60 -70 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.

breadbowl1By Saturday, I had it.  Too many times we went to Urgent Care; Mom swore she had heart pains which turned out to be pains from a fall  and Suzanne washed her contacts out with the wrong cleaner, thus burning her epithelial cellular layer of her eyes.  Too many times I drove kids around, too many interruptions and too little time for me to get the things done that I had on my list.  I really wanted to work on my family tree and hem my new suit  jackets and pants.  Nothing I wanted to get done got accomplished.  So when it came to dinner time, I panicked.  I hadn’t defrosted any meats or fish, and no little grey cells in my brain were coming alive and printing out a menu.

Then I remembered Clam Chowder Bowls.  Christie loves going to San Francisco and getting a bowl for lunch.  Not only is the soup delicious and warming, there is the afterlife of the meal which she gets to pull apart the sourdough bread and chew the bread with the remnants of the soup.  Plus, I know how to cheat on clam chowder, and by using a favorite can brand,  I add some ingredients, and voila, gourmet clam chowder in 10 minutes.  So here is the skinny.

Clam Chowder Bowls for 4

INGREDIENTS

4 sourdough bread rounds

3 cans of Snow’s New England Clam Chowder (condensed**)

3 cans of low fat/regular milk

1 bunch of finely chopped parsley, no stems

¼ cup of white whine

½ lb of sliced mushrooms

1 onion finely sliced

DIRECTIONS

Turn the sourdough bread rounds into soup bowls by slicing the domed top and hollowing out the inside of the bowl (don’t hollow out too much of the sides) just you would do a pumpkin.

Follow the directions on the back of the Captain Snow’s chowder can.  This will become a rich soup using 2% milk, so it will become incredibly rich with regular milk or half & half. Add the wine.

Sauté the onion and mushrooms in a small pan.  I use olive oil but butter is fine.

Once the onions and mushrooms are sauté (onions should be limp and translucent, mushroom should be soft), place them into the bottom of each bowl.  Add the soup and garnish with parsley and a tab of butter.  Serve immediately.  Excellent with a glass of white wine (I really needed it on Saturday) and a mixed green salad.  Don’t forget the vinaigrette using your SaladSuccess salad dressing shaker.

*** If you can’t find the clam chowder in the condensed form, use the regular can (but you will need double the amount and should adjust the recipe accordingly).