Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chocolate Haupia Pie

Ryan and I are leaving for Seattle soon, so we had a big BBQ last weekend. We decided to make two desserts for the occasion: brownies (which Ryan will be guest-blogging about later, since it's his specialty) and chocolate haupia pie.

I love chocolate haupia pie. Along with malasadas, it's probably my favorite local dessert. I first made it up in Seattle back in June. The recipe I had called for chocolate pudding and a graham cracker crust. It was pretty good, but not great. Then, at Costco earlier this summer, Ryan and I saw a cookbook by Jean Watanabe Hee called Hawaii's Best Local Desserts. She's written a bunch of "local" cookbooks; Ryan and I now own nearly all of them.

Anyway, there was a "from scratch" chocolate haupia pie recipe in her desserts cookbook, so Ryan and I decided to try it. It turned out really well. Ryan and I tweaked it a tiny bit and now it's even better!

Chocolate Haupia Pie

1 9-inch pie crust (from scratch or frozen)
12 oz (1 1/2 cups) coconut milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk *
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup water
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate **

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
Shaved chocolate or cocoa powder for garnish

* I use skim milk; 1% or 2% will make everything thicker/richer. I think using whole milk might be overkill.
** The original recipe called for 7 oz of semi-sweet chocolate, and we found that it made the chocolate layer a little overpowering.

Prepare pie crust.

In a saucepan, whisk coconut milk, milk, and 1 cup sugar.

In a separate bowl, dissolve cornstarch in water. Bring coconut milk mixture to a boil. Reduce to simmer and whisk in cornstarch mixture until thickened. (Note: If the coconut milk mixture is still boiling when you add the cornstarch mixture, everything will thicken up VERY quickly. That's okay; just make sure you keep stirring so it doesn't get clumpy.)

Melt chocolate.
(The original recipe says to microwave the chocolate, but we used a double boiler. Either works.)

Pour half the haupia into a bowl.

Mix haupia with melted chocolate and pour into the bottom of the pie crust.

Layer white haupia on the top. Cool pie in refrigerator for at least an hour.

Whip cream with 1/4 cup sugar until stiff peaks form.

Garnish pie with whipped cream and shaved chocolate/cocoa powder. Chill for at least another hour.


Friday, August 22, 2008

12th Ave Grill (8/21/08)

Last night, I took Ryan to 12th Ave Grill in Kaimuki (Google Map) to celebrate him finishing his Master's degree in Electrical Engineering. (Whoo hoo, go Ryan!) I'd been to the restaurant once before back when it first opened, but I couldn't really remember what I'd thought of it then. Ryan had never been before.

Ryan decided he wanted a Washington wine due to his impending move to Seattle. We ordered the 2005 Waterbrook Columbia Valley Melange. Our server said it was one of her favorite wines, and Ryan and I both liked it a lot. (By the way, you can bring your own wine, but there's a $15 corkage fee.)

They gave us two types of bread. Both were quite yummy.

We started with the Big Island heirloom tomato salad. I'd never had heirloom tomatoes before, but I've been hearing good things about them, so I really wanted to try this salad. It was quite tasty. It had the tomatoes, of course, plus mozzarella, arugula, anchovies, capers, and crispy onion rings. The dressing was an extra virgin olive oil and balsamic reduction. I kind of wish there had been more tomatoes, though. It's called a tomato salad, after all.

For his entree, Ryan got the kim chee steak, which is what 12th Ave Grill is famous for (at least, it's the dish that's most often mentioned when people talk about the restaurant). It was a flank steak that had been marinated in kim chee sauce. It came with some red bell pepper and onion, Big Island bok choy, and steamed rice. Ryan loved it. I tried some and it was very tasty. It didn't taste like kim chee, but it was a little sweet, a little tangy, with a bit of a spicy kick. Strangely, although the kim chee steak is so well-known, 12th Ave Grill no longer has it on their menu. It just happened to be one of the specials last night. So if you're planning to go to 12th Ave Grill for the kim chee steak, make sure to ask if it's going to be available on the night you go.

My entree was the Big Island ribeye steak. It had been rubbed with BBQ spices (according to the menu...I don't know exactly what spices those are) and then grilled. It came with "warm potato salad" (basically, seasoned chunks of potato and some little pieces of bacon), spinach, crispy onion rings (same as the tomato salad), and Hamakua woodear, which is a fungus most often used in Asian cooking (and incidentally, one of the only funguses I actually eat). It was really good. Ryan and I both asked for our steaks to be done medium, and they were cooked perfectly. Yum!

Finally, we had the brownie sundae for dessert. It came with vanilla gelato, strawberries in a port reduction, chocolate sauce, and these awesome little sheets of crystallized caramel or something (we couldn't tell exactly what they were, but they were delicious). The brownie itself wasn't that special (the ones Ryan makes are way better), but the dessert overall was very enjoyable.

Overall, it was a very positive dining experience. The wait staff is friendly and efficient. The restaurant was quite busy when we were there, but despite the small size of the dining area, it didn't feel crowded or cramped. It was a bit noisy, but not annoyingly so. I'd definitely go back, and Ryan said he was sad that he hadn't tried this place out sooner. Oh well. Perhaps we'll just have to stop by the next time we're back in Hawaii.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Kats Sushi

I love trying new restaurants and visiting old ones so I'll be posting photos and reviews of the places I eat at. Most of my blog posts will be of places in Honolulu; however, my work takes me to various cities in North America so I'll be sure to include some of the restaurants I visit in those cities.

Here's my first blog post. Lianne and I love Kats Sushi (located at 715 South King Street in Honolulu) for its great all-you-can-eat sushi bar at only $20 per person. It's a great bargain for those that are craving some decent sushi and have an empty stomach to fill.

With Lianne away in Seattle, we always try to find some time to venture to Kats Sushi when she's in town. It's hard for me to go with other friends since no one seems to appreciate eating all that sushi like we do.

On our recent visit, I took some photos of what we order. DISCLAIMER - Do not view these photos if you are hungry :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pasta Casserole (easy!)

When I started cooking on my own, one of the first dishes I learned how to make was a ham-and-alfredo pasta casserole. I got the recipe from my friend Bri. It's really easy to make and everyone seems to like it. Win-win!

Pasta Casserole

You will need:
  • Pasta - non-strand. Anything like farfalle, fusilli, or penne is good.
  • Veggies - can be frozen or fresh. I usually use some combination of onion, broccoli, spinach, red/yellow/orange bell peppers, and artichoke hearts. I bet zucchini would be really good, but I haven't tried it yet. Mushrooms work, too. If using frozen veggies, don't thaw them first.
  • Ham - the fully cooked kind. Sometimes I buy ham steaks; it just depends what's on sale.
  • Alfredo sauce - from scratch or from the jar. I make this dish when I'm feeling lazy, so I've always just used the stuff in a jar. I like Classico's Sun-dried Tomato Alfredo best. If I don't have that, I'll use regular alfredo and add in sun-dried tomatoes myself.
  • Shredded mozzarella (optional)
There are no exact quantities, except that I always use one jar of pasta sauce. It all depends on what proportion of pasta to ham to veggies you want.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta. While pasta is cooking, chop up veggies and cube ham. Drain pasta. Dump pasta, ham, and veggies into 9x13 baking pan. Pour alfredo sauce on top. Fill pasta sauce jar 1/3-1/2 full with milk. Put lid on (duh), shake jar, and pour on casserole. Toss lightly until everything is fully coated with sauce. The dish should be slightly soupy-ish but not drowning. Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until veggies are cooked through. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle mozzarella on top. Stir and serve.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hakone (8/14/08)

Ryan and I took my younger sister Pam out to dinner last night at Hakone Restaurant in the Hawaii Prince Hotel. The restaurant had a nice atmosphere and the service was excellent.

All three of us decided to go with the sushi-and-appetizer buffet option ($42), which also came with an entree and dessert. We ate sooo much food. The buffet included: salad, kim chee, takuan, tofu, and a whole bunch of other veggie type things, plus chicken karaage, chicken skewers, oden, crab legs, and some other things that I can't remember. And then of course there was the sushi and sashimi. Here's what I remember they had:

Sushi - Nigiri (ahi, ika, salmon, hokkigai [clam], ebi, amaebi [raw shrimp], red snapper), plus a variety of rolls (shrimp tempura, smoked salmon/avocado/cream cheese...)

Sashimi - Ahi, hamachi, toro, salmon, tako

For our entrees, Pam and I chose tempura, while Ryan got the wafu steak. Both were really good. The tempura had shrimp, scallop, shiitake mushroom, sweet potato, and asparagus. The wafu steak was super tender and came with a yummy dipping sauce. Very tasty stuff.

And after all that came...dessert! We had a choice of vanilla, azuki, or green tea ice cream. We all went with green tea. tea ice cream.

All in all, it was a great experience. According to the Yelp reviews, Hakone has a more extensive buffet on weekends. I bet it's day I'll have to check it out!

(I forgot to take pictures of the food until it was time for dessert. Oops...)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

First post!

Hi everyone! Welcome to our blog.

Things you'll find here:
  • Favorite recipes
  • Restaurant reviews
  • Cooking tips
  • ...and other fun food-related stuff