Upcountry Hawaii is often overflowing with avocados in the Winter. They have been sliced, scooped, mashed, and now roasted. I often clean my kitchen cabinets this time of year, and one of the items that I discovered was an unopened bag of Japanese style bread crumbs, known as Panko. With the winds, and heavy rains bringing down even more avocados, I roasted warm dish was in order. I selected a perfectly ripe one, cut off the bruised bit where it fell to the ground, and sliced it into planks. Next, I beat one egg, and dipped the avocado in it before dredging through the breadcrumbs. I lined them up in a baking dish, and sprinkled them with seasoned seaweed flakes. I set the oven to 450 and let them turn golden (about 15 min.) For a dipping sauce, I combined chili garlic paste, sesame oil, tamari (or soy) sauce, and two spoonfuls of my lemongrass tea (optional.) The result was a lovely warm appetizer with a Pacific twist. I ate it as a meal, but it could be served as a side as well. Simple, healthy, and using our produce abundance in a new, tasty way. Aloha.
I began fermenting back in July as a means of finding even more uses for the vegetables that I grow. In the past six months, I have continued to explore ways that fermentation can be good for me, my farm, other farmers, and the entire community. It continues to be a journey of discovering new things with each new ferment.
This past week I decided to continue to work with other farmers and their abundance. It turns out that my quarts of fermented produce have become a wonderful item to barter with. Squash is the core of all I do, so squash is also the core foundation of my fermentation. I have experimented with two varieties of winter squash, one variety of summer squash from my fellow farmer Lark, and pipinola. Pipinola is what I consider a cousin of squash. We have a unique name for it here in Hawaii, but it is more commonly known as chayote.
I have previously sung the wonders of pipinola on my webpage, but I would like to add that it is a good source of vitamin C. Raw chayote it crunchy, and crisp, which are two great things for fermentation. It is also quite neutral in flavor and color, making it my fill in for cabbage. It also releases water quite easily when salt is added.
I began my pipinola growing with green skinned heavily wrinkled fruits. I found a variation that I liked which was a smoother, softer skinned fruit. I selected these traits and gradually replanted the fruits that displayed this smooth skin. Like any variation there are upsides and downsides. The smoother, softer skin, makes the skin easily used in the kitchen instead of the tougher skinned ones. The downside, is that they are much more susceptible to damage through bruising and nicks. Pipinola/chayote is grown by replanting the fruits, and the one large seed within will germinate with a dynamic vine.
One you have your fermentation base vegetables, it is great to explore how new combinations can change it all up. So this week, I investigated how other farm goods can be brought into the mix. I have always loved root vegetables which are not easy to grow where I am farming. Beets have come into season again here in Hawaii, so it was time to revisit the Bonk family and get my hands on some beets. Marlene was happy to take a quart of pumpkin/carrot/pipinola kraut, while I was excited to fill my bag with beets.
With each new vegetable, I create a series of ferments that are linked by that one new flavor. If we were talking fashion design, my ferments would be a collection, so I will refer to them as such. In the beet collection, I decided to marry the sweet with the heat of ghost peppers in another, as featured above, I threw it all in.
Each of us will like different combinations of vegetables, and as is the case with fermentation, you may like some fermented vegetables, that you do not like unfermented. Fermentation transforms, melds, marries flavors into a complex profile. So with the new addition of beets, we can look at how they shape the ferment in terms of nutrition, flavor, and color. There is also the need to consider what is the limit of how much beet we can handle? When is it enough? Experiment so to know the limitations of your ferments. I love seaweed, known here as limu, but there is a point where enough is enough. To much limu can make the ferment very salty, and very intense in minerals. It can pack a punch and “kinda levels” those not used to it. I feel like beet could go the same route, in being an overpowering vegetable, where you need to understand how to use it as an accent, in a combination of flavors, and as a main flavor. As is the story of fermentation, time will tell. Longer fermentation time may make it mellow…or not.
Above, locally sourced Ogo seaweed is busy making my ferments both intense and complex.
Repurposing found objects is also a great way to begin in fermenting. I chose to repurpose a 4 qt crock pot crock and found a lid that would work with it. Most of my ferments are done in one quart jars, but I decided to try a larger quantity of the “kitchen sink” ferment. Quart jars were used for smaller volume experiments.
I’ll be keeping you posted on how the new farm ferment collection turns out, but until then, think in terms of abundance in your garden, your cellar, your farmers market, and region. Abundance is a luxury as long as you do not allow it to overwhelm you. Too much of a good thing can be stressful, and putting up a bushel of vegetables on your own, is quite a task. I can honestly tell you that it does get easier to work your way through a volume of produce. I think starting with what would roughly fit in a grocery bag is a good place to start. So give it a try…and good luck!
I am a chronic meal skipper, so at the start of every new year, my promises to myself are always about food. I try to challenge myself to prepare ahead of time, and then have healthy grab and go items. Eating homegrown is so satisfying, and it can be an important way to retrain yourself into new ways of eating things from your garden. But even knowing that, prepping takes time. So I have created strategies to have healthy options at the ready.
One of my success stories is a no bake bar that is comprised of raw foods. This recipe uses two farm ingredients, banana and pumpkin seeds. I am drying macadamia nuts right now, and in the future, those would make a lovely addition.
I use a mix of ingredients to combine into a snack bar full of energy providing nutrients. In general terms, the additions are of two main categories: ingredients that will make things stick, and ingredients that need to be stuck together. Prep time under 10 minutes plus refrigeration.
“sticky ingredients” can be:
coconut milk, almond milk, nut or seed butters, ripe banana
“things to stick ingredients” can be:
Oat bran, ground flax seed (these two or similar ones will create the body of the bar) dairy free or regular chocolate chips, seeds like chia, hemp, sunflower kernels, pumpkin seeds, coconut flakes…
I then use carob or cocoa powder to flavor the lot.
Here is roughly my process:
Every time is different, but today, I put some pumpkin seeds through the grinder (or if using the food processor, I put them in whole), add in some sunflower kernels, chia/flax/hemp seeds, some coconut flakes (the big ones) some nuts, dairy free or regular chocolate chips, coconut milk, granola, almond milk, carob powder or cocoa powder. Added flax seed bran, and oat bran, and added bran until it was a good consistency to press into a pan.
I just put in what I have. I add only enough of the milks to smoosh it all together. I think the addition of a glob of almond butter and ripe smooshed banana makes the bars rich and satisfying. I then just press it into a square pan, and top with more coconut, pressing the coconut into the top of the bars.
I have always mixed this in a large bowl, but today I made it in a food processor since I had it out and ready to go. I find that it is easy to use the back of a large spoon to press it all into the pan before topping with more coconut.
I then I cover the pan, and pop it into the fridge, and I will cut them into squares after a couple hours. I keep them in the fridge, and then put a couple in a travel container to carry with me. I keep key ingredients on hand so this takes just a few minutes. It could be served as a healthy desert too!
I should be making these every week….now there is a New Year’s resolution I can stick with!
I decided to cook up some of my heirloom Christmas lima beans and make a casserole. With a lot of work to do in preparation for the National Heirloom Expo, I need my energy. I had the food processor out with the shred blade on, as I was already making my pipinola (chayote) kraut. I was also sitting on several pounds of zucchini from a farm trade that I made with our local CSA. I decided to just keep shredding and make a taco seasoned dish that I could use throughout the week. Here is what I did: I had cooked the Christmas lima beans on low overnight in the crockpot with water enough to cover, and 1/2 of a Sweet Onion. I was already planning on using the beans, so I thought that all I needed was some more vegetables.I shredded one half of a large Hawaiian Sweet Onion, One large Zucchini, one pipinola(chayote squash) 2 orange habanero peppers, and 5 pickled hot peppers. I then poured the shredded veg into a bowl, and pulsed 2-3 cups of the now room temperature cooked lima beans. I added them to the bowl, and added two packages of taco seasoning, a sprinkle of sea salt, and a cup of breadcrumbs. I mixed it all together and pressed it into a 9×9 square pan, baking it at 350 degrees for an hour.
I’ve been making homemade kraut for several weeks now, as a means of capturing the harvests that come and go at both the farm and garden. The salty zing of the sea salt brine is welcomed after a hot day in the field. I thought, why not? Add it to the taco. I am happy to learn that this one taco casserole makes two completely different dining experiences. Fresh out of the oven, it is warm and comforting, with melted cheese and steamed rice for an evening meal, but the next day, it is bright and light as a chilled lunchtime taco with the ice cold kraut.
Since I am doing a lot of physical labor, I need a lot of food energy to get me through the day, so this homegrown, healthy taco had enough staying power to keep me going. Granted, my farmer portion was probably a bit larger than many would make. Overall, it was a simple feast made out of farm and garden goods. I will certainly make it again soon.
Try experimenting, I am sure carrots or pumpkin would be equally nice additions to the taco. Just think in terms of a meat loaf minus the meat. You can add two beaten eggs to the mix as well, or add chopped boiled eggs if you are a hungry one like me. As for the kraut, I have made a wide variety of them in my initial experimentation. It is all based around what is in arms reach. I have a few chili peppers producing now, and I always keep fennel fronds near. Though I am not a seaweed (limu) collector, I support those few that do here in Hawaii. I have been using seaweed as the majority of the salt in the recipe, topping off jars with just a bit more salt for fermentation. If you haven’t read it, you may enjoy my earlier post on my summer fermentation trials with pipinola (chayote)
Aloha from Squash and Awe