Igniting Your Own Creative Spark in the Kitchen

I’m often asked by dinner guests, as I serve them a meal of Sardinian seafood or Japanese sumiyaki grill or Yucatan-style Mexican, “Where do you get your ideas?”

Freshly made mezzaluna

I’ll admit it’s somewhat easier for me than the average person — having a career that gives me the time and flexibility to indulge my passion for kitchen creativity. However, I still have to come up with ideas of what I’m going to cook each evening. More

A New Installment of the World’s Best Ribs

I’m a little bit fickle, I’ll admit, with my continuing declarations about the world’s best ribs. That’s because almost every good rack of ribs is the best ribs I’ve ever tasted. You could rub motor oil on a rack of ribs, grill them, and they’d make my blog. I’m quite sure I’ve declared one rib preparation or another “The World’s Best Ribs” on several occasions in this forum alone. But this time I’m pretty sure I’m sharing the world’s best ribs recipe with you. Well, that is, at least until next time.

Hawaiian preparations are always some of the best with ribs — the smoky, fatty richness of the ribs blending perfectly with the sweetness and complex flavors of tropical fruits. One of the best racks I cook includes a marinade/glaze of coconut syrup, pineapple juice and fermented Chinese black beans. The particular recipe below, prepared in the video above, takes its cue from Korean kalbi. Serve it with the monster good Asian red cabbage slaw to win friends and influence people. For four people:

Hawaiian Soy Glazed Ribs

1 large rack baby back ribs
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated on a Microplane grater (or minced)
1-inch piece of ginger, grated on a Microplane grater (or minced)
1 tsp sesame oil
a few shakes crushed red pepper
1 tbsp butter

Peel membrane off the back of the rib rack (use a flat head screwdriver to get started). Cut rack into two or three sections. Salt and pepper the ribs while you make the marinade.

Put brown sugar and soy sauce in a small saucepan with a little water. Add garlic and ginger over medium heat, and simmer until the sauce is thickened. Remove from heat, stir in sesame oil and red pepper, then fold in 1 tbsp butter.

When sauce cools, use half to baste the ribs and marinate an hour at room temperature or overnight in the fridge. Heat a gas grill to medium. Put the ribs on the grill and cook for about 20 minutes on each side, basting frequently with the reserved marinade to create a nice glaze. Cut mini-racks into individual ribs and serve with monster good Asian slaw.

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Monster Good Asian Slaw

1/2 small head red cabbage, grated or finely shredded
3 scallions, sliced into 1-inch segments and then slivered lengthwise
1 small carrot, peeled and grated
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp mayonnaise
salt & pepper

In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, scallions and carrot. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

Beverage suggestion: Kona Brewing Company Longboard Island Lager, a nice fruity viognier from California’s Central Coast (I like Andrew Murray), mai tai, Anchor Steam

Aloha at Home, Wherever You May Be

Growing up in Southern California, my family would go to Maui a couple times a year. And I developed a love for Hawaiian food. There’s something both comforting and essential about digging into teriyaki chicken thighs or Korean short ribs draining sweet soy goodness all over a mound of overcooked white rice, the toothsome chew of mayonnaisey macaroni salad, the tangy interplay of tomato, onion and lomi lomi salmon, and lots of fresh tropical fruit to clear the palate.

It’s hot and muggy in Topanga today. Tonight my family is eating Hawaiian. Just cuz I’m in a mood. I’ll put on iTunes and stream some traditional Hawaiian music — I like KKCR community radio out of Hanalei, Kauai … they sometimes speak Hawaiian, and even the commercials are relaxing, or AM 940 Hawaii. Maybe I’ll mix some fruity tropical rum drinks, or maybe just cold lager.  That’s how we haoles roll when we’re gettin’ our aloha on.

Here’s what we’re eating. Wanna join us on the islands? It’s fun and the kids will love it, especially if they’ve been to Hawaii. Just scroll down for the recipes, and mahalo

Teriyaki chicken, mac salad, rice and lomi lomi salmon, fresh fruit, lau lau (pork and fish cooked in taro leaves)

Serves 4, including the keiki (lil’ ones).

Hawaiian Dinner
You can make the macaroni salad, rice and lomi lomi salmon well ahead, so all you’re cooking at dinner time is the chicken. If you want to have a Hawaiian dinner party, increase the amount accordingly. (Double for eight people, etc.)

Teriyaki Chicken

1 1/2 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts (you can also use the same amount of thinly sliced beef short ribs on the bone — Korean style — for a meat dinner)
1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, grated
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp ginger

Grate ginger with a cheese grater or zester. Place into large bowl, add soy sauce, onion and sugar, stir together and let sit for 5 minutes. Toss chicken in mixture, and let marinate for a couple hours in the fridge. Turn the grill onto high heat, let it get nice and hot, and grill chicken for about 5 minutes each side, until golden and brown. Spoon extra marinade and onions on as you cook. You can keep warm in a 200-degree oven while you plate the other stuff. Before serving, slice each thigh across the grain with a very sharp knife into 3 or 4 pieces.

Lomi Lomi Salmon

1/3 pound very fresh salmon, chopped into dice and salted
1 very ripe tomato
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
sprinkle Japanese togarashi pepper (if you’ve got it)

Sprinkle about half a teaspoon of salt on your chopped salmon about an hour before you pull the dish together. After the hour, toss the salmon with the onion, tomato and pepper. Taste to see if it is salty enough. Cover and place in fridge until ready to use.

Island Macaroni Salad

1 cup dried macaroni, cooked to al dente
2 heaping tbsp mayonnaise (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
dash of soy sauce
salt & pepper

Cook your macaroni until al dente and drain. Toss with a little olive oil and let cool. Once the macaroni is cool, toss in a bowl with the celery, onion, parsley and soy sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste, cover and place in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. (Note: you could give this an Asian touch with a dash of sesame oil, some sliced sugar snap peas and a bit of minced cilantro. Although I think, why mess with simple perfection?)

Rice and fruit

Steam some long grain rice according to directions well before hand (give it an extra bit of water and an extra 2 or 3 minutes on the stove), and leave sitting covered until ready to eat. It’s okay to serve it at room temperature. Slice up plenty of fresh pineapple, mango, banana, guava or other Hawaiian fruits.

To serve:

Spoon a big scoop of rice and mac salad on each plate, place some sliced teriyaki chicken next to the rice, and a bit of lomi lomi salmon next to that.