Archive of ‘dinners’ category

Blue Water Bonito Sashimi

Sally and bonito 300x225 Blue Water Bonito SashimiYou’re crewing on a Japanese-owned boat?  You much catch a ton of fish!

Well, not so much.  Not a one in the Bahamas.  We did catch a ton of barracuda in Cuba, but we’d thrown all of them back.  It may have been open water but we had absolutely no desire to mess with ciguatera,  the fish-borne illness  that’s featured in various places on the spectrum from  wish-you-were-dead to actually deadly.  We had caught a king fish and a few little things in harbors, but fish seemed to be keeping clear of Umineko.

 

 

 

Toshi cleaning bonito 300x224 Blue Water Bonito Sashimi

Toshi San cleaning bonito

But our luck seemed to be changing on our long passage.  We caught our first big(ish) fish.  And a tasty one too, a bonito, and perfect for a Japanese boat.  Japanese cooking uses bonito, or katsuo, flakes and stock in a whole lot of their dishes.  I just had never tasted a fresh one.

When Toshi San, our resident fish expert, deftly cleaned our catch I found out the 10 pound catch had red meat.  I’m not sure why I’d been expecting it to have white, but the dark red meat looked good.  For this catch we had a real Japanese feast, curtsey of  Toshi San, or as I like to call him, my sakane sensai (fish sensai).

 

 

 

xbonito meat 300x224 Blue Water Bonito SashimiHe showed me how to trim all of the edges off of the fillets, leaving only the “beautiful” meat, for sashimi and chirashi sushi.  We waste all of the scraps?  I asked him, horrified.   Not at all, he replied, putting them in a small pan.

He chopped up some fresh ginger and arranged it over the fish.  Then he poured a little mirin, a little soy sauce, a few spoonfuls of sugar, and enough water to cover the fish.

“I’ve been cooking fish since I was a child,”  he told me.  I never measure anything.  I don’t have to!”

 

 

xbonito 300x224 Blue Water Bonito SashimiThe dish was delicious but as I’m still not up to judging how much of what goes in I won’t put the recipe up.  I’ll just have to experiment a bit more.

For the “beautiful dishes,” we made easy sushi rice, cooking the rice, folding in a sushi powder packet, and then training a fan on it:  The modern take on hand-fanned sushi.

Then we thickly sliced the most beautiful fish rolls, each piece about 1” thick.  He explained to me that dark meat was generally sliced more thickly in Japan.

 

 

 

xeasy sushi rice 300x224 Blue Water Bonito SashimiHe sliced the meat and arranged the pieces one after the other in elegant lines on a plate.  Each one fit together perfectly.  Next he chopped 3 cloves  of garlic and spread it over the bonito.  Finally he sprinkled finely chopped spring onions over the top, wrapped it in plastic film, and refrigerated it until dinner time.

I was in charge of arranging the toppings for the chirashi sushi.  With the three dishes we had a glorious bonito feast that day.

 

 

 

Blue Water Bonito Sashimi

sashimi bonito 300x224 Blue Water Bonito Sashimi

Blue Water Bonito Sushi

Ingredients:

  • Bonito
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • Spring onion

 

 

 

 

Instructions:

  • xchirishi sushi 300x224 Blue Water Bonito Sashimi

    Bonito Chirashi Sushi

    Slice bonito in 1” slices and arrange on plate

  • Cover with chopped garlic
  • Sprinkle with spring onion
  • Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate for 4 hours
  • Serve with wasabi, pickled ginger, and rice, or as a starter for a meal

Jettison Japanese Curry

ship2 300x225 Jettison Japanese CurryIt was dark when we set sail.  Of course we had meant to leave during the day, but as with many of the best laid plans, this one fell by the wayside.

I was preparing dinner when the police boat sped up to us.  Who were we?  Where were we heading?, the officer wanted to know.  Did we have permission to go past La Playita?

I apologized and explained as calmly as I could that sailing vessel Umineko was were setting sail for the Marquesas. We had not known that we required permission.  Would it be possible for us to continue on our course?

The officer seemed flustered but I apologized profusely.  He told us to be absolutely sure not to go past La Playita without informing them 24-hours in advance ever again.  I gave him my word that I would never be so inconsiderate again and that seemed to placate him.  We had to be careful of a few ships that night but it was a pretty quiet night so everything would be okay.

Moon 300x224 Jettison Japanese CurryI thanked him again and got off the VHF radio and  back to dinner preparations in the galley.

One of our go-to meals on Umineko is Japanese curry.  When I joined Umineko I loved Indian curry and Thai curry, but I’d never even heard of Japanese curry.  Well apparently Japanese curry is one of the most popular every-day Japanese dishes.

Though extremely popular curry isn’t technically a traditional Japanese dish.  Toshi San explained that British colonists brought curry back on their way from India.  Though curry itself isn’t traditionally Japanese they have made it their own.  Japanese curry isn’t as spicy as many Indian or Thai curries.  Another uniquely Japanese twist is that it is invariably served with fukujinzuke, a sweet pickle mixture.  Well, invariably served on Umineko at least.

Jettison Japanese Curry

Ingredients:Japanese curry 300x224 Jettison Japanese Curry

  • 4 squares Golden Curry
  • 750 ml (2 ½ cups) water
  • 1 carrot, sliced (thick slices)
  • 1 potato, halved and coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups rice
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • Fukujinzuke (optional)

 

Directions:

  • Cook rice
  • In deep skillet, sauté onions in oil  over medium heat
  • Add potato and carrot and cook for 5 minutes
  • Pour in 500 ml water and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Stir in curry squares (broken up) until dissolved
  • Cook another 5 minutes slowly adding remaining water
  • Crack eggs Into curry and cook for an additional minute
  • Serve steaming hot beside rice
  • Enjoy!

Jettison Japanese Curry

ship2 300x225 Jettison Japanese CurryIt was dark when we set sail.  Of course we had meant to leave during the day, but as with many of the best laid plans, this one fell by the wayside.

I was preparing dinner when the police boat sped up to us.  Who were we?  Where were we heading?, the officer wanted to know.  Did we have permission to go past La Playita?

I apologized and explained as calmly as I could that sailing vessel Umineko was were setting sail for the Marquesas. We had not known that we required permission.  Would it be possible for us to continue on our course?

The officer seemed flustered but I apologized profusely.  He told us to be absolutely sure not to go past La Playita without informing them 24-hours in advance ever again.  I gave him my word that I would never be so inconsiderate again and that seemed to placate him.  We had to be careful of a few ships that night but it was a pretty quiet night so everything would be okay.

Moon 300x224 Jettison Japanese CurryI thanked him again and got off the VHF radio and  back to dinner preparations in the galley.

One of our go-to meals on Umineko is Japanese curry.  When I joined Umineko I loved Indian curry and Thai curry, but I’d never even heard of Japanese curry.  Well apparently Japanese curry is one of the most popular every-day Japanese dishes.

Though extremely popular curry isn’t technically a traditional Japanese dish.  Toshi San explained that British colonists brought curry back on their way from India.  Though curry itself isn’t traditionally Japanese they have made it their own.  Japanese curry isn’t as spicy as many Indian or Thai curries.  Another uniquely Japanese twist is that it is invariably served with fukujinzuke, a sweet pickle mixture.  Well, invariably served on Umineko at least.

Jettison Japanese Curry

Ingredients:Japanese curry 300x224 Jettison Japanese Curry

  • 4 squares Golden Curry
  • 750 ml (2 ½ cups) water
  • 1 carrot, sliced (thick slices)
  • 1 potato, halved and coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups rice
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • Fukujinzuke (optional)

 

Directions:

  • Cook rice
  • In deep skillet, sauté onions in oil  over medium heat
  • Add potato and carrot and cook for 5 minutes
  • Pour in 500 ml water and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Stir in curry squares (broken up) until dissolved
  • Cook another 5 minutes slowly adding remaining water
  • Crack eggs Into curry and cook for an additional minute
  • Serve steaming hot beside rice
  • Enjoy!

Passage Preparation Sweet Potato Pockets

preparation 300x224 Passage Preparation Sweet Potato Pockets

Have food prepared for the first few days of passage

Thar be dragons!

I’ve loved dragons ever since I was a little girl.  It might be date back to seeing the Magic Flute at age 3 or my fascination with dinosaurs.  Perhaps even reading Anne McCaffery’s dragon rider series.  It only seems fitting that maps of old stated “Thar be dragons!” in uncharted territory.

There are those who have wondered why I’m embarking on a month-long passage from Panama City to the Marquesas.  Of course I am interested to see what it will be like not seeing land for almost a month.  After all, this is almost twice the distance of my longest passage to date.  But for me pushing boundaries is part of the fun.  Just the thought of the adventures that lay around the corner or over the horizon makes my breath quicken and my heart flutter. Some part of me could just be hoping to find those dragons.

 

Pocket2 300x225 Passage Preparation Sweet Potato PocketsWhatever the case, for a month long passage more than a little preparation and provisioning is required.  I can’t lie and tell you that the galley is always my favorite place to be.  The first few days of a passage after a long time in port can be brutal.   Standing on watch?  No problem, but if the winds are against you and the sea is a washing machine concentrating on preparing meals in the stuffy galley is grim.  And imagining what flavors and what tastes combine to make a culinary masterpiece or sampling the food to see if it needs more salt?  Forget it.

I rely on a couple simple rules of thumb cut down my time in the galley on the first few days of passage.  After that you’ll get your galley legs.

-          Chop vegetables in advance.  Not only does this cut down on time in the galley, but if the seas are rough or you’re feeling miserable wielding a knife may not be the first thing you want.

-          Use tried and true simple recipes you know.  Thinking about what you’re cooking is not the best thing for settling a touchy stomach.

-          Prepare a few dishes in advance that require minimal effort to prepare.  Some of my favorites are pastys or pocket ‘zas.

 

Pre-Passage Sweet Potato Feta Pockets

Ingredients:

  • Pockets 3 300x225 Passage Preparation Sweet Potato Pockets½  recipe passage maker pizza dough
  • 3 T olive oil
  • sweet potato, chopped
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 1 t salt
  • ½ t freshly ground pepper
  • 1 t oregano
  • ½ c feta
  • 1 egg, beaten (optional

 

 

Directions:

  • Fry  onion in oil in large skillet over medium heat for about 2 minutesPockets4 300x225 Passage Preparation Sweet Potato Pockets
  • Add sweet potato and seasonings stir until coated in oil
  • Cover and cook another 15 minutes until sweet potato is cooked but firm
  • Separate dough into tangerine-sized balls
  • Roll each ball into circle using rolling pin or wine bottle
  • Spoon sweet potato mixture onto center of dough
  • Fold circle over into crescent
  • Brush with egg (optional)

Passagemaker Pizza Dough

grissini dough with rolling pin 1024x768 Passagemaker Pizza DoughPizza is a favorite among yachties and land-lovers around the world.  Sure, if you are lazy you can bring store-bought crusts or pizza crust mixes (yeah, I didn’t know mixes existed either until one boat I crewed on had a stock of pizza dough mix.) but let’s face it.  Making your own pizza always tastes a thousand times better. Cheese may be a commodity on long passages, but saving a bit for a pizza night once and a while can boost morale immeasurably.

This is my all-time favorite pizza dough recipe.  Simple enough to make under way, it’s packed with flavor.  Putting the Italian seasoning in the actual crust makes all the difference.  It is leagues better than any pizza crust I’ve had in a pizzeria.  I use this recipe for grissini, and all types of pizza from oven baked to the nautical stand-by pan-fried, and it works like a charm.

Passage Maker Pizza Dough

1 large pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ t of yeast
  • 1 t sugar
  • 2 T pizza seasoning or Italian seasoning
  • 2 c flour
  • ½ t salt
  • ⅛ C olive oil
  • ¾ c warm water

Directions:

  • Mix yeast in warm water and teaspoon sugar and allow to proof 10 minutesDSCN8693 1024x768 Passagemaker Pizza Dough
  • Mix dry ingredients together
  • Make a hole in center and add water and olive oil
  • mix in with spoon
  • When too thick kneed with hands for 5 minutes
  • Cover with damp towel
  • Allow to rise 30 min
  • Punch down and roll out into circle or rectangle  with rolling pin or I like to use a wine bottle
  • Cover with toppings

 

IMG 1453 300x225 Passagemaker Pizza Dough

Charter Chirashi Sushi

DSCN1054 300x225 Charter Chirashi SushiThe barter system is still thriving in the sailing community.  One of my favorite trades was on Elephant Island in San Blas.  I traded some banana bread for a winch handle.  I was delighted with my side, but the Australian couple seemed equally pleased with their banana bread.  The woman even threw in some clothes she liked the bread so much!  That isn’t quite the norm though.

At Shelter Bay marina by Colon, Panama was a party every night.  Not only were the fabulous people from WARC 2014 there, but as with most marinas there were interesting people living on many of the boats.  We befriended one megayacht’s crew, a young South African  surfer and a wry Brit.  They had caught an enormous tuna a few days earlier and asked me if I wanted any of the meat.

 

I jumped on the offer and told them that I would cook them dinner with it.  This kind of barter on boats is a lot more common.  Very few yachts have a ton of freezer space and even fewer have a flash freezer.  When a crew of four catches a 20-lb tuna you’re a) going to be eating a lot of tuna for a while and b) will have to give away at least some of it if you don’t want to throw it away.

This leads to quite a few presents and exchanges of fish between yachties.  And if you’re given fish it only makes sense to cook it for your patron.

What could we do with delicious fresh tuna though?  Sashimi was an option, of course, but that was more of a starter.  We needed something for a lovely dinner party.

I first tried chirashi sushi, or chirashizushi in Argentina when my lovely friend Machiko invited me over for dinner.   I fell in love with it from the first bite.  Chirashizushi means “scattered” sushi and it is also a favorite in Japanese home cooking.  Since then I have tried chirashi sushi in a restaurant, rice with decadent slabs of sashimi, but I really prefer the homemade variety.

It isn’t hard to make, and like so many Japanese dishes it looks beautiful.  If you bring chirashi sushi you will be sure to be the hit of the dinner party.

 

Charter Chirashi SushiDSCN1056 300x225 Charter Chirashi Sushi

Serves 6

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups short grained or sushi rice
  • 1 packet Tamanoi Sushinoko sushi rice seasoning powder
  • 3 lbs fresh tuna (3-days old is ideal)
  • Pickled daikon, thinly sliced or shredded
  • Nori, cut into thin strips
  • Kazimi ginger (pink pickled ginger in thin strips)
  • 2 eggs

 

 

Directions:

 

  • Cook rice
  • Spread in large bowl,  and fan to cool
  • Gently fold in sushi rice seasoning powder using flat rice spoon
  • You shouldn’t make the sushi rice so far in advance that you need to refrigerate it.  In fact, it should never be refrigerated.  The ideal sushi rice is served at body temperature.
  • Spread on a flat platter
  • Beat the eggs and cook 2 minutes over medium heat in small square skillet if you have one.  A small skillet will do.
  • Flip and cook the other side about 1 minute
  • Turn onto cutting board and cut into thin strips (it’s called tamagoyaki)
  • Cut fish into bite-sized chunks
  • Arrange fish, kazami ginger, tamagoyaki, nori strips, and pickled daikon strips over rice
  • Serve and enjoy!

DSCN1058 300x225 Charter Chirashi Sushi

Paddle-Out Paella

plump kuna women 300x225 Paddle Out PaellaSailing is fantastic.  More than just the exhilarating, relaxing, challenging time on the water, I adore nature, snorkeling, and exploring new places.  But what makes places is the people and the unique traditions.

From the start of our stay Kuna Indians rowed dugout canoes out to Umineko hawking bracelets, and the traditional mola weavings they were famed for.  Several plump Kuna women made their rounds to the yachts, delighted to have so many potential customers.

 

 

 

molas 300x225 Paddle Out Paellamolas were expensive, but the craftsmanship and time that went into making them was impressive.  The figures stitched onto the colorful weavings looked similar to aboriginal art from Australia.  Each one was unique, the fabric layers painstakingly hand-stitched as they had been for hundreds of years.  When one mola-master demonstrated the intricacy, each stich so fine it was almost invisible to the naked eye I realized how exceptional these traditional weavings truly were.

Every day new canoes rowed up to us.  One man came with his son in a dugout canoe.  The short We invited the two on board to chat.  Each canoe was made from a single “cedar amargo” tree.  Everything was still made traditionally with machetes and axes.  One canoe could last decades, but today not everyone made their own.   Special canoe-makers made canoes.

father and son2 300x225 Paddle Out PaellaWith no markets on Chichime, or any of the surrounding islands we were running low on vegetables.  The isolation was as bad as being on a long passage.  We were starting to wonder if we would have to sail somewhere that had a grocery store.  That morning we were delighted to have a canoe pull up beside us selling that day’s catch of fish and lobster.

 

 

 

 

father and son 300x225 Paddle Out Paella

We were a little disappointed that they didn’t have veggies but how could we pass on a fish delivery service?  For $10 we bought the whole lot.  We didn’t have a lot of fresh veggies, but with the delicious variety of seafood I just had to make paella.   Isn’t half of cooking in a galley about making delicious things with what you have?

Paddle-Out Paella

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ c water
  • 2 T vegeta
  • 1 ½ c long-grain rice
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • ½ c white wine
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 generous pinch saffron (alas our saffron was too old so the paella wasn’t yellow)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ c shrimp
  • 1 c squid
  • 4 small lobster tails
  • 2 T lemon juice (juice from 1 lemon)

Directions:

  • In large skillet sauté garlic and onion in olive oil about 2 minutes on medium heat
  • Add rice, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and vegeta and stir until rice is fully coated
  • Add water, white wine, and saffron, cover pan with lid and simmer 20 minutes
  • Add lobster and simmer another 5 minutes
  • Add shrimp and squid and cook 2 minutes more
  • Sprinkle lemon juice over paella
  • Enjoy!

 

Sloop Soba Salmon

xbienvenidos Sloop Soba Salmon

 

xvaraderobeach 300x225 Sloop Soba Salmon

xvaradero 300x225 Sloop Soba SalmonVaradero isn’t Cuba,” countless people told us.  It’s just for tourists.  You can’t see the real Cuba there.  When we got to Havana I had to agree.  Havana seemed like a different world from the famous beaches,  performances, and posh hotels catering to foreigners of the lauded beach town.

 

 

 

 

xclassiccars2 300x225 Sloop Soba SalmonBut when we left Havana it was the same.  Everyone told us Havana wasn’t the real Cuba.  So what is the real Cuba?  Cuba isn’t one country.  Every city and place I visited was completely different from every other place.  Havana: the post-apocalyptic Cartagena and most photogenic city I have ever visited.  But less than an hour away, the sleepy little town of Jaimanitas, is ideologically a world apart.

 

 

 

 

xcienfuegos 300x225 Sloop Soba Salmon

Cien Fuegus

Cien Fuegos: a charming well-ordered town with a Peruvian feel to its downtown.  On the Southern coast, it was never built up for the visiting American jetsetters in the 40s and 50s so it doesn’t have the feel of an abandoned once-great city.  No, everything is clean and seems like it runs quite well.  Well, most things.  Internet access and the marina not having a shower were the two things that really hurt.  Internet access may be painfully slow and expensive in Havana and Varadero but it is possible.  It wasn’t even possible at the posh hotels in Cien Fuegos when I visited.   Like stepping back in time.

 

 

 

 

xtrinidaddonkey 300x225 Sloop Soba SalmonSpeaking of stepping back in time, about an hour’s drive from Cien Fuegos lies Trinidad, xtrinidadseller 300x225 Sloop Soba SalmonCuba’s oldest city and a UNESCO world heritage site.  Weavers, artists, and other artisans with purses made out of coke can tops and every other recycled product set up their stalls along the narrow cobblestone streets.  Trinidad is a tourist trap, but the history, culture and the feel of the place make it delightful anyway.

 

 

xcountryside 300x225 Sloop Soba SalmonTrinidad was charming, but I was almost more surprised by the countryside.  It is something entirely different entirely.  Truly like stepping back in time.  People ride horses, use oxen to pull carts.  More often than not the buses are wagons drawn by horses.  Men cut down high grass with sickles on the roadside.  This wasn’t going back to the 50s.  This was going back several centuries.

 

 

 

 

xcountryside2 300x225 Sloop Soba SalmonThe Cuban government doesn’t want tourists visiting the countryside.  Well, to be fair it isn’t really geared towards tourism.  Buses don’t go there, there aren’t tourist accommodations in the smaller towns.  My visit to a home in the country was a trip to a yachtie’s boxing instructor’s house.  I visited a yachtie’s boxing instructor’s home. unfinished cinderblock home reminded me of some of the country homes I had seen in Zambia.  Nothing that I had seen in my travels in South America, but the house was according to the yachtie, far and away nicer than what it had been just a few months before.  He had built it himself and was inexorably proud of the place. Surrounded by banana trees, it was nice that he had fresh fruit so close.

 

 

xcountryside3 300x225 Sloop Soba SalmonThe country life, according to an expat yachtie, who had lived at Marina Hemmingway on and off for 7 years, was the real Cuba.  The Cuba that tourists didn’t see.  But I am not sure that I could define any one part of Cuba I saw as the real Cuba.  Everywhere is so incredibly different from everywhere else.  I would love to see more of the countryside, to visit the tobacco plantations, and explore the mountains.  Maybe even discover the “real” Cuba.   There is always next time.

Not that salmon has much to do with Cuba, other than that I made this delicious dish while Umineko was in a marina in Cuba with frozen fillets we had bought in the United States.   To be perfectly honest I didn’t even see salmon on a menu while I was there, but this dish is too tasty not to put up.

Sloop Soba Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 T ginger paste
  • 2 Cloves garlic, minced
  • ⅓ c mirin
  • ⅓ soy
  • 2 T sake
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 4 salmon fillets
  • 400 g soba

Directions:

  • Boil soba about 5 minutes
  • Drain and run cold water to stop cooking, set aside
  • Mix sake, soy, sugar, and ginger paste in small bowl stirring until sugar is dissolved, set aside
  • Fry garlic in sesame oil in large skillet about 3 min over med heat
  • Cook salmon fillets in oil, 2 minutes per side, just enough to brown
  • Place salmon on plate
  • Pour sauce into skillet and cook until mixture comes to a boil and starts to thicken
  • Return salmon to pan and cook 2 minutes more on each side, sauce will reduce to glaze
  • Serve over soba noodles

DSCN9744 1024x768 Sloop Soba Salmon

Cockpit Okonomiyaki

sally okanomayaki 225x300 Cockpit OkonomiyakiHiroshima Pizza?  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when the captain of the Japanese boat told us that’s what he would be making for the potluck with the American boat I was crewing on.   When I tried the actual dish I immediately fell in love with the delicious dish.

 

A year later I was crewing on the same Japanese boat making okonomiyaki myself.

 

The captain, Sato San’s “Hiroshima Pizza,” is actually called okonomiyaki.   Okonomiyaki is a popular Japanese food, often described as “Japanese pizza.”   He called it Hiroshima pizza because he hails from Hiroshima and makes Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki.

 

 

xokonomiyaki ingred2 300x225 Cockpit OkonomiyakiOkonomiyaki is really more of a crepe than a pizza.  To be totally fair it’s a unique dish.  The crepe steams a mountain of vegetables and the other side is sealed with egg, seafood, and bacon.  Well, really whatever you want.  Okonomiyaki, means whatever you like baked or grilled a combination of the Japanese words okanomi,  however you like and yaki,  baked or grilled.  Versions vary widely, I learned Hiroshima style, but I never use bacon or sliced pork for mine.  Traditionally squid is used, but around the world we have substituted squid, conch, and on one special occasion lobster.

 

When writing this recipe I realized how complicated it seemed.  It’s a lot of preparation but making okonomiyaki really isn’t difficult.  You just have to follow the steps.

 

This is a video Globe Hackers made of an Okonomiyaki  Party we had in Cuba

 

Cockpit Okonomiyaki

 Makes 6 okonomiyaki

 

 xokonomiyaki ingred 300x225 Cockpit OkonomiyakiIngredients:

 

  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • ½ head cabbage very thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup spring onions, in 5 mm slices
  • 1 cup squid
  • 2 Tablespoons sake (optional)
  • 4 packs ramen noodles
  • 4 slices Bacon (or thin sliced pork if available)
  • 4 slices cheese (I use individually wrapped Mozzarella or Swiss cheese slices)
  • 12 eggs
  • Squid chips (or crunchy tempura bits)
  • Fish powder
  • Aonori (ground seaweed)
  • Kewpie mayonnaise

Batter:

  • 3 c flour
  • 3  c water

Kitchenware:

  • xreadytosteam 300x225 Cockpit Okonomiyaki1 large, flat griddle.  This is integral for making okonomiyaki.  A pancake griddle can be used
  • 2 spatulas
  • 1 soup ladle
  • Whisk
  • Tongs

Preparation:

  1. Whisk flour and water together into a thin crepe-like batter and set aside
  2. Cut the cabbage into quarters.  Slice the cabbage as thinly as possible.  Place in large bowl, set aside
  3. Chop spring onions into 5 mm sections.  Place in bowl , set aside
  4. Cut squid or seafood into ⅛ strips, pour sake over to kill the smell, set aside
  5. Cut bacon slices into thirds, arrange on plate, set aside
  6. Boil ramen noodles in water with 1 T oil (to prevent sticking) for 2 minutes (slightly al dente) pour into colander and run cold water over to prevent cooking too long,  and set aside

xokonomiyaki 300x225 Cockpit OkonomiyakiDirections:

  1. Heat griddle over medium heat and oil
  2. Put ½ pack of ramen noodles on griddle.  Let cook 30 seconds to release moisture
  3. Season with black pepper and okonomi sauce and mix together  and move to side of griddle
  4. Oil griddle and pour 1 ladle-full of batter smoothing it into thin circle
  5. When edges of crepe start to lift, sprinkle with fish powder
  6. Using spatulas lift noodles onto top of crepe
  7. Place one slice of cheese over noodles
  8. Arrange large handful of cabbage over cheese
  9. Layer bean sprouts, spring onions, and squid  (or tempura)chips on top
  10. Lay bacon on top of heap
  11. Drizzle ½ ladle full of batter over top
  12. Allow to cook about 2 minutes or until the bottom browns slightly
  13. Slide spatulas under either side of the crepe bottom and flip okonomiyaki quickly.  Be sure to flip towards you.
  14. Cook for about 5 minutes allowing the inside to steam and until the bacon to cook to a golden brown.  Slide okonomiyaki to one side of the griddle
  15. Oil center of griddle and place about ⅙ of squid in middle cooking for about 30 seconds
  16. Arrange squid into a barrier ring and crack 2 eggs inside.
  17. Mix eggs together and lift okonomiyaki  on top
  18. Cook another 2 minutes, until eggs are golden brown
  19. Flip onto plate and squirt okonomiyaki sauce and kewpie mayonnaise on top in whatever pretty pattern you like
  20. Finally sprinkle aonori on top.  Serve and enjoy!

 

Don’t be too upset of you can’t finish your okonomiyaki dinner.  I love fresh okonomiyaki, but  leftovers are almost as good.  Better, some would say.

Oceanic Oyster mushroom Gnocchi

xoyster gn 2 300x225 Oceanic Oyster mushroom Gnocchi

“I don’t like hyenas. They’re so ugly! They just look vicious,” the French-Canadian man stated.  That was how the argument started. Bev, the lovely Australian cruiser, chimed in against the hyena. I wasn’t having any of it.  Hyenas fascinate me.  This maligned straw-man of the Serengeti.  Everyone thinks of them as canine, but they are genetically closer to cats.  It always upset me how people just assumed that they were mean and evil because they didn’t fit our paradigm of beauty.

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I had wanted desperately to see them on my safari in Etosha park in Namibia.  We saw everything else– a leopard, lions, rhinos, elephants, and almost every other large animal in the park.  All but hyenas.  The lone hyena we had seen was all-but invisible through the torrential rain.

I was delighted that Havana’s zoo had a pack.  Several leggy hyenas paced in one cage.  A crowd of people gathered around watching the animals.  Adjacent to the popular animals was another cage which held a lone animal.  The petite creature stood gazing wistfully out utterly ignoring the juicy steaks laid on the ground.

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With over-sized saucer-ears and a rounded black nose that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a plush teddy-bear, the hyena had a sweet, almost chow-like face.  Her dark eyes gazed up at me and she shuffled over to the cage’s corner where I was standing.

I put my palm up to the cage and the tan snout delicately sniffed it before making a little “whuff.”  The teddy bear nose pressed closer into the fence’s large openings and a cold, wet nose brushed my hand. Moments later the hyena lay down next to the fence.  I felt badly for the poor thing.  This pack animal was being kept separate from her friends.  Sure she could see other hyenas, but no contact.

Almost without thinking, I reached through the wire and gave her back a tentative scratch, watching carefully to see her reaction.  The spotted girl stretched her paw forward and leaned into my hand.  She couldn’t have shown enjoyment more clearly if she had used words.

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The coarse, shaggy coat was stiff against my fingers as I continued to pet the good girl. In a clear, “no here,” the hyena rolled over on her back for a tummy rub. I, of course, obliged and she stretched her neck out, closing her eyes.

15 minutes I pet the hyena while a brazen stray cat munched her steak lunch.  Suddenly she opened her mouth and I immediately withdrew my hand.  What was she doing?  Still on her back, she bit at the wire fence between the two cages. I watched amazed as the young girl rolled over onto her feet, carefully closed her jaws around a metal bar, lifted it and drew it to one side.  She was trying to open the door!  I wished I had more time to get to know her but the others wanted to see the rest of the zoo as well.

What possessed me to pet a hyena?  Well, I really wasn’t thinking.  It did just happen organically, looking back a number of factors made me do it.

1. Zoo patrons could go directly up to the cage. For the big cats, raptors, monkeys, crocodiles, and other clearly dangerous animals barricades prevented silly patrons from animal/patron contact

2. She clearly had had a good deal of human contact

3. The hyena initiated the contact. That said, I was still wary of any change in her behavior.  Wild animals are wild, even if they are in a zoo.  In other words, don’t try this at home kids.

Havana zoo may not be the best-funded zoo, but it is unquestionably the most interesting zoo I have been to and certainly the most hands-on.  Aside from the hyena, a zoo keeper let me pet a hippo who ambled over to the fence and the deer and antelope were all quite happy with people giving them handfuls of grass.

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Many of the cages did not look particularly nice or natural, though the park was wooded and did have nature surrounding. However the animals did seem sleek and well-cared for and many of them had babies or young ones.  The jaguar had two blue-eyed cubs, there were young lionesses in the lions cage, as well as numerous others.

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By the time we left the zoo my companions were singing a different tune about hyenas.  Intelligent, sweet and altogether misunderstood, we all agreed.

As we were leaving the zoo I spotted oyster mushrooms.  I didn’t feel entirely right taking them, but Bev talked me into it.  No one else was going to eat them.  After all, we had seen older oyster mushrooms in several other places in the zoo. Mycology clearly wasn’t popular in Cuba.  After agonizing over the decision for a few minutes I finally decided that we were going to have an oyster gnocchi pasta for dinner.

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This really is a post of don’t try this at home.  My parents are mycologists so I grew up learning about mushrooms.  I would never have picked wild mushrooms if I hadn’t been certain what they were.  That said oyster mushrooms are delicious.  You can buy them in more and more groceries and farmers markets around the world.  They are white and have a faint odor and delicate flavor of oysters hence their name oyster mushrooms.

Fresh mushrooms do make a delightful change in the everyday fare and I was overjoyed to make a dish around these “choice edibles,” as the mycologists call them.  Altogether it was a fantastic first full day in Havana.  I may not have seen anything of the legendary city or its famed culture, architecture, history, or music, but going off the beaten path and improvising is what life is all about.  Right?

I never travel with fresh mushrooms, but I absolutely love cooking with whatever fresh local delights I find.  If you manage to pick up some oyster mushrooms in your travels, this is a delicious way to cook them.  Even if not, the wine sauce is pretty tasty by itself

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Oceanic Oyster mushroom Gnocchi

Ingredients:
1 package gnocchi
1⁄2 onion
1⁄4 c butter
2 cloves garlic
1 lb. oyster mushrooms, cleaned and chopped into bite-sized chunks
2 c white wine
1 t corn starch
1 t thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cranberries
Parmesan cheese

Directions:
Cook gnocchi in boiling water about 7 minutes
Drain and set aside
Sauté onions and garlic in 1T butter about 3 minutes in large skillet
Stir in salt, pepper, and thyme
Add oyster mushrooms and butter, sauté another 2 minutes
Mix corn starch into wine, stirring well
Pour wine mixture into skillet and cook another 5 minutes over medium-low heat
Divide gnocchi onto plates
Pour sauce over each plate
Sprinkle dried cranberries over dishes
Enjoy!

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