Thursday, August 4 –
American Samoa was perfect, in a way, for such a warm day. Almost no cooking involved. I did, however, happen to pick two recipes that were so similar to each other that it was like tasting variations of the same thing. I started with the tuna dish, to let it marinate. I had a small amount of fish (because of how expensive sashimi-grade fish is), so I only used part of a cucumber, part of a tomato, juice from two limes, coconut milk from a can, some chopped green onion, salt and pepper. I let that sit while I worked on the next dish.
This next dish, I have to say, made me nervous. Mostly because I don’t really like grapefruit or coconut. So I started with having my Wonderful Boyfriend hack open the coconut. Which required a how-to YouTube video and a cleaver. Then I took one grapefruit, the meat from the coconut, juice from two limes, one whole shallot, two shallots, coriander, chives, salt, one celery stalk, and part of a cucumber. I was still very skeptical about it, even seeing it mixed together. Then I just poured the “dressing” straight onto the mix, and used the juice from the coconut we hacked open, white vinegar (instead of coconut vinegar because I couldn’t find it), olive oil, sugar and salt. I just poured dollops into the bowl until it tasted right so I don’t have very good measurements to share. More oil than vinegar and more sugar than salt. Then – surprise, surprise – it actually tasted good! Even my Wonderful Boyfriend who feels the same way about coconut and grapefruit that I do liked it. Weird blend of flavors, but good.
We sat down to these two dishes and I realized that I didn’t have a starch, or a main dish, or anything else that would fill up a real “dinner plate”. I basically had two sides. But brave it we did (along with some fabulous wine that I’ll write about below) and it was pretty good. But not great. And I lost interest in it about 4 bites in. We sat there and looked at each other over empty plates and full serving bowls. It might have been a fail…
But then I hopped up and grabbed the soy sauce and wasabi about of the fridge and started pulling the tuna dish apart. Both my Wonderful Boyfriend and I are sushi fiends, so we started eating the tuna as if it was just sashimi and some cucumber, and it was amazing. It totally saved the day. The grapefruit dish sat there, forgotten, but not quite disliked.
After dinner I moved on to making the banana doughnuts. And… YUM! They were like homemade pillows of warm yumminess with a slight hint of banana. They made a whole pile of them, but they were worth it to save for the next day. I made them exactly as the recipe called for and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Things I have learned: Remember to make two different dishes. If they are too similar I will lose interest in them very, very quickly. Desserts are a fun part of this process and I should find more sweets to go with the dinners.
Thoughts about wine: I went on a hunt for the recommended wine from my friend Leigh Olson, Cracker Sommelier. The first wine I picked up was an Oregon wine and then I finally settled on an Italian wine, thanks to the handy guy at the grocery store. I opened the Italian wine as recommended, and didn’t get to the Oregon wine, so I’ll have to save it for this weekend. (shucks!) It was the perfect wine to go with the tuna and it even continued to drink well with the doughnuts.
Recommendations from our sommelier: This American Samoan meal, accented with citrus notes and grounded in the richness of Ahi Tuna demands a crisp, refreshing Pinot Grigio.
An Italian cousin to Pinot Gris (actually the very same grape just raised up in a different country) produces a light, crisp wine that will complement the bright citrus notes as well as create a lovely contrast to the luxuriously rich Ahi. Exhibiting flavors of lemon ~ great compliment to all of the citrus in the recipes ~ minerality ~ think about the saltiness of seafood ~ and some subtle white pepper notes, this is Perfectly Paired with today’s Devouring the World Meal.
· For an everyday wine, pick up a Portia Pinot Gris.
· If you want to step it up a bit choose a Jermann from the Fruiuli-Veneze Giulia region of Italy.
· And if money is burning a hole in your pocket grab a Tiziano Pinot Grigio.
· Rely on your wine steward at your local grocer. They are most usually a great resource. Share the ingredients and let them show you the wines!
Fun Facts: Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio is mutant of Pinot Noir and retains a dark colored skin, but yes, produces a white wine. It originated in France and spread to Switzerland ~ where it was allegedly the favorite of Emperor Charles IV ~ Germany and Italy. California and Oregon are also producing some nice Pinot Gris/Grigios. Pinot Gris means “Grey Pine Cone” grey for the skin and pine cone for the shape of the clusters.
Serving Temp: Mid 40’s. No wine cooler, no problem. Store your Pinot Grigio in the refrigerator and pull it out 45 minutes before serving. Forgot to do that? Throw it in the frig 2 ¾ hours before serving.
Vessel of Choice: Riedel Vinum Sauvignon Blanc Wine Glasses. No budget for specialized wine glasses, a general purpose wine glass will be perfect. Just don’t pour this wine into a red wine glass, the subtle aromas will escape at an alarming rate. No aromas, No taste…
Poisson Cru, or E’ia Ota (Tahitian lime-marinated tuna)
- Highest-quality ahi tuna, cut into 1/2-inch cubes — 1 1/2 pounds
- Lime juice — 1/2 cup
- Coconut milk — 1/4 cup
- Cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes — 1 small
- Tomato, seeded and diced — 1
- Scallions, chopped — 3 or 4
- Kosher or sea salt — big pinch
- Fresh ground pepper — pinch
Method: Mix all the ingredients together in a large, non-reactive bowl and set aside to marinate for 10 or 20 minutes. Drain excess liquid and adjust seasoning. Garnish with some freshly chopped scallions and serve in a decorate bowl or large clam shell.
Variations: Make sure to use very fresh, high-quality fish for this dish. Such fish is often marked “sushi grade” in the market. Use other fish — halibut, snapper, swordfish — if you like.
Other possible additions: cubed red peppers, grated carrots, diced red onion, minced garlic. Sometimes a pinch of sugar is added to take the edge off the acidity.
Samoan Vegetarian Ceviche
- 1 green coconut
- 2 pink grapefruit
- 2 limes
- 3 shallots finely sliced
- 2 radishes sliced
- Baby coriander
- Chopped chives
- Celery stalks, finely sliced
- Cucumber, finely sliced
Method: Crack the coconut open, reserved some juice for the dressing, use a spoon and scoop out the flesh. Place flesh with the citrus in a bowl, add shallots, cucumber, celery and dressing, let stand for 5 min to marinade, add herbs adjust seasoning and serve garnish and coriander.
- 200ml (just under a cup) coconut juice
- 100ml (just under a half cup) grapefruit juice
- Lime juice
- Coconut vinegar
- 200ml (just under a cup) coconut oil or olive oil
- Salt to taste
Method for dressing: Mix juices with the vinegar, whisk in oil then season with sugar and salt.
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/3 cups white sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 6 cups vegetable oil for frying
Directions: Combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder in a bowl until thoroughly mixed, and stir in the bananas, vanilla extract, and water to make a smooth, sticky dough. Heat oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). The oil should be deep enough to completely cover the panikekes while frying, or at last 3 inches deep. Scoop up a scant 1/4 cup of batter with a large spoon, and use another spoon to push it off into the oil. Fry in small batches of 4 or 5 until they float to the top and turn golden brown, about 3 minutes, then flip them to fry the other side. Remove from the fryer and let drain on paper towels.