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Dateline: Koloa, Kauai, Hawaii

04.08.2015

After weeks and weeks filled with snow and sub-zero temperatures, I decided enough was enough and booked a trip… to Hawaii.

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Poipu 

I spent a night in L.A. and then went straight on to Kauai. After six hours over the Paciifc, I got my first glimpse of the island’s ragged peaks and red cliffs from the air. As the plane descended over the ocean, I looked out my window and saw a humpback whale surface, a telltale puff of air and water rising from the sea like smoke. I knew then that I was in for something special.

I’d expected to feel as ambivalent about Hawaii as I do so many Caribbean islands: tropical places full of tourist traps, sometimes dirty and unsafe, hard to distinguish one from the other, and too hot to make you want to do too much. I couldn’t have been more wrong. A strong native culture permeates the islands, with gentle reminders to “live aloha,” something the locals practice as well as they preach. The water is crystal clear, and a steady trade wind takes the edge off the heat.

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secret beach

A lot of folks I talked to were surprised to hear that I planned to spend all 10 days on one island. They encouraged me to hop over to Maui or Oahu to see the sites. But quite frankly, I felt like I could have spent three weeks just in Kauai and not gotten sick of it. There were numerous hikes I wanted to do, beaches to laze on, and shave ices to eat. On the few occasions I returned to the same spots they felt different: the ocean is always changing, and each day brings new things. One day you might see some iridescent silver fish while swimming off a beach, the next day it might be a sea turtle. You never know.

Also, how do you get sick of views like this?

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Or this?

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And the food… oh, the food. Hawaii seems to have adopted the best of everything: Asia’s rice and raw fish, the so-Cal beach culture’s tacos, and a cornucopia of tropical fruits. Even the papaya was palatable, and I never like papaya. Coconut (my favorite, in all forms) was ubiquitous.

My favorite local dish however, was poke, Hawaii’s answer to tuna tartare. Made from whatever fish and ingredients are on hand, the possibilities are endless; it’s served in upscale restaurants on porcelain plates, as well as at the local grocery store in plastic containers. Often, the grocery store varieties are quite good, and super affordable. My favorite poke spot was the Koloa Fish Market, on the south side of the island. Little more than a counter and a cash register, the market makes several varieties of poke, as well as traditional Hawaiian boxed lunches, which are definitely worth a try. I liked the avocado best (so creamy!), but the Korean version, with a slight kick of spice and sprinkled with sesame, were also quite good.

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Of course, when you aren’t in Hawaii (or even if you are), you can make poke yourself pretty easily. All you need is access to sushi-quality fish. Here in Boston, you can find this at a few wholesalers that sell to the public, as well as Whole Foods. The key to good poke is to be sparing with your ingredients; you want to add flavor, but you don’t want the fish marinating in a pool. It’s not ceviche.

Here’s a primer to get started, but feel free to edit depending on what’s on hand. Avocado, sriacha, and onion make great additions.

Classic poke

1 to 2 pounds of sushi grade ahi tuna
1/2 to 1 pound white albacore tuna
a few Tablespoons of sesame oil
soy sauce
3 scallions, sliced thinly

Dice tuna into bite sized pieces and put in a bowl. Add enough soy sauce and sesame oil to just coat the fish- you do not want any extra in the bottom of the bowl. Add diced scallions, sesame seeds, or hot sauce, if desired. Serve immediately.

Ice life… and kale salad

03.21.2015

What a difference six months makes. The last time I visited Winnipesaukee 70 degrees seemed cool. This time, 18 felt warm.

ice-002 roughly the same vantage point…August/ March

Still, there’s something cozy about a lake house in the middle of winter. A roaring fire, accompanied by a bourbon cocktail. Homemade chili on the stove. Cuddling with friends on couches under a mountain of blankets. The exceptional air that a moment takes when someone pulls out a guitar and starts strumming. We lost an hour that night, so that we could “spring forward.” The next morning, I woke up to this.

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 Skiing was in the plan, but mediocre conditions and expensive lift tickets made us think again. So we headed to Alton Bay to watch the planes come into the only ice runway in the lower 48.

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I haven’t spent much time on ice, and if I’m honest, the whole thing freaks me out a bit. Growing up, I regularly heard stories about people falling through the ice on the river that ran through my town. Sometimes they made it, often they didn’t. It was drilled into me from a very young age that ice was something best avoided. So I couldn’t help but think the guys on snow mobiles I saw out in the middle of the lake Saturday fell somewhere between crazy, brave, and stupid. It took a deep breath before I went out onto the ice at Alton Bay, despite watching trucks drive onto it. And then, as I stood there, a plane landed on the ice in front of me.

We ate lunch overlooking the frozen airport and then headed back onto the lake to tour the ice fishing village that pops up there each winter. If you know me, you know that I love fishing. Ice fishing, however, is something I have never, ever had a desire to do. First, the idea of sitting out on the ice, freezing, and waiting for a bite seems miserable. Second, I think fresh water fish mostly tastes terrible, and if I’m not going to eat it, I have no desire to catch it. But the guys on Alton Bay may have swayed me a bit.

Anyone can put out an ice house, so long as you write your phone number on the outside, so folks can call you if it has trouble. The houses range in size and style. Some have propane heaters. Some have beds. Some are built on skis, some have wheels.

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It took about six minutes of walking around before B and I were handed Bud Lights by some guys and invited into their ice house. We talked about fishing, and hunting, but mostly fishing. They swore they’d caught fish the day before, but had nothing  that day (of course!).ice

But there was a nice sense of community out there. All these guys (and a few girls) are out there every weekend. They keep one another company, help each other out, and keep each other entertained. One guy was towing his kids in a sled behind his snowmobile, another was on a four-wheeler pulling his friend on a snowboard. He offered to tow me on my skis, but alas, I’d left my boots at the house.

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That sense of community is ultimately what led me to conclude that maybe ice fishing isn’t so bad. This winter has been a doozie, but getting outside with friends for a good time seems like the best strategy for not letting the dreary days and frigid temperatures get to you. It’s why I’ve skied so much this winter, and have continued to show up for November Project at least once a week.

Of course, when the weather is like this, my body craves the comforts of long cooked stews and warm breads. Poutin seems an appropriate apres ski snack, and of course one needs a beer to go with it. After a weekend of this, my body needs a reset on Mondays, something that’s substantial, but also good for me. This kale salad is a bit of both.

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I discovered it a couple of weeks ago at the Whole Foods salad bar when I was in search of a snack. I liked it so much that I snapped a photo of the ingredients and vowed to make it at home. The kale provides fiber and vitamins to nurture your body, but the dressing is flavorful enough that it still feels like a hearty dish, especially for a salad. Nuts, avocados, or pepitas would bump this up a notch, but it’s pretty darn good like this.

Kale salad with garlicky dressing
serves 4-6 as a side

1 bunch kale, cut into chiffonade and massaged
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tb garlic powder
2 Tb soy sauce (tamari or liquid amines can be substituted)
2 Tb lemon juice
2 Tb apple cider vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 cup water

Put kale into a large salad bowl and set aside. Combine tahini, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, soy sauce, lemon juice, and vinegar in a blender and whirl until smooth. Add 1/4 cup of water. If consistency is pourable, you’re good. If it’s still too thick add more water. You want something that’s pourable so it coats the kale, but isn’t too soupy. Adjust flavors to taste (you may like more lemon or garlic). When you reach desired consistency, pour 1/2 cup over the kale salad and toss well. Add dressing until the salad is dressed to your liking. You will likely have leftover dressing, which is fine as I’m sure you’ll want to eat this salad again. Store leftover dressing in a mason jar and refrigerate.

Kale is hearty enough that any salad leftovers can be kept and eaten the following day. It will start to get soggy after two days.

Fabada

01.27.2015

So, we had a bit of snow here in Boston.

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It’s sort of amazing to me that with all the technological advances of the 21st century, things still come to a screeching halt for Mother Nature. Of course, thanks to some of those technological advances, Tuesday was a sort of work day anyway. In addition to job stuff, I spent a couple of hours shoveling. That was real work. I’m glad I train for life.

I hunkered down with some friends Monday night. There was wine and stories. A guitar singalong. Sledding down streets. The usual urban adventures.

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Times like this lend themselves well to slow cooked meals that stick to the ribs, so I made a fabada right before the storm hit. A fabada is a Spanish bean stew filled with pork parts. Traditionally, a pig trotter and ear are thrown in, but I wasn’t about to make a special trip to the grocery store before #snowmageddon, so I used what was on hand: pancetta, pork loin, chorizo, and pork belly. Pancetta was the only non-traditional ingredient, but it worked.

This is a meal best cooked overnight and then allowed to sit for a day, as the beans soak up more flavor as time goes on. But if time is short you can always eat it right away; it’s still pretty delicious straight out of the oven.

Fabada
(serves 6)

1 lb white or navy beans
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic
6 cups chicken stock
1 lb chorizo sausage, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 to 2 lbs pork loin, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 oz pancetta
8 oz pork belly, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 Tb paprika
salt to taste
balsamic vinegar/glaze (optional)

Combine beans, onion, garlic, and stock in a large dutch oven and bring to a boil over high-heat. Reduce heat and let simmer for an hour. Heat oven to 250. Add meats, paprika, and salt to the beans and put the pot in the oven (if you need more liquid, add water to cover the beans). Cook six to eight hours, until beans are tender. Remove from oven and let cool. If you can wait a day to eat it, do. Serve drizzled with a bit of balsamic, or balsamic glaze.

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