Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shop Chef

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Mysteries of the world: Stonehenge, the Easter Island statues.

Finding a good watermelon in the supermarket bin.

You check the color, weigh it, and thump it (mainly because you see others doing it). But really you’re flying rind. Oh, forget it. Chips and salsa are on sale.

It’s time to seek professional help. Kevin Chong, chef de cuisine at Chef Mavro restaurant, has made a career out of selecting the best produce for his five-star dishes. The recent James Beard Foundation Award semi-finalist helps you squash those fears with a shopping guide for five fresh ingredients and his favorite ways to prepare them.

From now on, getting groceries will be a peas of cake.

Artichokes
How to shop: Leaves should be closed tight, free of blemishes and dark green 

How to prepare: Make artichoke chips - Peel off the leaves, remove the furry part called the choke and thinly slice the remaining heart with a mandolin. Dust the slices with flour and fry in 300-degree vegetable oil until golden brown. Drain then dust with garlic powder and sea salt.

Avocado
How to shop: Avocados should be firm, not rock hard or too soft. A ripe avocado is soft near the stem.

How to prepare: Make homemade guacamole. Mash the avocado, add diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice, sea salt, pepper and serrano chili. Bonus tip: add a touch of heavy cream to keep oxygen from turning it black.

Watermelon
How to shop: Buy local if possible. Look for a big yellow spot on the bottom; that means the watermelon has been sitting in the field until picked ripe. It should sound hollow and not have any soft spots.

How to prepare: Cut and serve in a salad with sherry vinegar, feta cheese and fresh oregano. Remove the skin and use the rind to make chutney. (See recipe below.)

Tomatoes
How to shop: Look for local vine-ripened tomatoes that are bright and free of blemishes. Tomatoes shipped from the mainland are picked green and lose all flavor in transit.

How to prepare: Make confit – Blanch it by dunking the tomatores in boiling water for five seconds, peel off the skin and cut into thick slices. Crush garlic and thyme in extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Marinate for about one hour then place on a baking sheet. Bake at 200 degrees for two hours.

Fish
How to shop: Buy fish whole. It should be firm to the touch with bright eyes and red, not pink, gills. Fresh fish should never smell “fishy.”

How to prepare: Remove the skin and cut flesh against the grain into thin slices. Marinate in olive oil, lemon juice, whole toasted coriander seeds and fresh cilantro. The lemon juice “cooks” it slightly.

The James Beard Award Finalists will be announced March 21. Kevin Chong and the team at Chef Mavro are cooking up a spring menu that will debut Tuesday, March 29. For more information, call (808) 944-4714 or click here.

Watermelon Rind Chutney
Courtesy: Kevin Chong

Rind from 1 watermelon, medium diced

2 cups sugar 

1 ½ cups water 

1 ½ cups white wine vinegar 

2 tablespoons chopped chili, serrano 

¼ cup minced ginger 

1 ½ tablespoons minced garlic 

1 teaspoon salt 

Pinch of cracked black pepper 

Mint, sliced 

Lemon verbena, sliced

Combine the first nine ingredients into a medium-sized pot and simmer until tender. Cool and mix with mint and lemon verbena.

Posted on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 in Permalink

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About Lei Chic

Lei Chic is a daily email and shopping blog that plugs you into Hawaii's newest and hottest boutiques, designers, trends, spas and salons, and more. You'll also discover all the cool events, dinners and sales happening around town in our Weekend Picks every Thursday. With Lei Chic, you'll get the inside scoop on what everyone will be talking about tomorrow – in your inbox today.

Lei Chic associate editor Natalie Schack has been a cultural anthropology student,museum worker bee and dabbler in graphic design. When she isn't scouting new fashion, compiling to-do lists or crafting puns, Natalie spends her free time dreaming up elaborate picnic ideas; "researching" via YouTube tutorials, blogs and Instagram; and dusting off her pith helmet for the next adventure life throws her way.


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