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Summer's Finale
August 2008 and Labor Day, September 1, 2008

August - the last month of summer still filled with warm and humid days, but there are signs that Fall is on it's way - "back to school" advertisements remind even those of us without children going back to school that in a few short weeks we'll have to put away our white shoes!  Remember when that was the ultimate sign of a change of seasons?  Wearing anything white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day was considered so very un-stylish!

I'm combining the menus for August and September so you can pick and choose which recipes to make for August and as Labor Day is the first day of September this year I thought I would just add additional recipes to this edition  -  what better way to continue the summer tradition of eating outdoors than by grilling into September and beyond!

For a starter, a Middle Eastern recipe for hummus (it is spelled a variety of ways) is served with toasted pita bread triangles or fresh raw vegetables of your choice. Tahini (made from sesame seeds) is available in many supermarkets, health food shops and specialty shops, but if you cannot find it, you can substitute creamy peanut butter.

An even easier way to serve this starter is buying a good quality Hummus already made - so far I've only found one brand that meets my taste and is always in my refrigerator - SABRA. Check their website "store locater" to find a retailer in your area.  I'll be writing a more detailed review of the products from Sabra soon - go to the "Food Products" link to read about the foods I've written about so far.

Another starter is a Hawaiian favorite of mine - but only if you can find the best quality (sashimi grade) tuna, whether yellowfin or other species of tuna.  By the way, whenever you see "Ahi Tuna" on a menu, please know that literally the word "Ahi" is Hawaiian for "fire" - and it's what the Hawaiians call tuna! The word "shoyu" is the Japanese word for soy sauce. The dish is call Ahi Shoyu Poke (pronounced ah-he; schoy-u; po-key). I've adapted the recipe for this raw fish delicacy as I'm quite sure that "limu kohu" (seaweed) and "inamona" (ground roasted kukui nut) which might be added to any of the varied recipes for Poke may not be readily available here on the Mainland - but you will still have a great dish to enjoy with cocktails.  Be sure to have chop sticks ready - Poke should NOT be eaten with a fork - at least not in Hawai'i!

The boneless leg of lamb is "butterflied" (you can ask your butcher to do this for you) or simply buy a boneless leg of lamb, split it open in half but don't cut all the way through. Continue to make cuts in the flesh until the meat is almost flat. The marinade is a delicious combination of fresh herbs, vegetable oil and lemon juice.

The second choice of a main dish is also lamb with flavors of North Africa and is from Turkey - where they really know how to cook lamb in any form.  Kofte is ground seasoned lamb on a stick and served with a cold white bean salad. 

I've also included another local Hawaiian classic cold salad combining potato and macaroni which goes with any grilled foods - someone always made this dish at whatever gathering we attended in Honolulu - especially at the beach! The other side dish of grilled potato and zucchini slices can be seasoned with spices to your own tastes but the recipe as is, is delicious.

And finally, the dessert is a refreshing ending to this or any meal, topped with a cool dollop of honey yogurt dressing.

Menu for Six - August and Labor Day

Hummus with Toasted Pita Bread
Ahi Poke

Grilled Lamb with Herb Marinade
Kofte Kebabs

Cannellini Bean/Tomato Salad
Potato and Macaroni Salad
Spinach-Stuffed Tomatoes
Grilled Potato and Zucchini

Fruit Salad with Honey Yogurt




2 15 oz. Cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tablespoon safflower oil
2 large cloves garlic
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 Tablespoons Tahini paste
teaspoon EACH ground cumin, black pepper, ground coriander
Salt to taste
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Sprigs of cilantro (Chinese parsley) for garnish

4 rounds of Pita bread (whole wheat pita is delicious!)

In the bowl of a food processor, add all of the ingredients except salt, cilantro and toasted sesame seeds. Process until ingredients are combined into a smooth consistency. Taste for seasoning. Add salt as desired. Spoon mixture into a serving bowl and sprinkle on toasted sesame seeds and sprigs of cilantro as a garnish.

Serve chilled or at room temperature with wedges of toasted pita bread or with a selection of sliced vegetables such as carrot sticks, celery, grape tomatoes.


Ahi Shoyu Poke

1- pounds yellowfin tuna (highest grade available from a reliable fish store)
5  spring onion (scallion), white and green part, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, chopped
1 small sweet Maui or Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
cup Kikkoman shoyu (soy sauce)

Cut tuna into bite-sized pieces, about 1-inch cubes and add to a chilled serving bowl.  Add chopped scallions, red pepper flakes, onion and toss to combine ingredients.  Just before serving, mix in the soy sauce and serve.  (if you add the soy sauce too early, it will permeate the tuna making it too salty)


Grilled Lamb with Herb Marinade

1 whole leg of lamb, bone removed by butcher and meat butterflied. You may also find a ready-cut butterflied boned leg of lamb in some meat departments.


1 cup vegetable oil
1 large Spanish or Vidalia onion, sliced thin
1 lemon - Zest first, then juice
1 lime  - Zest first, then juice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
2 sprigs fresh oregano leaves, minced
2 spigs rosemary leaves, minced
10 fresh basil leaves, minced
2 teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine marinade ingredients in a large glass dish that is wide and deep enough to hold the butterflied piece of lamb. Place the lamb in the dish and coat it well with the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least six hours or overnight.

If using a charcoal grill, add some soaked wood chips (hickory or mesquite) to the coals for an interesting smokey-taste. If using a gas grill, be sure the heat source is at medium or the lamb will char too quickly. Grill lamb for approximately 15 minutes per pound for rare. Test for desired degree of doneness using an "instant-read" thermometer. Internal meat temperature is the best way to get your lamb cooked the way you like it:

135 F - 140 F. for rare
150 F. for medium
160 F. for well-done

Transfer grilled lamb to a carving board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.



Kofte Kebabs

Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for about 1 hour.  Number of sticks required depends on how much meat mixture you form on each one.

2 tablespoons E.V. olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, ground
cup chopped parsley
cup chopped cilantro
cup pine nuts, chopped
salt & pepper to taste

2 pounds ground lamb

Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet;  add onion and cook until softened; add garlic, cumin, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant.  Add parsley, cilantro and chopped pine nuts and combine.  Add salt & pepper - taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  Remove mixture to a flat plate and spread out so it cools more quickly.

Put ground lamb into a large mixing bowl  add cooled onion/spice mixture and mix well. 

To mold the lamb onto the wooden skewer, of course your hands are already clean, but if you wet your hands it will be easier to mold the ground lamb onto the skewer.  Using an ice-cream scoop as a measure, scoop up the mix mixture into the palm of one hand; form the ball into a cylinder shape; take a bambook skewer and place it in the middle of the cylinder of meat and mold the meat around the skewer.  Place prepared Kofte Kebab on a holding plate and repeat with the remainder of the meat and skewers.  Depending on how much you measure out, will determine how many Kofte Kebabs you make.

The kebabs can be stove-top grilled or on a well oiled grill surface, they will taste even better when grilled over charcoal.  They don't take too long to cook over hot coals or a hot gas grill - remember lamb can be eaten medium-rare - but even well done, these well-seasoned Kofte Kebabs are delicious



Cannellini Bean/Tomato Salad

2 cans Cannellini Beans, drained, rinsed
2 garlic cloves, finely miced
cup chopped parsley
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
cup Newman's Own Oil & Vinegar Salad Dressing

Place beans in a medium size serving bowl and add garlic, parsley, tomatoes and toss well.  Combine ground cumin with the salad dressing and pour over the salad. Toss well.  Chill before serving with Kofte Kebabs


Hawaiian-Style Potato/Macaroni Salad
pound red-skin potatoes
1 pound elbow macaroni
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
2 hard boiled eggs, grated
2 cups mayonnaise (more if needed)
salt & pepper

Cook potatoes starting in cold water; bring to a boil and cooked until you can pierce with a knife, but the potato is still firm so it holds up in the salad.  Cool potatoes in cold water, peel and cut into small cubes.

Cook elbow macaroni; bring salted water to a rapid boil and add pasta, cook according to package directions or a few minutes less if you like your pasta a bit more firm.  Rinse macaroni under cold water and drain well.

In a large mixing bowl, combine potato cubes, macaroni, carrot, celery, onion, eggs and a pinch of salt & pepper. Toss well.  Add mayonnaise a half cup at a time until you have the consistency you desire.  Taste and add more salt & pepper if necessary.


Spinach-Stuffed Tomatoes

6 firm but summer-ripe tomatoes
3 bunches fresh spinach, cleaned well, briefly cooked and chopped
3 Tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
cup dried seasoned bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons flat-leaf parsley finely minced
1 Tablespoon minced fresh basil
Extra Virgin olive oil

Cut a slice off the stem end of the tomatoes and gently scoop out the seeds and some of the pulp, creating a hollow for the spinach stuffing. Sprinkle the inside with salt & pepper and place prepared tomatoes cut side down on paper towels to drain slightly. In a large skillet, melt butter and lightly cook the garlic. Add cooked spinach and stir until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool slightly before filling tomato shells.

Using a flat dish, mix together the Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley, basil and seasoned bread crumbs. Dip the stuffed tomatoes into this mixture until the spinach filling is well-coated. Place the filled tomatoes in a shallow lightly oiled baking dish. Drizzle olive oil over all tomatoes. Bake approximately 15 - 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Alternatively, if your gas grill is large enough, you can bake the tomatoes in a heat-proof roasting pan in a covered grill.



Grilled Potatoes with Zucchini

4 large baking potatoes, scrubbed clean
3 large zucchini
2 Tablespoons rosemary leaves, minced
2 Tablespoons basil leaves, minced
6 Tablespoons butter (E.V. olive oil can be substituted)
Sea Salt and Freshly ground black pepper

Cut six pieces of heavy duty foil, approximately 12" square. Spray dull side with a cooking spray and set aside.

Slice each potato into very thin slices and place slices in a single row fanned out on a piece of the oiled foil. Slice zucchini on the diagonal into 1/4-inch thick slices. Alternate slices of zucchini in between the slices of potato. Combine the herbs and sprinkle an even amount on all six servings. Sprinkle salt and black pepper to taste on each. Spread the butter evenly over each serving. Fold over the foil to enclose the row of potato/zucchini slices and fold over edges into a packet.

Place packets on a hot grill and cook approximately 20 to 25 minutes, turning occasionally. Check one packet to ensure that potatoes are cooked through. Keep packets warm until ready to serve.


Fruit Salad with Honey Yogurt

1 cantaloupe, peeled, seeds removed and flesh cut into cubes
1 papaya, peeled, seeds removed and flesh cut into cubes
1 mango, peeled, pit removed and flesh cut into cubes
2 kiwi, peeled and sliced
1 basket ripe strawberries, hulled and berries cut in halves
1 basket blueberries (or blackberries), left whole
cup Amaretto liqueur



1 cups plain Greek yogurt
Honey to taste
2 Tablespoons fresh mint leaves, minced

Combine prepared fruit in a serving bowl. Sprinkle on liqueur and mix well. In another bowl, combine yogurt and honey for desired sweetness. Sprinkle on minced mint leaves. Let guests serve themselves, allowing them to add as much dressing on their fruit as they wish.




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