Hello fellow foodies, today we are at the Cooks Islands, a group of 15 islands in the South Pacific. You can find these scattered islands below Tahiti and close to New Zealand. Rarotonga is the capital island and most populated with approximately 13k inhabitants. This country was named after the exploring Captain James Hook, however he never visited the islands. Known for its tropical beauty the islands are not overdone with fancy resorts and flashy lights- actually no stop lights either! You can explore the limestone caves, pristine sandy beaches and underwater scuba excursions. The Cooks Islands is a top producer of the black pearl- a very scientific and precise process of inseminating oysters with sphere like shells. Over time the oyster will avoid the foreign object ultimately coating shell to make a black pearl over a few years time.
The Cooks Islands pride themselves of clean waters and immaculate seafood which their cuisine is filled with. Coconut and other native fruits are commonly eaten as well. All other foods are imported from their neighbor New Zealand. Today to honor the Cooks Islands I made Moana-Roa Mahi Mahi with a side of beats and salad (my easy way out of not making a potato salad). This traditional island fare includes taro leaves, green bananas, coconut cream, ginger, taro root, and more to accompany the fish. If you want to experience the real deal try this dish.
Once again there was no mahi mahi at my local store so I used tuna steaks instead! I also could not get taro roots or leaves so I substituted potatoes and spinach. This was definitely a new for us since we can never prepared or eaten bananas in a savory fashion before. I think this was easy enough to make just difficult to get my hands on all the right ingredients!
We thought the Cooks Islands brought unique flavors to the table. The bananas and fish may sound super strange, but the combination was actually pretty good. The cooked bananas didn’t lose their flavor and tasted like the uncooked fruit. It was surprisingly pleasant, but didn’t blow us away. We rated it 6.5/10.
Before traveling to ITALY we will be making a pit stop in Puerto Rico! Stay tuned!!
Today we travel back to Southern Asia to the country of Nepal. These country is situated mostly in the Himalayan mountains (home to Mount Everest) bordered by China, India, and Bhutan. Due to its location in a harsh environment it is considered one of the least developed countries in the world. Nepal is known to honor their cows due to Hindu religion (one of the most popular religions of Nepal) which means they will not kill their cows even when they stop providing milk. At that time cows are released and the community will care for the free cows. How cute!
Cuisine of Nepal can be broken up into regions and understandably has strong Asian influence. Such regions are Himilayan, Newars, Khas, Lohorung, and Terai. Each have specific dishes and cooking preparation methods that are unique to the region (with some overlap). Today’s dish dal bhat is a lentil curry, sometimes soup-like in consistency, that is eaten throughout the country and neighboring China and India. Traditionally it is served over rice and is vegetarian or vegan dependent on the oil used for cooking. It’s served at the 17,000 ft base camp on Mount Everest to fuel the brave hikers on their journey to/from the summit. The recipe I followed can be found here.
This meal was super-duper easy and healthy. I don’t cook with lentils often, but I was intrigued by the mix of spices (which I admit did not measure out when preparing). Additionally it has few ingredients and is inexpensive to make. Have I caught your attention now?
We enjoyed this meal and the blend of spice giving a mild heat to the dish. The lime and cilantro helped balance the heat. It was by far the best lentil dish we have ever had. Ian felt that adding salsa would have made it better, but what doesn’t salsa make better? We rated this dish 7.25/10 and recommend it to anyone who has never had lentils before or enjoy the flavors of cumin, turmeric, and cayenne. Let us know what you think by dropping a comment below!
Ia ora na (Tahitian for hello) and welcome to French Polynesia! This French territory is made up of over 100 islands, only 67 being inhabited. These islands are sorted into five archipelagos/island groupings: Tuamotu, Austral, Marquesas, Gambier, and Society. Tahiti, a Society island, is the capital and the most populated island making up nearly 70% of the entire country’s population. Most inhabitants are Polynesian, but a quarter of them are European and Chinese. French Polynesia is known for its hundreds of sandy beaches, exploring wild life in the jungle and dives into the ocean. I’m ready to pack my bags!!
Cuisine of French Polynesia consists of a large variety of seafood, locally grown produce such as uru (breadfruit) and umara (sweet potato), and for special occasions suckling pigs. A well known dish, poisson cru, is made up of raw tuna, lime juice, and coconut milk.
Today I made a recipe with cooked fish (sorry sushi lovers) with a decadent vanilla bean sauce and a side of sautéed veggies.
It was pretty easy and quick to prepare, the vanilla sauce being the most technical part of the recipe. Make sure to scrape out every little bit of those vanilla beans to get your moneys worth!
The end result should look something like this, a beautiful sheen on the fish with specks of vanilla bean throughout. I did feel my sauce was slightly on the runny side, but it was still delicious. I ended up using three times as much sauce then pictured when eating the fish to get as much flavor as possible (I didn’t want my plate to look soupy). We loved the uniqueness of the vanilla bean sauce and thought it worked well not only with the fish but the rice as well. There was a hint of sourness I felt came from the rum, but the rum flavor in general was not strong.
This would be a great healthy alternative to try for your work week! We rated it 7.25/10
Day 2 of French cooking brings us to Ratatouille, a vegan dish that reminds me think of the Disney Pixar movie. In the movie, this was the dish that was served to Ego the harsh food critic and ultimately thawed his ice cold heart. I will admit I did play this movie while I was prepping the vegetables and it made me feel like a kid again!
Ratatouille hails from the providential region of Nice dating back to the 18th century. The name ratatouille is made up of the two French words rata (chunky stew) and touiller (toss up food). This is yet another modest peasant dish that has been elevated to a fine dinning experience. This meal often consisted of the farmers leftover harvest and can be made from using various different vegetables. I went by this recipe which used the more typical eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, potato, and red pepper. This is then placed on top of a tomato sauce and can be served with fish, meat, or rice.
After you have used your mandolin or sliced each vegetable very finely you start to assemble your ratatouille.
Voila! What a piece of art! I topped it off with salt and pepper before covering it to cook in the oven for almost an hour. When it was done cooking I served it with risotto!
We thought it was a nice vegetarian option and liked how with every bite you could taste each vegetable. Next time I would use more sauce. We rated the dish 6.5/10, a nice healthy option for dinner 😋