After spending the first few weeks of my time here freaking out about how expensive everything is in Hawaii (I blame living on student wages for the last 10 years), I've finally come to my senses and accepted the fact that the high cost of food is partly due to the expense of getting the food to an island that is something like 3,000 miles away from the mainland coast (only partly, mind you, because there is some talk that some of the costs involved are only because people expect the prices to be unreasonably high and so, the grocery stores, always the capitalists, follow suite). As such, the carbon footprint for most of the food available here must be astronomical. Thus, ever the Eugene liberal tree-hugger (even if my environs have changed), it's even more important to eat locally and seasonally here.
For the most part, many of the items that can grow here can be grown all year long, but supposedly the longer you are here the more you can recognize the seasons, and I am excited to be able to add this keen skill to my repertoire someday in the future. Strangely enough, however, locally grown food is not necessarily cheaper than a tomato grown in Mexico and carried by boat or airplane to get here (and that looks a tad...um, ruffled after its journey), especially in the grocery stores. Ah, but here's where the farmer's markets come in and save the day...not exactly cheaper (though some things are), but way less travel, much higher quality, and actually more variety too (limes are oddly difficult to find here in grocery stores, and probably simply because they are hard to find I have been craving them like nobody's business). We're checking out the last of the markets this evening and I'll have a post up on that soon. Joyfully, many months before our actual arrival in Oahu, I also sought out - with my fingers and toes crossed - a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group and lo and behold there is one on Oahu and lucky for me, they happen to have a drop-off box in my neighborhood. Yay! And the cherry on top? It's even organic produce. Double yippy yay!! I'll keep you updated on when that begins too - just what does one get in a Hawaiian CSA box?
And so, to celebrate, I figured I might as well run out and get some local produce and make myself a cocktail with it. Breakfast/brunch cocktail that is (although I do see many fruity, tropical - and let's not forget alcoholic - drinks in my future here too). You see, it's time again for another installment of that happy, heart-healthy event that I'm lucky enough to help my friends Ilva and Joanna host every month: Heart of the Matter, or HotM. I missed the party last month with the big move in full swing, so I wasn't about to miss this month, where Joanne is hosting a round-up of Brunch recipes (check her blog, or the HotM blog, for the round-up sometime after the 27th).
I love brunch. I especially love brunch with lots of food, lots of friends, and lots of champagne or cocktails. I also think that brunch should occasionally be enjoyed in pajamas, and so to honor this thought, I ate these nice little breakfast "cocktails" in my PJs and am writing this up sitting in them (ah, yes, there are sometimes great things about not being officially employed). So, I present to you my entry for this month's HotM: Lemony Fruit and Yogurt Cocktails. Now, these little numbers could probably be considered more of a "parfait" than a cocktail, but since I am sitting here, in my PJs, thinking of real fruity (alcoholic) cocktails, and because I served it in a fruity cocktail drink glass (otherwise known as a "big freakin' margarita glass"), I think I'll call them just that. Besides, I enjoyed it out on the lanai (porch) too - where all fruity cocktails, drinkable or otherwise, should be enjoyed.
I've long had dreams of incorporating quinoa into breakfast (don't ask me why), but here I went with whole wheat couscous for the texture. These are hearty enough to be breakfast (easy enough too) or you could put them in small, little cocktail glasses (martini anyone?) and they would be a perfect addition to brunch. It's very healthy, low in fat, and filling. I used non-fat yogurt and cooked the couscous in soy milk to keep the cholesterol down and give it a little sweetness. We used fruit that we had available, and that grows here (pineapple and 2 different kinds of papaya - see the picture above, and more on those later), but depending on where you are and the season, this would be great with any berries or citrus. If I'd had limes, I'd have put lime juice and zest in the yogurt instead of lemon to go with the tropical fruit, but maybe stick with the lemon for berries? Garnish with mint too, if you've got it!
Lemony Fruit and Yogurt Cocktails
serves 2 for breakfast, 4 for brunch with other brunch-able goodies, and obviously could easily be scaled up for more
3/4 cup soymilk (you could even use low-fat)
1/2 cup whole wheat couscous
1 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt, drained overnight in cheesecloth
1 lemon, zested and juiced
sliced fresh fruit - at least 2 different kinds
mint, for garnish (optional)
Bring the soymilk almost to a boil over low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Add the couscous, stir, cover the pot and remove it from the heat, letting it sit while you prepare the rest of the parfait ingredients (This could easily be made ahead and chilled, and I recommend it actually, because I had to make these twice - and let the couscous sit and cool - to get a pretty picture because the glasses kept steaming up. I might bring it to room temp before serving though).
In a small bowl, combine the drained yogurt ("yogurt cheese") with the lemon juice and lemon zest. Next, pick out your favorite cocktail glass, and fill the bottom with a large spoonful (or two, depending on your glass and how many you're feeding) of couscous. Layer one type of fruit atop the couscous, then add a layer of yogurt. Layer another type or two of fruit on top of the yogurt, garnish with mint (if you've got it - we didn't), and serve.