Sunday, December 4, 2011

Foraging, Florida, and the Olympic Long Team

There's been so much happening since m-y last post and I'm so glad my blog is back up and running to tell everyone about it. I'll of course start out with the most exciting news.  I made the Olympic long team! USA Cycling narrowed down the pool to nine women who are in the running for two Olympic mountain bike slots.  I had already qualified for the long team automatically with my world cup and world championship finishes but it's still very nice to have it official.  I'm now one step closer to my Olympic dreams.  There's a couple more steps to go, and it's going to be highly competitive.  The American ladies are fast. I'm thrilled with the opportunity.

In other news, I've been completely packing in the adventures and new experiences.  I first left Kauai for a week to take part in the Specialized Women's 29er Fate product launch in Orlando, Florida.  I stayed at the biggest Marriot in the world, taught a skills clinic to some of the press, and generally had an amazing time.  There was a group of nine of us and there was a lot of laughing in the span of three days.

The Specialized Women's Launch

I then flew up to Vermont for the weekend to surprise my sister, Sabe, my mom, and my grandmother.  It was so much fun seeing the shock on their faces, and my sister made a lot of high pitch noises when I surprised her.  My sister and I bebopped around Vermont for a couple of days like we usually do and I was even graced with an inch or two of snow while I was there.

I returned to Kauai and the Petterson family was working full time preparing for the annual foraging dinner.  This year marked the second annual foraging dinner where forty people took on the local food challenge.  Each guest had to make a dish and could only use ingredients from the islands, even better if the ingredients were found in your backyard.  Since we were the hosts, we had to abide to the strict rules laid down.  When we actually started getting into recipes, we realized how much we relied on shipped ingredients.  But, being on an island of bounty, we got creative to make some amazing dishes.  Jojo and I were tasked to coconuts and this became the basis for the majority of the family's recipes.  Through friends with coconut trees and 'new age foraging' at the green waste dump, we got a whopping total of ninety coconuts in the back of the truck.  We took about half to three quarters of those coconuts through tedious processing.  Jojo would hack the top off with a blade and pour out the coconut water.  Then, she would cut the coconut in half and hand it over for the meat to be scraped out of the shell.  Everyone had their own technique but it all boiled down to sticking a butter knife in the meat and popping it out.  With three of us working, it would take about two hours to get a one gallon ziploc of coconut meat.  I  have blisters.

 Jojo chopping  some of the ninety coconuts we gathered for the foraging dinner

The coconut meat would go into a blender, mix with hot water, and then blended to a slurry.  I would take that mixture and put it into a nut milk bag and squeeze with all my might.  The result is pure, fresh Kauai coconut milk.  It's delicious and better than what comes in a can in the Asian section of the grocery store.  After the milking process, this coconut meat, devoid of most of the coconut flavor, would be dehydrated.  After it's dry, I would blend it again to make coconut flour.  Repeat the entire process.  Several times over the course of two weeks.

This is the coconut milk station.  From left, blender, nut milk bag, jar of coconut milk, and the coconut meat leftovers
 The Petterson Family hard at work preparing the foraging meal

Harvested sugarcane sticks for stirring the drink

I was dead set on making pies for the dessert so I scoured the internet for alternative macademia nut crust recipes, non dairy key lime pie and coconut cream pie recipes.  For my test run, I couldn't find a crust recipe so I threw some macadamia nuts and coconut meat in the blender and added some cold water.  I molded this bizarre crust into a pie formation and made the coconut pie filling out of coconut milk and coconut flour.  The flour pulled a fast one on me and made the filling chunky.  It wasn’t so much of a pie as a coconut pudding.  I set out on try number two with a key lime pie.  I found an amazing recipe from the allergic kid blog which called for sitting over a pot of stirring coconut milk and honey for forty five minutes until it thickened.  I added the lime for good measure and, success, it looked and tasted like a pie. 

My plate at the dinner

A bowl of Suriname cherries at the dinner

I made two of these pies for the dinner.  The Petterson family also made coconut encrusted tilapia with tilapia straight from the ponds on the property.  There was a thai coconut soup with prawns caught from the ponds.  Coconut Taro leaf also joined the menu as well as cassava chips and guacamole.  This was all made from ingredients harvested straight from the property.  Jojo created five gallons of delicious coconut water, passionfruit, and rum cocktail (the rum was made right down the road).  We also recycled wine bottles and made glasses.  All in all, it was quite the lesson in self sufficiency and completely rewarding to taste all of the hard work.

Mahalo for reading!