By Marcia Pilgeram
The last month has been a whirlwind of travel. I’ve been preparing for these trips for what has felt like a lifetime (in COVID years, that’s two years). I’ve been so busy that I haven’t even had time for jet lag. Since April 9, I’ve covered more than 12,000 miles. That’s a whole lot of miles. And a whole lot of meals. And I still have a few weeks and a few thousand miles to go before heading home.
Last month I escorted a group to Tahiti on a two-week cruise through the Society and the Marquesas islands. I returned to Sandpoint on April 24 and left again, this time for Ireland, to escort two ladies’ groups to experience some of my favorite destinations.
My approach to packing is last minute. I toss a few things in a bag and zip it shut. But last month, the darling daughters remedied that by coming to Sandpoint to help me prepare for these colossal endeavors. Casey packed up my tropical island-wear of pareos and swimsuits, and Ryanne filled packing cubes with two days-worth of fashion wear for my three-plus weeks in Ireland. They both outdid themselves, as never before have I received so many flattering compliments on my clothing ensembles.
Culinary experiences highlight my travels, and the cuisines of my recent sojourns have been as vast and varied as the destinations.
Onboard the m/v Paul Gauguin, we feasted in the La Veranda fine dining room on delicacies like seared duck foie gras, poached moonfish topped with caviar and handmade squid pasta. Every day, the lunch buffet was a revolving menu of international flavors — Greek, Italian, Spanish, and even Filipino, to honor the staff, which mostly hails from the Philippines.
Though I rarely indulged, my group loved each evening’s grand finale of sublime desserts created by Chef Paul Ellis. I prefer savory dishes and usually finish my meal with a selection from the French cheese cart, paired with Armagnac.
No matter where I travel, one of my favorite savory dishes is curry. Depending on the region, they are always different but always delicious. This week, in Cork City, Ireland, seated in a plush, purple velveteen booth, I polished off a delightful simmering bowl of a spicy red curry, teeming with fresh shrimp and crisp snow peas, served over a perfect little mound of fragrant jasmine rice.
It was quite a juxtaposition to another recent curry dish, eaten thousands of miles away, on the island of Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas. From our anchored ship, we were tendered to the quiet cruise port of Taiohae and met by an entire family, who loaded us into their small (overloaded) boat for our journey to the other side of the island.
We bounced along a rocky coast through open, rough seas for about 45 minutes, finally completing our “not-for-the-faint-hearted” boat transfer for a hike in paradise. We were met by Marquesan local Tangy and his Croatian-born partner Ana.
Tangy was born on the island and has lived there most of his life. He left once for the city life in Tahiti until he was urged by his aging father to “return home and protect the village,” and so he did. Tangy comes from a well-known Marquesan family of woodcarvers, the Taupotini family. When he’s not carving exquisitely detailed pieces from bone or rosewood, he’s preparing a feast for those who’ve come to hike with him and Ana.
Led by Ana, my group forded a river and hiked an ancient trail to view the highest waterfall in the Marquesas Islands. Tangy stayed behind to prepare our meal in their modest, dirt-floor home.
We returned tired, hot and hungry, and — with great anticipation — watched Tangy put the finishing touches on our meal.
It was a veritable feast of foraged island ingredients: grilled yellowfin tuna, poisson cru (raw fish marinated in coconut milk and lime juice), vegetable salad, curried potatoes and fried bananas. We hungry hikers all agreed that the curried potatoes tossed in coconut milk were one of the most delicious foods we’d ever eaten. Ana encouraged us to eat more of everything because, without refrigeration, there can be no leftovers. We did our best.
When I get home, the first dish I’m going to try and recreate is Tangy’s curried potatoes in coconut milk. Stay tuned for that recipe — and others — as we eat our way through a couple more weeks in Ireland.
Veggie stir fry with garlic and ginger crunchies recipe • This week’s recipe comes from Ben Olson, since Marcia Pilgeram is currently traveling in Ireland and is unable to provide a recipe this week. While some stir fry recipes can be quite mundane, this one is unique because of the garlic and ginger “crunchies” that you make to top the dish with.
For garlic-ginger crunchies:
• 1 to 2 tbsp butter
• 5 cloves of garlic, minced fine
For Stir Fry:
• 1 tbsp sesame oil
• 1 small/medium yellow onion, diced
• 2 cups broccoli florets
• 1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
• 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
• 1 cup carrots, chopped into matchsticks
• Snap peas
• Mung bean sprouts
• Dash of fish sauce
• Soy sauce to taste
• Sriracha and/or chili garlic sauce to taste
• Peanut sauce/marinade (or if you don’t
have this, use peanut butter and tahini
mixed with soy sauce) to taste
• 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
• Cooked white or brown rice
Start by making the garlic and ginger “crunchies” to put on top of the finished stir fry. Melt 1-2 tbsp of butter in a small stir fry pan, add diced garlic and ginger and fry over medium-low heat until garlic starts to brown — usually around 5 minutes. Don’t burn it!
Pour cooked garlic and ginger onto a paper towel to soak up the butter. These “crunchies” will crisp up as you cook the rest of the meal, as long as you give them plenty of time and air to dry.
Meanwhile, in a larger stir fry pan or wok, heat some sesame oil over medium to medium-high. Add onions, cook until slightly translucent. Add carrots, cook for 1 minute. Add bell peppers, cook for another minute. Add broccoli and snap peas. Continue stir frying. Add dash of fish sauce, soy sauce to taste and add spice with Sriracha or chili garlic sauce. Add peanut sauce marinade or peanut butter mixed with tahini and soy sauce. When vegetables are cooked but still firm, sprinkle on mung bean sprouts and cook another couple of minutes.
When vegetables are perfect, take off of heat and serve immediately over cooked brown or white rice. Sprinkle garlic-ginger crunchies on top of the stir fry, sprinkle on chopped peanuts and add a dash of toasted sesame seeds to complete this quick and delicious stir fry.
Cook with chicken or tofu if you’d like to add extra protein. Add any extra vegetables you fancy, including water chestnuts, baby corn, mushrooms or edamame beans. Also tastes great on pad thai noodles instead of rice.
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