Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Local Challenge: Hawaii

I'm proud to say I was a locavore. At least for a day.

After reading books and articles about the OED's new word of the year, I decided I was going to spend one entire 24 hour period eating STRICTLY local. No "Marco Polo Rule" - meaning even my spices, salt and sugar had to be grown or produced within the Hawaiian islands. 

Stop and think about that for a second. 

Think about the last meal you ate. How much of it came from the same state, or even the same country that you're in right now? If you had a banana or coffee, it's pretty much guaranteed that it came from outside the country.

Honestly, though, eating local wasn't that bad. There's definitely a reason I chose to undergo this challenge while at home as opposed to some other state (I did adjust the usual 100-mile radius rule a bit as most of the space between islands is water) - Hawaii has, much to my own surprise, a huge variety of local products.  Sure, we have pineapple and other fruits, but we also have eggs, dairy and beef, tons of fish, vegetables, herbs, sugar, salt, nuts, and oil. Oh yeah, and we have apple bananas and coffee - so we're the one exception to that aforementioned assumption. 

We do not have many things, though. No olive oil, pepper, wheat or yeast (read: no bread, much to my dismay),  and - this almost killed me - no garlic. I ran around the Kapiolani Community College Farmer's Market (Saturdays from 7:30-11:30) searching for it, but was heartbroken when I found out it's just too expensive to grow it in the islands. Let's just say it was pretty hard to marinate meat and make a dressing without the stuff. 

Everything, and I mean everything, in the following pictures and recipes was grown and produced in Hawaii. If you're there, no excuses about not knowing how to go about being a locavore. If you don't happen to find yourself in the 50th state, I urge you to take ideas and apply them to your region of residence. It might require some research about what local foods are available to you (check out this site for local foods by state), but for the freshness and warm, fuzzy do-good feeling you get by helping the environment - it's completely worth it. Farmer's markets make eating local easy! I got most of my ingredients at the KCC Farmer's Market in Honolulu, so I'm sure you can have comparable luck at your local market. But enough with the chit chat and on to the important stuff - the food! 



...begins with coffee. Kona, of course.
Harem's Old Tree Estate Mild Blend 100% Kona Coffee

The beans.

Course ground to be steeped in a french press.

To sweeten: Either raw cane sugar or Lehua honey.

Fresh papaya with Lime

Ka Lei Egg Omelet with Maui Onions sautéed in macadamia nut oil, Big Wave red and orange tomatoes, and fresh organic sage lightly pan-toasted.
 Season with freshly ground sea salt.


Naked Cow Dairy Fresh Cream Unsalted Butter

Used to make:
Herb Butter
Mix coarsely chopped rosemary, sage, green onions, and thyme into butter. Used for seared ahi: see below.

Hawaiian Vanilla Butter
I was lucky enough to get my hands on some locally grown Hawaiian vanilla beans (which are from an orchid plant, much unbeknownst to most - that's why there's a picture of an orchid on vanilla yogurt). Sorry, but this is another Hawaii exception - most vanilla is from Mexico, Madagascar, and West and Central America. If you just want to make your own vanilla butter for another day, just scrape out the seeds from the pod and mix into butter.
- Used to make bananas fauxster: see below.



Seared Ahi Salad with Mixed Greens, Salsa, and Pomelo

To make, you'll need:

Not necessarily whole, but I wanted to learn how to filet a fish so I bought one at Tamashiro's. Whichever fish you choose, cut into about 1-inch x 1-inch long strips. Spread herb butter (see above) on all sides of all strips, and sear very quickly in a very hot pan. Depending on how cooked you like your fish (I prefer almost-sashimi), it may take anywhere from three to eight seconds on each side (but no more than that). Slice into pieces and plate on top of greens.

Garnish with:

Fresh Tomato, Onion, and Sage Salsa
Chop up whatever vegetables you want to have with your fish and salad - it will serve as a sort of dressing.


Also known as Jabong and Chinese grapefruit. It's the largest citrus fruit and can be slightly bitter if not ripe. I had this one lying around in the house - a gift from a neighbor, probably - so I threw it on the salad at the last minute. The sweetness and juiciness was lovely with the fish and greens.

See how pretty it turns out? Delicious, too.

Fresh Pineapple Sorbet

To make it, this is all you'll need:
½ fresh pineapple, 1 cup water, 3 tbsp. Maui raw sugar,

plus a freezer. You might want to do this first thing in the morning or the day before, to account for freezing time (2+ hours)

Dissolve sugar in water. Cut up pineapple removing top, spines, and core. Purée pieces in food processor and add sugar water and combine. Place into a freezer safe container and freeze, stirring every hour. If sorbet becomes a solid mass, just rake with a fork to break into granita-like consistency. Serve as is or with fresh pineapple garnish.



North Shore Cattle Co. Flank Steak 
with homemade papaya sauce, fresh seaweed garnish, 
baked sweet potato chips, and roasted eggplant with fresh herbs

To make, you'll need:

Flank Steak

Marinate overnight in:
Papaya Marinade

½ fresh papaya, seeds and skin removed
¼ cup Macadamia nut oil
Juice and zest of ½ lime
½ Maui onion, chopped
1 tbsp. Lehua honey

Put all ingredients in food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Add salt to taste.
Set aside some for finished dish. Place the rest into a large plastic Ziploc and add steak; seal and refrigerate overnight.

When you're ready for dinner:
Remove steak from bag and scrape marinade off. Heat macadamia oil in pan, meanwhile rub fresh herbs on steak. Cook meat to desired doneness; remove from pan and let rest for a few minutes before serving.

Serve with:

Baked sweet potato chips

Slice sweet potato into very thin slices (think potato chips). Spread onto a pan drizzled with macadamia oil and salt, then drizzle more oil and salt on top of potatoes. Bake in a 375°F oven until browned and crisp, about 10 minutes.

Roasted eggplant with fresh herbs

Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds, slice rounds in half. Prepare the same way as the sweet potatoes, but sprinkle with fresh crushed herbs and bake until browned and soft.

Fresh-squeezed Virgin Mojito

To make, you'll need:

Juice of 2 limes
4 mint leaves,
Maui Gold sugar, to taste
Finely crushed Ice


In a bowl crush mint in lime juice with back of a wooden spoon. Dissolve sugar into water in separate bowl, then add to lime-mint mixture. Pour into two glasses, add crushed ice and water to taste. Mix well, and garnish with lime wedge and mint sprig. 

Fresh Mango with (Apple) Bananas Fauxster

Yeah, I made up the name since real bananas foster contains banana liqueur - sadly, not produced in Hawaii. Ultimately, it's just apple bananas sautéed in the vanilla butter outlined earlier.


Essential ingredients I used:

Hawaii's Gold Macadamia Nut Oil
This oil saved me. It let me sauteé vegetables (for the omelet), sear the ahi, and make the marinade and sauce for the steak. I found it at Long's.

Maui Onions
These were of the smaller variety but worked great for the salsas, marinade, and salad. Milder than white or yellow onions so can be used raw.

Hawaiian Sea Salt
Salt is essential to bringing out flavor, especially of meats. Just be careful not to use too much.


Local is delicious.
No one expects you to eat entirely local everyday, but just making an effort and changing one or two items in your menu makes a difference.

Even better?
By eating so many fruits and veggies, local can also be lo-cal.
Just don't go too crazy with the butter.

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