Another Reason to Vacation in Hawaii: The Food!
Years ago in Hawaii, when I was the food editor of the Honolulu Advertiser, “fine dining” meant an elaborate leatherette menu of classic French dishes prepared by European chefs, often made with imported European ingredients. My visiting New York friends used to wonder why food in Hawaii was always a disappointment, given the wealth of fresh produce growing abundantly everywhere (and obviously being ignored).
Today, of course, Hawaii continues its culinary renaissance, which started in the early 1990s with a dozen chefs vowing to use their talents to showcase the best of local ingredients in uniquely local interpretations. Once exclusive to high-end dining, the attitude has infected the next generation of young chefs across a wide spectrum of eateries, spurring them to push the boundaries as they draw on their cultural roots, fostering local pride.
Last week, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) held a media luncheon at San Francisco’s Aziza restaurant to promote its culinary assets, featuring Chris Kajioka, executive chef of the elegant and exclusive Vintage Cave and Mark Noguchi, a leader in Hawaii’s sustainable food movement and chef/partner at Pili Hawaii, a catering group connecting community, education and food.
HVCB contends that food is a reason to visit Hawaii again and again – well after a visitor has been to the usual beaches, experienced the fine weather and hit all the tourist spots. And it’s more than restaurant dining: agrotourism is burgeoning in Hawaii, with opportunities for visitors to tour farms or enjoy a sit-down dinner in a field.
During the luncheon, we sampled perfect small bites of such dishes as smoked black cod over bone marrow rice; Burgundy carrots cooked in their own juice and topped with tofu, citrus and pansies; California halibut poisson cru; and kushi oysters with pickled kohlrabi and yuzu foam. (You can find my photos of the dishes on Instagram.)
While these are delightful, rarified dishes to enjoy at a restaurant, they’re not the kind of dishes that we at Special Fork aspire to make at home. So Noguchi gave us a recipe to fit our 30-minute prep parameters. It’s a kale salad that is sophisticated in its combination of flavors, yet simple enough to make on a work night.
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of the Pacific and the Culinary Institute of America, Noguchi still understands the life of everyday cooks. “We have an eight-week-old daughter that we want to spend time with, so we want to fuss with food as little as possible at home,” he said. And like everyday folks, “My wife and I talk about what’s in the fridge to plan our meals,” he explained. They work their menus around what’s in season at the farmers’ market.
Here’s Chef Noguchi’s recipe for Special Fork.
MA`O Organic Farm Crushed Kale, Orange, Carrot, Bread Crumb
2 to 3 slices stale bread
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
2 cloves garlic, divided
2 to 3 small carrots, sliced thinly
1 large orange, segmented, reserve juice for salad dressing
1 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon honey
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 pound lacinato kale, stemmed, crushed with your hands and torn in bite-size pieces
2 to 3 ounces pancetta, cubed; or 4 slices thick bacon, diced and rendered
Lemon Juice, to taste
- Heat oven to 275°F. Lay bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle bread with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until crisp, Rub both sides with one raw garlic clove, then break bread in pieces and pulse in a food processor to make coarse bread crumbs.
- Raise oven temperature to 375°F. Place half the carrots in a medium bowl. Dress it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and lay in a single layer on a baking sheet; roast 4 to 5 minutes until crisp-tender. Reserve remaining raw carrots.
- To make dressing: Mince remaining garlic clove. In a smaller bowl, whisk together reserved orange juice, shallot, the minced garlic clove, honey, red pepper flakes and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- In a large bowl, combine kale, oranges, rendered pancetta, and raw and roasted carrot. Toss with dressing; taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, with lemon juice and additional salt and pepper. Garnish with breadcrumbs.
Makes 4 servings.
Recipe adapted from Mark Noguchi, chef/partner at Pili Hawaii
Note: To segment oranges, follow this tip from Special Fork’s Ben Mims: Peel 1 orange of all its pith, and working over a strainer set in a bowl, cut between each membrane to release the segments into the strainer, letting the juice fall into the bowl. Squeeze the spent membranes of any juice and then discard.
Note: To render the pancetta, place pancetta in skillet, cover and cook over low heat about 15 minutes until the fat from the pancetta is released (rendered). Then bring heat to medium and cook, stirring, a few minutes more until pancetta is browned and crisp.