Hilo, Hawaii: Going Home

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

It always sounds so glamorous to be going on vacation to Hawaii. But if that’s where you’re from, it’s simply going home—no different from returning to any hometown in the Midwest, the South, New England, or elsewhere.

Going home touches on the requisite things we all do: bring flowers to the cemetery, visit with elderly aunts, and catch up with cousins. We visit old haunts. We remember family stories. And even my sons, who grew up on the Mainland, respect those customs when they go “home” on their own.

Going home also means reconnecting with the Island food we missed. We’ll visit the popular Hilo Farmers’ Market for local provisions to cook in our vacation rental kitchen. And when we need additional recipes, we’ll turn to our favorites in the Special Fork’s recipe database —our portable cookbook away from home.

Both my mom and sister were good cook and one the dishes we enjoyed was Pineapple Meatballs. Sweet and sour was always a hit in our family—especially with my sister, who liked sweet, and my mom, who liked things tart.

In the recipe below, I’ve streamlined the cooking by baking the meatballs instead of frying them, and updated the flavor by not adding sugar, relying on the sweetness of canned pineapple juice.

I’ve found that these basic meatballs go well with red sauce for spaghetti and meatballs, and are delicious heated in a chipotle tomato sauce for a Mexican variation.

Oven Meatballs
1 pound ground pork
½ cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (optional—see note below)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Heat oven to 450°F. In a medium bowl combine pork, bread crumbs, onion, herbs if using, and salt. Mix lightly; do not knead or overmix, or meatballs will become tough. Form into 12 plum-size balls. Arrange in a 9- X 13-inch baking dish, spacing them apart, and bake 12 to 15 minutes or until meatballs are browned and the internal temperature reaches 160°F.

Makes 12 meatballs.

Note on herbs: For Pineapple meatballs, use cilantro. For Italian meatballs, use basil or flat-leaf parsley. For Mexican meatballs, use fresh mint.

Cooked meatballs may be frozen to use another time. Defrost in the refrigerator and heat in Pineapple Sauce (below), a jar of marinara sauce, or a chipotle tomato sauce you make from scratch.

Meatballs with Pineapple Sauce
1 recipe cooked Oven Meatballs (above)
1 can (20 ounces) pineapple chunks or slices in 100% pineapple juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ small bell pepper, cut in 1-inch squares

Drain juice from pineapple chunks into a large skillet; reserve pineapple. If using pineapple slices, cut into chunks. Add vinegar to the pineapple juice and heat gently until simmering. In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water until dissolved; add to skillet and whisk until sauce is slightly thickened.

Add Oven Meatballs and bell pepper and simmer just until meatballs are heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in about half the pineapple. Reserve the remainder of the pineapple for another use.

Makes 4 servings.

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Posted: Sep 20th by Sandy_Hu