Saturday, 27 November 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 34: Hawaiian Fig-Macadamia Tart

Last in our series of holiday favorites is this rather simple but elegant tart of figs and macadamias. We find it a refreshing option to this season's usual hegemony of pumpkin pie and the sickeningly-sweet pecan pie.

We suggest that you make the effort to use vanilla from Hawaii or Tahiti. Both have a distinct taste; Tahitian vanilla is famously floral and heavily perfumed— in contrast to the the rich, dark liqueur of Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla—while the aroma of Hawaiian vanilla falls somewhere between Tahitian and Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla extremes.

In this recipe, the florid spiciness of Tahitian vanilla is in natural company with the earthiness of figs and macadamias. This tart is perfect for those celebrating Kalikimaka in Hawaiʻi, whether in person, in spirit, or in mind only.

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© 2010 The Hawaiian Sybarite

Monday, 22 November 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 33: Thai Kabocha-Sweet Potato Curry

Trust us: Pure visual appeal alone is reason enough to prepare the next installment in our series of local holiday recipes. Since our education in the myriad uses of kabocha, we've been looking to use it any way we can, and for this red curry, it's æsthetically joined by Okinawan sweet potato, carrot, yellow bell pepper, Thai chili, generous amounts of Thai basil and basil flowers and (we think crucially) toasted pumpkin seeds.

At the table, adjacent to sticky rice (which always manages to defy tasteful presentation), the shades of orange and yellow are sharply contrasted with the deep purple of the sweet potato and the green of the basil. Texturally, there is a balance achieved between the comforting heaviness of pumpkin and sweet potato, offset by carrot and bell pepper, enlivened but also lightened by Thai red curry and made sweet by aromatic Thai basil, and topped with a surprisingly reasonable, crunchy addition that would've never occurred to us—pumpkin seeds.

This recipe appeals to us in so many different ways. It's autumnal and it would be perfect for persnickety, vegetarian Thanksgiving guests (like us, for instance). It's familiar comfort food, but it's also spicy and exotic. It's local and it's Thai and it's reminiscent of American Thanksgiving traditions, and we defy you to find another food that can claim all three of those descriptors.

What's more, we love this recipe because it's part of the answer to the question of the moment, to us at least: What to do with the bushel of kabocha that we have in our shed?

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© 2010 The Hawaiian Sybarite

Friday, 19 November 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 32: Tahitian Kabocha-Date Bread

Second in our four-part series of local holiday recipes, the following comes to you from our relatives in Tahiti. It's something like Tahiti itself: Simple enough at first glance, but upon closer inspection, nuanced, worldly, refined, elegant and a sensory pleasure.

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© 2010 The Hawaiian Sybarite

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 31: Hawaiian Banana-Kabocha-Macadamia Bread

Kabocha (カボチャ) is one of the great culinary pleasures of autumn. For those unfortunate few who remain unacquainted, Kabocha is a smallish, versatile and surprisingly rich Japanese pumpkin.

The name Kabocha itself actually comes from a corruption of the word Cambodia, the pumpkin having arrived in Japan from that country courtesy of Portuguese sailors in 1541. Kabocha then traveled to Hawaiʻi with Japanese immigrants from the southern prefectures of Japan—mostly southern Honshū (本州) and Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Kumamoto and Fukuoka on Kyūshū (九州), where Kabocha (かぼちゃ) was known by its alternate name, Bobora—Bobora being the Japanese adaptation of the Portuguese word for pumpkin, Abóbora.

Kabocha loves the tropics, and it's established itself across Polynesia. It's especially popular in Tonga, Tahiti and, of course, in Hawaiʻi. Until the Second World War, it was still known by it's regional Japanese name, Bobora, which was also a Hawaiian Pidgin term for a hapless, newly-arrived Japanese immigrant. From the 1950s, the pumpkin has been locally known as Kabocha, coinciding with the period when large-scale importation of Kabocha to Hawaiʻi began, mostly from the United States and Central America.

Local production is still important, however. We recently were witness to an unexpectedly lively discussion amongst local farmers about the multitudinous uses of Kabocha. We're great lovers of tenpura Kabocha, but Kabocha gelato? We had no idea. Thai Kabocha curry? A revelation. Banana-Kabocha-Macadamia bread? As it turns out, an old family favorite.

And as the first installment of a four-part series of local holiday recipes, we're sharing this recipe for Banana-Kabocha-Macadamia bread, a creation, we're told, of the Latter-day Saint colony in Lāʻie, Oʻahu.

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© 2010 The Hawaiian Sybarite