Banana and mango breads were ubiquitous throughout Maui and the Big Island, and were the perfect snack during long car rides or after a day of adventuring. I've adapted this recipe from a couple of sources, most of which cite the chef Sam Choy as their source. While the original version does just fine, I had to make my own tweaks and changes, so I've upped the ante with a browned butter base, rum-soaked raisins, and a toasted coconut topping. You don't need these additions to enjoy mango bread, but you certainly won't regret them.
Start by submerging a half cup of raisins in enough rum to cover them. I fell in love with Flor de Cana during a trip to Costa Rica many moons ago, when I drank this morning-noon-and-night, but any rum that you have lying about the house will suffice; no need to rush out and splurge on anything fancy.
Go ahead and pour yourself a little rum to sip while you finish baking and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Next, melt half a cup of butter over medium heat. Keep swirling and stirring as it turns golden brown; once you smell that lovely toasty, nutty aroma, remove from heat and pour into a wide, shallow bowl to cool. Allow the butter to cool to room temperature before incorporating into the rest of the recipe, otherwise you'll end up with scrambled eggs (which, while delicious, are significantly less useful for our purposes here).
While you wait for your butter to cool, chop two mangos. I use the technique my mother taught me: slice the mango on each side of the pit, then score the flesh and peel away the skin. Peel the skin from the pit and scrape off the mango meat surrounding the pit. Kulia Cooks has a helpful tutorial here. You'll end up with about two and a half cups of mango chunks.
In a medium bowl, sift together your dry ingredients: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 3/4 cup white sugar, 3/4 cup brown sugar.
In a large bowl, whisk together three eggs and half cup canola oil. By now, your butter should be room temperature; add the butter and 2 tsp vanilla. Add your dry ingredients and stir well, then incorporate the mango chunks and raisins (drain off the rum before adding the raisins to the rest of the mix).
Stir everything together and pour into a 9x9 square pan lined with parchment paper, or two loaf pans. Bake for about forty-five minutes, then sprinkle with half cup shredded coconut and continue baking for another fifteen minutes or until set.
The first time I tried to make my own curry was in college. It was my first apartment, winter break, my senior year and I had gotten a vegetarian cooking book that contained, among other future flops, a curry recipe. (It may not have been entirely the book's fault that everything in it I touched turned to "meh.") The over-priced bottle of curry powder I bought for the occasion lingered for many years, as every time I revisited it, the results were underwhelming. There was just no curry flavor, none of the boldness and warmth, just some sad limp vegetables swimming in bland coconut oil.
Fast forward a few years later, and a jar of Trader Joe's coconut cream has been kicking around my pantry driving me nuts. The basil plant on our deck is flourishing (unlike, sadly, our chive crop which was almost instantly devoured by Murphy - who knew cats like chives?), which gave me the inspiration to give curry a second try after I found this recipe on simplyrecipes.com.
Instead of relying on pre-made curry powder or paste, you combine your own spices for a flavorful kick. I subbed fish for the chicken the original calls for, added some more vegetables, and used the thicker, bolder coconut cream in lieu of coconut milk (here's a brief primer on the difference between the two). I couldn't find cardamom, which I'm sure would have added a lovely floral note, but we still gobbled up this curry all the same.
Start by setting aside your spice mixture: 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp cumin, small pinch ground cloves, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cardamom, 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp turmeric. As stated above, I didn't have the cardamom and it was delicious anyway. The recipe also calls for 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne, but I used an additional jalapeno instead.
Measure out your spices and mix in a small bowl and set aside.
Prep your aromatics: one onion, cut in half and then sliced vertically. Seed and dice two jalapenos. Heat some oil in a pan and saute the onion and pepper until softened and turning golden.
Add one tablespoon grated fresh ginger, five to six minced garlic cloves, and your spice mixture. Stir so that everything is evenly coated and cook for another minute or so.
Then add the rest of your vegetables: I used one box cremini mushrooms, sliced, and one pint grape tomatoes, halved. Saute for a few minutes until they've released some of their liquid. Your kitchen should be smelling pretty awesome at this point.
Now add one 14 ounce can coconut cream (can use coconut milk if that's what you have - it's what the original recipe calls for so I'm sure it works fine). Stir to combine everything and add two pounds flaky white fish - I used cod. Simmer everything together for fifteen minutes or until the fish is cooked through - the meat should be opaque and flake easily.
Turn off the heat, add twenty fresh basil leaves and squeeze half a lime over the curry. Stir to mix evenly and serve over rice (bonus points if you make that coconut rice).
This salad is so fresh and easy and a perfect side to pretty much anything you'll make this summer.
De-kernel your cobs, then toss the corn with one tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Heat a heavy bottomed pan (I used a cast iron skillet) to pretty piping hot (that's the technical term for it), then spread the corn out in a thin layer and roast for about 30 seconds, without stirring, until the corn is charred.
While your corn cools, assemble the rest of your ingredients: halve the tomatoes, chop the onion, scallion and cilantro, mince the garlic, scoop out the avocado. If the avocado is very soft, you can just mash it in; if your avocado is firmer, you'll want to cut it up into bite-sized chunks. If using jalapeno and/or queso fresco, chop that up and add it to the mix too.
Combine all your ingredients, add the lime juice and olive oil and then salt and pepper to taste.
And that's it! Now you have a giant bowl of a big fresh salad that has become one of my go-to's for rounding out a summer meal, packing plenty of flavor and hearty without weighing you down.
My vacation's long gone now, but in an effort to keep that joy and relaxation going, I've done a round-up to bring a touch of the Big Island to the Big City (see what I did there?).
Even if the only sun you're getting are the harsh beams bouncing off concrete sidewalks, these items for your closet, beauty cabinet and home can help incorporate the scents and prints of paradise into everyday routine.
Billabong's vintage hula dancer-printed tee shirt is on sale now at Nordstrom's. Go for a head to toe look by pairing with Roxy's tropical-floral harem pants.
For just a touch of tropics, try the striped pineapple headband from Anthropologie.
Get the locks to match with Organix's awaphu ginger shampoo and conditioner - the plant grows like crazy throughout the islands and apparently has some major conditioning and shine-boosting properties.
Make your local beach/lake/pool/backyard kiddie pool feel a little more tropical with this botanical print bikini from Anthropologie and retro tiki party beach towel from Plasticland.
Sometimes it just takes a couple of small touches to put a fresh spin on things, like these palm tree oasis cushions and bright coral pineapple from Escape to Paradise.
Get inked for the day with a hula girl temporary tattoo, or try on a more subtle surfer girl style with this delicate hammered gold wave ring, handmade in Maui, both available on Etsy.
Hydrate and pamper your skin with a lustrous body spray with the scent of the tropics - plumeria, gardenia, jasmine and pikake - also paraben, sulfate, and cruelty-free, from kai, or this organic coconut milk bath soak from Drifting Arrows.
Tropical can still be office-appropriate when it's this black and white palm tree dress by Marc Jacobs from the Outnet. Or stun with colors with this aerial photograph of a Kauai beach by Gray Malin.
Lilikoi, or passionfruit, drink mix from Bamboo Restaurant & Gallery in Hawi, Hawai'i - the Pina Kohala (after the Kohala district, where the restaurant is located) I had there during happy hour put this mix to delicious use. Also makes for an excellent mai tai.
Also from the Big Island: exfoliating soap incorporating the island's famous Kona Coffee from Hana Lima Hawaiian Soap.
Store your secrets in a cosmetics bag fit for the South Pacific from TokyoMilk.
Let your nose trick you into thinking that the draft from the AC is actually a cool ocean breeze: ocean tide and sea salt candle from Paddywax.
Refresh and reset with cold-brewed mango tea from Terrain.
From Uncommon Goods, this beautiful bowl is made of mango wood and textured to resemble the shell of a honu, or sea turtle.
On the recommendation of J's friend Chris, we spent our final days in Hawai'i at Puakea Ranch. Set in the northern tip of the Big Island in paniolo country (that's Hawaiian for cowboy), it's a fully restored, historic ranch - complete with horses, goats, chickens, a friendly pig named Pele (after the Hawaiian volcano goddess), an organic vegetable garden, a swimming hole and a couple of amiable dogs - that just happens to also have stunning views of the Pacific.
Tucked behind a beautiful floral hedge with a swing beckoning enticingly from the lovely old tree out front, the James Cottage was our home away from home (only a million times nicer than our actual home, so).
While signs throughout warned us that the ranch is "rustic" and to temper our expectations accordingly, the accommodations were luxe and I felt very pampered.
I mean, sure, the bathroom was outside (a private courtyard with our own hot tub and ocean views separated the bathroom from our cottage), but with beautiful river rock floors and high-end fixtures (that waterfall shower head was much appreciated after long days of hiking and exploring) it was anything but an outhouse (even if I did find a cute little frog in there one night).
Yes, that is a beautiful orchid plant hanging out on top of the towel rack (and those towels were so nice and fluffy).
Is it weird that I took so many photos of the bathroom? The room itself was also pretty sweet - very comfortable and luxurious, with a canopied bed, loads of natural light and a full, well-stocked kitchen. And everything was so much cleaner than you might think when you hear the word ranch.
Not pictured: the reading nook with overstuffed leather armchair, snuggly blanket and good light.
Every possible need was thought of and taken care of - beach towels and a beach blanket in a basket under the window, facial wipes to remove make-up with in the bathroom, a grill on the porch and a little basket in the kitchen for collecting fresh eggs and produce from the garden.
We used it several times: first for some chard and fresh herbs from the garden directly behind our cottage, and again for just-laid eggs from the coop that was just across the way.
If you didn't feel like venturing into the garden, you could also find treats in the farm stand - a couple of papayas and what turned out to be macadamia nuts when we checked.
But the garden was just so charming, and with so many things ripe for the picking, how could you resist?
The ranch was fairly secluded, and while we were there, only one other cottage was occupied - the aptly named Miles Away, we never ran into them. But it wasn't lonely: there were plenty of animal friends, including one horse who saw us driving out one day and trotted over to poke her nose through the open car window.
And if it ever got too hot out, there was the local swimming hole - named Jay's Pond - to cool down in.
The phrases "swimming hole" and "pond" might conjure up something a little murky or overgrown, but that's definitely not what we found.
With shallow steps leading into the pool and no one else around, it made for the perfect place to enjoy a refreshing beverage and little late afternoon snack (the best: we picked up some poke on our way to the ranch and ate it with crackers).
Like everything else, the height of luxury and peaceful relaxation. We so very much enjoyed our stay, and it was the perfect cap to end a really perfect trip. Mahalo.
Taking a break from the vacation posts to keep my promise (made on Instagram) of sharing this recipe.
I wanted to make this with broccoli rabe, but then the grocery only had kale so I used that instead. And I think this would be better with penne or rigatoni or some other short pasta, but what I had was papperdelle, so I used that instead. And it still ended up being exactly what I wanted.
I started off looking to make something simple and quick, with a few ingredients - we'd just gotten back from vacation so cupboards and refrigerator were a wee bit bare. This evolved into something slightly more complex, but the flavors are there and it really didn't take much more effort to take it up a step, and definitely still qualifies as a quick and tasty dinner. Garlicky, creamy and comforting, it's perfect for a night in or an impromptu dinner party.
I started with one box of shiitake mushrooms and one box of white mushrooms. Cleaned and sliced and cooked in one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat for five to seven minutes, stirring occasionally, until they've given up most of their liquid and are turning brown.
Next, add one quarter cup dry red wine and cook another five minutes or so until the liquid has been mostly reduced.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of well-salted water to boil. Once it's boiling, cook two pounds of pasta (dealer's choice) according to directions on the package.
To your pan of mushrooms, add six cloves of garlic, thinly sliced; half teaspoon dried red pepper flakes; quarter teaspoon dried oregano; five or six leaves fresh basil, roughly chopped; quarter teaspoon garlic powder (to really amp the garlic flavor); and plenty of salt and pepper. Stir to incorporate everything and continue to cook for another minute or two; then add one bunch of kale, stalks removed and leaves roughly chopped. Continue to cook for another seven to ten minutes, until the kale is wilted and soft.
While that's cooking, heat one tablespoon olive oil in a pan, then add 2/3 cup bread crumbs and toast for about 30 seconds, stirring frequently, until a golden brown color. Remove from heat and set aside.
Once your pasta is done, reserve half a cup of pasta water, then drain your pasta. Drizzle the pasta with two tablespoons good olive oil and stir in 8 ounces of mascarpone cheese. Keep stirring so the cheese melts and evenly coats the pasta; thin with pasta water as needed.
Add your kale and mushroom mixture to the pasta, along with half a cup grated pecorino cheese and zest from one lemon. Add salt and pepper if needed and top with toasted bread crumbs when serving.
Our first full day in Maui was a big one. We started by waking up at 3 am to see the sunrise at Haleakala Crater, an incredible experience: driving there was a race against the sun and once at the top it was like watching a new day dawning on a different planet. Driving back down to civilization afterwards, we realized we were above the clouds.
Once we checked out of our hotel, we got started on the Road to Hana, a winding drive along a narrow road with hairpin turns and one lane bridges along the northern coast of Maui. With a couple of stops to hike through lush tropical forests and splash at the feet of jaw-dropping waterfalls, it took us a few hours and was thoroughly enjoyable (more so for me than J, probably, since he was the one tasked with making sure we didn't crash into oncoming traffic or veer off the road).
Once at the end, we continued for a bit to the Kipahulu section of Haleakala National Park to hike the Pipiwai Trail. In the late afternoon late, the forest seemed every bit an enchanted fairyland.
While the whole thing was special and gorgeous, our first point of interest was an ancient and ginormous banyan tree. Look how crazy it looks with the light filtering through its branches!
I look like such a nerd in these photos, but I have to give you some sense of scale.
It was so still and quiet in the forest, and I could have marveled at that tree for hours, but we had other sights to see, so - onward and upward!
After crossing a couple of bridges overlooking some beautiful waterfalls, we made it to the bamboo forest. That really was like being in some enchanted world - the bamboo grows so tall and thick, it blocks much of the light and is the only thing you can see for what feels like ages. It is immense and majestic and unlike anything else I've experienced.
Once out of the bamboo forest, the fairy-tale forest resumes.
The trail leads to an overlook of the Waimoku Falls - an immense, incredible, 400 foot waterfall.
Witnessing the falls in person and hearing their roar - there aren't any words. It was incredible.
But it wasn't our last stop.
When I was in third grade, I went on a family vacation to Maui. Since I was missing school, one of my assignments was to write a short story. After visiting the so-called "Seven Sacred Pools," I chose that as my subject. My teacher liked the story, but no one pointed out to me that there wasn't anything sacred about these pools (or that there's more than seven!) - it was a marketing ploy to convince tourists to travel to such a remote location.
Despite my brilliant short story, I didn't remember much about the actual visit except that the pools were very cold. I'm so happy we made a return visit!
The junction between the crashing ocean and still pools was stunning. But upon arriving at the pools, I was a little dismayed to see how crowded they were.
However, if you walked past the crowds - back to where that lower waterfall is in the second picture - there was an empty pool, totally unoccupied, and fed by a beautiful waterfall. We had it all to ourselves, and after running a good bit of the Pipiwai Trail, the cool fresh water was such a relief.
It just doesn't get any better than that.
Yes, that's from Kailua-Kona's Da Poke Shack, famous for being the number one rated restaurant on Yelp. I was a little skeptical going in - really? The number one restaurant in the world? Would it be over-rated? Would my expectations for number one be too high?
Nope. That meal was amazing. We had poke a couple different times in Hawai'i, and every time it was good, but this was phenomenal. We got the bowl for two - a steal at 22 bucks - and loaded it with all kinds of the freshest raw fish, including Pele's Kiss (spicy ahi) and shrimp. Two scoops of hapa rice (mixed white and brown rice), macaroni salad (ubiquitous in Hawai'i and I get why), seaweed salad and a six-pack of Kona Brewing Co.'s Castaway IPA and we were happy as clams. Seems like number one to me.
We had a lot of great meals in Hawai'i - not all of them photographed. Regrettably, I missed taking pictures of the excellent banana bread we picked up from the Ono Organic Farm stand that we hit on the Road to Hana (luckily! It's apparently only open two days of the week). Banana bread is apparently abundant on that drive, but I can't speak to the other stands, I just know ours was so moist and good.
Also not pictured: any of our 'Aha'aina Male ("wedding feast") at Duo, or the mind-blowingly delicious meal we had at Braddah Hutts (holy cow, the words fail me; I had barbecue chicken and J had shrimp pasta and that is some of the best food I've ever put in my face in my life, no joke), or the meals we cooked with fresh from the garden greens while staying at Puakea Ranch.
So, what follows is just some of our greatest hits during our tropical sojourn, but it's enough to have my mouth watering all over again.
We started off at Da Kitchen in Maui. Loco moco - typically rice, ground hamburger patty, fried egg and gravy - is a Hawaiian staple. This was taken to another level.
Chicken teriyaki, beef teriyaki, and fish tempura piled high atop three scoops of rice and finished with two fried eggs and a tangle of onions and mushrooms - with a side of macaroni salad and a boat of gravy to boot - is not the prettiest or most photogenic dish but my word was it good. Worth the ten hour plane ride, and lifted our spirits remarkably even though our luggage had been (temporarily, thank goodness) lost. With lots of carbs, runny egg yolk, perfectly cooked meat and well flavored sauce, this is total comfort food.
A few days later, my sister and her husband had arrived and we treated them to lunch at Coconut's Fish Cafe, where we all ordered their famous fish tacos and we all rejoiced. Pictured below is one massive taco; each order comes with two.
Perfectly flaky fish dressed with fresh slaw and ripe mangos - New York doesn't have fish tacos like this.
That night, at Monkeypod Kitchen, I had my first (certainly not my last) Mai Tai of the trip. This one, topped off with house-made honey-lilikoi foam, was phenomenal.
After a day snorkeling the Molokini Crater (on the Lani Kai - really great crew), we had worked up our appetites, which we took care of with some top-notch shoyu chicken and luau chicken (stewed with spinach and coconut milk) at Kihei's Surfside Spirits and Deli. Very local, mom-and-pop shop, no tourists, absolutely phenomenal chicken.
We also happened to be staying in Makena, in the southern part of Maui, during its Restaurant Week. So we hit up Tommy Bahama's for happy hour (I had a very sweet, very coconut-y, Coconut Cloud martini and I loved it) before checking out the RW offerings at Longhi's. My surf and turf - steak and fried shrimp - was delicious and perfectly cooked (and the right size portion for a three-course meal - I was stuffed by the end).
The following day we flew to Hilo, on the Big Island. J wanted to go to Puka Puka Kitchen but it wasn't open yet, so we wandered around downtown in a light drizzle for a bit - and then I spied a candy store, Sugar Coast, nearby.
I was like - well, a kid in a candy store. J teased that it was the happiest he'd seen me on the trip.
After loading up on chocolate covered gummy bears (I'd say guilty pleasure but no, no guilt at all) and crisps and nougats, Puka Puka Kitchen was open for dinner. Perfect timing!
And perfect dinner. I had the fried oyster plate. The oysters were perfectly fried and so plump and briny and juicy oysters. Served with lots of garlic fried rice and a nice big salad, so fresh and flavorful. I was in heaven. J's chicken katsu was really good too.
After spending the morning hiking some rather rigorous trails through Volcano National Park, we were pretty hungry for lunch. Cafe Ono - an organic vegetarian cafe attached to an art gallery featuring local arts and crafts - was just the ticket.
Lunch is served in a charming garden with a little pond and fanciful sculptures and adorable bird houses decking out a nearby tree. Service is friendly and sweet and guests are invited to peruse the gallery while waiting for their meals (which we did and came back with arms full of souvenirs).
I had the vegetable panini and J had lasagna. Meals also come with a yummy green salad, homemade taro chips and a soup of the day - I opted for the vegetable curry - everything so fresh and flavorful and wholesome, it was thoroughly satisfying and refreshing.
Plus, they had a goat gamboling about.
One of our last meals out was at Kohala Burger and Taco, where we stuffed ourselves silly with fish tacos, a jalapeno cheeseburger, french fries, onion rings, and a pineapple milkshake. Local beef and fish. Only half the meal is pictured here; while everything was good, that milkshake was special and those were some of the best onion rings I've ever had, worth the visit all on their own.
In addition to eating as much fish and drinking as many mai tais as possible, it was also part of my mission to eat local fruits that you can't find on the mainland.
On one of our last days in Hawi, in the northern tip of the Big Island, we encountered Kohala Grown, a small market featuring only locally grown produce (seriously local, the soursop I bought was from the shop owner's tree!) and homemade items (some jewelry and soaps and things like that), as well as farm tours.
The lady who ran the shop was so friendly and helped us pick out an abundance of different fruits - soursop (terribly ugly fruit, tastes citrusty and tart and sweet all at once) and a perfectly ripe Kona mango (best mango I've eaten), among others. She tapped a green coconut for us to drink and also introduced us to 'ulu, or breadfruit. Round and green on the outside, the starchy interior is reminiscent of a potato. On her recommendation, I cut it up and baked it for dinner one night with olive oil, salt and pepper; some of the leftovers got added to an omelet for a "potato," egg and cheese on a roll with the next day's breakfast, and the rest were fried up with some kale and chard from the garden for an easy and filling vegetable side with another meal.
Local produce education: success!
Well, that's a wrap for now. If the surf and sun and sand hadn't already convinced you that you need to go to Hawai'i, maybe these photos (maybe not the last two . . . ) will do the trick! Definitely enjoyed all the fresh flavors and local treats during our trip. Working now on incorporating some island inspiration into my recipes - stay tuned!
We're sunburned, bug-bitten, refreshed, and a little exhausted (from the ten hour flight, the six hour time difference, lots of excitement) - and back from Hawai'i! And, oh yeah, that happened ^ we got married!
After greeting the sunrise at the Haleakala Crater and driving the Road to Hana (with stops for waterfalls, hiking, and banana bread), we met up with our families on the south side of Maui. We woke up Sunday morning, did some snorkeling and sunbathing, then got ready and met back up on the beach in front of our hotel (the perfect and lovely Makena Beach and Golf Resort - check out the photos of the hotel courtyard!) for a barefoot ceremony in the sand just before sunset. Exhilarating, joyful, emotional, and pretty dang perfect.
After a few days relaxing with family, they went back home and we took off for the Big Island for some more adventuring and honeymooning. All of it was just so incredible.
First of all, the landscapes are so diverse. From waterfalls and lush tropical forests . . .
. . . to otherworldly lava fields and volcanic craters . . .
. . . to the breathtaking vistas where hot lava once met the cold Pacific Ocean waters, and black sand beaches formed over years of volcanic activity . . .
. . . one of four green sand beaches in the world . . .
. . . and, right, some of the most stunning beaches and coastline vistas in the world.
Much of the time, especially on our hikes through misty forests and ancient valleys densely overgrown with prehistoric ferns, I felt like we'd been dropped into Jurassic Park (not that far off - it was filmed in Kaua'i). I couldn't stop marveling at the diversity of ecosystems and terrain, or at the jaw-dropping beauty of it all. And the food! We ate very well - but that's another post (or two).
Plus, the whole getting-married thing was pretty cool too.
Eating, working, mothering and adventuring in Brooklyn and beyond.