SPICE ROAD

WRITTEN BY LINDSEY KESEL

IN 2013, ALA‘AMOE KEOLANUI TRADED in the heels she wore in the Kamehameha Schools admissions office for rubber boots to work alongside her husband Troy and their partner Ed Olson at the1,000-acre OK Farms (short for Olson and Keolanui). Nearly a decade before, they’d planted baby spice trees along a dirt path on their land bordering the Wailuku River, just to see how they’d grow. Fifty clove, allspice, curry, nutmeg and Ceylon cinnamon trees lined “Spice Road,” and every one of them flourished. As Spice Road became Ala’amoe’s passion project, the pull to make something happen with the yields grew along with her beloved trees. “I said [to my husband], we need to be doing more than just showing them off to the guests; we should be processing the spices into food.” 

Now Ala‘amoe and her family do all the harvesting and much of the processing by hand. Picking clove buds one-by-one to sell whole may be a fairly straightforward process, but cinnamon processing is a bit trickier. After Troy cuts down the branches with a chainsaw, Ala‘amoe uses a pressure washer to remove the moss and lichen. For dried sticks, she cuts the bark into pieces, leaving the outer bark on, and sets them out to dry. To make ground cinnamon, she pats the branch dry and “goes at it with a hammer” to detach the outer bark from the inner wood, since the inner wood has no medicinal properties. Then she uses a knife to shave the cinnamon off the bark and dries the shavings in thin strips. In the final step, a commercial grinder turns the shavings into a fine powder. 

Today, Spice Road is a highlight of OK Farm’s walking tour. In addition to exploring the verdant coffee, macadamia nut, cacao, heart of palm, lychee and longan trees on the farm, guests are treated to a multi-sensory spice experience. Ala‘amoe invites them to smell, touch and taste the leaves and guess which spices are which. Her mission is to show people how organic spices create new dimensions of flavor in food and heal the body in a variety of ways. She shares that clove is a natural pain reliever, known to help heal cuts and burns, and can also be used as a natural insect repellent. Allspice is an anti-bacterial and antifungal plant with powerful aromatherapy applications. Ceylon cinnamon, she says, is rich in antioxidants and a terrific immune booster.

OK Farms also sells a sixth spice—the lesser-known mace, which Ala‘amoe describes as the “bright red alien webbing” of the nutmeg seed with a flavor reminiscent of cinnamon and pepper. Among other uses, she fancies mace in chocolate chip cookies, granola and Indian dishes. “We sell it in shells, and it’s really easy to open at home,” she says. “You just put your body weight onto the shell and crack it, then grab that little ball of nutmeg in the center. Use a handheld grater to sprinkle it in your dishes, and store it in a sealed jar in your spice cabinet.” 

“PEOPLE ARE AMAZED AT HOW THE SPICES LOOK IN THEIR TRUE, FRESH FORM”

Two other farms on the Big Island are currently growing and processing spices—Wailea Agricultural Group on the Hāmākua Coast and Adaptations, a local CSA farm in Kealakekua—though Spice Road remains distinctive in its tour experience and diverse product mix. In 2015, Ala‘amoe started turning her spices into “healing mists,” fragrant sprays that combine essential oils and healing water extracted through a slow distillation process using ice water and steam heat. Good for topical and internal applications, the healing mists can be used as a spritz for the face and body, or for a health boost in foods and beverages.

Since adding the spice tour, Ala‘amoe and crew have enjoyed strong support from surrounding communities. “People are amazed at how the spices look in their true, fresh form,” she says. In addition to buying the spices on site or online, locals can taste OK Farm’s homegrown cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice in baked goods from Sundog Bread in Kona, or sample their curated curry while dining at Kamana Kitchen, an Indian restaurant in Hilo. 

At the end of the day, Ala‘amoe hopes her passion to grow organic spreads beyond the farm, along with the spices and knowledge she shares. “Why rely on the mainland when we can grow pretty much anything here?” she says. “The excitement to feed our own community starts from within—try growing something small at home, get the kids involved and see what happens!”

Clove is usually a summer crop, nutmeg is in season during the spring/summer and end of fall, and cinnamon and curry are available year-round. [eHI]

www.okfarmshawaii.com

PUMPKIN SPICE DUTCH BABY

Recipe & photography courtesy of William Townsend of Popover Hawaii Hilo, Hawai‘i Island

INGREDIENTS 

3 eggs 

¾ cup milk 

2 tablespoons butter (melted) 

2 tablespoons pumpkin puree 

½ cup flour 

2 tablespoons corn starch 

1 teaspoon salt 

1 tablespoon pumpkin spice 

METHOD 

1. Preheat oven to 450F and place a cast iron skillet or pie pan into your oven while preheating. 

2. Blend the eggs, milk and butter in a blender on high until smooth (about 2 minutes). 

3. Add flour, cornstarch, salt and pumpkin spice to the blender and continue to blend until just combined. 

4. Carefully remove skillet/pie dish from the oven and add 1 tablespoon butter to the hot skillet. Swirl to completely coat the inside of the pan. 

5. While the pan is still hot, pour your blended batter into the skillet and return to the oven. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the edges puff up and turn golden brown. 

6. Serve simply with a little syrup, butter, and powdered sugar, or get creative and top with maple-braised pears and nuts, or a quick stir fry of onions, bacon and wilted arugula. 

OLIVE OIL CAKE

Recipe and image courtesy of Angèl Vardas Foster Island Olive Oil Co., O‘ahu, Hawai‘i 

Serves 10-12 

INGREDIENTS 

½ cup almond flour 

1¾ cup cake flour 

2 teaspoons baking powder 

¼teaspoon baking soda 

½ teaspoon Kosher salt 

3 eggs (room temperature) 

3/4cup sugar (plus more for dusting) 

1½ tablespoon lemon & orange zest 

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice 

¼cup milk (room temperature) 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1¼cup fresh extra virgin olive oil (plus more to drizzle on top) 

METHOD 

> Preheat oven to 400° F and set up to bake on the middle rack. Spray a 9” springform pan with baking spray and line bottom with parchment paper. Spray the parchment lined bottom and sides and then sprinkle the sides with a light dusting of sugar. 

> Mix first 5 ingredients together in medium bowl, set aside. Using a stand mixer on low speed with a whisk attachment, add eggs and whisk for 1 minute. Add sugar, lemon and orange zest to mixer and whisk on high speed until mixture turns a pale-yellow color with a ribbon-like texture, about 3 minutes. Turn mixer down to a medium speed, add in the olive oil in a slow stream until thoroughly mixed. Next add the rest of the wet ingredients until just mixed. Add the dry ingredients a little at a time until just incorporated, being sure to scrape the sides of the bowl to mix thoroughly but gently. 

> Pour mixture into prepared pan and sprinkle the entire top with a generous dusting of sugar (about 2-3 tablespoons). 

Set cake on the middle oven rack and drop the oven temperature down to 350°. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean or with a couple of soft crumbs. 

> Remove cake from oven and let cool in pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack. Delicately remove springform ring by unlatching the hinge and lifting off carefully (This should come off quite easily, but if there is any sticking you can run a thin knife along the edge to separate the cake from the pan.) Poke holes evenly around the entire top of the cake with a toothpick and drizzle a couple tablespoons more olive oil on top. Let cake cool on rack for about an hour. This olive oil cake can be enjoyed warm or room temperature and keeps well for a few days in a covered cake stand or wrapped in plastic wrap. Serve simply or enjoy with sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries cooked in one of our fruit balsamics for a real treat! 

ABOUT THIS RECIPE 

What I wanted to create in this olive oil cake recipe is a moist and delicate cake that really featured the flavor of the olive oil. The combination of cake flour and almond flour create a light and airy cake with a moist and tender crumb. The light addition of citrus and vanilla is just enough to enhance the flavor of the cake without overpowering the subtle fruity notes of the olive oil. I recommend using a very fresh extra virgin olive oil that has a nice green fruity nose with slight bitterness for balance and a peppery finish. Dusting the top with sugar and putting it into the hotter preheated the oven, then turning it down helps to create a nice rise and crunchy golden crust. Finishing the cooling cake with a nice drizzle of the olive oil creates added moisture and helps to further highlight the fruity notes of a nice fresh extra virgin olive oil. 

FRESH PINEAPPLE PIE

Recipe and photography courtesy of Jana McMahon, Maui’s Private Chef 

Serves 10

INGREDIENTS 

Pastry for 2 crust pie 

1 medium to large pineapple 

2 eggs, slightly beaten 

1 cup cane sugar 

2 tablespoons cornstarch 

1 tablespoon grated lime zest 

3 tablespoon passion fruit pulp 

1/8 teaspoon salt 

METHOD 

> Cut peeled and cored pineapple into bite-size chunks. 

> Place eggs in a bowl and beat in sugar, cornstarch, lime zest, passion fruit puree and salt. Add pineapple chunks to wet mixture. 

> Turn into pastry-lined 9” pie pan. Adjust top crust; flute edges and cut vents. I like to use the extra pastry dough and make a pineapple cut out on top of the crust. Brush top of pie with egg wash. 

> Bake at 425F for approximately 45 minutes. 

> Check this pie about halfway through to assure the edges aren’t too brown. If so, make a foil collar and cover the edges for the rest of the bake time. 

TRIPLE BERRY PIE

Recipe Courtesy of Lahaina Grill

Photography by Kent Hwang 

Serves 10

CRUST INGREDIENTS 

12 ounces all-purpose flour 

1 pinch salt

3 ounces unsalted butter

3 ounces all-purpose shortening

1/2cup sour cream

1/2cup ice water

1 raw egg, scrambled

3 packets Sugar in the Raw

CRUST METHOD

> Gently mix flour with salt, butter and shortening. 

> Add sour cream and ice water, gently kneaduntil all ingredients are folded into the dough. Don’t over mix. 

> Place in a bowl, cover dough with a moist towel or plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for about 1 hour.

FILLING INGREDIENTS

12 ounces blueberries

12 ounces raspberries

1/4 cup Crème de Cassis (black currant liqueur)

1/4 cup granulated tapioca 

1 cup granulated sugar

METHOD

> Mix all ingredients together. Line a 9” pie pan, sprayed with vegetable pan coating spray, with approximately 1/2 of the prepared dough, rolled out to approximately 1/8” thick, add berry mixture, cover with remaining dough. Cut a 3/4” hole into the middle to allow steam from berry mixture to escape while baking. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with raw brown sugar. 

> Bake at 375° F with fan on for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350° F and bake until berry mixture starts bubbling, approximately 40 minutes. 

> Cool and store in refrigerator until served. Garnish with vanilla flavored whipped cream, fresh seasonal berries, raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream if desired.

LOCAL SALT & PEPPER

WRITTEN BY REBECCA REMILLARD
SALT IMAGES BY MALLORY FRANCKS
PEPPER IMAGES BY SEAN MCLAREN-LAMBERT, PAUL DE FILIPPI

MORE THAN JUST THE WHITE SHAKER on the dinner table – salt is a life force. Sure, it heightens the flavors in both savory and sweet dishes, preserves food, and can remedy a medley of health issues, but in addition, our bodies also need salt to live. In Hawai‘i, where it has been used for its cleansing, purifying and healing properties since ancient times, salt takes on an even greater significance. Native Hawaiian households each made their own salt and called it pa‘akai, meaning literally “to solidify the sea.” While table salt is made up of 97-99 percent sodium chloride, ultra-pure Hawaiian red salt is only 84 percent sodium chloride and 16 percent naturally occurring elements. These elements, about 80 in all, are what make Hawaiian salt magical. Potassium, magnesium and other electrolytes as well as iron oxide can contribute to blood pressure regulation, bone strengthening, increased immunity and energy.

Upon European contact, salt became a traded commodity and by the 19th century Hawai‘i was the main salt supplier for the entire Pacific Northwest. Salt production thrived well into the 1900s but became impacted by the industrialization of the islands. Concurrently, “Hawaiian salt” began to be harvested elsewhere and processed to resemble the appearance of true Hawaiian salts. Land used to make salt the old way was sold or lost; all that remains today are the Hanapepe Salt Flats on Kaua‘i.

Across from Salt Pond Beach Park on the arid west side of the island, what appear to be dozens of miniature frozen pools lay well-kept beneath the sun. These are the treasured salt beds, the rights to cultivate passed down from generation to generation amongst about 20 families. Tradition dictates that no one is allowed to farm anyone else’s patch and a new section cannot be started without permission. This salt cannot be bought or sold; it is given only as a gift or possibly traded. The process is done entirely by hand, a labor intensive and intricate operation involving wells fed by underground lava tubes, red mud, lots of stirring and rinsing and at last, three layers of salt. The top layer, the whitest, is used as a table salt. The middle layer is pink and is used for cooking. The bottom layer, red or brown, is used in blessings or given to special recipients.

This is low lying land. The season for salt begins when the waterlogged ground dries and the generations-old beds are once again exposed (usually from May to September, with some luck). Harvests are affected by a multitude of factors including tides, sun and ocean salt. For those highly skilled cultivators, it seems as though the seasons have grown shorter over the years and the harvests smaller. There have even been years where there is nothing to harvest at all.

The salt crop may be threatened by yet another factor: helicopters. The company that operates Maverick Helicopters, Smokey Mountain Helicopters Inc., is seeking permits that would allow them to expand on their existing facility nearby the salt ponds. This causes concerns about the chemical runoff, pollution and noise that the expansion could potentially result. So rare and precious, many in the community feel strongly that the last remaining traditional Hawaiian salt ponds should be protected.

For both those who cultivate it and those lucky enough to receive it, true Hawaiian salt is perhaps more precious now than ever.

Though not yet as prominent as its counterpart, there will soon be a grinder for Hawaiian pepper at the table too.

“We are certainly not the first to grow peppercorn in Hawai‘i, although we may be the first to test and track it as an economically viable production crop in Hawai‘i,” says Paul de Filippi of Mauka Vista Farm in Kula, Maui. The family-run operation places an emphasis on diversity and specialty crops; their harvests to date have included figs, dragon fruit, mangoes and a variety of citrus. Peppercorn is growing, too. Now that most of their plants are full-sized, they hope for a big flowering this year.

Native to India, the peppercorn plant flowers and fruits on long spikes, each spike containing up to 100 corns. About eight months after flowering, ripening begins and the spike is harvested. The peppercorns are separated from the stem, processed, and then dried into black pepper products. “With a local source, there is also the ability to provide the crop as a fresh product which opens the door to a variety of culinary possibilities,” says Paul.

The family has released an instructive video and travelled through the islands giving presentations on how to grow and propagate peppercorn plants, distributing plant material along the way. The plan is to gather growth data and eventually release a comprehensive cost of production model through the University of Hawai‘i’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

Hawaiian peppercorn’s day has come.Native to India, the peppercorn plant flowers and fruits on long spikes, each spike containing up to 100 corns. About eight months after flowering, ripening begins and the spike is harvested. The peppercorns are separated from the stem, processed, and then dried into black pepper products. “With a local source, there is also the ability to provide the crop as a fresh product which opens the door to a variety of culinary possibilities,” says Paul. [eHI]

SUMAC

{ TRY THIS SPIY THIS SPICE! }

This plant belongs to the family Anacardiadeae, which includes the terebinth and the pistachio. Though sumacs are generally encountered as shrubs or small trees, they can grow up to 40 ft tall. Sumacs propagate both by seed (spread by birds and other animals), and by new shoots from rhizomes, forming large clonal colonies. The leaves are spirally arranged; though some species have trifoliate or simple leaves. The leaves contain a high proportion of tannin which is used in the manufacture of leather, giving rise to its Hebrew name, og ha-bursaka’im (“tanner’s sumac”).

The flowers appear in dense spikes 11” long. These greenish, creamy white or red flowers are very small and each has five petals. The female trees bear reddish fruits (in Syriac sumac means “red”) arranged in dense clusters called “drupes” or “sumac bobs”. The fruits are shaped like lentils, and are hairy with an acrid taste. The dried drupes of some species are ground to produce a tangy, crimson spice.

Sumac was used in drinks in the colonial United States, giving rise to the tradition of “pink lemonade”. The fruit (Rhus typhina, staghorn sumac) can be soaked in cold water to make a refreshing, vitamin C-rich beverage. Ground sumac powder can be used as a spice to add a tart, lemony taste to salads or meat. In Arab cuisine, it is used as a garnish on dishes such as hummus and tashi, and is added to salads in the Levant. It is also one of the main ingredients in Palestine’s national dish, musakhan.

In Afghan, Armenian, Bangladeshi, Indian, Iranian, Mizrahi, and Pakistani cuisines, sumac is added to rice or kebab. In Azerbaijani, Central Asian, Jordanian and Turkish cuisines, it is added to salads, kebab and lahmajoun. The variety Rhus coriaria is used in the spice mixture za’atar.

TABLESCAPES – BE OUR GUEST

STYLED BY MELISSA NEWIRTH OF CLOTH AND GOODS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JANA DILLON

Of course, it is really who is gathered around the table that matters most, but the added element of a well-designed (or improvised!) table setting can help set the scene. An aesthetically pleasing table setting will start to ignite excitement before the food is even served.

With the holiday and birthday season knocking at our door, we invited a treasured friend, Melissa Newirth of Cloth and Goods, to guide us in the art of table setting. Inspired by Japanese culture and modern style, Melissa shows how the use of just a few items can create an easy elegance that your guests will appreciate.

Items on the table don’t need to match or have a color theme. If you love the item- if it catches your eye or sparks your imagination – it could be just the thing to add to your next celebratory spread. May the following pages inspire you to shop, gather, forage and even borrow items to add to your table setting at an upcoming weeknight dinner or holiday celebration. [eHI]

“THERE’S SOMETHING SPECIAL ABOUT GATHERING A FEW FAVORITE PEOPLE FOR A MEAL. A BEAUTIFULLY SET TABLE IS THE PERFECT CANVAS FOR A DELICIOUS MEAL.”

Talk Story – How You?

WRITTEN BY SARAH BURCHARD
BORROWING A CUP OF SUGAR

We were not “yell-over-the-fence” neighbors. Another apartment and a trash chute divided us. But a brightly lit hallway illuminated a path that connected us morning, noon and night for a decade in San Francisco as we exchanged the modern-day version of a cup of sugar: food.

“WHEN ARE YOU MAKING 

SOURDOUGH BREAD AGAIN?” 

“NEXT WEEK. I’LL SAVE YOU HALF!” 

“I PICKED UP SOME GORGEOUS STRAWBERRIES AT THE FARMERS MARKET TODAY. 

WANT SOME? STOP BY!”

Our neighbor’s apartment was always unlocked with a cold beer waiting for us in the fridge. Venturing next door to borrow this or that led to an invitation to stay. Our friends slipped a beverage into our hands as they ushered us to their dining room table. The Giants baseball game or evening news murmured in the background as we recapped our day. A bottle of tequila sat in the middle of the table inside a ring of shot glasses for anyone interested in a celebratory toast just for the hell of it.

Fresh bread appeared followed by a block of feta, a dish of locally cured olives, and a bottle of good olive oil as our neighbors made us honorary members of their Greek family. Eventually, a casserole such as moussaka, or whatever they were eating for dinner that night, arrived before us as a napkin materialized over our laps. 

Our friendship was comfortable. I never thought twice about stopping by to ask for a cup of this or a pinch of that. It was not about that anyway; it was about staying connected. This daily dialogue taught me that an ongoing exchange of food between kitchens can deepen a friendship. 

Since I moved to Honolulu, the practice of “borrowing” ingredients and sharing food has multiplied tenfold, not just with my neighbors, but also with pals from all over the island, and strangers, too. Celebrating this connection is a way of life here. 

Friends show up to lunch with bags of homegrown mangos in the summer and pass around sandwich baggies of pipikaula at pau hana. During our first holiday season on island, I was amazed at the number of edible treats that we received: bags of cookies, candies, wine and pie. Even a plastic container of homemade spaghetti with meat sauce wrapped in a red and green bow. 

We started meeting friends for dinner weekly at the same restaurant – a place where regulars line the bar and everyone knows everyone. Every week, someone brings something: barbecue pork ribs from Chinatown, creamy smoked salmon dip, dried fish seasoned with crunchy sea salt, chewy balls of mochi, Chex Mix – you name it. 

This routine exchange of food invites us to elevate ordinary interactions to celebrations. We do not wait for special occasions to acknowledge our connection. We use food to constantly celebrate our time together, our collective abundance, and our essential interdependence as an island community.

It is less about what kind of food we exchange and more about the creation of an ohana through the act of sharing. By bringing food to gatherings, we celebrate the simple act of spending time together. “Borrowing a cup of sugar” from a neighbor becomes an excuse to check in so that we can build and strengthen our connection. 

Through our generosity with food, we also celebrate the abundance mentality that community can generate. Living in an environment where everyone continually gives to one another is largely what evokes the warm, fuzzy feeling that I have developed toward Hawai‘i. Abundance circulates: What you give comes back. The more you give, the more you receive. 

This interdependence feels more important to celebrate now than it did in San Francisco. Maybe it is because we are secluded on a group of islands, made jointly vulnerable by our separation from the rest of the world; that idea alone makes me appreciate my neighbors more. Knowing that my neighbor has an ingredient that I might need in a jam may seem trivial, but it makes me feel supported and safe. It invites me to regularly celebrate the idea that, “We are all in this together.” The more I contribute to and celebrate these powerful facets of our connection, the more I receive from it. 

So, do not be shy. The next time that you are short on an ingredient, instead of running to the store, ask a neighbor. The worst outcome is that they do not have it and you head to the store. The best outcome is that you spark a lifelong friendship. 

Do not wait for an excuse to celebrate. Connection constantly offers one of the worthiest excuses available. [eHI]

Sarah Burchard is a natural foods chef, freelance writer, event coordinator, marketer and certified health coach. She is an advocate for family farms and embodies the phrase: support local. In addition to supporting small wellness-based businesses, writing for local publications and hosting farm-to-table events she leads farmers market tours in Honolulu, Hawai‘i.