Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into ½-inch discs. Place potatoes into boiling water as you peel and slice them to prevent oxidation, which can cause the potato to discolor. Par boil potato slices for 5 minutes. The potatoes should be under-done, as they will finish cooking on the grill. Heat grill. Dry potato slices well, rub with coconut oil, and sprinkle with smoked sea salt. Place sweet potato slices over the fire on the grill. Depending on the amount of heat, be careful not to burn the potato slices before they are cooked through. If grill fire is too hot, move potatoes away from direct heat and close grill top until sweet potatoes are done. Arrange sweet potatoes on serving platter and drizzle with honeyed hot sauce. Sprinkle herbed macadamia nut mixture (recipe below) and serve warm.
Honeyed Hot Sauce:
½ C. local honey
4 Tbs. favorite local hot sauce
¼ Tbs. sea salt
Blend well, adjusting hot sauce to desired heat level.
Herbed Macadamia Nut Topping:
1 C. roasted unsalted macadamia nuts
1 tsp. smoked sea salt (or regular)
1 Tbs. cane sugar
2 Tbs. rosemary, finely chopped
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse mixture to a fluffy, medium-coarse consistency. Avoid a steady grind as you do not want macadamia nut butter. This topping keeps for two weeks in the refrigerator and is great on all kinds of foods: fish, chicken, vegetables, rice, potatoes, even popcorn.
The French had it right pairing mild spring radishes with good butter and sea salt. This is what spring tastes like! Serving with smoked and citrus salts keeps this simple dish interesting and fresh. 1 bunch of radishes, washed well and tops removed; keep just a bit of stem for dipping
4 oz. unsalted butter, softened (grass-fed or local butters are best)
1 tsp. thyme leaves, fresh, chopped
1 tsp. rosemary, fresh, chopped
zest of 1 lemon
Place all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until everything is well incorporated. Put butter into a small dish for dipping.
Arrange radishes on a large platter or cutting board; serve alongside herbed compound butter and assorted salts for dipping. Each smoked salt has a different flavor unique to the wood it’s smoked over. Same with citrus salts; I am partial to lemon salt with this recipe.
6 ears of corn 3 C. water 3 Tbs. butter, cubed ¼ C.baby heirloom tomatoes (if tomatoes are too big, slice in half) ½ tsp. fresh thyme, chopped ½ tsp. sea salt black pepper to taste
Shuck corn and cut kernels off the cob. Place the kernels in a large saucepan and cover with the water. Cook for 12 minutes on a low simmer. Use a slotted spoon to lift the kernels from the water. Save the cooking liquid and reserve ½ C. of the corn kernels in a separate bowl.
Put cooked corn into a food processor, blender or use immersion blender. Pulse for a few seconds, aiming for a medium smooth texture. Add back some of the cooking liquid a tablespoon at a time so the mixture stays silky and not too dry.
Place the corn purée in a cast iron pan with the cooking liquid and cook, while stirring, on low heat for 10 minutes. This holds beautifully on the back of the grill while you are grilling the rest of the meal.
Fold in the butter, ½ C. of reserved corn kernels, thyme, salt and pepper to taste, and cook for 2 more minutes. Top with fresh baby heirloom tomatoes and serve.
President Eisenhower is noted for loving to cook his porterhouse steaks directly on hardwood coals and Julia Child dedicated an episode of her PBS show to cooking “dirty steak.” Adam Perry Lang coined this method “clinching,” after a boxing term for closing the gap between one and an opponent. Placing meat in direct contact with hot coals leaves no room for the fat to ignite into flame, eliminating that greasy black slick that can compromise the best of steaks. The results are astounding, an umami-rich crust and moist meat with a slight smoky flavor revealing just where that steak has been. I chose macadamia nut for my fire, a hardwood that burns down easily and evenly, imparting a neutral smoke flavor. Kiawe would work, or any hardwood local to your area.
hardwood or lump charcoal (no briquettes)
4 New York strip steaks
sea salt, coarse crystals
lemon garlic dressing (see recipe)
Get your fire started. Make sure there is enough wood to create a 4 to 6-inch bed of red-hot coals. I use a funnel-shaped fire starter (no lighter fluid please). While fire cooks down, bring steaks to room temperature. Slightly wet hands and rub both sides of the steak with generous amounts of salt. Don’t hold back, really get the salt rubbed into the muscle fiber, it helps form the crust.
When wood has cooked down and the coals are glowing red with a cover of white ash, the fire is ready. It should be so hot that you are not able to hold your hand over the coals for more than a second or two. Flatten the surface of the coals to a uniform height of about 5 inches (I use a cast iron pan.) Fan away the grey ash from the top of the coals using a sheet pan or similar.
Place steaks directly on the coals. A 1¼ lb. steak will take about 9 minutes to cook. Time the steak for 4 minutes. Turn and baste cooked side with lemon garlic olive oil mixture. Time second side of steak for another 4-5 minutes. Turn and baste again with olive oil mixture.
Rest and serve with homemade Coconut Porter mustard (recipe below).
Homemade Maui Mustard
I love making homemade mustards. This recipe is simply a template; feel free to mix up the soaking liquid, vinegar and sweetener. I’ve used sparkling cider, apple cider vinegar, agave with mango and jalapeño to great success. Go ahead, play with your food!
½ C. black mustard seed
½ C. yellow mustard seed
1 can Maui Brewing Co. Coconut Porter (12 oz.)
¼ C. maple syrup
¼ C. balsamic vinegar
sea salt to taste
Soak mustard seeds in the beer overnight. The longer the seeds soak, the milder the mustard. Blend all the ingredients in a food processor, blender, or VitaMix. Blend less for a coarse mustard, more for a smoother mustard.
Lemon Olive Oil
I prefer a Meyer lemon due to its thin skin for this recipe, but any lemon will work. Use this flavorful, citrusy wonder as a base for all kinds of concoctions, marinades or bastes.
1 whole lemon, diced
1 C. EVOO
In a VitaMix or high-powered blender, purée one whole lemon, diced — yes, skin, seeds, pulp and all — with oil. That’s it!
Lemon Garlic Dressing
I always make a double batch of this dressing. Trust me, you’ll want extra.
Be flexible and let seasonal availability create the dish. Be conscious of getting a wide assortment of color and texture: red radishes, purple sugar snap peas, green beans or asparagus, orange heirloom baby carrots, white jicama.
Tahini Dipping Sauce:
This sauce is versatile and so darned delicious, I want to drink it. It’s great on salads, drizzled on fish or chicken, paired with a grilled steak or partnered with roasted vegetables. This umami-rich sauce will have you making a weekly batch.
¼ C. tahini
¼ C. Bragg’s aminos
½ C. walnut oil
½ C. olive oil
4 Tbs. cider vinegar
salt to taste
Mix all ingredients well in a food processor or blender.
Story by Catherine E. Toth Photos by Jennifer Binney
There isn’t a part of Jennifer Homcy’s home in Hale‘iwa that doesn’t have to do with her woodworking business.
There’s almost always a stack of logs in her front yard, dropped off by people who have heard she creates one-of-a-kind cutting boards, serving trays and frames out of salvaged wood.
Her backyard is her workshop, where the cutting, shaping and sanding is done under ‘ulu (breadfruit) and mango trees. One of the sheds is filled with rough-edged, mismatched pieces of monkeypod, shower tree and mango, their fate not yet determined. Band Saw, a charcoal-gray stray cat who got his name because the vet bill when Homcy found him totaled the cost of the new band saw she had been saving for, is often perched on the railing, overseeing the work out back.
And inside this 1930s home, which Homcy converted into the ultimate beach escape, is where her pieces of functional art soak in mineral oil and dry, then are stored in racks and on the dining room table she bought at the swap meet 13 years ago.
These are the headquarters of Foundwood, a woodworking company that uses only reclaimed wood to create heirloom pieces for the kitchen and home. It’s been a longtime hobby of Homcy’s that turned into a full-time business last year (2013), one that has allowed her to reconnect with her father, Dave, who died in 2003.
The senior Homcy started Foundwood in Florida nearly four decades ago. It was his hobby, too, collecting driftwood that washed up on Juno and Jupiter beaches. He turned these salvaged wood pieces into beautiful cutting boards and sold them at art festivals.
“And now 35 years later,”says Homcy, tanned and relaxed in a tank top and yoga pants, “I’m going back to my roots.”
A scientist by trade, Homcy grew up on the beaches of Florida, collecting driftwood and shells. She wasn’t planning on being an artist; in fact, as far back as she can remember, she has always had a love for animals, which ultimately turned into a career in marine biology.
“I rescued a bug out of my grandma’s pool when I was two,”she says, laughing.
At age 5, she volunteered at a wildlife sanctuary. As a teenager she was actively involved in marine conversation programs. And at the University of Southern Florida, she majored in biology and environmental science. She spent more than a decade working in the field.
But at the same time, she was always tinkering with wood, creating unique frames out of salvaged wood just as a hobby.
When her brother, the famed surf cinematographer and photographer Dave Homcy, moved to O‘ahu’s North Shore in 1995, Homcy started visiting the Islands more often. And in 2001, she made the move official, first taking a job with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, then as a boat captain for whale-watching and snorkeling tours. And for a few years, she worked as a science teacher at Kapolei Middle School. But her side business making frames and cutting boards started to take off, and she decided to pursue Foundwood full-time last year.
“It had started to grow beyond my capacity doing this part-time,”Homcy says. “It just grew organically.”
Homcy started making cutting boards about three and a half years ago. The first time she made a few, she took them to the Hale‘iwa Farmers’Market and sold all six before the market even opened. The next time, she brought 15 — and those sold by 10 a.m.
“I started to realize by that point there was something going on here,”she says.
Now, her one-of-a-kind cutting boards — all made from untreated reclaimed wood, mostly from trees that have been removed for development and salvaged from the chippers of tree trimmers — are her best-sellers, particularly the heart-shaped boards that start at $30. In fact, she’s so busy churning out these boards — with two full-time helpers, she can turn around 80 pieces a week — she barely has enough time to take on custom orders.
“There’s been a reinvigoration of food,”she says, attributing her boards’popularity with the coincidental rise in food and environmental consciousness. “And now it’s become an art.”
While the wood types vary on availability, she has used monkey pod, kamani and milo, Cuban mahogany, mango, eucalyptus, sometimes lychee or Malaysian tamarind trees for her various wood projects. And regardless of the wood, Homcy always works with the shapes and grains of each slab to create functional pieces that are venerable works of art.
That’s what William Chen, former chef de cuisine of the Beachhouse at the Moana Surfrider in Waikīkī, loved about her work. The restaurant purchased more than 30 different serving trays and small plates made from koa and monkeypod.
“The nice thing about it,”he says, “is that they’re all unique and all made from salvaged wood. Every piece has character. They’re just beautifully made but industrial, too. You can put them in the dishwasher.”
That’s the goal: to create unique pieces that are both beautiful and functional, that can hang on your wall as art but then be taken down to use as a cutting board or serving tray. That means all of her kitchen pieces — each a different shape, size and color —are soaked for a few days in mineral oil that’s non-toxic, odorless and food-safe.
It’s about repurposing the wood in a way that makes sense.
“Everybody needs a cutting board,”she says, grinning. “Even if you don’t cook, you still gotta cut a lime for your cocktail.”
Home cooks and professional chefs have a distinctly different view of knives.
Home cooks are more likely to view a knife as just another tool in a jumbled utensil drawer. Something, perhaps, to be a bit nervous about. They readily fall prey to the glamour of big names with prices to match, or shrug and buy a Ginsu set on QVC, or worse, a full set of serrated knives. “Bad! Wrong! Should be stopped!” chefs implore.
Chefs are taught to think of them as an extension of the body. Through the chopping and slicing of hundreds of pounds of every kind of food imaginable in the early days of their training, they learn to adopt a certain grip, a certain motion and to favor particular knives for particular purposes. They develop strong emotional ties to their knives, carrying them everywhere in black roll-up kits and spending hours lovingly sharpening them on a honing stone. “Sharpening is ‘Zen-like,‘” said chef Kyle Kawakami, owner of Maui Fresh Streatery and a former chef-instructor at the Maui Culinary Academy.
What, then, can home cooks learn from the pros about learning to love their knives?
The goal is to find knives that you’re comfortable enough with to actually use, says chef-instructor Grant Sato of Kapi‘olani Community College, who teaches a popular knife skills course in the school’s continuing education program.
“It’s not the name, it’s not the price, it’s not the quality of the metal, it’s how it feels in your hand,” says Sato. “If it doesn’t feel comfortable, you’re not going to enjoy cutting and you’re not going to enjoy cooking.”
Chef Carol Nardello, whose work testing recipes for cookbooks and role as in-house chef in a Wolf Sub-Zero demonstration kitchen bridges the gap between professional and home kitchens, continues this theme: “Everybody has a favorite knife, that’s the one you go to and you feel confident with,” she says. As one of eight children, she shares that her mother did some “pretty big cookin’,” mostly with a paring knife.
The only true test of whether a knife is right for you is using it. Short of toting along your own cutting board and an onion when visiting a store, never buy a knife without holding it and at least pretending to slice or chop, Nardello insists.
Think carefully about weight, length and heft. A burly European chef with hands like bear paws may be delighted with a German-made 12-inch chef’s knife, while a petite home cook would feel completely overmatched, her hand unable to properly grasp the handle, the length frightening and the weight too weighty. Start with the Basics
Kawakami is a self-described knife fanatic, owning costly custom knives, sushi knives, the works. But, he said, it does you no good to spend the money and collect the blades only to have them become “drawer queens,” knives that spend their lives in a drawer.
So what knives ought you consider to outfit a basic home kitchen? The chefs were unanimous:
An 8- to 10-inch European-style chef’s knife, a classic triangular shape with a sharp point.
A 4-inch paring knife, same shape.
A boning or utility knife, thin-bladed and pointed.
And a serrated knife for breads and some meats.
“That’s all you need. From there, you can do anything,” said Kawakami.
Well, not quite. The chefs are assuming one other must-have: a steel — a tool rather like a round, ridged, short-sword. Stroking the blade rapidly on one side and then the other, chefs can make the steel “sing.” The steel realigns microscopic “teeth” in the blade, removes burrs and minute chips and returns the cutting tool almost to just-honed sharpness. Personal Indulgences
Beyond these, however, everyone has their oddball favorite. Sato’s is a good pair of kitchen shears, with which you can delicately snip herbs or brashly cut through bone. Kawakami is also partial to a sushi knife (these are long, single-beveled and devilishly sharp). Nardello’s favorite knife, before she went to culinary school in mid-life and learned to love the graceful curving motion with a chef’s knife, was a cleaver. Mine, if I may interject as one who has tested dozens of recipes, is an inexpensive, square-bladed, all-metal 8-inch Chinese vegetable cleaver.
To a degree, which knife you choose depends on what you cook: Western or Asian. If you cook a lot of Chinese food or local-style dishes with meats cut across the bone (such as chicken hekka), you should have a heavy cleaver — also great for smashing aromatics such as ginger and garlic.
Knives go in and out of fashion. Kawakami said a few years ago, the santoku, a Japanese hybrid knife (the name means “three uses”) was all the rage. Said Sato, a bit cynically, “knife manufacturers are in the business of selling knives so they have to keep coming up with something new.” On the contrary, Sato said, “one set of knives will last you a generation, about 20 years.”
Tips for kitchen knife care:
Preferred storage: an open, slotted knife block. These blocks are slotted all the way through, with small feet to lift them off the counter, so moisture can drip away and air can circulate, discouraging rust and mold.
Magnetic strip knife racks can scratch knives and be a safety hazard. Likewise, keeping knives in a kitchen drawer with other tools.
Never store knives close to the sink; moisture encourages rust. Rusty knives are not ruined but need a good going-over with old-fashioned steel wool.
Never soak knives in dishwater; unsafe and bad for the handles. Wash knives by hand with soap, water and an abrasive pad; wipe with clean towel or air-dry. Dishwashers can scratch or chip knives and the heat and chemicals are hard on handles.
Use a steel to “re-sharpen” your knives every time you use them.
Sharpen knives using a honing stone, never those metal-encased tools that look like a pair of sewing machine bobbins; those scratch the blade and don’t give it sufficient access to the stone. Learn how to sharpen a knife from a professional, or take an online tutorial; an improperly sharpened knife is a dull knife. A tip from chef Grant Sato: Look for a professional knife sharpener who also sharpens scissors for salon stylists; they know what they’re doing.
The kindest cutting board material is wood. Soft plastic boards are used in professional kitchens. Never use glass, hard acrylic or marble. Sanitize boards frequently with a solution of one gallon water to 1 cup bleach.
Story by Sara Smith Photos by Jana Morgan Styling by Melissa Padilla of Opihi Love Florals by Christina Hartman of Wildheart
Chef Jana McMahon makes a living cooking in other people’s homes, so we grilled her on how best to cook in ours. Here are her tips for summer entertaining.
When it’s too hot to cook indoors, take the party outside. For advice on cooking an effortless and downright delicious summer barbecue, we couldn’t think of anyone better to turn to for help than a private chef. Jana McMahon, owner of Chef Jana McMahon has spent the last 10 years cooking for world leaders, movie stars, tech stars and many others. With her quick wit and vivacious humor, it’s possible she’s never met a stranger. Her approach to food, however, is decidedly more austere. She insists: simple, seasonal, approachable.
A private chef brings in raw ingredients and cooks in a home, providing an interaction that is unique (not to mention a valuable tie to the local food scene for the client.). Here at a private home, Jana prepares a fiery summer feast for friends. Her menu is shopped from local farm stands and largely inspired by what she finds, a process she calls “riffing the market.” From there, the ingredients just need to be “dressed with a light hand.”
“Start with quality, fresh local ingredients and don’t set a menu until you see what’s available,” Jana says. “I had asparagus in mind, but found gorgeous purple peas at the farmers market instead. They inspired my entire crudités platter.”
Cooking around a fire provides a main event, Jana says, because it’s “primal and molecular, it just resonates with us.” Jana fearlessly slaps her steaks directly on hot coals, a method called clinching that she tells us more about in the recipe. She serves it up with homemade mustard, of all things. Sound complicated? It’s not.
“Whipping up sauces and condiments is my forte. They define a dish, elevate it, brighten and compliment,” she tells us. It’s this extra effort with the details that sets her food apart.
Another thing that sets Jana apart is the heart she pours into her work. In addition to her business on Maui, she serves as the culinary and ag consultant for TERI (Training, Education, Research and Innovation), a North County San Diego nonprofit agency that advocates, teaches and houses people touched by autism and developmental disabilities. Jana got the job through cooking for a client on Maui, the agency’s CEO. “I was bringing down organic veggies I’d grown on the farm and I’d just happened to make cheese that day, so I looked like a real freak,” she recalls. She was a keeper, the CEO decided.
Jana spends three to four months a year in California, and in five years she’s helped blossom a seed-to-table program, install organic kitchen gardens at group homes, and turn lawns into urban farms. Under her guidance and insistence upon clean, fresh food, the client obesity rate has dropped from 85% to 15%. The TERI gardens just received USDA organic certification, no easy feat and an amazing commitment to quality for their clients.
A can-do attitude and unfussy approach to cooking infuse Jana’s entertaining style both as a chef and hostess. She shares her secrets with us in the Summer 2014 issue of the magazine.
Robert Kanna encountered his first shellfish growing up on Kaua‘i’s west side. “My dad would go diving and we’d play in the tide pools and salt ponds,”recalls Kanna. His interest in sea creatures piqued, Kanna attended Oregon State University where he earned a degree in fisheries science.
After returning to Hawai‘i, a stint at O‘ahu’s Oceanic Institute led Kanna to a job in aquaculture on Kaua‘i’s west side where he started farming Pacific white shrimp, sold as Kauai Shrimp.
Today Kanna is the farm manager for Sunrise Capital, owners of Kauai Shrimp. With 40 one-acre and 8 half-acre ponds dotting the hot, dry Mānā coastal plain on Kaua‘i’s west side, the farm now raises Kauai Clams.
Mercenaria mercenaria, known as littleneck clams or simply hard clams, occur naturally along North America’s eastern seaboard. The farm starts with 4 mm clam “seeds” from Florida and New Jersey which are shipped to Kaua‘i planted in upwellers and later cages. Salt water pumped from 500-foot deep wells passes continuously over the clams for 11 months, providing them with oxygen and phytoplankton until they’re big enough for market.
Kanna’s crew currently harvests only about 125 pounds a week, which is quickly bought up by local chefs and two Kaua‘i grocers: Ishihara Market in Waimea and both Foodland stores on the island. Outside of Kaua‘i the only place you’ll find these clams is Mama’s Fish House on Maui.
What are Kauai Clams like? Above all, they’re fresh—reaching market just a day or two after being harvested. Kanna’s favorite way to eat them is raw: “No shoyu, no lemon, no nothing,” he says—just straight from the shell. “The flavor is amazing.”
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