JANA MCMAHON’S FARMSTAND CRUDITÉS WITH TAHINI DIPPING SAUCE
Photo by Jana MorganCrudités refer to assorted raw vegetables that are usually served with a dipping sauce. Be flexible and let seasonal availability create the dish. Be conscious of getting a wide assortment of colors and textures: red radishes, purple sugar snap peas, green beans or asparagus, orange heirloom baby carrots, white jicama. This sauce is versatile and so darned delicious, I want to drink it. It’s also 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.
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Author: Jana McMahon
Food Processor Or Blender
Tahini Dipping Sauce
Prepare Tahini Dipping Sauce.
Mix all ingredients well in a food processor or blender.
Enjoy with your favorite vegetables or drizzle on your meal for extra flavor!
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.
“The more successful the farmers are, the more successful we all are,” says Ron Miller, owner and executive chef of Hukilau Lanai. This April, Ron and Krissi, his wife and business partner, will celebrate their fourth year as owners of Hukilau Lanai, an open-air, fine dining restaurant in Kapa‘a on Kaua‘i. In that time, the Millers have learned to ask themselves four questions when evaluating their options: Is it good for the customer? Is it good for the employees? Is it good for business? Is it good for the environment?
“Buying local is a priority,” says Ron. “Every year, we make more connections and it just keeps getting better and better.” The couples’ success, they feel, is a result of building and nurturing those commitments. Their loyalty to regional growers is transparent: their menu reveals numerous island sourced products. Their annual anniversary festivities revolve around their Earth Dinner, a tradition started to honor Kaua‘i food growers with a meal created from their harvest.
“We’re learning how to answer the environmental questions better,” says Ron. “I think it’s best to do your own research and learn, instead of accepting what’s common.” The Millers have numerous eco-friendly practices in place at the restaurant, assessing everything down to the crayon stubs left at the table by sticky-fingered toddlers. (They’re given to a local candle maker!) After exhaustive recycling and composting measures (food scraps, cooking oil, office paper, wine corks), close to nothing goes to waste from the restaurant’s daily operations.
Ron got his start in restaurants as a dishwasher and busboy at The Sun Porch in Hopwood, PA back in 1982. He upgraded to the kitchen a few years later. The creativity and camaraderie were appealing to the young, self-proclaimed hippie. He decided to make cooking a career.
Honing his craft at the Allen Room, a homey, 35-seat restaurant in Pennsylvania, Ron learned to make each meal from scratch. Every day he produced a new, handwritten menu and had at least five stocks simmering on the back stove. He learned how to turn a restaurant into a successful business while working at a giant 400-seat restaurant in northern Virginia. It was here that Ron met and married Krissi. In 1997, they moved to O‘ahu, where Ron worked at Roy’s Hawai‘i Kai, an award-winning pioneer of Hawai’i Regional Cuisine. An opening at Gaylord’s at the Kilohana Plantation brought the Millers to Kaua‘i. When Hukilau Lanai opened in 2002, the Millers joined the team; eight years later, they bought the restaurant.
As an innovative chef who likes to push his culinary boundaries, Ron actively cultivates his passion for learning. On a recent trip to San Francisco, the Millers ate at 10 restaurants in five days. A traditional Burmese pickled tea leaf salad, called Lahpet Thoke (pronounced “la-pay toe”) caught Ron’s fancy. To add it to his menu at Hukilau Lanai, Ron sourced Cloudwater Tea, the only tea farm on Kaua’i that produces whole leaf tea grown without herbicides or pesticides, harvested and processed by hand.
Ron rang in the new year by hosting a charcuterie class at Hukilau Lanai taught by Francois Vecchio [[visiting from where?]], a skilled craftsman with great passion [[for what?]]. In three days, Vecchio showed Ron and his staff, as well as other notable chefs from O‘ahu and Kaua‘i, how to turn whole, local hogs into a wide variety of charcuterie, including aspic, sausage and salami.
Incidentally, adventurous eaters craving the Hukilau Lanai charcuterie plate, a revolving medley of headcheese, pâté, and mortadella, must be added to a wait list for the housemade delicacies. The Miller’s skilled staff also makes knackwurst and bratwurst for their annual Oktoberfest Fest menu.
Outstanding In The Field, a national pop-up known for its elegant al fresco dinners, scheduled a Kaua‘i event this past January. It was no surprise that the organizers called on Ron to create the locally-sourced, six-course meal. About forty guests dined together at the long, open-air table set under the shade of mango and tangerine trees at Kaua‘i Kunana Dairy, a certified organic goat farm in Kilauea.
At the dinner, chef Vecchio was honored and charcuterie was served, along with big salads of pickled vegetables and Kunana Diary goat cheese. Fresh mahi mahi, braised goat, Kaua‘i clams and shrimp, ‘ahi, and Koloa Rum were also featured through the meal.
With characteristic aloha, Ron has graciously shared a few of his recipes from that stunning dinner with us here.
Homemade mayonnaise comes together in minutes, requiring just a few ingredients on hand in most kitchens. Get a feel for the simple preparation and skip the store-bought stuff. For flavor, homemade cannot be beaten. Actually, it will be beaten, but how is up to you—and the topic of heated debate amongst our staff. Blender, hand whisk, immersion blender…we each employed our own technique to whip up this humble, handy condiment. Experiment to find your preference, and you’ll have a great base for easy sauces, dips, and salad dressings. Our favorite things to blend into our homemade mayo? Handfuls of fresh herbs, green garlic, chipotle peppers, or curry powder. Happy cooking!
1¼cupLight Olive Oil(Or Other Oil Of Preference)
1/2tsp.Salt(Or To Taste)
2Tbs.Lemon Juice(Approximately. 1/2 Lemon Or To Taste)
Bring all ingredients to room temperature. Separate egg yolks from whites.
Place the egg yolks in the blender jar, adding the salt, a splash of lemon juice, and a teaspoon of olive oil. Add the mustard, if using.
Give the mixture a few quick pulses to start the blending.
Very, very slowly drizzle in the oil while blending. This process should take 2-3 minutes.
Blend in the rest of the lemon juice. If the mayonnaise appears loose, keep in mind it will further set as it chills in the refrigerator. Tip: If the mayonnaise breaks (separates after the oil is added) it can be saved! Place an egg yolk and 1 teaspoon tepid water in a clean bowl or blender glass. While whisking/blending, slowly add the broken mayonnaise until incorporated, then whisk/blend in about 1/4 cup more oil.
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