I have always been a proponent of eating local, but in this New Year, I decided to go a step further and am challenging myself to eat in a healthier and more conscientious way choosing more locally grown and produced foods as propounded by one of the Hawai'i chefs I most admire.
I have always been very impressed by her approach to food.Â The love and respect for the food she prepares shows in her handling of it and also in how she uses itâ€¦ simple ways but with delicious and spectacular results.
She is a firm believer in the premise that food prepared simply and with love is of more nutritional value than any difficult or convoluted recipes.
This local girl who was born and grew up in O'ahu, is a much sought-after private chef who uses carefully selected sustainable products and healthy ingredients for flavor and freshness from local farmers then adding her own creative spin, a cooking style she calls "Conscious Hawaiian Cuisine."
"Conscious Hawaiian Cuisine" reflects her unique flair for preparing and presenting fresh food as simply as possible in a setting that both energizes and soothes the senses by creating a completely harmonious experience for the guests.
On a recent evening a group of enthusiasts met in the Kulia Room at the beautiful campus of the Halau Ho'olako in Waimea for a workshop presentation of Hawai'i grown foods cooked simply and yet with the care that Chef Olelo pa'a bestows on all her food preparations.
The table centerpiece was a gorgeous bowl filled with dragon fruit, rambutan, star fruit and longan with a pineapple in the middleâ€¦instant sign that Hawaiian hospitality was being served along with the food.
All of the food prepared was grown in Hawai'i.Â Corn, taro, ulu, sweet potatoes, coconut, heart of palm, locally grown mushrooms, beef, pork, pumpkin, green beans, baby lettuces in a rainbow of colors and Kona Kampachi prepared in a simply delicious salad style poke.
A delicious soup or stew containing beef, but also taro, carrots, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes and a vast assortment of other vegetables.Â You could detect a very slight note of the anise in the Chinese Five Spice mix she used to enhance it.
Another dish was a barely blanched kernel corn and green bean salad that was so fresh you could feel little bursts of sweetness when you bit into the corn.
Simply boiled ulu, sweet potatoes, roasted pumpkin, and taro were served with an assortment of piquant sauces, where you could choose whatever sauce you preferred.Â Although I'm not one for a lot of hotness, I found all of the sauces delicious.
Several more salads and side dishes completed a veritable smorgasbord of locally grown food.Â Her spicy Hawaiian Caesar Salad was enough to wake up any dormant senses you might have arrived with!
The desserts were a Hawai'i Island grown and processed double chocolate confections, Mauna Kea coconut and meringue little snowballs and coconut-taro tapioca pudding.Â It was all I could do to not pick up several pieces of the chocolate!
Heat another pot and add the butter then the onions. Cook on medium flames till tender and add the garlic. Stir and cook for about a minute then add 2 cups chicken stock. Simmer for 10 minutes then add the cooked luau leaves. Stir and simmer for 20 minutes.
At this time, the coconut milk could be added or for a lighter sauce, add more chicken stock. Simmer for another 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix a little cornstarch with water and add slowly to thicken sauce slightly.
Serve as a side dish with prepared fish, chicken breast or shrimp and topped with diced fresh tomatoes. Boiled Kalo (taro root) or brown rice could be served to complete the meal.
Olelo says that eating taro is like experiencing the essence of Hawaii. "It is so onoâ€¦â€¦â€¦..so pono!" she exclaims.
Note: Most edible taro has needle like crystals (oxalic acid) and must be cooked to dissolve it. Undercooked taro root and leaves can cause itching in your mouth.
Wishing everyone a prosperous and joyous New Yearâ€¦Hau'oli Makahiki Hou!
<cite>Chef '?lelo pa'a is a private chef on Hawai'i's Big Island who shares the flavors of Hawai'i through her distinct Conscious Hawaiian Cuisineâ„¢, cooking demonstrations, magazine column, and Glow Hawai'i Products.</cite>Visit www.glowhawaii.com
The Olelo pa'a workshop was part of a new, free series of weekly Hawaiian-focused workshops designed for individuals and families who want to learn more about Hawai'i 's native culture and traditions.Â Â Workshops take place every first thru fourth Tuesday at HÃ„LAU HO'OLAKO in the KÃœLIA ROOM from 6:00 â€“ 8:00 p.m.Â For more information stop by Kauhale 'Ã–iwi o Pu'ukapu, 64-1043 Hi'iaka Street (KÃ¼hio Village) in Waimea or call Chris Plunkett (808) 890-8144.