As summer rolls around, I think back to the days when I had a corporate job with the vacation time and income to take extravagant vacations. Now as an entrepreneur, my vacations are spent going back to see my family in Louisiana and sometimes a long weekend in Palm Springs. In summer of 2006, we were lucky to experience our first trip to Hawaii and visited three islands: Honolulu, Maui and Lanai… a perfect “Taste of Hawaii” vacation! We planned to eat our way across the Islands with sightseeing, golf and beach time thrown in. We dined at some of the most famous restaurants across the three islands, expensive but delicious with gorgeous views. The Feast of LeLe Luau in Maui was a highlight. Chef James McDonald (we loved meeting him as he shares my husband’s name) serves up a delicious five course dinner served at your table, not the usual Luau buffet, along with entertainment highlighting five famous islands. It was intimate and romantic … a night to remember! The dinner at Mama's Fish House in Maui on the way back from the long road to Hana is something we will never forget. We didn't realize it would be such a fancy place with a name like Mama's Fish House. My friend Judy was beyond horrified as she had a baseball cap on and this is a woman who never wears a hat! To this day, we laugh hysterically when we realize how ultra casual we were dressed in the upscale beautiful restaurant. As my Mama would say, "Country comes to town!"
Our last day in Maui, we met a woman by the pool and asked her what her favorite restaurant was and she said, “After coming here every summer for years, I would say the Hawaiian plate lunch and if you see a "Plate Lunch" sign, stop and indulge in the best Hawaiian barbeque chicken, beef, or fish served with white rice and macaroni salad - cheap and delicious!” How had we missed this local treat? We were tourist with a capital T and now feeling left out of an important Hawaiian dining experience. Shame on us!
The next day we headed to Lanai by ferry from Maui and discovered the annual Pineapple Festival would be happening the next afternoon in the town square. After a great day of golf and snorkeling, we headed in our rented jeep to the interior of Lanai and felt like we had stepped back in time… just a few local stores and restaurants. A stage was set up surrounded by about no more than 10 food tents and some were serving the famous Hawaiian Plate Lunch! BINGO!
Our mouths started watering with the delicious teriyaki smells of the Hawaiian barbeque. We went our separate ways and fifteen minutes later, we found each other. Jimmy held up his plate and said, “Five Dollars”, I held mine up and said, “Six Dollars” as I had added dumplings to my meal. We both dug into the best barbeque chicken and beef served with sides of white rice and macaroni salad. It was heaven eating under the stars listening to beautiful Hawaiian music and watching local children Hula dance on stage. After polishing off our plates, I was ready for something sweet. I set off to search for a local dessert and found a tent with tables of delicious pineapple and coconut cakes. The local women behind the table gestured to me to help myself. I took two slices of the luscious desserts and asked how much. She shook her head and smiled. I walked back to Jimmy with my tasty prize, held it up for him to see and said, “free”. Our last night in Hawaii was one of the most memorable as we embraced the hospitality of the lovely Lanai locals. Yes, some things in life are still free.
Recently, my sister, Erin, had a poolside Hawaiian party in Baton Rouge and asked me to bring a dish to accompany her Grilled Teriyaki Chicken and Coconut Rice. I immediately thought of the macaroni salad so created my own version kicked up with bacon and jalapeno! I'm also including her Coconut Rice dish. Serve these with any grilled meats this summer and your guests will be coming back for more. It's a bit of the Hawaiian Islands right in your own backyard!
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
Serves 8-10 as a side dish
1 package of Large Macaroni
½ cup of good quality Mayonnaise
¼ cup of Creole or Stoned Ground Mustard
1 Tbsp. of Red Wine Vinegar
½ of a large Purple Onion diced
½ of a medium Red Pepper diced
½ of a medium Green Pepper diced
1 bunch of Green Onions chopped
1 large Jalapeno Pepper seeded and diced
¼ cup of pickled Banana Peppers diced
½ cup of chopped Bacon or Real Bacon bits
1 tsp. of Creole Seasoning
Salt & Pepper to taste
Prepare macaroni, drain and rinse with cool water. Add mayonnaise, mustard, red wine vinegar, chopped vegetables and bacon to pasta in large bowl. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. Double for buffets.
Coconut Jalapeno Rice
2 Tsp. of vegetable oil
¾ cup of Shredded Coconut
1 large Jalapeno Pepper, seeded and diced
2 cups of White Rice
4 cups of Chicken Broth
¼ cup of green onion
Heat oil in large saucepan
Cook stirring constantly until lightly brown, add minced onion and Jalapeno pepper
Continue cooking and stirring 1 minute longer
Add rice and stir to coat
Add Chicken Broth and bring to boil
Cover and reduce heat to low.
Simmer 25-30 minutes until rice is tender.
Sprinkle with Chives.