Menu for a Tropical Tea

Enough reminiscing! What would I finally serve for a Tropical Tea?!

Start with Pimm’s Punch (not to be confused with Pimm’s Cup). I first had Pimm’s Punch at Bettys in York. It was a hot day, we’d been walking and waiting for hours, and this hit the spot. It was so refreshing. I don’t know the secret ingredient in Pimm’s, but it’s brilliant. If you have a sense of humor, skewer the fruit garnish with a little umbrella pick!

Then, present a tropical fruit platter. Try to have the fruits all sliced similarly (and thinly): papaya, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, mango, honeydew, some orange slices (minus the pith), a few strawberries, and all of it sprinkled with finely grated lime peel (and maybe a little lime juice).

Follow with “sandwiches,” except you don’t have to use bread necessarily. For instance, macadamia-crusted goat cheese can be served “open faced” on Belgian endive, topped with a dollop of mango-papaya preserves. Offer at least three kinds of sandwiches, of course, for essential variety.

Scones next, made with dried apricots and lemon peel. Lemon curd and Devonshire Cream accompany the scones , of course, but instead of the traditional strawberry jam, use something tropical – like papaya butter, or pineapple preserves.

Finally, dessert! Coconut bars, shortbread cookies sprinkled with tropical sugars, banana bread tea loaf, and something(s) spectacular… like a Hawaiian twist on Eton Mess, or individual coconut crème brulees, petite Key lime tartlettes, or a spectacular pineapple-rum cake, layered with coconut cream, and topped with toasted coconut flakes.

And what beverage goes with all these delectables? Tea, of course. Offer Yorkshire Gold for the purists, pineapple-infused black tea for the adventurous, and my favorite – Rejuvenation (herbal) tea – for anyone needing some aloha spirit revival.

To set your table island-style, use anything that reminds you of palm trees, the beach, tropical flowers, Hawaiiana, and warm sunny days. You know how you never want to leave your Hawaiian vacation? Well, you won’t want to get up from your Tropical Tea table either. Sounds perfect!

In a macadamia-nutshell:

Pimm’s Punch

Tropical fruit platter

Sandwiches – Macadamia-crusted goat cheese on Belgian endive, topped with mango-papaya preserves
Cherry tomatoes stuffed with curried egg salad
Kalua pork lettuce cups with poi garnish
Mauna Kea shrimp with peanut sauce

Apricot-lemon scones with Mock Devonshire Cream, lemon curd, and pineapple preserves

Desserts – choose at least three:
Coconut bars
Shortbread cookies sprinkled with tropical sugars
Roy’s Banana-macadamia bread tea loaf
Eton Mess Aloha-style (meringues, chopped fresh pineapple, whipped cream with
chopped macadamia nuts, all topped with toasted coconut chips)
Individual coconut crème brulees
Key lime tartlettes
Pineapple-rum roulade cake, layered with coconut whipped cream

Teas – Yorkshire Gold
Pineapple-infused black tea
Rejuvenation tea
Milk and sugar cubes

Enjoy! Aloha! And mahalo nui loa for reading my blog!

Tropical Tea

I had tea with my mom and sister last week and we got on the subject of, well, of tea parties. My sister wanted to know what was my most memorable tea? That was easy: the tea I had sitting on the Banyon Veranda of the Moana Surfrider (now it’s called the Beach House Veranda) in Waikiki.

When our kids were still pretty small, my husband and I took them to Hawaii – first Maui, then later that week, Oahu. I had found a real deal on the Internet that made the Oahu part of our trip do-able. By the time we landed in Honolulu, got our rental car, and got to our hotel, it was the early part of the afternoon – but late enough that I knew we had to feed the kids and fast (or we’d have screaming menehune on our hands). Unfortunately, the hotel we checked into was not what it had appeared to be on the Internet. The walls were uncovered cinder block, the open air hallways looked out over the local red light district, the kitchenette needed its aluminum stove liners replaced (yes, it was that kind of kitchen), and the linens on the bed felt gritty. The neon lighting did not add to the ambiance – but did make us think about leaving them on all night to keep the cockroaches hiding. Gosh, the lobby pictures on the Internet never hinted at what we’d find in the rooms – ! And we were just a block from Waikiki Beach! I should have known better – but at least, I learned quickly.

Anyway, both kids were hungry and we decided that the first thing we’d do would be to get them some decent food. Then we’d tackle the problem of accommodations.
Back in the car, and out on the road again, up Kalakaua Avenue, and there we were, in front of the First Lady of Waikiki – and they had valet parking! We hopped out of the car and went searching for food. A place this refined would surely have something appetizing for keiki. And then I saw the placard: Afternoon Tea on the Banyon Veranda. Forget the kids, I needed soul-rejuvenating, and tea on the Veranda was going to do it (plus, they had a keiki menu). As we waited for a table, I thought to ask the concierge what the availability was… alas, they had absolutely no rooms.

I returned to the placard to wait for our table, and was greeted by name by the hostess. How did she know my name already? She led our family to our table and promised my starving kids that their tea would be out directly. My husband excused himself to wash up, just as freshly squeezed pineapple juice arrived for my son and daughter. I only got one sip: it was the most amazing thing any of us had ever drank, and the kids knew something good when they got it. Meanwhile, where was my husband? Our grown-up tea was delivered, but I was trying to be polite and not eat without him. The kids went ahead without him, but I waited – patiently, not so patiently, where was he?!

My husband finally returned – all smiles. Wait, did you drink a mai tai without me? In response, he handed me a room key – to the Moana, of course. When he’d excused himself, he’d gone back to the Front Desk to double check on room availability. The staff listened to his story of woe, re-checked their rooms, and noticed that a reservation was going to be cancelled in 10 minutes if the person booking the room did not show up. So, my husband waited, the guest never showed up, my husband registered for the room, drove back to the dive hotel, collected our luggage, checked out, returned to the Moana, checked our luggage with the bell captain, and finally, returned for tea.

That day, my husband became the ali’I of aloha – he lives aloha. Mahalo to my big kahuna!

Banana Bread Pudding

This is a combination of two superb recipes from two superb cookbooks: The Silver Palate Cookbook and Roy’s Feasts from Hawaii. I used this dessert recipe for a “just-because“ tropical luncheon I had with some girlfriends a year ago. In his cookbook, Roy suggested using his banana bread in bread pudding, so that’s what I did – using the bread pudding recipe from Sheila Lukins’s and Julee Rosso’s cookbook. Because I was looking for a more tropical accent, I substituted spiced dark rum for the whiskey in their recipe. I also served it with a very small scoop of Häagen Daz Macadamia Nut ice cream. It was the best part of the meal!

1 recipe of Roy’s Banana Macadamia Nut Bread, cut into ½” cubes, and allowed to dry overnight in a 100°F oven
1 qt. milk
10 T. unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 large eggs
1½ c. sugar
2 T. vanilla extract
1 c. golden raisins, plumped in 1 c. boiling water for 15 mins, then drained well
1 c. confectioners’ sugar
4 T. spiced dark rum

Place the bread cubes in a bowl and pour the milk over it and let stand for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 9 x 13 x x2 inch baking dish with 1-2 T. butter.
In another bowl, beat together 3 eggs, the sugar, and the vanilla extract. Gently stir this mixture into bread cubes. Gently stir in raisins.
Pour into the prepared baking dish, place on the middle rack of the oven, and bake until browned and set, about 1 hour and 10 mins. Cool to room temperature.
To make sauce, stir 8 T. butter and confectioners’ sugar in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until sugar is dissolved and mixture is very hot. Remove from the heat. Beat the remaining egg well and whisk it into the sugar mixture. Remove pan from base and continue beating until sauce has cooled to room temperature. Add rum.
To serve, preheat broiler. Pour rum sauce over pudding and run under broiler until bubbling.

Makes 8-10 portions

Banana-Macadamia Nut Bread

banana bread pic

This makes one of the best banana breads I’ve ever tried; it always comes out moist, and it’s a cinch to make. Assembly time is 15 mins. tops. In his Roy’s Feasts from Hawaii, Roy (yes, we’re on a first-name basis here at home) says it makes a 9-inch round cake pan or loaf pan, but I always get two substantial loaves out of it, or about 6 tea-loaves (making it really easy to offer as party favors). I also took his advice once and used it for a banana bread pudding to finish off a tropical luncheon for some of my friends; it was very ono!

½ c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ c. sugar
½ c. brown sugar
1 lb. overripe bananas, peeled and mashed
2 t. baking powder
2 t. baking soda
3 1/3 c. flour
2 eggs
1/3 c. water
½ c. chopped macadamia nuts (reserve 2 T. for the topping)
¼ c. raisins (optional)
¼ c. shredded coconut (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan or loaf pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until smooth. Add the bananas and beat for 1 min. Sift the baking powder and baking soda into the flour and stir into the banana-butter mixture. Add the eggs and water, and beat for 1 min. Stir in the nuts, and the raisins and coconut, if desired.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the reserved nuts. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 35-45 mins, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

(My notes: I always add the coconut, but never the raisins. I also always add 1 t. of vanilla extract. Also, I confess to using the dump method of mixing: using a really sturdy standing mixer – like a Kitchen Aid – I turn on the mixer and start adding the ingredients from the top of the list on down, except that I add the flour after the water. That’s it! No wonder it only takes me 15 mins. (or less) to assemble. Also instead of sprinkling chopped nuts on top (because I always forget and put them in the batter), I simply arrange some whole macadamia nuts on top.)

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This is a fabulous recipe from Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins’ The Silver Palate Cookbook.  It’s moist, spicy, and dense.  And it comes out perfectly every time.    When I’m feeling very health-conscientious, I substitute light olive oil for the corn oil; I have never been able to tell the difference, and no one has ever noticed!  The Silver Palate recommends baking the cake in two 9” layer pans; this is great if you want a round, layered cake.    And when I want to stretch the servings a little more, I use a 9” x 13” cake pan, and make it single-layer; I’ve included the proportions for either size.

Two 9” layer cakes:Carrot Birthday Cake
3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
3 c. granulated sugar
1 t. salt
1 T. baking soda
1 T. Cinnamon
1½ c. corn oil
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 T. vanilla extract
1½ c. shelled walnuts, chopped                             1 1/2 c. shredded coconut
1 1/3 c. pureed cooked carrots
¾ c. drained crushed pineapple

One 9” x 13” cake:Single layer carrot cake
4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
4c. granulated sugar
1¼ t. salt
4 t. baking soda
4 t. cinnamon
2 c. corn oil
5 large eggs plus 1 egg white, lightly beaten
4 t. vanilla extract
2 c. shelled walnuts, chopped
2 c. shredded coconut
1¾ c. pureed cooked carrots
1 c. drained crushed pineapple

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease cake pans lined with wax paper.
Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Add oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat well. Fold in walnuts, coconut, carrots, and pineapple.
Pour batter into the prepared pans. Set on the middle rack and bake for 30 to 35 mins, until edges have pulled away from sides of and a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool on a cake rack for 3 hrs. Fill cake and frost sides with cream cheese frosting (recipe below).

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 c. confectioners’ sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
Juice of ½ lemon

Cream together cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl.
Slowly sift in confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fully incorporated. Mixture should be free of lumps.
Stir in vanilla and lemon juice.

Crab-and-Potato-crusted Ono with Spinach and Bacon

Ono means delicious in Hawaiian, and it’s also the name of a kind of fish (commonly called wahoo on the mainland). This recipe comes straight out of Roy Yamaguchi’s fantastic cookbook, Roy’s Fish and Seafood. And yes, this ono is ono! Mahalo, Mr. Yamaguchi! Just reading the recipe seems a little daunting but most of it can be prepped ahead, so serving it to 24 guests is actually do-able. And ono.

For the fish:
½ c. warm mashed potatoes
½ c. fresh lump crabmeat, picked over for shell
1 T. julienned fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (7-oz.) ono fillets
1 T. canola oil

For the Creamed Spinach and Bacon:
3 slices bacon
1 t. minced shallot
1 t. minced garlic
12 oz. spinach washed and steamed
1 c. heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 carrots, peeled, thinly sliced, and blanched
Fresh basil leaves for garnish

To prepare the ono, put the mashed potatoes in a bowl. Add the crabmeat, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. And stir to thoroughly combine. Spread the mixture on one side of each ono fillet to form a crust. Heat the oil in a heavy nonstick sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the ono, crust side down, and sauté for 3 mins. until the crust turns golden brown. Turn the fillet over and sauté for about 2 mins. longer, or until opaque throughout.

To prepare the spinach, heat a dry, heavy sauté pan or skillet over medium heat for 2 mins. Add the bacon and sauté for 4-5 mins, until crisp. Remove and mince the bacon; set aside. Drain off all but 1 T. of the bacon fat and increase the heat to medium –high. Add the shallot and garlic. Immediately add the spinach and cool until it begins to wilt. Transfer to a colander and press with the back of a wooden spoon to release excess moisture. Chop the spinach and set aside. Pour the cream into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook to reduce the cream by about two-thirds or until thickened and paste-like. Add the spinach and cook for about 1 min. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and keep warm.

In the center of warmed serving plates, arrange the blanched carrots and top with creamed spinach. Place the crusted ono on top of the spinach. Garnish the ono with the bacon and basil.

(To thinly slice the carrots, I used a vegetable peeler and simply made ribbons; these blanched very quickly in boiling water.)

For non-fish-eating guests, I set aside some of the mashed potatoes and withheld adding the crabmeat. I used these crab-free mashed potatoes to top chicken breasts that I had pounded a bit to thin out; then I cooked them the same way as the ono fillets.

Hawaiian Dinner Party

Time flies – whether you’re having fun or not – so we might as well party! Ten years after I threw a luau to celebrate my husband’s 50th, it was time to celebrate another decade. What with kids and the economy, we haven’t gotten back to Paradise as often as we would like, so it seemed natural to try to rekindle some great memories right here at home. And so I planned another Hawaiian-themed party for my husband’s 60th; this time it was a smaller-scaled Hawaiian dinner party for just very close friends and family. But like the luau, it was delicious, and we all had a really lovely time.

My kids were too busy with school to help with invitations, and our guest list only required 14 invitations, so I did them myself:

Then I planned the menu, with a little (well, a lot of) inspiration from Roy Yamaguchi.  I used his book, Roy’s fish and seafood for the entree; and I used his Banana-Macadamia Nut Bread recipe for party favors, from Roy’s Feasts from Hawaii.   

A few days before the party day, I raided my old supplies of luau stuff to set up for the party. Beach sheets (subbed in for tablecloths), Hawaiian-inspired tumblers, umbrella picks, coconut candles, and of course, fresh tropical flowers from Island Florals, and we were ready.

E komo mai, aloha!

Hawaiian Luau Menu

Pupus started off the feast:

Sweet and sour meatballs
Bacon-wrapped macadamia nuts
Mauna Kea shrimp with peanut dip
Wonton bows with mango salsa
Five pepper dip with root chips

 

                                  Then, dinner, buffet-style:

Teriyaki chicken
Kalua pork and poi
Orange roughy lau lau with lychee salsa
Chinese pea salad
Lemon ginger salad
Hawaiian potato salad
Uala maoli sweet potato casserole
String beans with cashews
Banana bread
Mango bread
Taro bread

Dessert followed in the dining room:

Fresh tropical fruit
Coconut milk ice cream with white chocolate and macadamia nuts
Plain coconut milk ice cream
Coconut squares
Pineapple-upside-down cake
Key lime pie
pineapple shortbread cookies
Birthday (carrot) cake

       The birthday cake was inspired by the famous Halekalani carrot cake – except that I used my own favorite recipe! My two kids helped decorate the cake with souvenir fish-picks from our vacation… A sweet end to a sweet party…