In a recent presentation, Peter Abarcar, Jr, Executive Chef at the Hapuna Beach Hotel, points out that we all know cows have four legs, but cows also only have two tenderloins, two rounds, and two rumps. Once we’ve used the better cuts, what about the rest of the beef? That’s something that many of us might not think about these days, when we can walk into a supermarket and simply choose our favorite cuts. What about the rest?
But restaurants—and those of use who buy a side of beef for the freezer—have to figure out how to use all of the parts to avoid waste. Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range is an annual event that challenges chefs to use these less familiar parts and serve them up for public consumption. In addition to locally sourced, grass fed beef, the menu this year included feral pig, goat, mutton, and plenty of local produce. There was fresh ginger soda, coffee, and a lovely liliko‘i sweetened tea from Mauna Kea Tea. My husband and I nibbled our way through sample plates that were beautifully prepared and flavorful — the kind of food that we don’t often get to indulge in. There was so much to choose from; I only made it about a third of the way through the building before I just couldn’t eat any more. But even with options like seared beef sushi, oxtail stew, braised lamb with goat cheese polenta, and boerewors (sausage), I sampled my very favorite dish came a at the cooking demonstration with Chef Peter. His Cowboy Salad is a green salad topped with pipikaula, a brined and smoked beef, but as Chef Peter readily admits, “Talk to ten cowboys and you’ll hear ten different recipes for making pipikaula.”
Honestly? I could eat this with or without the beef. Instead, I became fixated on the little crunchy tidbit that turned out to be ‘ulu, or breadfruit. The greens, fresh tomatoes, and avocado were just the perfect backdrop to the salty crispy onions and ‘ulu and the tangy sweet vinaigrette; the pipikaula was simply a bonus. Chef shares his recipe for Cowboy Salad here, but since he didn’t elaborate on just how he prepared the crouton-like ‘ulu in his recipe, I asked.
Steam or bake a whole, ripe ‘ulu until tender. (Chef said 20 minutes, but I’ve had to cook them longer.) Refrigerate until cool; this makes it easier to cut. Cut flesh into roughly one-inch cubes, deep fry, then toss with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Kona Coffee Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette
- 1-1/2 tablespoons Kona coffee beans
- 8-9 sun-dried tomato halves
- 5 anchovy fillets
- 1-1/2 teaspoons capers
- 1-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 oz. sugar
- 2 oz. water
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle paste
- 2 oz. maple syrup
- 1-1/2 cups olive oil pepper to taste
Instructions: Add all ingredients except oil to blender and blend smooth. Slowly add olive oil in stream while blender is running. Add pepper to taste. Can be thinned with water if necessary.
- 2 oz. chopped baby romaine lettuce
- 4-5 pieces of pipikaula or tri tip, thinly sliced
- 3 boiled quail eggs, halved
- 3 sweet tomatoes
- 5 grilled green onions
- 2 avocado wedges
- 3 to 4 crispy ‘ulu
- 2 tablespoons grilled corn
- salad dressing (recipe above)
- 5-6 crispy onions for topping
Instructions: Build salad in order of ingredients; zigzag dressing over all ingredients. Top with crispy onions. The “Pasture-Raised Beef Cooking 101” demonstration at which Chef Peter shared this recipe was held in conjunction with the Taste of the Hawaiian Range food-grazing event. The event itself — of course — features plenty of locally sourced food dishes, but also considers itself an agricultural festival to educate the public on sustainable agriculture. Such interesting information! I learned about a potential issue with growing ginger, spotted some really happy blueberries giving me hope for my own huge crops someday, and talked with Anna from Squash and Awe about her work with heirloom squash. And I love, love, love the fact that they are working so diligently to create less waste and educate people about it. Noshers are asked to scrape food scraps into a bucket that will become pig food, and the compostable dinnerware into another that will be composted.
The one note that rang false about the entire event? Kamehameha Schools (an event sponsor) who was there with a booth and big banners exclaiming “Thriving land, thriving communities.” No mention of the fact that they lease land to Monsanto, who uses Hawaii as a testing ground for their transgenic crops. While some of their tenants might help to increase food production for the local market, Monsanto does not. And they lease a lot of land from Kamehameha Schools. The community outcry over this issue has been loud and this felt very false to me. I’ve spoken with Kamehameha Schools representatives about this issue in the past and was told that the Monsanto company is a great tenant and they have no concerns about potential health issues and the overuse of pesticides. I didn’t have the energy to have that conversation again, but I do wonder: Why so quiet about leasing to Monsanto in your materials, Kamehameha Schools?