Monday, January 23, 2017

Say Aloha to Aloha Java Seasoning Blend

How Aloha Java Was Created

The Big Island of Hawaii has been a special vacation destination for the Mackenzie's for years. This past October, Bill and I rented a cottage in the Kohala district at the northern tip of the island, in the town of Hawi. Listening to the rain and wind on the lanai of our cottage while reading, walking through the lush gardens surrounding us and enjoying local dining and arts provided the tranquility we were looking for on this trip to  the Big Island.
Welcome to Bamboo Cottage!
When it was clear enough, we could catch a glimpse of Maui and the summit of Haleakala across the choppy channel that separates the two islands. It was like a Bali Hai experience; mysterious, near but far away at the same time. Knowing another piece of land was also there, so far from the Continental US, was a comfort.

Hawi is a casual town with a thriving art scene and lots of history. King Kamehameha was born in here. In the early 20th century, sugar cane was king on the island and the waters from rain-heavy Kohala flowed to the cane fields through ditches engineered by M. M. O'Shaughnessy, who was also responsible for the Hetch-Hetchy project that brought water from the Sierra Nevada to San Francisco. Known as "Da Ditch", there are tour operators that provide tourists with a locals-only view of the water system by inflatable kayak. My family loved this soggy adventure during a 2002 island visit. I highly recommend the restaurant Bamboo, right in the heart of town. It serves up a tangy pulled pork sandwich and if you're lucky, local son and slack key guitar virtuoso John Keawe will be playing.

Bamboo Cottage is situated along one of the ditches and we were privy to the fresh citrus and avocados that grow on the property. I actually plucked my own ginger root from the garden to include in a vinaigrette I prepared for greens purchased at the Hawi farmers' market. 

Under the banyan tree, the Hawi farmer's market

At the market, I got to talking with Chris Bornstein, the co-founder of Spicy Ninja Sauce. I have recently developed a greater appreciation for heat in my cooking, recognizing that chili peppers provide depth of flavor in many dishes that one may not associate with hot, spicy food. Well, Chris' Spicy Ninja Sauce blew me away. Even the mild sauce tested my wimpy palate, but after the initial intense heat wore off, there was a delightful buzz in my mouth. Hum...I could get to like this stuff! Maybe heat is addictive after all.

I told Chris about Nutmeg Kitchens Handcrafted Seasonings  and he said, "You should do a Hawaiian blend". That suggestion germinated in me for the remainder of our stay. Hawaii holds a significant place in my heart and it would seem only natural for me to give flavor to that special place.

The 5 hour flight from Kona to SFO provided plenty of time for me to dream of potential concoctions. Coffee was an obvious ingredient, and ginger, which I had at my finger tips at Bamboo Cottage, had to be included. Once home, I explored the seasonings I had on hand and found that in addition to coffee and ginger, garlic, smoked paprika, some brown sugar and something I hadn't used very often, Sichuan peppercorns, would make for a very interesting blend. And now I have a blend that gives a little delightful buzz of Hawi to my tongue!

Aloha Java Blend brings me back to a place my family loves. I hope it brings you a taste of the islands and some spice to your cooking!

Aloha Java Pan Roasted Cod with Mashed Butternut Squash

The subtlety of any flaky white fish will be enhanced by the smoky, sweet and spicy flavors provided by Aloha Java blend. Do not be afraid of purchasing fish fillets that have been processed, individually packaged and flash frozen aboard a fishing vessel; this is the best way to high quality, non-local fish (a fish monger told me this). I’ve had a lot of luck with the frozen individual cod fillets available at Costco; they are all even sized portions and easy to defrost and prepare.


For the Butternut Squash

Spray Canola or Olive oil
1 butternut squash, about 1 pound
Ian’s Fire Seasoning Blend, red pepper flakes or hot sauce, to taste
Salt and pepper

For the Cod
Olive Oil
4 cod fillets, or other flaky white fish, even in size.
4 tablespoons Nutmeg Kitchens Handcrafted Aloha Java Seasoning
Maldon Salt or kosher salt, to finish, if desired
Special equipment – baking sheet pan, 10 inch skillet, handheld potato masher


For the Squash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray the sheet pan with the oil.
Slice the stem off the squash and cut in half, lengthwise. Remove the seeds and membranes from the center of each half of the squash with spoon and place, cut side down, on the prepared sheet pan. Use a paring knife to make several slits in the skin of the squash to allow steam to escape during cooking. Place the sheet pan in the oven and roast for about 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the outer skin is soft and you can cut through to the flesh easily.
Remove the sheet pan from the oven and allow the squash to cool to the point that you can handle it. With a spoon, scrape the flesh from the skin into a medium bowl, being careful not include any of the skin. Add a tablespoon or so of butter, salt, pepper and Ian’s Fire or other spicy choice (go easy on the Ian’s Fire, though!), and mash with the potato masher to desired texture; it doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth. Add extra seasoning as desired.
The squash can be made several hours or up to one day in advance. To warm, place in a sauce pan with a lid, add a little bit more butter, and heat over low, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.

For the Cod

Pat the fish dry and sprinkle with Aloha Java blend on each side, about a tablespoon per fillet.
Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the cod fillets in the skillet and cook for about 4 minutes, until you can see that about half of the fillet is opaque. Gently flip the fillets with a spatula and continue to cook until the entire fillet is cooked through and flaky. Remove the fish to a chopping board.
Place a generous spoonful of warm Mashed Butternut Squash onto four dinner plates and then place the Aloha Java cod slightly a top. You can also add another green vegetable or salad if you’d like.

Enjoy with Aloha and Love!