Friday, February 22, 2019

When Oh LaLa Met Hula La

The most memorable meal I ate in Paris was Dover sole meuniere in a wellknown French brasserie in Paris. The fish arrived in a shiny oval copper sauté pan, still sizzling, lightly browned and glazed with a sauce of clarified browned butter, white wine and fresh lemon juice. Though I didn’t know it then, Julia Child had the same reaction when she first tasted this dish. In her book “My Life in France” she writes: “Each forkful was a morsel of perfection”. Once home, I longed to reproduce this classic French dish. Although I knew I’d never find a French Dover sole in Hawaii, I bought fresh caught opakapaka filets and I found a recipe for a meuniere sauce in my trusty book “The Joy of Cooking”.

The recipe was a cinch to prepare.  Wonder of wonders, the first bite of the sautéed opakapaka in the browned butter sauce was a food flash back.  I was back in Paris, at that famous brasserie, La Capoule. Was this really possible? The aroma of the sauce, the way the fish looked once cooked was exactly as I remember. Each and every bite was sheer heaven.  I never dreamed that opakapaka, prepared this way was “Le match” to French Dover sole in texture and taste.

Inspired by my recent trip to Paris, I have designed a contemporary island-style spring menu with a French twist.

Think of these as master recipes, made with local tropical ingredients such as sugar-sweet mangoes, macadamia nuts, rich Kona coffee, fragrant lilikoi and bundles of herbs that grow wild in our gardens. 
The main event is Opakapaka Meuniere tricked out with a Passion Fruit Salsa. Crunchy Potato Wedges get dressed up in a Parsley Pesto Sauce. I’ve concocted a Citrusy Butter Lettuce and Mushroom Salad dotted with shelled edamame and loaded with five different herbs. The piece de resistance is the Spicy Paradise Mac Crunch Ice Cream. From the first bite to the last lick, this is island cooking at its best, easy, and elegant and tres chic…

Here are the recipes:

Hawaiian Opakapaka Meuniere with a Passion Fruit Salsa

Makes 4 servings.


Passion fruit or lilikoi grows wild all over the Hawaiian islands.  If you can, buy fresh passion fruit at your farmers markets, by all means do use them for this salsa recipe. Cut the fruit in half and strain the pulp through a small sieve. Fresh passion fruit is much sweeter than bottled passion fruit juice so you might omit the agave or honey in this recipe.                                                                                                                  

Passion Fruit Salsa:

I medium mango, peeled and finely diced

2 tablespoons shallot, finely minced

1 tablespoon cilantro, finely minced

3 tablespoons agave or honey, as needed

¼ cup passion fruit pulp, juice or syrup, Aunty Lilikoi Passion Fruit Juice

Combine all the ingredients together in a small bowl; gently toss with a spoon to combine. Can be made ahead and refrigerated till needed.

4 Opakapaka filets, washed and well dried

Salt and white pepper to taste

Flour for dredging

6 tablespoons butter, divided

3 tablespoons macadamia nut oil or coconut oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons white wine

2 tablespoons parsley, finely minced

Preheat the oven to 250F. Place 4 dinner plates in the oven to warm.

Lightly season the fish fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. When fish glistens (about 10 minutes) lightly dip in flour to coat both sides and set aside on a plate.

Heat a large 10 inch non-stick skillet over a medium high flame; add 3 tablespoons butter and the oil. When butter sizzles, add the fillets, cook the fish on both sides till well browned about 10 minutes total per 1 inch thickness of fish. When fish is cooked place one fillets on each plate in the oven.

To make the sauce, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in the same pan, add the wine and lemon juice and whisk and simmer till sauce is reduced, and then add the parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the plates with the fish from the oven, pour the sauce evenly over the fish and serve with the Passion Fruit Salsa.

Note: Aunty Lilikoi Passion Fruit Juice can be bought on-line at

Crunchy Potato Wedges in a Parsley Pesto Sauce

Makes 4 servings.

This is a modern take on home fries and potato salad. I like to brown the potatoes on a stove top grill pan. If you don’t own a grill pan, they can be easily grilled on a barbeque.

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in 6 wedges each

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Ground black pepper, to taste

Parsley Pesto Sauce:

1 large bunch fresh parsley leaves, stemmed and coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled

2/3 cup olive oil

Salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a medium pan with salted water to cover over a medium heat. Cook potatoes until slightly tender; about 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the wedges. Do not over cook or potatoes will fall apart.  Drain potatoes in a colander, place potatoes in a bowl. Season potatoes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool. Can be made a day ahead and chilled in the refrigerator.

Preheat a stove top grill on medium high heat. Brush the grill lightly with oil, so potatoes do not stick. Arrange the potatoes on the preheated grill and sear on both sides until nicely browned.  Carefully remove potatoes with tongs from the grill pan to a bowl and set aside to cool.

Place parsley, garlic in the bowl of a food processor with a metal blade or a blender and add the oil slowly till emulsified. Pulse until the mixture forms a smooth sauce. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle the potatoes with just enough of the parsley pesto sauce so they are well coated and mix gently with a spoon, being careful not to crush the potatoes.

Serve at room temperature or warmed. 

Citrusy Butter Lettuce and Edamame Salad 
with Fresh Herb Vinaigrette

Makes 4 servings.

This simple salad is lovely, especially in the spring when fresh herbs are at their best. Fresh tarragon has the strongest flavor and mint adds sweetness.  Any type of basil works beautifully as well, cinnamon, lemon, and purple are just a few of them. What I like most is how regal this salad looks, once stacked with the edamame and sliced mushrooms.

2 heads butter lettuce, washed and well dried
2 cups button mushrooms, thinly sliced

Carefully cut out the core from each head of lettuce and separate the leaves; discard any tough outer leaves. Place the leaves in a bowl of cold water to refresh them and remove any dirt, then lift out and spin-dry in a salad spinner. Place in a large bowl with the sliced mushrooms.

Fresh Herb Vinaigrette:

1 Large shallot, minced

2 Tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup olive oil

1 Tablespoon honey

1 cup edamame, shelled

2 cups mixed herbs, parsley, basil, mint, tarragon, chives, stemmed and finely minced

In a large salad bowl, place the shallot, vinegar, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Let stand for 10 minutes. Then whisk in the olive oil, drop by drop and add honey. Add the edamame and all the minced herbs.

Toss the butter lettuce leaves and the sliced mushrooms together with some of the vinaigrette. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Divide the butter lettuce leaves equally among the plates and build each using the largest leaves of the lettuce, ending with the smallest, most tender leaves and top with marinated edamame and herbs.

Spicy Paradise Mac Crunch Ice Cream


Makes 4 servings.

Everyone talks about making homemade ice cream, yet so few actually take on the task. If you own an ice cream machine, pull it out and try my recipe. Its chockful of candied macadamia nuts and spices. I keep the insert bowl of the ice machine in the freezer all year round because I love to make fresh ice cream. It’s the best dessert and so impressive.

6 egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar

3 cups half & half or heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, split in half

1 recipe of Macadamia Nut Candy - see recipe below

Place 6 egg yolks with sugar in a medium bowl and whisk with an electric mixer until yolks are fluffy.

Place half and half or cream and the vanilla bean in the bowl of a double boiler over simmering water , when cream is warm, whisk in the egg yolk mixture  and continue to whisk until the mixture is thick enough to coat the  back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Remove bowl from the double boiler, set aside to cool and discard the vanilla bean.

Place mixture in a covered container in the refrigerator to chill overnight or 2 hours. Place mixture in the insert bowl of the ice cream machine and follow the manufactures instructions. Before freezing, fold in as much of the crushed macadamia nut candy you desire and freeze in an air tight container overnight or 4 hours until ice cream is firm.

Spicy Macadamia Nut Candy:

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

¾ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg white

1 teaspoon water

1 ½ cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon ground Kona coffee

Preheat oven to 325F.

Place all the ingredients except the macadamia nuts and ground coffee in blender and pulse at medium speed to combine all the ingredients, about 1 minute.

Remove the mixture to a medium bowl and fold in the chopped macadamia nuts, and ground Kona coffee.

Spread the mixture on a baking pan lined with parchment paper or a non stick baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes until brittle seems dry to the touch and browned. 

When done, move candy to a cooling rack to cool. Place candy in a zip lock bag and crush well with a mallet. Fold crushed macadamia nut candy into the ice cream, and refreeze.

Written by Dahlia Haas          

Food Styling and Photography by Dahlia Haas

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