Think Outside the Bowl

Take superfruits to the next level—think savory over sweet.


WE’VE DRUNK OUR GOJI AND NONI JUICES, nibbled our acai bowls and cacao nibs, drizzled pomegranate syrup into our sauces.

So what’s the next exotic nutrition-boosting superfruit?

After POM Wonderful, the pomegranate people, got slapped by the FDA for what were considered exaggerated health claims, the word “superfruit” became a little like one of those apples that looks great but has lost its crunch.

So where to turn for that feel-good boost that something we might not otherwise ingest will be—surprise!—chock full of exceedingly-good-for-us properties?

Teas seem to be making headway—particularly rare, single-source teas, and infusions of other leaves, such as our own mamaki—as a beverage or a rub on proteins. Watch this trend.

Meanwhile, the legitimate health food media has been sounding not a caution but words of encouragement to those intent on getting their fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals from fruit. Their message: Eat local fruit.

And in Hawai‘i, we are in a perfect position to do so. Most of the fruit we grow is found on Top 25 Best Fruits for You lists on the Internet: avocado (fiber, E, folate, monounsaturated fats), banana (B6, C, potassium, glycemic—meaning sugars slowly absorbed), rambutan and lychee (C, iron, phosphorus, calcium), Ka‘u oranges and other citrus, mango (carotenoids, A, C, glycemic), papaya (carotenoids, C, folate, potassium), strawberries (carotenoids, flavonoids, C, fiber) grown on Maui and elsewhere, even local watermelon from Aloun Farms (carotenoids, A, C, B6, glycemic).

Fresh blueberries (flavonoids, C, manganese, fiber) are scarce here, although they’re available in season at Kula Country Farms on Maui.

That brings us to “Good Food News for You Pt. 2”:

It’s not just what the fruit contains, but how it’s handled. And flash-frozen-from-the-field retains more of its healthful properties than something that’s been en route for two weeks.

When fruits and vegetables are picked, their nutritional value begins to degrade astoundingly quickly.

So buy local, eat local, but grab some frozen blueberries while you’re in the market, too.

Another idea: Don’t confine yourself to yet another bowl or yet another scattering on cereal or yogurt.

Have some sophisticated fun.

On the Kohala Coast, Olelo pa‘a Ogawa, a sought-after private chef and caterer, says our fruit are naturally sweet, best eaten raw. “When local oranges are in season, I remove the skin and section the juicy orange, top it with Hawai‘i Island Smoked Goat Cheese and make a simple orange vinaigrette. Or just squeeze the juice onto the salad; add a few drops of lemon juice (local Meyer lemons from the farmer’s market), olive oil and fresh-ground pepper. I add starfruit and pomegranate in season.”

Another of her favorites: Maui strawberries with local watermelon on arugula with goat cheese and toasted nuts. “When food preparation is kept quite simple, you can taste every element of the dish. The different layers become an explosion in your mouth.”

She also makes a slaw with kale, cabbage and arugula and a dressing of local orange juice instead of lemon or vinegar. She calls it “Conscious Hawaiian Cuisine.”

In their Ka Palapala Po‘okela 2012 Award of Excellence-winning book, The World of Bananas in Hawai‘i: Then and Now, naturalist Angela Kay Kepler and engineer-turned-banana farmer Frank Rust write, “Bananas lend themselves to far more creative experimentation in cookery than most people imagine,” noting how most folk tend to forget you can treat bananas as a starch, like a potato.

Saute sliced ripe-but-not-soft banana, laid flat, in butter or macadamia nut oil with minced garlic; turn to brown both sides. Grate or mash them and blend with beaten egg, herbs and spices to make fried rissoles (patties). Or mash with garlic and coconut cream.

Kepler’s go-to dish is green bananas with smoked salmon, sausage or meats and chopped vegetables, which she adds rich herbs and quickly sautees.

They even serve banana poi for dessert— simply mashed, very ripe bananas, “about three times as sweet as soda,” she says.

Farmer and local agriculture advocate Ken Love, on the Big Island, is wild about fresh-made chutneys—not slow-cooked, heavily sweetened jams, but quick boiled or sauteed mixtures with fish, meats, sharp cheeses. Try equal parts tamarind water or paste, sugar and mixed chopped fruits (mango, firm papaya, firm bananas, rambutan or lychee) briefly simmered, daringly seasoned. Virtually any fruit, even dried fruit, can be elevated to new heights in this way. Start with equal parts fruit, sweetener and acid, spice with cinnamon, clove, chili, fennel, cardamom—don’t be afraid to be brave).

Don’t overwhelm fruit with so much fat and sugar that you outweigh its nutritional value. But do look at it in a new way: Think savory, not only sweet; appetizer not snack, entree not dessert.

Stuff a halved rambutan with cheese. Make a cold watermelon soup with a rich chicken or vegetable broth. Throw some blueberries into light syrup with a little cider vinegar to make a sweet-sour classic gastrique sauce.

In short: Think outside the bowl.

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