ZinesPG delivery
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Home Page
PG News: Nation and World, Region and State, Neighborhoods, Business, Sports, Health and Science, Magazine, Forum
Sports: Headlines, Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, Collegiate, Scholastic
Lifestyle: Columnists, Food, Homes, Restaurants, Gardening, Travel, SEEN, Consumer, Pets
Arts and Entertainment: Movies, TV, Music, Books, Crossword, Lottery
Photo Journal: Post-Gazette photos
AP Wire: News and sports from the Associated Press
Business: Business: Business and Technology News, Personal Business, Consumer, Interact, Stock Quotes, PG Benchmarks, PG on Wheels
Classifieds: Jobs, Real Estate, Automotive, Celebrations and other Post-Gazette Classifieds
Web Extras: Marketplace, Bridal, Headlines by Email, Postcards
Weather: AccuWeather Forecast, Conditions, National Weather, Almanac
Health & Science: Health, Science and Environment
Search: Search post-gazette.com by keyword or date
PG Store: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette merchandise
PG Delivery: Home Delivery, Back Copies, Mail Subscriptions
Food Bytes PG Cookbook The Food Chain
Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Manna from Maui

Sunday, March 21, 1999

By Suzanne Martinson

The perfect inspiration for action arrived a week before we headed to Hawaii. "Do you have a recipe for macadamia nut pie?" the man asked.

Peter Merriman, formerly of Elizabeth Township and the chef-owner of the Hula Grill on Maui and Merriman's on Hawaii, stresses using local ingredients to create regional cuisine. (Suzanne Martinson, Post-Gazette) 

As is the way of the '90s, I answered his voice mail with my own recorded message on his machine: "I'm going to Maui next week. I'll do my best."

Maybe even more fun than seeing a cowboy punching cows - cowpunchers are called paniolos there - was encountering the pie on my first day on the island. After church, we walked up Lahaina's main street to Longhi's restaurant, where the macadamia pie practically jumped off the menu.

"I think this makes my trip tax-deductible," I say to my husband, Ace.

"Right," he says in that tone that says, No way.

Never mind. The pie wasn't the only recipe gathered on our nine days of flowers, rainbows, seascapes, mountains and food. Maui is a good place to eat, and we gathered a feast of recipes with Hawaiian themes: barbecued ribs, onion casserole, grilled tuna with Hula Grill pineapple salsa, Puna goat cheese quesadillas, pineapple upside down cakes and - yes! - macadamia nut pie.

What I'd expected in Maui was resort after exotic resort crowding the shore, and there was that, but more impressive were the pineapple and sugar cane fields, the banana trees beside our rented condo's office, the "happy cows of Makawao."

Hawaii's beef calves graze on the luscious grass that grows 12 months a year, then they are shipped to the Mainland to be "finished," or fattened, on grain. A Prime steak may begin its life on the Big Island of Hawaii, then take a high-calorie trip east before ending up on a tourist's plate at, say, Maui's Hula Grill or Merriman's Restaurant on the Big Island.

The Hula Grill is the inspired work of Pennsyl- vania expatriate Peter Merriman (yes, he's the son of PG restaurant critic Woodene Merriman, and it's a conflict of interest for her to brag about him, but we will). There in the Kaanapali resort area - called Whalers Village - surrounded by spectacular foliage and waterfalls and right on the beach is Merriman's Hula Grill. He says it's an ideal location.

"Five thousand rooms for people with no kitchens," he jokes.

Merriman, like his mother, has a great sense of humor.

Mention his name - he grew up in Elizabeth Township and is a graduate of Elizabeth Forward High School - and our usually reliable source (a reporter friend at The Maui News) says, "Oh, he's that famous chef."

If he weren't tanned, he would probably color at that description, though he has made a name for himself, first at Merriman's and now at Hula Grill, where he is part-owner. Cheryl Leas, author of "The Complete Idiot's Travel Guide to Hawaii," calls Hula Grill "our favorite Kaanapali restaurant ... the perfect marriage of Hawaii Regional cooking and quintessential beachy charm."

Calling Peter a "star chef," she writes of Merriman's Restaurant in Waimea: "This cozy cowboy-country enclave is the most popular restaurant on the Big Island."

Some of the chef's recipes were featured in a cookbook on Hawaiian Regional cuisine - "I always tell the staff that my mother has written two microwave cookbooks," he says. He picked out some easy recipes to share with PG readers. Though they lacked the local, fresh Hawaiian products such as fresh-picked pineapple and Puna goat cheese that have made his restaurant's reputation, they translated well here and tasted wonderful.

He and wife Vicki and their three children live near the airport in Kahului, in the eastern loop of the Figure 8 that is Maui. He's made at least 17 trips to the Mainland in the past year, and he often flies the short hop to Merriman's. Other restaurants may be in the offing, but he says nothing's official yet.

Their house - it has a beautiful kitchen, though he jokes that his children prefer their mother's cooking to his - is on a golf course. It's a casual course, and when there's a full moon you can wander out to golf, he says. "People will see someone they know out playing some hole, and just go join them."

We loved seeing Woody's cheery ohana, or family house, on the property, and Ace was particularly impressed with the underground traps that encircled it to ward off the tenacious Formosa termites. Ah, even in Paradise.

Peter's happy to see Pittsburghers when they stop at Hula Grill, but it's a double-edged sword to be among the diners on a regular basis. "People see me out in the dining room, and they say, 'If you're out here, who's cooking my steak?' " he says with a grin. "I always tell them, Armani doesn't sew every suit, does he?' "

On Maui time

  Payaya - especially fresh in its native surroundings - can be the start of a shrimp salad of just a tasty garnish. (Suzanne Martinson, Post-Gazette)

Ace, steeped in daily newspaper deadlines, didn't wear his watch the whole time we were in Maui. He was enamored with a nearby flower shop that posted hours for Saturday and Sunday, while the other days were simply labeled "Maui time," which translates to "when we feel like it." In Maui, even the TV shows kind of start when they choose.

As for me, you can't beat any scene that includes cowboys. In the early days of the islands, these unusual cattle herders jumped in the Pacific and swam with the animals so they could guide them onto the ships headed for the Mainland. Today, artists such as Sharon Shigekawa capture their movements in watercolor, even going so far as to go on cattle drives so her portrayals will be authentic.

Veteran visitors joke that you can't get lost on Maui. "It's an island," they say. That's also the reason that food is so expensive - much of it is shipped in. But we were on vacation, so we didn't even look at grocery prices. As much as we could, we lived on the delicious fruits and vegetables grown on Maui and sold at the Farmers' Market. They are reminiscent of the markets sponsored by Pittsburgh Citiparks. Young salespeople offer a bite of pineapple or a slice of apple banana (a variety that's smaller but 10 times better than regular bananas). You imagine they were picked that morning.

Haole, or foreigners, who visit for weeks or months each year get to know their favorite varieties of, say, papaya, just as Western Pennsylvanians wait for their favorite variety of apples to ripen. Some go for the bright orangey yellow Solo variety, while others argue for the sweeter Sunrise, which is pinkish. It's all you need for a superb salad, but add a little shrimp (it's from "the Gulf," they admit, and I assume they mean of Mexico) and you've got a meal.

Maui's a great place for food lovers because of its ethnic foods. Perhaps one has to grow up with poi to pleasure in it, but other Maui specialties are easy to fall in love with.

There are those wonderful macadamia nuts, whose shells are so hard they had to invent a special machine to crack them. No wonder they're so expensive. We brought some that we had purchased on "special" in, of all places, Long's Drugs.

The island's ethnic diversity means a Hawaiian of Japanese descent will be slicing the fresh pineapple, cutting a latticework where slices slip niftily out to head directly down the hatch. As she cuts pineapple, the dark-haired foursome that we Mainlanders picture as "true" Hawaiians, are playing and dancing the hula.

The nice thing about renting a condo is that you can have an apple banana as your before-walk snack and a papaya with lime juice post-walk. As our friend Sharon put it, "Three days in a hotel is my max. I like to be able to have Cheerios for breakfast."

Fresh is best

The condo kitchen gave me a chance to bake Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. "We always use fresh pineapple," the recipe notes, and I did. You'll never have better, but you may have to fly there to equal the taste.

Some of these recipes were collected by the Honokeana Cove Resort Condominiums office secretary. Each Wednesday, the condo owners and renters have a pu pu party. Pu pus are appetizers - or, if you eat enough, dinner. The condo also had the recipe for Longhi's pie, for instance, and the others come from a cookbook we discovered at Honolua, an old company store on a former pineapple plantation - now turned into Kapalua resort.

One unusual recipe is for Maui onions, or more specifically, Kula onions, which are raised in a town called - yes - Kula, which is on the way up the mountain to Haleakala, the volcanic crater.

At a swap meet there were the malassadas - a yeasty dough ball fried in hot oil and covered with sugar before they're put into a brown paper bag that soaks up the extra fat. From the Portuguese, but made by a Filipino.

We saw plenty of cane fields, and we also watched a young man of Japanese descent crack a coconut - but not in the clean line he hoped for. Sometimes this happens, he says with a shrug. Fresh coconut tastes great.

Besides two meals at Hula Grill - the first at its Barefoot Bar on the beach - we also particularly enjoyed the Haliimaile General Store, a town and restaurant name so hard to pronounce that even the natives call it Hiley-Miley. On our last night in Maui (we were leaving on the 10 p.m. flight), we enjoyed a wonderful meal there. I had the best lamb chops ever, but I looked longingly at our friend Bill's ribs. "I always get ribs," he says. No use arguing with perfection, I guess.

The ribs turned up in the "Maui Cooks Again" cookbook, and we gave them a try once we were home.

They tasted great, though they lost a little bit of panache not being surrounded with tropical flowers.

Paniolo Ribs with Haliimaile Barbecue Sauce

In the middle of a pineapple plantation, converted from a village store with its high ceilings and wood floors, you will find some of the most innovative and delicious cuisine - including these fabulous ribs.

6 racks baby back ribs (about 6 pounds)

1 tablespoon margarine
2 medium onions, diced
3 cups ketchup
11/2 cups chili sauce
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1/2 orange
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place meat in roasting pan with ribs in an upright position. Cover with water. Cover pan with foil and bake for one hour. Ribs will be cooked through at this point.

While the meat is baking, prepare the sauce. Melt the margarine in a 3-quart saucepan with a heavy bottom. Add onions, and cook until transparent. Add the rest of the ingredients, and bring to a boil. Simmer for one hour on low heat.

Remove meat from pan and dip in barbecue sauce. Place on prepared grill. Cook until well marked. (Because we were concerned that the sugar in the sauce might burn on the grill, we cut the racks up into individual ribs, dipped each into the sauce and reheated the pile of ribs in the oven for about an hour, covered. Tender and easy to eat.)

Serve with lots of sauce, mashed potatoes and pineapple chutney. (We served pineapple-tomato salsa.)

"Maui Cooks Again"

Kula Onion Casserole

1/4 cup unsalted butter
7-8 large Kula onions, cut into large chunks
1/2 cup uncooked short-grain rice
8 cups boiling salted water
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
2/3 cup half-and-half (light cream)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions (we used 4 huge OSO Sweets), and saute until transparent. Cook rice in the boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain. Add rice, cheese and half-and-half to the onions. Pour into a shallow 2-quart dish, and bake uncovered for 1 hour.

Serves 6 to 8.

This casserole is also excellent served cold with vinaigrette dressing: 6 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons fine herbs, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

From the recipe file of Honokeana Cove Condominiums

Grilled Fish with Teriyaki Sauce

Try this with tuna or swordfish steaks or fresh salmon. It could not be more delicious.

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup sake
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
6 fish fillets
Optional: cooked white rice and green onions, fresh papaya or pineapple /Tt

Mix garlic, ginger, brown sugar, soy sauce, pineapple juice and sake.

Pour half of this mixture into a shallow glass casserole and add fish filets (we used fresh tuna, which had a wonderful meaty taste) to marinate 15 to 45 minutes. Turn over once so marinade reaches all sides of fish.

Pour second half of mixture into saucepan and bring to boil. Stir in cornstarch to thicken. Remove from heat and strain. This is the Teriyaki Glaze. Keep hot until ready to serve.

Remove fish from marinade and grill. Brush or spoon Teriyaki Glaze over top of fish and serve with white rice. Garnish plates with green onions, fresh papaya or pineapple. Serves 6.

Hula Grill recipe from Peter Merriman

Hula Grill Pineapple Salsa

Pineapple Salsa can be served with grilled fish or chicken. It's a good dip with chips. Or it can be served with quesadillas - on Maui it's made with the local Puna goat cheese. Other goat cheese can be substituted, of course. And the amount of garlic can be reduced to taste.

1/3 cup coarsely chopped tomato
1 tablespoon Maui or other sweet onion
1 fresh seeded jalapeno pepper
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup diced tomato (1/4-inch pieces)
2 tablespoons diced Maui or other sweet onion (1/4-inch pieces)
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup finely diced very sweet fresh pineapple

Puree first seven ingredients in food processor or blender. (We used Roma tomatoes and fresh pineapple. Although we doubled the recipe, we only used one jalapeno pepper.) Just before serving, toss with remaining ingredients and serve. Makes about 11/2 cups salsa.

Hula Grill recipe from Peter Merriman

Puna Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Shrimp and Macadamia Nuts

3/4 pound peeled shrimp chopped in 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped roasted macadamia nuts
3/4 pound Puna or available goat cheese
Black pepper and salt to taste
6 fresh corn tortillas

Saute shrimp in small amount of the oil until almost cooked through; add the garlic and remaining oil and finish cooking. Shrimp will be pink. (We used cooked peeled and deveined shrimp, so it had only to be heated through.) Mix in nuts, goat cheese (we used another brand of goat cheese, available in Pittsburgh), pepper and salt, and turn off heat. Heat tortillas slightly (we did this in the microwave), spread with cheese mixture and fold in half. Saute lightly in hot pan and serve with pineapple salsa. Serves 6.

Hula Grill recipe from Peter Merriman

Longhi's Macadamia Nut Pie

1 9-inch deep-dish pie crust or puff pastry
4 eggs
11/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup light Karo corn syrup
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup whole macadamia nuts
1 cup diced macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together eggs, sugar and syrup with warm melted butter. Set aside.

Place nuts in pie shell. Pour egg mixture over nuts. Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool for one hour. (Next time, we will deviate from the recipe. We will pour the egg mixture over the diced macadamia nuts, then sprinkle the whole nuts on the top, as we do for pecan pie. We think this will give an appearance more like the pie in Longhi's restaurant in Lahaina.)

Serve Longhi-style, with homemade whipped cream.

From the recipe file of Honokeana Cove Condominiums

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

On Maui they use fresh, locally grown pineapple for this ever-popular dessert.

1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drain the pineapple chunks, and pat until very dry using paper towels. (We made this recipe with fresh pineapple both on Maui and at home with pineapple from a North Hills supermarket; the Maui pineapple was much juicier. Both cakes were delicious, though.) Mix butter and sugar together, and put into a 9-inch--by-2-inch-deep square cake pan. Arrange the pineapple on top.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, ending with the flour mix. Pour batter into pan, and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes, and then turn out onto a serving plate. Serve warm with whipped cream.

Yields 9 pieces.

"Maui Cooks Again"

bottom navigation bar Terms of Use  Privacy Policy