Stepping into the Ring

The first time you use an unfamiliar kitchen, and especially an unfamiliar oven, it can be quite a challenge. You don't know how that oven or stove is going to act...will it pull tricks on you? Burn everything you put in it? Have even heating? Become your nemesis? Pulling out my pots and pans for the first time in my new Hawaiian kitchen felt like stepping into a boxing ring, and I was not sure if I was ready to face my opponent...the new oven. To make matters worse, the first time I used it, I took on a real challenge: baking a tart for my 30th birthday. If it didn't come out, if I burned the crap out of it (or alternatively, if it ended up coming out looking like a sad, sorry, unevenly baked doughy little thing), I was sure going to be disappointed...

It's the main event, folks!

In this corner, wearing the blue and white apron and hailing from Eugene, Oregon, we have our first contender: Michelle "Hawaii 5-O." Weighing in at 100 lbs and 5'0" tall, Hawaii 5-O is new to the islands and is attempting to defend her title as the Lightweight Champion of the Kitchen against the undisputed Hawaiian champion, the heavyweight Kenmore "Smoothtop" Electric Oven. While fairly diminutive in height at a not-so-impressive 3'8", Smoothtop outweighs Hawaii-5-O by several hundred pounds. Smoothtop has reigned supreme in this here kitchen for many years now, and is not going to be easily unseated. This is the first meeting of these two fighters, and we're anxious to see who will prevail as the winner.

Now for a little background...Smoothtop, our resident champion, is known for a move Hawaii-5-O hasn't come up against in a quite a long time. It's called, "the broiler." In her last fight against the GE 5000, this little move was almost the end of Hawaii-5-O's love of baking! With nearly 100 degrees of extra heat under normal fight conditions, when the GE 5000 used "the broiler," it would short out the entire house, set off the fire alarms, burn the hell out of whatever was in the oven and end the fight. It took a fair amount of time before Hawaii-5-O figured out how to stop the GE 5000 from pulling that one on her, allowing her to finally take the lead and secure her Oregon title. Now that she's moved to the Islands though, she's got to win this fight or hang her head, give up the oven, and go back to the grill and the saute' pan if she lets Smoothtop best her.

And just what's at stake, you ask? Why nothing less than a year's worth of either burned or perfectly roasted meats and vegetables, and a whole lot of blackened or golden-brown baked goods, of course! The winner of this first round reigns supreme for the remainder of the time these two fighters are in the kitchen together, and there's no real second chance on this one. It's a fight to the "death" of a 30th birthday tart, and as you all know, you only get one 30th birthday. Beware folks - it may not be pretty. Parents should be advised that this fight could contain images of blackened crust, resulting in much cursing and language from one of our contenders (namely, Hawaii-5-O) that isn't appropriate for youngsters or maybe even the rest of the blogosphere.

But enough of this jabbering! Let's get this fight started! There's the bell -

Our fighters are facing off now...
Hawaii-5-O nimbly moves in towards Smoothtop,
tightening her apron as she goes...

She turns to the left,
quickly grabs the Cuisinart food processor and...
pulverizes a bunch of white nuts
(since this is Hawaii, they're probably macadamia nuts)!
This is obviously a move to unnerve Smoothtop
from his stoic stance on the far side of the kitchen.

But Smoothtop is still holding steady...

Hawaii-5-O turns and faces him, sneers...
She reaches up...

And she snaps Smoothtop's dial, turning it to a raging 350F!
That's pretty hot! These fighters aren't just playing around!
Smoothtop's face turns bright red with heat -
it looks like Hawaii-5-O has really pissed him off!

Hawaii-5-O returns to the far side of the kitchen,
even turning her back on Smoothtop
(she's pretty brave to do that).
Will he turn on "the broiler" while she's not looking?
Now she's pressing those nuts into a tart pan,
and turning back to face Smoothtop -
he just let out a little whelp...
She quickly runs up to him, opens his door
and faces that red heat without even blinking.
Before old Smoothtop can even do a thing,
she's thrown the tart in, and closed the door!
Now she's back at the counter,
mixing, beating and folding -
all the while watching Smoothtop out of the corner of her eye.
In just 12 minutes, Hawaii 5'0"turns back around to face our champion,
approaches him slowly, and whips the tart out of the oven.
Whew...golden edges.
It looks like the fight is over and we have our winner, folks:
Hawaii-5-O reigns supreme!
She's the champion of this Hawaiian kitchen and
it looks like we can be expecting to see a fair amount of
oven-cooked and oven-baked recipes coming from this blog then.

Having prevailed at my first attempt at baking in this new oven, I felt it was time to celebrate (not only the baking, but surviving my 3rd decade and coming out with only a few gray hairs and wrinkles too - hey! you take what you can get at this age, right?) and LB and I opened up a bottle of Moet and Chandon champagne, a Christmas present from my sister and brother-in-law, which we brought all the way from Colorado to Eugene to Hawaii for this very occasion (the birthday), and toasted to my successes. I can't think of any better way than to celebrate...except maybe heading for the most amazing sushi restaurant that I've ever been to, but that's for LB's 30th, in a little over a week (we decided to split up the indulgences - I got the champagne on mine, he gets the amazing dinner on his, and we both benefit from each), and I'll fill you in on that when the time comes.

This recipe is extremely versatile and delicious. It garnered rave reviews (as did the champagne) and stories about it have even been shared (always a good sign, no?). I got the original recipe from a friend, who had modified it, and I further modified it by changing the crust and the topping. Make it with whatever you have in your neck of the woods or whatever is seasonal right now. I used a locally made Mango and Peach curd with Rose Petals from Planted by the River (see source info below), and it's smooth, gently sweetened taste went perfect with the slight tang of the mascarpone and cream cheese mix. The rose petals added a whole extra dimension of complexity to the curd and it all worked together perfectly.

Were I still in Eugene (yep - still occasionally dreaming), I'd make the crust with hazelnuts and do some kind of a berry jam or curd on top it. How about a hazelnut crust with huckleberry jam? Maybe an almond crust and meyer lemon curd on top? Oh, or thin slices in early spring strawberries would be just amazing too. Even here in Hawaii, I could have used lilikoi (passionfruit) or guava curd or jam, which was my original intent but the store was out, or even overlapping slices of fresh mango slices or another fruit nestled together (whole raspberries?) would have been both delicious and beautiful. I would have loved to have garnished the top with a few mango slices this time too, but alas, no mangos in the house this week. Maybe next time!

Planted by the River
Mililani, HI

You can order these delicious curds online, or there are several local sources listed on the website. Some time in the future, I may try and contact the entrepreneurs, Randy and Donna Nakamoto, directly to see if they would let me come see them make their beautiful exotic curds. And these curds are some of the best I have ever tasted. When doing the search for their website, I found that even Heidi, from 101 Cookbooks, agrees.

10 comments from you:

Anonymous said...

Wow this looks fantastic! I'm definately going to have to try and find that mango peach curd.

Anonymous said...

mango-peach curd? i'm on it. that looks and sounds excellent.

actually, everything about this tast looks and sounds delicious.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday! But 30? Pffffft! You're still but a child. And you don't get to say you've survived your third decade until you turn forty! :-)

So happy to see you're unpacked and cooking! Your tart is just beautiful... and so appropriately tropical-looking!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Whawhoo!!! The winner! Totally fun write up Michelle! oops I mean Hawaii-5-0!
This sounds like a wonderful birthday week! Happy birthday to both of you all week and all year!!
Lovely tart!

E said...

howzit accidental scientist! i just found your blog today while searching for work recipes (i'm a baker.) your info caught my eye because i recently moved from kailua, HI (oahu) to eugene! nuts. actually, you're probably working at the same university I once worked at. (use "the bus" - parking sucks in DT honolulu.) anyway, i just wanted to wish you luck at the supermarket. greens are always the pits. try the saturday market at the KCC campus parking lot (at the base of diamond head.) also, farmer's market in the kailua Long's parking lot on thursday evenings, is pretty good. not the same as the mainland in terms of produce, but the mangos will make up for everything!! and be sure to hit up lanikai and kailua beach. best beaches on the island. you definitely chose to live on the better (cooler) side of the island. aloha!

Unknown said...

Hi Marc, It's fabulous, and from what I can tell from the website, they should be distributed (at least in some places) on the mainland. If you can't find it, let me know.

Hi Michelle, I like your name! It was definitely delicious - we're actually making it again tonight with guava/strawberry jam.

Hi Ann, well, okay, my dear, then I guess I'll enjoy my youth while I still have it then!! I'm glad to be unpacked and cooking too! Thanks for the b-day wishes too!

Hi Miss Tanna, How are you?! Thanks for the well-wishes, I'll pass them on to LB. Glad you enjoyed the product of my boredom ;) (too bad I don't have time to be bored anymore - work started!)

Hi Evie, Aloha! That IS crazy! Are you baking somewhere in Eugene? Thanks for all the tips. I'm actually working at HPU. Lucky for us we've found the Kailua farmer's market (Kcc is a treat because it's townside and LB works over there every day so he's not so into going over there on the weekends). I keep hearing about Lanikai so I'll definitely be going there too! Thanks for visiting!

Anonymous said...

Wrestling match recipes... I like it!

Ann and I know all about the perils and pains of a bad oven. It's taken us a long time to get to grips with our monster but we seem to have figured out all its moods and attitude problems now. Seems like you whipped yours a lot more easily than we did!

Anonymous said...

Looks lovely! I can't wait to see more of your tropical fruit recipes.

Anonymous said...

Oh, wow! Looks really good. Definitely something to celebrate about. ;-)

Have a great week!


Michelle said...

Jack, yeah, this one actually seems to work. In comparison to my last oven, it's a dream!

Eugenia, I'm sure there will be plenty! Since I moved here, I'm drawn to anything with tropical fruit, coconut or limes for some reason :)

Paz, good to 'see' you! Thanks!! You too!