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Nov 19, 2017

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Beach Blanket BBQ
by Rosina Tinari Wilson
Magazine Issue: U.S. Vol. 3.4
For the rest of America, July 4th means a big yellow sun; green, green grass; and red, white and blue banners everywhere you look. For you, though, it means time to scrape the black rusty gunk off the ol' BBQ for your infamous annual cookout.

But this year, the gang's in for a treat. No more burgers 'n franks – not unless they have a tropical twist. Because you're throwin' a beach party, Hawaiian style. With tiki torches. Leis. Faux lava rocks, a ukulele or two, "Blue Hawaii" playin' through the VCR – and a menu straight from the Big Island's "Cuisines of the Sun," the most bodacious beach party of them all.

Held every July at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, this four-day feast, featuring top chefs and beverage makers from around the globe, reigns as "the ultimate summer camp for foodies."

At your bash, keep things cool with island-style rum drinks (lay in both light and dark rum, fruit juices and mai-tai mix), good pale ale, and easy-drinking vino – fruity whites, light, chillable reds and/or a rose or two. Pick up some funky little paper umbrellas, and anchor 'em to your glassware with pineapple or lime wedges.

Skewer up the exotic, but quick-fix grillables earlier in the day. Fire up the coals just before the gang gets there, then cook things up a batch at a time, or let everyone grill their own. (Be sure to make twice as much as you think you'll need!)

And if anyone asks what they can bring, suggest no-fuss add-ons like pineapple cream cheese and crackers, extra macadamia nuts or a tropical fruit salad. Beg or borrow some slack-key guitar tapes – even "Tiny Bubbles" will sound great with a meal like this!

Kanga Balls with PB&J Satay

At last year's "Cuisines of the Sun," Australian chef Andrew Fielke wowed the crowd with a grilled kangaroo in peanut sauce that called for rare Down Under ingredients such as aniseed myrtle and quandong. "Practice safe cooking," he tongue-in-cheeked. "Use a quandong!" This easy version uses "safe" American-flavor ingredients. (Why "kanga" balls? From the, uh, hops in the beer.)

Kanga Balls

Equal parts ground beef and pork
For each 2 pounds of meat:
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/4 cup Ritz Cracker crumbs or plain bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup good beer or ale
- 1 t garlic salt

Mix all ingredients well.

PB&J Satay
(enough for 2 pounds of meat)

1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup jelly/jam/marmalade (try apricot, blackberry or orange)
2 T lime or lemon juice
1 T soy sauce
Hot sauce to taste
Optional: finely chopped fresh ginger, or powdered ginger, to taste

Mix all ingredients well.

Form Kanga Ball mixture into bite-sized meatballs. Thread meatballs on skewers, place skewers on a plate, and brush or spoon on a little PB&J Satay. Grill to desired doneness, and use remaining satay for a dip or sauce.

Spice-Rubbed Chicken with Pineapple-Rum Black Bean Dip

Famed "Floribbean" chef Norman Van Aken sliced, diced, toasted and sauteed his way through a very complex and luscious spice-rubbed chicken recipe, all the while dispensing such essential culinary wisdom as "Caramelization is to cooking as foreplay is to sex." Here's a, well, loose interpretation. (Of the recipe, that is.)

Spice-Rubbed Chicken

For 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts:
- 2 T peanut oil
- 1 t chili powder
- 1/2 t powdered cinnamon
- 1/4 t powdered cayenne pepper
- 1/2 t salt
- Garnish (optional): Finely sliced green onions, lime or lemon wedges

Pineapple-Rum Black Bean Dip

1 can (15 ounces) black beans
1/4 cup canned crushed pineapple, with liquid
1/4 cup dark rum
2 T lime or lemon juice
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and powdered cayenne pepper
hot sauce to taste

For chicken: Combine peanut oil and spices and rub mixture all over chicken. Cut chicken into strips or small cubes and thread on skewers. Grill to taste.

For dip: Combine all ingredients in a small pan and simmer 5 to 10 minutes to blend flavors and evaporate alcohol. Puree in a food processor, or mash with a fork. Serve warm.

Santa Fe Grilled Corn

Chef Loretta Barrett Oden of The Corn Dance Café in New Mexico featured some wonderful Native American-inspired dishes, including Smoked Buffalo Tongue on a Maize Johnnycake, Spicy Choctaw Mudbug Stew (don't ask – but if ya gotta know, it's crawfish), and Tlingit Salmon with Rosehip Puree and Smoked Oyster Potato Cakes. Here's a simple version of her grilled corn – figure on two ears per person.

Fresh corn on the cob
Melted butter
Canned chipotles (smoked chilis) in oil, or chili flavored with other oil
Salt to taste

Pull back corn husks without pulling them off, and remove cornsilk. Combine butter with a little chipotle oil and salt. Using a pastry brush, a spoon or your fingers, coat each ear of corn with some oil, then replace husks. Place the ears of corn around the edge of the BBQ, and turn often to warm them through.

Flamin' Banana Mac Sundaes

While you're waiting for the fireworks, you can indulge in some pyromania of your own. This sticky, gooey, fire-breathing concoction was inspired by a killer dessert -- Banana Rum Raisin Tower with Banana Flambe' -- from wizard Alan Wong, whose Japanese/Chinese heritage, Hawaiian upbringing and French classical training put a new spin on "East meets West."

6 large bananas, peeled and sliced 1/2" thick
1 can macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
4 ounces (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup (preferably dark) rum
Ice cream or frozen yogurt, several flavors (suggestions: rum raisin, coffee, caramel, white chocolate)
Granish (optional): Shredded toasted coconut

Over medium heat, saute bananas and macnuts in butter -- until bananas melt a bit -- about 5 minutes. Add sugar and pineapple juice; stir until sugar dissolves, and raise heat to high. In the dark – for extra drama, add the rum, and tilt the pan to ignite. (If the rum doesn't catch fire by itself, torch it with a match.) Meanwhile, have everybody help themselves to ice cream, then ladle on the flaming banana-mac sauce. Top with coconut, and enjoy.

This year's "Cuisines" theme, "Culinary Marvels for the New Millennium," brings a "back to the future" recap of great dishes of the 20th century, retooled for the 21st. Expect loads of surprises – it's the tenth anniversary, and you never know what old faves ("dueling chef" demos, drink-mixing contests, beach limbo under the stars) will be back by popular demand. The festivities will be held July 24th to 28th. Call 888/424-1977 for full info and reservations, or check the web at

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