Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hawai'i Sweetie

You may see a normal onion, chopped to bits, in a sort of relish. You may think “hot, bitter, stomach acid reflux pain”, or other things to that effect.



But you’d be wrong.

Think balmy. 364 days a year. Trade winds. Wonderful white sand beaches. Surfing. Warm water. Bikinis (or board shorts, whatever works for you!).

Why an onion with such a prodigious start would want to leave Maui for other shores, even SoCal, is beyond me.

Of course, we’re talking about the sweet Maui onion.

They began appearing over the last couple of weeks at the farmer’s market. Big. Plump. Expensive (for an onion). And usually pretty sweet. Again, for an onion. Some years are sweeter than others. It seems to have a lot to do with the rains (more rain, sweeter onions).

We ‘discovered’ them a few years ago. I had already learned about the Vidalia onion, also sweet, many many years ago.

But Vidalia is a Georgia affair. It seems to have originated there. We are on the west coast. Far away. Even though Maui is farther physically, it’s a lot closer in spirit.

So when we see these things, and the price comes down a bit, we snatch them up.

They are sweet enough to eat raw. And are nice in salads, where the sweetness, the crunch, and the slight onion pungency play well

This time, we made a ‘salsa’ out of them. A simple affair. Just the sweet onions, tomatoes, some Ponzu sauce (a sort of citrus-based soy sauce), and a chili pepper for power.



Keeping with the Pacific Asian theme, I pan-fried some Tilapia fillets that had been lightly dusted in rice four flavored with Chinese Five Spice powder. With the salsa on top.

Buying Five Spice powder is like buying curry powder. You don’t really know what you are getting. Mine contains seven spices – Cinnamon, star anise, fennel, ginger, cloves, white pepper and licorice. Go figure! The taste is on the licorice side, what with the fennel, star anise and licorice involved. But the combination of flavors works well, and adds an unusual component to some dishes.

It combines nicely with the citrus in the ponzu, and has a bit of a punch itself. The natural sweetness of the onions, and tomatoes for that matter, seem to complement the slightly sweet licorice and citrus elements as well. A little salad, a little rice, and a very healthy dinner with a lot of nice flavors is on the table in no time.



Five Spices Tilapia Fillets with Maui Onion Salsa
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 pounds Tilapia fillets
1 cup Rice flour
1-2 tbsp Chinese Five Spice powder
salt
Olive oil
Maui Onion Salsa (recipe follows)
Orange slices, for garnish, if desired

On a flat plate, mix rice flour and five spice powder with a fork until well combined.

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy sautee pan over high heat. Lightly dust fillets in spiced rice flour mixture, shaking off any extra. Sautee fillets on both sides until just browned. Remove to a plate and keep warm. Sautee remaining fillets in similar manner.

Arrange Tilapia fillets on a plate. Spoon some of the Maui onion salsa over. Arrange orange slices on top as garnish, if desired. Serve. Enjoy!


Maui Onion Salsa

Ingredients:
1 Maui onion, chopped fine
5 Roma tomatoes, pips removes, and chopped into small pieces
4-5 tbsp Ponzu sauce
3 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
1 serano chili, seeds removes, chopped very fine
salt

Combine all ingredients, and let flavors combine for an hour.


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