“Let’s quit our jobs and stay here until our money runs out,” Steve said to me. We were half way through our 10-day vacation in Hawaii, sitting outside our room in the bed and breakfast where we were staying in Maui. There was a light breeze and we were watching the sun slowly slide behind the island of Lanai across the ocean. I knew he was joking. It didn’t stop me, or Steve, from seriously considering it for a few seconds though.
That’s the impact of Hawaii. I had been there twice before almost 20 years ago but this was Steve’s first time. We planned this trip as a celebration of his 50th birthday and I was hoping that Hawaii was still the magical paradise I had remembered from the past. It surpassed all of our expectations. Words can’t properly describe the feeling you have when you wake up to sunny skies, with the temperature hovering in the upper 70s, a cool breeze rustling the palm trees and an orchestra of tropical birds welcoming the day.
Every day was a revelation. The Martian landscape of the Haleakala volcano one day was in stark contrast with the overwhelming lushness of the tropical jungle of the road to Hana the next day. On more than one occasion, we pulled off the road on a whim and jumped into the warm and crystal clear waters of the Pacific Ocean. We ate ahi tuna so fresh, it seemed almost like a vegetable. We discovered li hing mui powder, and we became instantly addicted to dried mango slices covered in it. We realized that the Aloha spirit is not some gimmicky lie for tourists but the true way of living generously for Hawaiians.
I could go on for ever. It was the first vacation I can remember where we really did not want to come back home (we usually look forward to returning to our home and routine). But alas, we had to. So, we found ourselves on Tuesday back in New York, bracing against a wind chill in the teens, trying to hold on to the memories of sipping Mai Tais by the ocean.
I wish I had a recipe for you that evoked Hawaii. But I don’t. The closest would be the passion fruit coconut pound cake recipe that I posted a little while back. But I do give you this roasted squash recipe. If nothing else, it will bring some Hawaiian color in your winter blues.
Roasted Squash with Pomegranate and Mint
1 kuri or kambocha squash
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons ras el hanout spice mix (if unavailable, substitute with equal parts cinnamon, cumin, paprika, and coriander)
fresh pomegranate seeds
fresh mint leaves
Preheat the oven to 425° F.
Cut squash in one-inch slices and place in large bowl. Drizzle a good amount of olive oil, add salt and pepper and the ras el hanout mix, and using your hands mix well. You want every slice to be covered in the oil and spice mix.
Roast on baking sheets for about 25-30 minutes or until the squash is cooked through and the bottom of each slice is dark brown.
Arrange in serving bowls or dishes, drizzle some pomegranate molasses on top, and garnish with pomegranate seeds and mint leaves.