I've loved Volcano on the Big Island forever, it seems. I've mentioned before that my cousins, the Vances, used to live there and we would visit. For years and years, Volcano's been the first place I go to if I land on the Hilo side. Last year, I stayed overnight at the Volcano House. A week ago, I was blessed to stay at a home in Volcano Village with a kitchen. I stress kitchen because that makes a big difference to anyone who loves to cook and bake.
Hilo's Farmers' Market has two days, Wednesday and Saturday, when most of their 30+ vendors are there. The rest of the week there may be two or three vendors with anthuriums and some produce. I tend to think of O'ahu foodies as quite sophisticated but a visit to the Hilo Market is always mindblowing. I always find something I've never seen before at crazy good prices.
This visit my favorite items were a cabbage sized bundle of shiso leaves for just a dollar, hearts of palm, fresh bamboo shoots and sweet, fragrant and perfectly ripe mountain apples. I could also have gotten jackfruit and bags of common or Chinese mangoes for chutney. I had to call my chef friend, Tina, in LA for her to give me a blow by blow account on how to prepare the hearts of palm. You can either shave it extremely thinly, raw, or boil the "stalks" in salted water for about 5 min. I chose the latter. It made a great salad one night with hot chicken soup on one of those lovely evenings when there's both Volcano mist and a light rain. My friend, Ku'ulei, brought hot rice, an organic salad mix from Hirano store and a memorable, not-too-sweet strawberry rhubarb pie from the Volcano Farmers' Market.
I thought the 6 in. pie was a bit much for dessert in addition to a fruit pastry I had. And I didn't want to warm the whole thing. So, I said to Ku'ulei (a dessert freak, too) "I'm going to cut the pie in half". Ku'ulei looked at me quizzically, tilted her head and said "Fourths?" It dawned on me that she thought I meant we would split the pie in half and eat the whole thing! I laughed so hard I could hardly breathe. The next thing she said was "You're going to write about this, aren't you?" Yes, I am.
One of the greatest advantages of staying in the Volcano area is that the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park becomes your playground. It's especially nice to visit in the early morning and late evening after the crowds have left. Imagine a hot pizza from the Village whisked over to the Steam Vents and eaten (no, scarfed down) in the car as the sun sets behind Mauna Loa. Or, an early morning meditative hike to Byron's Ledge to catch Nene goose in the wild. Can you see eating a light breakfast of hard boiled eggs, mountain apples, hot coffee and POG (passion-orange-guava juice) in a glass jar as you sit on an ohia log?
This visit was mostly about hiking the many trails of the Volcano Park and visiting with three dear friends who were all on the island.
Hearts of palm, shiso and tomato salad
Whisk together 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar with 1/4 c. olive oil. Add just a half teaspoon or so of honey.
Slice boiled hearts of palm into 1/4" slices. Julienne shiso leaves. Slice vine ripened tomatoes. Add all to vinaigrette. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Just before serving, lightly toss the palm, shiso, tomatoes and vinaigrette with an organic greens salad mix.