Besides grilling and sharing my own recipes this month, the authors of the new ‘Ohana Grill Cookbook offered me a copy to check out. The Hawaiian-inspired recipes range from Pineapple Chicken to Curry Coconut Shrimp with a side of Sesame Eggplant and Grilled Bread Salad. Of the recipes I’ve tried, we’ve had wiped-clean plates after every meal. To put it simply: making the recipes from The ‘Ohana Grill Cookbook has been such delicious fun.
Author Adrienne Robillard and photographer Dawn Sakamoto Paiva use this collaboration to share their love of the Hawaiian Islands they grew up on and returned to, the community around them, and the delicious fresh meals that bring everyone together. The duo have there-and-back-again stories with O’ahu, and the recipe choices show not just their Hawaiian roots but also their mainland influences.
When I first considered reviewing The ‘Ohana Grill Cookbook, I was afraid that my Montana climate (not to mention my pescatarian diet) would put many recipes out of my reach. I didn’t need to worry: The book mainly holds recipes that are easy to replicate on the mainland and offers sources for less familiar ingredients. It has a well-rounded selection that will satisfy meat lovers but still gives plenty of recipes for pescatarians and vegetarians, as well pointing out adaptions and substitutions for special diets and food allergies.
The introduction to The ‘Ohana Grill Cookbook touches briefly on grilling tools and techniques before diving into the food itself. The pantry list is fairly standard for anyone who regularly cooks with an Asian twist, but the real gems are in the short glossary. Less common ingredients are described in detail, often with sourcing notes or mainland substitutions.
The Resources section at the back of the book gives more info about tracking down ingredients on and off the islands. Even in Montana, I could find or make many of the Hawaiian ingredients or come up with a worthy substitute—although I’ll have to put Hawaiian sweet bread on my learn-to-bake list.
The ‘Ohana Grill Cookbook is packed with mouthwatering photographs enhanced by attractive tropical designs. The recipes are well chosen and written and are easy to follow, with bits of story and serving notes sprinkled in. It’s a thin-enough volume that the hardcover (with a wipe-clean surface) stays open on the table without taxing the spine.
I started flagging recipes to try the first time I flipped through the book. Dawn’s sharp, enticing photos caught every grill mark, and even Adrienne’s meat-intended marinades made me think about applying those flavors to other foods. I’ve spent enough time on the Hawaiian Islands in recent years that the grilled version of the garlic shrimp—which we always seek out at food trucks—immediately caught my eye. When my local fish counter had just-arrived fresh wild sockeye, I immediately pegged it for Sweet and Sour Salmon.
I also had to try Foil-Packet Shrimp. As soon as I read the recipe, which wraps the shrimp in tropical ti leaves to keep it off the aluminum, I wanted to see whether I could swap in the horseradish leaves from my garden. The answer is yes; they gave the dish a hint of bonus bite and steamed away beautifully. Since I haven’t yet pulled my garlic for the season, I also swapped cloves for scapes that softened nicely in the packet.
On the vegetarian side, grilled tofu was an immediate must-try. I had marinated, baked, glazed, and pan-fried tofu but—believe it or not—never grilled it. The flavors were fabulous, but my grilling technique wasn’t entirely photo-worthy, unlike Dawn’s first shots in the cookbook. I’ll be making Grilled Tofu and Veggies again, with my homegrown zucchini and peppers of course, on a smaller grill grate or copper grill mat.
I just had to pick up a large container of pineapple juice not just for the Sweet and Sour Salmon but also to try Plantation Iced Tea. I’ve long been a fan of grilled lemon on sourdough pizza; dropping it in the glass as Adrienne suggested truly took the drink to another level.
As I read through the recipes in The ‘Ohana Grill Cookbook, I immediately noticed that many were adapted from other sources or collected from family and friends. It speaks to the ‘ohana (meaning family in the broadest sense of the word) in the book’s title. I was even more impressed with the recipe selection when I read the descriptions in the Resources section.
I discovered many of the original recipes come from out-of-print collections that would be hard to find even on the Hawaiian Islands. Unless you have an auntie with some of these older books stashed in her closet, you may be hard-pressed to find the recipes outside The ‘Ohana Grill Cookbook. I love that this project passes on these creations not just to mainlanders like me but also to the next generation of islanders.
Twice as Tasty
The recipes in The ‘Ohana Grill Cookbook are so well written I saw few reasons to tweak them—unless it was to incorporate what I had grown and made myself. Besides the garlic scapes, horseradish leaves, and homegrown veg I mentioned earlier, I used freshly harvested garden vegetables for sides of Crispy Carrots (with bonus zucchini) and Sesame Eggplant. I am eager to try my fermented kimchi in the grilled corn spread once this season’s ears are full.
As with many of my grilled fish meals, I served Sweet and Sour Salmon over Pour-Over Couscous. I’m pretty sure I can generate enough liquid for the marinade from the fresh Hawaiian pineapple that has been ripening on my counter (before turning the rind and core into Tepache, a fermented pineapple beverage, from my own cookbook). I’ll know for sure after I prep tonight’s dessert: Spicy Li Hing Mui Pineapple with salted dried plum powder from my tiny but well-stocked local Asian market.
It’s time to expand your cookbook collection. Order The ‘Ohana Grill Cookbook online or ask for it at your favorite local bookstore. Do the same for my cookbook, The Complete Guide to Pickling, so that you can ferment your own kimchi and make other pickled treats to use in or accompany the grilling recipes.