If you’re looking for a reason to have friends or family over for a light lunch and refreshments, consider showcasing your flair for whipping up exotic food. Who knows, it might inspire a planning session for a group trip to visit Tahiti and her islands!
by Marcia Pilgeram, President and Senior Travel Advisor at Capers Travel
There are several varieties of vanilla, but none as delicious or fragrant as the vanilla beans from Tahiti. And it’s literally a labor of love to cultivate them – the growing conditions are perfect, but oddly there are no bees in Tahiti, so the plants are carefully pollinated by hand. Tahitian vanilla beans are also allowed to mature on the vine, which adds to their rich, complex flavor.
I had an opportunity to visit a Tahitian vanilla plantation, as an excursion on one of my trips on the m/s Paul Gauguin. Some may not think of Tahiti as a food destination, but locals prepare exceptionally delicious and yet simple dishes from the vanilla, exotic fresh fruits and fish that are abundantly available to them. One of my favorite Tahitian dishes, poisson cru, combines fresh coconut and tuna. (This blog features a fantastic poisson cru recipe). If you are dining on board The Gauguin—the chef is also happy to share his recipe! Next year I am escorting a “Delicious Tahiti” group and we are already anticipating the top-notch cuisine on board The Gauguin!
I love themed dinner parties, and I love to use the ingredients and tableware that I have picked up during my travels. For this dish, it's my coconut shell bowls that serve as a vehicle for my favorite Tahitian flavors: coconut and vanilla. This bread pudding is so creamy and dreamy that your first bite will bring Tahiti right to your tastebuds. It’s rich. It’s decadent. It’s truly a wonderful finale for a holiday meal.
Tahitian Vanilla Bread Pudding Serves 8
1 c. fine white sugar
2 c. heavy cream
1 (14 oz.) can coconut milk
2 tsp. Tahitian vanilla
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
6 oz. good quality dark chocolate, chopped into ½ inch pieces
2 T. cold butter
1 loaf French bread, or 8 dinner or Hawaiian rolls—torn into 1-inch cubes
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a round baking dish (10-12 in.) with butter, and dust with fine sugar.
In a large bowl, combine sugar, eggs, cream, coconut cream, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Mix until smooth. Toss chocolate with bread cubes in the baking dish. Pour liquid mixture over top of bread in prepared baking dish. Cover tightly and set aside for 30 minutes so liquid soaks into bread.
Into a small roaster (or larger cooking vessel), add 2-3 inches of warm water. Set the covered pudding dish into the water bath. Cover the water bath dish tightly with foil. Place in oven and bake for approximately 1 1/2 hours.
Remove from oven, uncover baking dish and place back in oven for 10-15 minutes (without water bath).
• Tahitian vanilla is preferred and is superior for baking; but any vanilla will do.
• If your bread is fresh, tear into cubes and let dry for a few hours (or overnight).
2 c. heavy cream
2 Tahitian vanilla beans, split and scraped
½ c. dried coconut flesh
½ c. fine white sugar
¼ c. dark rum
1 T. butter
In a medium saucepan, add cream. Scrape vanilla pod seeds into cream, whisk well. Add scraped pods and coconut. Over medium heat, whisking constantly, bring cream to a boil and cook until reduced by 1/3. Strain out coconut and vanilla pods. Add sugar, rum and 1 T. butter. Bring back to boil, reduce heat. Simmer and whisk on low heat a few minutes to develop flavor.
Pour sauce over warm bread pudding or serve on the side in a bowl.
For an extra grand finale, spoon pudding into individual serving bowls, ladle sauce over the top, pour 1 tsp. rum on top and ignite!
October 21, 2020
This month’s recipe is both vegan and paleo friendly, and in the fine Tahitian style of keeping things simple, with just a few ingredients it will be on the table in no time. Most people don't realize what a super food yams are. They are a great source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and support gut health, healthy vision and boosts immune system. We know we say this is a comfort side dish, but you won’t feel too guilty eating it either.
Coconut Cream & Tahitian Vanilla Golden Yams
3 medium to large Golden Yams
1 12oz can coconut cream
1 tsp. Tahitian vanilla paste
Rock salt and rosemary to taste
• Golden yams were used in this recipe but any kind of yam works fine. It's important to use coconut cream, not coconut milk. Vanilla extract is a perfect substitution if paste is not available.
Boil water, enough to cover yams completely. Wash and peel yams and cut into cubes. Place cubes in water and boil until soft, roughly 15-20 minutes depending on the size of your cubes. Once cooked, drain fully, mash, and set aside.
In a separate dish mix the coconut cream and vanilla. Start with just 1-1/2 cups of the coconut cream and add more if you'd like your potatoes creamier. We recommend you start small with the cream and vanilla mixture and taste as you go. You may decide you want to add more vanilla than the recipe calls for. Add rock salt to taste and just a few sprigs of rosemary to garnish. Delicious and beautiful, we also found these yams paired nicely with our favorite glass of red wine!
Have some of the cream and vanilla mixture left over? It goes great in your morning coffee or smoothie.
While you may think of this dish as the perfect side on your holiday table, it really does have quite a nice base to make many more things or add other ingredients to change it completely. Consider adding a pat of butter to the top. And if you'd like to tweak the flavor profile to give it that holiday feel, consider integrating sage, thyme or rosemary into the dish. If you're looking for some protein, large pieces of bacon meld nicely with these flavors. To add a mix of savory to the sweetness, grate some fresh parmesan on top!
However you choose to enjoy this Polynesian spin-off, we hope that it brings a little South Seas to your table.
September 21, 2020
End of Summer Okra Coconut Pilaf
It’s always recommended to cook with what’s in season, and for late summer, in North America, that includes okra. As perhaps one of the most underappreciated vegetables in our arsenal of greens, okra brings fiber, vitamin C, and an almost-sweet, grassy flavor to any dish it appears in. This versatile vegetable is revered as a staple in Africa, the Middle East, Greece, Turkey, India, the Caribbean, South America, Greece, and parts of Turkey. And of course, in the southern United States, where it shows up in gumbos and stews, or as a fried side dish.
If you’re sensitive to textures, you may know okra for the gooey (some say “slimy”) quality that it can take on when handled in a certain manner. You’ll want to cook it in a very specific way in order to take advantage of its crunchy, fresh goodness, and downplay its more sticky qualities.
Wait to wash it until just before you’re going to cook with it and pat it dry. Don’t slice it into tiny pieces, rather, go for larger bite-size chunks. Lastly, cooking it on high heat, with a splash of acid (lime juice, here) will keep it fresh and crunchy. And if it still feels too risky to you, or fresh okra is out of season… we’ve offered up some substitutions below.
This dish is a vegan one—but if you’re not following a vegan diet, consider using half the amount of okra and replacing with some delicious grilled shrimp.
End of Summer Okra Coconut Pilaf
C O C O N U T “B A C O N”
1 c. unsweetened coconut
1 T. tamari (vegan) or soy sauce
1 ½ tsp. liquid smoke
1 tsp. maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 300°. Place all ingredients in a small bowl and toss until the coconut is well-coated. Spread the mixture evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
P I L A F
1 c. basmati rice
1 ½ c. chicken broth (vegan)
½ c. coconut milk
2 T. olive oil
1/3 c. yellow onion (finely diced)
½ c. green bell pepper, diced
2 c. fresh okra, cut into ½ inch pieces
splash of lime juice
1 tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. ground cayenne pepper
(optional substitutions if okra is out of season) green beans, zucchini or kale make a great substitute for fresh okra.
1.) Add the basmati rice, chicken broth and coconut milk to a medium-sized pot. Stir, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 12 minutes—or until the liquid is absorbed, and the rice cooked. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
2.) Heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat and add onion and green pepper. When vegetables are soft and fragrant (about 3 minutes) add the okra, salt and cayenne. Splash with lime juice and until the okra is heated through and browning, but still crisp inside (about 5 minutes).
3.) Top rice with vegetable mixture and top with coconut “bacon.”
• okra is in season late summer/early fall; look for pods that are spot-free and firm, about 4-5 inches long.
Take advantage of those last lovely summer days and dine on this delicious, crunchy, fresh dish al fresco, served with a crisp white wine. Or if you still have a penchant for summer’s frozen beverages—try this one:
Tahitian Vanilla Mango Smoothie
1 c. of frozen mango chunks
1/4 c. plain yogurt (or Greek, or vegan)
1/2 c. almond milk (or coconut, or regular)
¼ tsp. vanilla bean paste
Mix all ingredients in blender for one minute and pour into your favorite glass!
• Vanilla extract can be substituted for vanilla bean paste
August 20, 2020
Poisson cru, or e’ia ota (ee-ah oh-tah) in Tahitian, is Tahiti’s signature dish. At its most traditional, poisson cru (French for “raw fish”) is fish, lime, coconut milk, and vegetables - a delicious, fresh salad that calls to mind blue lagoons and island breezes. It is easily customized by adding the ingredients you favor, and the texture varies depending on how you slice (or chop) your fish and vegetables. The quantities in the recipe below can be adjusted to your taste, but this is a dish that is meant to highlight fresh fish, so keep that in mind when adding or omitting ingredients. This light, refreshing appetizer is as easily put together by your local guide while you sun on a motu (tiny island) in French Polynesia, as it is by you in your own kitchen at home. On the beach, and in the kitchen, it all comes together in minutes. The key is to give the fish some time to marinate in the lime juice. The acid from the citrus cooks the fish, changing the translucent surface to an opaque color. Most chefs suggest marinating the tuna in lime for 5-10 minutes and serving soon after. If you prefer to serve this dish at a cooler temperature, chill the coconut milk ahead of time and marinate the fish in your refrigerator.
1lb raw ahi tuna (sashimi-grade), diced into ½ inch cubes
1 tomato, chopped and drained
1 small white onion, sliced thinly
½ c. fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
¾ c. coconut milk, fresh if you have access to it; or canned light coconut milk (shake well)
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and drained
salt & pepper to taste
green onions to garnish
(optional substitutions or add-ons)
carrots, grated or julienned
bell pepper, sliced
4-5 green onions, sliced or minced (in lieu of white onion)
fresh chile, seeded and minced
Marinate the tuna in lime juice for 5-10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss well. Garnish and serve immediately, preferably with a Tahitian-inspired cocktail! (see below)
• Sashimi-grade salmon, yellowfin, marlin, or halibut can also be used. Visit the best, local seafood source for the high-quality sushi-grade fish you’d like to use.
• To prepare this dish slightly ahead of time, prepare and mix all ingredients except the lime juice together and chill in the refrigerator. Ten minutes before serving, toss with the lime juice. Tahiti Tourism did a spectacular video showcasing this dish prepared on the beach. Watch now, and like the Vahine says: always listen to your mother!
It’s 5 o’clock somewhere and you may be looking to conjure the intoxicating magic of Polynesian island. In 1944 California bartender Victor J. Bergeron, a.k.a. Trader Vic, created a fruity concoction specifically to showcase an aged Jamaican rum. According to lore, after presenting this cocktail to some of his visiting Tahitian friends, one of them shouted maita’i roa a’e, which translates to "out of this world! The best!" thus earning this luxurious punch its name: Mai Tai. There has been some debate about the origins of the cocktail, and as time has worn on, the original Trader Vic recipe was usurped by a sweeter, more tourist-friendly version. Additionally, the original rum that the recipe was created to highlight is no longer available. But might we suggest you try this almost-original recipe as a lovely, refreshing companion to Tahitian poisson cru?
Original Mai Tai
¾ oz. fresh lime juice
½ oz. orange curacao
¼ oz. orgeat
¼ oz. simple syrup (2:1 ratio of water to sugar)
2 oz. aged pot still or blended rum
garnish with a mint leaf
Combine all ingredients (except the garnish) with 12 ounces of freshly crushed ice and several ice cubes in a shaker. Shake until chilled and pour, ice and all, into a double old fashioned glass. Float a spent lime shell and a mint leaf on top. Take in the aroma of the icy elixir in your hands and drink deeply: maita’I roa o’e!
The sprig of mint and spent lime shell garnish is meant to symbolize a palm tree and island. Umbrellas, orange and pineapple juices, and rum floats were never intended for this drink so if you want to emulate the original design of the creator, avoid the temptation to use them. Though the rum that was used in the 1940s-1950s version of this recipe is no longer available, you can stay fairly true to Trader Vic’s vision by seeking out either 100% pot-still or blended pot and column molasses-based rums. (Consider Appleton Estate Reserve Blend or Denizen Merchant’s Reserve).
Manuia! (that’s Tahitian for “Cheers!”)