My very good friend Christian turned 40 recently and for his birthday a group of us (13 in all) gathered in Molokai'i Hawaii for a week of relaxation, cooking, hiking and fun. We decided before going on the trip that everyone would participate in the cooking. Prior to going on the trip I was admittedly nervous. I had never met the majority of the people going, but somehow I knew we would all meld well. It was in the kitchen that this melding took place and over the next few posting I will be telling stories and sharing recipes from everyone that traveled to Molokai'i to celebrate Christian.
One of the couples on the trip, Rudy and Beth, immediately became good friends. Rudy is from Lebanon and loves to cook. Beth is from the U.S. of A. and is also a lover of great food. On the day that they were scheduled to cook Rudy and Beth asked me to join them on their search for local ingredients for the Mediterranean meal that they were planning on making that evening.
Our journey took us to Kumu Farms, which we almost missed out on had it not been for Beth's insistence that we "go there now because we may forget on the way home". It was some of the best advice I have ever taken and I think Rudy feels the same.
When we got out of the car and approached the farm stand we were greeted by a lovely Italian woman named Emanuela. "Manu", as many call her, moved from Italy to the USA. She and her husband had been living and working in California and decided one day to drop everything and move to the islands. Manu began managing the farm and teaching Italian to people on the island.
Manu walked us around the little shop and talked about the farm. She told us that crews have worked the land at Kumu Farms on Moloka'i for almost 30 years. The operation now yields 20,000 pounds of Papayas each week as well as 4,000 pounds of Basil, 500 pounds of other fresh Herbs (Sage, Thyme, Parsley, Rosemary, Dill...) and many specialty crops. Rudy, Beth and I listened and followed Manu around as though she was a god. Her accent mixed with her love of food made us immediate fans.
Rudy explained that we would be making Tabbouleh as part of our meal. He needed flat leaf Italian parsley and good tomatoes. It had been challenging to find tasty fresh tomatoes on the island, but Manu came through with delicious Romas that were grown right on the farm.
Then she grabbed scissors and knives and took us into the fields where we actually harvested the parsley we were going to be using that evening. We were in heaven as we realized what a rare gem we had stumbled upon.
Manu continued to chat about the farm as we filled up bags of parsley under the hot Hawaiin sun. As usual, I was wet from head to toe, but the perspiration was well worth the incredible experience.
I encourage anyone visiting Molokai'i to stop by and spend some time with Manu at Kumu Farms.
Rudy is sending me his recipe for Tabbouleh and when he does I will post it so you too can taste one of the many dishes he prepared that evening.