A couple weeks ago, I spent almost three hours on Skype with Jessica Murnane of One Part Plant and the One Part Podcast. We were recording the episode that’s live today, but instead of chatting blithely about the sweet coterie of topics we’d expected to touch upon, we ended up primarily covering just one: My feelings about orthorexia, and how my parents’ various health obsessions have woven in and out of my life from the time I was a child on Maui. It was a surprise to us both, but the stories I shared were some that I haven’t before had the chance to vocalize to you, and for that I’m glad. And don’t worry, we also talked about sex. Obviously.
A funny thing happened, though—the week following, I went home to Maui. Back to the place where all of that complexity first arose, back to my childhood home, to my father, to the land where my mom’s ashes are buried, to the place where I first dreamt of writing a book. I went home to celebrate the Kale & Caramel cookbook.
And celebrate we did. A hundred friends packed into Driftwood Maui in Makawao: my sixth grade English teacher rubbing elbows with my eighth grade world history teacher, ex-boyfriends chatting in the corner, aunties and uncles (my parents’ chosen family) bearing leis of white ginger and orchids. Pau Vodka (distilled from pineapple!) shared their gorgeous liquor in spiked Lavender Honey and Sparkling Cucumber Basil Lemonades from Kale & Caramel cookbook.
But after the celebrating, and even before, there was an intense, humming quality to my time on island—everything felt sped up, heightened. By the time I left, I felt like I’d lived a lifetime in eight days. I explored new waterfalls and beaches and seabird habitats and food trucks on every one of Maui’s distinct shores. I reconnected with a friend I hadn’t spoken to in ten years, and felt the sting of another decade-long relationship dissolving. From the moment I arrived, every conversation with my father was specifically and productively charged. I felt, for the entire week, as though every word mattered. A lot.
And of course, there was the land, steady and silent and witness to all this intensity of relationship. The giant avocados falling all night, fatty orbs dropping from swayed branches so that every morning was an avocado Easter egg hunt. The half-flushed figs, their bellies beginning to swell. The black raspberries, ripening slowly, elegantly. The rain. More rain than usual. And everything green.
The green in Hawai’i is a prayer, a song the land sings in exuberance. I found new pockets of verdant lushness along Hana Highway, though I’m sure I’d been to this same spot as a child. Stunning perfection just a few moments from the highway. The waterfall you see below is about 70 feet high. It’s impossible not to have your breath taken by the green. The water. A holy rush of life in every direction.
I returned to LA full with the mana (Hawaiian for spiritual power) of the land. Alive with a sense that much had happened that was potent but necessary. And, oddly, it all felt like an extension of that three-hour Skype call Jessica and I had those few weeks ago.
We spoke, more than anything, about breaking through old beliefs. So, here I am. Open. Clear. Sharpened by the wildness of the island.
And, yes, ready for an excellent summer caprese salad. The nectarine and heirloom tomato combination has long been a favorite—their tender, sweet flavors meld perfectly, inviting the new.
Here, I pair the fruit with creamy burrata and a tangy pistachio pesto made with mint and basil. There’s a freshness in it all that almost demands you eat it fingers-first. I won’t judge you if you do. You might have a bit of extra pesto dressing, which you can slather on a hunk of focaccia or save for other salady purposes.
Feel free to mix up the fruits and herbs you use here—I’d love to hear your favorite combinations.
I’ll leave you with one last taste of Hawai’i—native plumeria flowers blooming in a heavy afternoon rain. Come see me this week here in LA to celebrate Kale & Caramel cookbook, and I’ll share some Maui love with you.
Tonight, June 7, 2017 from 6-8pm (RSVP required) in conversation with Phoebe Lapine and Pamela Salzman, moderated by the EIC of The Chalkboard Magazine, and Tuesday, June 20, 2017 from 6-8pm at Moon Juice Silver Lake with the aforementioned Jessica Murnane and Laura Wright of The First Mess.
HEIRLOOM TOMATO, NECTARINE & BURRATA CAPRESE SALAD WITH PISTACHIO PESTO.
- 4 small-medium heirloom tomatoes, washed, stems trimmed, and sliced
- 2 ripe nectarines, washed and sliced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 2 squeezes fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup shelled roasted unsalted pistachio nuts
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 8 ounces burrata cheese, or fresh mozzarella
- flaky sea salt, to taste
Layer tomato and nectarine slices in a serving bowl.
Place olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mint and basil, pistachios, and sea salt in a blender or small food processor and process until lightly chunky—pesto texture.
Dollop spoonfuls of burrata on top of tomatoes and nectarines, and drizzle pesto dressing over all. Add an extra sprinkle of flaky sea salt if desired, to taste.