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Hale Aina Cookbook: Island Harvest

Throw a great dinner party with six gourmet recipes from Hale Aina Award-winning chefs.


(page 3 of 6)

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Crispy Feta and Strawberry Vinaigrette

Serves 4


Merriman’s Kapalua 

2009 Hale Aina Award, Gold, Best New Neighbor Island Restaurant

Locally grown: tomatoes, Maui onions, strawberries, feta cheese from Surfing Goat Dairy, sugar.

Photo by: Ryan Siphers


Looking to the traditional Caprese salad for inspiration, this salad highlights one of the world’s most delicious food pairings: tomatoes and cheese (which chef Philip Wang calls “a yin and yang combination, the best kind there is”). Local strawberries and multicolored heirloom tomatoes add a touch of whimsy.

1½  pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes
½    pound local strawberries, trimmed and quartered
½    Maui onion, shaved thin
8     basil leaves
¼    cup sherry vinegar
3      tablespoons sugar
½    cup extra-virgin olive oil
1      package Surfing Goat Dairy feta
½   cup flour
1     egg
½   cup panko crumbs
4    cups vegetable oil, for frying



1. Bread the cheese:

Slice the feta crosswise into four smaller, equally sized pucks. Roll the pucks in flour, shake off the excess and drop into beaten egg. Remove from the egg and toss in panko. Set aside.

2. Make the vinaigrette:

Marinate strawberries with sugar and sherry vinegar for one hour and drain, reserving the liquid. Add the olive oil to the strawberry liquid and mix.

3. Turn on the juice:

20 minutes before you want to serve the salad, heat the vegetable oil in a large pot to 350˚F, using a candy or frying thermometer.

4. Assemble the salad:

Wash, trim and core tomatoes. Cut them into bite-sized pieces and transfer to a mixing bowl. Toss them with the shaved Maui onion and marinated strawberries. Tear the basil leaves by hand and toss them in. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, and dress with strawberry vinaigrette.

5. Start sizzling:

Fry the breaded feta cheese until golden brown. Remove to a draining towel and season lightly with salt. Divide tomato salad between plates and garnish with fried cheese.

Photo by: Ryan Siphers



For Merriman’s Kapalua, rising culinary star Philip Wang has searched out local producers who take advantage of Maui’s multiclimate landscape. “Everything we can possibly source locally, we use locally, and directly from the source,” says Wang. “It’s a little more work, but the product we get is pristine.”

Photo by: Ryan Siphers



TIP:  Fruit sometimes looks better than it tastes (and vice versa). How to choose a sweet berry? Wang suggests that you inhale: “A lot of times, with fruit, I go by the smell. If it smells really sweet and flavorful, then it will be.”



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