Double Starch, Pineapple on Pizza, and Passionfruit Panna Cotta #FoodieReads
Updated: Jan 26
Do you remember when I read all fifteen A Murder on Maui books in the series by Robert W. Stephens last year? Read that post - about all the books and about Hawaiian Shave Ice - here. Or when I read the four books in J.E. Trent's Hawaii Adventure series. Read about that and get my Huli Huli Chicken Sauce recipe.
LEARN THIS PROCESS! Panna cotta is a creamy, delicious treat that works well as a dessert canvas for whatever flavors you want. The base is cream-based, but I have added in goat cheese, yogurt, and even coconut milk into mine. This version uses vanilla syrup and fresh passionfruit. I have also made panna cotta infused with lavender and topped with lemon curd (recipe), coconut panna cotta topped with cherry blossom gel (recipe), and goat cheese panna cotta with balsamic blueberries (recipe). BE CREATIVE...COOK FEARLESSLY!
When I find an author or series that I like, I blaze through as many as I can get in my hands. Clearly. So, it wasn't a surprise to me when I picked up and, then, just kept swapping out the six Charlotte Gibson Mysteries by Jasmine Webb through my Kindle Unlimited subscription. There is a seventh book, but it won't be released until March.
NOTE: All of the book links in the following paragraph are affiliate links to Amazon which means that if you purchase through the link, I will receive a small commission for referring you. It doesn't cost you anything more.
In book one, Aloha Alibi, Charlotte - call her Charlie! - moves back to Maui after fleeing Seattle. She had killed a member of a crime family who was attempting to rob the store in which she worked; after the gangster's siblings threatened her life, she went underground and surfaced on a tropical island! After earning a big reward in the first book, Maui Murder finds our heroine teamed up with
some spunky old ladies, Dot and Rosie, who have mad skills when it comes to surveillance and other helpful tools in the crime-solving business. Beachside Bullet, Pina Colada Poison, and Hibiscus Homicide are up next with more cases for Charlie's private investigation business. She is growing closer to Jake, the hot homicide detective who lives next door. And the sixth book in the series - Kalikimaka Killer - has Charlie, Dot, Rosie, and Jake looking for a murderer who poisoned the victim in the hospital after an attempt to kill her at the beach failed. As I mentioned, there's a seventh book coming.
Okay, none of these would qualify as anything other than a fun distraction. But they are a breeze to read. So, good literature or not, I obviously enjoy reading stories set on the Hawaiian islands.
Food on the Page
Hawaiian Plate Lunch, Cami-Style
While crime-solving is the focus of these cozy mysteries, there is quite a bit of food mentioned.
Charlie doesn't have the most grown-up palate I've ever seen, but her food feels authentically 'island.' When she moves back and meets up with her childhood best, Zoe, they go out to lunch. "I ordered coconut shrimp and a slice of mango cheesecake, while Zoe went for the pulled pork with guava barbeque sauce. Both plates came with generous servings of rice and salad."
I can only imagine that is rice and macaroni salad, not a green salad. Hawaiian plate lunches are always double the starch!
What do you think about pineapple on pizza?
Where do you fall on the pineapple-on-pizza debate? Some people, like my older son, love it; others consider it an abomination. Charlie is obviously a fan. "A couple of minutes later, a server arrived, dropping off a menu and taking my order for a second mai tai. I casually perused the menu, my stomach grumbling at the thought of a Kahlua-pork-and-pineapple pizza. I placed my order."
In fact, she and Jake discuss this exact controversy in Hibiscus Homicide. Charlie starts, "'I’m going to order pizza. What do you like as toppings?' 'As long as it’s normal, I’m happy,' Jake said with a shrug. 'Thoughts on pineapple? After all, it’s the most controversial of ingredients.' 'And the most delicious. We’re on Hawaii. I know, I know, Hawaiian pizza was invented in Canada, but I feel like we should still get to stake a claim on it based on name alone'."
Passionfruit Panna Cotta
But it was in Beachside Bullet that Charlie talked about sweets and inspired me into the kitchen: "My favorite. Lilikoi pie. Lilikoi was a yellow Hawaiian passionfruit with a sweet flavor, and the pie was basically like a banana creme, only ten thousand times better and topped with toasted coconut. When I was in high school, I had a friend whose dad grew lilikoi in her backyard."
I haven't made a lilikoi pie, but I will as soon as I get my hands on more passionfruit. This panna cotta is unsweetened and served with a vanilla syrup and fresh passionfruit on the top. You can sweeten the panna cotta itself and skip the vanilla syrup if you prefer.
Vanilla Syrup makes more than you need
1 cup organic granulated sugar
1-1/2 cup water
pinch of sea salt
3 Tablespoons pure vanilla paste (I like using the paste because you can see the flecks of the vanilla seed, but you can use extract if that's all you have)
Panna Cotta makes five 3+ ounce servings
1 envelope gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
2 cup organic heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
Place sugar, water, and salt in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and swirl until the sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. Pour in the vanilla paste or extract and let cool. Place in a sterile lidded jar and keep in the refrigerator.
Dissolve the gelatin in cold water in a medium mixing bowl. Pour the heavy cream into a medium saucepan. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Stir those and the bean into the cream. Heat, over a medium-low flame, until it begins to steam. Do not let it boil. Remove the bean pod and let cool for 5 minutes, then pour the warm cream into the gelatin and stir till completely dissolved.
Pour the mixture into your serving containers and let chill until set, but at least four hours. Serve cold.
Remove the panna cotta from the fridge. It should be firm. Pour 1 to 2 t vanilla simple syrup over the top of the panna cotta. Slice your passionfruit in half and spoon the insides of the fruit over the vanilla syrup. Serve immediately.