I just returned from a two-week work/vacation trip to Hawaii. While in Kauai, I found an amazing farm to table restaurant, 22 North, located at the Kilohona Plantation. It used to be a sugar cane plantation, but now it is a farmer cooperative and they grow all sorts of vegetables and fruits. 22 North sources all the ingredients they can from their garden and this plantation. They use local beef, pork, rabbit, fish, and cheese. Whatever they can not source from Kauai they source from other islands in Hawaii. The menu varies depending on what’s in season.
I was so delighted with 22 North that I went there twice for dinner during my week-long stay in Kauai. My favorite dish was the watermelon, fennel and local goat cheese salad with mint leaves and pickled radishes. These simple ingredients work so well together and make a salad that is refreshing and juicy.
¼ cup watermelon cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
1 small fennel bulb
3 cups arugula
¼ cup mint leaves
4 ounces crumbly goat cheese
2 cups watermelon cubes
Hawaiian red sea salt (you can substitute flaky sea salt, or kosher salt)
Pickled radishes, chopped (optional)
1. Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, squeeze the juice out of ¼ cup of watermelon cubes. You should have about 2 tablespoons. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, a dash of lime juice, and a pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Whisk to incorporate.
2. In a small bowl, add 2 cups cold water and squeeze in the juice of ½ a lime. Cut the stalks from the fennel bulb, reserve the fennel fronds. Slice the fennel bulb in half and cut out the core. Slice the fennel paper-thin and then place in the acidulated water. When ready to serve the salad, remove the fennel from the water and dry in a salad spinner or with a kitchen towel.
3. In a medium bowl, toss together the fennel slices, arugula, and mint. With your hands, tear about ¼ cup of fennel fronds in the bowl. Add dressing to your liking and toss well.
4. Place the greens on a plate and crumble some goat cheese over them. If using pickled radishes, sprinkle some chopped pickled radishes over the salad. Serve watermelon cubes on the side and sprinkle each of them with Hawaiian sea salt.
Note: For the cheese, I used Cherry Glen Monocacy Ash, a local cheese. Any soft crumbly goat cheese works here. At the restaurant, they use Hawaiian Alaea sea salt. It contains volcanic red clay which imparts an earthy mineral flavor. They also serve the salad with pickled radishes. I didn’t add radishes to my salad since I didn’t have time to make them, but they do bring an extra layer of flavor with their sweetness/acidity.