Cooking in a vacation rental
I had a surprise invite along with a group to Maui next week. We're going to try and keep our meals cheap by cooking at a questionably-stocked rental condo. What simple, few-ingredient recipes would you recommend for this kind of situation? I'd prefer to try cooking with whatever seafood is available in the area, but there are a couple picky eaters who might want more land-going protein.
This isn't exactly what you're asking about, but since you're wanting to save money, make sure you hit the Costco right by the airport.
You'll find seafood such as ahi tuna, mahi mahi, ono, squid, wahoo, and whole lobsters that you won't find in the mainland Costcos. You'll also find USDA Prime grade beef for about half what you'll find it anywhere else (this, thankfully, you can find at Costcos on the mainland).
I think I'd go for good ingredients, and simple cooking techniques, more than outright recipes.
Fresh grilled or sauteed seafood with lemon butter, pan fried steak with sauteed onions and mushrooms. Marinate chunks of meat in olive oil, garlic and lemon juice, stick on skewers and grill or broil.
Baked potatoes with garlic butter, sauteed or grilled fresh vegetable medley with fresh basil or thyme, fresh garden salad, Greek salad, fresh bread with butter or garlic bread. Vegetable side dishes can be very simple - baked tomatoes, blanched/steamed green beans or broccoli, carrot salad, baked beets with butter, mashed squash, sauteed zucchini, etc.
Use canned chickpeas as the base of a salad, with olive oil garlic and lemon, chopped celery, onions and tomatoes, and fresh mint.
If you have sushi enthusiasts, pick up packages of poke at the grocery store. Yum! Or go for the Hawaiian classic, spam sushi.
For something a little more complicated - saute some onions and celery, toss in diced tomatoes, fresh basil, assorted seafood (shellfish, sliced squid, fish, etc) and some a glug of white wine, and have a lovely seafood stew. Serve with fresh bread to mop up the juices.
Or diced green pepper, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and some red pepper flakes. Rub all over a cleaned whole fish, and bake until done.
Fresh tropical fruit with ice cream for dessert.
The key is to keep your purchased seasonings to a minimum. I'd pack sea salt, a compact pepper grinder with peppercorns, and some small packets of my favourite spices. Once there, I'd buy a small jar of good olive oil, a small bottle of red wine vinegar, a block of butter, fresh lemons and limes, maybe a small jar of dijon mustard. Aside from that, you can buy onions, garlic, ginger, cheese, fresh herbs and the like in the quantities you need. I'd probably get some soy sauce as well, based on my cooking style.
With that, you've got the ingredients for a variety of seasonings for meat, seafood and vegetables, you can make marinades and salad dressings from scratch with little effort.
For lunches, if you're also cooking those, you can get bread, lunch meat, cheese, olives, vegetables and dip, chips and hummus, fruit, cookies, etc. For breakfasts - pick up milk and cereal, or oatmeal, some Kona coffee, fruit, eggs, bacon, etc.
Note that the inter-island flights charge for all checked luggage, and if you're packing knives or liquid ingredients you can't take your luggage as carryon.
I've had no problems with dried herbs and salt in my checked luggage.
I've stayed at rental condos on different islands 8 or 9 times now. What you can expect: a kitchen with fridge and probably and electric range, a coffee maker, a rice cooker (every place had one, except for the condo that had 3 of them), basic plates, cups, glasses, utensils, a crappy set of knives, microwave and miscellaneous pots and pans. Most rental condo complexes have outdoor propane barbecues available for use.
I bring my salt, sugar, pepper, herbs and tea and buy rice, fish and whatever fruits or vegetables strike my fancy at the time. If you're in the Ka'anapali area, I recommend The Fish Market for seafood: I haven't been too impressed by the farmers' markets on Maui.
Your first stop should be at the Costco right by the airport to buy the staples you need because you're apt to find more expensive prices anywhere else you shop. Besides the fish noted below, Costco has the best prices on bread, cheese, the Maui or Kona coffee, breakfast cereal and pastries, a container of "Hawaiian style" potato salad, already-cut pineapple, fresh vegetables,etc. A foldable insulated bag may be a handy item to bring with you.