Tartar Sauce: Slash the Fat with Yogurt

IMG_5754Tartar Sauce. It’s a classic accompaniment to fish. It’s great on a fish sandwich or with a piece of fried halibut or cod or baked salmon.

That being said, it isn’t a great accompaniment to the waistline. My favorite brand, Marina Tartar sauce, packs a walloping 180 calories and 20 grams of fat in two tablespoons. Two tablespoons? Let’s face it. Who really sticks to serving sizes? So, I bet it’s safe to say the calorie count on a tartar sauce accompaniment to a fish sandwich can run far higher than 180.

IMG_5758.JPGTackling this juggernaut has been on my recipe bucket list for some time but it was only recently that I nailed a real solution. I bought an Instant Pot back in August and have been making some really gorgeous yogurt in it every week. (I use the recipe from This Old Gal.) I generally have two quarts of homemade yogurt on hand each week and as a result, I have been finding all sorts of amazing ways to add this creamy protein-packed ingredient into my everyday meals.

That’s where my low-fat tartar sauce comes in. On Saturday, I had a piece of defrosted Alaska halibut in the fridge and some white hamburger buns on the counter. Both needed to be used up and I was in recipe development mode. So, I decided to make a halibut sandwich and that’s when the idea for yogurt tartar sauce was born

Admittedly, I was a bit doubtful. I tossed the idea out to my husband. He was really doubtful. Nonetheless, I went at it, substituting my yogurt for the mayonnaise and adding Western Family dill relish, some diced Walla Walla onion, the juice of half a lemon and some salt. A quick stir resulted in a luscious tartar with all the flavor of the classic and far less fat. Dolloped on a piece of cooked panko coated halibut it was a revelation.

IMG_5734The recipe that follows is ridiculously simple. If you don’t have homemade yogurt, storebought is fine. If you use Greek yogurt, you might need to thin it with a bit of milk to get that dollopy texture. Thin it a bit in the beginning, then add your relish, onion, and lemon juice, and if the texture needs adjusting, add a bit more milk or lemon if desired

Yogurt-Tartar Sauce

1/2 cup homemade plain yogurt, or store-bought plain Greek yogurt

2 to 3 teaspoons prepared dill relish, I used Western Family

1 to 2 Tablespoons chopped sweet onion

juice of half a lemon

salt to taste

In a small bowl, whisk or stir the yogurt to loosen and smooth out. Add the relish, the chopped onion, the lemon and salt to taste. Stir to combine and if using Greek yogurt, add a little milk or more lemon juice to adjust the texture.  Make 1/2 cup.

 

 

 

 

 

Lemony Dill Halibut Salad: A Scandinavian Refresh

I created this halibut salad this weekend after we had some friends over for dinner. My husband had cooked about three huge pieces of halibut from our June trip to Alaska and we had about a pound of cooked halibut leftover. While cleaning up on Saturday, I put it in the fridge. On Sunday I decided to do something with it to avoid waste.

My taste buds steered me towards a lemony Scandinavian flavor profile that day…I had attended the Nordic Culinary Conference here in Seattle back in May and I think it was those thrifty creative chefs—Claus Meyer, Sasu Laukonnen, and Titti Qvanstrom—  who inspired my path that afternoon.  At the conference, the chefs discussed how they avoid waste, use local ingredients, and employ simple techniques to ramp up inherent flavors and achieve impressive dishes.

So…while staring at a Pyrex dish full of flaky white fish,  I challenged myself to make a fresh and appealing salad with the leftover. Rather than just mix it up with some mayo which is the  traditional route to go for those who do employ leftover fish in their kitchens…I decided to ramp up the flavors.

Leftover fish can be a tough sell.  I wanted a “refresh”.

So, I looked in the fridge and the garden and pulled my Cuisinart forth on the counter. My food processor is crucial for challenges like this. It speeds the process and makes fish tidier to work with.  From the garden, I gathered a handful of dill, and a rummage through the fridge yielded some decent celery and a big voluptuous lemon.  With that, I had a game plan!

The key to my Halibut Refresh? I added lemon juice BUT I added it at a critical point.

I didn’t want to dilute that burst of sunshine.  I wanted to make sure it played a key role so I sprinkled the juice directly on the halibut and processed the halibut, celery and lemon BEFORE I added the mayonnaise.  I am convinced that this simple sequence in steps made an enormous difference in my end result because the lemon got mixed into the fish and the fish absorbed it, becoming light, sunny, and citrusy in the process. I then added the dill and the mayonnaise.

Here’s the recipe. A ridiculously appealing Alaska Halibut salad with definite Scandinavian tilt. I enjoyed it on piece of Larsen’s Bakery Light Finnish Rye. A match made in heaven.

Lemon and Dill Halibut Salad

3 celery stalks, cut into big chunks

8 to 10 ounces cooked halibut (poached, grilled or baked is fine), broken up into chunks

1 large lemon, rolled on the counter and then juiced*

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh dill

2 to 3 tablespoons low fat mayonnaise,  or to taste

Salt to taste

To Serve:

For serving: slices of lightly toasted rye bread and fresh Bibb lettuce leaves

For garnish: citrus zest, thinly sliced red onion, extra dill

 

Put the metal blade in the food processor, add the celery chunks and process the celery with three or four pulses to chop it. Put the halibut in the food processor, drizzle the lemon juice directly over the cooked halibut. Pulse once or twice to mix and incorporate the lemon juice. Add the fresh dill and the mayonnaise and pulse three or four times just to mix. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste.

To create an open faced sandwich: Serve the salad on lightly toasted rye with a piece of lettuce and garnished with zest, extra dill, and thinly sliced onion if desired.

*Lemon Tip: To extract the most juice from a lemon, roll it on a counter before you juice it. You can also prick a couple holes the lemon, zap it in the microwave for twenty seconds, roll it on the counter and then juice it. These little techniques go a long way towards extracting all that sunshine from a lemon!

 

 

 

The Cooking School at Tutka Bay Lodge!

The visuals from my journey to the cooking school at Alaska’s remote and serene Tutka Bay Lodge last week.

Indeed, a picture is worth a thousand words.

I am still working on the full write up from the class, but in the mean time here’s some eye candy…

IMG_3337

72 Hours in Homer, AK: Bucket List on Steroids! Part One

RV Alaska June 2017A trip to Homer, Alaska, at the height of the fishing season and only two days before the summer solstice can only mean one thing. A bucket list on steroids. My husband, son and I flew up to Alaska last week and it was a quick and tightly focused trip to see some clients, do research, fish, and explore the region.

When we were planning the trip beforehand, we decided to rent an RV from  Great Alaskan Holidays in Anchorage. Chris has done this before but this was the first time I was embarking on the RV rental gig. We ran some numbers beforehand and realized that renting an RV and driving it the four hours to Homer out on the Kenai Peninsula was far more economical than flying down there, staying in hotels, renting a car, and eating out. The RV also gave us complete freedom to organize our trip according to our schedule and needs. And, combined with the daily 21 hours of daylight at this time of year, we were able to maximize our time in a very remote location.

After flying from Seattle to Anchorage we were greeted at the airport by the rental company shuttle which took us to the facility where we checked in, watched a safety video, and loaded our Minnie Winnie with gear, clothing and food. Our Minnie Winnie was spacious, gorgeous and appointed with Cuisinart cookware, bed linens and fluffy towels. We rented a toaster and the coffee pot.

Our first night was spent in Seward, Alaska simply because we didn’t want to drive so long after leaving from Seattle that morning. We stayed at a municipal campground in town, watched the cruise ships navigate into the dock, marveled at the massive halibut and rock fish haul on display and then left early the next morning for Homer,  the Halibut Capital of the World. Located on the Kachemak Bay and in the shadow of Kachemak Bay State Park, this place is a nature lover’s paradise.

The spacious and clean Heritage RV Park, located right on the Bay, became our home for three nights. Sitting right on The Spit and adjacent to the local (and stocked) fishing lagoon, this RV park is also within walking distance to town and the marina. This proximity to the attractions worked great because we didn’t have to unhook the RV and trek the lengthy rig in to town to see the sights. Our site was right on the beach and had some of the best Alaskan scenery I have ever experienced. We didn’t have to eat out because our fully equipped kitchen was stocked and ready.

During the three days, we covered a lot of territory even though the Spit is relatively small in size. Fishing for halibut. Making tacos at a local cooking school. Losing a BIG fish in the lagoon. Discovering a new water trail around the Bay, Watching fishermen fillet their fish. Kicking back and enjoying the Midnight Sun. Watching the sun set and indulging in Klondike Bars and berries at midnight on Father’s Day.

For more on my 72 Hours in Homer, watch for Part 2: The Cooking School at Tutka Bay Lodge. 

 

 

 

 

Circa 1995, A Tip from Mom: Eat More Salmon

Funny how a simple phone call from mom can chart a new course.

Back in 1995 my mom called me. I was living in Seattle and was a new mother. Mom was sitting at the kitchen table at home on Long Island. She didn’t beat around the bush. She got right to the point and told me I needed to eat more salmon. Huh?

Mom had read an article in The New York Times that morning and it was based on research coming out of Seattle’s University of Washington. Published on November 1, 1995 and entitled “Study Finds Anew a Benefit in Eating Fish,” the article presented findings from a six -year King County study that clearly showed how eating even moderately sized servings of seafood rich in omega three fatty acids held promising health benefits.

I soon received that hand clipped article as well as others addressing Vitamin D, darkness, breast cancer risk and more.  They all mentioned the benefits of eating oily rich fish such as salmon. I took it to heart.

After all, beautiful wild salmon was readily available at the seafood counters and in the local waters all over Seattle and frankly I found it to be a restorative and positive way to take action on a brutal reality that wasn’t fun, pleasant or even remotely palatable.

You see, my mom was 2800 miles away suffering through metastatic breast cancer and would soon undergo a bone marrow transplant with a tragic outcome. My older sister, who was 36 years old had just conquered breast cancer and intensive chemotherapy. As for me, I was only 30 years old and was faced with a tsunami of risk heading my way.

Back then I was actively participating in the High Risk Breast Clinic at the University of Washington. When I moved to Seattle, the specialists at NY’s Memorial Sloan Kettering had told me to go to the UW. So, I heeded their advice, and every six months I showed up at the University of Washington Medical Center for a check-up.

Although I dreaded those darn appointments, being a journalist, I always took solace in the “news” that my docs shared each time. It seemed like research was breaking new ground daily. My wonderful doctors, who faithfully followed me for the next ten years, educated me and encouraged me to participate in the new technology and warned me that “false readings” were possible but part of the research.  Hmm. Okay. And, indeed, when they were learning how to administer and read MRIs for breast cancer screening, I was on the table. I was injected. I was zoomed in and out of the MRI machine and I was often called back when some minuscule spot looked odd and they wanted to “dig further.” Dig they did.

To make a long story short, after a decade with UWMC, I was diagnosed in 2004 at the age of 39. It was early but the docs, like mom, didn’t tread lightly. I was told: “double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.”  No chemo or radiation would be necessary because it was so early. With little waffling, I agreed and had the surgery.

I’ve never looked back and have been grateful to have nipped that nasty beast in the bud so early.

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month and National Seafood Month, I was recently inspired to donate to Sea A Cure, a fundraiser bridging the seafood industry and the cutting edge research being done at  City of Hope.  The fundraiser popped up on my Facebook page and it resonated instantly.

For me, it was the amazing doctors and researchers, both here and in NYC, who dedicated their careers to finding solutions and better detection methods but it was also that simple no nonsense call from mom that cold rainy day in 1995.

Since then, I’ve known that I can’t always fix exactly what might ail me but I sure can take the helm and dish up a hefty dose of prevention right in my own little kitchen. That’s why over the years, wild salmon, as well as many other types of seafood, have played a big role in my every day cooking, writing and recipe development.  It’s quick, easy, delicious, versatile, widely available and ridiculously good for you. What’s not to love? Clearly mom was on to a good thing!

If you want to see some of my salmon articles and recipes, click here and here.

If you are interested in knowing more about the Sea A Cure Friends of the Seafood Industry fundraiser click here. For more about City of Hope, check out these informative links.

 

 

Copper River Gravlax: Recipe Refresh!

Sometimes you get in a recipe rut. You make the same version of a recipe time and again. Then, there are instances when you decide you need a reboot.

You need to bust a rut and revisit your technique.

That’s exactly what happened to me last May.

I was attending the Nordic Culinary Conference at the Nordic Heritage Museum and Andreas Viestad, the author of Kitchen of Light and the host of the PBS Television series New Scandinavian Cooking was giving a demo on gravlax.  My husband and I have been making gravlax for years but I thought it would be fun to learn or explore a new technique.

Generally, when we make it we use wild salmon that has been frozen and we make it during the winter months,usually around Christmas. We also used kosher salt and follow a recipe that essentially had us “burying” the salmon in salt. The results were good but I felt they could be better.

Hello, Nordic Culinary Conference!

While discussing the history and culture of gravlax and working at a very basic set up in the museum’s gym, Andreas sparked my Gravlax Recipe Reboot! He used a far gentler hand when curing his gravlax and he discussed the merits of curing the wild salmon first and then freezing it.  Aside from neutralizing any potential health issues with eating wild salmon raw, this curing THEN freezing method also results in a superior end product because Andreas explained that the curing breaks down some of the proteins in the fish and removes excess water in the flesh before the fish is frozen.

At the end of that class we were all treated to tastings of his version. Memorable morsels indeed.

At home, I anxiously awaited the launch of Copper River sockeye season and once I could get my hands on some, I adapted Andreas’s basic gravlax recipe. While standing face to fin with my Copper River sockeye, I decided to adjust Andreas’s recipe even further. He calls for curing with dill seed and peppercorn but I left those out and wrote up my own version of the technique, using an even lighter more intuitive hand. The end product is buttery, fresh and deliciously decadent.

The sockeye gravlax slices beautifully.

It drapes like silk!

Missy Trainer’s Gravlax Recipe

Adapted from Andreas Viestad, Nordic Culinary Conference (May 2016) and Kitchen of Light.

Copyright 2016 Melissa A. Trainer

Ingredients:

1 Copper River sockeye salmon, (tested with a four pounder/2016 season), filleted, pin boned, washed and patted dry lightly with paper towels

1/3 cup fine sea salt*

2/3 cup sugar

½ large bunch fresh dill, chopped coarsely

Equipment: parchment paper, Saran Wrap, large baking dish, such as Le Creuset roasting pan, small sandwich sized Tupperware containers, and four cans of Oregon Fruit Products cherries to weight the fish

Put the sockeye fillets, flesh side up on the parchment paper.   Combine the salt and sugar in a bowl and lightly sprinkle the sockeye flesh with the mixture.

I did this about three times and between each sprinkling the cure mixture would start to dissolve. This gentle subtle sprinkling technique results in a more refined texture. In the past and in many recipes they call for just dumping the mixture on the flesh, which essentially suffocates the poor bugger! After sprinkling,  rub the mixture around a little bit to distribute it.

In my method, let the salmon talk back to ya! Let it suck up some of the salt sugar mixture and rest for a second before you “load it up” again!

After three or four sprinklings, you’ll probably have some salt/sugar cure mixture left. I didn’t use it all the first time…I just set it aside in a jam jar and saved it for the next round of fish.

Then top the salmon with the chopped dill and sandwich the two fillets together. Wrap the sandwiched fillets in Saran wrap, put in the roasting pan and weight it as evenly as you can with the Tupperware and canned cherries…or corn or beans or bricks. This compresses the salmon and helps to extract that excess water.

Refrigerate and turn daily for two to three days.  Remove the cured fish, pat it dry. Do not rinse it. Leave the fresh dill intact. Cut into eight ounce chunks or whatever size you want. (Eight ounce chunks make it easy to avoid waste and use only what you need in each sitting.)

Vacuum pack if you have a Food Saver and freeze. Remove from freezer, let defrost and cut the gravlax thinly on an angle.

Drape the gravlax slices on whole grain bread, top with Scandinavian mustard and a garnish of dill.

Gravlax Twice as Good: Leftovers? Save even the smallest leftovers and tidbits and make a Scandinavian style potato salad with fresh cooked new potatoes, sour cream/mayo combo, celery, sweet onion, fresh dill and snippets of gravlax. The best!

*Salt:  In prior seasons we always just used kosher salt  but we now know that it is way too coarse and harsh. I switched to a bulk French fine sea salt from Whole Foods, which made a huge difference as the salt melts on the flesh within seconds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duke’s Chowder House Publishes First Cookbook

Duke Moscrip, one of Seattle’s longtime and legendary restaurateurs, has just released his first cookbook. As Wild as It Gets: Duke’s Secret Sustainable Seafood Recipes is a hefty treasure to hold. Published by Aviva Publishing in New York and clocking in with a whopping 382 full-color pages, this book shares the recipes for all of the dishes served at Duke’s Chowder House.

Moscrip opened Duke’s in 1976 and the restaurant’s flagship dish, clam chowder, was inspired by Duke’s New England grandfather and the chowder that he served to Duke when he was a child. Over the years, the business has expanded and there are now six locations throughout the Puget Sound. Chowder remains a hallmark at the restaurant but over the years Duke has expanded the repertoire to include wild sustainable seafood much of which hails from waters here in the Pacific Northwest and, of course, Alaska.

The book, co-authored with Chef “Wild” Bill Ranniger, explores the story of Duke’s…and Duke…in great detail. Duke’s salmon sourcing trips to Alaska are highlighted as are family meals with his children and grandchildren.

I only received my review copy this morning and was pleased to be offered a copy as I cook a lot of seafood in my little kitchen. I’ve also eaten at Duke’s many times and a few years ago I wrote the press releases for the restaurant.   At first glance, the color photography in the book grabbed my eye and enticed my culinary instincts.  The recipes aren’t only geared towards seafood…they obviously run the gamut from soup to desserts.

Over the years,  I’ve admired Duke’s wedge salad, an iceberg classic,  so I was happy to see Sweet Blackberry Wedge Salad on page 116. The recipe for Nothing But Blue Sky Bleu Cheese is revealed and that’s one that is now on my recipe to do list.

After a quick glance through the recipes, I realized that I’d need to get organized and dedicate a little more time to recreating some of the dishes at home. Because these are restaurant recipes, there are often recipes within recipes, meaning to make a salad you have to make a specific dressing the recipe for which is found on another page. Some people might think this is too complicated to follow but it’s the nature of the beast when you recreate chef recipes.

That being said, even though I was short on time, I soon found myself rustling up ingredients and adapting one of the salmon recipes, “Wild Alaska Salmon Caesar Shoots” found in the “Appeteasers & Shared Plates” chapter. The photo shows little blackened salmon strips tucked snugly into romaine lettuce leaves drizzled with Caesar dressing.   In the recipe introduction, Duke mentions how he loves salads but salads require a bowl, utensils, a napkin, a chair etc. He said he liked this recipe because you have all the comforts of a salad but you can eat it with your hands! Aha! That description was perfect and it was all that I needed to launch into a spontaneous cooking session.  Admittedly, I didn’t follow the ingredient list exactly because I didn’t have all the spices handy for Duke’s Blackening Spice of Life. That being said, I used the technique described and the results were excellent…perfect finger food for Super Bowl Weekend.

So if you want to add to your seafood cookbook repertoire, check out this newbie. You will be inspired to not only follow the recipes but to use them as a culinary launching pad, tweaking and testing to suit your wild, wonderful and whimsical ways.