The RV Eater: Local in Alaska.

Kelp pickles. Kachemak Bay Sea Salt. Haskap Jam. Halibut. Sliced sourdough.

These are just a few of the local foods I scavenged and savored on a recent RV trip to Alaska. While traveling from Anchorage to Seward and then down to Homer, I poked around shops, farmers markets, bakeries, restaurants and harbors to hunt down these off the grid goodies made by small local and dedicated artisans.

My husband and I have been camping for decades now and one of my side shows while doing so has been to hunt down local specialty items while we are out on the highways and byways. For many years I had a mobile kitchen in our family travel trailer which took our family of five far and wide through the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. This week we had a fully equipped kitchen in a Minnie Winnie which we rented from Great Alaskan Holidays in Anchorage.

While cruising through the Land of the Midnight Sun this week, I stocked my pantry with a spontaneous array of local goods. It was a delightful way to bring the flavors of Alaska to the Dixie plates on the campground dinner table.

The kelp pickles, made in Sitka from local seaweed and seasoned with the iconic bread and butter pickling spices, were ridiculously good. Pickle rings were added to smoked cheese bratwurst carted up from Seattle. They were also tucked on smoked salmon canapés, resulting in a very Scandinavian inspired hors d’oeuvre.

The sliced sourdough was from The Bakery in Girdwood and sadly didn’t last long in my mobile kitchen. Light and flavorful, the bread made great sandwiches and was enhanced even further with sunflower sprouts from the Saturday Homer Farmers Market. It was the bread of choice for breakfast and lunch.

The Alder smoked Kachemak Bay Sea Salt also from the Homer farmers market added a lively touch sprinkled over the evening salad.

Haskap Jam from Alaska Berries was scored at the visitor center in scenic town of Kenai. No one at the center could tell me much about the blue jam but back at the Heritage RV Park it was great on my morning granola with yogurt and berries. Eaten seaside while being warmed by the sun was simplicity at its best.

Seattle’s Pike Place Market-A Living Entity

Peonies. Prince William Sound Salmon. Cruise Ships. Tourists. Sunshine. Sea Breezes.

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Local peonies are stealing the show at the Pike Place Market right now!

The Pike Place Market I visited today is much different than the one I visited last January. Of course, TECHNICALLY and structurally it’s the same as it was back in January but this morning. the market wasn’t tenuously navigating Seattle’s unpredictable January weather.

Today, the market was strutting her seasonal stuff and loving it! Once again, I had to be downtown very early so after I “checked the box” on an errand well before 7:30 AM, I decided to stroll down the hill and head to the market. It was bright and sunny, and I figured it would be a great time to beat the crowds and see what’s coming in locally.

Alas, when I arrived I again found quiet streets and walkways. My first destination? The flower vendors who were clipping and arranging thousands of local peonies. One of my favorite flowers, the incredible array made me swoon. As much as I love to garden and have success with many things, my attempts to grow peonies have failed repeatedly.  These bodacious pink orbs, frankly, made me green with envy! I didn’t buy any simply because I didn’t want to cart them all over. That being said, they were a bargain and the prices ranged from $10 a bunch to $20. Local. Seasonal. Gorgeous beyond compare.

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On Ice: The King of all Salmon. This one from Alaska’s Prince William Sound

Next stop? The fish stalls. All the guys were sporting their waterproof orange pants, spraying the walkways, scooping crushed ice onto displays and answering questions from early birds like me. At Pike Place Fish Market they didn’t have any Copper River King or Sockeye because it’s been a rough season up there this far. They did have a massive 25 pound Prince William Sound king in a huge bin filled with ice. The adjacent tabletop display of Prince William Sound sockeye nearby also impressed.

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Anticipating the Cruise Ship Crowds and Taking a Breather!

After that, I was ready for a breather so I traipsed over to the nearby park to do a little people watching and eyeball the massive cruise ship docked nearby. As I examined that Norwegian behemoth from afar, I knew the crowds from within would be emerging and heading towards the market so I beelined to breakfast at nearby Seatown, one of Tom Douglas’s restaurants. The Fried Egg sandwich with avocado, Bavarian Meats bacon and a side of crispy hash browns was just what I needed before trekking back UP the hill to catch my bus.

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Seatown English Muffin Egg Sandwich with a Side of Bavarian Meats Bacon

While schlepping up to Third, I realized that the Market is indeed a living entity that shifts with each Seattle season.

 

 

Instant Pot Anxiety? Make Yogurt

On February 1, The Wall Street Journal ran an article entitled, “Instant Pot Anxiety? ‘I said a Prayer and Stayed the Hell Away.'”

In the piece, the author,  Ellen Byron,  interviewed various pot owners who had mishaps and struggled with operating the all in one appliance. I chuckled at some of the stories but admittedly the author was on to something. Every day when I peruse the Instant Pot Facebook feed, I see photos of Instant Pots in sealed boxes and cries for help and advice on how to take that first step to use the appliance. The posts weave into an interactive digital therapy session where fellow Instant Potters exclaim, “You can do it.”  “Just start.”  “My favorite easiest recipe is….” “Wear goggles and keep the kids outta the kitchen.”

As for me, I love my two Instant pots (6-quart duo and 3-quart mini) and use them daily without fail. Personally, I have never had pressure cooker anxiety because I started using the Kuhn Rikon stove top pressure cookers over twenty years ago. That being said, I can understand why some people hesitate. There are lots of buttons, The manual isn’t great. And, once you lock and load, commit to pressure and things start to rumble. there’s no turning back and you can’t open the lid and check the contents. It is indeed a leap of faith.

My solution for those folks who fret? Take the Instant pot out of the box, run the simple water test per the manufacturer’s instructions and make YOGURT!

Both of my machines have yogurt buttons and this cycle does NOT require putting anything under pressure. It simply creates a low heat that incubates your milk and starter and turns it into the rich luscious yogurt over the course of 8 hours. A miracle cycle in my mind!

I’ve tried various yogurt recipes but my favorites have come from This Old Gal and the only recipe I use now is her Instant Pot No Boil Yogurt Recipe which uses the whole Fairlife Milk found in many mainstream grocery stores such as Target, Safeway, QFC, and Winco. This particular milk does not require any preheating before making the yogurt so all I have to do is pour my half a gallon of whole milk into my 3 quart Instant Pot and whisk in two packets of YoGourmet starter. I then put on the lid, press the Yogurt Cycle and leave it alone for 8 hours.  There is no pressure. No noise. No steam. No wiggles or jiggles. Just a quiet incubation on the counter.

At the end of the cycle, the mixture has transformed into thick luscious creaminess. I then put my all natural yogurt, still in the Instant Pot’s inner container, into my fridge, covered and let it sit, undisturbed, overnight.

I use my yogurt on everything from granola and citrus segments to baked potatoes and kale salads. And, I’ve discovered that it makes a great tartar sauce to dollop on Alaska halibut or salmon.

So, if you want to buy an Instant Pot but are feeling, well, pressured…skip “manual” button and go for Yogurt.

Even if you never make anything else, the savings from making your own yogurt will pay for the pot in no time.

 

Seattle’s Pike Place Market-A Gift in January

Sometimes, life tosses you a gift on a whim. Yesterday, I got one of those gifts at Seattle’s most iconic destination—the Pike Place Market.

You see, I had to be down at the market yesterday morning for a client meeting. Unfortunately, the weathermen predicted rain, which, of course, isn’t unusual for the Emerald City.

So, I grumbled, dressed accordingly, and gave myself lots of extra time to get downtown.

While weaving my way towards the waterfront, I noticed that the sky was breaking up and rain was absent. By the time I parked the car the weather was looking downright acceptable.  Puffy clouds.  Light wind.  Patches of blue. When I stepped off the parking garage elevator and onto the spectacular new MarketFront,  I looked out at Elliott Bay and gasped. The view rivaled that of any spectacular August day. Expansive blue skies, calm seas, bright sunshine, panoramic mountain views, and incredible visibility. Plus, it was only about 9 AM so there was absolutely no one at the market.

No cars. No traffic. No tourists. No school kids. It hit me. I had the market to myself. I only had to share it with the dedicated shopkeepers and vendors who were setting up. Score!

I had about an hour to kill so this hour became a gift to me. Of course, I’ve been to the market hundreds of times since I moved here in 1995 but yesterday I had a chance to see it all over again as a resident, a tourist, a cook and a writer.

I strolled the market, snapped photos and realized that as much as the city of Seattle has grown and changed over these last 23 years, pretty much everything about the historic market has remained the same. The cobblestone streets stand firm. The tiles on the pathways in the market pave the way for curious tourists.  Le Panier continues to attract customers not with a fancy window display but with an amazing aroma. My favorite restaurant, Café Campagne, which has been tucked in the same corner for decades, still has their fabulous country pate on the menu. The talented flower vendors fill the stalls (year-round) with bright local bouquets sold for a song. And, the world-famous fishmongers continue to keep everyone hooked with their displays of amazing Northwest seafood.

My hour went quickly but it was an exercise in slowing down and taking a breather. It was a reminder that gifts can come in the smallest ways…and when you least expect them!

Here’s a snapshot of what our amazing market looked like yesterday!

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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…

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