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.

The Best Bacon and Egg Sandwich? At Danny Meyer’s Daily Provisions in NYC

I have my big sister, Alison, to thank for this one.

When I was visiting the Big Apple back in February, I had to be down by Union Square early one morning. Without missing a beat Alison told me to go to Daily Provisions and get their bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. “The Best,”  she said.

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The Bacon, Egg and Cheese Sandwich at Daily Provisions…plus the Chocolate Caramel Chunk cookies..for later!

Well, I adore a good bacon and egg sandwich and decided to heed the tip. It was early that morning…maybe 7:30 or so.  When I darted out of the rain and into the charming little restaurant directly behind the new Union Square Cafe, the chatty customer standing next to me in line heard it was my first visit. Unsolicited, she said, “Get the egg sandwich. It’s the best.” Sensing a deja vu, I didn’t think twice. Bacon and egg sandwich it was. I have made, ordered, and eaten hundreds of bacon and egg sandwiches over the years, but this was indeed superb. A soft roll,  a perfectly cooked egg, a thick piece of Niman Ranch bacon, and deliciously gooey cheese served in a wax paper pocket. The price? $7. For New York, that’s a breakfast bargain.

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The Daily Provisions decor is accentuated with handmade blue and white tiles and pottery from Haand in North Carolina

I’ve been back to New York a few times since that trip in February and Daily Provisions is a must visit. I’ve had the broccoli melt sandwich ($11), the spinach and arugula salad ($10), the chocolate caramel chunk cookie ($4), and the Milanese sandwich ($13) All top quality and reasonably priced.

On my visit last week, my daughter and I arrived for lunch early…a few minutes before 11:30 when the kitchen reopens. The gal at the cashless register chatted with me and explained that the shop/cafe was opened when Danny Meyer took over the location on East 19th Street to reopen Union Square Cafe in the main portion of the building. This little space in the back was part of the package so they decided to create Daily Provisions, a neighborhood cafe with “everything you need throughout the day to dine in or take away.”

With a soothing dark blue interior, welcoming staff, communal tables, charming handmade pottery from Haand in North Carolina, and great food at reasonable prices, it is a friendly and homey place to provision yourself daily!

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!

 

 

 

Banh Town in North Seattle: Vietnamese Street Food Served with a Smile

It pays to drive the carpool. It can be deliciously rewarding in many ways.

Twice a week I drive my son and his buddy over to evening lacrosse practice. En route, I get the scoop on everything from the Spanish curriculum at a local middle school to the boys’ recap on last week’s game.

Recently, one of our carpool conversations circled around food. We were talking about my son James’s favorite teriyaki joint in the neighborhood and our 14-year-old car pool passenger quickly chimed in with HIS favorite joint in the area…Banh Town.

Banh Town: Vietnamese Street Food. Banh Mi. Pho. Happiness

I was immediately intrigued by his suggestion because the place had been on my list for about two years…Will quickly gave me a recap on their pho and their sandwich selection. Sighing in the back seat, he told me their vermicelli salad was “the best.”  I think Will was in fact making a mental note to get back there sooner rather than later.

I made a similar note and this week when my husband and I wanted something light, fresh and different for lunch, I suggested Banh Town. We were soon out the door and on our way to this small, bright and cheerful little family owned and operated Vietnamese restaurant. Located at the busy intersection of Greenwood Avenue North and Holman Road and sitting right behind a Jiffy Lube, Banh Town is a treasure. The interior is bright and the walls are decorated with large  colorful photographs of Vietnam.

 

Vermicelli Salad.JPGChauanh, was our server and she is also one of the owners. Service with a smile seems to be the mantra at Banh Town and we were quickly briefed on the menu which includes an array of banh mi, pho, vermicelli salads and a variety of starters. Although I’ve been making a lot of pho during this wet and rainy Seattle winter we’ve been having, I opted to celebrate the sunshine yesterday and ordered the chicken vermicelli salad ($9.95). My husband had the five spice chicken banh mi ($6.95) and we shared two spring rolls ($7) and an order of quail’s egg poppers ($7), which were a family recipe from Grandma Le. ( I think Grandma Le might be Chauanh’s maternal grandma. We were told she is a great cook and she is cited as the recipe creator on a few of the flagship items on the menu so take note!)

Bahn MiThe banh mi arrived with a side of sesame slaw and the sandwich was light and beautifully done with a crispy airy French roll and lots of fresh cilantro. My salad was full of flavor and the skewered chicken was grilled to the perfect degree. Perched on top of cold vermicelli noodles and a cucumber lettuce combo, the chicken added a nice protein punch to the light and satisfying entrée. The quail’s egg  poppers were crispy on the  outside and the interior was subtle and comforting.

The bill was reasonable by Seattle standards and totaled less $40 with tax and tip. The restaurant  is now open seven days a week and offers takeout and delivery via Doordash and Postmates.

The restaurant’s logo touts: Banh Town: Vietnamese Street Food. Banh Mi. Pho. Happiness.

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

 

 

 

Celebrate Seafood with The Dillingham Salmon Melt!

Dillingham Sockeye Salmon Melt

October is National Seafood Month so without a doubt you are seeing a lot of press swirling around this highly nutritious protein. To celebrate, I could certainly feature an array of ideas, species and dishes but in an attempt to keep things simple I’m going to share my recipe for an affordable, quick and comforting dish–the Dillingham Salmon Melt.

I created this simple lunch dish for myself last spring while I was researching, developing, and testing recipes for canned Alaska sockeye for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. This recipe was created early on in my adventure, and I made it one cold and rainy Seattle day. It was ridiculously easy and incredibly comforting for lunch so I am happy to share it with you here.

I’ve dubbed the recipe the Dillingham Salmon Melt because Dillingham, Alaska is home to the Peter Pan Cannery, one of the longest continually operating salmon canneries in Alaska. I’ve toured that  historic blue clapboard cannery twice and it’s a true maritime icon…not to mention a salmon processing workhorse!

The Dillingham Salmon Melt

Prep Time: About five minutes

1. Get a can of Alaska sockeye salmon, which can easily be found in the canned fish section of the supermarket.  You can get a small or large can, and I should note that the salmon will most likely contain the skin and the bones, which do NOT need to be picked out because they were cooked and softened during the canning process. Open and drain the can, discarding the liquid.

2. Preheat the broiler. Put the salmon, with the skin and the bones, into a food processor or mini chopper. Add some fresh dill, chopped scallion, and a hefty squeeze of fresh lemon. (I find that the lemon really brightens the salmon flavor.) Run the food processor for four or five seconds, pulsing the button as necessary in order to process the fish evenly. Add two or three blobs of low fat mayonnaise and pulse two or three times to combine. (If you don’t have a food processor, don’t worry. Just use a fork and combine thoroughly.)

3. Cut your English muffins in half and toast lightly in the toaster, transferring to a baking sheet. With a tablespoon, scoop up the salmon mixture and place it on the English muffins.

4. Take 1/2 cup or so of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) and toss in some grated cheddar or Parmesan. Sprinkle this evenly over your salmon sandwiches and drizzle the sandwiches with a little melted butter if desired. Put the salmon melts under the broiler and watch carefully, cooking until they are browned and heated through.

5. Serve on a bed of lightly dressed greens and enjoy!

If you’d like more information on canned Alaska sockeye salmon as well as my recipe for Three Minute Salmon Salad, head over to Bristol Bay Sockeye.org.