Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Smoking Copper River Salmon

People in Alaska know summer has arrived when we can drag out our electric smokers and smoke almost the rest of last year's salmon. I've left enough Copper River reds in the freezer to get us through the end of July, but am trying to smoke the rest and will be making batches of blueberry and raspberry jam in between to clean out and get ready for this year's crop.

Jin prefers the saltier, soy brined salmon to the sweeter apple juice brined. I don't have a preference, but I like my smoked salmon on the dry side as opposed to the moist stuff that a lot of people prefer. I've found that by smoking the salmon, then pressure canning it in 1/2 pint jars I get just the right consistency AND I don't have to store it in the freezer. I will put all 15 lbs that I am smoking today and tomorrow in the freezer. In speaking of smoking, I prefer to use Alder. If you can't get Alder, my suggestion is to wait until you can. With almost everything else, I prefer to use Mesquite or a blend of Apple and Cherry---but in the case of FISH---Use ONLY Alder.

The smoke from this wood really does make a significant difference in the outcome of the product.

Everyone knows that Copper River salmon is the best you can get in the world, is extremely expensive if you try and purchase it at the store, and that it is high in Omega-3. We eat smoked salmon just as it is as a high-protein snack, add it to cream cheese for a dip, use it in potato chowders, top baked potatoes and too many other recipes to even begin to list.

I learned from an elder in Hughes, Alaska at fish camp one summer that, for salmon to really absorb a smoky flavor, one should score the salmon slightly (not all the way through) about every 1/4"-1/2".

Soy Brine

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup PLAIN salt (MUST NOT be iodized)
2 cups soy sauce (you may want to use the reduced-sodium variety)
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire pepper
1/2 tsp. Slap Ya Mamma seasoning
1/2 tsp. tabasco sauce
1 cup chardonnay

Thoroughly rinse and drain salmon. Pat salmon dry with paper towels. Score the salmon as shown above. I brine my salmon in a bucket I purchased at Home Depot inside of a clean plastic garbage bag. Drop scored salmon in the bag. Mix brine ingredients listed above and pour over salmon. Make sure all pieces are covered and I make sure skin side is up so fish is submerged in the brine. Brine the salmon for 12 hours. Remove salmon to clean paper towels and allow to air dry for about 60 minutes. Fish should begin to acquire a sticky or tacky feel (this is GOOD!)

Place the thickest fish on the bottom tray of the smoker. Use 3 pans of Alder chips and smoke for 10-12 hours. Allow to cool in the smoker, then remove and vacuum seal in bags.

The next recipe comes to you from my dear friend, Kristi Baker. She is an awesome lady who taught me so much as a greenhorn to Alaska. This is Kristi's brining recipe which is a little sweeter and very yummy.

Kristi Baker's Smoked Salmon Brine

1 large can Tree Top Apple Juice
1 gallon water
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup plain salt (NON-IODIZED)

Scored fish should marinate in brine for at least 12 hours. Remove fish to drain and air dry for 2 hours. Smoke for 4-6 hours or longer for a firmer fish.

Today I am also trying a new recipe for smoking already cooked fish to use in frying patties. I loved my mother's salmon patties, were always a favorite at the table and I love them cold as well as hot. As an experiment last year, I pressure canned some halibut as well and trying a smoke on this (see the picture.

Halibut on the left, salmon on the right, stand-up-sit-down, fight-fight-fight...Notice again that I am using Alder chips to smoke.

Here is the recipe for Smoked Fish Patties

This is a terrific appetizer I invented and will be entering this one in the next AK cooking contest!

Halibut Patties:
2 cups cooked, flaked halibut
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Dill weed
Lemon wedges

Mix fish, eggs, bread crumbs, onions, salt and pepper together thoroughly and mold into patties to fry to golden brown in a non-stick skillet.

Lightly dust with dill weed and serve with lemon wedges.

Salmon Patties:

2 cups cooked, flaked salmon
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup cracker crumbs (*I sometimes use food processed pork rinds-higher protein content--but Jim hates the thought of using pork rinds in anything)
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom (thank you Chef Kirsten Dixon for teaching me that cardamom and salmon are best friends)
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Spanish paprika to garnish

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly and mold into small patties to fry in a hot non-stick skillet. Like the halibut patties above, if made into silver dollar sized pieces, this makes a great appetizer.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Love Dinner - Israeli Couscous with Grilled Summer Vegetables---Up front! This is a vegan dish

I asked for assistance this morning on Facebook to keep me away from the grocery store. I found another product I simply had to try, Israeli Couscous. I bought a lb. of the stuff (in the health food and organic section of the store), scribbled instructions on the tab on how to cook and promptly went home to surf for a recipe. Lo and behold, I find a recipe on the FoodNetwork (Bobby Flay) that looked very interesting. These are the ingredients you will need.

Please note I'm changing it up with the addition of eggplant, mushrooms and feta cheese.

I have named this recipe "Love Dinner" because that is what it is. Be prepared to spend at least 3 hours preparing this dish for the people you love. The washing, slicing, dicing, grilling and sauteing is endless. In addition, I am serving this with artichokes and corn on the cob...a truly vegan dinner tonight.

I love that the end result is topped with Italian flat leaf parsley and basil chiffonade. This couscous is more like a pasta....please keep this little secret in mind the next time you want to make an Italian Wedding Soup or one of those Frog's Eye Salad dishes. This is a pretty dish to serve and very unique---but YOU can make it better.

Don't be fooled into thinking this meal is even healthy just because it can be vegetarian. The proportions and nutritional information are as follows (this is ONLY for the couscous----not including the veggies and dressing):

1/3 cup serving
Calories: 220
Carbs: 46 g
Protein: 8

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 cup of olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

4 green zucchini sliced lengthwise into quarters
4 yellow summer squash sliced lengthwise into quarters
1 lb. asparagus spears, trimmed
1 eggplant, sliced into 1" cubes
1 lb. small white mushrooms, cleaned (left whole)
12 cherry tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, 2" dice
1 yellow bell pepper, 2" dice

1/2 cup basil chiffonade
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 TBSP olive oil
1 6 oz. package of feta, crumble

1 lb. Israeli couscous (about 3 1/2 cups)
2 cans vegetable broth, heated
Hot water (in case you need it to cover)

In a small dish, whisk the vinegar, mustard and garlic, slowly add olive oil while whisking until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour 1/2 of the marinade/dressing over the vegetables and allow to marry for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the grill. I use a vegetable plate made especially for grilling and use PAM FOR GRILLING. Let the grill get between 400 and 450 before placing the veggies on the grill. Turning frequently, grill the vegetables until only just cooked through. Cut the zucchini and peppers into 1/2" dice, cut tomatoes in 1/2.

Heat vegetable broth to boil. Then heat 2 TBSP olive oil in a non-stick skillet and add couscous and toss frequently and allow to toast to a light brown.

My bad on the video..yes it is all shot on my own grill...sorry for the poor quality.

Add vegetable broth to cover couscous, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add veggies to the cooked couscous. Stir in the herbs and the crumbled feta. Add in the remainder of the marinade/dressing and mix thoroughly.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

Expensive hobby....Cooking...but it is my passion and my joy. There is nothing I love more than finding a recipe, challenging myself to prepare it even better and sharing it with the people I really love and care about. Isn't that the pinnacle of satisfaction? Giving people pleasure?

When tasked to create a recipe with mushrooms as a main ingredient, you MUST always select a variety of three. Typically use: Crimini (FYI----crimini mushrooms are nothing more than baby portabellas for those who do not know), white, and portabella....but oyster is a good substitute. I MUST interject here that my good friend Olga states that mushrooms have no nutritional value. Whether they are or not nutritionally sound, I don't care because I personally love the taste of them. If I submit a dish to you here that may not be nutritionally sound, I will not be held accountable because I really do thrive on taste and presentation; both are prevalent in this dish.

For those who do not really know me, I am a creature of habit. I arrive at work ALWAYS between 6:45 and 7:00 a.m., silverware placed in the dishwasher must be sorted by utensil, spices in the cabinet are alphabetized for ease in locating them, self check-out at the grocery store is preferred because I place veggies and fruits in the same bag....eggs and bread in the other, cheese must always be labeled with dates and put in a separate drawer from other meats and veggies. There are just some things in my life I MUST have control over.

Where was I going with this? Oh Yes! now I remember! Gulliver's Books on College Blvd. in Fairbanks. As a creature of habit, I occupy this space almost every Saturday morning when they first open. I am usually the first customer at the door and immediately climb the stairs to peruse the shelves for titles to purchase to offer up to my students and sometimes sample their delicious fare at the Second Story Cafe. Food prepared here is fresh, from scratch, and is healthy and authentic! On Friday this week I had the Greek Salad and a cup of the Hungarian Mushroom Soup. Wow! I have heard great reviews about this soup and had to try it. Thank you Gulliver's for sharing the process (added the link). They do not give proportions or exact ingredients, but I think I ferreted out the secrets.

The determined chef in me went immediately to the store, purchased my top three shrooms: crimini, white and portabella (thanks Mr. Kowalski for that tip with your Mushroom Ragu) and graced the shelves of the organic section for portabella mushroom stock. I knew a main ingredient of this recipe was white onions, butter and sour cream so I made sure the basket included those ingredients.

Without further is a great recipe for Hungarian Mushroom Soup. Please do visit the link to Gulliver's Books. They are huge advocates of education.

1/4 Cup unsalted butter
1 large white onion, sliced YOU WANT THESE CHUNKY---kind of like French Onion Soup
1 lb mixed mushrooms (I use a combination of three varieties), ROUGH want them chunky
2 tsp. dried dill weed (ha! I used dill weed from my last year's organic herb garden)
1 TBSP. paprika
1 TBSP. soy sauce
1 box of Portabella Mushroom Broth (find this in the organic section of the store)
1 cup fat free half and half
3 TBSP flour
1 tsp. kosher salt (be careful here...I personally think shrooms and salt have a love/hate relationship) kind of like slugs and salt...not a good mix
Fresh ground pepper to taste (and I love my tri-color peppercorn grind)
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3/4 cup sour cream

Melt the butter and add onions to saute for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes. Add dill weed, paprika, soy sauce and portabella mushroom stock. Simmer for 15 minutes or until mushrooms are tender.

In a separate bowl, combine half and half and flour. Slowly pour into mushroom mixture to thicken.

The last step: Stir in the salt, pepper, lemon juice, parsley and sour cream. Allow this to heat through for about 5 minutes. IMPORTANT: Do not boil!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Halibut Enchiladas with Bueno Green Chile Sauce with Pork

This recipe takes a lot of time in the kitchen, preparing the fish, and assembling the final product, but it is worth the effort you will put into it. Simply stated, Jim said, "This is the best use of halibut and enchiladas I have ever had! It's perfect!"

Brine for Poaching:

1 Qt. water
½ medium onion, sliced
6 whole black peppercorns
5 whole allspice
juice of 1 lemon
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. Kosher salt
½ cup dry white wine

Simmer these ingredients for 30 minutes to let the flavors marry.

1 lb. halibut or any white fish will do

Add 1 lb. cleaned and skinned fish and add enough water to cover the top of the fish. DO NOT BOIL! Cover and allow the fish to poach on low heat for 15-20 minutes (or until it flakes easily with a fork). Drain and toss everything except the fish.

12 corn tortillas, softened in oil and drained on a paper towel
1 small onion, diced
3 cups Monterey Jack Cheese, grated

Soften corn tortillas in oil and drain on paper towels. Place scant amounts of fish, onions and cheese on each tortilla and roll. Place in a non-stick sprayed baking dish. Repeat until all tortillas are used. Cover enchiladas with Bueno Green Chile Sauce with Pork and top with Monterey Jack cheese.

Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve with calabacitas and beans.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Moose-Elk-Deer or Beef Stew---The Theme of the day is HOME!

Most everyone will agree that HOME is the place we all most want to be. Absolutely NOTHING speaks of home or love or a feeling of complete acceptance than HOME, the place you take off your socks, binding clothes, don sweats, pjs, wooly socks, kick back and become.....YOU. This is the place where the real creative juices flow. Comfort food is surely a part of this picture. A homemade stew speaks COMFORT, LOVE and time. Notice time is minimal...that's because it simmers...just like love at home. I have created my first playlist for you of tracks I think you should enjoy while making and/or eating a hearty stew.

2 lbs of cubed meat (moose, elk, beef, etc)
flour dusted with salt, pepper, thyme
1 large box of beef stock

1 large onion, diced fine
4 cloves garlic, diced

1 lb. carrots, large dice
6 stalks celery, large dice
4 large potatoes, peeled and large dice
3 cans diced tomatoes

Toss the cubed meat in seasoned flour. Brown in a large stockpot with olive oil. Add stock ad diced tomatoes. Add all ingredients and simmer for 3 hours or until done.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spiced Lemon Quinoa-Diabetic Friendly- Vegan meal or Side Dish

While perusing through my recent Sunset Magazine (May 2011), I knew I had to try this recipe. Quinoa is a great whole-grain food that is Diabetic Friendly. Because there are so many diabetics in my family, I am always on the lookout for meals to prepare they can enjoy. Too often, we forget that many foods we recognize as staples such as potatoes, pasta, and rice are, in fact, NOT good for our loved ones with diabetes. One cup of quinoa has 222 calories, 4g of fat, 5g of fiber, a WHOPPING 8g of protein and 0 sugar.So glad I tried this recipe This goes in my KEEP file and I'll be adding this to my Tried-and-True Personal Cookbook (Thanks Mom for getting me started on this!). The dish is just as good served cold as it is hot. I have included the link where you can find the original recipe as well. This South Indian dish was submitted by Kavita Aiyar.

This is what you will need...

2 Tbsp. yellow spit peas
5 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. black or brown mustard seeds (I get them at Sunshine Foods or the organic section of Safeway)
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. curry (original recipe calls for 5 curry leaves-which are not available in Fairbanks)
1 serrano chile, minced
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. kosher salt
5 oz. package of baby spinach (I used the 7 oz. package-but I love spinach!)
1 cup cooked red or white quinoa (I use red)
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 TBSP chopped cilantro

1. Simmer the split peas with 2 cups water until tender, about 25-30 minutes. Drain and pat dry on a paper towel. Set the peas aside.

Putting it all together:

2. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat, add mustard seeds, cover with a lid and cook until they pop (2 minutes or less), stir in cumin, peas, curry, chile, turmeric, and salt. Cook, stirring often, until peas start to turn light golden (2 minutes). Remove the mixture to a bowl.

3. Add spinach to the pan, increase heat to medium-high and cook just until wilted (1-2 minutes). Drain any liquid. Stir in quinoa, split-pea mixture and 2 tsp. lemon juice. Add more lemon juice or salt to taste preference. Scatter cilantro on top and serve warm or cold.

Stuffed Squid

Did you know that squid is a member of the octopus family? It is relatively cheap to purchase compared to crab, lobster, salmon, halibut and oysters. However, squid has had a bad reputation as being only fit for the calamari appetizer. The recipe here will surprise you and I hope you will give squid a fair shot at your table. Squid tubes prepared in this fashion is fork-tender, has a mild and delicious flavor, and is unique to anything you will ever experience. This is very unlike the sometimes chewy, deep fried calamari (that I also like very much dipped in marinara sauce) that we find on the menu as an appetizer. Experiment with the fish you choose to mix with the stuffing. The original recipe called for chopped prawns, but lobster, crab, halibut, orange roughy and any white fish will do. Tonight  I am using left over King crab and have substituted quartered, seeded cherry tomatoes for the tomato. Also experiment with a variety of cheeses that complement the fish you are using. The original recipe called for cheddar...eeewwww....not with fish what they heck were they thinking? Use a hard white cheese or cheese blend like a mix of Parmigiano-Reggiano/Gruyere.  Fred Meyer had a fantastic new cheese on display that I will be using....taste and try Gran Queso's a lovely, buttery, tangy cheese--a bit expensive...but who cares?  It's great!

2 squid tubes, washed and dried with paper toweling
3 TBSP Crab, fish, clams, shrimp etc
1 tomato, seeded and diced
2 chopped green onions
1/4 tsp. cayenne and black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground of each: cumin, paprika, salt, coriander
1 egg, beaten slightly
1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs
1/4 cup butter melted
1/2 cup of wine and fish stock

Wash, drain squid tubes and set aside. In a bowl, combine fish/clams/shrimp (whatever you are using), tomato, onions, seasonings, egg, bread crumbs and melted butter. Mix together well. Roll into a log that can be inserted into the squid tube or fill the tube. Secure the bottom with a toothpick.

Lightly coat the bottom of a pan with olive oil. Brown squid on both sides. Add Wine/Stock and cover with a lid. Allow to simmer for 25 minutes. Remove squid from the dish and slice almost all the way through, spoon some of the sauce from the pan over the squid and serve.

I am serving this dish with Garlic Basil Quinoa an Spinach Salad with Dried Blueberries, Shaved Sole Cheese, Grapes and Alaskan Raspberry Vinegrette

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Moose Stroganoff

This is an easy do and I did it on the fly If you don't have access to ground moose, deer or elk then use hamburger.

2-3 lbs ground moose, caribou, deer, elk, beef or whatever
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 handful of garlic cloves, diced
a pinch of ground nutmeg, (just enough to SMELL)
Worchestershire pepper to taste, (yeah they really make this)
sea salt to taste
3 cans cream of mushroom soup
3 small cans of mushrooms (more if you adore mushrooms)
1 1/2 cups of sour cream

Brown the meat, diced onions and garlic. Cook until meat is done. Mix all ingredients (except noodles) together and add enough fat free milk to make creamy.

Cook large bag of egg noodles to al dente. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Serve with bread and butter.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Eggplant and Zucchini--What to do?

Betty Crocker and Jennifer Darling (editor of Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook) must be sisters or cousins at the very least. I sometimes find recipes that are nearly exact in both books. With two eggplants in my fridge and some zucchini that I needed to use I scrambled for a dish. I am always cognizant that my vegetarian friends at school sometimes get the short end of the stick (case in point: tomorrow I am bringing a Moose Stroganoff). I wanted to create something that they could enjoy today too and opted to leave out the meat. For those of you who can't live without it, I suggest a mild or sweet Italian sausage to be added to the sauce. Better Homes and Gardens 75th Anniversary Edition offered up two choices: Eggplant Parmigiana and Ratatouille. I like to think I am an adventurous person and can think out of the box and what is wrong with combining the two? I didn't want to fry the eggplant in bread crumbs as is traditional, so, on a tip from Kristen O. I simply drizzled them lightly in olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and broiled them on both sides to a nice golden brown. My good friend Heather C. who I love very much also is very fond of why shouldn't I add some of those and loads of basil, mushrooms and garlic to boot? The cheese selections are my own obsessions, because I always have a supply of unusual gourmet cheese on hand. Wolfgang Puck has sold me on the use of Fontina on pasta and pizza, I'll gladly pay the price for aged parmesano regianno cheese, and don't kid yourself! There is a difference in REAL mozzarella and the bagged shredded stuff.

So never mind Better Homes....I just did my own thing and am now paying for it because folks from school want the recipe. I'll try to recreate this dish to the best of my ability.

2 medium eggplants, sliced 1/4"
1 jar Classico Tomato and Basil Sauce
1 lb. whole baby artichoke hearts, drained
2/3 cup finely grated Parmesano Reggiano Cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups Fontina cheese, grated
1 cup chopped onions
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Olive oil
1 lb. zucchini, sliced
3 TBSP Sherry
1/4 cup fresh basil, diced
1 lb. fresh mushrooms sliced
1 small can chopped black olives
salt and pepper to taste
1 Cup Italian-Style bread crumbs

Slice the eggplant into 1/4" slices. Toss or drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Broil in the oven (WATCH carefully or it will burn quickly) for about 4 minutes on each side or until nice and golden in color. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil to warm and add onion and garlic. Cook to clear (maybe 7 minutes) add zucchini and mushrooms cook to soften. Add 1 jar of Classico Tomato and Basil Sauce (or your own favorite), sherry, basil, black olives, artichoke hearts and salt and pepper.

To assemble:

Spray a deep baking dish with non-stick spray. Cover the bottom with 1/2 of the sliced, browned eggplant. Top with 1/2 of the sauce, 1/2 of the cheeses and 1/2 of the bread crumbs. Repeat the next layers.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Turn the heat down to 325 and bake for another 60 minutes.

Ideas to change up the recipe: Add sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, pinon nuts.