Thursday, July 30, 2015

Grilled Salmon with Mustard & Lemon

Simple ingredients like mustard, lemon and garlic turn a regular salmon fillet into a fresh summery meal. If you're short on time and want something delicious to eat, this is the recipe for you. Enough said! :) ~Audrey

1 salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
stone ground mustard
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
fresh lemon juice
fresh parsley 
lemon slices
salt and pepper to taste

Serves: 4

Combine mustard, olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. The nice thing about this recipe is you're not constrained to specific measurements. You just want to mix up enough to coat the salmon to your liking.

Generously rub on salmon.

Top each piece of salmon with fresh lemon slices.

Grill, skin side down until done. I placed my salmon on a hot grill and covered for about 5 minutes. I used a thermometer and cooked until the salmon had an internal temperature of 140 degrees.

 This recipe gives the salmon a nice combination of fresh lemon and char-grilled flavor all in one. 

Here I am on the Copper River showing off my first sockeye salmon of the season during the summer of 2015.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Morel Mushroom & Thyme Risotto

Risotto is a northern Italian rice dish cooked in a broth to a nice, creamy consistency. It has a reputation for being difficult and time consuming, which is kinda true. It takes about 20-30 minutes of hands-on cooking to make a lovely risotto. We decided to try the baked version to see how it stood up to the traditional method, both in taste and consistency. This dish has a decidedly Alaskan flair, using locally harvested morel mushrooms, fresh Alaska asparagus and thyme. The final result was sooo good - creamy, flavorful, a beautiful presentation...and half the hands-on time! -Audrey & Patti
3 tablespoons butter
1 ounce dried morels
1/3 white or yellow onion, diced very small
1/4 cup shallot, diced very small
1 cup risotto rice (Carnaroli or Arborio)
2-1/2 cups mushroom broth (from reconstitution)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, plus a few sprigs for garnish
small bunch asparagus, tips and a bit of stem 
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Serves: 4

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Dried morels are stored well in glass canning jars. See link at end of post to learn how to dry them.

Cover morel mushrooms with about 3 cups warm water to reconstitute for about 30 minutes. Use this time to get everything you need prepped, grated, chopped, measured and ready to go.

Remove morels from water, drain well and slice into small pieces. Reserve all the liquid and set aside.

Melt butter in oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and cook several minutes.

Reduce heat and add the onions and shallots. Add pepper to taste and the thyme. Cook till onions are translucent, a few minutes.

Add rice to the skillet and stir until all grains are coated in the butter.

Pour one cup of broth into the rice mixture. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly until the liquid is absorbed completely by the rice. Add asparagus and the other cup of broth. 

Microwave asparagus for 30 seconds to take the edge off
 before adding to risotto.

Stir until mixture just comes to a simmer.

Transfer skillet into the preheated 400 degree oven.

Bake uncovered for about 15 minutes. Rice should be cooked but have a bit of firmness.

Set pan back on the stove and add 1/2 cup broth (if you run out of the reserved morel broth, use chicken broth), and the cream. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes.

 This finishes the rice, and you will be amazed at how much creamier the texture is compared to when you remove it from the oven. 
Sprinkle with Parmesan and thyme sprigs.

Serve immediately, or just eat it out of the pan while standing at the stove :) Good stuff.


Audrey, morel hunting in a burned area of forest near Fairbanks. Nutrients from burned and rotting trees are a perfect medium for morels and they grow abundantly in the soil scorched by wildfires.

Gently removing the fabulous fungi from the forest ground.

Margaret, Chanta and Audrey with their haul. Dried morels sell for about $20/ounce, so this was a very lucrative day!

It's really important to dry your morels soon after you pick them or they will start to mold. Here is an easy, fool proof step by step guide to drying them: How to dry morel mushrooms

How to Dry Morel Mushrooms

If you're lucky enough to find morels then you probably know it's imperative to dry them asap or else they will mold. After all the hard work of finding and picking them, you want to preserve them for future use. Here's my fool proof, easy way to dry morel mushrooms. All you need is a small fan, baking sheet and cooking rack. I've found that dried morels have a more intense flavor than fresh picked and are super easy to re-hydrate. Simply soak in warm water for about 10 minutes and you have perfect mushrooms to cook with. Plus you have the bonus of the broth to use in your recipe. ~Audrey

 Thoroughly clean your fresh picked mushrooms by submerging in lukewarm water. Drain and repeat several times until you are satisfied. You will notice lots of dust, little twigs and even bugs in the water. This is normal. They are growing in the wilderness after all.

 Place on a cooling rack with a baking sheet underneath. The baking sheet will catch dripping water. Plus you can easily move them if you have to. My kitchen is small so I'm constantly juggling things around.

I arrange my mushrooms in the same direction with the stems facing the fan. I feel this helps them dry out faster.

Turn your fan on to blow just air. No need for heat.

 It takes anywhere from 6-8 hours for them to dry completely. 

 You will notice they shrink considerably. This is perfectly normal. 

Once dry, place in an airtight container. I use glass mason jars. When you are ready to cook with them, a good guideline to follow is 1/4oz of dried mushrooms equals 1oz fresh. 

Simply pour warm water over them, cover for about 10-30 minutes and voila, you have beautiful morel mushrooms to use in your recipe plus delicious broth.

 In Alaska, morels grow the summer after a forest fire. A fire swept through this area near Fairbanks, Alaska one year before I found mushrooms growing here. It's amazing how quickly new growth comes back.

 Here is a beautiful little "blondie." Morels range in color between light brown, dark brown or almost black. There's no difference in taste, just color. Just make sure the stems and mushroom head are hollow. 

Fireweed is one of the first things to grow back after a forest fire.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Salmon with Sorrel Sauce

While raiding a very generous friends' garden in Fairbanks, I came across this leafy green that was growing in abundance - Sorrel.  This delightful green has a lemony, slightly tart flavor. I thought it would pair really nicely with fish, so I found this recipe on the blog site "FOOD52." I pulled a Copper River Sockeye out of my freezer and whipped this up - it literally took 15 minutes to prepare! ~Audrey 
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups fresh sorrel leaves, rough chop
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
1/4 cup chives, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt & pepper to taste
1 pound fresh salmon fillet
edible flowers and chives for garnish

Serves: 4

Sorrel leaves are vibrant green, tender and full of vitamin A.

Melt butter till it turns a golden brown. Add sorrel, parsley and chives. Allow to wilt quickly, about 30 seconds.

 As sorrel contains oxalic acid, cook in cast iron or unlined aluminum, or it will turn a pretty unappetizing color. Although it is normal to turn slightly brown anyway, and it doesn't affect the flavor. I used my enamel-coated coast iron skillet. 

After everything has wilted, pour in heavy cream. 

Bring to a simmer and reduce just until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of spoon. This only takes a minute or two.

Slice salmon into thin, skinless medallions. To do this, slice on a slight angle, cutting away from the skin as you go. Place on a lightly oiled parchment lined baking sheet. Rub a little olive oil on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

 Broil for 3-4 minutes until done. 

Plate a serving of salmon (about 3 pieces) on a plate and cover with sauce. Garnish with edible flowers and chives.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Alaska Fireweed Jelly

Fireweed grows in Alaska, well, like a weed...the blooms begin at the base of the cluster and mature up the stem as the season progresses. Alaskans say that summer has started when the blossoms lowest on the stem bloom, and that summer’s end is in sight when the blossoms reach the top of the stalk. They are a kind of hourglass that marks this beautiful but short season. Fireweed is edible and is high in vitamins A and C. It can be used in salads, for tea, in honey, and of course it makes a wonderful jelly. It's hard to describe, but it tastes like fireweed smells: a gentle, bright perfumey flavor - delicious and addicting!~Patti
8 cups fireweed blossoms
1/4 cup lemon juice
4-1/2 cups water
5 cups sugar
2 packages SureJell pectin

Find a couple of helpers and pick your fireweed blossoms.

Gather the few ingredients you'll need and measure them out so they'll be ready.

Also, start your hot water bath and prepare your jars and lids.

If you're a pro at canning jams and jelly's, that's great. If not, this is an invaluable source for those new to canning...

Rinse blossoms thoroughly, pick out any leaves (they taste bitter) and any other debris or bugs.

Add cleaned blossoms, water and lemon juice to a large pot.
 Boil for 10 minutes.

Line a colander with cheesecloth and strain the juice from the pot. The cheesecloth is important because it catches the teeny tiny debris and you want a pristine, beautiful fireweed juice for the base of your jelly. You should end up with about 3 to 3-1/2 cups of juice.

Add the strained juice to clean pot, along with the pectin. Bring to a boil. Add sugar, bring to a rolling boil and cook for 1 full minute. Stir or whisk the pectin and sugar after adding them so everything incorporates smoothly.

Ladle jelly into the prepared jars, wiping around edges with a damp paper towel to remove any stickiness (you want a good seal on these babies). Put lids on the jars.

 Place jars in pot and bring to a boil; continue to boil for 10 minutes. 
When done, place carefully on a tea towel (a cold countertop can shock, hence the towel) and listen for the 'pop' of the seals forming. There is no sweeter sound in the canning world :) 

Let cool completely. Open one jar for immediate use and store the rest in a cool dry place. These make such a nice gift, especially for friends in the lower 48.

You must always try what you make, so smother some of that fireweed deliciousness on your favorite bread - this is what Alaskan summers taste like!