the rainy kitchen

cooking through the rain in southeast alaska

Month: June, 2012

a salad for aphrodite

Last night I had the honor of attending my friend Patrice Aphrodite’s bachelorette party. Which, in true Patrice fashion, was a fabulous feast of food. By heritage, Patrice is Greek (thus that fabulous middle name). We were all assigned dishes to bring. One of the dishes I was asked to make was a Greek Salad. Easy enough, except when you’re making it for your Greek girlfriend! Regardless, I decided to keep it simple, use good ingredients and hope that it passed the test. Here’s what I did.

Simple Greek Salad

tomatoes
cucumbers
kalamata olives
red onion
feta cheese
dried oregano
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt

I used cherry tomatoes, because they were the only tomatoes I could find in town that were sweet and yummy. I used about three pints. But you could really use any kind of tomato, just make sure they’re good. This salad relies on the flavors of good fresh vegetables. Cut the tomatoes in half (if you’re using cherry) and toss them in bowl. Slice 4-5 small cucumbers and add them. Slice about half a red onion and add that. Toss in a jar of the best Kalamata olives you can find. Drizzle the whole thing with olive oil and about a table spoon of dried oregano, sprinkle with a little sea salt and mix it all together. Put the Feta cheese on top in large chunks.  Enjoy with old or new friends.

Cheers to many happy and food filled years of marriage ahead for Patrice and Matty. Thanks for letting us all celebrate with you!

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an autumn soup in june

Well, the weather has turned back to rain here in Southeast. It was a nice sunny weekend, but it just didn’t last long enough. As is pretty common in our house and I think often influenced by this rainy place we live in, I made a pot of soup. This time, roasted potato leek soup. I find this soup has a very comforting flavor and it warms up the body well when you’re chilled and somewhat discouraged by the June rains (or any other month for that matter). As is the norm for my recipes, this is a simple one although it does take some time, so if you want to eat quick, it’s probably not the best meal for immediate gratification.

Roasted Potato Leek Soup

2lbs of small red potatoes
3-4 Leeks
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Pepper
4 cups water
3/4 cup heavy cream or half & half
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup dry white wine

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Firstly, I do not bother to peel the potatoes. The red peels are light, good for you and add a nice texture to the soup. If I don’t use red potatoes and use any bigger potatoes with brown tougher skin, I peel them. You can peel the red if you want a smoother soup in the end. Up to you. Once the potatoes are cut up, toss them in a roasting pan.
Separate the whites from the greens of the leeks, cut the whites in half and rinse them out. Sometimes the insides are filled with dirt, so it’s important to do this. Slice the leeks up and toss them in with the potatoes. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and a good amount of black pepper. Put this all in the oven. Check every 15 minutes or so and stir around. Leave in the oven for about an hour and a half or until the potatoes are getting a nice golden brown and the onions are caramelizing and some are crispy. Take out and transfer contents to a Cuisinart and add some water, I do this in two batches. Mix until creamed together, but leave some texture. Scrape the creamy mixture into a pot and add about 4 cups of water and the white wine. Stir on medium heat until it’s all integrated. Add the cream and the butter, salt and pepper to taste. Let cook for a while longer to allow all the flavors to meld. I usually let it cook for another half hour or so. While it’s cooking you can scrape the crusty bits of salty, olive oil coated potatoes and leeks out of the roasting pan with your fingers and eat them! A perfect and delicious way to pass the time. Enjoy while watching it rain, with a salad, good bread and red or white wine, I happen to think either tastes great with this soup.

grilling southeast style

When the sun comes out in Juneau, so do the grills, much like the rest of the US. Only around here, you’re likely to see a lot more fresh fish on the grill. One of my favorite things to grill is fresh King Salmon (otherwise known as Chinook Salmon). This is one of those meals that the first time you have it in the spring, after a long winter, you remember exactly why you live here. Friday was so gorgeous, that of course we wanted to grill in the yard. So we stopped and picked up some fresh King on the way home and invited my sister and her boyfriend over to join us. I had asparagus in the fridge, so we threw that on too and it was a perfect meal for a summer evening in the yard.

Grilled Salmon with Asparagus

1 filet of fresh king salmon, apx 2lbs (or other if you don’t have king)
sea salt
fresh thyme
butter
1 lemon
as much asparagus as you want
extra virgin olive oil
pepper

Put the filet on a sheet of aluminum foil and fold up the edges. Sprinkle with sea salt, then the juice of one lemon. If you have fresh thyme use some! Put several sprigs of thyme on the fish. If you have lemon thyme, use that, it’s fantastic! I have been growing it in the summers and I recently discovered that it’s delicious on salmon. Add a few pads of butter, spread evenly across the filet. Close up the aluminum foil so the juices don’t all leak out while it cooks. Place on a medium to low heat grill, cook until the center still looks a touch raw.

For the asparagus, put in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put it on the grill with the fish and watch closely, moving constantly. Take off when it looks roasted, but not burned.

Serve both with fresh lemon. YUM!

A couple notes on the fish. When cooking fish, know that it’s not an exact science, or at least I don’t think it is. I have eaten in some pretty amazing restaurants and felt they overcooked my salmon. I have been cooking fresh fish for 20+ years and I still overcook it sometimes. My advice, if you think it’s ready to come off, but wonder if it could use another minute, just take it off. It will cook a little more while it sits. Fish is always better slightly under than slightly over. Also, I grill salmon in some variety of the above manner a lot. I often use dill or capers instead of thyme, and sometimes I use orange, lemon or even grapefruit instead of lemon. As you will hear me say a lot if you read this blog, I don’t think cooking something yummy at the end of the day should be stressful. If you don’t have one thing, try something else, and don’t get stuck always doing it the same way. Mix it up. It’s good for your brain, your body and your soul. Most importantly, enjoy it!

roasted veggie soup

Well, the good news is the sun is shining in Juneau! It’s been a long and wet spring, so summer solstice arriving with sunshine was pretty much the best thing ever. Last night I had no plan for dinner. I knew I wanted to mow the lawn and putter a bit in my garden when I walked in the door from work around 6pm. So I made roasted vegetable soup, one of my favorite, easy, low stress meals that tastes good and always leaves enough for lunch the next day. I have a several variations of this soup. This is the most basic and simplest version.

Roasted Veggie Soup

a mix of whatever veggies you have in the fridge
garlic
onion
15oz can Cannellini beans
sea salt or kosher salt
pepper
crushed red pepper
fresh thyme (if you have it, don’t worry about if you don’t)
bay leaves
dry white wine if you have it (again, no biggie if you don’t)
water

For our soup last night, I chopped up three bell peppers (yellow, orange and red), two zucchini, half a red onion, three cloves garlic (just cut these in half), and four medium sized tomatoes (I just sliced the bottoms of these so they didn’t explode). I tossed all of this in a roasting pan with a few sprigs of fresh thyme and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. I added a dash each  of salt, pepper and crushed red pepper (you decide how much you want depending on the amount of heat you like). I used the thyme because it’s what I have growing now, but if I didn’t have this in a pot on my porch, I would not have gone out and purchased any. The point of this meal is to use what you have. If you have fresh basil, throw some of that in (mine is still too tiny!). Whatever you like. Anyway, I put the whole thing in the oven to roast at 400 degrees.

While roasting, you can mow your lawn, water the garden, gather flowers, and enjoy the sunshine! Come inside every now and then to stir it around. When the veggies seemed good and roasted, and Bret and I were both getting hungry from chores, I took them out, tossed them in a pot on the stove top, drizzled with more olive oil, and added about four cups of water and a can of Cannellini beans. The beans add a nice texture and protein. You can also mix in veggie or chicken bullion if you want, but I didn’t have that, so I just used water. I blended it all together with an emulsion blender (referred to in our house as a “stick” blender), leaving plenty of texture (it doesn’t need to be super smooth, this is an easy rustic soup). I added a few bay leaves and some white wine and let it cook for about 20-30 minutes on medium heat. I seasoned with more salt and pepper before serving. Sometimes I add a couple tablespoons of butter at the end which is delicious. We ate with good bread, toasted and buttered while sitting at the table in our freshly mowed yard.

A couple things to note about this soup; if you’d like, you can add a dollop of plain yogurt or some heavy cream when serving. Whatever you do, don’t stress out about this dish. Roasting vegetables brings out so much flavor. Try different veggies, figure out what you like best and keep those veggies on your shopping list, for just these kinds of easy dinners! As I said, I make many variations of this soup, so I am sure there will be more to come. Happy Solstice! May your summer be filled with good food, good friends and good cheer! Have a lovely weekend!

Lilacs and Poppies. Gathered from the garden while the veggies roasted.

seafood puttanesca

I grew up eating pasta at least once or twice a week (fish or venison usually on the other nights). My dad is Italian and even in bush Alaska, the meals in our house generally had a Mediterranean flair. I love pasta. Now, in my adult life, we eat it about once a week. I can make pasta sauce out of just about anything. One of my favorites that I nearly always have the ingredients for in my pantry, is pasta puttanesca; tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, olives, capers, anchovies and crushed red pepper. Often though, I add fish and lemon to make seafood puttanesca, it’s a great way to add protein and mix it up a bit, also it’s an easy way to impress guests! The other day our local fish monger had some Ling Cod, which is great in red sauce and very affordable.  I bought some and used it in the pasta for dinner. Feel free to use other seafood, or a couple kinds, whatever you like!

Seafood Puttanesca

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes (I prefer organic and roasted)
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil + some for drizzling on pasta
2 cloves garlic
2-3 cups fresh basil
1-2 tbs crushed red pepper
1 cup kalamata olives
1 cup good green olives (should be of a large variety)
4-6 anchovy fillets packed in oil
3 tbls capers
1 lb Ling Cod (or other; salmon, shrimp, or clams are very good)
1 lb linguine, spaghetti or rigatoni
juice of one lemon, extra for plating

Coat deep sauce pan with olive oil and turn on low heat.
Chop garlic and saute in olive oil.
Add can of tomatoes.
Rough chop fresh basil, add most of it to the tomatoes, keep out a small handful for later.
Add crushed red pepper (more or less depending on how spicy you like it) and let simmer.
Chop about half of the kalamata olives and cut the green olives in half and add them to the sauce.
Begin boiling water for pasta.
Cube fish into apx one inch pieces and set aside.
Add capers and leftover basil into the sauce.
Chop anchovy fillets and add them in too.
Let cook on medium heat while you cook your pasta.
Once pasta is cooked and strained, drizzle with olive oil and put in a large pasta bowl.
Now, turn the sauce down to low and put in the fish. Stir occasionally, and keep a close eye, it will cook fast. Should take about five minutes.
Meanwhile, cut one lemon into four wedges.
Once fish is cooked, turn off the sauce and add the juice of one lemon.
Pour sauce over pasta in bowl and serve with lemon wedges.

A couple of notes: I have found it’s important to put the anchovies in toward the end, otherwise, they seem to cook off and you don’t get that nice salty fish flavor that anchovies bring. Also, as I stated above, if you don’t have seafood on hand, you can make this entire meal and leave out the lemon and fish. Also, if you don’t have fresh basil on hand, you can use dried, just use lots of it! Enjoy!

Basil and Kalamata olives waiting for their home in the sauce.

father’s day muffins

My father in law makes some pretty fantastic blueberry muffins. They have become an occasional Sunday morning treat in our house, aptly referred to as Dad’s Muffins, by my husband, Bret, who is always the one whipping them up. In light of today being father’s day, I thought it would be appropriate to share this yummy recipe as Bret was baking some this morning. Happy Father’s Day to all you dad’s out there! I know my love of good food and my ability to cook fish correctly, has everything to do with my dad. Thanks, Dad. Now go make some muffins!

Dad’s Muffins

1 cup flour
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup wheat bran
1/4 to 2/3 cup of sugar (depending on if you like it a little sweeter or not)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold water
1 egg
1/2 cup apple sauce (can substitute scant 1/3 cup veg oil if you don’t have apple sauce)
2 cups + a little frozen blueberries
1-2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs sugar

In a bowl, mix together flour, flax seed, oat bran, wheat bran, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In a separate bowl, mix together water, egg and applesauce.
Pour mixture over dry ingredients, stir to moisten, do not over mix.
Add blueberries.
In a separate small bowl, combine cinnamon and sugar to taste.
Grease muffin pan and divide mixture among pan, makes 9 muffins.
Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mix.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Enjoy warm with or without butter.

easy saturday salad

One thing we generally have around the house is smoked salmon. It’s a great ingredient for pasta salads, among other things. Here is a quick and easy recipe, great for lunch or a side dish for a bigger meal.

Orzo with Smoked Salmon

1 cup orzo pasta
2 cups chopped baby kale
1 clove garlic
1 cup hot smoked salmon (I used king, but you can use whatever you have on hand)
salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
juice of one lemon
two tbls capers
olive oil

Cook the orzo in lightly salted water. Drain when al dente and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Set aside.
While orzo is cooking, mince one clove garlic and saute in pan with olive oil.
Chop baby kale and ad to pan, sprinkle with a small pinch each of sea salt and large pinch of black pepper. Add crushed red pepper (apx 1 tsp of crushed red pepper, more or less depending on how much spice you like).
The kale will cook quick, once it has shrunken down to half its’ original size or so, combine with the orzo and mix well to keep it from all clumping together.
Add smoked salmon, should be broken up into small pieces, you can just crumble with your hands.
Add capers.
Add lemon juice.
Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Enjoy!

welcome

Hello, and welcome to The Rainy Kitchen! Here in Juneau, Alaska it rains a lot. A lot. One thing we do very well here is eat good food and share it with friends around the table while it rains outside. These are the things that keep us here. Having grown up in a tiny town not so far from Juneau, my sister and I learned at a very early age that good food can make a lot of things in life more tolerable. It can be raining outside for weeks, but if you can eat simply cooked fresh king salmon for dinner, in the company of those you love, the rain outside can slowly fade into the background as the fresh fish melts in your mouth, reminding you just how fortunate you are to live in this rugged and very wet place. So, this blog will be about simply made and yummy food. If you are looking for a fancy “foodie” blog, this is likely not the place for you, but if you want simple recipes, made with love, sometimes at the end of a very long day with ingredients pulled from the pantry, then this is the place for you. Thanks for visiting! I hope you’ll come back!