the rainy kitchen

cooking through the rain in southeast alaska

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share your table

I hope you all had a wonderful time celebrating the New Year. If you did something traditional, if you did something new, if you slept through it, whatever you chose, I hope it was what you wanted and that you were happy. This time of year is filled with resolutions, reflections and the general concept of starting anew. I am not big on making resolutions. We all have things to work on. For me, I feel like I am adding to that list every day, so going out of my way to add something else, simply because of the calendar, is somewhat exhausting. That being said, it’s pretty much impossible for me to get through a new year without thinking about what makes me feel good, what makes me feel bad, what I’d like to carry forth and what I’d like to let go of for the coming year.

I like to eat. More than liking to eat though, I like to share my table. I like to eat because it is something I do with people I love. Good company makes good food better. The simplest meal, enjoyed with the best of friends, can feel like the most decadent thing on earth. There is no doubt in my mind that love enhances food.  I don’t mean the love that goes into cooking it (though I think that’s important too), I mean the love that goes into sharing it. When you’re sharing food with people you love and it comes out terribly, they forgive you and you let it go. Once I made one of my favorite Julia Child salmon recipes for some dear friends and I used purple carrots instead of orange, thinking it would be so pretty. What actually happened is the carrots turned the sauce purple. It was still yummy, but it looked like something out of Harry Potter. And I was with people that I love. And we laughed. And we ate. And dinner was purple. And life was perfect.

I am thankful that we are fortunate enough in our lives to have the means to share our table. When I was in college and I could barely afford to pay my rent, I would go the farmers market and spend $10 on tomatoes and fresh basil so that I could make a simple pasta dish for friends coming to share my tiny table, in my tiny house. It doesn’t take much and I am sure it has made me a better person. For all the “personal growth” I have left to do, this is one thing I will not change. I will always share my table. Even if I am not always as gracious a host as I hope to be, and if sometimes I have moments of anxiety wanting everything to be “just so” before people arrive, I will share my table and I will keep those other things on the aforementioned list.  I have learned so much about my friends and my family over the dinner table. Stories that go on for days, arguments that remind me to listen more and talk less, confessions of love, stories of loss and the finding of God, all the world’s problems solved over a filet of fresh King Salmon and salad greens from the garden. For those moments, I am grateful. Many dinners in our house are last minute, friends staying to eat after stopping by to say hello, or an afternoon visit that has quietly dwindled into the evening. These are some of my favorites, as they leave no time for worrying if the laundry is done, or the kitchen is clean, they only leave time for the good stuff.

I do not consider myself a “foodie”. In fact, I have a slight aversion to that word and I tend to recoil a bit when people refer to me as such. After much thought as to why this is, I think I’ve realized that to me, the term “foodie” seems to put food above all else. It’s all about the perfect and hard to find ingredients, the technique that took hours to achieve, whatever the new fad is. For me, that’s not what’s so good about food. What’s so good about food is that it has the ability to bring people together. Sure, all those things are to be appreciated and yet they are not what motivates me to go into my kitchen and start chopping the garlic after working all day. Sharing my table with the man I love (and anyone else who might pop in) is what motivates me to do that. I have come to feel that community starts with sharing your table. Simple food and eating it with loved ones new and old, is a small thing to offer, and I am glad I can do it.

My challenge to you in 2013, which I submit with gratitude for your taking the time to read this, is to share your table, however humble it may be.  Invite those old friends that you’ve been missing, ask the new friends that you’re intrigued by. Don’t worry if your house is a mess or you don’t think you’re a very good cook.  If you wait for perfection, you’ll never do it. Remember, the food will be better in the company of friends, with good stories.  Get to know your community. Learn what others value. Share your table. And in the wise words of Ms. Child, “Bon appetite!” Happy New Year.

In our dining room we have one of NikKi McClure’s prints.  When I saw it (already a fan of Nikki’s work), I felt like my life philosophy had been put on a lovely piece of art work. Clearly, it had to be in our home. I look at it everyday, and I am so glad it’s there as a constant reminder. Thank you, Nikki for giving me permission to use this image.

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canning 100lbs of tomatoes

We are in Olympia, WA picking up a truck to drive home. So, we thought while we were here, we should can some tomatoes and bring them with us! This is something I love the most about coming south this time of year. Fresh tomatoes are everywhere, and they are so good. In honor of this, I am devoting a few of my favorite tomato recipes to the next week or so. I’ll start with our exhaustive and fun canning activities.

The tomatoes we canned are called San Marzano. Initially, we had planned to do Roma (which is what we’ve always done before, they’re good and meaty for canning). The farm we went to happened to have San Marzano though, and these are supposed to be the best for canning and sauce making, so we figured, why not? We picked them! It was very fun and amazingly fast. There were three of us and the owner of the farm picking and it only took about 15 minutes to get 100 lbs. It was fun and so cool to pick tomatoes off the vine out in the middle of a dusty, sunny field.

Tomatoes after picking. The yellow ones are from plants that have mutated. We didn’t care, we’ll take the mutated tomatoes!

The farm is called Krueger Pepper Gardens. They are known for peppers and tomatoes, but they have lots of other stuff too, including water melons. They are a family run place. We pulled in at the very end of the day and they could not have been nicer. If you live in this area, I highly recommend checking them out for your summer produce needs.

Before going in the pressure cooker.

Canning all these tomatoes was an epic ordeal. Bret and I canned all day, with the help of his mom (thank you, Susan!). In the end, we came out with 46 quarts. I kept out a few tomatoes that were not good for canning.  I will make a pasta sauce with them. It was a long, but satisfying process, from start to finish. Now to pack them up and drive them home with us!

The next morning, ready to pack up and move to Alaska.

an easy and fresh summer gazpacho

As we’ve already talked about on this blog, ’tis the season for delicious summer tomatoes. Gazpacho is one of my favorite ways to enjoy them. This meal feels so healthy to me. Our house has been battling the summer cold that seems to be going around, and all the raw veggies in this dish, including garlic, make it great for fighting off what ales you. The other especially great part about this meal, is that it takes about 15 minutes to prepare. I fantasize about eating it somewhere in Spain someday, but until then, The Rainy Kitchen will have to do.

Summer Gazpacho with Garbanzo Beans and Avocado

3 lbs tomatoes
2 large cucumbers
1 bell pepper
.5 red onion
2 cloves garlic
3 lemons
2/3 c. of good olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
4-5 avocados
1 can garbanzo beans
fresh cracked pepper

Halve tomatoes and pulverize them in a Food Processor. Pour them into a large bowl. Peel and seed the cucumbers and do the same. Chunk the bell pepper and do it again. It’s important to do all of these veggies separate, as they all take different amounts of time. Do the garlic and onion together. Once it’s all in the bowl, add the olive oil and juice of the lemons, stir in slowly, giving yourself time to watch it all come together. When serving, add a handful of garbanzo beans and half an avocado. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil, and finish with fresh cracked black pepper. Enjoy with your favorite delicious hard crusted bread.

cherries

One of the best things about coming south this time of year is that cherries are in season. We have been on the road, camping and visiting friends and having a fabulous time. I have been eating as many fresh cherries as I can get my hands on. Sometimes, the most perfect foods in life need only to be put in your mouth.

Rainier cherries on the tree. Divine.

A palette of Bing cherries just after harvest.

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!