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Archive for May, 2011

During my Saturday sojourn to the farmers’ market I scored a beautiful piece of rosy Copper River sockeye salmon. If you’re not familiar with Alaska’s famed Copper River, fish from that area are considered by many to be the rock stars of the salmon world. Think of them as being rich, eccentric, and somewhat elusive, and – just like a rock star – bringing one home for dinner is guaranteed to provide you with a memorable evening.

When I was planning the rest of the weekend menu it seemed only fitting to pair my salmon with another elusive ingredient, “forbidden rice.” Forbidden rice is more commonly known as Chinese black rice (not to be confused with Thai black rice). Stories vary, but one legend claims the rice was believed to have unique powers and was grown to be eaten only by Chinese emperors — consumption of the grain by mere commoners was forbidden. Legends aside, this rice is indeed special and it’s utterly delicious.

Chinese black rice has a very short grain with a deep purple-black color, and when cooked it develops a rich, nutty flavor that matches well with its slightly chewy texture. Trust me, it’s worth the hunt — I checked several stores before locating the rice at New Sagaya Market in Anchorage. If you don’t have an Asian market in your local area, check with an online supplier and have a bag shipped to you. You won’t regret it.

Confession: I didn’t discover forbidden rice until a trip to Hawaii where I dined with friends at Roy’s Waikiki Restaurant. My dish of misoyaki butterfish arrived nestled deep in a bed of Chinese black rice … and it was love at first bite. Now please don’t get me wrong — the butterfish was sexy and absolutely divine, but it was the seductive quality of the black rice that added a dimension to the dish that would not have been present had any other variety been used.

Copper River Sockeye Salmon, Black Rice and Red Pepper Coulis | Alaska Food & Wine

Copper River Salmon with Forbidden Rice and Red Pepper Coulis
Serves 4

You can make this dish with another variety of wild Alaska salmon if necessary, but please don’t substitute farmed salmon. If you’re going to stoop to using farmed salmon, don’t bother with the Chinese black rice or the coulis — just whip up some Uncle Ben’s white rice and call it a day.

INGREDIENTS:

4  6 ounce pieces of Copper River sockeye salmon fillets, skin-on, scaled, and with pin-bones removed
1 Tbsp canola oil, divided
2 Tbsp butter, divided
1  large red bell pepper (more…)

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If I had to choose just one meal to eat three times each day, breakfast would win hands down — but only if it included bacon and eggs. Sorry, I realize that isn’t politically correct, but I simply cannot fathom the idea of dining on granola with flax seed and yogurt as a steady diet for the rest of my life. Yes, I might live longer. But I wouldn’t be happy.

When I was a child we sometimes had pancakes or scrambled eggs for dinner. I guess my mother was ahead of her time in celebrating Meatless Mondays, decades before it became a trendy practice. Or perhaps she started the trend? Hmm … let me give that some thought.

Scrambled eggs were always on the top on my list for childhood meatless dinners. Mom perfected a method of stirring the eggs that allowed them to form large curds that were still thoroughly cooked inside. We initially nicknamed them “Casper Eggs”  – after the amorphous cartoon character – but we always looked for other shapes to emerge. “Look, that one is a rocket ship!” It was kind of like looking for images in the shapes of clouds. Or like taking a Rorschach test. But I digress.

Recently I wrote about retro cocktail parties and shared a recipe for Spinach Parmesan Crostini. The crostini topping is based on an updated recipe that can double as a spinach dip for veggies (for your next healthy cocktail party). I recently discovered another use for the leftover creamy topping — a hearty breakfast to kick-start the morning.

Creamy Scrambled Eggs and Spinach

Creamy Scambled Eggs with Spinach

Since it can be made with leftover creamy spinach, this quick but elegant dish is nice for a weekend breakfast or easy dinner. You can also double or triple the recipe if you happen to be serving brunch to guests. Just add freshly baked muffins or bagels with smoked salmon lox. And bacon.

INGREDIENTS:

4 large eggs (more…)

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Not long ago I wrote about retro cocktail parties and shared some recipes for a few  classic cocktails. Several readers asked, with all due sincerity: What type of appetizers does one serve when hosting an old school cocktail party?

For those of you who are young and perhaps didn’t come of age watching parents host cocktail parties (I didn’t) – or come of age reading old cookbooks (I did) – there are myriad options. Classics include Angels on Horseback (made with scallops rather than oysters wrapped in bacon), Swedish Meatballs,  Angelic Stuffed Eggs, or these classic Spinach Parmesan Crostini

Spinach Parmesan Crostini | An Alaskan Cooks

I believe that having a few classic appetizer recipes on hand is just as important as knowing what goes into crafting traditional cocktails. While some of what I wrote about cocktail parties was tongue-in-cheek, I actually do, on occasion, enjoy a fancy drink served in a martini glass in lieu of a glass of lovely wine. I also confess that I enjoy playing dress-up at times. It’s fun to ditch the denim and classic rock, dig out my little black dress, put on a pearl necklace, and swoon to old Sinatra tunes. Ahhh, Old Blue Eyes … he was always my mother’s favorite. But I digress.

Back in the 1960s the word “crostini” was unfamiliar to most of Middle America. The term is still not known to everyone, but back during the early Viet Nam era this appetizer likely would have been referred to simply as Spinach Dip on Toast. I think the name “Spinach Parmesan Crostini” sounds a bit more elegant and, in my opinion, elegance and glam are part of the very foundation of a retro-style cocktail party. Oui?

You can, of course, serve these crostini with wine or beer while wearing denim and flannel — but I think they taste best while wearing pearls.

Spinach Parmesan Crostini

This is the made-from-scratch version of my recipe. For those who get a bit faint of heart when reading multiple steps, I’ve included several short-cuts in a section below that will allow you to make a “semi-home made” version of this recipe. By doing so, please do not in any way confuse me with the rather ditzy blond woman from the Food Network who throws dishes together using only short-cuts and then has the audacity to call it “cooking.”

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 lbs fresh spinach
1/4 cup water
1  egg yolk
2  cloves garlic, finely minced (more…)

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