It’s been a record-shattering summer here in Anchorage with temps in the high 80s and even hitting 90 degrees. We Alaskans are coping, but for me it’s hard to figure out how to live like a regular person – how do I sleep? How do I keep my car cool? How do I make dinner without turning my house into a hellish oven?
Bring on the cold sandwiches! When I was in college I became close friends with a woman from Connecticut. She was a little more proper than my Alaska friends and whenever she threw a party she would serve cucumber tea sandwiches on soft white bread with the crusts cut off. No one seemed to understand these sandwiches, but I would inhale them.
This morning at the farmer’s market I got an English cucumber and some Italian parsley and decided to pack a picnic for our beachside excursion.
These tasted just like how I remember. Tangy and most importantly, chilled. They were the perfect snack for this oppressively hot weather.
Cucumber tea sandwiches
Makes 6 sandwiches
1 English cucumber, peeled and diced
zest and juice of 1 lemon
8 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
12 slices soft white bread, crusts removed
Place diced cucumber in a mesh strainer and sprinkle with salt. Let sit over a bowl for 30 minutes to draw out some of the moisture from the cucumbers. Pat with paper towels and set aside.
In a mixing bowl add the lemon zest and juice along with the cream cheese, olive oil, parsley, onion powder, Dijon, and salt and pepper. Beat with an electric mixer until well combined.
Use a rubber spatula to mix in the cucumbers.
Spread softened butter on one side of each slice of bread. Then make sandwiches using the cucumber mixture. Slice each sandwich on the diagonal. Enjoy!
Lately I’ve had a severe hankering for the gambas appetizer at South Restaurant in Anchorage. It’s a simple dish – shrimp, olive oil, garlic sautéed to perfection, paprika and guajillo chili topped with parsley.
It’s not really the shrimp that I crave. It’s the flavorful seasoned oil that is so perfect for sopping up with a couple of slices of crusty bread.
I’ve had this dish once a week for the past month. It’s time for me to make it at home.
This dish was surprisingly easy to create at home. I didn’t have sweet Spanish paprika and used the Hungarian variety instead. I also couldn’t find guajillo chilis at my local grocery store and used dried New Mexican chilis. The flavors were just perfect.
Gambas shrimp with garlic and paprika – an appetizer
1 dried guajillo or New Mexico chili
12 raw shrimp, deveined and peeled
1 1/4 teaspoons sweet Spanish paprika (Hungarian will do)
1/4 cup olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
Salt to taste
Splash of white wine (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
Rustic bread for serving
Using scissors, cut the dried pepper into rings. Place in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss the shrimp with the paprika and set aside.
Heat the oil in a small frying pan over medium. Add the garlic and softened chili and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
Add the shrimp and any remaining paprika. Turn down heat if needs be to avoid burning the garlic. Cook until shrimp is pink, turning halfway, about 4 minutes.
Salt to taste. Add a glug of white wine and let it bubble away for a few seconds. Toss in the parsley.
Serve with toasted crusty bread. Or add 1/4 pound of cooked linguine to pan and toss till thoroughly coated. This makes an amazing light dinner.
I’ve discovered I’m picky when it comes to potato salad. I don’t like celery, I don’t like hard-boiled eggs, or caraway seeds, or big hunks of onion, or mushy potatoes — ok, ok I’m a potato salad priss!
I needed to use up some thin-skinned potatoes in my pantry so I turned to Pinterest and couldn’t find just what I was looking for. I did find something close. This recipe from Mrs. Happy Homemaker calls for pickle brine instead of vinegar or lemon juice. That piqued my interest.
So I came up with my own version and it was everything I’ve always wanted in a potato salad. It’s creamy, tangy, salty and has a good bite.
Pickle and Potato Salad – the perfect potato salad without celery or eggs
3 pounds small, thin skinned potatoes
3/4 cup finely chopped dill pickles
generous 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup pickle brine
1/3 cup yellow mustard
1/3 cup chopped green onions
salt and pepper
Place unpeeled potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil. Boil for about 12 minutes until potatoes are fork tender but not mushy.
Drain potatoes and run cold water over them to cool.
Combine the pickles, mayo, brine, mustard, and green onions in a large bowl. Mix until thoroughly incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
When potatoes are cool enough to touch, slice them half lengthwise and then slice into 1/4-inch wide pieces.
Add potatoes to the sauce and mix until potatoes are completely coated. Serve warm or chilled.
I didn’t have the energy to grocery shop or cook today so I dug through the fridge and pulled out some flour tortillas, cheese, spinach and bacon and set to make something with minimal effort and maximum flavor. Success!
Bacon Spinach Quesadilla
Makes one quesadilla
1 large flour tortilla
2 slices of bacon
pinch of granulated garlic
Mexican-style grated cheese
Handful of baby spinach
Fry bacon in a medium pan. Meanwhile, spread a thin coat of cream cheese all over the tortilla. Season with garlic powder and pepper.
Set bacon aside to drain on a paper towel and add spinach to the pan. Cook until spinach is wilted.
Chop the bacon into bits. Sprinkle the grated cheese on one half of the tortilla. Add the bacon and spinach. Fold tortilla in half and place back in pan. Brown on both sides until cheese is melted. Cut in half and devour.
I recently read a story about a Juneau-based company that made food out of kelp. I was immediately intrigued by the idea. One of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten was when I spent a summer in Kodiak and a Chinese woman prepared braised fresh kelp for me.
Barnacle uses bull kelp to make salsa, spice blends and pickles. Their Instagram account displays gorgeous photos of Southeast Alaska along with how they prepare their products and what to serve with them.
Their dill kelp pickles are tangy, slightly sweet and, well, of the sea. What a perfect ingredient to add to a smoked salmon dip.
This dip comes together in no time and is a real crowd-pleaser. Impress your dinner guests by revealing its secret ingredient — wild kelp!
Tonight was supposed to be leftovers night, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I wanted to cook something using the ingredients on hand. We had leftover chili and tortillas so I decided on chili enchiladas. That’s a heavy dish and as with most Mexican-style dishes I never know what type of vegetable to serve on the side. Broccoli? Cole slaw? Naw.
I rifled through the fridge and found an English cucumber, feta and some limes. I had chickpeas in the pantry. Yes….this could be something.
This salad was the perfect palate cleanser to the heavy enchiladas. The bright lime dressing cut through the spicy, cheesy sauce and left me licking the salad bowl.
You can opt to not fry the chickpeas, but that added crispiness was a wonderful touch.
Cucumber chickpea salad with lime dressing
1 can of chickpeas, drained
1 english cucumber, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3+ tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 cup feta crumbles
salt and pepper
Coat the bottom of a medium sauté pan with olive oil, about 2 tablespoons. Heat over high flame. Remove as much moister as possible from the chickpeas by putting them in a salad spinner.
When the oil is hot, add the chickpeas to the pan and fry them for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are golden and crispy. Turn off heat and let chickpeas cool.
In a medium bowl, add the cucumbers, green onion, cilantro and feta.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
When chickpeas are cool, add to the rest of the salad. Just before serving, whisk the dressing together and toss into the salad.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the stems from the mushrooms. Chop stems finely and mix with the onions. Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onions until the liquid has been drawn out of the mushrooms and the onions are soft, about 7 minutes. Set aside to cool in a mixing bowl.
In the same pan, add another tablespoon of butter and stir in the panko flakes. Sauté until the flakes are lightly browned, about two minutes. Place flakes in the mixing bowl with mushrooms and onions.
In the same pan add the loose sausage (remove from casings if necessary). Cook until meat is browned, about 7 minutes. Place the meat on a cutting board and chop finely. Add to the mixing bowl.
Toss in the Parmesan, parsley and cream cheese and mix thoroughly (hands are best). Add salt and pepper.
Stuff each mushroom with a heaping amount of filling and place on a baking sheet. Top with more grated Parmesan.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve immediately.