Category Archives: recipes

Homemade Perogies

Back in the day when Stephen and I lived in the heart of downtown Anchorage, our favorite late-night restaurant was the Lucky Monkey on the corner of 5th Avenue and C Street. Their menu was limited. They served pelmeni, or Russian dumplings. For about $6 you’d get a bowlful topped with curry powder, sriracha sauce, cilantro and sour cream. They were THE BEST. And then they closed down. It was a sad day for downtown Anchorage.

Fast forward five years. A friend and I are cruising the downtown scene at 2 a.m. and I smell them — the scent of butter and curry and meat. I follow the sound of Euro techno and there it was: Nane’s Pelmeni. I dashed in and five minutes later I was mowing down on pure happiness. They taste just as I remembered. At $8 a bowl, it’s enough to shake that drunken edge and fill you up after a night of rocking the dance floor.

Nane’s serves meat pelmeni and potato filled ones. This morning I was craving them yet again, so I used my near mother-in-law’s dough recipe and made my own potato perogies.  They were splendid.

And here’s how I made them.

Serves two hungry people

For the dough:
1/4 cup warm water
1 egg
flour

For the filling:
1/2 cup mashed potatoes
1/4 cup grated parmesan
pepper
1 tsp. fresh chopped chives (optional)

Directions:
In a bowl whisk together the water and egg. Start adding flour till a kneadable dough forms — I think I used about a cup. Remove dough from bowl and knead for a few minutes until it’s soft but not sticky. Add more flour if needed. Form into a ball and place back in the bowl. Cover and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together the filling ingredients. You can get creative with this. You could use cheddar and bacon bits. I used two frozen hash brown patties because I didn’t have any potatoes. I fried them up and then broke them apart with forks in a bowl. The filling should hold together when you form it into a small ball.

Fill a large pot with salted water and get it boiling while you’re making the perogies. Turn it to low if it boils before you’re done.

When the dough is done resting, roll it on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin till it’s the thickness of a noodle (so, pretty thin). With a large biscuit cutter or the edge of a glass, start cutting out circles from the dough. Fill each circle with about a teaspoon of filling. Fold the dough over so it looks like a half moon and pinch the edges all around. The dough should be sticky enough to stay together when you press the edges hard.

When you run out of circle space, ball up the dough again and roll it out. Make more perogies. Save them on a tray while you’re making them.

Place all the dumplings in the boiling water and stir gently. Turn heat to medium so it doesn’t boil so hard that it tears apart the dumplings. Boil for about 4 minutes. They should all be floating before you take them out of the water.

Use a large slotted spoon to remove the dumplings and place them in a bowls. Top with butter and a little salt.

Nom Nom Popcorn

My friend Ashley spent all last week raving about her incredible maple cayenne popcorn. She gave me the recipe she used from December’s Cooking Light Magazine. I’m not one for carmel corn, but holy moly was Ashley right. It’s sweet, salty and just the right amount of spicy. This popcorn deserves some kind of professional Nom Nom Award. First prize!

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/4 cup unpopped popcorn
1/4 cup cashews
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add the popcorn, cover and shake till kernels are popped. Stir in the cashews. Meanwhile, add the sugar, syrup, butter, salt and cayenne to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook for one minute, stirring frequently. Pour syrup over popcorn and cashews and stir. Spread out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and let cool at least 3 minutes. I stirred the mixture around on the cookie sheet to combine everything better.

Chow down!

Grilled Pepper Steak with Salt Baked Potato and Baby Greens

I am currently lying on my couch completely full and satisfied. I have finally learned how to grill a steak! Tonight I grilled steak and made salt-encrusted baked potatoes (fully loaded with homegrown chives) and I even was able to serve a small salad with greens from our very own garden! Here’s what I made and how I made it:

Ingredients:
2 thick steaks (I got the pre-peppered kind from the store)
2 baking potatoes
Baby salad greens
white of one egg
kosher salt
pepper
olive oil
1/4 lemon
2 strips of bacon
pickled jalapeños
shredded cheddar cheese
chives or green onions
sour cream
butter

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Poke your potatoes all over with a fork. Coat them with egg white and cover them all over with kosher salt. Place in a baking pan and bake for one hour. Meanwhile, chop up your bacon and fry over medium-low heat until crispy. Drain on a paper towel.

When there is 20 minutes left on the potatoes, heat up your grill so it’s around 600 degrees, or super hot. When there is 10 minutes left on the potatoes, put the meat on the grill. Grill four minutes on each side, then remove from grill and cover with foil.

When the potatoes are done cut a slit down the middle and puff them up using potholders. Add the butter, cheese, jalapeños, bacon bits, sour cream and top with chives.

Drizzle your greens with olive oil and then squeeze a wedge of lemon over them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Serve with a glass of Mariette Old Vine Red and then go into a meat coma.

Rose Blossom Jelly

It’s summertime in Alaska and the wild roses are in full bloom. Last week my friend Kelly and I tried to make dandelion jelly and we added some wild roses on a whim. Unfortunately we didn’t follow the pectin directions so we ended up with dandelion syrup.
We weren’t discouraged and we tried again, but this time we just used rose blossoms. What we came up with was a delicate, sweet, fragrant treat that we can’t wait to spread on toast for the rest of the year.
Here’s how we made it.
Ingredients:
1 quart tightly packed wild roses, free of pesticides
4 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cups water
1/4 cup edible rose water (found at specialty grocery stores)
7 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. butter
2 packets liquid pectin
1-2 drops red food coloring (optional)

Directions:

Pick the entire bud of each rose. Try to pick buds that are free of bugs. Rinse roses and remove any dirt. Reserve 8 whole buds for garnishing. Place roses in a saucepan with the water and rose water. Bring to a rolling boil then remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a gigantic stockpot of water to a boil. This is for the sealing process.
Strain the rose liquid into a quart-sized measuring cup using a wire mesh strainer. Press the flowers with a wooden spoon to get out as much liquid as possible. Stir in the food coloring. Measure exactly 3.5 cups of the liquid and pour back into saucepan. Stir in the lemon juice, butter and sugar and bring mixture to a rolling boil, stirring frequently.
Once liquid is at a rolling boil that doesn’t stop bubbling if stirred, quickly stir in the pectin packets. Return to a full boil for exactly one minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and quickly ladle liquid into jars, leaving 1/8-inch space from the top. Wipe the rims and threads with a damp cloth to remove excess liquid. Lightly set a rosebud on the jelly before sealing. Make sure the jar tops are totally dry. Seal the jars tightly.
Place the jars in the giant pot of boiling water and boil for five minutes. Remove jars and set them on a kitchen towel. Let cool unrefrigerated for 24 hours. Jars will keep for one year if sealed and three weeks once opened.

Cooking with Fiddlehead Ferns

I was at my friend Faon’s place the other night and she asked me if I knew how to cook fiddlehead ferns. I consider myself a bit of a connaisseur when it comes to Alaskan wilderness edibles, but I’d never attempted  picking or cooking fiddlehead ferns.

This is the time of year to pick ferns in Alaska — right when they are unfurling their spiral tendrils from the previous years’ mound of dead fern. Just snap them off at the base of the stem like asparagus.

Here is a photo of some ferns in Kodiak in June.

You should pick fiddlehead ferns when they are even shorter and more coiled up than these ones. This is just the only photo I happen to have. The ones we picked didn’t have any leaves sticking out yet and they were about five inches tall.

Faon and I decided to serve them at my parents’ house this evening. They were surprisingly delicious. For some reason I expected them to be tough and bitter like rhubarb, but they were tender and flavorful like asparagus.

We first blanched them and then sauteed them in garlic oil with roasted pine nuts and fresh oregano.

First, I’ll tell you how to make garlic olive oil

Ingredients:
40 cloves of garlic, peeled.
1 litre of olive oil

Directions:
Cut each clove of garlic in half. Place in a large jar or sealable container. Fill container with olive oil. Cover and let sit 10-14 days at room temperature. Remove the garlic cloves and either toss them or use them in focaccia bread or pizza.

If you don’t have time to make garlic olive oil, the fern recipe could be altered by first sauteing a few garlic cloves in the olive oil before adding the pine nuts and oregano.

Ingredients:
15-20 fiddlehead ferns, rinsed in cold water
2 Tbs. garlic olive oil
1 Tbs. fresh oregano, chopped
2 Tbs. pine nuts
salt

Directions:
Trim the ends off of each fern and pull off any fuzzy leafy bits in the spirals.
Prepare a bowl with ice and cold water and set by the stove.
Heavily salt a medium pot of water and bring to a boil. When water is boiling, toss in the ferns and boil for four minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a small saute pan with the olive oil. Add the oregano and the pine nuts and brown the pine nuts over low heat.
When the ferns are done boiling, add them to the ice bath. Gently dry off ferns with a paper towel.
When the pine nuts are brown, toss in the ferns until they are heated through. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Short Cut, Long Cut Chicken Noodle

I call it short cut because we don’t make the broth ourselves and we use leftover Costco roast chicken. I call it long cut because we make our own noodles from scratch.

Ingredients:
6 cups of chicken broth or stock
2 cups water
cooking oil
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 next-day roast chicken
salt and pepper to taste

For the pasta:
2 cups white flour, plus extra
1 tbs. warm water
3 eggs
pinch of salt

Directions:
Place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the water and eggs and beat with a fork. Slowly incorporate the flour till you have a dough. Mix in as much flour as you can while kneading. Your dough should be elastic but not sticky. Cover the ball of dough and set aside.

Meanwhile, add the onion, celery and carrot to a large saucepan and drizzle in some cooking oil. Cook over med-high heat, stirring occasionally, till onions are translucent — about 10 minutes.
While veggies cook, salvage as much chicken meat from your leftover roast chicken. Don’t forget about the meat on the bottom of the bird.

Add the broth, water and chicken. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and turn heat to med-low.

Now roll out the pasta with your pasta maker. Run a lemon-sized piece of dough through the largest setting. Fold it in half and flour the outsides if it’s sticky. Run through again. Do this about eight times on the biggest setting. Change to the next setting and run dough through once. Do this till you get to the “6” setting. Lay dough on a floured surface.

Do this step again with lemon-sized pieces of dough until it’s all pressed out. Dust noodles with flour and loosely roll up each one. Slice into wide noodles, then determine how long you want the noodles to be and cut to your preferred length.

When all the noodles are cut, add them to the soup. Turn heat to high and return to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes or until noodles are al dente. They will cook more as the soup cools.

Enjoy!

Italian Cheeseburgers with Homemade Pasta and Cheese

I’m back from New York with a rekindled enthusiasm for home cookin’. Not only did I eat at a lot of delicious New York restaurants, I also cooked several meals for my family, including pork chops with an improvised honey vinaigrette reduction and chicken cacciatore.

Also, my best friend Kelly just moved home and this was our first full day of hanging out in seven months. After we planted flowers and gardened outside, we decided to make a homemade Italian meal. For inspiration, we turned to the famous Marcella Hazan and her Classic Italian Cooking book.

We made her Italian hamburger recipe and paired it with her homemade macaroni instructions. The burgers were so juicy and flavorful, the lack of bun was completely forgotten, although you do need a knife and fork to easily eat it.

Making our own macaroni was truly satisfying and with two people working it went by more quickly than expected. We spent about an hour preparing the meal.

Serves 6

Ingredients for the burgers:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1.5 pounds ground beef
1 piece of white bread
3 tbs milk
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cups breadcrumbs
one ball fresh mozzarella cheese
one can of whole peeled tomatoes

Ingredients for the pasta and cheese:
2.25 cups white flour
3 eggs
2 tbs water
1 cup finely grated cheddar cheese
2 tbs. milk
1 tbs. butter
salt and pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. To make the pasta dough, put flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Whisk the eggs and add them to the well. With a fork incorporate the eggs with the flour. When it’s getting doughy, use your hands to knead it. If it’s too dry, add a bit of water. Use the pasta press on the biggest setting to knead the dough after this. Fold the dough in half before running it through. Do this eight times. Then make the setting thinner and run dough through once. Do this till the dough goes through the “6” setting.

Lay the dough strip on a cutting board and cut it into 1.5-inch squares. A good measure is your index finger at the middle knuckle to the tip of the finger.

Now comes the fun part. Use a clean large comb and place a pasta square on top of it with the top corner facing perpendicular to the teeth of the comb. Place a wooden chopstick on the bottom corner of the square and roll the dough onto the chopstick, while lightly pressing onto the comb. This will make a penne pasta shape with grooves. It’s really satisfying! Place each piece of pasta onto a floured baking sheet.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, place the 3 tablespoons of milk in a bowl. Cut off the crusts of the bread and add the bread to the milk. Let it soak up all the milk and then mash it up with a fork. Place the ground beef in a bowl and add the milk bread, salt and one egg. Mix thoroughly with your hands and form into 6 thick patties.

Pour the bread crumbs into a pie plate and coat each side of the burger with the crumbs. I used Italian bread crumbs for extra pizzazz.

Heat a large skillet with the vegetable oil over high heat. When the oil is shimmering hot, add the patties and cook four minutes on each side. Turn down the heat if it looks like it’s burning. Place patties in a greased casserole dish.

Open and drain the can of tomatoes. Flatten open each tomato and remove the seeds. Pat dry with a paper towel. Slice the mozzarella into six thick slices. Top each patty with a tomato and a slice of mozzarella.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on how you prefer the doneness of your  burger.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water. Stir occasionally and when the pasta water has returned to a boil, just cook it for 30 seconds more. Test for doneness. It should have a bite to it, but not feel too undercooked.

Drain and place pasta in a serving bowl. Add the 2 tablespoons milk and 1 tablespoon butter and stir. Stir in the cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Baked Mac & Cheese

In case you don’t know this, my all-time favorite food is homemade mac & cheese. As a kid my dad would make “manyghetti,” which was all the leftover pastas in the cupboard mixed together with sharp cheddar, garlic, parsley and pepper. My dad would cube up the cheddar so every once in a while you’d get a nugget of melty cheese in a bite.

My dad never baked his mac & cheese. He never put egg in it. And he never topped it with potato chips.

This is what I was craving tonight.

So I didn’t feel too guilty I used pasta infused with veggies and added some broccoli.

Here’s how to make it.

Ingredients:
1 box of veggie delite pasta (or whatever kind you want to use. This box was 13 oz.)
1/2 bag frozen chopped broccoli
2.5 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
2 green onions, chopped
2 Tbs. butter
1 egg
3/4 cups milk
1 tsp. dijon mustard
salt and pepper
cheddar and sour cream potato chips (or just regular potato chips)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square casserole dish. Salt a large pot of water and bring it to a boil. Cook the pasta till it’s al dente. Whisk the egg and milk together. Place the frozen broccoli in a colander in the sink. Drain the pasta over the broccoli. Put the pot back on the stove and melt the butter. Add the green onions and sautee for about 1 minute. Add the pasta and broccoli and pour in the egg milk mixture and dijon. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Add 2/3 of the shredded cheese and stir. Pour everything into the casserole dish and top with shredded cheese. Crumble potato chips over everything and bake for 20 minutes.

Not-so-bad-for-you Creamy Potato Salad

It’s BBQ season and you know what that means — salads of all types. I’m not wild about macaroni salad or pre-dressed asian salad. I’m not even that crazy for potato salad. Usually it’s heavy with mayonnaise and overcooked eggs. But substitute Fage fat free plain yogurt for most of the mayo and you’ve got something worth adding to your paper plate.

Serves a lot
Ingredients:
3 lbs. thin-skinned purple potatoes, roughly cubed
6 slices of bacon
3 Tbs. capers
3/4 cup Fage fat free plain yogurt (or any plain Greek yogurt)
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1 Tbs. dijon
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Place the cubed potatoes in a large pot and fill with water an inch above the potatoes. Add some salt, cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 8 minutes, or until potatoes are tender but not mushy. Drain and place in a large serving bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel for 30 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, chop up the bacon into little bits and fry until brown and crispy. Let drain on a paper towel.
Add all of the ingredients to the potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Chicken and Asparagus Crêpes

As I’ve said before, nothing beats a $5 Costco rotisserie chicken. And what to do with the leftovers? Why, make savory crêpes! In this month’s Food Network Magazine, they had a recipe for chicken and asparagus crêpes. They call for store bought crêpes, but why buy them if you have the time to make them? The following is the Joy of Cooking’s recipe for crêpes. I made them in the blender and refrigerated the batter for about a half an hour before making.

Makes about 12 crêpes

Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup lukewarm water
4 large eggs
1/2 stick of butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt

To make crêpes, heat a 9- or 10-inch frying pan with rounded edges over medium-high heat. When it’s heated, rub a stick of butter all around the pan. Then take a paper towel and rub the butter all around the pan. Next, add about 1/3 cup of the batter to the center of the pan while rotating the pan round and round to evenly distribute the batter. It’s ok if the batter goes up the sides of the pan. The crêpe will begin to brown around the edges and separate from the pan. When it does so (it always takes a little longer with the first one) use a rubber spatula to separate the edge of the crêpe all the way around.
My favorite way to flip a crêpe is to shake the pan vigorously to loosen it and then using momentum, flip it without using a spatula. Here’s a photo of my doing this a few months ago:

Then cook the other side of the crêpe for about 30 seconds or so.

As far as the Food Network recipe goes, I changed it slightly. For the fresh herbs, my dad brought over some of his homegrown.

I ended up using parsley, thyme and oregano. I also only used 1/2 cup of parmesan in the filling and didn’t top the the dish with the remaining cheese. Instead of ricotta, I used cottage cheese. We just can’t get good ricotta up here.