Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cook with the Fiddlers: Inaugural Edition

A few people have asked if they could cook along with us. Of course! This weekend, we're going to start the "Cook with the Fiddlers" series. Once every few weeks, the six of us will cook the same recipe, and we'll give readers a heads up on what that will be. Feel free to send us your comments and pictures- we'll put them up with our post!

Here's the assignment. This weekend, we are going to make Fettuccine Greta Garbo on page 85. Some of us will actually be cooking together (Kate and Maddy are headed to Kachemak Bay this weekend) but we'll all be together in spirit as we make this tasty salmon pasta. We hope you will join us in the fun!

A quick word on the cookbook. The link on the right goes to Hearthside Books in Juneau. We know you can order the book online from big chains, but we are passionate about supporting local small businesses. We are incredibly lucky to have the support of Nancy and John DeCherney- the Fiddlehead Cookbook authors/compilors- (Editor's note: see Nancy's comment below) and we hope if you like what you see here, you'll support them in kind.

Happy Memorial Day!

Scallops Provencal

Summer is definitely creeping up on us! There's a little more heat in the air, and finally, spindly little branches are burried under lush leafyness. In that vein, the recipe for Shrimp Provencal spoke to me. Something with simple but solid flavors, but not resembling those heavier wintery dishes I've been shedding like my winter jackets. Also, a dish that didn't take too long to cook - that's how all that new warmth in the air, I thought, would be reflected in the dish.

So, I went to the market to pick up some shrimp, and low and behold, no local shrimp. However, there were some plump, happy looking Alaskan scallops waiting to be taken home. The chords of Dusty Springfield's "Anyone who had a heart" rang in my head as I considered taking home some foreign little shrimps... no, I did not have such a heart, so, Scallop Provencal it became!

I first rinsed and coated the scallops in some seasoned flour, then tossed them in the pan for a quick sear. I added a pinch of crushed red pepper at this point for a little extra kick. Just a personal preference. Look at that golden garlic and butter gorgeousness! It smelled even better than it looks! are out of order - I know :( technical difficulties.

There were some beautiful asparagus that also needed to be taken home. Yay for spring vegetables! Look at those fatties! I steamed them up, let them cool, and drizzled a little vinegarette over them for a nice little kick. I love all vegetables picked or spiked with a little olive oil/vinegar/S&P. Once again, it did not dissappoint!

The final product! Sweet and kicky asparagus, and melt in your mouth scallops and tomatoes, spooned over orzo, with a sprinkle of parsley on top. The perfect dish for my lovely spring-soon-to-be-summer evening!

Monday, May 24, 2010


Let me get this off my chest right away. I am in love. Absolutely, head-over-heals for the Fiddlehead Onion Buns. Shh! Don't tell my husband. ;-)

The night I decided to make the Onion Buns was windy, a little chilly and I wasn't interested in going to bed any time soon. So, at about 9 in the evening I began adding the ingredients in my trusty orange Kitchen Aid mixer.

I followed the recipe exactly...except...I realized after I started that I only had 3 cups of unbleached white flour. I ended up using 3 cups all purpose, and three cups of whole wheat instead of the 4:2 ratio the recipe calls for.

Buns glazed with egg, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and ready for the oven.

When I pulled the buns out of the oven, I was hit with the comforting smell of sweet onion and starch. I was resisted the urge to break into one of the hot buns - making the prudent decision to let them cool a bit.

Not the roundest of buns...but they are pretty.

In retrospect, I should have let the dough rise for even longer than the recipe suggests (2hrs) - likely due to the extra cup of whole wheat flour.

The next evening, we invited a good friend over for dinner. Burgers are a fabulous, quick meal that can be satisfying and health (not usually the word one would use to describe a hamburger). In about 30 minutes I had delicious, hamburgers that were juicy and tender. The burgers were completed with freshly sliced tomato and local onion, lettuce and cheddar.

Burgers on the deck - doesn't get much better.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Finding Food with Flair for Work

I often bring my lunch to work in an effort to save money and eat healthier. Unfortunately, leftovers and cold, pre-made sandwiches don't always seem appetizing by noon. To remedy this problem I turned to the Fiddlehead cookbook to find something that could be put together in the office but still had some flair. I found exactly what I was looking for with the Ham- and Brie- Filled Croissants.

Figuring I'd treat my coworker to lunch, I made the suggested honey mustard at home and brought it in to work along with two croissants, thick sliced honey ham, brie, and a pink lady apple, thinly pre-sliced at home.

The ingredients, ready for stacking!

The sandwich was extremely easy to prepare, which was helpful given the small office space I was working in. The two croissant bottoms piled high with toppings also fit perfectly in the toaster oven where they sat under the broiler until the brie was perfectly melted.

Preparing the sandwiches

After adding the tops and serving with a side salad (left over from last night's dinner), voila! We had before us a complete and filling lunch.

Fresh out of the toaster oven

The sandwiches looked and tasted delicious. The salty ham contrasted nicely with the sweet apples and the flaky, crusty croissant and creamy brie really rounded out the overall taste. The recipe calls for equal parts honey and dijon mustard to be mixed for the honey mustard that is slathered on both sides of the sandwich- I think in the future I would use slightly less honey to allow the spice of the dijon to remain.

In the end, this sandwich would be great anytime, especially if you find yourself with some leftover ham lying around!

The final product, creating two satisfied coworkers!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Teryaki Chicken With a Plan

This meal actually started almost a week ago. Regrettably, I am not the kind of cook who can rely on her instincts or instantly find inspiration in her fridge or pantry. I am a planner and oddly enough, it's enjoyable!

The planning: I wanted to first familiarize myself with the Fiddlehead cookbook - I only purchased it about a week ago. Reading, drooling and decision making ensued. All of this thought is actually very enjoyable for me - I like methodically thinking out each step and tracking down / selecting each ingredient. On day two of planning I settled on Chicken Teryaki (pg. 82) with Teryaki Marinade (pg. 210), buckwheat soba noodles and a mandarin sesame salad with the Oriental Vinaigrette (pg. 217).

The prep: With so much going on in my life (I know I'm not special in this arena), doing prep work the day before really helps get dinner served before nine o'clock at night. I cut up carrots, zucchini, green pepper, and broccoli. The recipe also calls for mushrooms and cauliflower, but I subtituted sugar snap peas (still in their shells) since my husband is not a fan of either. I mixed the sliced veggies, tossed them in a bit of lemon juice to prevent browning, and tossed them in the fridge in an air tight container.

Sliced veggies in Fridge coated with lemon juice

That evening I also mixed up the marinade. Before heading out to work the next morning, I chopped up the chicken and added it to the marinade. Here in Fairbanks we are fortunate enough to have an actual meat market where I'm able to purchase locally "grown" beef, goat, chicken, pork. They also import Alaskan seafood from the coast.

Marinade ready for fridge. Thanks for the applesauce pancakes honey!

The cooking! This is actually a really nice quick meal once the preparations are done. I sliced the onion and whipped up the oriental vinaigrette while the wok heated and the sesame seeds for the salad toasted.

Veggies in my tiny wok

The veggies cooked up nicely - I decided to cook them uncovered to prevent over cooking (love my veggies on the crispier side) and in two batches. I also browned the onions a bit before adding the pre-sliced veggies.

The teryaki chicken

While the veggies rested in a warm oven, I tossed the chicken into a hot wok. I strayed from the recipe a bit by adding the marinade liquid to the wok rather than leaving it out. I was glad with the result since there was plenty of liquid to coat the veggies when I put them back in the wok for the final mixing.

Final product!

The final result was absolutely delicious! I highly recommend the oriental vinaigrette - I ended up mixing it in with the soba noodles. There wasn't a lot of talking as me, my husband and a guest tucked into the meal and there were compliments to follow (Thanks Fiddlehead!). I would deffinitely recommend this meal and it would be easy to adopt it for a vegetarian/vegan diet.

P.S. As I get ready to post this, I want to make a small note. Today I took the extra soba noodles and veggies with a little bit of the vinaigrette in for lunch. It made a really nice little pasta salad that I didn't even have to heat up.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

No Fiddlehead Ferns Here

This post was going to be all about the tasty fiddlehead ferns I foraged yesterday afternoon. I was going to talk about tromping through the birch forests around my cabin, and then eating the reward. But it was rainy, and the wind was blowing 70 miles an hour down in Bird, and thanks to a very early morning airport run, I was pooped.

So this post is about a sandwich. Not just any sandwich, an alliterative one: Tony's Terrific Toasted Tofu Sandwich. And so, in honor of my little sister (who is going vegetarian for one whole month), and my enduring laziness, I whipped up this tasty treat for one.

Chives from my garden- the first (and only) thing growing

Look! It's my chives! They're up, and I hear very tasty this time of year. The recipe also called for steamed tofu. Short a steamer, I decided to pan fry it in a little olive oil instead. I managed to pick up a nice looking tomato and then... mushrooms.


I suppose my first post is a good time to get this out of the way, but Internet? I do not like mushrooms. Not one bit. I try them every few months to see if I've changed my mind... and nope. So no mushrooms for me, or this recipe.

In search of something else meaty but veggie, I decided to roast a red pepper, mostly because I like to watch thing burn.

My mise en place- all ready to go!

It was at this point that I realized this sandwich was coming together far too quickly. Where was my dallying time? I hadn't even poured myself a glass of wine - though I quickly remedied that- and it was almost done! So, I took a little break. An hour later or so, I came back to my cutting board, assembled my (HUGE) sandwich and threw it onto my trusty cast iron frying pan.

Ready to go!
 So about that trusty frying pan...

Yeek- Blurry AND Burned!

Um, no problem, nothing to see here. Or rather, nothing that a new piece of bread can't fix!

All finished!

With a little side salad, and a glass of tempranillo, this sandwich made a lovely- and filling-dinner, and I'd definitely make it again. It'd be pretty easy to make the separate components earlier and then make a bunch for a crowd, or assemble at work the next day. The recipe really lends itself to improvisation. I almost threw on the avocado you see on the salad. It could be open-faced rather than closed, or thrown on a grill pan.  Next time I might use a sharp cheddar instead of mild, or take it in a different direction with feta or goat cheese. Regardless, I'll definitely turn down the heat on the frying pan so that the cheese has a little more time to melt before the bread burns.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Meet the Fiddlers!

Before we get this show on the road, we wanted to take a minute to tell you a little bit about ourselves. We're all different. Some of us were born here in Alaska. Some of us were born to live here. Some of us live in "the big city." Some of us live in smaller towns. Some of us have running water. Some of us don't. We all love food, and love to cook, and we can't wait to share our delicious Alaskan summer with you.

Kristen at home in the kitchen, in the cutest apron ever

Meet Kristen. A Juneauite at heart, she's a newlywed now living in the big city of Anchorage with her husband and their Vizsla. Kristen's a baker, thanks to her mom who always has homemade cookies in her cookie jar. She loves donning her cute apron and has nearly every kitchen utensil ever made, and is always on the lookout for more.

Kristen has always said that every Alaskan should have a Fiddlehead cookbook. Always just baking her favorites, Kristen came up with the idea to cook and bake her way through the cookbook to discover more favorite recipes, and recruited her girlfriends from work to join. Kristen has fond memories of cozy weekend breakfasts at the Fiddlehead. Her favorite recipes include: Eighteen-Carat Cake, Honey and Yogurt Scones, Reality Cookies, and North Douglas Chocolate Cake.

Alida cooks up treats in a forest service cabin

Meet Alida. She was born and now lives in Juneau—Alaska’s capital city and birthplace of the original Fiddlehead restaurant. The saying “Eetsmakelijk,” Dutch for “eat with taste,” starts each meal around the family dinner table. Alida helped her mama in the kitchen growing up, where rainy days were effectively cookie-baking days (there are many of these in the temperate rainforest). She’s excited to celebrate food and writing with this project—fuel for a kayaking, running and traveling-filled summer.
Kate on Castle Mountain
Kate cooking up risotto at 2000 ft.

Meet Kate. She lives in Bird Creek, in a one room cabin with her sweetheart and many many instruments. Growing up in New England, she was lucky to have a mother, grandmothers, and aunties who never kicked her out of the kitchen. She started baking in high school, but switched to cooking when she discovered the allure of not using a recipe. Kate loves black labs, her grandmother's Cuisinart, and a glass of rose on a summer afternoon. When she's not in the kitchen, (which isn't very often) she's hiking, running, singing, or playing the cello.

Maddy enjoying a trip to Israel

Meet Madeline. She lives in Anchorage but keeps Homer in her heart, and races down there whenever she can to spend time with family and her Smokey Bay. Growing up, she could invariably be found in the kitchen, underfoot her mama. She now loves how food allows her to feel connected to home and her family, however far away she may be. At the same time, she enjoys the journey food takes you on, exploring new flavors, countries, and cultures with each dish.

Anna cuts her homemade wedding cheesecake

Meet Anna. A lifelong Alaskan who has spent nearly half her life in the hills and valleys outside Fairbanks. Inspired by her parents' stories of homesteading in Twenty Mile, she and her husband settled down on a little plot of land in the Goldstream Valley where they call a yurt with no running water or electricity their home. Anna is an avid follower of the local food movement and likely derives way to much pleasure from the traditions each season brings. She loves the challenge of living with less and cherishes a closer connection to the sources of her daily sustenance.

Priya exploring the culinary scene in Venice.

Meet Priya. She received the Fiddlehead cookbook for Christmas and has since spent many hours in the kitchen recreating their granola, carrot cake, and ice cream pie. Her culinary influences range from her Indian heritage, to working as a crew chef in rural Alaska. Although she loves to cook, her heart lies in baking. She enjoys providing baked goods to her friends, family, and very appreciative boyfriend.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Swiss Chicken and Orange Wine Cake: Alida's Inaugural Meal

The Menu:

Swiss Chicken (Page 84)

Orange-Wine Cake (Page 188)

We cooked up the idea for this wine-infused dinner menu while out on the water. I read the Fiddlehead introduction and perused recipes while sitting on the bow of my brother's boat, barefoot, April sun beating down. No spring king salmon even but nibbled our hooks all day long, and so it was chicken -- and not fish -- to be eaten for my inaugural Fiddlehead meal.

This is a very basic chicken casserole dish. There's no Swiss cheese involved, which my guests found disappointing, but the sauce is heavenly. I ended up not coating the chicken in flour before browning and that may have been reason for how liquidy the final sauce was. I served it over hot noodles (you can also do rice) and it should've been in bowls.

I used organic orange and butter for the cake. Moist and flavorful, the walnuts and raisins added interesting texture to the cake. It could have even used pieces of orange or pineapple in the cake batter. The frosting is rich--buttery with orange and sherry--and the outcome a winner. Even though I prepped the cake ingredients in the AM before work, a 5:30 after-work start set me -- and boyfriend (in charge of defatting and slicing chicken with my subpar knives) -- scrambling. Every dish in the apartment was dirtied.

There's wine in the chicken sauce, wine in the cake. A perk to this recipe was drinking the Pinot Grigio while some of it simmered in the cream sauce.

I know I'm going to love this project!


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