Alaska has been a big part of my life ever since 1974 when I first set foot on Kodiak Island. I wasn’t sold at the beginning but that first step planted the seed. What really did it was moving to the Kenai Peninsula in 1984, and learning how to catch salmon.
Back then the Kenai Peninsula was a wonderland of all things wild. There were moose in our yard all year long nibbling on just about anything green. Wolves followed their ancient ways in the nearby mountains and hills. Salmon crowded the Kenai River in numbers that blew my mind, and the Cook Inlet waters yielded monster sized halibut and tasty cod for my freezer. I no longer call the Great Land my home but I manage to get back at every opportunity. Since 1995, when I moved to Colorado, I have hardly missed a fishing trip to that magical place.
If I had $5,000 – $10,000 to spare, I’d just go to one of the fishing lodges where they do everything for you except hook and reel in the fish, but the lottery did not smile on me this year so that trip will have to wait. For six days this summer my family and I will head up to Alaska for a week at a DIY fishing camp. We will pursue the mighty King Salmon, halibut, rockfish, and lingcod to bring back for a year’s worth of the best seafood you can imagine.
I am so lucky to be able to afford and tolerate the rigors of a fishing vacation in Alaska year after year. It’s a lot of physical work to captain an 18 foot skiff in the open ocean or rivers in Alaska, and I’m not quite as strong as I used to be. Strength is important when fighting a 50 pound salmon or a halibut weighing over 200 pounds!
I hope we are spared the six foot seas on this trip, tough. If you have never been in an 18 foot skiff in rough Alaskan seas, you are missing some serious adrenaline! My brother and I barely made it around Danger Point near Angoon, Alaska on our last self-guided fishing adventure back in 2002.
This year, I expect to shoot hundreds of pictures and have my brother video parts of the trip. Watch for postings about this wilderness paradise of the Inside Passage, either on this blog or in travel media.
While I wait for the first fresh Alaskan Salmon to hit the local stores, canned salmon is a good thing to have in the pantry. Pure Alaska Salmon Company is as good as anything I have tried and it’s ultra-convenient to pop open a can for salmon cakes of salmon salad sandwiches. Pure Alaska’s salmon is processed just hours after being caught, and provides a lot of flavor and nutrition. It tastes as good as the last of my catch from last year, now frozen for ten months. athttp://www.purealaskasalmon.com/our-story-pure-alaska-salmon-company.
If you try their salmon, please let me know if you agree this is the best canned salmon out there, and please share this salmon salad recipe with friends and family. If you have not left a comment to enter last week’s post on Aztec Turkey you can still get in as the drawing is tonight for the box of hot pepper goodies from Melissa’s Produce!
Canned Salmon Salad
1 7.5 oz. can of red salmon, or 8 oz. fresh cooked salmon
1/4 cup chopped celery
2-3 tablespoon diced dill pickles
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon Spike seasoning salt
1 minced jalapeño, optional
In a 2 quart mixing bowl break up salmon into flakes, and remove bones if desired -I leave them in when using canned salmon.
In a small bowl mix mayonnaise, Spike, and jalapeño.
Pour over salmon.
Add celery and dill pickles.
Mix well and chill for an hour if you have the time to do so.
Serve over salad greens, on bread with some lettuce, or wrapped in a tortilla with salad greens.
Serves two but is easily doubled.
Even though Pure Alaska Salmon Company gifted me some of their canned salmon my opinions are my own.
I have been reading award winning Precious Cargo by Dave DeWitt about how foods brought back from the New World by the Spanish and other explorers changed the way Europeans ate. I already knew how popular turkey is in the United States, but was amazed to read how much is consumed in modern Europe. The top five turkey consuming countries are: U.S.A., Canada, European Union, Brazil, and Mexico.
Before reading Precious Cargo, I didn’t think the French liked turkey at all. DeWitt writes of French recipes for truffle-stuffed turkey, and if you know how expensive truffles are you know this is one pricey dish! The English bought about ten million turkeys for their Christmas feasts in 2008, according to Precious Cargo. Italy is the fifth largest producer of turkey meat in the world with France and Germany coming in second and third. Who knew?
Precious Cargo has totally changed my perspective on the versatile turkey. I have started testing recipes using ingredients found by European explorers in Mexico. The experiments are going very well and I love the taste of slow cooked turkey with tomatoes and dried chilies. But, just so you know, there are so many varieties of chilies it will take a long time to test and compile all the recipes!
Since I’m all about fast, healthful and easy cooking, what could be easier that putting a turkey thigh or drumsticks in a slow cooker with tomatoes, potatoes, chilies, onions, garlic and herbs? It is wonderful to come home and open the door to this exotic fragrance wafting from the kitchen and enveloping you. With a few tortillas on the side you have a delicious meal ready to eat that took no more than ten minutes to toss in the slow cooker.
If you don’t like the heat from dried peppers there are a few not as hot varieties available like: Anaheim (California), anchos, guajillo, mulatto, or Oaxaca. If you can’t find these in your local grocery store, they are available online. My favorite online place to find dried peppers is Melissa’s www.Melissa’s.com. Once you taste turkey with dried peppers and tomatoes, you will be hooked. Melissa’s has a hard to find mild dried pepper – the Oaxaca, full of rich smoky flavor that makes the turkey taste like it was cooked in a smoker or on a BBQ grill. To support your chili explorations, Melissa’s is providing a box of goodies including “The Great Pepper Cookbook”, and an assortment of their pepper products to one lucky reader. If you don’t like the hot ones, don’t worry – they can send you hot or not-so-hot products. Just leave a comment on this post to be entered. For an extra chance at winning, leave a comment on my Facebook fan page about this post or peppers https://www.facebook.com/FastAndFuriousCook .
Get started with this turkey treat and see for yourself that it can be enjoyed year round and in ways you never thought of. Please let me know what you think of this recipe by leaving your comments, and please share with family and friends.
Aztec Slow Cooker Turkey
1 turkey thigh or leg about 1 1/2 pounds*
1 cup diced tomatoes, canned or fresh
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 clove fresh garlic, minced, about 1 teaspoon
1 cup turkey or chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 oz. dried Oaxaca chili peppers, broken into one inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon Hatch™ chili powder, or regular chili powder
1 pound potatoes cut into one inch cubes*
1 cup frozen corn, optional
In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except turkey and potatoes.
Put about 1/4 of the mixture on the bottom of the Crockpot™.
Pour the rest of the ingredients over the potatoes.
Cook on low for 7-8 hours.
Serves 4 to 6
•I don’t skin or bone the turkey before cooking, but do remove skin and bone before serving. I also skim the grease off the top just before serving as the skin does leave a fair amount of fat.
•I keep the skin on organic potatoes, but peel them if they are non-organic.
Even though Melissa’s Produce gifted me some of their products to try my opinions are my own.
Back in the 1990s, there was a great little hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant in Boulder, Colorado that served one of my favorite dishes. For $3.95, they served a lunch special simply called Grilled Chicken. They would marinate, then grill boneless chicken, getting just the right amount of flame to brown it perfectly. The chicken was served it on top of rice noodles with bean sprouts and gobs of cilantro, making it hard to beat. They went out of business after a three year run, but I have never forgotten how much I liked that combination.
That taste memory came back when I was in Orlando recently, and had a tofu noodle bowl at the hotel café. When I got back home, I worked up a great noodle bowl idea for a fast and healthy lunch or dinner.
You can make it less work if you are firing up the grill the night before – just add a couple of boneless chicken thighs or breasts to the grill, then refrigerate overnight. The next day all you have to do is boil some rice noodles for two minutes and chill them with cold running water. After the noodles are drained put them in the bottom of a bowl and top with shredded cabbage (green or Napa), shredded carrots, bean sprouts and cilantro. Cut up the cooked chicken and put it on top of the noodles, and veggies. Then top this with an Asian salad dressing (Annie’s Shiitake Vinaigrette is a good choice), and you have a winner.
This recipe of noodles and vegetables is versatile and works well with grilled shrimp, beef, pork, duck, chicken or tofu. For the final touch the noodle bowl can be topped with scallions, toasted sesame seeds or dried bonito flakes (katsobushi). If you like it hot, try kicking it up with Sriracha hot sauce or jalapeno slices.
With the heat of summer not far off, this will shorten your time in the kitchen without sacrificing flavor or healthfulness. It is a low-fat, gluten-free dish that makes a good packed lunch or sit down meal for a hot summer’s day. As always please leave comments and forward this on to friends and family.
Asian Noodle Bowl
4 oz dry rice noodles, the thin type
2 cups fresh cabbage shredded
1 cup carrots, shredded or in long threads
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
1/2 cup red bell pepper, sliced thin longways
2 stalks celery sliced at an angle 1/4 inch thin
2 cups tofu, or cooked chicken*
Cook rice noodles per package instructions, about 2 minutes then rinse with cold water and drain well.
Place half of the noodles in each bowl, or plate.
Top with half the shredded cabbage.
Top with carrots and celery.
Arrange cilantro on one side and red bell peppers on the other leaving a space in the middle for the meat.
Add tofu or chicken.
Serve with your favorite Asian style salad dressing.*
Serves two as an entree or four as a starter salad.
*Grilled chicken, beef or pork hot off the grill goes well on top of this dish. Even though the veggies and noodles are cold or at room temperature the hot meat doesn’t adversely affect its quality.
If you want a cold or room temperature dish use chilled tofu or chilled chicken.
*For this recipe I like Annies Shitake Vinaigrette salad dressing or try my Asian dressing recipe at:http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/spring-greens-great-salad-dressing-recipe/
In late March, I attended the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) meeting in Washington DC. While the theme was “Happy Birthday” to founding member Chef Jaques Pepin, the DC host team assembled a great list of local sponsors, tours, and three days of panels, seminars and workshops. Attendees went home with bags and minds full of goodies, information, and ideas.
The National Geographic presentation, derived from the National Geographic’s Food 2014 issue, gave me much food for thought. The image that sticks in my mind is an illustration of the amount of food an American family of four wastes each year. The piles of veggies behind the family and the meats in front forming a parade of waste is truly shocking, and disturbing. The article states that on average a typical American family of four tosses out 1,160 pounds of vegetables, dairy products, and meats in just a year!
This has to stop.
Modern American refrigerators are large, and some of the food we buy gets lost and goes bad by the time we rediscover it deep in the bins and shelves. A quick twice a week survey of every bin and shelf in our fridges could cut out plenty of waste. Making a grocery list and sticking to it helps cut out overbuying, and waste as well.
Using leftovers efficiently and creatively helps eliminate waste. A common restaurant term is “cream of walk-in soup” – a soup made from scavenging the walk-in cooler for vegetables and other foods that need to be used before they go bad.
A website like recipekey.com can help the home cook use what they have on hand. You enter what you have and the site shows recipes using those ingredients by percentage. With tools like these you can use instead of lose foods to spoilage in your fridge and pantry.
As an example, the other day I had a few spears of asparagus, a nice bit of fresh cilantro, lemons, broccoli stems, celery, and some Melissa’s fire roasted red bell peppers in my fridge. There were some lentils in the pantry from Melissa’s Produce, so I decided a lentil vegetable salad was in the works. After a bit of chopping and mixing I had a great looking healthful salad for lunch. Without the lemon, and adding vegetable stock it could have been made as a soup. As for the amount of each ingredient you can vary the amount of broccoli, asparagus, bell pepper and celery significantly and still come up with a great tasting salad. This is a use-your-leftovers type of salad so feel free to experiment, and substitute ingredients as needed.
Lentil Asparagus Salad
1 1/2 to 2 Cups cooked lentils*
2-4 broccoli stems, peeled and sliced in 1/4 inch pieces
1 Cup chopped fresh cilantro*
1-2 stalks of celery, about ½ cup sliced thin
1/2 to 1 Cup chopped fresh red bell pepper, or fire roasted
½ pound fresh asparagus, cut into 1 inch lengths
1/4 Cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons chopped green onions, optional
1 jalapeño chopped, optional
salt to taste
In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except lemon and oil.
In a small bowl whisk oil and lemon juice together for ten-seconds or so, and pour over the salad.
Mix salad with spoon or toss with hands to incorporate the dressing. Ready to serve right away or refrigerate for 2-8 hours.
Serves 4 to 6.
*Red beans may be substituted for lentils
*Parsley may be substituted for cilantro.
Even though Melissa’s Produce gifted me some of their products to try my opinions are my own.
Easter Sunday was pretty mellow this year. My wife and I went to see and sniff the lilies at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, then came home to a lovely dinner of homemade pita bread and baba ganoush for an appetizer, followed by quinoa topped with sautéed onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers. On the side were pan braised Brussel sprouts in garlic infused olive oil and a special Californian red wine to round it out.
After our fine dinner it seemed only natural to watch Julie and Julia- since I had recorded it on the dvr. I saw the movie only once when it came out, and it was the inspiration for my own food blog. What impressed me most about the movie is how Julia Child overcame such odds to get Mastering The Art of French Cooking, one of the most important cookbooks in America for the last hundred years, published! I was so impressed that she stuck with the project after all the problems with one of her two co-authors, and the disappointment that editors and publishers didn’t see the importance of this bold new book for American cooks. Lucky for Julia and for all of us that editor Judith Jones at Knopf saw the book for what it was worth!
Once this amazing cookbook was in their hands, American cooks confidently graduated from beef stew to Beef Bourguignon, and Raspberry Bavarian Cream took the place of raspberry pudding. Mastering the Art of French Cooking stepped up the game for home cooks and fostered an age of creativity in home and commercial kitchens.
I’m always learning new techniques and exploring new cuisines. Recently, I have been experimenting with potato-thickened soups. This can make a soup gluten-free, and it simplifies the time and effort it takes to make a homemade soup.
This week’s recipe shows off broccoli, one of my favorite vegetables. With asparagus season near, this could easily be cream of potato asparagus soup, too. Don’t be afraid to be creative and tweak it your way. I found the leftover soup to be excellent and topped with sautéed maitake mushrooms for a nice variation. White mushrooms would work well too since Maitake are not widely available. Either way I hope you try this cream of broccoli and potato soup and let me know how yours turned out.
As Julia would say,”Bon Appetite” and don’t forget to enter the giveaway from the good folks at Melissa’s. They will bestow upon one lucky reader a box of mixed produce from their 280,000 square foot warehouse in California.
Follow this link to enter by leaving your comment on my last post about Oven Roasted Dutch Yellow Potatoes, and good luck!
1 3/4 pounds fresh broccoli
1 1/4 pounds russet potatoes
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock*
1 3/4 cups 2% milk
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon salt, optional
Wash potatoes, peel and cut into 1 inch cubes. Hold potatoes in a bowl of cool water until ready to cook.
Wash and trim leaves off the broccoli.
Cut stems off below the crown.
Peel the stems and cut into 1/2 inch slices and set aside.
Cut the crown into golf ball sized florets then cut the floret stems into 1/2 inch slices.
Cut the florets into the size of a grape and set aside.
In a 3 quart pot add vegetable stock and potatoes. Cook on high, covered, until it comes to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cooking for 7 minutes.
Add broccoli, cover and bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer cooking for another 7-10 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.
Remove from heat and add milk.
If using a tabletop blender put soup in blender in two batches mixing until it is smooth, about 1 minute.
If using an immersion blender you can keep the pot on the stove, turn heat to low, add milk and blend until smooth.
Add more milk to thin, if necessary.
Makes about 10 one cup servings.
* Rapunzel vegetable bouillon cubes can be used, instead of vegetable stock. Chicken stock would also work well.
Through a series of events that I had not intended I ended up at the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual meeting in Washington DC. I was invited on a “press pass” to write about, photograph and enjoy this gathering of food writers, food photographers, food stylists, chefs and other foodie folks. Funny thing is I had never even heard of this organization that has been around for thirty seven years. The meeting was to be held in Washington DC this year making it an easy commute from my home. I went online and investigated their website for info on the organization and this year’s meeting.
I was introduced to Robert Shueller at Melissa’s produce before the event to test some of their products. I was sent a box with potatoes, Hatch salsa, shallots, pearl onions and other veggie delights. I also received their “Great Peppers Cookbook” and a cookbook on using Dutch Yellow Potatoes. I had used Melissa’s products for years but had no idea they had such a large product line. They have more fruits and veggies that you can imagine. Well over half of my meals at home and at restaurants are vegetarian so I appreciate companies like Melissa’s bringing us a wide variety of vegetables and fruits.
One of the most memorable moments for me was the keynote address by José Andrés where he spoke of the need to reduce our meat consumption and eat more vegetables. Here’s a professional cook like myself who has transitioned from a diet heavy in meat to a more vegetarian-like diet. He also spoke of his work in Haiti bringing clean efficient gas stoves to the locals who have been suffering from the toxic fumes of cooking with charcoal. José also spoke of the environmental damage inflicted on the island of Haiti from cutting down most of the islands trees to make charcoal for cooking. With a lack of trees to hold back the rains the farmer’s fields were susceptible to damaging erosion which then led to more particulates in the surrounding ocean damaging the coral reefs. This also led to less fish available to the local’s diets compounding the problem of feeding a family even further. Jose is one amazing human being!
On Friday I arrived in Washington, DC and picked up my pass. For the next four days it would be a blur of meeting food photographers, food stylists, chefs and bloggers to discuss our respective food worlds with. Sitting in on numerous sessions I learned a ton of new information to take my blog to the next level and hopefully bring you better quality photographs, as well as better written recipes. The professional food photographers generously shared tips with us mere mortals on how to step up our game. I will now be using natural light more often to see if I can get a clearer picture thanks to the help from the professional photographers. The last day of the event I sat in on a session aimed at writing better recipes and expect my recipes to be improved thanks to that session.
This week’s post bring a new and appropriate giveaway. Melissa’s has generously agreed to send one lucky winner a box of products similar to what I received. You can’t imagine the variety of their product line, and if you are the lucky winner you will get a glimpse of it in your home. To be entered just submit a comment on this post. For an extra chance in the drawing comment on any of my Facebook posts over the week following the publishing of this post, and you will double your chances to win.
For this week’s recipe I want to share one of my kitchen secrets. I eat steak maybe twice a year, but have in my kitchen two or more steak seasoning spice blends that work wonders in many vegetable recipes. Here is one of my original recipes using McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning on potatoes. Warning, they are addictive!
Roasted Dutch Yellow Potatoes with Steak Seasoning
1 1/2 pound Mellisa’s Dutch yellow potatoes, or other type
2 tablespoons garlic infused olive oil, or plain olive oil
3-4 teaspoons steak seasoning*
Preheat oven to 350°
Scrub and wash potatoes then dry.
Cut lengthwise so you have 4 wedges.
Put wedges on cookie sheet pan and drizzle garlic infused olive oil over them.
Sprinkle half of the steak seasoning then mix well. Add the rest of the steak seasoning and mix well again to coat the wedges.
Bake for 20 minutes at 350°.
Remove from oven, stir potatoes then return to oven increase heat to 400° and cook for 20 more minutes or until lightly brown and tender.
*I use one of 3 steak seasonings. Either Urban Accents-Chicago Steak and Chop, McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning, or Kent Rathburn’s Steak and Chop Salt. All of them work well but I think McCormick’s is my favorite as it has more black pepper.
On my morning dog walk today I saw several robins hopping about looking for worms and other avian culinary delights. I expect this is a sure sign that a long awaited spring is just around the corner. On the morning weather forecast I heard encouraging words I haven’t heard in a long time-“Highs in the lower sixties today and mostly sunny by the afternoon.” Such sweet music to my ears was this news that I feel compelled to start work on my veggie garden. I’ll sort my seeds and start planning my crops for the year. Somewhere on the internet is a site with tools where I can map, by square feet, my garden layout for the spring and summer. This is most helpful in designing a well laid out garden that takes advantage of my gardening space and sun fully. After all, I would not want my tall pea vines to block out the sun on my lettuce and herbs. With a well planned garden all the plants are arranged as if in a large family picture with the short ones up front, the mid-sized in the middle and the tall in the rear.
In a day and age when you hardly ever know what goes into your food it is important to grow what you can in your own yard, community garden, or patio. Even when I lived in a rental town home before moving to my current house I had Earth Box container planters on my deck and grew tomatoes, herbs and peppers in a small space with good results. With just a few hours per week you can take control of some or most of your produce needs. It is so gratifying to provide for yourself and family fresh grown tomatoes, peppers, herbs and more. With a bit of luck you might even have a surplus to share with neighbors and food banks. I have had bumper crops for the last three years and wander the neighborhood looking for someone at home to gift my excess crops to. It is a wonderful thing to share that which we have brought about using our own two hands.
Speaking of sharing, today I have one of my favorite very fast and quite healthy recipes to give to you. Blackened fish, whether it be catfish, salmon, halibut, redfish, or tilapia is an excellent choice for those in a hurry wanting to eat healthy. This blackened tilapia recipe uses very little oil on lean pieces of fish and takes less than ten minutes to prepare, and cook. It goes well with fried rice, Spanish rice, or steamed rice. Add a side salad, steamed green beans or broccoli to round it out as a full meal.
When the weather gets a bit warmer and drier I like to use my charcoal grill to cook it on outside.
With just three ingredients this is about as simple as a main dish gets and is bursting with spicy good flavors of chilies, cumin, garlic, herbs and black pepper. Give it a try with tilapia, the “aquatic chicken” of aquaculture. Easily grown in controlled fish farms tilapia has exploded on the American food scene over the last fifteen years. It is healthy, tasty and relatively easy on the environment, as well as reasonably priced. With a wide presence you should be able to find it in your grocery store. If you can’t find tilapia try this recipe with catfish or salmon. Please share with family and friends and leave your comments to help me continue improving my website and recipes.
1 6-8 ounce piece of tilapia per person
1 1/2 tablespoons of high heat tolerant oil, see note
1 tablespoon of blackening spice per piece of fish
Dry of fish with a paper towel then dust with blackening spice on both sides.
Heat heavy skillet and oil, cast iron is preferred, using high heat. When oil just starts to smoke add fish and cover with splatter guard.
Cook for 3-4 minutes then flip and cook for 3 more minutes. Hold in a warm oven if necessary to finish additional pieces.
I use avocado oil or refined peanut oil that can handle heat over 400 degrees. Some light olive oils can take heat over 400 degrees too but don’t use extra virgin.
You can use just about any commercially available blackening spice blend sold in grocery stores. If not available here is a simple recipe to make your own:
1 T salt
1 t dried oregano
1 T paprika
1-2 t cayenne pepper
1 T granulated garlic
1 t onion powder
1 t dried thyme
2 t ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients together and you have your very own blackening spice.
The southern states have never been my favorite part of America even though my parents are from there. Maybe it’s because I was raised in Colorado that I’m not fond of the south with its flat low country and near tropical weather. Over the last year I have visited Charleston, SC and Fairhope, Alabama for short breaks from the northern cold. These two places are changing my mind about the south. Both towns have much to offer vacationers with a love of food and culture.
Charleston is a foodie paradise as long as you don’t get hung up on counting calories! This is food that will fill you up and warm you up.
Ordering the shrimp and grits with a biscuit on the side is a must to get the true southern experience. At Poogan’s Porch they serve up some of the best biscuits money can buy. They have a fried chicken breast biscuit sandwich on the breakfast/brunch menu that knocked my socks off. I didn’t order it but was glad my father-in-law did and shared it with us. It was crispy, juicy, spicy perfection served hot from the fryer between the top and bottom of a buttery biscuit. Dinner at Husk is not to be missed. They were named best restaurant in Bon Apetit in 2012, a lofty honor that they deserve.
The duck confit and chicken were great but the pecan pie should be enshrined in the Smithsonian American History Museum as an example of pecan pie perfection. Served with a scoop of ice cream this one dessert for one was ample for the four of us! A carriage ride through the historic streets of Charleston is a great way to hear about the history of the city while you ride comfortably spell bound by the clip clop of the horse’s hooves. I doubt I’d visit Charleston in the summer months but in January it was a great to get away from the chilly Baltimore winter.
Fairhope, Alabama is not your typical southern town. This hotbed of artistic creativity was founded in 1894 as a single tax colony by a group from Des Moines, Iowa. It didn’t work out as planned, but did transition into an artsy southern paradise on Mobile Bay. The small downtown area is well preserved and sports many cute shops long gone from most American downtown areas, victims of big box stores and online commerce. You can walk the entire downtown area in an hour or so, including popping into several shops. If you are a lover of books and bookstores the Page and Pallet will grab you and keep you for a while as you browse their local authors section and have a cup of coffee from the attached coffee shop, “LatteDa”. Some famous authors are seen at the Page and Palette; like Winston Groom of Forest Gump fame, or Fannie Flagg of Fried Green Tomatoes.
If wine is your thing just across the street from the Page and Palette is a wine bar and shop called Red or White wine & Gourmet. With small plates and a knowledgeable staff you are sure to find interesting wines there. Just half a block away is Pinzole’s restaurant and wine bar. Stop by for a glass of Italian white wine like an Orvieto and maybe a pizza too.
Fairhope has dozens of restaurant choices from Sweet Olive Bakery & Juice Bar for breakfast, or the Grand Hotel for a glimpse of Fairhope’s glorious past when people vacationed for a week or more in the big hotel on the bay. If you are lucky enough to be there on Sunday be sure and try the legendary brunch buffet at the Grand Hotel. The view of Mobile Bay and their down south dessert spread is enough to get me in the door, but the entrees and sides are of high quality too. After your meal stroll along the bay shore walkway or park your stuffed self into a bench under a Live Oak as the breeze animates the Spanish moss dangling low from its massive branches.
On my most recent trip to Fairhope I was able to attend a writer’s group meeting, and met two ladies from Colorado. Both were impressed enough to make it their home, one full time, the other part time. There aren’t many places in the south a Coloradan would move to, but Fairhope is so charming I can see the draw. It’s a free thinking, liberal community with a focus on art and good times in a beautiful southern setting. What’s not to love?
To be or not to be Gluten-Free?
I’m still not convinced that I need to go gluten-free. I did a test last summer and went four weeks virtually gluten-free and the only thing I noticed was the mild to moderate headaches I have had almost daily for the last thirty years went away about three weeks into my experiment.
When I added gluten back into my diet a bit at a time the headaches were still mostly absent so I couldn’t draw a line and say for sure what was going on. After all my research into gluten I do believe it is best to be cautious of wheat and all the man induced meddling it has endured over the last hundred years. Therefore I still eat wheat products but have cut back considerably on anything that contains it and gluten.
Cream of mushroom soup is one of my favorite comfort foods. It was probably one of the first things I cooked by myself when I was about twelve years old. Even though it was just canned Cambell’s cream of mushroom soup it was good stuff. Since moving to the Mid-Atlantic region and discovering the Mushroom Capital of the World just up the road in Kennett Square my appreciation for a great bowl of mushroom soup has blossomed.
In an effort to be cooking in the footsteps of the mushroom chefs up north I’ve come up with my own recipes including this new one I share with you today that happens to be gluten-free. I find that this new soup combines the savory flavor of mushrooms with the heartiness of a potato soup and will satisfy the pickiest mushroom soup fans. Please give it a try and share far and wide so others can enjoy this shroomy good bowl of soup.
Cream of Mushroom Potato Soup
2 pounds russet potatoes
1 pound mushrooms, maitake, crimini, or white
2 teaspoons garlic infused olive oil
1/2 cup minced yellow onion
2 teaspoons mushroom base, or beef base
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons chicken base
2 cups milk
3 cloves garlic, optional
Peel and cut potatoes into one inch cubes. Put in a covered pot with one teaspoon chicken base and water to cover. When it boils reduce and cook at a simmer until tender.
Cook minced onions, and garlic infused olive oil on medium low heat for three minutes in a sauté pan.
Chop mushrooms and add to sauté pan cooking at medium heat for about ten minutes and stirring every minute or so.
Add thyme and white pepper and cook for about two more minutes until most but not all of the liquid is gone from the mushrooms.*
Add cooked minced garlic from garlic infused olive oil if using.*
When potatoes are tender drain and reserve liquid. Mash potatoes and 1/2 cup of milk with a hand masher.
Add the mushroom mix to the potatoes.
Add milk, mushroom base, chicken base and one cup of the potato liquid and blend with an immersion blender.
Cook for another five minutes and add more potato liquid until desired thickness is achieved, about two cups should do.
Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
*Most of the time when sautéing mushrooms the liquid is cooked off, but it’s not necessary to cook off all the mushroom liquid with this recipe.
*If using my recipe for garlic infused olive oil you will have the cooked garlic cloves to use in this soup. If not just sauté minced fresh garlic when the mushrooms are added to the onions.
*For a different garnish try finely sliced celery leaves.