Thursday, October 15, 2009

Provencal Seafood Soup... sorta

We've been home for weeks now, on shore, away from the boat. After a five-month cruise and a menu full of fresh seafood, wouldn't you think we would crave red meat? some juicy hamburgers, tender steaks, braised or barbecued ribs... Not so, to my surprise. A FoodNetwork Throwdown yesterday had our appetites primed for grilled fish tacos. Yum! but then the weather turned wet and blustery and fish soup seemed much more appealing.

I was really tempted to grab my coat and head for the nearby Columbia City Ale House where they do make a good fish taco, sometimes with cod, sometimes with mahi mahi. But it was easy enough to drive to Mutual Fish for fish fillets, and the freezer already held a package of Trader Joe's frozen seafood mix (calamari/shrimp/scallops). A well-seasoned fish broth combined with fresh vegetables from the CC Farmer's Market and some fennel from the yard to produce a very tasty soup. If only I could remember the exact quantities and ingredient mix! I loosely adapted two different recipes, tasting and adjusting along the way to get the final blend... whatever it was.

Let's see, for sure there were onions, leeks, garlic, celery, saffron, fennel, tomatoes, garlic, orange juice and orange zest, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, white wine and... whatever! Next time the challenge will be to create another version without worrying about an exact re-creation of this one, and to take notes as I cook. Maybe even shoot a photo or two along the way.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Crabby Cooking

 We LOVE steamed Dungeness crab, just minutes out of the salt water. Cruising in SE Alaska means we enjoy big, firm, meaty juicy crab legs that are so flavorful we no longer use melted butter or cocktail sauce on the side. Early in the season we feast greedily, easily consuming several crab apiece, even when dining on the really big boys. By August individual appetites diminish and the leftover crab present a storage issue, even though we try to harvest only enough crab for a meal or two and release the rest back into the bay.

It can be a bit daunting, sitting at the dinner table, gazing at the remains of a really good crab feed. Crab shells litter the table and spill out of bowls while the pile of uneaten legs looms in the background, still waiting to be cracked and picked. At this point in the evening all I want to do is recline somewhere comfortable and contemplate the pain of personal gluttony. But the crab won't pick itself and it's tough to find room in the refrigerator to store crab in the shell. It helps to have some company who will linger at the table, someone who cares even more than you do about picking out every last little bit of shell, or keeping the big leg meat pieces whole and not broken or shredded. Share the crab meat? Of course! Just help me get through this messy job and to my easy chair... oh drat, there's still dishes and galley cleanup to face.

Enough carrying on! Cracked and picked, the remaining cooked crab should be used in the next couple of days, or packaged and frozen for future use. Our preference remains crab fresh out of the steamer, but there are a lot of tempting recipes for cooked crab. Some favorites follow, in no particular order.

Crab Louis salad
Crab enchiladas, quesadillas or tacos
Fettucine Alfredo with crab
Crab ravioli in broth
Crab and shrimp lasagna with white sauce
Crab crepes
Crab omelette or fritatta
Crab dip/ appetizer spread
Crabby eggs, scrambled or huevos rancheros
Crabby eggs Benedict
Crab cakes and more crab cakes
Crab sushi
Crab-filled Thai summer rolls or wraps
Crab pizza with cheese and pesto
Crabby deviled eggs
Crab melt sandwich
Crab cioppino, chowder, gumbo or soup
Crab just grabbed with a fork as a snack when no one is looking.

...and by now we're a bit tired of crab, at least until we catch some more salmon,  have fish frames for crab bait and drop the crab traps to catch a few more Dungeness for just one more crab feed.

Note: at some future day there may be links to recipes for most of these dishes, or not. For now it will take e-mail or a phone call. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Leftover Magic

... Pasta with Salmon and Capers

The guests have flown home and the boat refrigerator is now packed with the fresh items we didn't eat and way too many small containers of leftovers that were just too tasty to toss. Partial jars of jams, sauces and condiments overflow the refrigerator door shelves, It's a nightmare of chaotic abundance.

We gobbled up the remaining huckleberries on our sourdough pancakes this morning. That took care of one container. For lunch we enjoyed mushroom risotto, cold salmon with sauce on salad greens, and grilled French bread. That was tasty grazing with two fewer containers to store.

We spent the afternoon in the dinghy, fishing and shooting photos of grizzlies at the foot of the falls in Pavlof Bay. All of that fresh air and sunshine (plus the adrenaline rush from the bear watching) took all of my energy, so while RL went fishing outside the bay I stayed aboard to read, relax and do some menu planning. Hmmmm, what to do with cooked pasta, and barbecued salmon with sauce? Combining ideas from two cookbooks, I came up with a new version of Salmon Pasta in Caper Sauce. Dinner rated two thumbs up from the Capt so this might become a regular menu item... and now there are two more containers out of the refrigerator!

Pasta with Salmon and Capers
Adapted from Fast Fish by Hugh Carpenter, Ten Speed Press
2 servings

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup onions, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 TB capers, rinsed
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, rough chopped
2 servings long pasta (spaghetti, capellini, etc.)
pasta cooking water, as needed (or chicken broth or white wine)
2 cups cooked salmon (barbecued with bacon & lemon dill sauce is best!)
2 TB olivada* (homemade tapenade or from jar)
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Asiago or parmesan cheese

Undercook pasta by a few minutes; drain but do NOT rinse; save 1/4 cup pasta cooking water to add to sauce if needed.

Steam or microwave salmon until warm; set aside and hold.

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium low heat; add onions and cook until soft. Add garlic and capers; cook several minutes but do not brown garlic. Add parsley; cook for 1 minute. Add pasta to sauce; cook just to warm, adding pasta water as needed. Move pasta to outer rim of pan and add salmon to the center; cook briefly until warm. Stir in olivada and gently toss all to mix.

Twirl pasta mounds onto each warmed plate and top with remaining sauce and fish. Add pepper, top with cheese and serve.
*Olivada substitutions might be lemon zest or anchovies.

Pavlof Harbor, August 2009

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Fast and Tasty Yeast Bread

When I crave a slice of warm, just-baked bread RIGHT NOW I have to head to the local bakery. Columbia City is the best in my neighborhood and never fails to please with so many good offerings it’s difficult to choose just one.

I love to bake bread and we certainly love to eat it, but scheduling is an issue for this cook. French baguettes and Sourdough bread tie for top taste honors, but the required risings don’t make either one a spur-of-the-moment champ for speed. No Knead bread is another favorite but it requires 24-hour planning. And don’t even talk to me about yeastless quick breads - not the same thing at all.

While clicking through various foodie websites and blogs I found a possible solution (maybe on the King Arthur Flour site or SeriousEats or…)

Briefly, you add microwave-heated liquids to the dry ingredients, knead for 1 minute, follow with a 40+ minute rise in the loaf pan and a 20-minute bake. It’s a forgiving recipe too; I wandered away and let it rise higher than the suggested top-of-the-pan height and it didn’t matter. The hardest part was the wait for the loaf to cool before slicing and smiling.

Baking aboard required a one-time small but messy adjustment. The noted 1-minute “beat at high speed” must refer to a heavy-duty stand mixer with bread hook, ‘cuz my portable hand mixer just got slower and slower and the dough rose up in a sticky mass threatening to engulf both blades and body. OK, regroup and grab the dough scraper to knead a bit by hand… and deal with that messy little mixer later.

Friend Tanya and I did the first taste tests, trying one slice straight from the loaf and the next slice warmed briefly in the microwave. Two thumbs up, either way, with butter and jam or just butter. In no way does this loaf resemble my first long ago attempt at bread in a pan that produced a heavy, dense loaf suitable for doorstop use. Toasted on day 2 the Capt gave his approval, though I think he would enjoy any bread as long as it was heavily layered with friend Jean’s kiwi jam. Day 3 and surprise! there’s a partial loaf left and it still tastes good as morning toast or as a base for crab melt sandwiches at lunch.

Now to tweak this recipe, just a bit, to make it mine. After trying this tasty loaf I plan to cook/bake my way through other recipes on the same site.

1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
cornmeal, to sprinkle in pan

Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast in a large mixing bowl.
Combine the milk, water, and oil in a separate, microwave-safe bowl, and heat to between 120°F and 130°F.

Pour the hot liquid over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.
Beat at high speed for 1 minute (using heavier mixer with bread hook, or by hand with a dough scraper for 5 minutes or more). The dough will be very soft.

Lightly grease an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan, and sprinkle the bottom and sides with cornmeal.
Scoop the soft dough into the pan, leveling it in the pan as much as possible. Cover the pan  and let the dough rise till it's just barely crowned over the rim of the pan. When you look at the rim of the pan from eye level, you should see the dough, but it shouldn't be more than, say, 1/4" over the rim. This will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour, if you heated the liquid to the correct temperature and your kitchen isn't very cold. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Remove the cover, and bake the bread for 20 to 22 minutes 30 to 35 minutes, or until it is golden brown and its interior temperature is 190°F. Remove the bread from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.

NOTES: The next time I make this I will replace some of the all purpose flour with white whole wheat flour.
(The loaf dries and hardens after a few days but it still makes good croutons or breadcrumbs.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Welcome Aboard!

Life is good when a boat galley has many of the same features as a home kitchen - well, minus the abundant pantry and storage capacity of drawers and cabinets. While the Capt. grills and steams a lot of fresh seafood on our yearly cruise, I love to bake and braise and roast and create sauces and go-with-its for our 5 months afloat. Reality check: not everyone who reads OTM-Cruise News is interested in my latest sourdough variation, or wants to know of one more marinade or sauce for salmon/halibut/whatever. OTM-In the Galley is a solution to sharing my foodie enthusiasm with anyone who cares.  It might be a catalyst for improving my photography - or it might have the shortest blog life ever recorded if it feels too much like work. Anyway, welcome to my galley. 
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