Musings: Mint Tea and Moose Sausage edition
North to Alaska with Adventures by the Book and Authorpreneurs
Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan, Kitty, and Susan McBeth, president www.adventuresbythebook.com
Dia de los Muertos
At the historic Rancho Guajome, Vista CA. Anyone visiting San Diego should head north to see our gorgeous Mission San Luis Rey, the oldest continuing operating mission in California
A new tradition taking hold in the US??
My Alaskan Adventure
Debbie’s Salmon Chowder
Classes and presentations:
It’s party time at Le Creuset in Carlsbad, with food and prizes. No purchase necessary!
Books for sale
Need a gift? I’ll sign and send one of my books!
News of Morocco and beyond
In memoriam: My roommate, Lilli Kalis MD
As I write this right after the election, post Halloween and post Dia de los Muertos, the sun is shining, pumpkins are through a’bloomin’, and Christmas trees are making their appearance.
But I stray. To condense my memorable Alaskan Adventure by the Book into a few lines is next to impossible. Let’s say that our 49th state is one worthy of discovery (barring the ridiculous TV series about Alaskan “pioneers”.) Dramatic, astonishing, awe-inspiring, are just a few adjectives that come to mind to describe the state’s breathtaking natural beauty.
I have to pinch myself. This year, I have flown the length of the Americas, from Patagonia to Alaska. The two areas have much in common. Towering trees, snow-capped peaks, water, water everywhere, inlets, islands, and glaciers (most of them melting away.) A moose sighting and a black bear in the wild were on my list. Both wishes were fulfilled in Alaska and more: I got to pick wild blueberries on the tundra.
Mam Moose and baby moose munching on Kaylene’s vegetable patch
As I mentioned in the previous Kasbah Chronicles, I went to Anchorage on the very first author exchange organized by Adventures by the Book and Authorpreneurs (www.adventuresbythebook.com and www.authorpreneurs.com) , whose president, Susan McBeth, has made it her life’s work to connect authors with readers. And this she does superbly. You may recall that four San Diego authors (yours truly among them) hosted four Alaska authors last April, and Susan and her staff organized a number of literary events for them here. Alaskans reciprocated, and we San Diegans headed to Anchorage at the end of September. My hostess was my former guest, Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan (http://www.kaylene.us), a noted Alaskan author who specializes in Alaska’s history. Kaylene is also a great cook: thanks to her I sampled home made moose sausage, moose steak, and a memorable Alaskan seafood feast that included freshly caught salmon and crab claws almost a meter long. Heaven!
What did I do in Anchorage? Let me count the venues. Seven events in seven days. Debbie Moderow (debbieclarkemoderow.com) author of Fast into the Night, her adventures racing in Alaska’s excruciating, one thousand mile Iditarod race, hosted our welcome dinner. After I ingested three bowls of her Salmon Chowder, she was kind enough to share the recipe (see below).
The next day, author and 49writers co-founder Deb Vanasse (http://debvanasse.com/) had me speak at the annual meeting of the 49writers annual conference (www.49writingcenter.org) on how to write a memoir. Barely had I set my handouts down that I was headed for Turkey Red (http://www.turkeyredak.com/) in Palmer, one of the most notable restaurants in the region. And what a meal it was! To my delight, Chef Alex Papasavas, who bills herself as local cook, caterer, and gardener, has as her sous chef Jalal Elbakkali, a graduate of a culinary institute in Fez. The two of them executed my recipes just the way I hoped, and, using local ingredients (salmon and spinach bestila anyone?) prepared one of the best Moroccan meals I have had outside Morocco. If you go to Anchorage, take the time to drive the 30 minutes to Palmer (not too far from Wasilla, where Sarah Palin can see Russia from her front yard!) Palmer is also home to Fireside Books (http://www.goodbooksbadcoffee.com), a welcoming indie bookstore, whose owner, David Cheezum, sponsored that luscious Moroccan dinner cum-book-signing at Turkey Red. Merci to all.
Allen and Peterson (www.aphome.com) was the site of my cooking class, A Taste of Morocco, in what must be the best-equipped cooking school in the state. The store is a veritable treasure trove of all things culinary, from stoves to cooking implements and unusual ingredients. (Anchorage boasts several excellent food stores, such as Carr’s supermarket (aka Safeway) and New Sagaya, a maze of ethnic foods.) Who knew? At Allen and Peterson’s, another surprise awaited: Barley grits to make Couscous Belboula, a Berber specialty from Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. See my recipe for that unique couscous in Cooking at the Kasbah page 121. I have great difficulty finding barley grits in the Lower 48, so I was delighted to discover that barley grows in Alaska and that barley grits are processed locally. How cool is a company that lists its address as Coal Mine Road Lakes, Alaska, along with longitude and latitude?! Alll available by mail order from http://www.alaskaflourcompany.com.
The next two evenings I spoke at the Chugiak and Loussac branches of the Anchorage library, with a stop at the beautiful Anchorage Museum to view their extraordinary collection of artifacts in the Smithsonian Arctic Center (anchoragemuseum.org) And finally, the Alaska Botanical Garden (wwww.alaskabg.org) inserted my presentation on edible flowers into their lecture series. These dedicated gardeners brought samples of local herbs, which, in Alaskan summers, develop to gargantuan size. The botanical garden is also home to 18 different varieties of CILANTRO! I just had to stop by to see them on my way to the airport. The experimental plants were a little frost-bitten but surprisingly fragrant.
Our hostesses made sure to squeeze in time to drive us along the spectacular Seward Highway to the equally breathtaking Alyeska Resort south of Anchorage, in time to see the incoming tide galloping up the dramatic shore of Cook Inlet’s Turnagain Arm. To learn more about Alaska’s precious and fragile ecosystem, read my host, Marybeth Holleman’s, heart wrenching The Heart of the Sound: An Alaskan Paradise Fund and nearly Lost. (http://marybethholleman.com/)
An Alaska SPECIAL for Kasbah Chronicles Readers!!
Debbie’s Salmon Chowder
“To tell you the truth, every batch of soup I make is a little different!” says Debbie Moderow. Prepare this a day ahead so the flavors have time to develop, she adds. This chowder freezes very well.
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, diced
32 ounces organic chicken stock
6 small red potatoes, diced
2 pounds boned fresh fish (cod, salmon, or halibut) cut into chunks
1/2 cup diced fresh dill
3 stalks fresh celery, with leaves, diced
1 (14 oz) can diced fire roasted tomatoes with green chilies
1 cup corn kernels (optional)
Milk as needed
Cayenne to taste
Parmesan cheese, for serving
The day before:
In a large pan or soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook carrots and onions until soft. Add the chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes. Cook 10 to 15 minutes until potatoes soften, and add the fish. Cook 5 to 8 minutes so it doesn’t fall apart.
Add the dill, celery, tomatoes, and corn, if using. Remove from the heat, allow to cool, and cover. Refrigerate overnight. Reheat over low heat. Add a little milk if the chowder is too thick. Before serving, season to taste with cayenne and a little fresh dill.
Back home, Chile once again beckoned. After travelling to the Island of Chiloe where mussels grow to the size of medium bananas (sorry for repeating myself), Chiloe mussels bathing in a garlic and wine sauce called out to me from Trader Joe’s freezer in Oceanside, CA. These Chilean mussels make an ideal base for the mussel mouclade recipe in my Edible Flowers: A Kitchen Companion (page 68).