The question on a great many minds of people in Alaska these days is this: What the devil are we going to do with all this salmon?!
For me, the first answer was to get a chest freezer. One day, when I had an avalanche of seafood about to hit my house, I drove in earnest to the Fred Meyer in Soldotna, walked straight up to the chest freezers and pointed. "That one," I confidently declared to the store clerk.
I paid for it, loaded it up onto a jumbo cart, and we wheeled it out of the store. When we got to my Subaru Outback, the clerk hesitated. "Umm … do you have a truck?" Alas, no. He patiently informed me that although the freezer would fit just fine in my Subaru, you cannot tip freezers on their sides or you'll ruin them. These are things only people who have previously purchased freezers would know. I was not one of those people.
I smacked my head, gave the guy my number and watched my precious new freezer get wheeled away from me, back into the store. I needed a pickup truck and fast. Visions of precious seafood slowly thawing with no place to go raced through my mind. Quelle nightmare!
Then it hit me. I sped to the U-Haul store, rented one of their $20-an-hour pickup trucks, ditched my Subaru in their parking lot and drove back to Fred Meyer. We loaded the freezer up in the bed and I headed back to my home in Kenai. I backed the truck carefully up the driveway, and this 5-foot-1 woman unloaded the freezer all by herself into the garage. Then, I drove back to Soldotna, returned the truck and retrieved my trusty Subaru. The things we Alaskans do for our fish.
The second part to the infamous salmon question is: cook it, can it or smoke it? I hope you smoke up a batch, not just for bagels or smoked salmon dip, but also for this kale Caesar salad with smoked salmon and avocado.
[Salmon broiled with birch syrup glaze combines 2 of the most beautiful Alaska ingredients]
I love to use kale for Caesar salads because it holds up so well. Where romaine wilts within minutes of being slathered in Caesar dressing, kale stands its ground, staying crisp for hours. Of course, it's much more nutritious, too. The creaminess of the avocado is perfect against the smoky brininess of the salmon. Homemade croutons and a tangy Casear dressing from scratch are awesome, but when you're in a hurry, store bought will also work well.
Kale Caesar salad with smoked salmon and avocado
1 large bunch kale, trimmed and finely chopped
1/2 cup Caesar dressing, or to taste*
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 avocado, sliced
6 ounces smoked salmon, flaked
1 cup croutons
Lemon wedges, for serving
Place the kale into a large salad bowl. Pour the Caesar dressing over the kale and firmly massage the dressing into the kale using your clean hands to coat and tenderize the kale, about 30 seconds. Top the salad with Parmesan cheese, avocado slices, smoked salmon flakes and croutons. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.
*Kale can require more dressing than a typical romaine Caesar salad does.
Maya Wilson lives in Kenai and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your inquiry may appear in a future column.