Alaskans know how to eat. Find another place where people are better at DIY food (hunting it, fishing it, picking it; schlepping it on airplanes, ATVs, snowmachines, kayaks, in backpacks; butchering it, cleaning it, smoking it, freezing it, preserving it). You can't. To eat at our tables is to understand our culture. (Home cooking is another area where we excel.) This newsletter is a place for all things Alaska food.
Newsletter #9: Fading summer
I hate to remind everyone what we already know deep in our bones: We've come to the tail-end of summer. As winter looms like a big, gray elephant in the room, this week's edition is all about savoring summer flavors and making the most of the summer ingredients we have left.
Thanks to recent heavy rains, the farmers markets are absolutely exploding with vegetables right now. It's prime time to grab an excess of them and stock up for colder days. One farmer suggests freezing the hardier vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli. Another recommends making vegetable-laden soups. I'm also envisioning big batches of vegetable stock, chicken stock, or fish stock, loaded with local produce and tucked away in the freezer for winter. You can also get Alaska seafood at the market this week, like spot shrimp. Don't throw away the shells. Instead, use them to make an exquisite, robust shrimp stock along with all that local produce (fennel would be lovely).
If you have your own garden at home, Jeff Lowenfels says now is the time to harvest your lettuce. I'm thinking crisp green salads and leafy sandwiches or burgers. Kim Sunee has me swooning with thoughts of Carlyle Watt's pimento cheese over an end-of-summer burger straight off the grill and slices of hydroponic beefsteak tomatoes from Wasilla. But if a halibut burger is more your speed, Julia O'Malley says we're crazy if we don't order the one from White Spot Cafe in Anchorage. I'm going to have to try that myself.
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If you're not following Julia O'Malley on Instagram yet, she is posting frequent updates from Italy while she is away, including many inspiring bites and nibbles of Italian summer. Speaking of Italian flavors, my ode to summer this week is a nectarine caprese bruschetta with prosciutto, drizzled with balsamic reduction. It's enjoyable any time of the day and would be beautiful paired with a local wine, like the pink-hued red currant wine from Alaska Berries.
Finally, if you didn't catch the piece "Tasting the Last Frontier: How Alaska Became a Foodie Destination," featuring Chef Laura Cole of 229 Parks Restaurant and Tavern and Bravo "Top Chef" fame, it's a great read about food in our great state.
May your plates be full of Alaska summer this weekend. Thanks for being here! Catch you next week.
Maya Wilson lives and cooks on the Kenai Peninsula and writes the Alaska From Scratch blog. Her book, "The Alaska from Scratch Cookbook: Seasonal. Scenic. Homemade," was published in 2018 by Rodale Books/Penguin Random House. She will be the head chef at a new restaurant (@addiecamp) in Soldotna coming later in 2018.