Fresh picks

I’ve been on my own the past couple of weeks, back in Alaska to do a little work for income, and to have a little work done on the house. I’m focused on policies and grants for one clinic, and filling in for the medical staff coordinator at the local hospital. The variety keeps me on my toes, keeps me learning and productive.

On the home front, the house and deck were power washed and some of the paint was refreshed. With a house that’s almost 100 years old, there’s always some project in the works. The replacement glass for my cracked front window has arrived and I almost had that replaced yesterday. But no, the weather didn’t cooperate. We had a gale of a storm and had to postpone until June. My hedges and trees are all trimmed up, and I have a new lock on my fuel oil tank. So I’ve marked off a few of my to-dos.

But it’s not all been work. There’s been cooking too! Or at least some cooking, and some prep for future yumminess.

Last week I bought a king salmon, the first one of the season. Here’s that beauty:

Alaskan King

Alaskan King

Thank goodness it came without the head and tail and guts. I don’t need any of those, although I hear I’m really missing out by not making fish head soup. But someone else can enjoy that delicacy. I’ll just content myself with the non-head parts. I’m taking some of the fish I vacuum sealed and froze down to California for a little Memorial Day grilling. See, I know how to get ready to camp. :)

Ready to freeze

Ready to freeze

I couldn’t resist trying my hand at smoking some of the fresh king. I borrowed a Little Chief smoker and researched a brine recipe. Here’s my finished product:

Smoked to perfection!

Smoked to perfection!

The smoked salmon makes a great dip. I can’t give exact amounts, but try blending smoked salmon and a block of cream cheese to a chunky paste in a food processor. Some people add onion or other seasonings, but I like just the salmon and cream cheese. Serve with water crackers or whatever dipper you like. Easy and delicious!

I made a quick pickled salad this week. You could use any firm vegetable. I used diced cucumber, cherry tomatoes (cut in half), diced red onion, and diced baby bell peppers. I made an oil and apple cider vinegar dressing and seasoned it with a little sugar and salt and pepper. Again, no measurements…just mix to taste. (You’ll want enough dressing to coat the veggies, but not so much that they’re swimming in it.) Chill in the fridge to give the veggies time to absorb the flavor of the dressing. It’s a cool and crunchy light lunch or dinner.

Healthy lunch!

Healthy lunch!

Beautiful and simple

Beautiful and simple

And last but not least, I harvested my rhubarb this week. Rhubarb is a late comer to my life. I discovered it about a decade ago and immediately fell in love with the tartness and the way it pairs so well with other flavors to make amazing desserts.

I started my rhubarb crop here in Ketchikan with one plant a friend gave me. This stuff is hardy. You plant it and forget about it. Two or three times each summer I have enormous leaves and stalks that demand attention. The rhubarb is planted behind the hedge in my front garden, and when I begin to see the leaves poking out above the hedge, I know it’s time to harvest. You can cut the plant down to the ground and it grows right back. Let me just say, here and now, this is my kind of gardening! Seems indestructible, impervious to weather, and I literally do nothing but cut it back a few times a year.

I should have made a photo of the plant, but I wasn’t in blog mode when I was in harvest mode, so you’ll have to google “rhubarb” if you want to see the the full glory. I’ve been told that rhubarb likes cooler climates, which is probably why I first met it in Colorado and renewed my acquaintance here in Alaska. My grandmothers, who grew most fruits and vegetables known to man, didn’t grow rhubarb, so I assume it would not do well in the heat of a Mississippi summer. Which explains why I missed out on this taste for so long.

The edible part of the plant is the stalk, which looks a lot like celery, except it is a deeper green and has shades of red and pink as well. You cut the stalks off and remove the large leaf that grows at the end of the stalk. Then you wash and dice. That’s it! You can use the fresh rhubarb to make all sorts of dishes. I see savory recipes and I’ve even tasted a couple. But I’ll admit, I just use it for desserts and sweets.

You can make rhubarb pie, rhubarb crisp, rhubarb jam. You typically see rhubarb paired with another fruit, and the classic choice is strawberries. Yes, yes, that’s a good flavor. But do yourself a favor. If you can get your hands on rhubarb, pair it with orange. Orange zest, orange marmalade, orange juice. Nothing. like. it.

Here’s my rhubarb journey this week:

From 1 (!) plant!

From 1 (!) plant!

 

You cut the long stems off the base of the plant and have these celery-like stalks. They’re even a little stringy like celery. The only thing I do is wash and chop. You’ll have different widths but honestly I can’t detect any difference in texture or flavor once the rhubarb is cooked down, so I use the small tender stalks as well as the monster wide ones.

Chopped!

Chopped!

I used a little for a sweet treat (reward for my two weeks of work!) and popped the rest into freezer bags. It’s the easiest thing to freeze. I just chop and bag. No need to blanch or prep in any other way.

Ready to go

Ready to go

And now, just to whet your appetite!

Dessert for two: (or just me :) )

Butter the bottom of a small baking dish. Spread a layer of chopped rhubarb and lightly sprinkle with brown sugar. I added a couple of teaspoons of orange marmalade, then topped the fruit with a crumb mixture. The crumb mixture is a combination of quick cook oatmeal, brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and a couple of tablespoons of butter. Spread the crumb mixture on top of the fruit and bake at 350, about 25 minutes, or until the crumb topping is lightly browned. Voila! Dessert, or snack, or whatever you need to call it to eat it as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Rhubarb and orange layer

Rhubarb and orange layer

Crumb topping

Crumb topping

All I need is ice cream!

All I need is ice cream!

If you want to mix in other goodness, add nuts or raisins. You can also do this with strawberries or apples instead of the marmalade. I just happen to like the orange, so that’s always my first choice to pair with rhubarb.

Happy start to the summer! And happy Memorial Day! Thank you to all the people who’ve given so much to freedom and our way of life. Remember them while you’re enjoying family and friends this weekend, and find a man or woman wearing the uniform to thank.

 

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12 thoughts on “Fresh picks

  1. You are enjoying the “harvest!” I hated leaving our rhubarb plants when we sold our old house. Since then, the new owners have removed it. I wish we could have taken them. Once we get a garden going at our new house (not until next spring, too many other projects that demand our time… and our house isn’t 100 years old! :), rhubarb is at the top of the list to plant. My oldest son wanted a rhubarb pie for his 18th birthday. His girlfriend (at the time) wouldn’t even try a bite. I think rhubarb might be an acquired taste!

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    • The nice thing is that rhubarb is so hearty…it’s about the easiest plant I’ve ever had. Just cut back a few times each summer…I always seem to have a bumper crop! ~ Sheila

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  2. Hi Sheila ! I emailed you a summery rhubarb delight after realizing that you indeed are a fellow rhubarb lover. Hope, the old fashioned mail found it’s way to Alaska!

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    • Hi Ulla, I don’t know what happened to the mail, but I didn’t receive anything…sorry! Maybe it will turn up! Sometimes things get lost or take an extra long time. But I do appreciate the thought. Just found this comment tonight…it got into my comment folder that was waiting to be approved and somehow I missed it when you had originally written.

      And yes, I love rhubarb! We’ll have to trade recipes!

      Hope you guys are doing well! We’re busy, working the summer months here in Ketchikan. Just enjoying some long summer days interspersed with the rainy ones! Take care! ~ Sheila

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    • Oh, I’ve never tried it with blueberries! I’ve only had it paired with strawberries and orange peel.But as I think it largely takes on the flavor of whatever it’s paired with, I would think any fruit that would hold up for baking would be good with rhubarb. ~ Sheila

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  3. Love the way you make this all look and sound so esay, all in a spring day’s work. You are a great example of the modern Proverbs 31 woman, generating a bit of income, tending to the garden, and creating lucious nutritious meals that are also a feast for the eyes.
    Thank you, Sheila, for raising a fine young man who was willing to serve our country. He exhibits bravery, courage and sacrafice in his life. His school plans do sound exciting. I pray all works out for him. He is a special guy!

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    • Oh Ann, it just looks easy on the screen! :) No, really, I don’t do difficult recipes…I usually focus on comfort food, so not too technically challenging. And it helps that I love any excuse to cook! But I know you understand that since you’re one of my inspirations in that department!

      Thanks for the sweet words for Alex. He’s an old soul who’s finding his way, I hope! I am proud of him! Thank you for your prayers! ~ Sheila

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  4. My mouth is absolutely watering between the King salmon (!) the vegetable salad (!) and the Rhubarb crisp — yummo! Mom still has a Rhubarb patch and my sissy makes an amazing Rhubarb/Strawberry freezer jam that’s to die for. Who doesn’t love summer and all these treats that come with it?

    Happy Memorial Day to you and yours – and safe travels too!!

    hugs
    MJ

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    • Hey, I’m happy to report that the salmon ate pretty well too! I’m not really experienced at smoking fish, so it was a bit of an experiment. The rhubarb…well, that’s just comfort food, plain and simple! I’m telling you, try it with orange zest…I think you’ll love it! ~ Sheila

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  5. My Mom grew Rhubarb…but, I only ate it with Strawberries for a long time…being young…Then I tried it on toast the way Mom liked it…cooked down with a little sugar…YUMMY!…sweet/tart…your photos were great…with that colorful veggie salad…Love it when summer veggies and fruits come in!

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    • Hey, I’ve never tried just rhubarb. I’ve always paired it with something else. You’ve made me curious! Now I’ll have to check that out.
      Yes, summer is the best! Although the veggies were just grocery store items…I don’t try to do much gardening for produce besides the rhubarb and rosemary and sometimes lettuce.
      Have a great weekend! I know you’ll enjoy being with your family and cooking something delicious! ~ Sheila

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