My grandma used to tell me that the Northern Lights were the spirits of our ancestors celebrating as they look down on us from above. If you whistle, they will draw near and dance for you.
-Raymond Frank (per the Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitor Center)
Given the snow storm the weekend we were there, our chances of catching the Northern Lights were low, but we persevered to make the most of things either way. At least the cloud cover meant warmer temperatures for the friends who’d agreed to join me and Kris on these adventures, so I didn’t feel like we’d conned these poor Florida-borns into going on a vacation in a freezer.
Exploring Alaska in Late February feels like a study in contrasts, cold environment vs. warm people and houses, rustic natural surroundings and military-grade survival boots. It seemed fitting to double down on this, like some kind of dare from Mother Nature. Continue Reading
Food the Wong Way has involved a healthy dose of outdoor activity this winter, including a fair bit of snowboarding and snowshoeing, which historically has been hard on my knees and back. My friend Katherine recently talked me into going with my local German pub Prost on a ski bus, so despite appearing to have packed for the apocalypse, I tried to pack lighter. That’s when I came up with this light short-term remedy for sore knees. Continue reading →
From the kitchn, with the last few steps re-ordered.
1/2 cup of honey
1/2 cup of water
3 to 4 fresh sage leaves
1 pound fresh blackberries
Extra blackberries and sage leaves for garnish (optional)
Also optional: vodka or gin
Fresh back from a cross-country road trip through 4 national parks, three rolls of campfire-cooked Pillsbury products, and too many kinds of 80+-degree weather, I give you…
Cold Zucchini Basil Salad A variation from simply real health I googled after a random Instagram find.
1 large heirloom tomato, sliced into bite-sized pieces
3-4 zucchini total (prefer a mix of green and yellow summer squash)
1/4 c goat cheese
A handful of basil, rolled and chopped into ribbons
olive oil (the highest quality you have on hand)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 fresh lemon
1/4 c slivered almonds
1. With a vegetable peeler, thinly scrape the zucchini and summer squash into long ribbon slices, tossing the seedy core, or saving it for a Sunday frittata mix.
2. Add the ribbons to a bowl, season with sea salt* and pepper*, basil, drizzle with olive oil* per preference. [*NOTE: if you want salad for later, pack the zucchini separate from the olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice to keep the crunch, and combine just before eating]. Toss to mix.
The forecast in many parts of North America reaches 90 degrees in the next several days, so here’s a cold drink recipe to try. Shout out to my many Northwest peeps living without air conditioning. I had a real brain-sparking juice from Assembly Hall (a part of that behemoth conglomerate known as Tom Douglas restaurants) in Belltown, Seattle which spurred me to attempt an imitation, which inevitably spawned variants.
PLOC Juice (Pineapple Orange Lime Cayenne)
Inspired by Tropical Spice Juice from Assembly Hall
1 fresh pineapple, cut in chunks with rind removed*
1.5 orange, peel off, scrape a bit of pith off too
2-3 limes, (see oranges)
ice to desired thickness
Optional: 1/2 c frozen mango or ice, or coconut milk to taste
1 small dash of cayenne pepper
Optional: mint, coconut flakes, for garnish
Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 5 of 5 stars.
Well, that is certainly novel. Likelihood of Repeat: 35%
The first couple sips are always a little startling, after that it starts to grow on you..I think…maybe..
Don’t worry folks, if this is not enough cold refreshment for you this summer, I’ve got at least two more in my back pocket coming, on top of last year’s frozen coconut limeade. Lesson Learned: Even when you’re feeling unsuspectingly casual and lazy-looking without a stitch of makeup on a Sunday afternoon, you might still concede to post a video that includes your mug in it, in the interest of telling the world about the DIY espresso tonic your household experienced..shrug.
But seriously, next time I might try muddling the rosemary** a little, and maybe adding a few crushed berries for a sweet, tart flavor.
*I actually drink tonic water on its own sometimes, no gin. On the advice of one of my docs, the quinine in it supposedly helps with nocturnal leg cramps -so painful they wake me up. The internet, however, indicates that docs no longer prescribe quinine for anything besides malaria due to strong side effects (beyond the crazy dreams, I’m guessing). I have to assume that tonic water has much lower amounts of it than a prescription, though. However, if you are after quinine in tonic water, read the bottle labels carefully. Sometimes it’s just sugar water without any actual tonic-ness.
3 tablespoons good olive oil 1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups) 1.5 cups croutons
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes (used a mix of heirloom cherokee purple, cherry tomatoes and a couple romas)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Added: avocado, chopped in large chunks 3 tablespoons capers, drained (I don’t like capers)
For the vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar sherry vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Steps
0. Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.
1. For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.
2. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.
Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 3 of 5 stars.
This was a nice, relatively low maintenance way to still be able to see the different kinds of tomatoes I put in and the pretty colors from the cherokee purples. Likelihood of Repeat: 30%
I think there might be too much delicious salty crouton in this recipe for it to be good for me, plus they get soggy after a little bit so this is not a salad for next day unless you separate things out. Plus, I almost never have bread around to make croutons or buy croutons or basil on their own.. Lesson Learned: meh.
Mark Bitterman‘s Gazpacho recipe and some tips from my friend Katherine got me to try making gazpacho about a year ago, and tonight’s continued hot humid weather in the Northwest called for a revisit of cooking without heating elements. Unfortunately, I failed at that last bit, since I like my onions and garlic sautéed instead of raw and heart burn-y. See modified recipe below. But you, my friend, could make it with raw garlic and onions if you so desired, and even without the bread if you wanted to go Paleo or gluten-free (although cave men didn’t have blenders).
Gazpacho, Fast and Simple
Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 25 minutes
2 pounds tomatoes, roughly chopped, or one (today: fresh beefsteaks)
28-ounce can (include the juices)
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded if you like, and chopped
2 or 3 slices bread, a day or two old, crusts removed, torn into small pieces (today: a toasted leftover hamburger bun from July 4)
1 /4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, or more to taste
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 Tbs minced red onions
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional: sliced scallions for garnish, and/or dollop of greek yogurt (skipped the latter this time, but it would be tasty)
0. Lightly saute onions and garlic for a few minutes on stovetop with olive oil and butter.
1. Combine the tomatoes, cucumber, bread, oil, vinegar, onions and garlic with 1 cup water in a blender; process until smooth. If the gazpacho seems too thick, thin with additional water.
2. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately (or refrigerate and serve within a couple of hours), garnished with a drizzle of olive oil and scallions or greek yogurt if desired.
Today’s Trial Recipe Rating: Novelty Rating: 2 of 5 stars.
Made this once before without the bread a year ago, I liked it better this time. I’m hoping the novelty will really kick in in the next few days when I am still eating delicious chilled gazpacho without turning on the stove on a hot day. Likelihood of Repeat: 75%
I ended up with enough for 4 more individual meals, so I’m looking forward to finding out how it does frozen and defrosted later. Lesson Learned: Less complicated than it feels to grab a ladder and retrieve the blender from the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet..
Wheat Berry Salad
1 cup soft white wheat berries
2 cups water
dash of salt
1 orange bell pepper
1/3 red onion
2 roma tomatoes
1/4 cup nuts (pine nuts shown here, I think pecans or almonds would work fine too)
1. Toast the wheat berries in a skillet for ~4 minutes on medium high heat. Stir often, for the wheat berries will begin to brown and even start popping. You may want to get a lid or splatter screen just in case.
2. Soak the wheat berries in water for 1 hour, or in my case, overnight in the rice cooker with the timer set for 5:30 PM. If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can bring the wheat berries to a boil in a pot of water on the stove top and then let simmer for about 45 minutes.
3. While you’re waiting for it to finish, finely chop: 1 orange bell pepper, 1/3 red onion, 2 roma tomatoes, and 1 cucumber.
4. Lightly toast nuts.
5. When wheatberries are done cooking, dress the cooked wheatberries with a bit of sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, and a little black pepper to taste.
6. Finally, mix in vegetables, onion, and nuts into wheatberries, can be served warm straight from the rice cooker, or cold.
When I prepped it, I kept the onions and pine nuts separate, since the raw onions could be a little heart burny, and I added the pine nuts at the last minute so I could keep them crunchy for lunch.
This week’s trial recipe rating:
Novelty Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow, these wheatberries have a delightful pop when you bite down on them! All the bright-colored vegetables I added made it a really appealing-looking dish to eat, with just the right crunch from the peppers and cucumbers. It was also super easy to bring for lunch and eat cold, but still feel satisfied. Score one for small portion efforts. Likelihood of Repeat: 90%
I’m definitely going to make this again, and maybe even branch out to try a different vinaigrette combo with it, or add goat cheese or craisins. Besides the time it took to cook the actual grains, the rest of the prep was super fast since it didn’t require any more cooking.
(originally from a Food Network recipe -link no longer live-, with minimal substitution)
Makes: ~5 dozen 3-inch Florentines, or 2 1/2 dozen 6-inch Florentine
Total Time: 1 hr 35 min
Prep 30 min
Inactive 45 min
Cook 20 min
I first had these a few years ago at Zeitgeist Kunst & Kaffee, a coffee shop in downtown Seattle near my work, and it lit up this light bulb in my head that insisted I look it up to make myself an infinite supply. It has a great crunch, and the orange zest with chocolate drizzle is just the right combination.
* 1 3/4 cups sliced, blanched almonds (about 5 ounces) (I still have no idea what unblanched almonds would be, I just buy sliced almonds, however they come)
* 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (can substitute: almond flour, same amount)
* Finely grated zest of 1 orange (about 2 tablespoons)
* 1/4 teaspoon fine salt (I use kosher salt without much consequence)
* 3/4 cup raw sugar
* 2 tablespoons heavy cream
* 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
* 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Chocolate Topping, optional (but why would you ever skip it):
* 2 to 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)
– Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
– Pulse the almonds in a food processor until finely chopped, but not pasty. Stir together the nuts, flour, zest and salt in a large bowl.
– Put the sugar, cream, corn syrup and butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a rolling boil and sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, then pour mixture into almond mixture and stir just to combine. Set aside until cool enough to handle, ~30 minutes.
– Scoop rounded teaspoons (for 3-inch cookies) of batter and roll into balls. Place on prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2 to 3 inches (shrink accordingly with cookie size) between each cookie since they spread.
– Bake 1 pan at a time, until the cookies are thin and an even golden brown color throughout, rotating pans halfway through baking time, about 8-10 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool. Repeat with remaining batter.
“Optional” chocolate topping:
– Put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl (or smaller saucepan).
– Bring a (larger) saucepan filled with 1 inch or so of water to a very low simmer; set the bowl over, but not touching, the water. Stir the chocolate occasionally until melted and smooth.
-Drizzle melted chocolate over Florentines as desired (after trial with chopsticks, metal spoons, and other options, a rubber spatula works best).
– Set aside at room temperature until chocolate is set.
Storage tip: Store baked cookies carefully, separated by parchment or waxed paper, in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. Florentines are best stored separated from moist cookies and cakes.
Note: Special thanks to my chocolate-know-how friend for advising that getting any water in the smaller sauce pan (including a porous wooden spoon that’s wet), and using any metal for distribution would cool the chocolate too fast.
Today’s Cookie Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 4 of 5 stars
In my head, this is a big ordeal to make (not especially true), so when I do make them, it still feels novel. Plus, that crunch! Likelihood of Repeat: 99%
Chocolate, almonds, sugar, and orange zest, yum yum yum! This time I even verified that you can make it with gluten-free flour for your gluten-liberated friends, hooray! Try it with some tea or coffee too.