Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pan Roasted Salmon Steaks -- Why Not?

Just this once I thought I'd do food thing on my blog.  Food blogs are the big thing now, but I read them for the recipes, not to read the long story of how they got to the recipe.  With that in mind we will go directly to the food.   I love fresh salmon steak, and I find that most people make cooking them too much work.

Try this:

Pan Roasted Salmon Steak

2 salmon steaks or fillet cuts, skin on!
  1 teaspoon  Susitna River Blend  seasoning (Susitna Sugar and Spice) or salt pepper garlic & dill.
 2 lemon slices
 2 teaspoon butter
1 Tablespoon oil

Put the oven on 375 degrees or you might already be roasting vegetables there anyway (see below).  Heat a cast iron, or other skillet with a tablespoon of oil.  Season salmon steaks (mine were fresh sockeye cut from fillets with the skin on) with dill, garlic salt and pepper or my favorite fish seasoning  Susitna River Blend.  This great spice blend is made by a gal with a magic touch up in Willow, Alaska.  When skillet is hot place fish in skillet (skin down if a fillet) and add a teaspoon of butter and a lemon slice to each piece of fish.   Use a spatter screen if you have it.  After three - five minutes slide skillet in that hot oven for about 4-5 minutes.  Time it right and the roasted vegetable will come out at the same time.  You will probably wish you had cooked more of this and don't be afraid to eat the skin!    Off course this will also work on your BBQ grill –– hot direct heat with a hood!   Do not over cook!

Roasted Vegetables

Set oven to 375 degrees or fire up the BBQ grill.

three cups  Summer squash and/or zucchini, tomato, peppers and onions.  large dice, about one inch
1/4 cup olive oil
1  crushed garlic clove
1 Teaspoon italian seasoning  (oregano, basil, rosemary) or try one of the other blends from Susitna Sugar and spice.

Toss together in a bowl.  Then put in a roasting pan.  I like to use a round cake pan for this, but a pizza pan cookie sheet or foil will work.  Roast for 20-30 minutes.   If you have a grill pan for your BBQ  these veggies are great grilled.  Feel free to sub in your favorites like cauliflower or broccoli.  Potatoes are good this way but may need longer to cook or they could be parboiled first.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

What's in a Name? Much I'd Say or Nothing

One can easily get caught up place names and I find myself often lead astray by them.   As a young one, I lived in a farming hamlet call Sugar Tree Ridge and found the name defining of a place, bucolic in nature, with an old timey charm where no bad could come.  I moved from there to Happy Valley, a place named so optimistically so fraught with expectation that one feels ashamed to have a bad day.   “How bad can it be for Christ’s sake; you live in Happy Valley.”  Such names are evocative and stimulate the emotions and imagination as places named for people cannot. Cape Woronzof comes with no image, but imagine having Dangerous Cape finally behind you and Cape Fairweather ahead.  How small would your boat feel entering Icy Straits or what could be less attractive than a trip to Mud Lake.  In Day Harbor, boaters can choose to anchor in sinister Killer Bay or cruise just a bit farther to the comfort of Safety Cove.   In Alaska, we are surrounded by clever and stimulating place names that draw us to or keep us from them with names like  Paradise or Majestic Valley, Poorman or Wiseman, Dead horse or Troublesome Creek.   I’m sorry, but unless a place is named after your grandfather something named after a person doesn’t have the impact of lively names that evoke a story, an emotion, or suggest some great adventure.  In Kentucky, my mom was born near Cut-shin Creek, named for a mishap by my great-great grandfather, a much better name than if they named it Barger Creek after him.   

Some names are so over-used that are merely the hand-written name tags at a conference full of strangers.  Bear Creek, initially a name fraught with threat and wildness, has been so over used that it might as well be “Bob”.   And most places named for people have that unemotional emptiness to them.  Frazier River, Johnson Pass impart no drama unless some one has a personal story that lights up the neurons.  That’s the problem with Mount Mckinley.  For the geographic novice this might be a lowly hill in Ohio and not he highest peak in North America.  Denali, however, has that one name ring the honors things that are so unique so special that no clarification is needed.  Like Elvis, Madonna, and Manhattan one name is enough, Denali.  

My friends on the West Coast of Alaska where rich Yupiik names make music with the language, the landscape is dotted with the names of dead white men.   The census district that Includes Hooper Bay, Chevak, and Scammon Bay in Kuskokwim Delta is named for a South Carolina governor and Confederate war hero, Wade Hampton.  Where does that come from?  When it comes to place names, its not who you are but who you know I guess.  Too bad. Hopefully the campaigns to fix problem place names like this will be successful.  Unfortunately, people seems to be willing to fight hard to keep ancestors alive by using their names.   Until things change look for me along Bear Lake or Pear Lake –– I have property on both.  Pear is found down Oilwell Road with no oil well and Bear Lake is on Old Sawmill Road with no Sawmill.   Have a great week no matter where you are.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Trekking the Alpine Sea

Just back from a visit to Sitka, part work part play, and seeing old friends along the way.  Sitka lures me on a sunny day with its mountain peaks, blue bays and and green isles and islets.  The cloudy days aren’t bad either though the moss and the weathered wood  and rusting metals tells us this damp climate is one to be reckoned with.   This is not a place where it rains often; is a place where it rains consistently for long periods of time, which is hard on structures, tools, and psyches.  Maybe this is why the personalities we encountered were strong, rich, and varied. Natural selection. Sitka is place where only the durable can truly thrive.  

Sitka, once Alaska’s capital, is perched on the beach of Baranov Island facing Sitka Sound, rich in sea life and partially protected from the storms of the gulf by Islands like Kruzof with it’s extinct volcanoes.  Here the salmon trollers spread their fishing gear like the wings of great water bugs crisscrossing surface of the sea and long liners plumb the deep.   The history is extant here, brimming with tlingits, Russians, rogues and warriors, while the modern day streets and paths are littered with tourists, artists and classical musicians packed in this fishing town on a beach already crowded with salmonberries and trees squatting in the moss like giants. 

 Sitka sits where the mountains and forest hug the sea like walker’s sharing an umbrella.  Like Seward, these coastal mountains rise out  the ocean with the abruptness that has made visitors disembark from cruise ships and ask what the elevation is.  For our part, the mountain-perched houses gave us a view of Sitka Sound nearly everywhere we went, and on the water we could truly see the mountain vistas.   When one lives where I do, it takes a pretty dramatic view to turn my head, and Sitka Sound has that.  One day we toured an island home and sailed, wing on wing, across the sound, the next day we disappeared into the towering forests of spruce and hemlock to up the mountainside where the alpine vistas called.  We were turned back by time, knowing there is always more to see, leaving trails unfinished to lure us, as the people do, back to Sitka on alpine sea.  

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Lake of Reflection

After a long trip to Colorado and then to Soldotna and Ninilchik, I was relieved to be home on my lake.  In the evening, we watched a pair of new moose calves and their shiny carmel coats.  Their mother was a shaggy contrast with the last of her winter wrap hanging in shreds off her back and withers.   Later I paddled out on the placid water after the evening winds had died.  I was able to find and observe a loon nest with the mother loon lying low and well camouflaged on her nest.  The male escorted me closely as I approaching, shadowing me moved with in ten feet of my boat.
Again I saw the moose family feeding along the shore in my neighbors yards.  Such times as this on the water or in the woods are healing resting events for the soul, an outward looking meditation that calms the mind by reaching into the surroundings instead of into the inner space of a tired mind.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Solo Hiking and the Politics of Child Safety

I don’t know how I traversed from solo hiking the sagebrush trails of the Gunnison Valley to Alaska politics but I did.  You are warned, political commentary ahead.  That sort of thing comes from walking alone. Well, not just walking, It can be splitting or stacking firewood, skiing, or taking the kayak out on my lake.  There is something about putting the body to work that calms the working mind and pulls the head out of the proverbial ass.   Don’t believe me just try it.   

IF your are stuck and can’t move forward on a writing project or hung up with a problem you are trying to solve, or maybe some one really pissed you off.  Get up and get moviing.  Vacuum the house, clean the gutters, mow or take a walk.  Your mind will thank you because your thinking will improve and with it your mood.   You can do this with a partner but I find real power in solo hiking.   Simple, focused exercise alone allows one to think, to dawdle, to rush and even sing without referencing another mind.  It can be a form of meditation.  

I was hiking this way on a nice trail outside Gunnison, Colorado when I started thinking about the Alaska state legislature –– talk about some one pissing you off!–– and then my mind turned to the Alaska’s Safe Children’s Act more commonly know as Erin’s law. on which Mike Dunleavey put his conservative, we know what’s best for everyone Christian twist.    The intent of the law is for schools to be required to train students about sexual assault, abuse, and dating violence.  Unfortunately, politics is not tidy, so the bill has been weaken to make the instruction optional and carries what would generally be seen as christian conservative language against sex education and the like.  While I understand Dunleavey’s concerns about burdening school districts in these tight budget times, he’s motives are consistent with his anti public education and conservative politics, an interesting position for a man who made a career in public education.  

I have mixed feeling about the law itself because it has good intentions, but is another partial solution that avoids arguments of a deeper nature.  I also don’t like the legislature parsing curricula; this is complicated enough for people who know what they are doing.  For example, how can we pretend to teach students about protecting themselves from sexual assault and abuse without teaching them about sex and sexual relationships, roles, expressions, forms, and vocabulary? We can’t.  But many people don’t like Johnny and Suzy finding out where babies and pedophiles come from. 

My hiking trail was long enough –– and I was slow because I was hiking at 8000 feet –– that I could chew on this problem  a while.  It seems we need something like a wellness and human living curriculum that replaces PE and health.  We could stuff this new curriculum with all the good biology, safety, nutrition, and exercise stuff we know kids need.  We can include how the body works and how to keep it working, how to stay safe in our surrounding including hazards like fire, drugs, bullies, sugar and predators, human and non-human.  Part if this curriculum would include critical thinking and decision making.  Even Ann Coulter agrees with me about this part.  She says even college students aren’t being taught to read and think critically.  Her financial success as the master of sweeping generalizations is evidence of that.  I digress, another outcome of solo hiking: the mind will wander.  

Back to the topic.  The more we can teach kids about being safe and healthy the better, and we know that knowledge is power, even scary knowledge like sexual awareness, especially in a state where sexual assault, rape, and abuse are rampant.   Some things aren’t optional and child safety is one of them.