Thursday, 18 October 2018

Do You Like Fish?

One fish, two fish, red fish blue fish….wait, there are no red or blue fish.  This post comes a day or so before there might have been some red fish, but there is just too much going on right now to make the journey to the coast as we had planned this weekend.  So, instead… a little about the fish we do have, have had and will continue to have for the entirety of the rest of the year. 

A little safflower oil goes onto the comal and a spot of butter, until it all comes to a bubbly froth, glistening with the anticipation of the giant side of a pink salmon laid flat into the sizzle that sears the skin to crispy perfection, all while cooking the flesh to a idyllic, moist, tender flakiness.
skin seared pink salmon a.k.a. "trout"
 

This is how I have come to cook the load of pink salmon that we brought home from Alaska, the pink salmon we have appropriately granted the name, TROUT, because that is the consistency, texture and flavor and there are no complaints here.  The skin is very thick however, so the comal searing method is the best for getting the skin delightfully crunchy, countering the lemon, pepper, butter, caper and whatever herb or addition to the topside of this fish.  I grew up in Galveston, but learned to cook little else besides shellfish.  I am making up for it now!!  Anything one can make with trout, we make with our pink salmon.  It makes for a different kind of “salmon cake”, so we make trout cakes with shallots and Poblano peppers, instead of onions or traditional bell pepper.  The other method to disguise the hearty skin, roast and discard it!
Salmon cakes with some craziness involved there...

But what about all of the other fishes we brought home??  The halibut, has exploded in creative ingenuity as far as recipes go.  Abby, delighted in pursuing the quest for the perfect halibut ceviche.  I think it went marvelously, or at least my taste buds did, with the lime and lemon acidity cooking the fish to the texture of….let’s just say, tender morsels of meat that almost melt in your mouth among the creamy avocado,  crunchy cucumber, bits of red onion and Serrano pepper.  Yum!
Abby's ceviche....yes, that is cleverly a Chimay glass.

Recently, we grilled halibut and mango kabobs with Anaheim peppers on the skewers for a little kick!  Lip smacking!  When all else fails and we just want a good hearty piece of fish, out comes the comal again, this time with a slide into the oven, bathing the halibut in one of Abby’s favorite sauces for a marinade/glaze.  I think I got a picture of one of those just before she polished it off!
halibut kabobs with mango

I often want to challenge myself by entering pictures on a website or Facebook page appreciated by those who love to cook and share, but I am far too bashful and lack that sort of pride.  What I am instead, is grateful.  The fish were not free by any means, but there is something pretty cool about being able to reach into one of the freezers and hand pick the filet o’ the day!  Speaking of....
oops, almost missed a shot of this halibut...looks like cheesecake!

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Texas' Second Spring

It has been raining like crazy for days. The cooler dryer air invited us both outside all day. We have never seen so many varieties of mushrooms in white, yellow, and reds. Anne regrets not documenting them earlier. Each day, there seems to be a new one. The resident squirrel eats some of them, but we are afraid that squirrels might be able to metabolize things that humans can not, so we decide not to follow the squirrel's example.


There are also yellow, white, red, and purple flowers and greenery that comes alive when it rains like the ferns that grow directly on the bark of many of our oak trees. The oaks look like fluffy green muppets for a few days and then the ferns go dormant and brown.




Then there are the animals. Pairs of wrens look for a place to nest - the back porch? "Twitter twitter not here" they say. The tractor wheel wells? "Twitter twitter not here" they say. Who knows where those silly birds will set up. Tiny quarter inch long toads hop along the ground. We amazingly huge giants fear our own footsteps. We don't want to crush any of these tiny creatures accidentally. We tip-toe from workspace to workspace with our heads facing the ground at all times.
This one followed me around the property while I took pictures.
Anne and I saved scraps from our Alaska journey. We chose the photos we loved best and had those printed. It took me a couple of weeks, but I managed to create a scrapbook of all of the materials and photos. It's amazing to us looking through it what memories and writing ideas are sparked upon seeing a simple receipt or photo of a cheeseburger. It gives me hope that we will manage to write a few more things about our travels.

Anne and I have been looking into an office/studio space in town. It seems Hallettsville has been having its own economic springtime. A year ago, things were available. Now, there are vacant spaces, but nothing available. One awesome small building is used by the city to store their Festival of Lights stuff, and so it sits with no sign, no visible use. On the square, there are new businesses and a lot of office space for lawyers and CPAs. We sure would like to be right there in the middle of town offering Anne's fitness and goal training and my organizational services. It's frustrating, but we both know things will work out one way or another.

For now, we focus on food. Haha.... no really! Anne is one hell of a cook. I truly appreciate every single bite. For breakfast, I use leftovers to make something interesting for her and it's obvious she appreciates every bite, too. Food is our daily gift to one another. We make each plate pretty and well-rounded. We have eaten almost one entire freezer full of fish (one more to go). We eat out once every couple of weeks including this evening. We are going to a place we have never been before. The menu looks amazing, and we will both be able to sit back and enjoy being served beautiful foods.

To the Texans out there, happy second spring, y'all... and happy autumn to the rest of yous guys!

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Then and Here

Every morning I get up with the sun or fog or whatever the morning decides and make coffee.  Until recently, the coffee made itself.  The threat of lethargy changed that pattern.  Now we take coffee on the porch.  Later, Abby makes breakfast, usually hardy and oozing deliciousness that should be considered a sin any morning other than a Sunday.  We make plans about dinner and then we get to work.  Abby toils at her projects that would be falling off a shelf if organized that way.  The shelf could not support her addiction to doing things and doing them well.  I meander the property, deciding the next big outdoor project and buzz in Abby’s ear all day, a reminder that I am there for support, should she need it.  She rarely does.  We meet for “beer-thirty” which has been decided on as a sort of RESET poised in our day to, God forbid, keep us from going too fast in the world, or check in if we need to realize why we might be moving too slowly that day.

I miss hiking.  In Alaska, we were able to take some amazing hikes with a wonderful new friend and guide, Laura.  She helped me to test my own limits and gave Abby and me confidence hiking alone on some of the trails throughout Alaska beyond our visit with her.  There are no words for the views both from above and across an expanse of wildflowers into a bay and the majestic mountains in the background, to the rainforest type environment with giant trees and foliage that reaches out to touch you before you arrive.  Here, the moss grows thick on trees, the ground is wet, rivers and streams ride alongside until inevitably you have to cross them over rocks or with one big stride, hoping not to drag a boot.  Even in the middle of summer, you might sweat a little, but there is so much to see and feel and hear, all stealing the conscious awareness away from anything as petty as a little warmth or heavy breathing.  The altitudes we endeavored were not high, so the hikes are very doable for all levels.  My biggest bane, the descent.  My clients always come to me with complaints about knees and we get right to work strengthening them and I balk when they continue or insist their knees are “old”.  Okay, Alaska has taught me that there is such a pain, but it is diagnosable and treatable.  My knees are not old.  They are inexperienced at certain things.  With an Ibuprofen and a day of rest, they are back to new.

Were it not for a mailbox an eighth of a mile away, down a dirt and gravel road with occasional rain-soaked potholes, there would be no hiking here.  But, as the summer refuses to give up it’s relentless grip and yield to the celebrated fall, the sun beats down on the mailbox trek, bringing back the nostalgia of once beautiful hiking on our trips this year.  Because the road follows the property, and it is a corner tract, it is encouraging to keep the park-like ambiance associated with those acres of the property.  We work very hard at that.  Meanwhile, it is all we can do to avoid the missiles falling from the sky in the form of acorns.  Based on the noise they make hitting the metal roofs, if one were to actually hit us...or the cat...or the dog….there would most certainly be the sight of crimson streaming from one our skulls.

Abby is rehearsing for a gig this weekend.  I can hear her across the property amidst the thud of those acorns over my head.  I finished the dishes from dinner (shepherds pie and salad) after we sat down and watch a movie.  The movie was ‘Into the Wild’.  We saw the bus from the movie at the 49th State Brewery when we were in Denali, Alaska.
  The movie, is not so much about Alaska as it is a coming of age movie centered around a very common struggle, children and parents.  To me however, it is a story of going to extremes, but stopping just short of killing yourself doing it.  Of course, the movie ends tragically and has put me in a melancholy state, missing the open and vastness of carefree travel as well as the lessons it teaches, good and bad.  I miss my parents too.  One is gone forever, the other...well, I just need to go see.  This is probably my last post about Alaska and the trip that lasted months, going up and coming back.  The air is thick now with discussion of next year and the adventures that await us right here at home.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

From Junk to Kitchen!

The first half of this journey can be visited HERE.

Once we were back home from Alaska, my first priority project was Anne's outdoor kitchen! Before we left, Anne's dad had run some wiring for us. It was easy enough for me to simply finish it up with the outlets and one master light switch.

The counters were each designed with specific things in mind. First, my dad had given me a cast iron gas stove years ago for just this sort of project. The stove sits up a few inches and in an outdoor environment cooking for a large group, one might want to use a large stock pot for stew, frying oil, or any other idea. This meant I needed a lower than normal counter to accommodate the stove itself and stock pots. Second, we wanted a small fridge, but a large enough one that would actually be useful for food prep. These types of fridges typically come in 34 or 36 inch tall varieties. 36 inches is about as tall as I wanted the counters to be, so I made sure there were enough 34 inch fridges with decent reviews. A 36 inch fridge would require a 38 inch tall counter because of the structure under the counter. Third, the sink was to be a big metal bucket style. It needed to be low enough to accommodate the tall sides, but high enough that one doesn't need to stoop over it. Fourth, I have tiles that are 12 inch by 24 inch. This means, for convenience sake, make the counters 24 inches deep and make a change at an even foot. The long counter that hosts the fridge is 8 feet long, then it drops exactly 12 inches so that a tile can be used vertically. The lower counter hosting the stove is the remaining length. Now that my dimensions are all decided, time to act.

The LEGS. I chose PVC to be legs because I had plenty leftover and I thought the round legs would look smoother than chunky rustic wooden 4 by 4s. I cut the PVC 1 inch shorter than my final height because the horizontal support will add another inch and the counter plywood is another half inch. With all my PVC cut, I strung them up on the clothes line and painted them. While they dried, I cut round pieces of wood and connected them to the floor where each leg would go and to the underside of my horizontal support. Once dry, I seated the legs onto the round floor guides. I secured the long horizontal supports to the plywood and Anne and I lifted this over the legs and I guided each leg to fit over its corresponding round guide. We did this for all three counters at three different heights. The sink counter is made of leftover floor slats (not plywood for tiling), but the same horizontal support board idea was used.

I put edging along the counters to hold in tile grout, set the tiles, and grouted the tiles. Then I painted the edging. I added an accent edge color to match the color tiles I used so that I wouldn't have to cut any big tiles. Make it look like I did it all on purpose!


Time to paint the exterior RED! My good old $65 WalMart special paint sprayer painted the new container house as well as the interior of this project and the exterior. This corrugated metal would be practically impossible without the sprayer.

Anne wanted lights to match the ones in the other areas of the property. We bought a strand and I plugged them into some Christmas-time clicker switches to have an off/on button.

Let there be light!
Dinner time!
The incoming plumbing is a simple garden hose. Anne buried it a few inches so we wouldn't accidentally mow it. The outgoing plumbing is a pipe to a garden hose to water the trees in the yard. 
Cutest bucket sink ever.
I think she likes it.
Anne is adding her own touches daily including plants in old pots outside the door. My grand finale was making signs for our spaces. Anne has cooked amazing meals using her outdoor kitchen every single day since its completion. Our small cabin stay cool and I think she feels like she's on vacation out there!


Thursday, 20 September 2018

Enjoying a little southern Colorado

A morning in Ft. Garland, CO
We have successfully identified all thirty something species of mushrooms exploding around the property from all of the rain and humidity and despite their beefy, leggy, sometimes beautiful composure, have decided all of them, are inedible. Darn, the fun we might have had. In fact, I do my very best not to even run over them with the lawn mower fearing spores-a-plenty waft into the air and rain down to engulf my lungs like some sort of alien narcotic.  After noticing they have an interesting living and breeding behavior, then some type of imminent death within a day or so, as well as the animals not even feigning interest, I have decided mostly to ignore them and like all things ignored, they will eventually go away...right?...If it ever stops raining in south Texas and the poor drenched coastline.
hard workin' Abby...a typical day.

It is easier to focus on other projects, or like last week just leave.  After Abby’s exhaustion over the finishing of the outdoor kitchen and the ever present oppressive humidity, we decided it was a good time to check in to the Colorado property for a couple of days.  Literally, two days.  Two days to get there, two days to get home and a barely timewise affordable two days there.  But, we made the best of it.  We loaded up the truck, sans the Eggcellence this trip and headed north to the cooler, drier air we so enjoyed in Alaska.  With a quick stop at our new favorite midway point, Caprock Canyonhttps://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/caprock-canyons, where the colors reflecting on the canyon wall are indescribable and the buffalo, truly roam.
Caprock Canyon SP buffalo


We try to check the Colorado property once a year, hoping to up that number in the future (it’s only accessible about six months out of the year).  This summer, like so much of North America, the area was struck by fire.  This fire, started by a non-resident to the area, actually the country it turns out, who had absolutely no right to be there.  He left a fire unattended overnight, swearing he had done his best to put it out, before and after it became an out of control blaze destroying more than 100,000 acres of the beautiful Sangre De Cristo Mountains https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sangre_de_Cristo_Mountains.  He is now facing over 100 counts of arson for the homes destroyed.  Ironically, the day we got there last week, was the day area wide county announced the fire was officially 100 percent contained, almost three months after it ignited. Despite the devastating drive through La Veta pass, we arrived at our property and saw it unscathed, thankfully, but one ridge over, less than a mile as the crow flies, is where it began.

A busy schedule for the two days in Colorado along with absolutely beautiful weather, kept me focused!  I highly suggest anyone who hasn’t given southern Colorado a chance, to take some time out and visit some of the beautiful natural wonders that exist there.  While Ft. Garland is not much of a town with its population a little over two hundred and advertising four restaurants, two convenience stores, a liquor store, cannabis dispensary and a museum, it is still a place I am proud to call home away from home.  It has an RV park and a kitchy motel, both alive and well and available if needed.  We stay on the property, rustic style.  Each time we go, we try to play a little, investigating some new area and work a little, making the property somewhat ours, if even in the most simple way.

Our play this trip, consisted of a trip to Pagosa Springs via the Rio Grande National Forest, a very pretty drive through the South Fork recreation area where future hikes will definitely take place.  It is a little over a two hour drive from the property through the pass which even includes a tunnel!  We visited a couple of breweries on our day trip, one I favored over the other, Riff Raff Brewing Company http://riffraffbrewing.com/.  They hosts two different locations, we opted for the kitchy spot on the main drag, Pagosa street vs. “downtown”.  One of the highlights of the day happened there in the form of a very good lamb burger which we split to go with our flavorful brews.  There are at least two other breweries to visit in the area, along with hot springs to float around in available at three different locations.  We really didn’t have time to frolic, so we kept moving with a visit to just one of the other breweries before making our way back to Alamosa, by way of Chama, NM and Antonito, CO., two historic towns with lots of interesting vibes.  Alamosa is a town worth visiting and also has three breweries, two next door to each other and complete opposites in all respects.  Of the two I prefer, called Square Peg Brewerks  ttps://www.squarepegbrewerks.com, a place where it is obvious that they care about their product and put the focus on that, relying on those who appreciate the true nuances and quality based brews to keep the doors open. Meanwhile, Alamosa, about 20 minutes away from the property is a good go-to for shopping, meals and a refreshing drink, passing by the Great Sand Dunes and several animal preserves and a fishing hole or two.  Though we didn't make it this time, below is my favorite near by brewery in Colorado, by far....Three Barrel Brewing http://www.threebarrelbrew.com/



We also cruised out on one of my favorite drives in the area, towards Cuchara on the Highway of Legends from the La Veta end. Sadly, not only was the normally gorgeous green cliffed drive that makes me think I am visiting Ireland, scorched from fire damage, but the place we enjoy going in Cuchara, the Dog Bar and Grill https://www.dogbarandgrill.com/, where Macy is even invited, was closed when we got there despite their website saying they were open.  In fact, much of Cuchara was closed.  We won’t give up, and will check in on them again in the future. It is still a beautiful and very interesting drive to continue the Highway of Legends drive back out to Trinidad.  Be sure and take a camera and allow enough time for stops.

Our “work” this time was sponsored of course by Abby and her constant sense of creativity, insisting that we start a path up the ridge of the property.  There are plenty of stones there, unlike at home and it isn’t hard collecting for a path, beyond the 9,000ft elevation, that is.  We didn’t finish the path, but almost made it about halfway up the 5 acre lot, Abby leading the way and constructing, me collecting and Macy doing sniff tests on everything.  Now we have to look forward to the completion of this rock pathway for our next trip, hopefully not a full year away.
Abby and Macy in deep discussion

Abby treated me on the road trip home to something I had seen many a sign for, but never had the occasion to stop and now I am sorry.  The Big Texan Steak Ranch and Brewery in Amarillo, Texas https://www.bigtexan.com/.  Yes, that’s right y’all, the home of the 72 ounce steak challenge meal.  A stop by the winners wall will blow your mind.  Current first place is held by a very svelte woman, who seems to have accepted the challenge and crushed it!!  We had lunch at the bar and tried a couple of their in house brews that I was quite surprised and pleased with.  The IPA went perfectly with my lunch prime rib plate and Abby had her porter and chose a lunch brisket and rib plate.  It was all very good, reasonable and a different kind of fun.  The people who worked there were all engaged and seemed to appreciate their surroundings.  I will be back to this macabre environment with surprisingly good beer and food.
beer list at Big Texan

Speaking of food, we are back home now of course and back to work.  We have big plans for the future and there is not a dull moment around here.  I am back to creating in the kitchen, getting work established and Abby is filling in the calendar for the rest of the year.  I will leave you with this week's fish entre.  Baked halibut with homemade chipotle bbq sauce and the most incredible mac-n’-cheese I have ever had that Abby whipped up with some jalapenos I roasted and plenty of good cilantro.  YUM!!  My favorite meal this entire year...right here at home...
Yummy halibut & Mac-n'-cheese

Thursday, 13 September 2018

From Junk to Treasure

Part one of two.

We started with a 40 foot container that was here on the property when I bought the place. It was FULLLLLLLL of stuff. About half of that stuff I moved for the previous owner to his own storage unit. The rest, I gradually gave away or threw away. Within about a year, I had an empty container. The roof was rusty and HOLE-y, which gradually rotted the floor out. It was going to take a lot of work to make this piece of junk worth anything at all. I wasn't sure I wanted to spend the time or money on such a risky project.

I tried to give away this piece of junk, but alas, the trees surrounding it and the power line above it make it nearly impossible to remove without damaging something and no one wanted to risk trying to remove it. So it sat... and sat.... an eyesore... a plague upon my otherwise creatively crafted home.

When Anne moved onto the scene, I described the various ideas I had for this junk heap. 1. Cut it up into recyclable strips or strips to use in fence making, 2. Stare at it some more, 3. Try to find someone AGAIN to try and remove it., 4. Design an outdoor kitchen and garage. 1. would take a lot of time and painful angle grinding. 2. Sigh.... 3. SIGH...... 4. Well, maybe if we could do it on the cheap.

I drew up an idea and Anne was enthusiastic. She's an amazing cook, and the space in that part of the yard would be just perfect for the addition of a way to cook for a large group. The idea was for about 16 feet to be kitchen and 24 feet to be garage. The final numbers were chosen based on where the i-beams could support my garage shelving unit which ended up being about 14 feet kitchen and 26 garage.

Anne ripped out the rotted floor. And I primed the areas that would be cut for doors.

Floors OUT!
Garage side.
Kitchen side.
Then Anne scrubbed as much rust off of the roof as possible. I primed that and coated it with a heavy thick poly-elasto-super-goo. This is all with the hope that we can preserve what is left. Holes still exist un-repaired, but now they are OUR skylights!!
Scrub it!!!
Watch your head up there!!
Next, after scraping and priming the interior, I sprayed the entire interior with exterior paint. My dad had given me a couple gallons of taupe colored stuff he had left over. This covered less than half of the garage. We bought more of that same color for the rest of the garage and decided on a nice gray blue for the kitchen.

Painting with no floor... fun... Look at those skylights!
Time for cutting!!!  I cut with an angle grinder 2 large doors and 6 small windows. Each cut out pushes into an awning. AND Floor time! We decided a deck style floor would be better for this space. This allows the rain to go through instead of getting trapped and rotting the floor.

Kitchen door!
From the kitchen side before the garage shelving moved in.
We took the old deck from the garage area to make the new garage porch. The kitchen door is about 4 feet wide and the garage door is about 7 feet wide. Because the garage door was much larger and therefor heavier, AND it was set up on a deck, it only went up far enough for a bench, not a walk through.
Garage door. Garage porch and bench.
Garage shelving from my old garage area went right in to separate the space. We were able to move the entire garage over before we left for Alaska.

Looking toward the kitchen.
Plenty of work space.
The kitchen had to be put on hold until after Alaska. The kitchen required a lot more detail and beautifying.  And so, I will save the kitchen for my next post in two weeks! Link to part TWO will be here :-)

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Birds and Brews

Howdy folks! It is good to be back in Texas! The weather is starting ever so slightly to cool one degree at a time which is a pretty big deal around here really. We promised ourselves an immediate trip to the Colorado property when we got home from Alaska, expecting the shell shock we did indeed receive, but Abby's ability to stay focused on a project until completion has granted me a new outdoor kitchen instead! I can't complain about that! I leave this picture, but she can fill you in on all of the details...


We have put out several humming bird feeders and are now inundated with the bee like buzzing around our heads every time we go out of doors. Literally, as soon as you walk out of a door. This is the first time that I have ever witness the true activity of humming birds outside of captivity. The swarm of them feed mostly from one feeder at a time until it is drained, no matter how many we have out. This is counter intuitive to their natural skipping around one flower to the next flower blossom. Without having done any research, I think that putting humming bird feeders out, is somewhat akin to providing a water cooler at the office. It creates a natural environment for engagement, controversy, bidding, personality distinction and all out drama. Abby and I joked about naming them, which would mean creating some sort of identification, but by the time we had them wearing their individual name tags, a new group would move in with no name tags at all! So for now, it is the loner that sits on the fence, the jerk that pokes everyone in the head, the little piglet that never moves sucking the life out of the nectar and the fifteen others that dance around each other endlessly.

I have to admit, I am going through withdrawal. In addition to hikes and boat rides and moving from one land of Alaska to the other, we visited many breweries. As you know....it's kind of a thing. In looking at some of our pictures the other day, I realized much of the reporting on said breweries was omitted from social media posts or bragging on the last blog. So, with due diligence, I will sneak in a couple of my favorite breweries on our Alaska trip. To be fair, it wasn't always about the beer.

The 49th State Brewing Company https://www.49statebrewing.com/denali/ located near Denali was more than just a brewery. I highly recommend a stop at this indoor restaurant with outdoor venue. The bar hosted a selection of liquors of every caliber that had me staring and trying to memorize some never before seen players. Seating was plentiful inside and cozy, including a bar style seating area which wrapped around a sort of fireplace. We sat at the bar initially, had a beer and small bite, then moved outside to the more than ample area which hosts music and some not so music events.

Another set of breweries we were lucky to visit was on a trip we took into Soldatna and Kenai. Two breweries here roused my suspicion, that indeed, Alaskan's know their beer. The Kenai River Brewing Company http://www.kenairiverbrewing.com/kenairiverbrewing/Our_Food.html was our first stop in Soldatna. Once again, the brewery was also an eatery and Abby and I did munch on some mac n' cheese and French onion soup. The beer was good enough to stay and enjoy a second round. That is not always the case!!
Our second outing was further down the peninsula at a brewery called Kassiks https://kassiksbrew.com/ Brewery. Now this was interesting place with a "Now Hiring" sign on the door, something for consideration after a beer down my gullet. I got the impression that the owners were on sight and the very people serving the beer that whet my pallet and made the short/long drive, worth the trip. If you are heading down to the infamous Homer, no reason not to stop at Kassiks!

While there were MANY other breweries on the way to and from Alaska in those OTHER states, I am sticking to these few to keep it simple. I do however want to give a special shout out to a little place in Tok, that while not a brewery, was one of my favorite stops along the way. Mostly because the AMAZING bartender made our arrival in Alaska feel safe and fun with lots of talk about fishing and hunting and more fishing.... The place was called the Bears Den Lounge, I believe and while I could not find a website for them, I will leave you with this homey, loungy, picture....


If all goes well I will be reporting next time on a super short trip we are taking to the Colorado property. Hopefully we will make it over to Pagosa Springs this time. It's been raining cats and dogs here so we are looking forward to a little dry air and sunshine!!

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Focus on Fish

Everyone has different priorities as they travel or just live life. I love food. I always have. I enjoy trying new things, splurging on something local or something unique, or ordering the same thing in 10 different cities just to see different chefs' take on the same food. I thank my lucky stars that Anne enjoys this focus as much as I do. I thank the greatest brightest shooting lucky stars that she COOKS like that too!

This morning, Anne announced that we would be having chicken for dinner. The she asked me what kind of meal I would like: Mexican, Asian, Italian, Greek, Indian?? I chose Indian. Magic will ensue.

In our travels, during all the hustle and bustle of hikes and boat rides and planning dinners, someone said something like, "Ah, you can always eat later." I had quite honestly never considered putting off food for anything "more important" because nothing is more important to me. Let me break down food's importance briefly.
1. Food is literally fuel for our minds and bodies. If you aren't well fed, it's not likely you can fully enjoy the other things around you much less the challenges that arise in life.
2. Food provides a social connection. Preparing food together or for your guests and friends is a particularly loving act. Family units and cultures have always shared food in celebration.
3. Food is simply pleasurable. It is a joy to eat something delicious, let it melt into your mouth, and be able to feel a complete sense of gratitude for the experience and life in that moment.
4. Food allows you to be present in the now. Some may hastily eat their food not noticing the particular flavors, but I find that eating is the perfect time to truly feel happy in this specific time and place.
5. Like no other experience, you are able to fully use all five senses with taste being the primary. Smell adds to the anticipation. Sight, in our home, is where we serve a gift to each other rather than just dump food into a bowl. Hearing the sizzles, the clang of the spoon on the dish, the "mmmmm" of enjoyment, and even the gurgle of the stomach is a food symphony. The sense of touch with the weight of the fork, the sensation of your tongue and lips caressing each bite... well, now, is it getting hot in here or is it just me?

Anne mentioned in her previous post that we are putting together an outdoor kitchen. This will be a place to host friends as well as a place Anne can cook to her heart's content without heating up our very small cabin. I won't tell you much more about the outdoor kitchen because it is ALMOST finished and I'd rather save all the good photos and tales for when it's complete.

What I can tell you about is the fish we caught and shipped home! We have a million pounds of fish... come on over, we'll feed you! OK, maybe not a million pounds, but it sure seems like it. We have Halibut and PINK Salmon. Pink Salmon is really more like trout than the hearty Sockeye, Coho, or Chinook salmon we are all more used to eating from the grocery store or in restaurants. There are five types of Alaskan salmon. The only one not mentioned yet is the Chum or dog salmon which used to be fed exclusively to the sled dogs. Pink and Chum salmon are lower on the quality totem pole, but still perfectly tasty. If you like fish in general, you'd have no problem with Pink Salmon.
Anne reeling one in!
My dad scoped out the scene and figured out what equipment we needed. Anne and I marched over to the fishing pole shop and got exactly what we needed. The next morning, Dad, Anne, and I went to work. We got to reel in Pinks from the rising tide waters on the shore. Anne and I worked as a team because those fish are strong swimmers, and we only had one fishing pole that would do the job. She would reel it in, and I was in charge of first judging whether it was fresh enough or if it had changed too much into its spawning shape. If it had changed too much, developing a greenish hue and large hump on its back, its meat would be deteriorating and so, I would remove the hook and shove the fish back into the water. If it was judged fresh from the sea, I would subdue the flailing fighting fish by holding it securely down in my net, murdering the fish with a rock, and finally removing the hook with my needle nosed pliers. I'm not really into murder, but I'm even less into suffering. The way I figure it, if you're going to hunt and eat creatures, kill them as quickly and humanely as possible. It was exhausting catching our limit but we did it twice! Fun fact: I saved my murdering rock as a souvenir.
Pink Salmon of day 1.
In the middle of writing this, I was called to dinner. I walked into the kitchen where it smelled absolutely amazing. Nope, there is no picture. I ate every tiny morsel and almost licked the plate. Chicken curry. Anne says it's better with lamb, which I believe, but this was nothing to sneeze at. And now, back to the fish...

For the halibut, we were invited to go with friends, not a paid charter. There were five of us faux-fishermen plus Phil, our captain, the man in charge, the man who brought the boat and the poles and the bait. The water in Cook Inlet was not bad that day, but the first couple of hours wore me down until I thought I was going to be sick. I did everything in my power to stay upright. I closed my eyes and rested, and I ate tiny snacks every single time that I noticed I felt ok. The water calmed even more, I actually began feeling better, and then Anne caught the first fish! Halibut is a large flounder or flat fish with its eyes on the dark upper side and white under side. Each fish we brought in was a workout. Our fish were only in the thirty some pound range. Halibut can be much much bigger. We were perfectly satisfied to take home our smaller more tender fishes. Phil obviously loves fishing, sharing his knowledge, equipment and day with us... punctuated by the fact that he also fileted the fish for us as soon as we got back to dry ground. Truly an awesome experience with a superb host.

Reward for a long fishing day.
We had all of our fish frozen and shipped to Anne's Dad's house. Since Anne's return from her Dad's freezer, we have eaten fish three times. We plan to eat fish once every four or five days.

Salmon dinner number 1: Grilled salmon with chilled white bean salad. This dinner was quite tasty, but I guess I was super hungry and forgot to take a picture even though I knew very well that I wanted to tell you all about our fish meals in this blog.
Halibut tostadas... so delicious!
Halibut dish number 1: Halibut tostadas with fresh mango avocado salsa and roasted corn with poblano pepper. Anne cooked the halibut perfectly. Too long and the fish gets dry, just right and the flakes of fish naturally disconnect and melt in your mouth. We fried corn tortillas to make amazing crispy tostada shells. The heat of the poblanos balanced with the sweetness of the mango, and the magic of the avocado is its ability to blend and bring all flavors together.
Salmon enchiladas... mmmmm.
Salmon dish number 2: Salmon enchiladas. I made a cream cheese mixture with caramelized white onions and fresh green onions. I spread a small amount of cream cheese onto each corn tortilla, added Anne's lightly grilled fish, rolled and placed the roll into the baking dish. Over the 10 enchiladas, we poured a tomatillo salsa that Anne made from fresh and roasted tomatillos, roasted garlic and peppers. I sprinkled cheese on top and baked the whole thing until the cheese began to brown.

Stay tuned for more fish tales!