I never would have guessed I would want it to rain as badly as I did while living in a coastal community in Alaska, ever. It finally rained last week and we were all so thrilled I wanted to throw a big party for the whole community. The desperately needed rain was all we could all talk about for a week. I couldn’t imagine being told to ration water, but the thought was there.
Thinking about our warm and dry summer made me recall when growing up, I wanted to be a TV meteorologist. I love watching the weather happen, was in awe of the local meteorologist and extremely interested in the whole process. My viewers would always want to tune-in and listen to my forecasts and every day would be different. No ho-hum career for me.
I also thought being on television was a glamourous and profitable profession that was extremely appealing to a young girl. I based these facts on that I loved acting in high school plays, loved to dress up and I have a gift for gab. Never mind it required having the funds to attend college, being a whiz in math and chemistry and having the genes to be youthful looking into my old age. Not sure why that career never actually came to happen (insert laughter here), but I still enjoy watching the weather and have found other fun and profitable ways to put my talents and interests to work for me.
At times I need to step back and quit trying to make something more sensational than it already is, which is just being fresh and in-season and full of flavor. When people ask me what to do with fresh Alaska seafood, I tell them simple preparations are the best. Let the seafood steal the show just as it is, beautiful, succulent, fresh and very special. Maybe a spoonful of a complimentary sauce. Same thing for just picked produce and fruit with a drizzle of a basic dressing.
When something is this good and fresh, you don’t need a recipe to prepare it, just a little know-how and imagination. Give me a bunch of great ingredients and watch the magic show that takes place, with no magic involved except that which Mother Nature conjured up, like the weather.
This simple, colorful summer salad is a reminder that seasonal ingredients at their very best don’t need much embellishment. Peppery arugula and earthy goat cheese get brightened with juicy, sweet summer peaches, or nectarines. If you can’t find ripe peaches, you can use cherries, strawberries, plums, raspberries or even cherry tomatoes in their place. Making interesting salads out of different sorts of produce and fruits are a favorite of mine to serve. There are many flavors, textures and colors in this salad.
Arugula, Peach and Goat Cheese Salad
Adapted from the New York Times, Lidey Heuck
• ¼ cup pine nuts (you can substitute any other kind of nut)
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
• 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• ¼ teaspoon black pepper
• 4 to 5 ounces baby arugula
• 2 ripe peaches or nectarines, pitted and cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 10 ounces)
• ½ cup julienned fresh basil leaves
• 2 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled (about ½ cup), plus more to taste
1. In a small sauté pan, toast the pine nuts over medium heat, tossing often, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Watch them carefully as they can burn quickly. Remove from the heat.
2. In a small liquid measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
3. Place the arugula in a large salad bowl. Pour just enough dressing over the greens to moisten, and toss to coat. Massaging the arugula, a bit removes some of the peppery bite if you like a milder flavor. Add the peaches, basil, goat cheese and toasted pine nuts and toss to coat. Add more goat cheese and dressing if desired. Toss gently and serve immediately. A shower of finishing salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper just prior to serving adds much.
I was with friend when she was gifted a giant home-grown zucchini. I wondered what my clever chef friend would make with it. The grower suggested stuffed zucchini. I would make cake.
Zucchini Cake with Orange, Ginger and Hazelnuts
Adapted from the New York Times, Molly O’Neill
This exceptional cake is a sophisticated version of the tried and true, treasured zucchini bread. It’s more delicate and tender than the classic loaf, fresh ginger and orange zest add brightness, and hazelnuts add a depth of flavor and crunch. It’s also delightfully simple to make. Don’t try to fit it into a smaller sized baking pan, as it won’t bake correctly. Am I ever glad I kept that old Bundt pan of my mom’s.
• 2 cups flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• ¾ teaspoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 ¼ cups sugar
• 2 large eggs
• ½ cup vegetable oil
• ⅓ cup orange juice
• 2 teaspoons orange zest
• 2 teaspoons peeled, grated ginger root
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 ½ cups grated zucchini
• 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, orange juice, zest, ginger and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the flour and stir until just combined. Fold in the zucchini and hazelnuts.
2. Butter and flour a tube or Bundt pan. Scrape the batter into the pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack. For optimum flavor, slice and serve the following day.