Tag Archives: Lynda Balslev

TasteTravel – Alaska: Tutka Bay Lodge and a recipe for Shrimp, Kale and Israeli Couscous

tbl_AA5D_MG_1283-325x325It would have been simpler to meditate. Instead, last summer I traveled to Alaska. More specifically, I traveled 3,000 miles on three planes of diminishing size, and one water taxi to Tutka Bay Lodge. Tutka Bay sits at the mouth of a rugged seven-mile fjord stretching into the glacier capped Kenai mountains, 125 air miles south of Anchorage. It’s not accessible by road, only by sea plane or a water taxi from Homer which multitasks as a mail and food delivery, garbage collection, and all-purpose shuttle. If you want to get away from it all, this is for you. It’s well worth the trip.

tutkabay6-592x370

2aab009c32016fff053aae9391389902

Before you pack your compass, first aid kit, and water purification tablets, let’s be perfectly clear. This is not roughing it. This is not even glamping. This is wilderness isolation in extreme comfort. You will find yourself in a lodge, tucked into plush beds in cozy private cabins, waited upon 24/7 by an attentive staff, and dining in a first class restaurant. Sure, you are in the remote wilderness on a spit of land flanked by a rugged fjord and craggy mountains dotted with old growth Sitka spruce. Yes, that’s an ancient volcano looming in the distance, waiting ever so patiently for another opportunity to express itself. Indeed, you will be sharing your outdoor space with resident bald eagles, floating otters, and possibly an orca or two. You will also be pampered, fed and catered to in a lodge staffed with servers doubling as mountain guides, valets doubling as naturalists, and professional chefs doubling as culinary instructors in a teaching kitchen converted from a re-purposed two-story crabbing boat.

Widgeon Lynda Balslev

Tutka Cooking Class Lynda Balslev

Halibut The point is that there is something for everyone at Tutka, with the most notable activity being nothing. Because, while your every whim will be addressed and serviced, your tummy fed, your fitness itch scratched, your need for nature connected, you will find yourself in the most spectacular vignette of nowhere, amidst staggering scenery and blissful solitude. Activities are plentiful, and peace is everywhere, which yields the treasure of perspective and balance. So, whether you crave a weekend or a week to find your center, this is the the place to be. Just leave yourself a day to get there.

alaska makos taxi

Tutka kayaks Lynda Balslev
The following recipe is inspired by a delicious memory from Tutka Bay Lodge.

Shrimp Kale and Israeli Cousous
Serves 4 to 6

Alaska Shrimp Tutka

Ingredients:
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups Israeli cousous
2 cups chicken stock, plus 1/4 cup
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound large (18/20) shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 bunch purple kale, tough ribs removed, torn into 2-inch pieces
1 garlic clove, minced

Method:
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the couscous and stir to coat. Cook until the couscous is light golden, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Carefully add the 2 cups stock. Reduce heat to low, then cover and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is tender. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and zest, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Keep warm.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp in one layer to the skillet. Cook until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, turning once. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate.

In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil and the red chili flakes over medium heat. Add the kale and garlic and sauté until the kale leaves begin to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup stock and continue to sauté until liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Season with salt.

To serve, divide the couscous between serving plates or shallow bowls. Top with the kale. Arrange the shrimp over the kale. Garnish with fresh snipped herbs such as oregano, thyme leaves and chives.
Homer View Lynda Balslev

Top 3 photos courtesy of Tutka Bay Lodge. All other photos by Lynda Balslev.

Bircher Muesli

birchermeusli 1

I had my first bircher muesli in Switzerland. Bircher Muesli is a hearty alpine favorite and a breakfast staple. No wonder: it’s a healthy, satisfying and refreshing start to any day. The technique to bircher muesli is an overnight soaking of oats, steeped in milk or yogurt. Just before serving additional ingredients such as grated apple, dried fruit and nuts are folded in. Feel free to experiment with extra ingredients and toppings such as chia seeds, pepitas, dried cranberries, and fresh berries. If you are feeling luxurious, a dollop or two of whipped cream may also be gently folded in at the end (I call this the I-am-on-holiday ingredient).

Bircher Muesli
Serves 2

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup whole milk plain yogurt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 green apple, cored and grated
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup raisins
Shaved unsweetened coconut
Honey (optional)

Mix the oats, apple juice, yogurt and cinnamon in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
Before serving, stir in the grated apple, half of the raisins and almonds. If too thick, thin with additional yogurt or milk to desired consistency. (If you are on holiday, then add the whipped cream).
Serve garnished with remaining nuts, raisins and the coconut. Drizzle with a little honey if desired.

Watermelon, Feta and Bulgur Salad

Watermelon fetaPosted by Lynda Balslev

Watermelon is a staple in the heat of summer. Juicy, refreshing, nourishing and thirst quenching, it satisfies on many levels without filling you up. It’s served for breakfast in the Mediterranean climates and is a great addition to salads. It’s mellow sweetness is perfectly complemented by salty feta. This salad is a mini-meal with the addition of bulgur, and a perfect lunch stop on a hot summer day. It’s also a great addition to a barbecue.

Watermelon, Feta and Bulgur Salad
This recipe provides for a large salad. Feel free to halve the bulgur and use the extra ingredients to your taste. Serves 4

1 cup bulgur
Salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 small seedless watermelon, peeled, cut into 3/4 inch cubes, about 3 cups
2 handfuls sugar snap peas, stemmed, halved
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 ounces feta, crumbled
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the bulgur in a bowl. Add 2 cups boiling water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and let stand until bulgur is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain any excess water and fluff with a fork.
Whisk the oil, lemon juice, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the dressing to the bulgur and stir to combine. Taste and add a little more dressing if desired (the rest will be drizzled over the salad).
Transfer the bulgur to a serving platter. Scatter the watermelon, snap peas and red onion over the bulgur. Top with the feta and parsley. Drizzle with remaining dressing. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper.

Father’s Day Grilling: Spice Rubbed Baby Back Ribs

ribs bbq tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

Next week is summer solstice. For those of you who know me and this blog, Midsummer is a big celebration for our family. Each year we throw a Danish-inspired party at the beach to celebrate the longest day of the year. You can read in great detail about our celebration in this feature I wrote for the June issue of Marin Magazine. This year, however, we are changing gears a bit and heading to the beach a week earlier where we will celebrate Father’s Day. Like the solstice, you can be sure that grilling and a bonfire will be the main attraction – worthy of any Viking (and Dad).

On the menu? Grilled baby back pork ribs, thank you very much. They are a hands-down favorite, coated with a sweet and spicy rub that permeates the meat with flavor and heat while cooking long and slow in an oven or on the grill. They are perfect for beach toting, as the ribs can be prepped and cooked early, then transported and thrown on the grill just before eating to caramelize and crisp.

Spice rub

Dry Spice Rubbed Baby Back Pork Ribs

These ribs are great as is, with a crispy coating and succulent meat. If you like your ribs more wet, baste with your favorite sauce  just before removing from the grill and serve with additional sauce on the side. Serves 6 to 8.

For the rub:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon cayenne (or to taste)

3 racks baby back pork ribs

1. Preheat the oven to 200° F. Combine all of the rub ingredients together in a bowl and mix well.
2. Pat the ribs dry with a paper towel. Arrange in one layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Rub the spices all over the ribs on both sides, coating well. Bake in the oven for 3 hours.
3. Prepare a grill for direct medium heat. Grill ribs on a rack over direct heat, turning, until the meat darkens and crisps, 10 to 12 minutes.

Bloody Mary Gazpacho with Shrimp

bloody mary gazpacho tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

This chilled and refreshing summer soup is spiced with all of the necessary accoutrements for a great Bloody Mary, minus the vodka. (Of course, who says you can’t add a splash of spirits for an adult appetizer?) So, depending on your mood, the time of day – and your age – you might call this a spicy gazpacho, an inspired shrimp cocktail, or even a substantial bloody mary, heavy on the garnishes. Serve for brunch or lunch, or in small glasses as a party starter.

Bloody Mary Gazpacho with Shrimp
Serves 4 to 6

4 cups tomato juice
3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 English cucumber, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped celery leaves

Optional garnishes:
Celery stalks
Italian Parsley stalks
1 pound large (15/20) shrimp, deveined and shelled with tails intact, cooked and chilled
Splash(es) of vodka

Combine all of the gazpacho ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to 4 hours to let the flavors develop. Serve in bowls or cups. Garnish with celery, parsley and shrimp if using. For an adult version, stir in a splash of vodka.

Tomato Bruschetta

tomato bruschetta tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

When I make tomato bruschetta, my family always says, “Summer food!” And so it is – especially when it’s made on the grill. Everything happens on our grill year round, I mean, during the summer. For this recipe slices of baguette get all toasty and charred on the Weber. Believe me, it’s worth the step for the flavor and saves you from the heat of the oven broiler. The grilled bread is then smothered with fresh chopped tomatoes infused with fresh basil from the garden, garlic and a glugg of olive oil. So simple, so good. If you could have summer in a mouthful, this would be it.

Tomato Bruschetta

I like the rustic presentation of halved baguette sections. Alternatively, slice the baguette on the diagonal 1/2-inch thick. Serves 4 to 6.

1 1/2 pounds vine ripened tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn in small pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 baguette

Cut each tomato in half, and scoop out the juices and seeds with your fingers or a small spoon. Cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch dice and place in a bowl. Add 1 minced garlic clove, the olive oil, basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Gently stir to combine and taste for seasoning. If you don’t have super sweet tomatoes yet, a pinch of sugar may be added.

Cut the baguette crosswise into 3-inch sections. Halve each section lengthwise.
Grill the bread slices until toasted, turning once. Arrange on a platter cut-side up. Peel 2 garlic cloves and slightly crush with a knife. Rub the garlic cloves over the bread.

Low Fat Blueberry Tartlets

blueberry tartelettes tf  Posted by Lynda Balslev

Go ahead, indulge yourself. These gorgeous blueberry tartlets are rich and creamy, fragrant with lemon, bursting with fruit and not-too-decadent. Why? The luscious filling is 100 percent yogurt, not cream cheese or mascarpone. The trick is to choose a full fat Greek-style yogurt. It’s thick and silky, with a tang that perfectly offsets mellow, inky blueberries. The crust is a traditional graham cracker crust, which, yes, has brown sugar and butter (as any self respecting graham cracker crust should). So these tarts are just a little bit wicked, but it’s a dessert after all, and what’s wrong with being a little wicked anyway?

Blueberry Tartlets with Yogurt and Lemon

Makes 1 (10-inch) tart or 6 to 8 individual tartlets

Crust:
10 ounces graham crackers (or sweet digestive biscuits)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
2 cups whole milk Greek-style yogurt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar (or honey)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 cups blueberries
Lemon zest for garnish

Heat oven to 350°F (180°C). Combine the graham crackers, sugar, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until crumbly. Add butter and pulse until the crust is blended and beginning to stick. If using a tart pan, dump the crumbs into a 10-inch tart pan, pressing with fingers evenly over the bottom and up the sides. If using individual tart dishes or ramekins, divide the crumbs between 6 to 8 ramekins and press the crumbs evenly over the bottoms and up the sides. Transfer to a baking sheet. Bake in oven until crust begins to turn golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack.

While the crust is cooling, whisk the yogurt, sugar and lemon zest in a bowl. Pour the yogurt into the cooled crust, smoothing the top. Dot the yogurt with blueberries. Garnish with lemon zest. Refrigerate until serving, up to 4 hours.

Grilled Pomegranate Chicken and Vegetable Skewers

pomegranate chicken skewers tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

Memorial Day weekend is a week away, but why wait to grill? Any weekend (or any night, for that matter) is a good excuse to fire up the Weber. I made these skewers to feed a crowd, but the following recipe will generously feed a table of four. A Middle Eastern inspired pomegranate marinade infused with aromatic spices tenderizes and flavors the chicken, which is best left to marinate overnight. If you don’t have time for that, then 4 hours will do.

Grilled Pomegranate Chicken and Vegetable Skewers
Serves 4

Marinade:
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Bamboo skewers, pre-soaked for 30 minutes
1 large red onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 red or orange bell peppers, stemmed and seeded, cut into 1-inch chunks
Fresh mint and parsley leaves for garnish

1. Whisk the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside 1/4 cup for basting.
2. Cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks. Place in a large bowl. Add the marinade and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
3. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Thread the chicken on skewers alternating with onion pieces and peppers.
4. Grill over direct medium heat until nicely charred and chicken is thoroughly cooked through, turning as needed, 8 to 10 minutes, basting halfway through the cooking process with reserved sauce.
5. To serve, pile the skewers on a serving platter. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with extra salt and pepper if desired. Garnish with fresh mint and parsley leaves.

Spinach Pesto with Fusilli

pesto pasta tastefood

When you think of pesto do you think of basil? Most of us do. Traditional Pesto Genovese, the ubiquitous garlicky basil puree tossed with pasta is an Italian staple. I have to admit, though, that basil is not my favorite herb. When I use it, I do it sparingly so it’s pungent flavor doesn’t overwhelm. So, when I do make a pesto I like to substitute some or all of the basil with other herbs and greens – and you should too, even if you love basil. Herb pestos are a great way to use copious greens, and a wonderful way to spread their flavor in pastas, dolloped over pizzas or smeared on crostini. They are also great as a garnish or sauce for grilled meats, chicken, and fish. Try substituting parsley, cilantro, mint – or a mixture of all of them. Greens such as arugula and baby spinach also work well. I made this pesto with fresh baby spinach leaves and added a little lemon and mint to brighten the mix.

pesto spinach jar

Spinach Pesto with Almonds, Mint and Lemon

Makes about 1 1/2 cups pesto.

4 ounces baby spinach
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the spinach, garlic, mint, cheese, almonds and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the oil in a steady stream to blend. If too thick add a little more oil to desired consistency. Transfer to a bowl. Season with salt and black pepper.

To serve with pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add 1 pound pasta, such as fusilli, and cook until al dente. Drain. Toss with several heaping spoonfuls of pesto to coat. Serve with additional grated cheese. Serves 4.

 

Chicken Fried Rice with Almonds and Broccolini

chicken rice tastefood

Whole chickens are a gift that keep on giving. I roast a chicken almost weekly. After the roast dinner, there are lots of leftovers to transform into another meal. The bones are simmered in water for homemade stock which in turn is used for soups or stock for cooking rice, quinoa or farro. And the leftover meat can easily be turned into a whole new dinner. I made this fried rice dish with leftovers from my farmer’s market chicken dinner.

Chicken Fried Rice with Broccolini and Almonds

Serves 4

1 cup basmati rice
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 green onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick, white and green parts divided
1 large carrot, diced
3/4 pound broccolini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated peeled ginger with juices
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 to 3 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Combine the stock, rice and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes, then fluff the rice with a fork.
While the rice is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the white parts of the green onions, the carrot, broccolini. Saute until bright in color and crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and chili flakes and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chicken and soy sauce and cook, stirring, until the chicken is heated through. Remove from heat. Add the cooked rice, the green onions and cilantro. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. Add more salt if desired. Sprinkle the almonds over the rice and serve warm.