Alaska Memories and a recipe for Shrimp, Kale and Pearl Couscous

Alaska Memories and a recipe for Shrimp, Kale and Pearl Couscous

tutkabay6-592x370

It would have been simpler to meditate. Instead, 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 which multitasks as a mail and food delivery service, garbage collection, and all-purpose passenger shuttle to and from Homer, the closest town accessible by road. If you want to get away from it all, this is for you. It’s well worth the trip.

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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
Needless to say, the seafood is glorious in this part of the world. The following recipe is inspired by a meal I enjoyed at Tutka Bay Lodge.

Shrimp Kale and Pearl Cousous
Serves 4 to 6Alaska Shrimp Tutka

Ingredients:
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups pearl (Israeli) cousous
2 cups plus 1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus extra for garnish
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
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 or curly green kale, tough ribs removed, torn into 2-inch pieces
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves, chopped fresh oregano leaves and chives

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

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a clean skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp in one layer to the skillet. Cook until bright pink and lightly seared on both sides and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes, turning once. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate.

3. 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 the liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and season with salt.

4. To serve, divide the couscous between serving plates or shallow bowls. Top with the kale. Arrange the shrimp over the kale. Garnish with the fresh herbs and additional lemon zest.

Homer View Lynda Balslev

 

Spring Rolls Deconstructed – Shrimp and Rice Noodle Salad

Shrimp and Rice Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut DressingShrimp and Rice Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

If you like spring rolls, then you will love this salad. All of the goodness stuffed into a rice paper wrapped Thai or Vietnamese roll – rice noodles, shrimp, crisp veggies, fresh herbs, and chiles – is jumbled together in a big bowl of salad. The result? You might be tempted to call it a deconstructed spring roll, with all of the great flavor minus the labor of actually making a roll. Once all of the ingredients are prepped, it’s quick to assemble for a light and healthy dinner. The dressing is the magic touch that pulls this colorful dish together. It has all of the ingredients you’ll find in an Asian dipping sauce and then some: ginger, garlic, Sriracha, lime, and peanut butter. The trick is to blitz all of the dressing ingredients in a food processor (including the lime sections!) to form a thick and potent sauce. In fact, you might want to make extra dressing to keep on hand – it makes a great dipping sauce for cruditées or tossed with cooked Asian noodles.

Shrimp and Rice Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Serves 4

Dressing:
1/2 cup canola oil
1 lime, peel and pith removed, quartered
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons coarsely grated peeled ginger with juices
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha
2 teaspoons runny honey

Salad:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound large (18/20) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt
4 ounces rice noodles, cooked per manufacturer’s instructions, room temperature
3 scallions, ends trimmed, white and green parts sliced on the diagonal
1 large carrot, cut in matchsticks
1/2 English cucumber, seeded, cut in matchsticks
2 cups coarsely chopped Napa cabbage
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup sugar snap peas, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 red jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup fresh coriander sprigs, coarsely chopped, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts for garnish

1. Place all of the dressing ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl.
2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp in one layer, sprinkle with the red pepper flakes, and lightly season with salt. Cook until the shrimp are pink on both sides and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes, turning as needed. Transfer to a plate.
3. Place the rice noodles, scallions, carrot, cucumber, cabbage, bean sprouts, snap peas, jalapeño, mint, and cilantro in a large bowl. Add the shrimp and half of the dressing and toss to combine.
4. Divide the salad among plates. Scatter the peanuts over the salads and garnish with additional mint and cilantro. Serve with the remaining sauce on the side.

Shrimp, Avocado, and Grapefruit Salad

avocado shrimp salad

It may sound cliche, but “less is more” and “what you see is what you get” are perfectly descriptive of this clean and refreshing salad. Layered with citrus, briny shrimp, sweet onion, and creamy avocado, each ingredient hits the right spot and unites in a light and lovely summer lunch or salad course.

Shrimp, Avocado, and Grapefruit Salad
Serves 2 to 4

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
Salt
Fresh lime juice
Extra-virgin olive oil
12 large (16/20) shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large avocado, halved, pitted and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 ruby grapefruit, sectioned, membranes removed
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley leaves

1. Salt the onion slices and place in a colander in the sink or over a plate for 20 minutes. Rinse with cold water and blot dry, then toss the slices with 1 tablespoon lime juice.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, add to the skillet, and cook until colored on both sides and cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes, turning as needed. Transfer to a plate.
3. Halve and pit the avocado, then cut into 1/4-inch slices
4. Cut away the skin and pith of the grapefruit, then cut away the membranes and seed the segments.
5. On individual serving plates, layer the avocado, grapefruit, onion, and shrimp. Drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of lime juice. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.

 

Get Your Grill On: 5 Recipes for Memorial Day Grilling

pomegranate chicken skewer tastefood
Pomegranate Chicken Skewers with Yogurt, Mint, and Pistachios

Chipotle Ribs TasteFood
Smoky Chipotle Glazed Ribs


Grilled Shrimp Tostadas

BLT salad view

BLT Salad with Avocado and Grilled Croutons

jerk chicken

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

30 minute Dinners: Spaghetti with Shrimp, Broccolini and Basil

broccoli shrimp tastefood

This light and lovely dish is healthy, low maintenance, and delicious. A series of quick cooking steps ensures that each component is perfectly cooked before tossing together to serve. Tender broccolini spears and sweet shrimp are independently sautéed with chili flakes and olive oil just long enough to brighten in color and coax out their natural flavors without overcooking. A simple tomato sauce consisting of plum tomatoes and garlic has a short simmer just long enough to blend while still tasting fresh. Then all of the elements come together in a big serving bowl with a shower of fresh basil leaves which release their aroma in the warmth of the dish. This recipe is a keeper and can be prepared in less than 30 minutes. It’s perfect for easy family dinners and simple cooking on a warm summer day.

Spaghetti with Shrimp, Broccolini and Basil
Serves 4

1 pound spaghetti or linguine
Salt
Extra-vrigin olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 pound broccolini, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails intact
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes
Pinch of sugar
1/2 cup whole basil leaves, torn if large
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain  and transfer to a large serving bowl.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the broccolini and sauté until bright in color and crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the broccolini to a plate and lightly season with salt.
3. Add 1 tablespoon oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes to the same skillet.
Add the shrimp and cook over medium-high heat until pink on both sides and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to another plate and lightly season with salt.
4. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the sugar. Simmer over medium-low heat until slightly thickened, 5 to 7 minutes, breaking the tomatoes apart with a spoon.
5. Add the tomato sauce, shrimp, broccolini, and basil to the spaghetti and gently stir to thoroughly combine. Garnish with a generous grind of black pepper and serve immediately.

 

Lime Marinated Shrimp Tostadas with Black Bean Salsa and Spicy Rice

Lime shrimp tostadas

This post is tricky. For my East coast readers, I want to offer you a rich and meaty stew, guaranteed to bring warmth and comfort amidst teetering snowdrifts. For my West coast friends, I am tempted to make happy south-of-the-border food in honor of the ridiculous summer weather outside. So here is a compromise: These tostadas are warming and bright, satisfying and fresh. They go equally well in front of a crackling fire with a bracing shot of tequila, or eaten grill-side with a festive shot of tequila. Each of the components are stand-alone good, and when heaped onto a crispy corn tostada shell, it’s a winter (or summer) party on a plate.

Lime Marinated Shrimp Tostadas with Black Bean Salsa and Spicy Rice

Serves 4 to 6

For the black bean salsa:
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
Corn kernels from one ear of corn (or 1 cup frozen corn, defrosted)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
Juice of one lime
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon hot sauce, to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small handful cilantro sprigs, chopped

For the rice:
1 cup long grain rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of ground cayenne
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (or water)
1 teaspoon salt

For the shrimp:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

Tostada shells
Lettuce leaves
Tomato salsa or hot sauce
Fresh cilantro sprigs
Lime wedges

1. Combine all of the salsa ingredients, except the cilantro, in a bowl and mix well. Taste for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop. Before serving, add the cilantro.

2. Prepare the rice: Place the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño and sauté until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and cayenne and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and cook, stirring, to lightly toast and thoroughly coat, about 1 minute. Add the stock and salt. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork.

3. Prepare the shrimp. Whisk 1 tablespoon olive oil, the lime juice, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a medium bowl. Add the shrimp and stir to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium high heat (or prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat). Remove the shrimp from the marinade, shaking off any excess liquid, and transfer to the skillet 0r grill. Cook the shrimp until pink on both sides and just cooked through, turning once, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a bowl.

5. To assemble the tostadas, lay a lettuce leaf over a tostada (corn) shell. Spoon some of the rice over the lettuce, then some of the black bean salsa over the rice. Top with 2 to 3 shrimp. Drizzle with a little tomato salsa or hot sauce. Garnish with cilantro leaves and a squeeze of lime. Serve immediately.

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

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.