Tag Archives: appetizer

Tip Toe and Peep

Howdy Susitna Cafe’ friends!  Glad you made a stop at the Cafe’ today!  Seems like we’re always talking about something interesting here…today we’re discussing bird peeping.

What?  Haven’t heard about bird peeping?  Well, you know…it’s like when you look at birds and tip toe around them so as not to scare them away…here at the Cafe’ we call it bird peeping.  “R” and I enjoy the outdoors and nature, and although we’re not regular bird peepers per se, we did do some bird peeping recently.

Actually it all started during our fishing trip in Fulton and Rockport, Texas USA.  We took our camper, fishing gear and Golden Retriever, Gus, to catch “The Big One”.  We fished at night on some piers.  However, some dolphin friends paid us a visit with their babies while we were fishing…i think they chased the fish away because after that we didn’t get anymore nibbles…at least i hope that’s why we only caught a few teeny tiny flounder…i really hope that it doesn’t have anything to do with my BIG Alaskan fishing skills…gee, do you think that i’m getting rusty or something?  Oh, i hope not…

Well, I’m just not going to think about that anymore.  Now, where were we?  Oh yes, bird peeping.  Anyways…the dolphins scared the fish away and that’s that.  Sooo, since the fish weren’t biting, we decided to partake in other activities.  So we did.

We went to Charlotte Plummer’s Seafare Restaurant in Rockport for lunch.  Charlotte Plummer’s Restaurant has big picture windows that overlook the Fulton Harbour activity…

We ordered grilled seafood atop mixed green salad and some fried onion rings.  Quite honestly, the grilled seafood was OK and nothing to write home about, but the fried onion rings sure were TASTY.  In addition, the view was really nice.

Charlotte Plummer Seafare on Urbanspoon

While we were enjoying those TASTY onion rings, we looked out over the pier and noticed some beautiful birds. I got sooo excited, I ran out of the restaurant (with Big TASTY onion rings in hand) and started taking some photos and before we knew it both “R” and I were bird peeping.

Boy, bird peeping is some serious business.  You actually have to do alot of tiptoeing and pretending like you’re peeping at something else other than the bird(s) of interest.  Tiptoeing and peeping prevents the bird(s) from getting annoyed and flying away.  Actually, after a few toe cramps, we got good at it!

However, i’m sure that the customers looking out of the bay windows at Charlotte Plummer’s were sort of wondering what we were doing tiptoeing and all…

After our toes got cramped and sore, we decided to take a break and get some coffee at the Daily Grind.  The flavored iced coffees were sooo good and refreshing…we just got all energetic again!  So, we drove back to Fulton Harbour and bird peeped some more.

Daily Grind on Urbanspoon

Eventually, the sun started to set and our toes got sore again.  But before returning home to our camper, I took one more bird peeping photo…

"Gulf of Mexico - Waiting...Wondering..."

Do you like it?  Hope so!  While taking the photo, I thought the birds looked like they were waiting and wondering as they looked out over the Gulf of Mexico waters and oil rigs.  Since I took the photo about 4 weeks after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and prior to Hurricane Alex’s arrival, I named the photo “Gulf of Mexico – Waiting…Wondering…”.

Oh, did I tell you?  My bird peeping photo will be on display with other talented geo-artists’ work at the Geo Sapiens II exhibit at The Two Wall Gallery on Vashon Island, Washington USA from Sept. 4 – 30, 2010.  Do stop by and see it if you’re in the Seattle/Vashon Island area.  Oh, and don’t forget the Susitna Cafe’ Chronicles’ bird peeping tips while you’re viewing the exhibit at the Two Wall Gallery!  Cheers!

Susitna Cafe’ Hot Crab Dip

Gulf Coast blue crab meat is sooo delicious…we make crabcakes and hot crab dip at the Cafe’ whenever we get fresh crab meat.  We find that the claw meat is sweeter than the lump crab meat, however use either for this rich and decadent dip…

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 Tablespoons butter

1 shallot, minced

1 cup rainbow peppers, chopped (use yellow, orange and red)

8 ounces Neufchatel cream cheese

1 cup sour cream (I use organic Wallaby European style)

1/2 cup mayonnaise (I use SmartBalance Omega Plus)

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated (I use a mixture of Vermont white, yellow sharp and mild cheeses)

1/2 cup romano cheese, grated

1 pound crabmeat (juice and all)

2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/3 cup green onions, chopped

2 teaspoons Gulf Coast seasoning (I use “Slap Ya Mama” white pepper blend, but Tony Chachere’s seasoning will do too)

2 teaspoons Hungarian hot paprika

Heat olive oil and butter in medium sized saucepan over medium heat.  Saute’ shallots and rainbow peppers in hot oil/butter til tender.  Add cream cheese.

Stir until melted.  Add sour cream, mayonnaise and the remaining cheese.  Stir on low heat until the grated cheese is completely melted and the dip is smooth and creamy.

Add crabmeat (juice and all), lemon juice, green onions, and seasonings.  Stir until combined.

Pour into a buttered oven safe baking dish.  Bake at 300 degress for 20 minutes.  Serve warm with crackers or poured over toast points..

Cook’s Note:  Try substituting small sweet Gulf Coast shrimp for the crab meat…another rich and decadent dip for you, your family and your guests!

Traveler’s Notes:  These are some great suggestions from our Susitna Cafe’ friends…

Rockport Restaurant(s) to Try:

The Boiling Pot

Panjos Pizza Pasta and Burgers

Things to See/Do:

Visit the many downtown Rockport art galleries and The Rockport Center for the Arts


1 Comment

Filed under August 2010

Pacific Halibut (aka Flatius Fishius)

Welcome to the Cafe’ today!  Oh, I know…I’ve been sooo quiet lately.  Well, you see, I’ve just been sooo busy…it all started with a little fishing survey that we received from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in late March…the “Department” asked us, in a very nice way, of course, to document our fishing catch last year…

Well…last year wasn’t really a great catch year for us, as you probably know…

i’m oooh sooo very appreciative that the “Department” thought of us and all, but i’m just not understanding why they decided to send-out a survey requesting us to document our catch the ONE year that we came home from our fishing trip with just a couple of  teeny tiny Pacific Cod…do you?

Of course, being the Alaskan that I am, I decided to set my pride aside and complete the survey.  i know, i know…it was awfully big of me to do so, particularly when the survey would very likely become public record which means that anyone and their neighbor could take note of the fact that we caught 2 teeny tiny Pacific Cod last year…

Anyways…just so you understand what happened…i promptly placed the survey in our “active” pile of mail.  The “active” pile is the pile of mail that needs to be addressed, but perhaps not immediately like this second immediately.  The active pile just stays “active” while we address other priorities.  You know what i mean?  Well, things just got sooo busy…really out-of-hand busy after we received that survey…

Well that busy-ness just worked itself right thru April.  What can i say?  There were all kinds of things that had to be immediately addressed like gardening, for example.  Ohhh…i did ohhh sooo much gardening…take a peek and see for yourself….

See!  Isn’t it important that I got that done as soon as possible?

Well, of course, there was the garage too…i had to clean and reorganize our entire garage and you know how long it takes to do that especially when you pay attention to all the garage details…

Before i knew it…April had passed and May arrived along with a big envelope from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game…when I opened the envelope, the contents were oh sooo familiar…i’m sure that you can guess what it was…a fishing survey…in fact, the survey was identical to the one we received in March…

This time, however, there was a nice 8×10 color chart of “Saltwater Species Commonly Found in Alaska” enclosed.  The attached cover letter noted that the color chart had been provided to us as a special gift for our efforts in “completing the enclosed survey”…

Oh dear, i felt sooo guilty…i know that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has no idea about how busy I’ve been….sooo busy that i just hadn’t got to the survey yet.  Of course, i had every intent on completing it!

Since we received this really nice chart with some of my MOST favorite fish on it like King and Sockeye Salmon and Pacific Halibut, i felt like i needed to complete the survey oooh sooo pretty much soon…you know what I mean?

Well this really nice chart was so nice i spent time studying it for awhile, particularly the section on Pacific Halibut.  According to the nice chart,  Pacific Halibut is known as Hippoglossus Stenolepis.

The chart described Hippoglossus Stenolepsis as “More elongated than most flatfishes, with width being about one-third the length.  Adults have both eyes on their dark or upper side.  Color on the dark side tends to assume the coloration of the ocean bottom.  The underside is lighter, often white.”

Well in all honesty Susitna Cafe’ friends, i was a bit surprised when i read the chart.  The Alaska Department of Fish and Game just didn’t have their facts straight about the Pacific Halibut.  Can you believe it?  Believe you me, i have certainly caught my fair share of Pacific Halibut over the years except for last year, so i know alot about halibut and their definition was definately not accurate and i’m not understanding what they were thinking!

SO, I decided to provide some assistance to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game…afterall, it’s really my civic duty isn’t it?  i must admit that it wasn’t easy documenting the fact that we had caught 2 teeny tiny Pacific Cod last year as i worked to complete the survey… BUT, I felt oh so good that I was able to provide the Alaska Department of Fish and Game with difficult to obtain knowledge about the Pacific Halibut…the kind of knowledge that only an experienced and well seasoned Alaskan fisherman can provide…in fact, there was a really nice “Comments” section on the survey form in which I was able to include all kinds of useful information like the following:

Pacific Halibut (Image Courtesy of National Park Service)

  • the Pacific Halibut’s real scientific name is  flatius fishius;
  • flatius fishius are related to flounder (but won’t admit it);
  • Pacific Halibut are a very optimistic fish…in fact, they’re ALWAYS looking up; and,
  • most importantly, flatius fishius are sensitive about the “weird eyes” thing, so a fisherman should never, never stare at them…

I’m sure that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game will use this information and correct their chart, don’t you agree?  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a corrected version of the chart in the mail sometime soon…

So, that’s why I’ve been sooo busy my Susitna Cafe’ friends.  But, I’m back now!  And, I’m here to share all the important facts about flatius fishius with you…like the fact that Pacific Halibut are real team players…they’re happy baked, broiled or grilled…and, oooh sooo dee-li-ciousss in  Susitna Cafe’ Flatius Fishius Salad!

Susitna Cafe’ Flatius Fishius Salad


Ingredients

1 pound halibut fillet

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1/2 Tablespoon spice mix (gourmet salt, fresh ground mixed peppercorns, dried minced garlic)

1/4 cup red onion, minced

2 Tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped

1/2 Tablespoon capers

2 Tablespoons Miracle Whip Salad Dressing (or mayonnaise)

Let’s Make the Salad

Place the halibut fillet (skin side down) on a foil lined baking pan.  Rub olive oil on the surface of the fillet.  Sprinkle the salt, ground pepper and dried garlic spice mixture on top of the prepared fillet.

Broil for about 10 minutes or til the fillet is still moist but the fish is easily flaked apart with a fork.  Set the broiled fillet aside to cool.

Meanwhile, this is a good time to mince the red onion and chop your fresh Italian parsley.  Toss the onion, parsley and capers into a mixing bowl.

Now that your halibut fillet is cool, let’s remove/peel the skin from the fillet.  Flake the halibut into your mixing bowl containing the red onion, parsley and capers.  Add the Miracle Whip (or mayonnaise) to the bowl and stir all the ingredients together.

Chill.  Serve on your favorite crackers.  Mmm…Sooo…Goooood!

Cook’s Note:  This is a great recipe for leftover halibut (baked, grilled or broiled) too.  You can even serve a scoop of  halibut salad atop a fresh green tossed salad and wa-la! you have a wonderful dinner ready to serve with crusty french bread…yummmm!

Traveler’s Note:  Our most successful halibut fishing trips often take place in Resurrection Bay off the coast of Seward, Alaska with Profish-N-Sea Charters.

5 Comments

Filed under May 2010

The Dim-Sum of the Matter…

你好 (nee-how) my Susitna Cafe’ friends!  We’re talking about travel here at the Cafe’.  I know, this is no surprise to you!

Do you like to travel?  I like to travel because I like to learn.  I like to learn what a place is really like.  You know, really get into “the Dim-Sum of the matter”.

Sometimes getting to “the Dim-Sum of the matter” during a short visit can be challenging, particularly when jet-lag is involved.  Last year, we traveled to Hong Kong.  We had anticipated some jet lag.  However, I experienced serious jet lag.

Upon arrival in Hong Kong, I was absolutely sure that my body was  located in Hong Kong.  However, my brain was located elsewhere.  Timbuktu perhaps?  No telling really…

Our planned Day 1 itinerary didn’t challenge our jet lagged minds too much.  We had planned a ride on the Victoria Peak Tram, the world’s oldest funicular railway.  All of our travel guidebooks had recommended it as a “must-do” activity.

After reaching Victoria Peak, we planned to walk amidst the nature trails and enjoy the views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong below.  And so, that’s what we did.

Upon arrival at the Peak, we refreshed ourselves with some strong Pacific Coffee at the Peak restaurant.  And, zoom-zoom!  Off we went to enjoy our walk and fabulous vistas!

The view of  Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong below was sooo impressive…Hong Kong appeared like a modern and westernized city!

Gee, it even looked like a big city in North America (you know, that place where my brain was located…or, was that Timbuktu?).

The Peak nature trails were lovely.  Much of the vegetation was semi-tropical and familiar to us.  Gee, it sort of looked like the same vegetation found in Houston, TX…

“R” really liked the trees along the Peak trails.  According to the horticultural signage in the Park, the trees were identified as rubber trees.  Hmm…we hadn’t seen any rubber trees like that in Houston, TX…

So we walked and wandered amongst alot of rubber trees.  Although still feeling  jet-lagged, I experienced a brief moment of clarity during our walk.  I thought “Hmm…if you can find something different, like a rubber tree, amongst so much familiarity, then our distant view of Hong Kong might be like a wonton wrapper”.

I’m sure that you understand what happens to a person when you walk around and see alot of rubber trees pondering these sort of thoughts my Susitna Cafe’ friends.  As you can imagine, we had reached a decision point during our first day in Hong Kong amongst all those rubber trees.  We decided that this is “where the rubber meets the road“!  Tee-hee 😮

So, at that point on our first day in Hong Kong, we decided to break-away from our planned itinerary and dive-in to “the Dim-Sum of the matter”.  There was no time to lose, so we headed down into the heart of the city to see what was inside the Hong Kong wonton wrapper…

Upon arrival at street level, Hong Kong  appeared very modern and westernized just like our view from atop Victoria Peak.  I think we were still on the edge of the wonton wrapper…

We saw big and western style malls full of fashionable shops…

You know, a funny thing happens when you travel and explore…the more you explore, the more you discover what’s behind the wrapper (wonton wrapper that is…).  Here’s a peak inside the Hong Kong dumpling…an Asian junket amongst a modern and westernized backdrop wrapper…

After seeing the Asian junket on Victoria Harbour, we were excited to really get to “the Dim-Sum of the matter”.  So we explored further.  All of a sudden, we noted that the signage in our surroundings began to change.  Instead of modern and westernized signs, we saw neon multi-lingual signage printed with both western and Chinese characters…

As we delved into the dumpling even more, the street signs changed again.  Now there were more Asian influences…

Soon, our exploration led us to the heart of the dumpling…an evening Ladies Market where we experienced all kinds of tasty ingredients…

This is a vibrant place where locals and visitors enjoy the tasty dumplings…

A place where the friendly ingredients meld so nicely together…

Well my Susitna Cafe’ friends, as you can see, we had a wonderful first day in Hong Kong!  Sigh…there’s just nothing like getting to “the Dim-Sum of the matter” when you’re traveling!

Susitna Cafe’ Shrimp Dumplings

Ohhh…I love yummy dumplings, don’t you?  Although you can use store bought wonton wrappers for these dumplings, homemade tastes so much better!  Ohhh…they’re even better when we incorporate tasty herbs too!

Herb Wonton Wrapper Ingredients

2 cups organic unbleached flour, plus extra for pastry board

1/2 teaspoon gourmet salt

1 large egg

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup cilantro & chives, chopped fine

cornstarch

Combine flour and salt on your pastry board or countertop.  Make a well in the center of your flour and salt mixture.  Next, add egg and water into a mixing bowl.  Whisk until mixed.  Pour the egg and water mixture into your flour well.

Mix and knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball.  If the dough sticks to your pastry board, then add a little extra flour to the surface.

Now add the chopped herbs to your dough and knead to distribute herbs evenly throughout the dough.

Place the dough ball into a mixing bowl.  Set aside and cover with a damp cloth and let sit while we make the shrimp dumpling filling.

Shrimp Dumpling Filling Ingredients

1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, chopped and dried on papertowel

1 cup chinese cabbage, chopped fine plus some extra whole leaves to line your steamer basket

3 Tablespoons carrot, minced

2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped fine

2 Tablespoons chives, minced

2 Tablespoons green onion, minced

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced

3 Tablespoons oyster sauce (we use Lee Kum Kee brand with No MSG Added at the Cafe’)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Toss all ingredients together into a mixing bowl.  Stir to combine.

Now let’s work with our herby wonton dough again.  Begin by dusting your pastry board and rolling pin with corn starch.

Next, cut your dough into quarters.  Roll-out one of your dough quarters until approximately paper thin.  Cut the dough with a biscuit cutter.  If you don’t have a biscuit cutter, you may use a 3-4 inch diameter drinking glass edge dusted with corn starch too.

Now let’s make dumplings!  Place approximately 1 teaspoon of your shrimp mixture in the center of your cut-out dumpling wrapper.

Wet the edges of the wrapper, fold-over into a half-moon shape and seal.  You may pinch the edges for a decorative effect.

Or, at the Susitna Cafe’, we often pinch up the wrapper to form a little happy package.

Then we tie our dumpling package with a little chive bow…sigh

Once you have made all of your dumpling packages, pour about 3/4 cup of water into a dutch oven and place a steamer basket inside.  Heat the dutch oven over medium heat.  When you observe steam arising, place chinese cabbage leaves on the bottom of the steamer basket.  Place enough leaves to cover the bottom of the basket.  Now place your dumpling packages in the basket and be sure that they are not touching.

Place a cover on your dutch oven and steam for about 10 minutes or until your dumplings are semi-transparent.

While the dumplings are steaming, you can continue working your 1/4 pieces of wonton dough, filling them and forming the dumplings into the shape of your choice.  If the water is low in your dutch oven, add additional water and wait until the water steams prior to adding additional dumplings in the steamer basket.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauces.  You can make a quick dipping sauce with 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1 ounce rice wine vinegar, 1 ounce cooking sake, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon chili paste, 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger and 1/2 Tablespoon cilantro, chopped fine.

It’s now time to get to get to “The Dim-Sum of the Matter…”



1 Comment

Filed under March 2010

Hungary Anyone?

We’ve just returned from the Land of Paprika.  I don’t have a diary.  But, if I did, I would describe Day 1 as follows:

Just arrived in Budapest, Hungary feeling groggy.  The airport is much smaller than expected.  It’s mid-afternoon, Hungary-time…I’ve eaten breakfast twice…or, was it lunch that I ate twice and breakfast and dinner only once?  Even my watch, with multiple time functions, is confused.

Our Zona Cab driver, a friendly native Hungarian, promptly whisks us from the airport to Erzsebet Korut.  He is happy for us.  He wants us to love Budapest.  He’s proud of the people and  cultural heritage.  He speaks excellent English.

Thank goodness.  I’ve forgotten how to speak anything in Hungarian.  I am jet-lagged.

“We’re here” he says.  We step-out of the cab and look up.  Wow!  “R” and I have our mouths open wide.  The Hotel doorman, observing us, is surely wondering if we’re trying to speak Hungarian, and after having failed, have decided to fall back on the Charades technique to act-out our needs…

No, we are not Hungary hungry.  We are in awe.  The online hotel reviews simply did not depict the beauty of  the Corinthia Hotel.  The Hotel was described as having been “a former restored palace”…a bit “out of the way”…

As the winter sun began to set, the lights appeared all around us.  We gasped at the  Corinthia “Grand” Hotel, a beautifully restored palace, glowing on this winter day in all its splendor.

Home away from home...

We wave goodbye to our new Hungarian taxicab driver friend, and we step into the Hotel…

“R” is enthusiastic.  He wants to take my picture, although we haven’t checked-in yet.  “Limburger!”, he says while he takes a multitude of photos of me.  “R” shows them to me, and they appear a bit jet-lagged blurry.

"Limberger!"

We agree to check-in quickly, toss our baggage into our room and focus on exploring.  “R” and I love to walk when we travel.  We walk and we wander…

Our jet-lag begins to wear-off as we walk out onto Erzsebet Korut.  It is cold outside.  We take it all in…the Austro-Hungarian architecture, the stoic remains from the communist occupation, and the city dwellers walking home from work.

I take note of a cluster of locals carrying bags of groceries home.  I quietly think, oh joy!  I know there’s a grocery store nearby…Yes, my Susitna Cafe’ friends, a grocery store.  Can you believe it?

Who in the world travels all the way across the Atlantic from Houston, Texas to Budapest, Hungary to spend time in a grocery store?  We do.  Why?  Well, you would be amazed at what one can learn from the experience!

After spending about 20 minutes in the local Spar grocery store, one can assess the following:

1) the locals eat fresh foods and shop daily as typical Europeans do–this is determined by strolling around the entire store first in order to get an overall broad assessment of the situation–are we having fun yet?

2) pastries, and most particularly, cakes are popular–take note that the cracker, cookie and pastry isle is fully stocked with prepared cakes…carrot cake, chocolate cake… cake with and without marzipan…

3) there is paprika everywhere–we’re not talking about paprika in small jars.  We’re talking about paprika in bags and tubes.  If paprika is not packaged in a bag or tube, it is commonly found as an ingredient in food items.

At this point of my grocery store cultural assessment, my thoughts race as I consider all the recipes I could test and/or develop from this wonderful inspiration.

In the meantime, “R” is beginning to look tired and Hungary hungry.  I encourage him to be patient because I think I’ve found ITIT is that one source of cooking inspiration that I simply must learn about during our trip.  In this case, on our first day, IT must be paprika.  Paprika is Hungarian.  Hungary hungarians eat paprika.  We are in Hungary, so we must eat paprika.  We must learn about paprika too.

My thoughts continue to race…well, there are so many kinds of paprika to consider… special quality, delicate, excuisite delicate, pungent excuisite delicate, noble sweet, half sweet, rose AND hot paprika.  What is a girl to do?

I convinced myself to hold that thought until I could figure it out later.  After all, what is a girl to do?  So, we walk out of Spar and head towards Andrassy Ut.

Meanwhile, “R” is still Hungary hungry.  We observe many bookstores on Andrassy Ut.  We love bookstores!  We enter “Alexandra” bookstore, and I find the cookbook section quickly.  They have “Culinaria Hungary” in English!  I quickly glance at recipes and note some common ingredients…Hungarian peppers, tomatoes, paprika…

“R” waves at me wildly and encourages me to go up the escalator with him.  “R” has found food and art…

What a sight as we ride the escalator to the second floor–the ceiling is gilded.  Isn’t it marvelous?

Alexandra Guilded Ceiling

Look Up!

We are delighted as we sit at the “Alexandra Bookstore Cafe” table amongst friends.  But, there is a slight hiccup…our waitress speaks Hungarian.  We try speaking Hungarian…our waitress doesn’t understand us, and she smiles at our efforts…

Our smiling waitress then begins speaking German.  At this point, there is hope…I speak some German, and after doing so, she understands me!  We are now “connected”.  We enthusiastically order a hot tea, a latte and some sandwiches.

We dive into our sandwiches amongst the frescoes and books.  Occasionally I look up and see this:

Alexandra Bookstore Cafe Fresco

Art and Food...

I am, once again, inspired.  I become more energized by the minute.  As I bite into my sandwich, I ask the waitress, “Was ist das?” She tells me that we are eating Hungarian sausage laced with…what else?  Paprika!  Art and food…

Susitna Cafe’ Hungarian Winter Lecso (“LETCH-oh”)

Lecso is a popular Hungarian national dish.  Every Hungarian family has their own version.  The Susitna Cafe’ version includes an assortment of colorful organic vegetables combined with sausage and, of course, paprika.  It is a wonderful winter stew inspired by Day 1 in Hungary, our art and food experience.  Would you like to share the experience with me at the Susitna Cafe’?

This is what you’ll need to make Lecso that feeds 4-6 people as a main dish (feeds more if served as an appetizer):

Ingredients

Ingredients

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

1 Tablespoon bacon grease*

1 medium eggplant, sliced in 1″ slices, salted, rinsed, then chopped

1 red onion, chopped

2 yellow bell peppers, chopped in 1/2 inch pieces

2-3 small zucchini squash, diced

3 plum tomatoes, chopped

3 heaping teaspoons tomato paste

2 Tablespoons Hungarian paprika (hot is preferred, but sweet will do)

1 Hungarian sausage link*, chopped (kielbasa or your favorite sausage will do)

Salt and pepper to taste

Sour cream (for serving)

*vegetarians omit these ingredients

Begin by slicing the eggplant into 1 inch slices.  Salt the tops and bottoms and leave for 10 minutes.  The salt will extract any bitterness from the eggplant.

Salted Eggplant

Salted Eggplant

Heat the oil in a dutch oven at medium-high heat.  Meanwhile, clean and chop the red onion.  Next, rinse the salt from the eggplant slices, pat them dry, and chop them.  Throw the onion and eggplant into the heated dutch oven.  Saute and stir.

While the onion and eggplant cook, clean and chop the remaining vegetables.  After the eggplant and onion are cooked soft, add the remaining chopped vegetables.  Saute and stir.

Sauteed Mixed Lecso Vegetables

Colorful Lecso Veggies

The vegetables may begin to stick to the pan, so you may add about 1/4 cup of water, as needed.  Now add the tomato paste and paprika.  Cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.  The Lecso should have the consistency of a chunky tomato sauce.

Add the chopped sausage to the mix and continue cooking for 30 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Less salt is required if sausage is used in the recipe.

Now, turn-off the heat and allow the Lecso to come to room temperature.  Although you may skip this step and dig-in, a little patience will reveal a richer and full-flavored Lecso.  The cooling period allows the Lecso flavors to meld.  Once the Lecso is cool, then reheat and serve.

Serve with a dollop of light sour cream on top, some crusty bread,  and a tossed green salad.

Hungary Anyone?

Traveler’s Notes:  Since writing this post, I’ve discovered that the Alexandra Bookstore Cafe’ frescoes were painted by a 19th century Hungarian painter, Karoly Lotz.

16 Comments

Filed under February 2010

I’m So Excited!

I’m so excited! This is my first post.  All I can say is…uh…salmon! Salmon…molded into a delectable cream cheese and herb mixture and rolled in pecans…oh my…yes, salmon.

But, perhaps I should back-up before we dive into this together my Cafe’ friends.  Shouldn’t I say more about salmon?  Those ambitious and shiny wonders that spawn every year in Alaskan waters give us so many healthful benefits–how about all that healthy protein and omega 3?  How about the bragging rights when you catch one?  Oh joy!  I’m so grateful.

Every summer while Ron (“R”) and I visit my mother in Alaska, we do what every person in the Land of the Midnight Sun does.  We FISH.

Since the FISH in Alaska are big, we catch BIG FISH.  Oh…I should inform you that everything in Alaska tends to be BIG.  Yes, BIGGER than Texas. ..

In fact, there is a big brag sign to prove it.  The sign located upon entry to the Great State of Alaska from the Alaska “Alcan” Highway (via the Lower 48 states) is there to inform you that you are about to experience BIG everything.  BIG land, BIG waters,  BIG moose, BIG fish, BIG people with BIG feet and coat sizes, etc.  You get the picture.

Well…so, we fish.  Usually we catch BIG (and oh so beautiful) salmon and halibut.  Sometimes, we catch some rockfish or flounder too.  Here’s a brag picture for you:

BIG Salmon

This BIG King Salmon was caught while enjoying a cup of Joe in Homer, Alaska.  Well…OK, my nose seems to be getting larger as I’m writing this.  Sort of like Pinnochio, you know?  I guess this pic is just a bit of Alaskan humor.

The truth is that my mother (the petite woman on the left) and “R” are actually proudly displaying what we had hoped to catch on this nice day in Homer, Alaska after we had finished our Joe.

Truth be known, that we did not catch the BIG one in Sept. 2009 in Homer on that particular day.  However, upon getting back to Anchorage, our home, with little to show of our BIG fisherman skills, our friends came to the rescue.  Alaskans are like that.  They gave us lots of Kenai River Red and Silver Salmon to bring home to Texas.  So we, once again, came home with a cooler full of fish to grill, smoke, and bake into some kind of wonderful delight.

Hmm…How about a few Smoked Salmon Logs?  Good stuff on crackers or perhaps a bagel.  Let me get a cup of Joe and then we’ll get started here.

Ingredients

This is what you’ll need to make two (2) logs:

(2) 8 oz. pkgs. of cream cheese at room temp.  (you may use lite or neufchatel)

(3) Tablespoons of Alouette cheese (garlic and herbs or vegetable)

(1) 5 1/4 oz. can of smoked salmon (Red or King is best, but any will do)

1/4 – 1/3 cup of salmon jerky, chopped (not a requirement, but this adds a wonderful intense flavor)

1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped

(2) Tablespoons garlic or regular chives, chopped

(1) Tablespoon fresh or dried dill

1/3 cup italian parsley, finely chopped

And for later (after the logs have been mixed and rolled), you will need the following ingredients:

1/2 cup italian parsley, finely chopped

3/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped (chopped pistachios are a good choice too)

Now that we have the ingredients ready, you can mix the cheese, salmon, onion and herbs together using a mixer or your hand until thoroughly mixed.  It will look something like this:

Mixed Ingredients

How about spreading this on a bagel :o)

Next, on a clean surface, mix your additional chopped parsley and chopped toasted pecans together.  This will constitute your herb-nut mixture.

Toasted Texas Choctaw Pecans

Now spread-out the herb-nut mixture into a rectangle.  Let’s make the logs next:

Spoon-out 1/2 of the cream cheese mixture and begin forming a 3″x6″ log by rolling the mixture back and forth between your hands.  The cream cheese mixture will be sticky.  Once the log is formed, place it atop your herb-nut mixture as shown below:

Logroll

More tasty bits...

Now begin rolling the cream cheese log back and forth until it is completely covered by the herb-nut mixture.  You may wish to roll the log back and forth until it is longer and thinner, perhaps about 2″x7″.

Roll Log til Covered

Oh my, the anticipation...

Next, you may begin spooning-out the remaining cream cheese mixture and form your 2nd log following the steps above. Or, you may wish to save the rest as a bagel spread–how about a little Sunday brunch?

Oh my…looks like someone may have taken a bite while I wasn’t looking…

Finished Log

Smoked salmon spread on a rice cracker anyone?

Traveler’s Notes:  Take note my Cafe’ friends, you too can take your own photo with the Big Salmon in Homer, Alaska.  Hint:  the Big Salmon is not real…it’s actually sculpted and painted by an Alaskan with a good sense of humor.  You can visit it at the Homer Spit while you enjoy your cup of Joe.

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Filed under January 2010