The Alaska Life : Kasilof Cabin

September 19, 2016 at 5:27 am (Alaska, Travel) (, , , , , , )

Summer in Alaska is when everyone seems to go AWOL.  While the weather is nice, they’re out camping or fishing or venturing off to find some peace and quiet in the wilderness somewhere.  The best part is you don’t even have to travel that far from the city limits to find spots that feel well and truly secluded.

We spend a weekend at a friend’s cabin on the banks of the Kasilof River, just ~3 hours from Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula.  A glimpse of cabin life, the simple life – and I do believe we’re developing a taste for it.  I don’t think we’d ever be quite ready to completely give up the conveniences of modern living, but an occasional sojourn such as this, away from the constant barrage of information, seeming need for haste and ceaseless consumerism, is the perfect way to unwind.

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The Kasilof River – 20 miles of meandering turquoise water that connects Tustamena Lake to the Cook Inlet.  The water’s milky hue is a result of its glacial “rock flour” content, and is even more spectacular today under blue skies that we are glad to see after weeks of rain.

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The largest lake on the Kenai peninsula, Tustamena is 25 miles long and a spectacularly scenic location for boating.  Fed by Tustamena Glacier and the Harding Ice Field, that same, milky, glacial meltwater stretches as far as the eye can see; where you think you see the shoreline in the distance, it’s actually just the bordering mountains peeping up over the horizon.  Care is required when crossing the lake, however – winds gusting over the ice field can make for a rough, sometimes precarious, ride.

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Back on the Kasilof for some reprieve as the winds pick up over the lake, the water is still flowing quite fast, boosted by a wet season.   We find some slower spots to try our luck fishing, skeptical of our chances given the water depth but hopeful nonetheless of hooking a silver or two for dinner. As expected, with the exception of an undersized trout and unfortunate humpy, it’s slow going.

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The cabin is every bit as picturesque as you would imagine, a compact wooden structure nestled in a wooded grotto.  The surrounding forest floor is a sea of cranberry and rosehip bushes and all manner of late-summer mushrooms for the fungi-enthusiast.  We can just make out some skinny, ambling trails where the greenery has been worn away, revealing an underlying tangle of tree roots – trails worn in by bears foraging for berries, we’re told.

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Inside, our home-away-from-home is an eclectic assembly of mismatched furniture and odds and ends which, at the end of their heydays, have found a second use here.  A large woodstove sits in the corner by the firewood hatch, a sturdy workhorse capable of handling the Alaskan winter.  “Running water” here means you have to run to get it and lessons in the proper method for washing dishes without plumbing and strategic placement of flashlights for night-time trips to the outhouse are a good reminder of the conveniences we take for granted.  It’s rustic, but has all the creature comforts covered, including board games and plenty of reading material if you’re wondering how one fills the evening hours without an idiot box.

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Dinner is a simple affair of steak and corn on the cob grilled over an open fire, with a glass of red in hand and good company – one of the best meals I’ve had in the US.  We move inside once the sun sets (the long summer days are beyond us at this point), escaping the no-see-’ems and mosquitoes to continue campfire stores by the glow of the woodfired stove and single propane lamp.

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Sleep comes easily in total darkness, far from city lights, to the sound of nothing but the running river, and there’s no need to describe the pleasure of waking up, not to the sound of an alarm, but the morning light streaming through the window.  Sunday morning is cranberry picking, hot coffee and pancakes with warm syrup cooked on the vintage propane stove.  Dilly-dallying to extend those last few, completely peaceful moments before heading back up-river and back to the grind.

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Herb-crusted halibut, roasted sweet potato fries

September 6, 2016 at 1:54 pm (Recipes, UK) (, , , , , , , , )

Craving fish and chips but not all the grease?  This crunchy, herb crusted halibut will satisfy that hankering, with an upgrade to spicy, sweet potato fries for a healthy alternative to a fast food favorite.  We add some broccoli to the mix as we love how a bit of olive oil, garlic and oven heat can make this brassica more addictive than junk food – completely optional of course.  Only 20 minutes of hands on time makes this a great weeknight meal, one which we’ll be adding to our halibut rotation as we continue to eat our way through our freezer full of summer’s catch.

Herb Crusted Halibut

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Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 1/2 lb skinless halibut fillets, bones removed
  • 3 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup picked parsley leaves
  • 4 lemon wedges

Herb crust:

  • 3/4 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced or grated
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp EVOO

Sweet potato fries (+broccoli):

  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into 1/2 inch sticks
  • 1 medium head of broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets, stalk peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 1/2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Yoghurt sauce:

  • 1/2 cup low fat Greek yoghurt
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 425degF and line two baking pans with baking paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the roasted vegetables until the potato and broccoli pieces are well coated in the oil and herbs.  Transfer to one of the lined pans, spreading out evenly, and roast for 30-35 mins, tossing occasionally for even browning, until the sweet potato fries are nice and crispy.
  3. Cut the halibut fillets into 8 even pieces and place onto the second baking tray.  In a small bowl, mix together all the crust ingredients until well combined.  Spread each halibut fillet with a thin layer of mustard, then top with some of the breadcrumb mixture, pressing down firmly with the back of a spoon to help the crust stick.
  4. Place the fish in the oven to cook when the vegetables have ~ 15 minutes to go.
  5. For the yoghurt sauce, mix together all the ingredients thoroughly in a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until required.
  6. Serve the fish and chips hot from the oven with parsley, lemon wedges and the yoghurt sauce.

 

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