In my other life, I coach track and field and spend my springtime with high school athletes working on pacing, and a fast kick and strategy that helps them achieve their goals. It’s my favorite time of year working with a fun group of kids.
At a track meet earlier this spring, I wandered over to the snack pile – the group of goodies that generous parents provide each meet to feed the kids on the long track-meet days. Someone had made some sort of wraps, containing salmon blended with cream cheese, pickles and spices, and rolled into tortillas and sliced in small wheels.
I ate one. Then another. And another. The kids started laughing at me, but I didn’t care. If I didn’t have more I would surely perish. They were simply the best thing I’d ever eaten. I never found out who the parent was who made these tasty morsels, but I have since replicated the recipe as best as my taste buds can recollect and now I feed them to our fishing crew, which is my other-other life, how I spend my summers.
The thing about salmon recipes – and anything that’s delicious in Alaska this time of year: blueberries; giant cabbages; fireweed in full bloom; or honey – is that the best ones come from people you know. They are the ones you hear about at parties, where one person is telling another person about being at Jane’s barbecue the previous week and having the best cedar-plank grilled salmon of her life, or another guy touting the genius of his buddy’s new home-brewing setup.
Alaska is a big place, but word of mouth here spreads faster than a May wildfire, and before you know it, some family favorite recipe is on Pinterest because it’s just that good.
This month, we at Coast would like you to consider us family. We have picked the brains of our columnists, and have delved into our greasy-fingered index cards and asked others (read Chris Batin’s story in Alaska Angler on traveling chef Christian Briner, who makes a fantastic salmon meal that belongs in a Michelin-starred restaurant) to find out how best to enjoy Alaska’s bounty. There are no shortages on suggestions.
The underlying theme is that Alaskans love to harvest, whether it be hunting, fishing, gathering, or gardening. We know, as all those generations before us, that a locally sourced meal is a more healthful meal, and that if we know where our food comes from, we can be appreciative of how we get it.
Our family fishes, and our children have worked since before they knew their multiplication tables. We didn’t consciously decide that we wanted them to be experts at harvesting their own food, but it is an added benefit. Hopefully, they are being instilled with an appreciation of all that Alaska has to offer, no matter how hard it might be to harvest it. Because, if you are persistent (61 Degrees columnist Joe Stock and his wife sure are; check out their gorgeous backyard garden in Coast’s pages), you will be rewarded.
As for me, I experimented a few times before coming up with my version of the salmon pinwheels that taste like those at that track meet so many months ago. I’m not sure it’s exactly like what I had – in fact,I’m sure it’s not – but it works for me, and apparently others as well.
At our fish camp, where I am currently writing this, part of my job is to act as camp cook. When I delivered the night’s meals to two of our employees who work up the hill from us, Bridget came out of her trailer and said, “I have to get that recipe from you for the salmon! It is so good!” I beamed with happiness that she, too, enjoyed this simple recipe, and promised I would share it with her, as well as Coast readers. I hope you enjoy, and pay it forward. Share your favorite recipe – blueberry jam, smoked salmon, Alaska-grown kale chips, whatever the food may be – and make we Alaskans that much happier.
Salmon spread pinwheels
1 salmon, cut into 2 fillets
1 cup cream cheese, softened
10-12 chopped pepperocini peppers
1 tablespoon mustard
1 teaspoon pepper
dash lemon or lime juice
crushed garlic, to taste
Bake salmon in oven at 350 degrees until just cooked. Cool and crumble into flakes. Mix with remaining ingredients until it reaches a smooth consistency. I’ve used the food processor to blend, too, but be careful not to overmix and turn it into paste.
Spread on flat tortilla, layer with lettuce or spinach, roll and slice.
Simple and delicious!