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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kenai Adventures

The fun thing about traveling in you can't always plan to get there.  Forces often conspire in the form of weather or roads or fires to keep you to get where you're going, much less getting on schedule.  Such was the case last Friday.  A caravan of cars set out for Kenai, on the Kenai Peninsula, for a weekend of dipnetting and barbecues on the beach.  Most of the highways in Alaska are two-lane, and some are even unpaved.  Just past Girdwood, my husband, my friend Krista and I heard that the Sterling Highway was being shut down due to two accidents.  Trying to make the best of things, we doubled back to Girdwood and decided to stop at Jack Sprat for a glass of wine and to wait to see if the highway was going to be reopened.  We had been eating junk food in the car, but discovered that Jack Sprat was serving arancini, delicious balls of risotto fried and served with a tomato pesto and argula simply dressed with olive oil and salt.  Delicious, particularly with the glass of albarino I had with them.
All photos courtesy of Krista Scully
We went back to Anchorage for the night, and the highway reopened at 2 a.m.  The next day, we set out on a gray and rainy morning for Kenai.  Even though the plans for a beach BBQ were looking unlikely, we planned to set up in a friend's kitchen for a dinner.  A stop in Soldotna, just shy of Kenai, revealed the most gorgeous rainbow chard I've ever seen:

Despite the weather, the beach was packed with dipnetters.  I hadn't realized that it was acceptable in Kenai to head and fillet your fish on the beach and leave the remains--so much for bear danger!  For dinner, we had fresh salmon, chard with soffritto, arugula and fennel salad and the beloved burrata for dessert. 

The chard was a huge hit.  Here's the recipe:

Braised Chard with Soffritto
Adapted from the A16 Food + Wine Cookbook

1 head garlic, cloves removed and peeled
Half a small can of anchovies in olive oil, rinsed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water

Place all of the ingredients in a small saucepan;  bring to a simmer.  Once the garlic is tender, about 45 minutes, remove from heat and puree the soffritto with an immersion blender or in a food processor.  You can also roughly mash the ingredients with a fork or the back of a wooden spoon.

1 bunch chard, either green or rainbow
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt to taste

Using kitchen shears, cut the ribs  in 1/2 inch pieces.  Keep them separate, and then cut the leaves in 1/2 inch pieces as well.  Bring a pot of salted water to boil and plunge the ribs in for about six minutes, or until desired tenderness.  The chard will continue to cook after it has been removed from the water.  Skim the rib pieces out and then cook the leaves for approximately four minutes.  Empty the cooking pot and toss all the chard with the lemon juice, soffritto and salt to taste. 

This has a subtle salty, tangy flavor that will convert even the most resistant non-greens lovers.

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