Fish for our times


I don’t know about you but I don’t eat fish very often anymore, as much as I like it.  Sometimes it seems like everything I want is either threatened with extinction, bad for my body or a blow to my budget.

So it was cause for celebration when I found a great-tasting fish that was easy on my conscience, my health and my bank account.   Who knew that sardines, those oft-maligned little fish, would be so good?

I write about the pleasures of sardines today in the San Jose Mercury News (Story now below).   Although I realize they’re a tough sell in our culture, there’s a reason they’re so popular in Spanish and Italian cuisines. Their deep savor marries well with the bold flavors of garlic, peppers and citrus. Continue reading Fish for our times

Joe’s Special to the rescue


Before we left on our recent trip to Alaska, I compiled a collection of recipes that I thought might work for car camping.  They had to be simple – based on ingredients we could find at most any grocery store –and require a minimum of pots and pans.  One skillet would be ideal.

At the same time, I wanted fresh flavors and appealing textures.  Canned goods and pantry items soon lose their charm when you’re traveling for six weeks.

Our favorite quick and easy meal turned out to be an updated version of Joe’s Special, the venerable San Francisco dish made with spinach, eggs, onions and ground meat.  Think of it as a deconstructed fritatta.  It takes a bit of chopping but it comes together fairly quickly and tastes terrific.

Continue reading Joe’s Special to the rescue

Nanaimo bars worth the calories


I first came across a recipe for Nanaimo bars in an old issue of Sunset Magazine. It was over the top with butter and sugar, but I couldn’t resist trying it out. And from the first bite, I was a fan of this indulgent combo of chocolate and buttercream with its irresistible balance of cake-like base, creamy filling and brittle chocolate topping.

Since then, I’ve made the recipe a couple of times a year, whenever I feel like spoiling myself or my friends. The only other person I know who makes the bars is Susan Steade, now food editor of the Mercury News.  Her recipe is very similar and the bars are always a cause for celebration in the newsroom.

The glorified brownies get their name from the town of Nanaimo on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island, but they have been been adopted throughout British Columba as a provincial specialty. So I made a note to myself before starting this trek to Alaska and Canada to taste the first BC-made Nanaimo bar I came across on my travels.

Continue reading Nanaimo bars worth the calories

Hunting for halibut in Homer


One of the striking ironies of Alaska is how difficult it is to find fresh fish in the ports serving North America’s biggest fishery.

Frozen fish is everywhere, neatly packaged in vacuum-sealed pouches.  That’s because all but a small portion of the huge harvest of salmon and halibut is destined for markets elsewhere.  The fish are filleted and frozen within hours after they’re pulled from Alaska’s icy oceans.

Continue reading Hunting for halibut in Homer