Goodbye, Alaska

That’s right, I’m back home in the ATL.  Though I’m happy to have returned to humid, green, beautiful, urban (aka has more people than caribou, unlike some places) Atlanta, I do miss some things about the great state of Alaska.

First would have to be the people.  Alaska, you may be crazy, but you make some pretty nice folk.  Special thanks to Kim Sunee and Laurie Constantino for helping me learn all about food, how to cook it, make it look pretty, and write about it.

See? Big improvement.

Second would be nature.  No one really knows how to do nature like Alaska.  I can see why some people would want to live there.

I don’t really have a third reason, but those two are pretty big ones.  Oh!  Alaska has some great breweries and coffee roasters, they sell guns in the grocery store, and moose hunting is a legitimate excuse to miss work.  Not sure if those are necessarily positives, but they certainly are unique.

Don’t worry, this post is more than purely sentimental.  There is a recipe in here.  Related to the above styled picture, look how I tie things together!

On one of my last weeks in the Kim Sunee/Laurie Constantino test kitchen we made delicious, creamy zucchini cornbread.  I won’t tell you the secret, you’ll have to wait for Sunee’s book.

HOWEVER, this recipe inspired me to make my own cornbread, and to finally use up those perfectly ripe nectarines I had frozen a month before, swearing I would use them sometime.  

Well, sometime came last week.  I decided to make brown butter cornmeal nectarine snack/breakfast cake.  That sounds like a mouthful (haha) title, but really it’s just a not-too-sweet cornbread, with browned butter and diced nectarines.

The coolest part?  You cook it in the same cast iron skillet where you melt the butter, so your pan is already greased.  Genius.

This cake is delicious.  It’s sweet enough to indulge a craving, yet also substantial enough to eat for breakfast or a late afternoon snack, especially with a cup of milky coffee.  Any fruit could be used, I’m thinking berries or stone fruit.  Let me know how it goes!  If you’re using frozen fruit, as I did, just don’t thaw it before adding it to the cake batter.

Alaska, it’s been real.  Maybe I’ll come back some day, but until then, I’ll think of you every time I eat a salmon

Alaska, I’ll miss you!

Cornmeal Brown Butter Nectarine Snack Cake

Serves 8-12, unless Martin Hansen is eating with you

1 cup + 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal plus a little extra for sprinkling

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 large eggs

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus one tablespoons unsalted butter, melted until browned then cooled slightly

3 or so nectarines, about a cup and a half

In a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium heat until browned and fragrant.  Use a potholder to grab onto the cast iron and carefully tilt back and forth so the melted butter greases the sides of the pan.  Remove browned butter from the cast iron to cool, and set the buttery cast iron aside.  You’ll use it to bake the cake later!

If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, simply butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.  Set aside.  Brown the butter in a skillet over the stove top and incorporate into the recipe just the same.

In a small bowl, mix together chopped nectarines with a tablespoon or so of flour, so they don’t sink to the bottom of the cake.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a small bowl, carefully whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and butter.  Add the wet ingredients, all at once, to the dry ingredients and fold together with a spatula.  Fold until very few lumps remain.  Add in the nectarines.  Pour batter into the prepared buttered pan, sprinkle some cornmeal over the top if desired, and place in the oven.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.  Use a skewer or the tines of a fork to poke holes in the bake.  Sporadic holes here and there will do.  This cake will last for up to 4 days, well wrapped, at room temperature.

Alaskan Adventure Updates

Sooo I’ve been doing a lot of things this summer that I don’t normally do.  Hiking, fishing, camping to name a few.  Oh and being in Alaska.

I’ve also made up some recipes, some of which are pretty good, like this coconut almond cashew granola.

Unfortunately I left a few of those cashews sitting on the counter and this seemingly peaceful dog

Jumped up and ate about half her body weight.  You don’t want to know the rest of that story.

There were also a few other recipes which were in need of some serious editing.  Like this peanut butter-stuffed cereal-coated jelly-syruped french toast.

I will not give up until the pb & j turned decadent breakfast food becomes a reality.

I’ve cooked oysters on a fire in Homer, watched seals and sea otters in Seward, and, most impressive of all, learned to drive stick shift.  Those who know me understand what an impressive feat this is, considering I failed my first driving test and refused to drive on the highway alone until, oh, roughly last year.  I still occasionally stall out, but only when I’m at a light on a steep hill with a giant, mean truck-driver behind me.  Of course.

I’ve also had great successes with cupcakes, both vanilla with sour cream chocolate frosting and chocolate beet with cream cheese beet frosting.  When I don’t know what to bring to a gathering, I usually go with cupcakes.  They really never are a bad choice.

With just over a week left in “the last Frontier,” I can safely say I’ll have mixed feelings when I go.  But hey, it’s not over yet.

Coconut Almond Cashew Granola
Loosely based on Granola Bars from Back to Basics by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, 2008)

It’s hard to give measurements for this recipe as everything varies with personal taste.  I chose to use cashews, almonds, and raisins because that is what I like and what we had, but any other nuts or dried fruit would also be delicious.  You can also vary the amounts if you want more or less nuts, dried fruit, coconut etc.

1 cup cashews
1 cup almonds
1 cup coconut
1 cup oats (not instant)
1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spread oats, almonds, and cashews on one cookie sheet in one layer, and coconut on another.  Put both sheets in the oven to toast, about 3 minutes for the coconut and 5 minutes for the nuts, or until they start to brown and you can smell them.

Meanwhile, on a stovetop combine the syrup, brown sugar, honey, salt, and oil over low heat until sugar dissolves.  Take off heat and add vanilla.

Put oats, coconut, nuts, and raisins in a large bowl.  Pour sauce on top and toss, then pat into parchment-lined baking sheet.

Put in oven for 10 minutes, or until toasty brown.

Let cool for 15 minutes, then break up with hands or  smash into pieces.  Serve on top of yogurt, ice cream, or plain with milk for breakfast.