Amanda Stone's Tasty States

If an alphabetical tour of the United States isn’t on your horizon, don’t fret. I’ve got the next best thing.

Join me in my quest to learn more about the dishes defining our states, and trust and believe there is never a case where one food is the be-all and end-all of an entire state. Thanks to my fifth grade music teacher, without whom I wouldn’t have the states in alphabetical order and set to a jaunty tune etched permanently in my brain, I know Alaska is up next.

Alaska is a wild place, so it should come as no surprise when the word “wild” is tacked on to the foods for which the state is most known. Wild-caught seafood, wild game and wild berries are everything.

With nearly 34,000 miles of shoreline and 3,000 rivers, wild-caught seafood is a big deal. The varieties of salmon alone are dizzying.

I couldn’t help reading about the types of salmon native to Alaska in Forrest Gump’s shrimp-obsessed friend Bubba’s voice: Let’s see, well there’s sockeye salmon, coho salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon and king salmon, but you can also call that one chinook salmon. You can bake it, fry it, grill it, smoke it, saute it, steam it, make salmon patties, salmon burgers, salmon and potatoes, salmon salad, salmon sandwiches. That ... that’s about it.

In the shadow of all that salmon is a variety of other seafood. King crab, dungeness crab and snow crab are plentiful. Crab doesn’t float my boat, but more power to you. They’re kind of spidery-looking, and the act of eating them is just too much for me — all of that leg-breaking, cracking and slurping makes me shiver. For being born and bred in a landlocked state, I feel like I do pretty well with seafood. Just no crab, thanks.

Alaska also produces a good amount of cod, rockfish and halibut, along with shrimp, oysters, clams and scallops, which are all more my speed.

Wild game is big in Alaska, not only in size but also in popularity. Alaskan reindeer, which is a type of caribou, can be found on most menus, especially in the form of sausage.

Alaskan wild berries are abundant in the land of the midnight sun. Twice each year, foragers park along the road and head for the hills to fill buckets with more than a dozen different kinds of berries, one of which is called a salmonberry. Go figure.

Get a taste for Alaska with these salmon-tastic recipes.

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Parmesan-crusted salmon

1 1/2- to 2-pound whole wild salmon fillet

1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon thyme and chives, finely chopped

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Place the salmon fillet on the baking sheet, skin side down.

In a small bowl, mix bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic and herbs together. Drizzle the melted butter over the top and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mix with your hand to coat the breadcrumbs in butter. Sprinkle the mixture over the top of the salmon fillet.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the salmon is cooked through and the crust is golden. If the crust doesn’t brown, turn on the broiler for 1 minute, then remove. Serve warm.

Recipe source: www.aspicyperspective.com.

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Salmon burgers with avocado garlic sauce

12 ounces wild-caught salmon, baked and chopped

1/2 lemon, juiced, plus 1/2 teasoon lemon zest

1 small shallot, minced (may substitute 2 cloves garlic, minced)

2 green onions, sliced

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 eggs

1/4 cup almond flour

1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee/clarified butter

Sauce:

1 medium avocado, halved and pit removed

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon fresh dill

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

In a food processor or blender, combine the sauce ingredients and process until smooth. Set aside.

Combine all of the salmon burger ingredients except the oil in a large bowl and mix well. Add additional flour if mixture is too moist. Form into 6 to 8 patties. Patties easily fall apart until they are cooked, so handle with caution.

Heat coconut oil on a griddle or pan to medium-high heat. Once hot, carefully add burgers to pan and cook for 5 to 6 minutes on each side or until cooked through. To serve, top with avocado garlic sauce.

Recipe adapted from www.therealfoodrds.com.

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Everything-bagel strata with caper relish and smoked salmon

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

8 large eggs

2 1/2 cups milk

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

5 day-old everything bagels, halved horizontally and cut into bite-size pieces

Butter, for greasing the baking dish

Caper relish:

2 tablespoons capers

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 small red onion, finely diced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 ounces smoked salmon, thinly sliced

For the strata: Combine the cream cheese and eggs in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the milk and Parmesan; blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Add the dill, blend a few seconds and then blend in the lemon zest.

Transfer the custard to a large bowl. Add the bagel pieces and mix to coat, pressing on the pieces to totally submerge them in the custard. Transfer the mixture to a buttered 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the strata from the refrigerator and place on a baking sheet. Bake until puffed and lightly golden brown at the edges and just set in the center, about 40 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes.

For the caper relish: Combine the capers, dill, tomatoes and onions in a bowl. Season with a touch of salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Serve the strata topped with slices of smoked salmon and the caper relish.

Recipe source: www.foodnetwork.com.

Amanda Stone is a food and gardening columnist for The Joplin Globe. Email questions to amandastone31@gmail.com or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.

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