Homer Alaska - Cooking

Story last updated at 3:17 PM on Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sweet treats for spring

By Teri Robl

Welcome back to Alaska, sweet springtime. Thank you for bringing the melodic songbirds and the magnificent cranes with you. I am excited to have you return after the challenging and long visit of Old Man Winter, who is probably defrosting on a beach in Hawaii.

I am smiling inside and out over this nice stretch of sunshine. It means lots of time on the deck and preparing to plant flowers and the garden.

I am excited to see our sleepy seaside community come back to life after a long winter's nap. More birds return each day, shop keepers are sprucing up their restaurants and stores for us and our tourists, and there is new energy in the air.

I've ridden my bicycle on the Spit Trail enjoying that carefree feeling again, and everyone I meet out riding is smiling just as much as I am. Happy spring; life is good.

Big news: the Other Fisherman and I are boat owners again. After a few years of being "in-between boats" we are the proud owners of another floating vessel, and get this: It has a cabin with heat in it. I am so excited to be able to go splash our new toy I can hardly sleep. How I love to be on the water catching fish and relaxing, while enjoying the spectacular scenery of the bay. Hopefully there is some fresh halibut in my near future. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. There is nothing better than fresh halibut.

Spring produce is in the markets now and the quality and frequency improves weekly. We've been enjoying strawberries and citrus. My favorite desserts this time of year are strawberry shortcakes and lemon meringue pie. Mangoes are abundant and make a perfect addition to a tropical-inspired salsa for grilled halibut or salmon.

Nothing says sunshine as perfectly as a sweet/tart lemon meringue pie with a crunch buttery crust, tangy sweet silky lemon custard and soft, fluffy sweet meringue. Don't forget a good cup of coffee to savor with this. As for my famous lemon meringue pie, I've had great success with my go-to kitchen bible, "Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook." The best pie I ever made, though, featured lemons from a friend's tree in California.

As for strawberries, I love to macerate them, which means mushing them up with a little sugar. Spoon them over something, such as angel food cake, pound cake or schuam tortes (you may know them as meringues or pavlovas). Definition: nests of beaten egg white and sugar meringue baked shells. You spoon your sweetened fruit into the hollowed out area of this nest of sweetness and then top with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. Pure bliss. The possibilities are endless with this base of sweet. Different flavored ice creams, or fruits, a drizzle of chocolate sauce, or a balsamic glaze over strawberries.

Pistachio-Citrus Pound Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups sugar

5 large eggs

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

1 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped

Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter a 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pan, or grease it with cooking spray. Cut a rectangle of parchment paper to line the bottom and the two long sides of the pan, leaving a little overhang. Press the parchment paper into the dish, and grease it lightly, too.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, and beat until well incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes more. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions. Add the juices and the zests, and beat until well combined. (Don't worry if the batter looks curdled.) Add the flour mixture, reduce the speed to low, and beat until just incorporated. Add cup of the pistachios, and fold in gently. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Sprinkle the remaining cup pistachios over the top.

Bake the cake, rotating it halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hours. Transfer it to a wire rack, and let it cool completely in the pan. Run a sharp knife along the short ends of the pan to loosen the cake; then pull up on the parchment paper to lift the cake out of the pan.

note: The flavor of this cake is best on the day after it's made.

yield: 8 to 12 servings, depending on how thickly you slice it.

If you are from Wisconsin, like I am, we call these pillows of confection schaum tortes. My grandma would make these and put fresh picked raspberries on them and a spoonful of vanilla ice cream for my sister and me when we were little girls.

Wisconsin Schaum Tortes

6 egg whites

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

In large mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy, add cream of tartar and vinegar, beat on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Add vanilla and sugar a little at a time, beating on high speed until very stiff peaks form. Make 12 tortes on greased and floured cookie sheets using the back of the spoon to build up sides and dent the middle.

Bake for 50 minutes. Then turn off the oven, leave undisturbed and allow meringues to sit with the door closed for 1 more hour. Loosen tortes from cookie sheets before they are cool.

Halibut with Fruit Salsa

Halibut and marinade

1/3 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons grated lime peel

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 (6 ounce) halibut steaks


2 cups chopped fresh mango and pineapple

1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

2 teaspoons lime juice

1/4 teaspoon salt


In a bowl, combine the first seven ingredients; mix well. Remove 1/4 cup for basting; cover and refrigerate. Pour remaining marinade into a large resealable plastic bag; add the halibut. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 2 hours.

In a bowl, combine salsa ingredients; cover and refrigerate until serving.

If grilling the fish, coat grill rack with nonstick cooking spray before starting the grill. Drain and discard marinade from fish. Grill, uncovered, over medium heat or broil 4-6 inches from the heat for 4-6 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork, basting occasionally with reserved marinade. Serve with fruit salsa.

Until next time, enjoy some time in the sunshine and the kitchen!