Wild Edibles & Italy in Alaska
By: Jennifer Kehoe | 28 September, 2011 | 42 Views
Earlier this summer my wonderful boyfriend and I headed out to wildharvest delicious Alaskan greens for dinner; devil’s club from calm lake trails, fiddleheads from dense mossy soil and spruce tips from aromatic trees. Luck was with us and we walked home after a nice daylong hike to prepare the meal, bags full. It was to be gourmet, from the earth and it would probably have to pose for pictures. I have the exciting (yet sometimes annoying) habit of photographing the food I create, cook, grow, find, buy, eat, etc. A recent hand-me-down (professional camera) has only increased the obsession. This story goes to show that one shouldn’t apologize for what brings them joy.
One hungry night, Tikaan and I began to create fresh spinach and mushroom ravioli with marinara sauce together. In preparation of a rich and uncommon side dish, we drizzled olive oil into one of our treasured cast iron skillets and let a few pieces of butter melt and swirl around. When the long strips of onion appeared translucent from sauteing, we added blanched devil’s club, fiddleheads and spruce tips. A pinch of course ground sea salt and a grind of black pepper topped off the comforting arrangement of food.
The judges tasted how satisfying our rustic, wild ravioli dinner had been. They too could imagine themselves in soft light, drinking cool wine and enjoying a night out at a special café, definitely somewhere romantic. I know this because my entry won the photograph portion of the contest, a photograph of the gourmet summer wildharvest meal we had cooked a few weeks back. I happily picked up my winnings- a gift basket of goodies from Anzilotti’s Tuscan Market, Anchorage’s Finest in Genuine Italian Beverages and Foods- feeling as if life was about to get even better than it already was.
My involvement with Anchorage Food Mosaic began with the photo and recipe contest co-sponsored by Spenard Farmer’s Market. After a long two-week work-free adventure in August (my family from Massachusetts had been visiting Alaska for the first time) I realized the deadline was approaching. Still determined to keep my word, enter a handful of photos and make an effort at connecting with the awesome people of the local food scene in Anchorage, I emailed my submission at the last minute.
Eager to enjoy the items Anzilotti’s donated to AFM and SFM, I attempted to use as many as I could in one big recipe without going overboard on taste. Below are photos of my first dip into the Tuscan treats. Pepper and garlic spread on a loaf with butter, baked in oven. Sautéed & steamed side vegetables. Rose petal infused pasta. The whole plate, topped off with goat cheese, olive & tomato tapenade and globe basil from the garden.
As usual, a bottle of wine was opened and we sat down to eat. One of the small rose bushes that are scattered throughout our home was in full bloom, bearing a deep velvet-red hue. The petals felt like a perfect combination of flannel and silk; it was as if we were on a dreamy European vacation.
Before indulging in the meal I snapped a few candlelit shots of our plates, just to make sure I documented the journey we have been taking through the food system together. The meal was exquisite and decadent, so simple, fresh, local and real.
As we had previously experienced after a day of wildharvesting, our exciting Italian meal showed us again that food is an act of community and sharing, of artistic creativity, of culture and history, and of appreciation for the access, bounty and health we are gifted with every day. In hopes of another date in the kitchen and delicious meal on the table, we decided to save the little Italian candies, apricot spread, whole preserved garlic and marinated zucchini for another hungry night in Alaska.
Jennifer Kehoe, Co-Founder
The small organic farms of Massachusetts filled Jennifer Kehoe's childhood with a bounty of apples, maple syrup and fresh dairy. She grew up on Hindu chanting, herbal tinctures, kale and kombucha, which fermented in the kitchen cabinets. Alaska has now introduced her to a whole new side of simple, natural and local living and she is dedicated to learning and teaching about the art, history and science of self-sufficiency. Jennifer believes food should be pleasurable and fun, but that it is also a vital path to social, economic and environmental sustainability.