Alaska life

Salmon in the City

I love eating salmon over the winter. My husband goes dipnetting on the Kenai or Kasilof River each summer, and we enjoy it all winter. We mostly fillet the salmon or make it into steaks, then freeze it. Maybe every other year, I  smoke some salmon. There are a variety of ways to cook the salmon. I still have a lot to learn.

Read a previous post about this topic:  Dipnetting on the Kenai Peninsula

I asked a few friends on Facebook why they enjoy salmon, and here is what they had to say.

I love salmon because…

“Is it brain food!” – The Winter Bear Project

“It’s something big from our childhood and tastes great! Also, yes, very healthy for us.” – Tanya Yatlin of Huslia

“The protein is essential for our health and sure tastes good when I fry it!” – Sarbelio Iglesias

Thank you for Planet Alaska for sharing it on their page. Here are their responses:

“It keeps you healthy…” – Peggy Kopkie

 “It is the best! It never gets old.” – Roman Rice

 “Its salmon that’s why.” – Stefan Taylor

Alaskans love their salmon and everyone has their own ways of preserving/preparing/cooking salmon.
I am not much of a cook, but I have learned how to prepare and cook traditional Alaskan foods. My mom and other family members taught me how to cook. Here is one recipe for baked salmon.

We dip-net for salmon on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers in July. I bake salmon with a mixture of ingredients, never the same. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
We dip-net for salmon on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers in July. I bake salmon with a mixture of ingredients, never the same. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

RECIPE:

Baked Salmon in the City

Ingredients
2 slices – onion or 1 – lemon
1 tablespoon – butter
Salmon fillet or steaks (enough servings for the amount of people you are cooking for)
Seasoning (Examples: salt, pepper, dill seed, fish rub)

Defrost salmon (if needed). Defrost overnight in the refrigerator or place in microwave for eight minutes at 30% heat. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Soak up any fluids with a paper towel, then place salmon in an oven pan. Spread butter on top of fish. Season to taste with your choice of seasoning and spices. Add a few slices of onion or lemon on each piece of fish. If you use lemon, you can also squeeze some of the juice on top of the salmon.

Place fish in the oven (uncovered) for 20 minutes. If the fish is flaky (poke with a fork), then it is probably done. If it is still red and juicy, then you can put in for another five minutes. If they are thick steak size pieces, then you may need about 35 minutes to start with. Cook to the degree that you like to eat it, but be careful not to under cook it. It is ready to serve.

Notes

  • You can substitute other fish, like white fish or halibut. They may just need more time to cook.
  • You can improvise and use other ingredients you enjoy. Some people like to add salsa (like Tapatio or Lea & Perrins sauce) to season it.
  • You can also marinate the salmon for about 10-30 minutes before baking. In the picture above, I marinated the salmon in oil and some of the spices. It had a richer taste, so I am not sure if I will make it that way again.
Salmon with onions. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Salmon with onions. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

It is a pretty fast meal to prepare with plenty of time to make side dishes. I mostly like to eat salmon with rice and vegetables. I grew up in the village, so I eat a lot of canned vegetables. There are plenty of fresh vegetables to choose from in the city. Enjoy your baked salmon in the city or wherever you may be!

Alaska life

Learning to Cook with Vera Lestenkof

My friend, Vera Lestenkof, shared a heart-warming story about recipes. It brought up so many memories about learning how to cook with my mom and family. I admit, I am not the best cook, but I do know how to prepare some key traditional Alaskan dishes. I will share her story, then some of my photos of dishes I’ve cooked.

It’s story time. Not long ago I was in a group discussion and we were asked to share something about ourselves, to help get to know each other better. So, I choose my story about recipes. When I was young and had little babies. I didn’t know how to cook. I subscribe to cookbook clubs. My late father-in-law gave me books.

One time, when we lived with my in laws, I tried making bread. I tried to double the recipe and put too much salt. The bread loaves came out flat top. I was so sad, but my father-in-law said, “We can still eat it.” He ate with dinner and made toast, he made me feel better. I would read the recipe books like a book. Everything got jumbled up in my mind. So, I started to create my own recipe. They always turned out good.

A good recipe to share is take a bag of chicken, dip in milk, mix with Ore-Ida mashed potato flakes and Ranch powder dressing mix. Bake for one hour. My family loved it. I couldn’t grasp the measurements part of a recipe.

The group liked my story and said I should write it down and so I decided to share it today. To this day I cook by memory. Except for occasional box meal. And the hard part now is writing it down. When my children ask how I made something, I am challenged. I praise all good cooks and it don’t have to be perfect. My bucket list includes a few recipes. I hope you enjoy my story. Have a great day and much blessings.

-Vera Lestenkof

Thank you to Vera for sharing this awesome story! I think I am more like her in that I don’t follow recipes that are written down. Here are some photos I’ve taken of the dishes I’ve prepared this year. Alaska Natives and many Alaskans hunt, fish and gather for their foods. Most foods are nutritious and supplement the store-bought foods.

We dip-net for salmon on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers in July. I bake salmon with a mixture of ingredients, never the same. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
We dip-net for salmon on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers in July. I bake salmon with a mixture of ingredients, never the same. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
I got some muktuk from a relative. It doesn't take much preparation, besides cutting it up into bite-size pieces. It can be eaten with a meal or chopped vegetables. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
I got some muktuk from a relative. It doesn’t take much preparation, besides cutting it up into bite-size pieces. It can be eaten with a meal or chopped vegetables. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Baked hooligan fish taste pretty good when baked in flour or another mixture. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Baked hooligan fish taste pretty good when baked in flour or another mixture. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
I like to boil, then bake moose ribs with barbecue sauce. I usually have rice and some vegetables with this delicious meal. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
I like to boil, then bake moose ribs with barbecue sauce. I usually have rice and some vegetables with this delicious meal. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
I love moose soup or stew. I make it with a mix of pasta and vegetables. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
I love moose soup or stew. I make it with a mix of pasta and vegetables. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

I grew up eating these foods and many more. Living off the land and having a connection to the land and animals is how Alaska Natives have survived. It is hard work and sometimes hard to get traditional foods, but they are all very delicious. I hope you enjoyed this post and didn’t get too hungry. 🙂 I’m grateful for my family for teaching me how to hunt, fish and cook traditional foods.

Alaska life

Dipnetting on the Kenai Peninsula

We got some nice sized red (sockeye) salmon on the Kenai River. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
We got some nice sized red (sockeye) salmon on the Kenai River. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

When I was a kid, we went to fish camp each summer up and down the Koyukuk River. I’ve written about it a couple times on the Athabascan Woman blog.

I also shared my story about cutting fish on the Salmon Project website. You can also submit and share your story about salmon on the Salmon Project website.

Each summer, my family goes dipnetting for salmon on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers. My daughter, Janessa, and I created a short video of our experience.

If you are planning to go dipnetting for the first time, here is a supply list that might help you get started. I’m sure there is a lot more information about it online. Be sure to research the rules and regulations on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website.

Dipnetting Supplies

  • Dipnet
  • Scissors to cut fins
  • Knife to fillet fish
  • Fish club
  • Cutting board, table or surface to gut fish
  • Chest Waders
  • Hat and gloves (waterproof)
  • Rain jacket if needed
  • Extra set of clothes
  • Food and beverages
  • Bucket to wash fish
  • Cooler
  • Fishing license and harvest ticket
  • Other camping supplies to be comfortable
  • Extra person to assist

I am sure I’m missing something from this list. Feel free to comment below with any other supplies you would bring. What tips do you have for newbies?

Here is a photo of my husband and daughter from our trip to the mouth of the Kenai River in July. It takes about 2.5-3 hours to drive down to the Kenai River from Anchorage.

Sarbelio and his daughter, Janessa, at the mouth of the Kenai River. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Sarbelio and his daughter, Janessa, at the mouth of the Kenai River. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

My husband, Sarbelio, cuts the salmon. We all work as a team to cut up and put the salmon in our freezer. We eat it over the winter.

Sarbelio fillets some red (sockeye) salmon in Anchorage. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Sarbelio fillets some red (sockeye) salmon in Anchorage. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

Salmon supplement our food supply over the winter. It tastes great, and there are a lot of ways to preserve, prepare and cook salmon. I feel grateful that I can still harvest salmon like my ancestors did, even though it is in a different way.