Pepperonata Breakfast Pizza: Healthy, Tasty, Easy

pepperonata breakfast pizza n

Individual-sized breakfast pizzas are a fun way to start the day. These can be whipped up in a sailboat galley, a mountain cabin, a lakeside camp, or virtually anywhere else. Who says pizza isn’t healthful?

The essence of pepperonata is stewed tomatoes, bell peppers and olive oil. In our Arctic kitchen and on our sailboat, the tomatoes are no problem. Although we occasionally get fresh tomatoes, we more often rely on diced canned tomatoes which, when cooked, are virtually indistinguishable from fresh. Finding good bell peppers at a reasonable price has been another matter. That’s where Penzeys Spices dried red bell pepper flakes shine. Cut into 3/8″ (1 cm) pieces, when hydrated these peppers come alive with aroma and flavor.  A four-ounce bag goes a long way, making them perfect for kitchens where getting to the market isn’t always feasible.

Small pizza crusts are generally available in supermarkets, but we make our own. These days, our favorite dough is a 50/50 blend of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. Crusts made from this balance have an excellent consistency and deliver a hearty flavor. We always keep on hand a few pizza crusts in both 5″ and 12″ size. To do this, we pre-bake our crusts for 10 minutes at 400 °F and then seal them in plastic bags and freeze them. When we’re ready to use the crusts, we pull what we need from the freezer, let them thaw while we’re preparing the topping, top them, and then bake them for the same 10 minutes at 400 °F. Pizza stones make a big difference; we even have a pair of small ones for our sailing vessel, Bandon that fit nicely in the small galley oven or on the boat’s propane grill. While we don’t have refrigeration or a freezer onboard, we’ve found shelf-stable pizza crusts that keep for months.

Pepperonata can be modified to accompany many dishes. Anchovies, olives, capers, herbs, spicy peppers and other vegetables can easily find their way into this versatile, chunky sauce. It’s an excellent topping for white fish and poultry, and is a perfect topping for toasted bread, too.

And the fried egg? We use a Swiss Diamond non-stick pan, low heat, and good olive oil. We like our sunny-side up eggs lightly salted with a grind or two of cracked pepper and a pinch of Italian seasonings, cooked in a covered pan till the whites are just firm.

Pepperonata Breakfast Pizza

Ingredients: (For 2 servings)

  • two, 5″ pizza crusts
  • 16 oz can of diced tomatoes, most of liquid drained (or 1 1/2  cups fresh tomatoes, diced, seeds and pulp removed)
  • 2 tablespoons Penzeys dried pepper flakes (or 1/2 cup diced red, orange or yellow bell pepper)
  • 1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • Italian seasonings such as oregano, thyme, basil, etc. to taste
  • Two eggs, fried any style
  • finish with freshly grated parmesan and capers

Directions:

  1. Bake pizza crusts according to directions.
  2.  Hydrate dried bell peppers (if using dried).
  3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Cook until tomatoes are tender and stew is thick. (About 10 minutes for canned. About 20 minutes for fresh.)
  4. Add bell peppers. Cook until tender.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare fried egg.
  6. When tomato mixture is cooked to desired consistency, add olives, seasonings and additional salt, if desired. Stir to mix thoroughly.
  7. Spoon mixture onto warm pizza crusts. Add capers. Add egg. Top with grated parmesan. This pizza is easiest to eat with a sharp knife and fork.

Homemade Goat Cheese

goat milk cheese n

With powdered goat milk, you can make delicious goat milk cheese virtually anywhere. This ball is slated for a hearty layered beet salad and a spicy lamb (or caribou!) pizza.

After last year’s success with homemade “ricotta,” we included powdered goat milk (widely available) in our annual shopping list. We love the flavor and texture of soft cheeses, and with some recipes there is no adequate hard cheese substitute. At the end of summer, we sent a small quantity of various soft cheeses up to our Arctic home. Since it doesn’t matter if they get crumbly, these cheeses are good candidates for the freezer till they’re needed. But that supply has come to its end, and so it was time to try making our own goat cheese.

Following our own directions for a ricotta-style cheese, the hands-on time for creating this cheese took just five minutes. The remainder of the time needed is for draining the whey – a process that took about eight hours. The resulting cheese was creamy, mildly tangy in just the right way, and ready for salads, pizza or crackers and smoked salmon. Slightly salting the finished cheese improves its flavor and shelf life.

Soft Homemade Goat Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 cup powdered goat milk
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • salt to taste

Directions

  1. Mix powdered milk and water well in a medium pot.
  2. Over medium heat, bring the milk to between 165 degrees F to 180 degrees F.
  3. Remove pot from heat.
  4. Stir in vinegar. Milk should curdle. (This is the whey separating).
  5. Cover pot with clean dish towel and let sit for 2 hours.
  6. Lay a piece of cheesecloth over a sufficiently large container. (I used a 4 cup food storage container.) Secure the cheesecloth in place with a rubber band.
  7. Pour contents of pot onto cheesecloth. Whey should drain through, while curds remain in cheesecloth. You can toss the initial drained whey.
  8. Place container in refrigerator overnight to continue draining. It does not matter if the container is covered or not.
  9. In the morning, turn out cheese ball that is in cheesecloth to a larger bowl and mix in salt, to taste.
  10. Store goat cheese covered in refrigerator.

Recipe makes approximately 1 1/2 cups of goat cheese.

Grilled Halibut with Puréed Olive and Garlic Filling: s/v Bandon’s First Fish of 2013

halibut grilled w olive and tomato bell peppers_n

Finished with a roasted tomato and bell pepper sauce, freshly caught halibut charcoal-grilled atop Peruvian potatoes and lightly filled with a purée of olives and garlic provided the plat de résistance in a meal celebrating three days of terrific sailing and an evening tasting champagnes and sparkling wines.

The opportunity to grill and serve a halibut in the whole doesn’t come along every day, particularly in waters where 50-pound fish are more commonly caught than five-pounders. But I could feel the characteristic thumping of a halibut 130 feet below Bandon, and I knew the metal jig I was fishing might have found just the fish we were looking for. Barbra expertly netted the five-pound flatty and everyone aboard gave a little cheer as the first fish of the trip hit Bandon’s decks.

bandon racing 3 - Version 2_n

Earlier in the week we did a little casual (very casual) racing in Resurrection Bay. Crew from the sailing vessel Carpe Ventos shared this photo of our Island Packet 350 under sail.

We were on our way back to Resurrection Bay after a three-day sojourn around the cape with our friends Krystin and Bixler from Carpe Ventos. The weather had been beautiful and the sightseeing excellent as usual as we encountered seals, sea lions, otters, Dahl porpoises, whales, eagles, oyster catchers, puffins and a dozen other sea birds near Alaska’s mountainous, glacier-scarred shoreline.

halibut in foil on grill_n

Right: We grilled our halibut on a deck overlooking Resurrection Bay, but this dish could easily be prepared at anchor on a propane grill. 

Although we continued fishing (and came back with limits of rockfish as well as a second halibut), we knew we’d already scored the fish we wanted for the centerpiece of an evening in which we planned to sample six different champagnes and sparkling wines – Lesson 7 in the Everyday Guide to Wines course we are taking this summer.

halibut whole in foil_n

A bed of sliced heirloom Peruvian potatoes, herbs de provence, a little Chardonnay, butter, lemon juice and olive oil provided the liquid for steaming this fish. Kept whole, the halibut was essentially filleted without entirely removing the meat from the bones. A thin layer of paste made from puréed olives, olive oil and garlic was spread inside the openings created by the semi-fillet technique as well as in the stomach cavity. 

After about 40 minutes over fairly low heat on the grill, the halibut was came out flakey, moist and enhanced with a smokey, charcoal flavor. A nice-sized summer flounder from the East Coast or a Japanese hirame would serve equally well, and this dish could easily be prepared in the oven.

As to the champagne… After years of drinking what we all regarded as fairly good California sparkling wines, all four of us became instant méthode de champenoise fans. With finer bubbles creating an elegant mousse, lots of well-balanced fruit and a toasty, creamy finish, the bottle of Marie Weiss Brut was the perfect wine for this meal.

champagne toast a_n

Another Great Year in Point Hope: On to Seward!

uniak on ice waiting_n

An umiak with its recently sewn seal skin stretched tight sits on the Chukchi Sea ice, waiting for whaling season to begin in March. 

May 17, Point Hope, Alaska: Near-blizzard conditions forced a one-hour delay to the start of school yesterday, the day before the end of our school year. A little snow and high winds notwithstanding, all 30 of our 3rd, 4th and 5th grade  students eventually arrived. It’s much more calm today. Scattered snow flurries have been breaking up an otherwise sunny day, and at 19 degrees Fahrenheit, the McKay’s buntings and gulls that showed up a few weeks ago when the weather was warmer (in the low 30’s) are out again. Looks like clear weather for our flight out tomorrow.

hiking out on ice_n

Near shore, the going is easy across the frozen sea. But the ice ridge on the horizon hints at the arduous work involved in breaking the trails that will allow whaling crews to get their boats and gear out to the lead (open water).

This marks our third year in Arctic Alaska. We’ll be back for a fourth in August. We’re up here in Point Hope at a time in our lives when Time to study, Time to write, and Time to hone our skills as photographers, writers and chefs is especially valuable. Yes, it’s cold – brutally so at times-, and there is the entire month in mid-winter when we do not see the sun. But that’s part of the narrative. So are the dazzling displays of northern lights, the sublimely sweet cloudberries that grow only in these extreme latitudes, and the Arctic foxes, snowy owls, polar bears and whales that are part of the fabric of life up here. Learning to stock a gourmet kitchen in the bush nearly 1,000 roadless miles from stores in Anchorage has prompted us to master “from scratch” cooking to a level of expertise I doubt we would achieved had we remained in our comfortable bungalow back in California.

ice sculpture chukchi sea_n

A fresh dusting of snow powders  ice sculptures that were pushed up when shifting winds caused  massive plates of ice to collide. Anytime you’re out on the ice, you’re mindful that another shift in the wind could push the ice apart again, leaving you stranded. You learn to keep an eye on the cracks.

By this time next week, we’ll be in Seward living aboard our summer home, the sailing vessel Bandon. Among other things we’re looking forward to is an intensive wine appreciation course we’ll be taking with another couple. We’re also eager to do some serious shooting with our new Nikkor 200-400 mm telephoto lens- a tool that should help us get intimate photographs of the amazing wildlife in and around Resurrection Bay. Daughter Maia will come up in July for our annual visit centered around fishing, hiking, great meals (and great conversation) and general catching up. The puzzles of turning out excellent meals from our small galley, figuring out where the salmon are in the nearby sea, experimenting with our new tenkara fly rods on smaller streams and maybe finally getting good photos of wary tundra swans are among other things that will keep us happily occupied in the coming months.

jack and bar on chukchi_n

A whaling hook marks the trail out to the camps. This was a good year in Point Hope – five bowhead whales, lots of beluga whales, and everyone came back safe. Each whale represents tens of thousands of dollars worth of groceries that didn’t necessitate a river being drained for irrigation, fertilizer being spread (that ends up over-nutrifying nearby water systems), or a single drop of pesticide being sprayed. Nor were barrels of fossil fuel burned getting this food up here. 

An important part of our summer in Seward involves seeing to our own provisions. When we return to Point Hope in August, we’ll bring with us 200 pounds of salmon, halibut, rockfish and lingcod fillets – enough for us and for gifts for our friends up here. We’ll also be making shopping runs to Costco and other stores and ship up the usual bags of flour, rice, beans and sugar as well as everything from jars of Kalamata olives to tins of anchovies.

jack and bar on chukchi b_n

Wherever this summer finds you, we hope you’ll be following your dreams or taking steps to make those dreams come true. And we hope you’ll continue reading CutterLight.

Sincerely, Jack and Barbra

Galley and Kitchen: What’s on our Spice Racks

Penzeys Spices_n

So that we’re ready to hit the ground running (or to hit the kitchen cooking) when we return to Point Hope in August, we place our Penzeys Spices order in April. 

Onboard our summer home, the sailing vessel Bandon, galley space is limited and so the question If you had to choose just a few herbs and spices… is answered out of necessity. Sea salt, Tellicherry pepper, powdered garlic, powdered wasabi, an Italian seasoning blend, herbs de provence and a couple of spicy chili-pepper-based blends or rubs are essentials in our kitchen. We also keep on hand soy sauce, Cholula sauce, olive oil (both light olive oil for frying and extra virgin for other uses), and when we can, sherry. Our meals tend to center around fresh seafood, and these minerals, herbs, spices and condiments go well with fresh fish.

Up in Point Hope where our kitchen is much larger, our herb and  spice collection is far more extensive and includes a variety of extracts as well. We’ve discovered that even something as basic as salt can vary greatly from one type to another. For example, smoked sea salt can be the “secret ingredient” that makes a stew, soup or chili stand out. And if you haven’t tried grey sea salt on fish, you’re in for a pleasant surprise when you do. It’s usually packaged coarse or slightly coarse, but it’s  damp, so don’t be tempted to put it in a grinding mill. Use it in its coarse form. Also called Celtic sea salt or sel gris, this mineral-rich salt from the Brittany region of France  is especially nice on broiled salmon. Like many others in this food-appreciating time we live in, we’ve come a long way from the days when Morton’s Iodized  was the only salt in our kitchen.

Another change we’ve been making is a gradual shift away from prepared spice and herb blends toward our own hand-crafted blends. We keep our old bottles of blends like Northwoods Fire, Southwest Seasoning, Italian Seasoning, Curry Seasoning and so forth, but these days those bottles are filled with similar-but-unique creations. The modifications we make to the original recipes have resulted in blends we are really pleased with, and it’s satisfying to grind and mix our own chili-pepper-based rubs. Carefully considering the ingredients that go into these blends has led us to a fuller understanding of herbs and spices.

This past year our “great discovery” was Penzeys Spices’ whole smoked chipotle chili peppers. Ground with our immersion blender as we need them, these peppers add a rich, smokey heat to chili, squash soups, cloudberry or raspberry chipotle sauce, and chicken noodle soup. Blended into a rub, smoked chipotle’s add another dimension to broiled halibut, salmon, moose or pork. 

The spice we’re most anticipating using in the coming year is high-grade Kashmir Mogra saffron. We’ve been using Spanish Coupé  which is very nice, but we’ve been wondering if the higher quality Kashmir Mogra is worth it. We’ll let you know what we conclude this fall.

Less than two weeks till we’re back aboard Bandon in Seward!

Tufted Puffins, a Name Change and Best Wishes for 2013

Tufted puffin near Homer I_nUnmistakable with their toucan-like bright orange beaks and combed back white tufts of head feathers, tufted puffins (Fratercula cirrhata) are among Alaska’s most familiar ambassadors.

When we began this blog a little over two years ago, it was for ourselves. The blog was to be a place to catalogue our recipes and keep a photographic record of our travels and adventures. And so we named it Frozen Moments and didn’t think too much about it. It seemed an appropriate name for a blog where photographs are highlighted (frozen moments) and especially so since our home nine months of the year is in Arctic Alaska (frozen months).

Tufted puffin near Homer II_nBut as we got more into it, we discovered that Frozen Moments was a little too obvious. Others were already using the name. We realized we’d eventually want to make a change. CutterLight has its origins in two sources. Cutter derives from our summer home in Seward – our cutter-rigged sailboat. To us, the term evokes images not just of sailing, but of travel and adventure in general, as well as a spirit of being willing to learn and experience new things.

Tufted puffin near Homer III_nLight, too, holds multiple meanings for us. There is of course the “light” which all photographers are concerned with. As our skills and interest in photography grow, we are finding that we are becoming, inevitably perhaps, obsessed with light. It permeates our world now in ways it never did before, and this newfound awareness affects everything from the way we watch movies to how we perceive the world around us to how we deal with the deceptively elusive basic elements of photography.

Tufted puffin near Homer IV_nBut Light holds a second meaning – one which is perhaps even more central to our lives. As we move forward toward fulfilling our goals as writers, photographers and sailors, we have pared away much of what we once considered necessary. Not much fits on a 35-foot sailboat. A succession of yard sales and donations to thrift shops allowed us to part with most of our possessions before we moved to Alaska three years ago. Since then, every new item we add to our lives is carefully evaluated for the value it brings in terms of utility and pleasure. Few items make the cut. We are moving forward with a life that feels lighter yet stronger. It is a wonderful feeling.

Lower Cook Inlet near Homer_nLooking out over lower Cook Inlet from the bluffs above Homer, Alaska.

As we look back on 2012, it is with a deep sense of appreciation. Many new friends came into our lives this year, and we also were fortunate to have had some really special reconnections with people from our former lives. We are happy, too, that our blog is finding an appreciative audience. We wish one and all fair winds and following seas in the coming year.

Jack and Barbra Donachy

Leaving Seward, 2012

Rainbow over Cook Inlet – this photo was taken the second week of August, our last week in Seward.

For us, our summer in Seward came to an end in early August. Our sailboat, Bandon, is sitting on the hard with a fresh coat of bottom paint. We are already counting the days till next May when we’ll move back aboard.

Below: There are days on the Kenai Peninsula when it looks and even feels like we could be in Hawaii or some South Pacific paradise. As it is, we are in a paradise – Alaska. We can’t imagine a better place to cut our teeth as sailors than in Seward.