Welcoming the Fall with Local Food

Heidi Drygas Salmon Chimichurri 3

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fall food final

Today we’re welcoming the fall season with food. The leaves are dropping, there’s a chill in the air and Alaska’s edible bounty is changing. Local food blogger Heidi Drygas knows just how to embrace that change, and she’s starting at the Sears Mall farmers market. Drygas writes the food blog Chena Girl Cooks, and her newest recipe entry is going to capture all that is fall.

“I’m thinking we’re going to roast a bunch of fall vegetables. So we’ll get some potatoes, some carrots, and some beets,” Drygas says. This is her favorite time to cook, and she can’t wait to get started. “I love fall, especially after this rainy season that we’ve had in Anchorage. I am really looking forward to being done with it, turning the corner, and making casseroles.”

Back in her kitchen I ask Drygas if she has any food advice for someone who isn’t as thrilled as she is about the departure of summer. “Make spaghetti sauce, a meat spaghetti sauce. It’s so aromatic; it makes the whole house smell good. Something about that lifts your mood. Or as most of my girlfriends do if you’re in the doldrums; make homemade mac and cheese.”

The recipe Drygas has chosen for today is salmon with roasted vegetables, all topped with a chimichurri sauce. The sauce sounds fancy, but it’s actually very simple. It’s made with olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic, and some fresh parsley from her garden. “We need quite a bit, enough to make a cup and we don’t want to use the stems so we’re going to grab quite a bit of parsley. And if you don’t have a little handy deck garden like I do you can grab it at the store,” Drygas says.

The special chioggia beets Drygas selected for our meal.
The beets – including a chioggia – Drygas selected for our meal.

Most of the ingredients Drygas will be using can be found at your local grocery store, but one secret ingredient from the farmers market is going to add some exotic color. “A beautiful chioggia. It’s the candy cane stripped beet,” Drygas says. The beets will go in to the oven with some carrots and potatoes at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes.

But before we start cooking, some basic seasoning. “Vegetables need it, vegetables are bland, and they need a little salt. I love cumin, I love paprika, I love saffron, I love all those flavors, but ultimately when it comes down to it, salt and pepper are a cook’s best friend,” Drygas says. That kind of simple cooking can be found in most of her blog recipes. She says when the ingredients are fresh you don’t need to over think it. The silver salmon she’ll be using is also seasoned with just salt and pepper.

“And we’re going to put it on medium, medium-high, and make sure it’s nice and hot before we add the salmon. We’re going to let that cook down for maybe two minutes and then we’ll turn it over and put the whole thing in the oven. And finish it in the oven so the middle can cook,” Drygas explains, as she effortlessly puts the dish together.

And, with some excellent timing, all of the food comes out of the oven at the same time. Lastly, she’ll be using some sprouts she got at the farmers market as a garnish. “Seattle restaurants have all their fancy micro greens, and we have ours now. We got the bull’s blood, and some mustard sprout micro greens. This is going to be one pretty dish. It’s like you don’t even want to eat it,” Drygas says. But we do eat it, and man are we glad.

Click the image to see Drygas' recipe.
Click the image to see Drygas’ recipe.

Dave Waldron began his radio career in 2000 as a volunteer DJ at UAA’s radio station KRUA 88.1, where he hosted a weekend music show. In 2004 he was hired as the station’s music director, and held the position until his graduation in 2007. He was hired by Alaska Public Media in 2008 and since then has worked as an audio engineer, editor, and producer. He currently runs his own small business AK Audio Pro, and is a host of Alaska Public Media’s Hometown, Alaska.

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