It’s a scenario that Alaskans know well. A recipe calls for a specific ingredient, maybe fresh chives, but the grocery store has little to offer in the way of anything chive-related, thus throwing the entire meal into disarray.
Food blogger Maya Wilson learned this lesson early on after moving to the Kenai Peninsula in 2011.
“Alaska requires that you’re innovative and creative in the kitchen. You work with what you do have access to given the season,” Wilson said. “I came from California and avocados literally fell from the sky in my childhood. I was accustomed to having access to any produce, any time of the year and that is just not true here.”
Wilson doesn’t focus on what Alaska lacks, though, instead in her new cookbook “The Alaska from Scratch Cookbook,” she celebrates all of the delicious options available from Alaska, like seafood.
“Alaska seafood is by far my favorite, it’s the pride and joy of my cookbook,” she said. “It’s world-class, beautiful, fresh and healthy. It’s so easy and quick to cook.”
Alaska’s seafood is versatile, plentiful and perfect for those with a busy schedule, Wilson said, which is why “Alaska from Scratch” is full of seafood recipes.
Wilson will be demonstrating one of her many seafood recipes this Friday at the Dena’ina Wellness Center at 4 p.m. She’ll be preparing blackened salmon lettuce wraps with mango salsa and avocado cream.
“We’ll be using some local salmon, some local lettuce and talking about new fresh ideas of what to do with salmon,” Wilson said. Following the demonstration, Wilson will take questions and be available for a book signing. River City Books, of Soldotna, will also be there with copies of “Alaska from Scratch” to purchase. The event is being sponsored in partnership with the Kenaitze Indian Tribe and Kenai Local Food Connection. It is free and open to the public.
Seafood isn’t the only bounty Alaska has to offer, though.
“I love birch syrup, our local birch syrup,” Wilson said. “You can use it as a glaze for salmon or veggies, put it on sourdough pancakes. The options are endless.”
“Alaska from Scratch” also highlights recipes for food that grows in abundance around the Kenai Peninsula, like rhubarb, wild mushrooms and blueberries. The cookbook, though, isn’t all cookbook. It also details Wilson’s journey from her grandmother’s kitchen to Alaska.
“My grandmother got me in the kitchen, she made the kitchen my safe space,” Wilson said. “So, I’ve always had a passion for cooking, but Alaska brought out in me the need to cook for my family from scratch.”
After her move, Wilson found that melding her passion for cooking with the landscape of Alaska led to delicious, affordable meals.
“It’s part cookbook, part memoir and part love letter to Alaska,” Wilson said.