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Thursday, May 28, 2009

green salad with smoked salmon, avocados, & garlicky red wine mustard vinaigrette


Camping on Memorial Day

Many weeks ago we made a plan with Margo and her husband Andy to go camping together on Memorial Day weekend. They planned to go to Eklutna, and we were excited to join them, especially since our four-year-old daughters are great friends. The two girls together are as self-entertaining as you could hope, and Margo and I regularly exploit this phenomenon.

Anyway, Eklutna is a beautiful spot, not very far from Anchorage, with huge Lake Eklutna ringed with steep, snow-capped mountains, and lots of trails for hiking and biking. The weather lately has been glorious, and we hoped for nice weather for the weekend. We brought bikes for the kids and for the grownups, the canoe, and hiking and running gear. We figured that if we left on Friday morning, we’d have plenty of time to get a campsite.

We figured wrong, though. Every campsite was occupied, and we were crushed! We’d been looking forward to this little adventure for so long, and didn’t just want to go home! We guessed that if we tried another campground farther north, like Nancy Lakes, it would also be completely full.

We didn’t know what to do! Even as I was feeling terribly disappointed, I was thinking about the fact that I was in this predicament not just as a potential camper, but also as a parent. I had to keep it together and try and stay positive—at least on the outside. When Meredith was asking me “what are we going to do, Mom?” I didn’t know what we were going to do, but I desperately wanted to think of SOMETHING to do! I had blown it not just for myself, but for her, as well! She and I had made homemade graham crackers for s’mores, and an apple pie. We’d cooked and prepared and packed all our stuff for the whole long weekend…

But we had to stay at Eklutna for the day at least, until Andy could finish his work day and drive up to meet us in the afternoon. So Dan went for a bike ride, I went for a run, and Margo graciously stayed with the girls while they sped around the campground on their bikes.

I needn’t have worried…  when Andy arrived, he had a great idea! We could drive north toward Talkeetna and stay on Margo’s sister’s cabin property! We couldn’t get into the cabin, but we didn’t need to! We had a great time camping in the woods alongside their driveway, sunning ourselves on the dock on the little lake next to their cabin, roasting marshmallows in a firepit that the menfolk constructed, and biking on the beautiful new paved trail along the road to Talkeetna, admiring the views of Denali.

One of the meals we ate was this succulent and hearty salad. OK, so it’s not exactly typical camping food—but it was a car-camping trip, after all!



green salad with smoked salmon, avocados, and garlicky red wine mustard vinaigrette

This dressing is one that I make a lot of at once, and then keep in the refrigerator to use all the time. It keeps really well, is yummy and creamy without any eggs or cream in it (mustard is the emulsifying agent), and is great with a variety of different salads.


6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 medium cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1-2 tablespoons honey
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Put first 5 ingredients in a blender and blend until completely smooth. Slowly pour in oil to make a creamy emulsion. Taste and season with more salt or honey if it needs it.


1 large head lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces, or a large bowl of baby salad greens or stemmed baby spinach
½ cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds), toasted in a skillet until puffed and golden
1 avocado, peeled and cut into cubes
1-2 cups kippered salmon, flaked (I love to use buttery-rich Alaskan king salmon)

1. Toss the salad greens with dressing to your taste, then add the avocado and salmon. Toss again.
2. Sprinkle toasted pumpkin seeds over the salad and serve.


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