Teriyaki Sauce Resupply

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It’s been two years since our last teriyaki-sauce making session, and we just ran out. Since it’s one of our main cooking staples, especially in summer, the last drops draining from the last jar set off a bit of a panic around the house. (The kids consider it essential seasoning for everything from steak, salmon and chicken to rice and even sandwiches.) This time around, Skyla was the main chef, and we used our small crab pot to make a big enough batch to last–hopefully–another couple of years.

In the picture, Skyla is using the grinder to add toasted sesame seeds to the sauce. There isn’t a specific recipe, but the base ingredients include soy sauce, sugar and rice vinegar. Then we add more complex flavors with varying amounts of  honey, mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine), ginger, garlic, sesame oil, chili paste, and the ground, toasted sesame seeds.

A rolling boil cooks the ginger and garlic, blends flavors and caramelizes the sugar for a more rounded, toasty flavor. Then I usually add a little cornstarch pre-mixed with cold water to thicken the sauce just a bit.When it cools, we ladle it into clean, used jars and put it in the fridge, where it lasts, well, for at least two years. Try marinating steaks or chicken thighs in it overnight, then throwing ‘em on the barbecue. Mushrooms are awesome, too. Or salmon chunks wrapped in bacon…and on that note, I think I have to go start the grill.


A River Reborn

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It’s difficult to put into words exactly how it feels to experience the newly free Elwha River. Gratitude, for sure, for all the people and organizations who put so much into bringing the dams down. And awe, as nature takes over and the river finds it’s new-old path to the sea. And fun, of course, to be there taking it all in with my good friend (and DamNation producer/underwater photographer) Matt Stoecker.

We floated the Elwha this weekend under crazy blue skies and warm air, with the winners of the Patagonia/DamNation photo contest and our gracious hosts at Olympic Raft & Kayak. All around amazing experience. Despite what the dam-removal critics said, the sediment load in the water has settled out quickly, leaving the water clear, with the slight milky, blue-green tint one expects of a glacial river in summertime. As we came into the former reservoir zone above the lower dam site, I was blown away to look up 40 feet above us to see the old water line still clearly defined on the rocks and trees. It was like finding a river at the bottom of a lake, which is essentially what’s happened here.

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At the actual dam site, after much discussion and scouting, we decided to become the first commercial trip Olympic Raft & Kayak had taken down through what they’ve named That Dam Rapid. A short, steep, highly technical Class 4 drop through what used to be Elwha Dam proved to be as hairy as it looked, and provided plenty of adrenaline to jolt us out of the all the dreamy wonder and gratitude we were feeling. Great ride, and a perfect end to the float.

Elwha.Sideways

That night, Olympic Raft & Kayak hosted an outdoor screening of DamNation in the warm–and amazingly for the Olympic Peninsula–dry summer night. Mikal Jakobal, the activist who painted the now-famous crack on the dam here back in 1987, made a surprise appearance, much to the crowd’s delight.

Finally, the next day, Matt and I drove down to the where the Elwha runs into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This was, perhaps, the most tangible evidence of a river reborn, and an uplifting view of what a free river is supposed to do. Instead of the river channel running straight into saltwater along a sterile, clean-cobble beach as it once was, the Elwha had built a tremendous delta. Sediment, trapped behind the dams for 100 years, is now creating a complex system of barrier islands, sloughs, ponds and wetlands. The most perfect juvenile salmon habitat imaginable. We stood there in the wind, absorbing what it all means and feeling the uplift of a rare and valuable victory.

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Crab Gluttony, Again

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With no winter crab season this year (again), the summer opener came along with an even higher level of craving for me than usual. Of course, I ate too much too fast and am now, at least for the time being, crabbed out. But man, was it good while it lasted. (Thanks, Smarty!) And it appears we’re off to a season of abundance where Dungeness crab are concerned. Picture above is pre-cook, below is after 16 minutes of boiling in very salty water. Delicious. Crabbed out? Yes. But I doubt it’ll last. As I looked at these pix, I was surprised to find my mouth already starting to water. Perhaps my crab-out threshold has been raised.

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Small Town 4th

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I lived in Seattle for 11 years, and during that time, I can count on one hand the number of times I was out running errands and randomly ran into someone I knew. We’ve now lived here on the Island for 10 years, and in that time, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been out running errands and NOT run into a friend. Of course, it took me a while to adjust my big-city, max-efficiency mindset and grasp the beauty of errands as social opportunity, but now I realize what a blessing it is. Going to the hardware store is a chance to talk fishing with buddies; the grocery store often means conversations about kid soccer or basketball; and dinner out can turn into multi-family dining with kids and parents all happy to see each other.

It’s funny, but we were a little concerned when we moved out here that living in a house way back in the woods might lead to isolation. Turns out, nothing could be farther from the truth. This is a community that helps each other and looks out for each others’ kids, a place where a trip to town means a chance to chat with friends, and help with anything–wood cutting, weeding, boat fixing, kid transportation–is truly just a phone call away. I feel lucky to be a part of it.

And nothing captures that spirit like our small-town 4th of July parade. There’s nothing particularly grand or spectacular about it (the scotty dogs and rope skippers are often high points), and it would be easy for visitors from bigger, grander cities to call it hokey or yawn in boredom. But it’s a fun and happy time, with community pride all around. You don’t have to call ahead and make plans to meet up with friends, you just go down there and run into them. The kids play and run, the parents talk and laugh, and everyone eats street food and ice cream. And come to think of it, that’s pretty grand and spectacular after all.


Flip-Flop Safety

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Okay, this might be a little off subject, but I’ve been thinking about posting this for a while. Just to establish my credentials, I am pretty serious about flip-flops, AKA zoris, flippies, etc. You might even say I’m something of a flip-flop geek. I’ve tried nearly every brand and like to keep up with any advances flip-flop technology. In some cases, especially in summer, I consider them formal wear. And I’ve pretty much settled on the Patagonia ReFlip as my go-to flip-flop of choice. It’s light, comfortable, molds to the foot, has good traction and is recyclable. All good.

But in and around saltwater, I prefer an all-rubber flip-flop. The reason being, anything that absorbs water (sole, footbed or straps) tends to hold salt, which means it almost never dries out, at least in our climate. Which means…serious stink. I mean, bad. Intolerably bad. So the solution is a flippy that’s made entirely of rubber, including the toe piece and strap. Not easy to find. But these old (8 years) Crocs fit the bill. No absorption, no odor.

The only issue, and it’s a pretty serious one, is the tendency of Crocs to hydroplane on even the thinest layer of water. If you wear Crocs, you’ve probably experienced the little skid-out on a wet sidewalk or wood deck. Not a huge deal. But it’s a little different in boats. I know a guy who experienced the hydroplane effect when fishing by himself out in the Sound. Went completely overboard. Thankfully he was able to haul himself back aboard, but it made me think about fishing in my Crocs. But not enough. I pretty much chalked it up to carelessness and kept wearing my fishing flippies.

Then, last year, I stepped down off the dock into a buddy’s boat just after he’d hosed off the deck. My trusty Crocs flippies went into full hydroplane and I flailed wildly, throwing fishing rods and gear bags, until, inevitable, I went down. Hard. Elbow hit the gunwale and, still flailing, I somehow bounced into an angle where the back of my head clipped the fish box before settling on the deck. To anyone watching, I’m sure it was the best thing they saw all day. I survived with just a few ugly bruises to my arm, head and back, not to mention ego. But, lesson learned.

A few months later, I was working on our boat and had an idea. Why not put a little sticky tread in a pattern that would break up the hydroplane on the bottoms of the Crocs? This was inspired by a small caulking job that involved the most bulletproof stuff made, 3M’s famous 5200. So I grabbed the Crocs flippies and just free-handed a few bands of the 5200 across the bottom in a widely spaced pattern. Voila!

I’ve been testing ‘em now for almost a year, in our boat and others, with vinyl, fiberglass and wood decks. Wet, dry, fish slimed, etc. And the grip is awesome. I’m not saying it’s the prettiest solution, or that you’ll never slip again, but it’s cheap and effective. My kind of fix.

So…I offer this to anyone wearing flippies or sandles that tend to skid out on wet surfaces in the hopes that it’ll keep you from being someone else’s story. (I’m sure people who saw me go down in my buddy’s boat are still telling the tale a year later.) Hope this helps someone. Good luck.


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