Two Alaskan Sisters Want to Help You Cook More Sustainable Seafood at Home
To flip through the pages of Emma Teal Laukitis's and Claire Neaton's new cookbook The Salmon Sisters: Feasting, Fishing and Living in Alaska ($24.95, barnesandnoble.com) is to be whisked away on an adventure in the country's northernmost state. There are tales of the sisters' childhood growing up on an off-the-grid homestead, guides to seafood, glimpses of what it's like to be a commercial fisherman, and, of course, recipes. Fifty of them to be exact. Simple, comfort food where fresh ingredients steal the show in recipes like Winter Caretaker Sourdough Pancakes, Tangy Octopus Salad, and more.
"We hope it makes our readers feel more connected to the people working hard to bring seafood to their tables, more aware of the edible wild plants and ocean creatures around them, and inspired to make some of our favorite simple and flavorful recipes," Laukities and Neaton write in the introduction.
The pair grew up at Stonewall Place, a remote homestead in the Aleutian Islands where their closest neighbors were a four-mile boat ride away. "Our childhood was special, wild, and also had its challenges. We had a lot of time to play outside, made a lot of artwork, and explored on the beach all the time,"says Laukitis, but she adds it took a lot of work to keep the homestead running and chores included everything from collecting and chopping driftwood for firewood to tending the garden to making all their food from scratch.
Part memoir, part guide to resourceful, resilient living, their book showcases how to cook seasonal, sustainable seafood using recipes from their family and their larger fishing community. But it's not all seafood recipes. You'll find recipes for making a sourdough starter and tips for how to creatively use what you have in the kitchen, even a lesson on tying fishermen's knots. A Thai-inspired coconut curry fish soup is one of Laukitis's favorite dishes in the book. "We love making it on the boat because the ingredients are simple, yet the flavor is so fresh,"says Laukitis. "It's great with salmon, firm white fish like cod or halibut, or shrimp, and incredibly simple and nourishing."
When in high school, the women began working on their family's commercial fishing boat, and though both left Alaska for college, they felt a pull to return. "There's something about the seasonal lifestyle, the connection to a place, and the freedom that comes with the nature of the work that's hard to shake. We've since built our life around the ocean," Neaton says.
They founded their company Salmon Sisters as a way to celebrate that lifestyle. The company sells wild fish harvested by their fishing fleet, including frozen boxes of salmon, cod, and halibut; tinned salmon and octopus; a variety of smoked salmon products, gear for fishermen such as footwear; hoodies and technical bottoms, and home and kitchen wares from Alaskan makers. The pair continues to fish each summer, managing their company from the sea as well the Give Fish Project, which they founded in 2016 as a way to address food insecurity in the state.
The cookbook is a natural evolution of their brand. "We realized that once we get fish into people's hands, a lot of folks are still uneasy about preparing and cooking seafood, largely because they don't want to mess up such a beautiful product," says Neaton. "We want to give people the confidence they need to make eating wild seafood a part of their family's normal routine. We hope this book can bring light, inspiration, and delicious recipes to cook for people at home right now. The book exists because, despite work and life at hand, our family has always made time for good food."