Herbed Salmon Cakes

Our first CSA delivery of the season arrived last week! It’s a little sad that I get so giddy about our CSA starting. I love how the box of fresh produce injects some much needed energy into my cooking. I love that moment of panic upon clicking open the email with the packing list for the week, fearing I’ll never know what to do, and then love even more when that moment of epiphany arrives, especially when it’s at the very last minute.

This first delivery brought us much in the way of what I’d say are ingredients, but not much that would make for a stellar entrée or side dish. I’m talking tons of herbs– fresh mint, chives, cilantro, and garlic scapes. (Garlic scapes! I actually yelled, “Woot! Can I get a wha wha?” to myself, all alone in my office, when I saw that on the packing list.) So that moment of panic lingered as the options for using herbs seemed infinite rather than inspiring.

Luckily, the realm of possibilities got a little smaller when I spied wild kind salmon on sale. So far, the baby loves salmon– make that LOVES salmon. Making salmon cakes seemed like a fun way to keep getting her to enjoy eating it. I wanted to make a truly fantastic salmon cake– one where you can see the chunks of firm, pink fish, not bite into a mushy pile of cat food like, fishy puree. I envisioned a salmon cake that was bright in flavor– tons of flecks of green and fresh in flavor from some of the bright herbs, yet rich at the same time, thanks to toasted brioche crumbs to help hold the mix together. (What can I say? The baby loves brioche too. Raising a foodie baby is going to be expensive.)

Once the cakes were formed and pan-fried, then plating was easy. I played up on the bright pink and green colors by sitting my salmon cakes up on a pile of lightly dressed greens, including arugula from the CSA and some sliced pink beauty radishes. The acid from the dressing and the peppery bite of the radishes added contrast and crunch. CSA? You gave me a challenge by giving me lots of ingredients but little “meat” to work with, so to speak, and to that, I answered, “Challenge accepted!” Can’t wait to see what else this season brings!

  • 2 thick slices of brioche bread
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon each fresh mint and dill, finely chopped
  • 16 oz wild king salmon fillet, deboned, skinned, and finely chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • mixed baby greens and arugula
  • 3-4 medium pink beauty radishes, halved then sliced at an angle into wedges
  • your favorite, vinaigrette salad dressing

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add brioche slices that you have roughly torn into smaller pieces. Pulse until you have course crumbs. Spread out crumbs on a baking sheet and lightly toast at 250 degrees F (or in your toaster oven on the medium light setting) for about 10 minutes or until crumbs are golden brown. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, add the chives, mint, dill, salmon, cooled brioche crumbs, salt, pepper, and egg. Mix together until combined. Using your hands, cup together about 1/2 cup size portions into a patty, lightly pressing until they are about 4 inches wide. Place on a plate then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Place a large pan over medium high heat. Add butter and olive oil. Add salmon cakes and lightly fry until golden brown and cooked through (salmon will be opaque)– about 5-6 minutes per side. While cakes cook, add salad greens and most of your radish wedges to a medium bowl and toss with a light coat of dressing. Plate mixed greens then add a salmon cake on top, scattering a few pieces of radish on top. Serve immediately.

Makes about 5 salmon cakes.

CSA Count: 4

Chives, mint, arugula, pink beauty radish

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Peach Prosciutto Arugula Sandwiches

Growing up, peaches were my favorite fruit. Not fresh peaches, mind you. The canned ones. Yeah, I was such a processed foods fan. Green beans? The fresh ones made me gag, but I loved the mushy, waxy flavor of the canned ones. Thank goodness taste buds evolve as you grow up.

Among the many reasons to love summer is the abundance of fresh peaches. I love their bright yellow-orange flesh, the sweet juice that you have to act quickly to slurp up with each bite, the combination of sweet and tart. So when I saw peaches at the produce stand, I jumped on buying some even though I knew it was a little early in the season. I was just so eager for peaches.

I wanted a creative way to use them though. I thought about melon and prosciutto salads, but I’m not a melon fan (yeah, those taste buds never evolved) so peaches seemed like a good swap. And since we were having soup that night, I thought why do salad when you can have a sandwich? Grilled, buttery sourdough, a layer of gooey mozzarella cheese, some crisp and peppery arugula, tender slices of salty prosciutto, and last but not least– those sweet and juicy peaches. Summer in a sandwich. Try it or you’ll just have to trust me on that one.

For 4 sandwiches:

  • Half a loaf of your favorite sourdough bread, cut on a bias into eight 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3 oz prosciutto slices
  • 1 cup baby arugula leaves, rinsed and spun dry
  • 2 medium-sized, ripe peaches, pitted and sliced 1/4 inch thick

Preheat a griddle or skillet over medium heat. Spread 1/2 tablespoon of butter on each slice of bread. Reduce heat to medium low, then place 4 slices of bread, butter side down on the griddle. Top each slice with 2 pieces of cheese, a small handful of the arugula leaves, 1 to 2 pieces of prosciutto, and 4 slices of peach. Top with another piece of cheese and another slice of bread. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until cheese is melted and bread is golden brown. Carefully flip sandwiches over and grill on the other side until golden, another 5-6 minutes. Slice sandwiches in half and serve immediately.

Pesto & Peppered Bacon Breakfast Sandwich

I know that I’ve posted breakfast ideas for pancakes or chocolatey oatmeal in the past, but that might give a false impression. When it comes to breakfast, I usually tend toward the savory rather than the sweet. It might be an attempt to balance the breakfasts of chocolate donuts and orange juice that my father would secretly feed me when he’d drive me to kindergarten. It might be my love for bacon and cheese. It might be the thrill of repurposing leftovers from a week’s worth of dinners to create something entirely new and delicious.

This breakfast sandwich is definitely an example of tasty re-purposing. I woke up on a Saturday confronted with a loaf of beautiful bread that I had asked John to pick up when I panicked about having to stretch a meal to feed 5 when my parents and uncle showed up unexpectedly for dinner. Turns out we didn’t need an extra loaf of bread but this chewy, whole wheat artisan bread was too beautiful to waste. With a freezer well stocked with pesto thanks to our CSA bulk share I knew I had the basics for a delicious breakfast sandwich.

To tell the truth, I’m a little surprised that this is the first breakfast sandwich idea that I’m posting here. Breakfast sandwiches are consumed on a nearly weekly basis in our household. I’m always striving to make one that competes with my favorite restaurant one– grilled sourdough with bacon, eggs, arugula, and tomato aioli. That might be an impossible task though if only because that sandwich can come with sweet potato fries instead of hash browns. Sweet potato fries for breakfast aside, I made this sandwich with softly scrambled eggs, crispy peppered bacon, a handful of arugula and slices of that hearty bread, toasted on the griddle with layers of sweet basil pesto and melted, sharp provolone cheese.  A breakfast sandwich so good, you don’t need to have sweet potato fries. You can still want sweet potato fries, mind you, but you don’t need them to be satisfied with this sandwich.

For two sandwiches:

  • 4 strips peppered bacon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium garlic clove, smashed
  • 4 slices hearty, crusty bread of your choice
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 4 slices sharp provolone cheese
  • canola oil
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula, washed and dried

Cook bacon over medium low heat until crisp and cooked through. Drain on paper towel lined plate and set aside.

Preheat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Place butter and garlic clove in a microwave safe bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate and cook in the microwave for 1 minute on 40 % power or until melted, being careful as the butter can splatter. Brush one side of each of the slices of bread then spread the other side with pesto and a slice of cheese. Toast on the griddle or in the skillet until the cheese is melted and the buttered side is golden brown, about 5-6 minutes on medium low heat. While bread toasts, heat about 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Beat the eggs with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the eggs to the pan and gently stir until eggs reach your desired degree of doneness.

To assemble sandwich: Place one slice of the grilled bread on a plate then add half of the eggs. Top with half of the arugula and the bacon then top with another piece of grilled bread.

CSA Count (It’s been awhile, but it’s off-season): 1

Basil

Chicken Milanese

I’m not sure what there is to not love about chicken Milanese. A thinly pressed out piece of chicken breast, breaded and pan-fried, topped with a crisp bunch of salad greens, ripe tomatoes, and basil. It’s like eating fried chicken, but you get to feel healthy about it since it’s garnished with salad. What could possibly make this better?

Pickled vegetables can, that’s what! Inspired after seeing a show in which Chef Anne Burrell tops her chicken Milanese with red wine vinegar pickled onions, I wanted to try out this way of adding more acid to pair with the salty, crunchy bite of the chicken. With a yellow bell pepper and white onion on hand, I pickled thin slices of those vegetables in a mix of white wine vinegar to brighten their colors, a bit of sugar, and some fennel seed to add some subtle anise flavor. I then put a small pile of my pickled vegetables on a bed of arugula that had been simply dressed with lemon juice and olive oil which sat on top of crispy chicken. To finish things off, I added shards of Parmigiano Reggiano to give some nutty notes. And there you have it– chicken Milanese with a tangy, peppery crunch that is as beautiful to look at as it is to eat.

  • 1 small white onion, sliced into thin half-moon slivers
  • 1 medium yellow pepper, trimmed, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • water
  • olive oil
  • 2 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 inch thickness
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups baby arugula leaves
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil

Dissolve sugar and salt in white wine vinegar in a medium bowl.  Stir in fennel seeds. Add the onions and peppers and toss to coat. Cover with water and let sit at room temperature for at least 4 hours.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat. Set up ingredients as follows: on one plate, add flour and season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; next to that, place a shallow bowl that has the beaten eggs; next to that, set a plate on which you’ve mixed together the panko and grated parmesan. Lightly season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper on both sides, then dip the chicken in the flour, shaking off any excess. Dip the floured chicken in the beaten egg, letting excess egg drip off, then coat both pieces in the panko-cheese mix. Place the chicken in the heated olive oil and cook until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side.

While chicken cooks, beat together the lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Toss the arugula in the lemon dressing. Plate chicken and top with arugula, pickled peppers and onions, and shards of parmesan made with a vegetable peeler.

Spiced Lamb Meatballs

Recently, John and I used a gift card to a restaurant run by local restaurant emperor Tom Douglas. On the menu, they specified that the arugula was “Beacon Hill arugula.” This was amusing news to us as John’s arugula has been fiestier than ever this year– you hack it to pieces and it grows back within 3 days. It’s intensely peppery (in a delicious way) and has a texture that I’m not quite sure how to describe: kind of meaty really, more give to the teeth than arugula we otherwise get from the CSA or from the store. We wonder what it is about the soil in our BeHi neighborhood that is apparently producing such amazing arugula but I don’t want to think too much about it in case that means we’re getting some strong pollutants in our soil, leaching over here from the South Park area.

I bring this up because between our garden and our CSA so far this summer, I have been hard pressed to think of different ways to use up arugula. Good thing John’s declared it to be his favorite green. With this dish, I decided to make some spiced lamb meatballs and sit them up on some crunchy arugula with a drizzle of tzatziki. It was during one of the few very hot days we’ve had out here so I craved that cooling crunch of cucumber, yogurt and fresh greens when contrasted with spices like cinnamon, fennel, and cumin.

I set to work by combining ground lamb with those spices, a bit of grated onion for flavor and moisture, lots of fresh herbs, and for a hint of sweetness and contrasting texture, a little surprise– reconstituted golden raisins. I browned the meatballs in a pan before setting them in the oven to finish cooking through. The meatballs stood tall on a large handful of fresh arugula (a mix from our CSA and our garden), were dutifully drizzled with the yogurt/cucumber sauce, and topped off with more fresh herbs. With an additional side of crispy, pan-fried smashed baby red potatoes, this was such a fun tribute to Greek food and an entire meal– starch, meat, and vegetable– all on one plate. Lesser cleanup on a hot day is just fine with me!

Note: I bet these meatballs would be even better with the buttery, nutty crunch of pine nuts. Try adding maybe 2-3 tablespoons of them to the meatball mixture. This recipe can feed 3-4.

Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 tablespoon Montreal steak seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon each ground cumin and fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon each fresh mint, parsley, and oregano, chopped
  • 1/2 small white onion, grated
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • olive oil
  • 1 bunch arugula leaves

Tzatziki

  • 6 oz plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 inch piece of cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced (yields about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon each chopped mint and parsley
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a small bowl, add raisins and cover with water. Microwave on high for 1 minute or until water is steaming. Set aside, letting sit for at least 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine ground lamb, steak seasoning, cumin, fennel, cinnamon, 1 tablespoon of each of the fresh herbs, grated onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, and garlic. Drain the raisins and add to the mixture. Using your hands, gently mix the ingredients together until just combined, being careful not to over mix. Roll into 1 inch meatballs– you should get 17-18 in total.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add 1/2 of the meatballs and brown on both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side. Set the meatballs on a foil lined baking sheet while you brown the second batch. When browned, add the remaining meatballs to the baking sheet and bake in oven for 7-10 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.

While meatballs bake, combine the ingredients for the tzatziki in a small bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. When meatballs are done cooking, plate 4-5 meatballs on a large pile of washed and spun dry arugula leaves. Drizzle a tablespoon or two of tzatziki on top, then sprinkle with remaining teaspoons of fresh herbs. Serve remaining tzatziki at the table if diners wish to add more.

CSA Count: 1

Arugula

Garden Count: 3

Arugula, mint, and oregano

Arugula Pesto & Cambozola Cheese Burgers

These burgers are not only delicious, but they come with a story about faith and willpower. Seattle and the Pacific Northwest are famous for rainy weather. Not many people believe us when we say that the weather here during the summer is ideal, consistently staying in the 70’s during the day, and dropping a mere 10 degrees to the 60’s at night. However, Seattle’s summer weather may still maintain its mythical status to any outsiders who’ve visited here during June as temps have been a little bit cooler, and sadly, the drizzly days have been more frequent than usual. Here’s where the faith and willpower part comes in: planning a meal for the grill has required a lot of faith that the weather will eventually cooperate.

Luckily last week, we had at least four days in a row of gorgeous sunshine. Each afternoon, I’d start to approach my Weber with a desire for a grilled burger, oozing cambozola cheese and piled high with caramelized onions, but then I’d have to hold myself off. I knew my CSA delivery would be coming late in the week and that it would be carrying lots of arugula, green garlic, and chives. When I saw those items on the delivery list, they screamed, “Make us into pesto and slap us on those burgers!” It became a matter of having faith that the sunny weather would hold out so I could make the pesto burgers become a reality. It took sheer willpower to resist the lure of the grill on each of those sunny, warm days.

Hey– I never said this would be an inspirational story, but let’s just say that I was richly rewarded for my patience. I like my burgers cooked on the rarer side, crispy with a crust of slight char on the outside but still soft, tender and juicy on the inside. The cambozola (a rich blend of triple cream soft French cheese with Italian gorgonzola) was buttery and salty, the perfect offset for the pesto that was lively with peppery arugula with some soft heat from the fresh garlic and redolent with nutty crunch from roasted almonds. Yep– it’s good to listen to talking vegetables, er, I mean, to have faith in something.

Note: I like aiming for 1/3 pound burgers, finding 1/4 pounders to be a little skimpy and 1/2 pounders too heavy. So since there’s just the two of us, I usually make three patties from 1 lb of ground beef. Since there’s plenty of pesto here to make at least eight burgers, just increase the ingredients for the hamburger patties, not the pesto. Leftover pesto worked deliciously on top of a pizza crust with pieces of grilled/broiled chicken and a mix of mozzarella and ricotta salata cheese.

Pesto:

  • 1 cup roasted, unsalted almonds
  • 1/2 bunch arugula (about 1 to 1.5 cups)
  • 1 large clove green garlic, roughly chopped and outer skin removed
  • 5-6 fresh chives, quartered
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Burgers:

  • 1 lb grass-fed, 14% fat ground Angus beef
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Montreal steak grill seasoning
  • vegetable oil for brushing the grill
  • potato hamburger buns
  • 2 oz cambozola cheese

Place all pesto ingredients except the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Turn on the food processor and slowly pour in olive oil through feed tube until pesto reaches desired consistency. Since this was a spread for burgers, I liked mine on more of a looser paste rather than runny sauce side. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

While your grill heats up, place ground beef in a medium bowl. Add the Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and mix with your hands until just evenly distributed. Divide and shape into three equal patties. Sprinkle both sides of each patty with the steak seasoning. When grill is hot, soak a paper towel in vegetable oil and quickly brush the grill surface. Grill burgers to your desired degree of doneness (about 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare), topping patties with slices of cheese after the first flip half way through cooking time. Remove to a plate and tent with foil, letting them rest for 5 minutes before serving.

To serve, place burger on bun and top with a generous spoonful of pesto.

CSA Count: 3

Arugula, chives, green garlic