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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Three Easy Squash Soup Variations on Second City Soiree

It’s winter and therefore, perfect weather for cozying up to a piping hot bowl of creamy, sweet and spicy, winter squash soup. Below is a recipe for the soup, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, then visit Second City Soiree for three easy ideas for garnishes that transform this one soup into three different but equally delicious variations.

  • 1 medium winter squash of your choice, be it butternut, sugar pumpkin, or kuri (pictured above), peeled, seeded, and chopped, yielding about 4 cups of 1 inch pieces
  • 1 large leek, trimmed of dark green and root ends, quartered length wise and thinly sliced. Place slices in a bowl full of water and stir around to release dirt. Use a strainer to remove leek pieces to drain.
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4-6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1-2 tablespoons of a mix of spices of your choice– I’m a fan of ground cinnamon, curry powder, cayenne, and ground ginger
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper

Spray a large glass or microwave safe bowl with cooking spray. Add the squash. Microwave on high for 7 minutes. Take bowl out and stir. If squash pieces are fork tender, you’re done. If not, microwave for another 3-7 minutes. Place a colander over a medium bowl and drain squash, reserving any liquid. Set aside squash and squash juice.

In a large soup pot, melt butter over medium high heat. When butter’s foam has subsided, add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally for 4-5 minutes. Add the squash and squash juice along with the spices and thyme. Cook for 10 minutes or until juices have evaporated and a fond has formed on the bottom of the pot. Deglaze with 1 cup of stock. Add another 3 cups of stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes. Puree using an immersion blender (or in batches of no more than 2 cups at a time in a regular blender, holding the lid down with a towel.) Add more stock to reach your preferred consistency then season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Snow Pea & Radish Salad

I bet that this post won’t get many hits. Snow peas? Radishes? Sounds boring right?

But in this salad’s defense, I’ll say that I was surprisingly pleased. For one thing, this salad is so refreshing on a hot day: chilled in the fridge, the snap peas and radishes stay crisp and are full of cool, hydrating water.  The lemony dressing and grassy dill are bright in flavors, pairing nicely with tangy, creamy blue cheese.

Then there are the colors: vibrant magenta and purple from the Easter egg radishes pop against that deep jade green of the snow peas. It’s a feast for the eyes, making this salad look and taste more exciting than what you’d expect from just hearing the ingredients. During these hot, late summer days, try a scoop of this salad next to food fresh off your grill. You’ll be pleasantly surprised too.

Note: Snow peas have to be trimmed of the tough fiber that holds the pod together, unless you want to see your fellow diners spitting out chunks of the pod. Simply twist the flowering end of the pod and peel down. If there’s no flower end, peel along the side where you can see the peas are attached inside the pod.

  • 3/4 lb snow peas, ends trimmed and fiber removed
  • 2 large Easter egg radishes, ends trimmed and sliced into match sticks
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon each fresh chopped chives and dill
  • blue cheese crumbles to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and honey. Add in the snow peas and radish match sticks and toss to coat. Mix in chives and dill then plate. Add blue cheese crumbles to taste.

CSA Count: 4

Snow peas, Easter egg radishes, chives, dill

Asian Steak Tacos

When I was little, my parents tried to entice me to try new foods by calling it the Chinese version of something familiar. Scallion cakes were “Chinese pizza.” Rice noodles wrapped around pieces of shrimp were “Chinese burritos.”

I remember one time my brother, exasperated with these comparisons, complained that just because the food has the same shape as something familiar doesn’t mean that you’ll like it. After all, a scallion cake might be flat and round, but it doesn’t have the cheese, tomato sauce, or variety of toppings that make pizza delicious. It’s just dough with green onions. True, calling it Chinese pizza didn’t tempt me to eat it. I was tempted to eat it because it was fried dough and onions. My parents could probably have saved themselves a lot of trouble by just telling me that it’s fried, so I’d like it.

In any case, I thought about my brother’s rant while I set out to make this Asian style taco. The idea came to me while looking at bunches of baby bok choy, radishes, cilantro, and a jalapeno from the CSA. Being a fan of pickled radishes on tacos, and remembering how I put bok choy on a burger, I thought why not combine the two ideas? I marinated some skirt steak in oyster sauce, soy sauce, garlic, and Chinese Five Spice powder; made a spicy pico de gallo of sorts with the radishes, cilantro, jalapeno and a touch of rice wine vinegar; I chopped and sautéed the bok choy with some garlic; and for my taco shells– those crispy fried scallion cakes.

These tacos were so delicious– the steak was tender and juicy, the radishes added crunch and spice. The bok choy added a fresh green flavor and the scallion cakes were soft, yet crispy and laced each bite with a light onion flavor. If the picky eaters in your life don’t respond to these Chinese tacos simply because it doesn’t have the refried beans, cheese, and tomato salsa that makes Mexican tacos so tasty… well, just tell them that these are fried.

Marinade

  • 1/4 cup Tamari soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1.5 teaspoons hot mustard
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped

Radish Pico de Gallo

  • 1 bunch, medium pink radishes, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • salt and pepper

Tacos

  • 10 oz skirt steak
  • Montreal steak seasoning
  • 1 recipe scallion cakes
  • 2 bunches baby bok choy, chopped with stems separated from leaves
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • salt and pepper

Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Put the skirt steak in a large ziplock plastic bag and add the marinade. Seal the bag and make sure the marinade covers the steak. Place in the refrigerator, rotating every now and then, and let marinate for at least 4 hours or over night.

Combine the ingredients for the radish pico de gallo and set aside to give the radishes time to soak up the flavors of the lime juice and rice wine vinegar.

Take steak out of the refrigerator to take off some of the chill while you make the scallion cakes according to your chosen recipe. Cook the steak and bok choy while you fry up the pancakes, keeping pancakes warm in a low temperature oven if necessary.

Preheat broiler or grill. Take out the skirt steak and discard the extra marinade. Sprinkle both sides of the skirt steak with steak seasoning. Grill for 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare or grill longer to your desired degree of doneness. Remove skirt steak to a plate and cover with foil, allowing the steak to rest while you make the bok choy topping.

Heat 2 teaspoons of canola oil and 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped bok choy stems and saute until tender, about 3-4 minutes, then add the chopped boy choy leaves, and continue to cook until the leaves have wilted, about another 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Thinly slice the skirt steak against the grain and on a bias. To assemble tacos, place 2-3 slices of skirt steak on each scallion cake. Top with a small pile (about 2 tablespoons) of boy choy then finish with a spoonful of radish pico de gallo. Serve with these Sweet Potato Cilantro cakes if you wish.

Serves 4, with 2-3 tacos each.

CSA Count: 4

Radishes, baby bok choy, cilantro, jalapeno

Flank Steak with Lime Butter Braised Radishes

It must have been a good summer for radishes. It seems like I saw them almost every week at farmer’s markets and we frequently received bunches of them from the CSA this year. And not just your usual red variety– pink beauties, icicles, Easter eggs, and these amethyst radishes. One may not normally say this about radishes, but boy were these the little jewels for which they were named.

I wanted to find a new way to try eating these beauties since the only ways I ever know how to eat radishes are pickled on tacos, plain with feta and salt, or perhaps my favorite way– with sea salt and herb butter on toasted pieces of baguette. After a quick google search of radish recipes, I noticed that “butter braised radishes” kept coming up. How can you not be intrigued by an idea that mentions butter?

So I decided to braise these radishes with butter, lime zest, and scallions, all the better to pair with pieces of tender flank steak that I had rubbed with a Mexican inspired blend of spices and unsweetened cocoa. The result was fantastic! Tender, juicy and spicy steak paired with peppery and citrusy crisp radish slices. Give this a try the next time you want a quick, colorful, and delicious mid-week meal.

  • 2 lb flank steak
  • 1 tablespoon Montreal steak seasoning
  • 1/2 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch amethyst radishes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup water
  • zest of 1 lime and juice from half of it
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Preheat broiler or grill. Mix together steak seasoning, brown sugar, cocoa, cumin, oregano, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Brush both sides of flank steak with canola oil then rub seasoning mix into both sides. Let steak rest for 5-10 minutes before cooking for 7-8 minutes per side for medium rare or a few minutes longer per side if you want your steak more well done. Remove steak to a plate and tent with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing across the grain and on a bias.

While steak cooks, prepare the radishes. Melt butter in a medium skillet that has a fitted lid over medium heat. Add the scallions and radishes and saute for 5-6 minutes or until radishes are shiny and start to soften a little. Add lime zest, lime juice, and water then cover with the lid. Reduce heat to medium low to keep the radishes on a simmer for 10-15 minutes or until radishes are tender but not mushy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Plate steak slices then spoon the radishes and the braising sauce over the slices then serve with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro.

CSA Count: 2

Amethyst radishes and cilantro

Hoisin Salmon Onigiri

Last Christmas, my brother and his family stayed with us for a week. During their stay, they introduced us to onigiri– little bundles of rice stuffed with a filling and wrapped in nori to facilitate eating them by hand. What made it particularly fun was how Ted and Michelle put together the rice and the filling ingredients then set it out on the table with the onigiri molds so that we could each make our own. We had a beautiful fillet of salmon, some fried tofu (for my niece), avocado, wasabi, soy sauce and the nori paper. Everybody dug in, mixing and matching filling ingredients and placed them on a plate so that we ended up exchanging onigiri with one another. Pretty fun, well, unless you picked up one of my father’s creations which were heavy-handed on the wasabi. (Sorry, Michelle!)

So when the blog My Kitchen, My World announced that the world cuisine for October is Japanese, I jumped on the opportunity to finally buy some onigiri molds of my own so I could write my post to submit for the monthly round-up. Although the options for filling onigiri are endless (well, okay, perhaps the upper limit are those items which are toxic or inedible), usually along the lines of salted salmon, pickled plums, benito flakes, etc., I decided to roll with salmon and avocado since I love both so much. For my salmon, I wanted to pack it full of flavor, so I oven roasted a fillet of wild, Coho salmon, glazed with a mix of hoisin, brown sugar, garlic, and Tamari soy sauce.

In addition to the avocado, we had some leftover radish greens and some purple carrots so I chopped those up and put them out on plates for onigiri assembly as a way to boost up my CSA count. Really, between letting the rice cooker cook my sushi rice (a mix of brown and white rice for added color, subtle variety in flavor, and nutritious value), having my oven cook the salmon, and making assembly do-it-yourself, this was an easy meal to throw together. As a testament to how easy it is to make onigiri, John and I made our little rice balls with little attention to how we were filling the rice molds as we were watching the television coverage of the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners with rapt and semi-anxious attention (hence, apologies for the quality of pictures, half of which were taken on a plate sitting on my lap.) It didn’t matter– we still had adorable little triangles of rice sandwiching tender, moist salmon, peppery greens, crunchy sweet carrots, and creamy avocado. Try making onigiri with your family– playing with your food has never been so tasty and so fun.

Note: Onigiri molds can easily be bought online for cheap and come in a variety of shapes, ranging from the traditional triangle and barrel shapes to stars, hearts and even animals. You can also fill them with any ingredient that you want, including canned tuna, tempura, or fried chicken. For the really talented and detail oriented, cut the nori paper to make decorations for your onigiri, like these. The amount of rice that the following recipe generates is enough to make ten 3-inch wide triangular onigiri. Leftover salmon can be used on salads or in a sandwich.

  • 1 cup short grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup short grain brown rice
  • 3 cups water plus more for rinsing the rice
  • 1.5 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1.5 teaspoons granulated or castor sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 16 oz fillet Coho salmon
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • pinch of Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped plus 2 medium garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 medium purple carrots, chopped
  • 1 bunch of radish greens chopped
  • 1 large avocado, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 sheets of nori (seaweed) paper, cut lengthwise into 1-2 inch wide strips
  • soy sauce and wasabi paste

Start by making the sushi rice: combine white and brown rice in a rice cooker and rinse three times with water. Add the three cups of water and put in the rice cooker set on cook rice setting. When cooker switches to warm setting, let rice sit for five minutes while you mix together the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt until sugar and salt dissolves. Drizzle mixture over rice and mix until each grain is coated. Spread rice out on a baking sheet and let cool to room temperature.

While rice cools, cook the salmon. Pat the salmon dry and season with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place 1 tablespoon of canola oil with the smashed garlic cloves in a 11 x 7 baking pan. Place pan in the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix together the hoisin sauce, Tamari soy sauce, brown sugar, chopped garlic and Chinese five spice powder. When oven is heated, take out the pan and carefully lay the salmon fillet down in the hot oil, skin side down. Spread the glaze mixture on top of the flesh side of the fish then bake for 15 minutes or until flesh is opaque and flakey.

Scoop the cooled rice into a serving bowl and set the table with the plated salmon, your other filling ingredients, the nori paper, and soy sauce and wasabi. To assemble, fill the bottom part of your onigiri mold about 1/2 way with an even layer of rice (it helps to wet your hands to keep the rice from sticking to your fingers too much.) Put a little dab of wasabi and brush with some soy sauce if you wish. Add about 1 tablespoon of flaked fish, a pinch of the radish greens, and a carrot and avocado piece or two. Fill the rest of the mold with rice then top with the other half of the mold to squish everything together. Flip the mold over and press on the button to loosen the rice ball from the mold. Wrap the sides with the nori or fold the nori up and over a straight edge of the triangle to form a single rectangle. Dip in a mixture of soy sauce and more wasabi as you eat.

CSA Count: 2

Radish greens, purple carrots