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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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

Sweet & Spicy Beet Salad

John and I have been eating a ton of salads with dinner lately. It’s in part due to an abundance of salad greens from our CSA, also in part due to visiting family bringing prepared salads, and also due to its being a fast way to get a vegetable in with our pre-prepared meals before one of us has to dash off to feed or comfort a newborn baby. This has meant that the vegetables that need to be cooked, beets and turnips, from the last two weeks’ shares have been neglected. Given the choice between a beet and a turnip, I opted for the beets.

I know that this blog is chocked full of beets, to the point of them having their own search category. So this salad isn’t really anything new as far as experimenting with ideas is concerned, but I thought it was worth writing about for the reason that this salad was both delicious and easy enough to make while exhausted from newborn-induced sleep deprivation.

I sliced my beets and started to roast them my usual way: foil wrapped, dressed simply with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme sprigs. Then I thought, why not add other spices to the beets to see if it makes the flavors more complex. These beets then got sprinkled with chili powder, curry powder, and cinnamon. Into the oven they went while I nursed the baby. The baby went back to sleep by the time the beets were done, giving me a chance to rummage through the dregs of salad greens left in our refrigerator. We had some red oak leaf lettuce, but sadly, the arugula that I had hoped to use for some peppery flavor was wilted and half rotten. No problem– I just tore up the beet green leaves themselves to supplement the lettuce. A quick dressing was thrown together, using balsamic vinegar, olive oil, then for sweetness and added viscosity, I decided to use some maple syrup instead of the honey I normally would use. To play off the spices from the beets, I added some cinnamon and fennel seeds before pouring in the juices from my roasting foil packet. The greens and beets got tossed with the dressing then plated before getting topped with crumbled Danish bleu cheese. Sweet, complexly spiced, juicy, crisp and refreshing. Enough to wake us up until the next round of baby feeding/fussing.

  • 1 bunch red ace beets
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: chili powder, yellow curry powder, and cinnamon
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 small head red oak leaf lettuce
  • bleu cheese to taste

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • juices from roasted beets
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Trim beet tops and root ends from beets. Reserve the beet greens. Split each beet in half lengthwise then lay out on a piece of foil, about 1 foot long. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, then sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper along with the cinnamon, curry, and chili powder. Lay the thyme sprigs on top then fold up foil into a tight packet. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until beets are tender, when you can pierce them with a knife. Carefully unwrap the foil packet to avoid being scalded by the steam, and let cool while you wash and spin the salad greens and make the dressing.

Strip the beet green leaves from any tough stems and tear to bite size pieces. You can leave any beet leaves that are on a more tender stem in tact. Add these to torn lettuce in a salad spinner, wash and spin dry. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients then add the salad greens and toss to coat. When beets are cool enough to touch, peel away the beet skins then cut each beet half into thirds lengthwise. Plate salad greens with beets then crumble bleu cheese to taste.

Serves: 2-4

CSA Count: 2

Beets (beets and their greens), red oak lettuce

Curry Coconut Tofu

One summer when I was around 14-years-old, my mother, perhaps sick of hearing complaints about what she’d choose to make for dinner after a long day at work, suddenly declared that I’d be responsible for making at least one meal per week. Undaunted, I eagerly started searching through cookbooks for recipe ideas. Perhaps my mother intended to shut me up about my whining, but the plan backfired– not only did my desire to try things that sounded intensely tasty outweigh my fear about following complicated recipes but since most of my favorite recipes came from Moosewood cookbooks, I decided to become a vegetarian, meaning even more adolescent exasperated sighs of disgust when my mother would try to offer a quick-cooking, meaty stir fry for dinner.

One Moosewood recipe I instantly fell in love with was wedges of fried tofu, sitting on top of a bed of fresh spinach leaves and hot, steamed rice, then topped with a spicy, citrusy soy sauce. I’d eat that all the time if it weren’t for how irritating it can be to fry tofu, its moist interior causing oil to spatter and spray while it sits in an open frying pan. It took a conversation with a vegan friend of mine to turn the lightbulb on in my head– I have a deep fryer now. Why not use that to fry tofu? Sure there’s the hassle of cleaning out the oil afterwards, but here was the potential to have crunchy pieces of tofu without fear of getting burned.

So when My Kitchen, My World made Indonesia the destination for June, I used that treasured Moosewood recipe as a jumping off point for my own ideas on how to increase the complexity and variety of flavors in this simple dish. I took pieces of pressed, firm tofu and thinly sliced rounds of shallot and tossed them in a mix of cornstarch, coconut flour, finely shredded coconut, curry powder, some cayenne for heat, and ground coriander. Into the deep fryer they went and they came out beautifully golden, light and airy. While the tofu fried up, I cooked some brown rice and tossed the spinach leaves and some crisp cucumber in a mix of rice vinegar, canola oil, salt and pepper. Lastly, the magical sauce for drizzling on the tofu: tamari soy sauce, lime juice, chopped jalapeno, green onions, cilantro, and some maple syrup for sweetness. I can’t say that this is Indonesian, but it’s inspired by how Indonesian food balances sweet, sour, spice, and salt. It’s so light and vibrant, basically a vegan summer meal that meat eaters will love too.

Note: To keep this totally gluten-free, use gluten-free soy sauce in place of the tamari. You can also feel free to cut out the steamed rice and make this a salad instead.

  • 5-6 cups canola oil for frying, plus 5 tablespoons divided for spinach dressing and finishing sauce
  • 16 oz firm tofu, cut into 1 inch triangles
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/8 cup finely shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 3 large shallots, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 4 cups spinach leaves, washed and spun dry
  • 1/2 English cucumber, sliced crosswise 1/8 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • pinch each of sugar, salt, and pepper
  • juice of 1/2 large lime
  • 2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons each chopped green onion and fresh cilantro
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup

About 1/2 an hour before you start cooking, remove the tofu block from its package and drain of excess water. Sandwich the tofu between two plates and top with a bowl of water. Let this sit for half an hour then pour out the water that was squeezed out. Cut the tofu into 1 inch squares then cut those squares in half on a diagonal so you have triangles.

Add as much oil to your deep fryer as required by package directions and heat to 350 degrees.

On a large plate, mix together the cornstarch, coconut flour, shredded coconut, curry powder, coriander, and cayenne. Add 1/3 of the tofu and toss to coat then add to the fryer. Fry for 2-3 minutes or until tofu is golden and crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and repeat process two more times. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Toss the shallot rings in the remaining cornstarch mixture and fry until golden– about 3-4 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towel lined plate.

While tofu cooks, whisk together the rice vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Toss the spinach and cucumber in the dressing and set aside. In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, lime juice, canola and sesame oils, green onion, cilantro, jalapeno, and syrup.

To serve: plate some rice, top with the spinach and cucumber mixture, pieces of tofu and a sprinkle of extra green onion and cilantro. Let your diners drizzle the soy sauce mixture on top to taste.

Three Rhubarb Recipes on Second City Soiree

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be a regular contributor on Second City Soiree. Second City Soiree is brought to you by Chicago hostess, lifestyle writer, and my high school friend, Jennifer Dunham Luby. Every other month, I hope to bring you information about seasonal ingredients along with easy and impressive ideas for using them. First up:

That’s right– rhubarb! Please stop by Second City Soiree for three simple yet surprising ideas for using honey-roasted rhubarb, and not a single one is that old standby, pie. (Not that I have any problem with pie…)

Poached Egg & Bacon Salad

As I write this, it is bright and sunny outside. Sadly, I’m listening to NPR talk about nuclear radiation exposure but the sun light, instead of the days of grey and rain that were predicted for this week, is making me happy. So to keep up the good, positive feelings, I’m thinking about other things that make me happy: lazy Sunday visits to the farmer’s market, my dog sitting by my side, resting his head on my lap, this salad…

This is my all time favorite salad. French in origin, Lyon, I suppose if you want to be exact, it’s one I turn to again and again for dinners since it’s hearty, combining proteins and salad greens all in one dish. It’s great for cold winter and early spring nights when you need something comforting but long for the bright colors of summer. It traditionally calls for the soft creams and greens of frisee, but I love the versatility of this salad, using whatever greens you have on hand. In this instance, I used some mache, or lamb’s lettuce, found at the farmer’s market one Sunday afternoon in West Seattle.

Mache is a tender but oh so pretty salad green. It makes me think of fields of clover and its taste to me is a blend of floral and bitter notes. I decided to keep playing on the springness of this salad by using green onions instead of the traditional shallot slices. With some bright red teardrop grape tomatoes on hand, I halved them and sprinkled them raw on this salad instead of sauteeing them with mushrooms in the rendered bacon fat like I would with a more wintery version of this salad. A quick dressing of mustard, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar, was made and drizzled on top of the vegetables before topping each plate with crumbles of bacon and two poached eggs, yolks still heavenly runny.

Think salad can’t make you happy? I instantly feel better just looking at this salad. Think how much better it feels to dig in, breaking that yolk and letting it softly enfold each tender lettuce green.

Note: Normally I top this salad with homemade garlicky croutons, but I thought that the toasted bread cubes might clash with how delicate the mache was in this salad. No worries– I just served some crusty garlic bread on the side. This makes two entree-sized salads.

  • 1 large bunch mache, stems trimmed of root ends if still attached, lightly washed and spun dry
  • 4 strips thick cut bacon, cut into 1/4 inch wide lardons
  • olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • splash red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of dried thyme
  • 3-4 green onions, sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 4 eggs
  • splash white wine vinegar

Add about 2 teaspoons of olive oil to a medium skillet. Coat the pan with the oil then add the bacon lardons. Cook over medium heat until bacon is crisp. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Whisk together lemon juice, honey, mustard, red wine vinegar, thyme, about 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking until dressing emulsifies, about 4-5 tablespoons. Plate the mache and sprinkle green onions and tomato halves on top. Drizzle with most of the dressing.

Crack the eggs carefully, one in each of 4 small bowls. Fill a large skillet about 3/4 of the way and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add about 2 teaspoons of salt and a splash of white wine vinegar. Turn off the heat, and carefully, but quickly add the eggs to the hot water, spacing them apart so that the whites of each egg can congeal around their own yolks. Place a tight fitting lid on the skillet and set timer for just shy of three minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove eggs, in order of how you set them, and carefully place eggs, drained of excess cooking water on salad greens, two per plate. Sprinkle bacon on top and drizzle with a little more dressing before serving.