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


Chorizo & Clam Fettuccine

When my parents come to town, it’s usually late-ish on a Friday night. They haven’t eaten, having waited until they see us to grab dinner, so where do we go? People may not normally think about hanging out in a hipster-filled bar with their parents, but there’s one in West Seattle that is usually our best bet for a good, late night dinner.

One of the things I love to eat there is a dish of Manila clams, steamed in a peppery tomato broth, spiked with pieces of chorizo and slightly thickened with starches from grains of farro that add such a nice texture contrast. Since John and I love the simplicity of a steam clams and loaf of bread meal at home, I thought about how I could change up the flavors of that meal with something inspired by that farro and clam dish.

I started by browning some spicy chorizo sausage, then sautéed some onions, garlic, jalapeno for heat, and fennel in the rendered fat. For added color and sweetness, I added some sliced red bell pepper before throwing in the clams and some chicken stock then closing the lid to the let the clams do their thing. After the clams opened, I tossed the whole mixture with some undercooked pasta to let the pasta finish cooking in the mix of clam juice and stock. For some fresh flavor, I sprinkled some parsley, cilantro and lemon zest before serving. The clams were tender, the peppers were crisp, and I loved the balance of heat and sweet in the pasta sauce thanks to the vegetables. If you make this at home, don’t forget to indulge in carbs, and serve with some toasted garlic bread for sopping up the extra sauce!

Note: As I look back on this, I think I would have played up on the Spanish influences a bit more by swapping out the lemon zest for some freshly grated orange zest instead. For more of an acid taste, substitute a good dry white wine for half of the chicken stock if you wish.

  • 1 lb ground chorizo
  • olive oil
  • 3/4 lb dried fettuccine, cooked about 2-3 minutes shy of al dente
  • 1 medium white onion, halved and then sliced from pole to pole, about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons
  • 1 medium jalapeno, halved lengthwise, then sliced cross-wise into 1/8 inch thick half-moon pieces
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 2 inch long, 1/4 inch thick pieces
  • 1.5 lb Manila clams
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • chopped fresh parsley and cilantro
  • zest of 1 medium lemon, grated

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta while you cook the clams. Heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet that has a fitted lid over medium high heat. Add the chorizo and brown thoroughly, about 8-10 minutes. Remove chorizo to a plate, then add onion, fennel, garlic and jalapeno to skillet. Saute until onion is softened, about 5-7 minutes. Season with a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of pepper and the red pepper flakes then add the red bell pepper. Continue to cook until bell pepper softens a little, about 3-4 minutes. Add the clams and the chicken stock then cover with lid. Cook until clams have opened, about 10-12 minutes.

Drain pasta and return to pot. When clams have opened, pour the contents of the skillet into the pasta pot and toss to coat. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until pasta has absorbed some of the clam and chicken broth and is al dente in texture. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper then sprinkle in lemon zest, some parsley and cilantro. Serve in a big bowl topped with additional cilantro and parsley.

Orzo Risotto

I love orzo pasta. I don’t know why– there’s just something about the rice shaped pasta that appeals to me. Oh wait… perhaps it’s because it’s just like rice only in pasta form. I do love my rice.

I also love orzo because it doesn’t take much to cook a lot of food. I can make a pasta salad to feed 20 using only 1/3 of the bag which is why I tend to have opened bags of orzo lying around in my pantry, always buying and opening another bag forgetting that the 1/2 cup remaining in an older bag is probably more than enough to meet my dinner needs.

Since the orzo looks like rice anyway, I thought I’d try using up the leftover bits of orzo in my pantry to make a risotto style dish. In the true spirit of using up things in my pantry and fridge, I also threw in some shrimp that had long been forgotten in the back of my freezer and the turmeric that I bought long ago for a recipe but have never used it since. I really liked how the colors came together in this dish: bright yellow from the turmeric, coral pink from the shrimp, sharp flecks of green from the broccolini and parsley– very spring like if you ask me! Cooking the pasta like a risotto meant that the starches released from the pasta made its own creamy like sauce but the pasta remained al dente. Definitely worth a try the next time you want to switch things up a bit.

  • olive oil
  • 1 cup dried orzo pasta
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1.5 lbs medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 small bunch broccolini, chopped into florets and 1/2 inch long pieces
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • feta cheese (optional)

Gently heat the chicken stock in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. In a large skillet, heat about 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Saute the shallot and garlic for 3-5 minutes or until the shallot is softened. Add the butter. When the butter is melted, sprinkle in the orzo pasta. Let this cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until the pasta is lightly toasted and coated in the butter and olive oil. Stir in the white wine and continue to cook until the wine is absorbed.

Once the wine is absorbed, start adding in the chicken stock. Do this one ladle at a time, stirring the pasta and not adding another ladle full until after all the stock you added previously is absorbed. The stock will absorb more quickly at first but as it cooks more and gets closer to being done, the absorption rate will slow down. When you’ve added about 3 cups worth, taste the pasta to see how close it is to being done. If the pasta seems close to being al dente, add the bell pepper and the shrimp with the next ladle full of chicken stock. Once the stock has absorbed and the shrimp is pink and opaque, try the pasta again– it should hopefully be just right. Add in the broccolini florets with about 1/2 a ladle more of the stock and cover the skillet to help the florets steam through. Mix in the curry and turmeric and add salt and pepper to taste. Plate the orzo and sprinkle with chopped parsley and feta if desired.

CSA Count: 2

Shallots, garlic

Steamed Manila Clams with Fennel and Bacon

I’m a relative newcomer to loving steamed clams and mussels. I used to only be able to eat clams when unrecognizable, such as in chowder or in pasta. Admittedly, what first drew me to eating steamed clams was more for the wonderful prospect of dunking crusty hunks of bread in the juices, swimming in garlic, wine and butter. Really– bread and butter will always be my downfall, my comfort food, so low carb diets can go do something rude to themselves.

But I soon came to appreciate eating the clams themselves, both for the clam meat and because it’s just such a good, sloppy, social event. Diving into a bowl with another or a group of friends, everyone’s whipped into a frenzy by the aroma from the steam that’s released when the lid is removed from the bowl, the slurping, the development of a silent competition as we each see the other’s empty shells stacking up.

A favorite, now sadly defunct, local restaurant turned me onto steaming clams with Pernod and pancetta. The licorice flavor from the liquor, the saltiness from the pork, and slightly toasted garlic slivers all combine into a heavenly broth. Those elements are reflected here, only since I’m too cheap to buy Pernod and too lazy to find someone who’ll cut thick, slab sized pieces of pancetta for me, I’ve made a couple of substitutions: thin slices of fennel and crispy pieces of bacon.

The result is a fast, simple, and dare I say, even kind of impressive looking meal. There’s something magical about how you can take these things that look like rocks (although that still doesn’t stop my strange, irrational fear that they’ll bite me as I’m cleaning them), stuff them in a pot with a little liquid, cover with a lid, and poof! In no time they’ve all popped open and all this lovely broth has filled the pot. I made these at John’s very good suggestion that this, a good salad (in this case, heads of little gem lettuce, split in half, topped with chopped scallion and shredded carrot, blue cheese yogurt dressing and dill), a loaf of bread, and a bottle of wine could be a great mid or late week dinner, since usually by that point in the week, we’re both too tired to cook. This may become a weekly staple– it’s just that great of a meal!

1.5 lbs Manila clams, scrubbed clean and hopefully still breathing.
4 slices thick, uncured bacon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced in half moons
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 cloves fresh garlic, thinly sliced
2 tsp olive oil
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine (I usually look for a Semillon Blanc)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 loaf ciabatta bread
olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled
fresh basil, chiffonade (optional)
salt and pepper

Rinse the clams under cold water, scrubbing the shells clean of sand or dirt (or if you’re an irrational freak like me who still fears the clams will bite you, ask someone else to do this for you.) Check for any that are open and that won’t close when you lightly tap them on your kitchen counter. Throw any of those out. Place clams in a bowl of water with a tbsp of flour or corn starch sprinkled over them. According to Ina Garten, the clams will eat the flour and disgorge any sand or grit. I’m not totally sure if it works, but I do admit that when I’ve done that, I’ve come across far fewer gritty clams than when I skip that step.

Preheat your oven to 375. Split the ciabatta loaf in half, lengthwise and bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly toasted. Drizzle with olive oil and while the bread is hot, rub the garlic clove over the bread’s cut surface. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and fresh basil. Stack the halves together again and cut into slices, then set aside.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the bacon pieces until crispy then remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and let them drain on a paper towel. Add the onions, sliced fennel and garlic to the bacon fat in the pan and cook until onions and fennel are soft and translucent. Add the clams, thyme and the wine, then cover the pot and turn up the heat to medium high. Check on your little lovelies in 10 minutes. If some are still closed, make sure they’re submerged in the liquid, cover and cook for another couple of minutes. Check again and if any remain closed, toss ’em. Add the butter to the broth and stir until melted. Pour out all the pot’s contents into a big bowl, scatter the top with the bacon pieces, and let the slurping begin!

CSA Count: 1, sadly; 5 if you count the side salad
fennel, little gem lettuce, carrot, scallion, dill