Some memories just keep getting better

Something most of us grew up with was salmon croquettes.  Pan fried salmon, vegetable, herb and breadcrumb golden goodness with a big glob of tartar sauce to smear on them. It was simple goodness way back when salmon was much less than today’s $5.00 a can!

Several years ago, I took friends to a very nice, but sadly now defunct, restaurant, to celebrate their engagement. They are good, sweet people from a small Texas town that boasts all of two cafes.  He gets to travel in his job and has been to some nice places. Her job keeps her pretty much in their town and her dining experiences are limited. It was my pleasure to provide a big city-treat.

I suggested a grilled salmon dish with a pineapple and jalapeño sauce. The young lady was impressed with the restaurant and the menu. She enjoyed the salmon, but the sauce was a little spicy for her.  She finally said, “My, that was good! I ain’t never had salmon excep’ in croquettes before.”  I sometimes use those very words when enjoying new salmon recipes at home or on the town.  It preserves a good memory of a very nice evening reminds me how it was growing up in a small town.

I thought of  them and that night when I ran across a recipe for salmon cakes and arugula salad.  It sounded good and decided to give it a try.  No celery and chopped onion and bread crumbs croquettes in this one.  And no iceberg lettuce and tomato salad. These cakes had gone to town!

Salmon cakes and arugula salad with yogurt dill sauce, its like a croquette gone to town.


20 ounces canned skinless, boneless pink salmon
1/4 cup whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp plus 1 1/2 tsp grainy mustard, divided
2 tbsp light mayonnaise
1½ tbsp chopped dill, divided
1 tbsp plus 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped shallot
2 tsp capers, chopped
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 cup 2-percent-fat Greek yogurt
2 tbsp lemon juice, divided
2 cups baby arugula
Lemon wedges, for serving
Heat oven to 400°. Drain salmon and flake into a bowl; stir in breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons mustard, mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon dill, 1 tablespoon shallot and capers until well combined.
Form into 8 patties (1/3 cup each); let rest 5 minutes. In a large, ovensafe pan over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil; cook patties until golden brown, 4 minutes per side. Transfer to oven and bake until hot to the touch, 10 to 12 minutes. In a bowl, combine yogurt, 1 tbsp lemon juice and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard, 1/2 tablespoon dill and 1/2 teaspoon shallot; season with salt and black pepper.
Toss arugula with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Serve salmon cakes with yogurt sauce, arugula salad and lemon wedges.Note: I used a 14 ounce can of salmon to make four cakes. I reduced the ingredients for the cakes by an eyeballed 15 – 20% and they turned out fine.

Caldo de Pescado

The lenten season is over. My favorite seasonal bread pudding, capirotada, is off the menu until next year in local Mexican restaurants. Fortunately, many offer Caldo de Pescado, (fish soup) year ’round so all is not lost.

Last night was chilly and called for a Mexican style fish soup. I didn’t want to go out to a restaurant. How difficult could it be, I figured, so it was a quick trip to the store and back to the kitchen to play with my food!

Jim’s fish soup with cod, shrimp, vegetables, jalapeños and hot sauce. Just right for a cool and windy evening.

Caldo de Pescado al Jim

Ingredients to play with

For starters, there are plastic packets of ready cut vegetables for caldo in most of our groceries.  I picked up one that had a wedge of cabbage, two carrots, two small potatoes, a shucked ear of corn, a small onion, a Mexican gray squash, half a turnip, a lemon and two jalapeños.  I picked up another ear of corn and two small potatoes to be sure there was enough. Good thing I did; the corn in the package had started to dry up and one potato was past its prime. That spur of the moment decision saved the day.

Better than Bullion cooking bases are a staple in my pantry and refrigerator.  They are thick pastes reduced from meats and vegetables.  While salty, they are not as salty as bullion cubes and ever so much better.  They come as beef, chicken, vegetable and fish bases and are the company is starting to offer lower sodium versions.

I used a good size dutch oven about 3/4 full of water and roughly three tables spoons of  fish base for starters.  That’s easier than the tradition Mexican recipes calling for boiling grouper heads and bones to make a broth. Besides, being from El Paso, it wouldn’t know a grouper if I met one..

One Mexican thing was boiling the potatoes and carrots separately because they are starchy and can cloud the water.  The other vegetables went into the dutch oven for about 20 minutes. As the veggies were got tender, I added a pound of  bite size chunks pacific cod for an additional 10 minutes.  Pacific cod is firm yet tender and not too fishy tasting. It is still reasonably priced.  Next came a half pound of raw shrimp peeled and tails clipped before going into the soup.  A can of diced tomatoes (non-traditional ingredient) rounded out the flavors of the broth.  Just before serving, the potatoes and carrots went into the big pot and it was all stirred together.

On the side, lemon wedges, a seeded and sliced jalapeño and a bottle of Franks Red Hot Sauce stood by to liven things up.

This first-time fish soup goes on the “Let’s have it again” list.


Sweet Potato Hash Browned Waffle

You can do many more things with sweet potatoes than serve them baked with syrup and marshmallows once a year. And you can tell yourself that sweet potato fries are better for you than French fried potatoes. I suspect you have not tried Sweet Potato Hash Browed Waffles!  I saw a recipe and drooled at the photo so I had to try it.  The recipe is gluten free, and it is posted below as such.  I found that the batter of rice flower, coconut oil and egg did not hold the sweet potatoes together well in my Belgian waffle maker. I used the gluten free items because of a friend’s dietary needs. I’ll make the recipe with regular flour for myself next time. I’ll also use my panini press to cook the sweet potato has because on only have a Belgian waffle maker.

Open-face sweet potato hash brown waffle topped with ham and a Brussels sprout slaw and dried cranberries make an exotic and delicious breakfast!



2 medium-size sweet potatoes (about 20 oz.), peeled and julienned

1 cup thinly sliced yellow onion

3 Tbsp brown rice flour

1 Tbsp melted coconut oil plus more for greasing the waffle iron


3 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp pure maple syrup

8 ounces Brussels sprouts, shaved

1/3 cup dried cranberries

8 ounces nitrate-free reduced-sodium thinly sliced ham


1 Preheat a waffle iron to high. (I recommend a regular waffle iron rather than a Belgian waffle iron.) Combine the grated sweet potato, onion slices, 1 Tablespoon coconut oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl.  Grease the waffle iron with coconut oil and place 1-1/2 cuts of the sweet potato mixture in the center of the waffle iron, spread the mixture to create a 6-inch square.  Close the waffle iron and cook until browned and tender – about 13 minutes. Remove the waffled sweet potato hash and remove and repeat the procedure until four waffles have been made.

2. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard, maple syrup and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.  Add the shaved Brussels sprouts and let stand until the sprouts are tender – about 10 minutes.  Fold in the cranberries.

3. Put one waffle on each of 4 plates.  Top each with 2 ounces of ham slices and about 2/3 cup Brussels slaw.

Note: This slaw is especially flavorful and would be good as a side or topper for most anything.

Cheesy Grits with Scallions and Jammy Eggs

Green Chili cheese grits topped with a poached egg have long been a favorite cool weather breakfast, but, now there’s a new game in town!  In the April issue of Bon Appétit, I ran across a technique for Jammy Soft Boiled Eggs served on cheesy grits that I just had to try. No green chili in the grits, but a sprinkling of sautéd scallions and thin-sliced jalapeño saved the day.  I think the jammy eggs rank right up there with poached eggs for silky delicious yolks just a bit more firm than poached egg yolks.

Cheesy grits topped by jammy eggs and crisp scallions and jalapeño.

If you don’t know that the ratio of grits to water is 1 to 4, you must be a Yankee.*  Slowly pour 1/4 cup grits into 2 cups gently boiling lightly salted water and stir. As grits begin to thicken, reduce temperature and stir occasionally until grits are tender.  You might need to add more liquid near the end of cooking.  At this stage, I thin it with milk and stir in a tablespoon or so of butter.  I don’t use = quick cooking or instant grits, I use the real thing that takes about 25 minutes to cook.  It is well worth it to get luscious, smooth and rich flavor.  While the grits cook, slice scallions an jalapeño in thin strips. Use an entire bunch of scallions, green and white parts, and two stemmed and seeded chilis, sautéd crisp, the drained on paper towels.

To make the jammy eggs, bring a large saucepan of water deep enough to cover eggs to a boil over medium-high. A 2-quart pan should hold 6-8 eggs. Carefully lower eggs into water using a slotted spoon.  Cook for EXACTLY 6-1/2 have minutes, then transfer the eggs to a ice bath and chill until the eggs are slightly warm – about 2 minutes.  The ice baths stops the cooking and makes the eggs easier to peel. Remove the eggs from the ice bath, peel and slice them.  The yolk will be jammy and warm.

Dish up the grits, top with slice eggs and sprinkle with crisp scallions and jalapeño.

These eggs are so good that I’m searching for things I can serve under them.

Spring Greens

Spring Salad of snap peas, asparagus and leeks on a bed of leaf lettuce and mâche with a lemon vinaigrette and a garnish of pepadew peppers stuffed with ricotta salt. In this photo, a rosette of mâche rests on the edge of an oven roasted pork chop.

While we were at a meeting the other day, sweet Alice Parra slipped me a generous bag of snap peas from her garden. They were beautiful. At every traffic light on the way home, I pulled the strings off a couple and munched on them raw.  I couldn’t wait to get them into the kitchen.

I had been inspired by a recipe for chicken thighs braised with peas, asparagus and leeks.  It sounded good, but I thought the combination would be better as part of a salad.  Those snap peas needed to be bright and crisp instead of braised. So, once more, I had to play with my food.

Spring Salad


1 small leek, white and light green parts only, split, washed and sliced into thin half-moons

4 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 lemon

1/2 lb. asparagus

1/2 lb. or so fresh snap peas, string removed and left in the pod.

pepadew peppers form the deli olive bar

ricotta salata to stuff pepadews

green leaf lettuce



Sauté leeks on medium heat until tender. Remove from heat and set aside.  Trim and slice asparagus at an angle, string the peas. Sauté asparagus and peas in the leek pan until crisp/tender and bright green. Plunge into a bowl of ice water and stir to stop cooking, drain and set aside.

Stuff pepadew peppers with ricotta salt.  They are so good, that you must let your conscience be your guide about how many to make.

Was and dry lettuce and mâche, tear lettuce into bite sized pieces.  Pinch root tips off mâche rosettes.

Zest lemon, halve and squeeze juice of 1/2 lemon onto greens, place and juice of remaining lemon half in a bowl with 2 tbsp olive oil.  Whisk until emulsified. Season with a little salt and pepper.

Toss greens with lemon vinaigrette.  Add leeks, asparagus and peas to greens and toss lightly to mix.  Plate the salad and place a few stuffed peppers on top for color and garnish.

I served this salad with a pork chop and a delicate salad of curried chickpeas with minced vegetables.