Paring Down Can Foster Indulgence, so Play with Your Food!

Some of us subscribe to cooking and recipe sites on the web.  Interesting things appear that tantalize the eye and the appetite.  Some arouse curiosity and other demand to be made. All those happened when I ran across Chile-Lime Clams with Tomatoes and Grilled Bread.  My curiosity was peaked by the inclusion of chick peas (garbanzo beans) in the recipe.  I’m most familiar with chickpeas as hummus and don’t have much experience with them as whole beans.  What the heck, give it a try!  And this recipe for four servings appeared easy to reduce per my goals in this New Season of reduced quantities. It also was flexible enough to allow for loose measuring of ingredients. For instance, it called for 24 clams. Six clams per serving? Pikers!  I ordered 12 clams to make one serving. I love clams and had no guilt over this indulgence. When cooking for one, or som times two, indulge and enjoy! I used the recipe below as a guideline for this dish.  I played with parts of it, hence inclusion in the Play with Your Food Category.

Chile-Lime Clams with Tomatoes. As good as it was hoped it would be! A keeper.

The original recipe suggested cooking in a cast iron pan on a grill outside. Think this over… acid foods (including tomatoes)  cooked in cast iron can acquire a metallic taste and cause the pans to lose their carefully built up seasoned finish. I read that acidic foods cooked in cast iron for no more than 15 minutes will not acquire a metallic taste, nor will the harm the finish.  Not worth the risk on my older than I am cast iron hand-me-downs from early in the last century!

It has been unseasonably hot so far this spring and summer.  I’m convinced hot air from the Capitol fanned by Tweet kindling is the cause, but that’s a different rant. I chose to cook on the stovetop in an anodized aluminum pan that has a non-teflon, dishwasher safe non-stick finish.  I had to forgo grilled toast, but was satisfied with torn chunks of bread with a schemear of butter for sopping up the pan sauce with the meal. This photo is of the pan on the stovetop.  I knew a dozen clams in my serving bowl, would be too crowded for a good picture.  Indulge me and imagine chopped cilantro sprinkled on top.

CHILE-LIME CLAMS WITH TOMATOES AND GRILLED BREAD

4 servings

INGREDIENTS

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, divided

2 large shallots, chopped

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup beer

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed

2 tablespoons (or more) sambal oelek

24 littleneck clams, scrubbed

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

4 thick slices country-style bread

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

1/2 cup cilantro leaves with tender stems

Lime wedges (for serving)

METHOD

Prepare a grill for medium, indirect heat (for a gas grill, leave one or two burners off; for a charcoal grill, bank coals on one side of grill). Place a large cast-iron skillet on grill over direct heat (move it around to cooler part of grill as you cook if needed) and melt 4 Tbsp. butter in skillet. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until paste darkens to a rich brick-red color, about 1 minute. Add beer and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until beer is reduced nearly by half and no longer smells boozy, about 4 minutes. Stir in chickpeas and sambal oelek, then add clams. Cover (if you don’t have a lid that fits, use a sheet of foil) and cook, stirring occasionally, until clams have opened; this could take from 5–10 minutes depending on size of clams and the heat level. Remove from heat; discard any clams that don’t open. Stir in lime juice and remaining 2 Tbsp. butter.

While the clams are cooking on the grill, drizzle bread with oil and season lightly with salt. Grill until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes per side.

Transfer toast to plates and spoon clam mixture over; top with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

 

 

 

Another Day in the New Season

This New Season is proving interesting.  Among the challenges is the fact that my refrigerator has a black hole. Leftovers saved with good intensions seem to be sucked into the depths of who knows where until eventually they  reappear in almost unrecognizable form that cannot be saved for any purpose.  My disdain of leftovers is not a new trait. When I had a leftover browser around, this was not much of a problem. They were devoured readily.

Now, I have to think ahead and work on downsizing recipes. One example was yesterday’s breakfast and a planned variation of a leftover that was almost perfect!  I’ll explain that after posting the recipe.

I’ll be posting recipes with original serving quantities. Sometimes my narrative will explain how portions were reduced.

If you’ve read this blog before you have probably discovered I love green chile cheese grits with eggs for breakfast. I’ve posted many variations of my love of the runny egg yolks of poached eggs and my new love, jammy eggs with a firmer white and slightly firmer yolk. Be warned, there will likely be more.

Polenta with jammy eggs and a couple of options. See below.

Ground corn can be found in many colors and textures.  We call a fine grind, corn meal.  Depending on geography and language, coarser grinds can be called grits or polenta (in Italian). Grits can be wet as a breakfast cereal or side dish in the southern U.S. They can be an odd texture and bland taste to the uninitiated. When I first discovered grits on a road trip, I had to mix in one of those little packets of jelly to eat them.  Before long, I graduated to butter and a light sprinkle of black pepper on grits.

Some of my back woods family introduced me to corn meal mush – very moist grits sometimes flavored with cane syrup, sometimes with a little red-eye gravy.  One morning they served fried cornmeal mush -grits that had been allowed to set a spell and firm up in a pan, then be sliced and fried in pan drippings to have a firm browned crust and tender moist center.  A perfect accompaniment to eggs and sausage as long as there were biscuits for sopping the plate.

In an early experience in a big city Italian restaurant several steps above the spaghetti and meat balls I knew as Italian food, I experienced polenta with a meaty marinara sauce topped with parmesan, and I don’t mean the cheese flavored sawdust in a green can.  It was an epiphany . I swore off fried mush and devoted my palate to polenta and all the variations I could try or invent.

El Paso is not know for Polenta.  Our ground corn becomes masa and is delectable in its own right in Mexican food.

I can get Bob’s Red Mill Polenta here and always pick some up when I find it.  It comes in both yellow and white varieties.  I personally prefer the yellow for the color on the plate

Basic Polenta with Gringo Gourmet OPTIONS

6 cups water

about… 1 tsp salt

2 cups polenta

about… 3 Tbsp butter NEVER MARGARINE

Method

Bring water and salt to a boil in a large, deep pan. Gradually stir in polenta. Reduce heat and simmer gently. Stir frequently to prevent sticking until mixture is very thick (about 30 minutes). Use a long-handled spoon because mixture bubbles and pops. It is hot if it pops on you! Taste periodically to make sure polenta has softened; add liquid if it becomes too thick.  You want it to be tender and thick, not sloppy wet.

Package recipe says: Stir in butter and add salt if needed. Oil a deep medium sized bowl. Spoon polenta into bowl and let set for 10 minutes. Invert onto a flat plate. Polenta will unmold and hold shape of bowl. Slice into thick slices and serve hot. Top with your favorite pasta sauce and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Gringo Gourmet Options

When adding liquid to thin polenta, I use milk or, if feeling wicked, half and half and a little extra butter for a richer taste.

I like polenta and Jammy Eggs with cheese and green chile for breakfast.  I thin the polenta a bit more, don’t let is set up, and, just before serving, stir in shredded cheddar cheese and chopped green chile or a good green jarred salsa, then top it with the eggs.

Sometimes, I just stir in some shredded cheddar or parmesan cheese before serving. Polenta is a great and flexible base for many toppings.

Remember the ratio is 3 measures of water to one measure of dry polenta so you can vary the amount you make at any given time.  1 1/2 cups water:1/2 cup polenta makes one generous serving.

In times of desperation, when I don’t have polenta in the house, I’ve been know to use plain corn meal to make a very smooth “polenta” or if a surprise guest arrives, I’ve stretched a pot of polenta by adding corn meal and extra liquid because the corn meal cooks faster.

Now, you ask (don’t you?),  “What happened to the left over polenta?”

Too small roasted salmon portion with lemon, fried polenta topped with jarred tomato pesto and pan blistered grape tomatoes. On the side as spinach with mushrooms and garlic slivers.

I saved the left over polenta. I put it in two oiled ramekins and topped it with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator until time to prep dinner.

The polenta had set up very firm while I enjoyed breakfast.  I added a little water to thin it out so I could spoon it into a pair of ramekins.  I covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge until time to prep dinner.

MISTAE! MISTAKE! MISTAKE!  I should have left it out to set up again and I should not have put plastic wrap on it.  This was polenta, not a custard that might develop a skin without the plastic wrap.

I coddled the “not quite set” polenta into an oiled pan and began cooking it over medium heat.  It was taking a long time to dry out and I kept having to reshape it as it cooked.  I finally was able to flip it over and work on the other side.

It browned somewhat and I was able to top it with the jarred sun dried tomato pesto, my pan blistered grape tomatoes and a sprinkle of grated parmesan.  I transferred the patties to my plate and moved forward with plating the spinach and salmon.

I seasoned the salmon with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and lemon slices.  The store portion was more narrow than the lemon slices, so I had to manipulate them to fit.

No gripes about the greens and mushrooms.  I did add a light sprinkle of Fred’s Red Hot Sauce.  That’s what we southerners do with our greens!

On the New Season adventure, I’ve decided it is better to pick up a serving a greens at a salad bar than to buy a large bag or tub of greens that won’t be used up.  Better economics in the long haul.  I choose a small jar of tomato pesto that I can finish over a larger jar of pasta sauce that would be destined for the black hole in the fridge.

 

A New Season

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

3:1To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

3:2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which was planted;

3:3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

3:4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance;

3:5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

3:6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

3:7 A time to rend and a time to sew; a time to keep silence. And a time to speak;

3:8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war. And a time of peace.

I have always been taken by these Bible verses and found peace and comfort in them during times of stress and hurt. I hope to find recordings of the versions of the verses turned in to song by Pete Seeger in 1952 and by the Byrds in 1965.

It may seem odd that I am sharing these verses here. I do so to introduce a new recipe category in the Gringo Gourmet blog.  It is called “A New Season”.  It will consist of recipes pared down to one or two servings and new creations in smaller portions.  There will still be entries in the other recipe categories. I do hope readers will comment on the new category and the narratives that will accompany them.

This new approach is one way I am adjusting to the death, May 23, of my beloved best friend and partner, Jack Gibbs Makepeace, Jr. following a very rapid 11 day course after diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. His family and I were with him and are thankful that we could be there for him. We now are now beginning a new season in our lives.

Paring down in a new season:

Seared Scallops with Mint, Peas and Bacon

Things to consider when paring down:

Don’t give up cooking and enjoying good food.  It can be therapeutic.

Find a recipe that divides evenly.  This recipe was for four servings of three scallops each.  I was too embarrassed to ask for three scallops, so I asked for six. I’m very glad I did.

On the subject of reduction… my waffle recipe makes 6 – 8 waffles and calls for one egg.  I’m wondering how to made one or two waffles by dividing the dry and liquid ingredients, but dividing a beaten egg seem intimidating.  Maybe I should use egg beaters instead and do the arithmetic

Use what needs to be used from the fridge or freezer and find a recipe that works for it.  I had a small fillet from Omaha Steak that needed to be used, so I suddenly had a new twist on Surf ‘n’ Turf. If you have to buy expensive fresh herbs for a recipe, find another recipe that helps you use the rest of the herb.

Use the right shortcut tools.  I didn’t want to bother cleaning a blender, so I used a small electric food chopper.  It is very good at chopping, but not so good at puréeing.  Maybe the immersion stick blender instead next time.

All are doable, it just takes a little thinking and planning.

The base of puréed peas, lemon and mint was delicious; the topping of whole peas and bacon was attractive and good.  The chunky purée base took away from the accent o the whole peas.

I had to have lemon juice and grated zest for the purée so I cut a few strips of lemon peel for garnish before grating.  I plated the scallops with the lemon zest strips and some tiny mint leaves.

It was 106º the evening I made this, so my little steak was pan broiled in the kitchen instead of out on the grill.

Below is the original recipe for four.  Buy more scallops if you are cooking for four, three each just wouldn’t be enough.

Scallops with Mint, Peas and Bacon

Ingredients:

12 large sea scallops (preferably dry packed), with side muscle removed (about 1 1/2 pounds

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 1 1/2 pods) or frozen peas

3 ounces bacon (about 3 slices), or cut crosswise into 1/3 inch strips

1 medium shallot, cut crosswise into thin rings

1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp (or more) olive oil

3 Tbsp mint leves, coarse chopped, divided

Method

Place scallops on a paper towel lined plate and pat very dry with additional paper towels.  Season both sides with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper total.

Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a small pot, covered. Add peas and 1/2 tsp. salt; cook until peas are bright green and tender, about two minutes for fresh  and 4 minutes for frozen. Drain peas through a strainer set over a small bowl and reserve cooking liquid.

Add bacon to a large skillet and heat over medium-high. Cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until fat starts to render, about 3 minutes. Add shallot and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly browned and bacon is crisp, about three minutes more. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon and shallot to a small bowl, reserving fat in skillet. Add 1/2 cup cooked peas to bacon mixture.

Purée lemon juice, 1/8 tsp salt an 1/8 tsp pepper, the remaining 1 1/2 cups peas and 1/2 cup reserved pea cooking liquid in a blender.  Add oil and purée until smooth.  Add 2 Tbsp mint leaves and purée until just combined, but pieces of int are still visible.  Divide pea purée among 4 plates.

Heat skillet with reserved fat over high until just barely smoking.  Working in batches and adding more oil if needed, sear scallops until a golden brown cut has formed and scallop releases from skillet, about 3 minutes per side. Top pea purée with scallops and bacon- pea mixture, then sprinkle with remaining 1Tbsp of mint.

Still Playing with My Food

We made a late morning decision to stay home rather than fight the Mother’s Day crowds at restaurants today. That saved a couple of chairs for lucky Mom’s out there!

I had some ideas for putting together a late started meal that would look better planned, so I rushed off to the store for pork tenderloins, baby white potatoes and asparagus. Luckily for me, one of the stores had  sugar snap peas, so I was able make a spring vegetable salad side dish.  The potatoes became crispy smashed potatoes, an idea lifted from last night’s dinner.

I didn’t have a recipes for this meal, so I played around and came up with some good stuff!

Pork Tenderloin, Spring Vegetables and Crispy Smashed Potatoes

Ingredients and What I Did

Spring vegetables: asparagus, sugar snap peas, red onion boiled together for about 5 minutes until tender/crisp and bright green, then plunged into an ice bath, cooled, strained and patted dry. They were dressed with . red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and drizzled with olive oil.

Crispy Smashed Potatoes: baby red and white potatoes tossed with olive oil and salt and roasted in a 425º oven until done enough to pierce with a fork.  Take about 30 minutes. Halfway through, turn and make sure they are still covered with olive oil.  When you can pierce them, gently press them with a potato masher to flatten them to about a half inch high. Make sure the are still covered with olive oil.  Return to the oven for about 10 minutes, turn them and give them another 20 minutes too get good and crisp.  Remove from oven and let coo.

Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce: I used a pack of two tenderloins so I’d have left overs.  Increase the oven temp to 450º.  Remove silver skin from the tenderloins carefully. Tuck thin end under tip for even cooking.

I combined smooth Dijon mustard, whole grain Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar and brown sugar adjusting ingredient volume one at a time until it tasted good. At a the end, I stirred in some smoked paprika for color and a hint of smokey flavor.  The tenderloins were basted well and put on a rack in a foil-lined baking pan popped them in the oven.  At 15 minutes, I checked their internal temperature with a meet thermometer, turnned them over and basted the underside.  Back in the oven for 20 minutes, another temperature check, a last turned over and light brush with olive oil to encourage browning. Back in the oven for 8 minutes.  One last temperature check and they had reached 145º.  Out of the oven and on to a platter, tented with foil to rest for five minutes.

The salad and potatoes were carefully tossed, then plated. I pulled the now dressed potatoes out and made the plating you see above.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with ingredients you know go together to do something like the mustard sauce. Mix the sugar and mustards and use the vinegar for balance and to thin the sauce a little.

Tomato Salad with Crispy Potatoes and Creamy Feta

It took some time to prep and cook, but it so worth the effort. This plate is two servings. I slipped a small steak on my plate to go with it.

My Master Gardener good neighbor brought me a bag of grape tomatoes and green tomatoes that will ripen in a few days.  Coincidentally, I had been looking at this tomato salad in the new issue of Sunset Magazine. Of course I had to give it a try. Red, green and yellow tomatoes were cut in slices, wedges and halves to make it interesting.  Some slivers of red onion gave it a gentle bite and oven roasted, smashed baby potatoes set it off well.  Those potatoes are destined to be a house favorite.  You can see a little of the base of creamy feta made by blending feta with buttermilk to get the desired creamy consistency.  A touch of sumac was just the right touch.

TOMATO SALAD WITH CRISPY POTATOES AND CREAMY FETA

 Serves 4 – 6;

Prep and cook 1-1/2 hours and worth it!

 Crispy Potatoes

Ingredients

1 lb. baby potatoes

About ½ tsp salt

About 1’2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Method

Preheat oven to 425°. Scrub and dry potatoes and heap on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with ½ tsp. salt and pour on ½ cup olive oil. Turn to coat well and spread in an even layer and roast until crisp – 25-30 minutes. Turn every 10 minutes or so to be sure they are evenly coated with oil.

Remove potatoes from oven and test with a fork, when soft enough to pierce, press with a potato masher to flatten them.  If needed season lightly with salt and drizzle with more oil, if needed. Return to oven and roast until browned and very crisp – another 20–25 minutes, turning over halfway through. Set aside to cool.

Creamy Feta

Ingredients

7 oz. feta, preferably sheep’s milk, crumbled to yield about 11/2 cups

1 to 4 Tbsp well-shaken 2% buttermilk

11/2 tsp. sumac (available at middle eastern groceries)

fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

While potatoes roast, make the feta sauce. In a food processor, blend feta a few seconds to break it down. With blade spinning, slowly add buttermilk to make the sauce thick and smooth as crème fraiche. Scrape sides and bottom of processor with a rubber spatula if necessary and blend just until smooth. Blend in sumac. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To Serve:

1/1/4 heirloom tomatoes cut into wedges and/or thick slices.

2 Tbsp thinly sliced red onion

1 Tbsp sherry vinegar

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1Tbsp flat-leaf parsley leaves and chervil leaves

¼ cup small to medium basil leaves

Extra-virgin olive oil

Assemble salad: In a large bowl, toss tomato pieces, red onion, red onion and crispy potatoes (include any oil left in pan) with vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spread feta sauce on a large serving platter and arrange tomato and potato mixture on top. Shingle in herbs and finish with a drizzle of oil.

Boned trout… there’s a first time for everything!

Do you ever become the victim of a dramatic magazine photo and a beguiling recipe?

I consider finding a show-stopper a challenge so I have a throw-down between the magazine and me! Usually with good results.

Chard-Stuffed Trout With Charred Tomato Vinaigrette. The magazine photo challenged me!

The beguiling recipe called for butterflied boned trout. In visiting two markets, I found whole trout, heads and tails intact, and not boned. The other choice was flat filets. I thought and asked myself, how hard could it be?

I didn’t know what to do with the heads and tails at home, so my fishmonger removed them for me. He’s better equipped to dispose of trimmings like that than I.

I took the trout home and searched for a boning video.  YouTube has several and all are pretty much the same.  It was helpful to watch the video chef make a slice on either side of the spine and gently cut under it to remove it from head end to tail end.

She then carefully slipped her knife under the rib bones and cut a paper thin slice of flesh under them and carefully used the blade of the knife to lift them out. Kitchen tweezers helped remove a few pin bones that were left. That maneuver was repeated on the other side.

I was able to remove the spine just fine, but the rib bones were a little more challenging.  The were removed, but not as quickly or gracefully as the TV chef did hers.

The charred tomato vinaigrette and the stuffing took some prep time, but were worth it for the flavor.  I learned one lesson from charing the tomatoes.  I thought I’d loosened the  fond from the pan with a splash of water and add it to the blender. It turned my vinaigrette brown instead of pink like the original recipe’s. Ah, well, lessons learned.

The experience with boning fish was a good lesson. I’ll be prepared if I ever want to stuff a fish again.  the stuffing is bright and colorful and just might appear as a side dish one day. I will have to make the tomato vinaigrette again just to get the color right.

FYI, I only prepared two trout and it was not difficult to halve the recipe.

My chard-stuffed trout with an accidentally browned charred tomato vinaigrette. It was still delicious!

Chard-Stuffed Trout with Charred Tomato Vinaigrette

 The Vinaigrette

Ingredients

2 large tomatoes, cut into ½ inch slices

¼ cup fresh flat-leaved parsley leaves

2 Tbsp. capers, drained and rinsed

6 Tbsp. oilive oil, divided

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

2 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely divided

1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided

3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided

Method

Heat a large cast-iron pan or grill pan over high heat.

Add tomato slices to pan; cook 6 minutes on each side until well charred.

Place tomatoes in a blender. Add parsley, capers, ¼ cup olive oil, rosemary, juice, vinegar, garlic cloves, salt and pepper and blend until smooth.

 

The Stuffing

Ingredients

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced into thin strips

1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced into thin stripps

1 shallot, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 bunch chard, leaves and top portions of stems thinly sliced

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

Method

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to pan. Add bell peppers, shallot, and sliced garlic cloves; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add chard; sauté 2 minutes or until chard is just wilted. Remove from heat, stir in chopped basil.

 

The Trout and Assembly

Ingredients

4 (6 oz.) butterflied boneless trout, heads and tails removed

¼ up pitted Niçoise olives

5 thyme springs

Preheat oven to 400° F. Spread tomato mixture in a bottom of a 9X13 inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle olives over mixture and arrange thyme sprigs over mixture.

Sprinkle trout inside and out evenly with ¼ tsp. salt and1’2 tsp pepper. Place about ½ cup stuffing in each butterflied trout and fold halves back together. Reserve a little stuffing for garnish when plating.

Heat remaining Tbsp olive oil in large non-stick pan. Add 2 stuffed trout to pan; cook 2 minutes or until skin is golden brown. Turn trout over and cook another 2 minutes until skin is golden brown. Place browned trout on mixture in baking dish. Repeat browning on remaining two stuffed fish. Place baking dish in oven and bake at 400° for 12 minutes until trout is just cooked through.

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.

 

SALMON CAKES AND ARUGULA SALAD
INGREDIENTS
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
METHOD
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!

Ingredients

Waffles

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

Slaw

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

Method

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.