Thursday, September 25, 2008

Salmon Fish Cakes

I got this wonderfully comforting recipe from Nigella Bites, and it is a delicious way to use up leftover mashed potatoes. She suggests using canned salmon instead of fresh, so I bought a can of the stuff for the first time tonight.

Man, it was a great deal! 14.5 ounces of wild salmon for $1.50. I'm not suggesting that it's an adequate substitute for a freshly grilled salmon filet, but if you need some cheap protein and a quick hit of omega-3 fatty acids I don't know if it can be beat for the price.

Nigella uses matzo meal in place of bread crumbs to fry these fish cakes, but I used panko instead since I had it in my cabinet.

For the fish cakes:
1.5 to 2 cups cold mashed potatoes
14.5 ounces canned salmon, drained
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled (optional--only use if the mashed potato hasn't got any butter in it)
1 pinch cayenne pepper
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 egg
Salt and pepper (season cautiously--remember that the canned salmon will be salty and the potatoes have already been seasoned!)

For coating and frying:
2 eggs
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs or medium grain matzo meal
scant 1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a large bowl, mix together all of the fish cake ingredients with clean hands.

Cover a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Form palm sized patties of the mixture, and place on the baking sheet. I got 7 cakes out of my mixture, but I think it will vary on how much potato you have. Set the baking sheet in the refrigerator and leave the cakes to firm up for however long you can wait--at least 20 minutes. To save time in the evening, you can mix up the patties first thing in the morning and leave them to sit in the fridge all day until dinner time.

Even with this time in the fridge, you will have to handle the fish cakes very delicately during the dipping and frying process. I had one fall apart on me!

Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl and spread out the breadcrumbs on a plate. Dip each fish cake into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs, coating evenly. Warm the butter and oil in a large pan over medium high heat. When the butter is melted and starts to fizzle, fry the fish cakes on each side until golden brown and the centers are warmed through.

Rating: This is awesome

Leftovers rule! Even though the fish cake mixture smelled like cat food before I cooked it, it tasted fantastic once it was done: crunchy exterior, mild and soft interior. It wasn't overly fishy or potato-y; everything melded together nicely.

My Omnivore’s Hundred

Yes, I know that I'm very late to the party on this. No, I don't expect this to be of interest to anyone but me.

For the uninitiated, the rules are:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (I did a wine tasting at Florida Orange Groves and Winery in St. Petersburg during my senior year spring break. I forget what all I tried, but it was tasty!)
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries (We had a blackberry bush behind my house in Maryland when I was growing up.)
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (I think the heat would make me insane in the membrane. I am such a wimp with spicy food.)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (I don't see this happening. Not for any particular reason; I just don't see it happening)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal (Again, the spiciness and I don't mix)
44. Goat's milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu (No food is worth dying for, especially since I've read that fugu doesn't even taste very good)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal (Not out of snobbiness; I just hate their special sauce!)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini (I'd rather have a dry vodka martini, thank you very much)
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S'mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (Maybe if I were starving?)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs' legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict (I hate hollandaise sauce)
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant (I wish. I did eat lunch at one though.)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

49 out of 100. Ohhh, I've got a lot of livin' to do...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Chicken Quesadilla

Me and quesadillas, we go way back. I'm not sure when I started making them for after-school snacks, but it was pretty early on. Back then, I would slap salsa and cheese together in a tortilla and microwave it without further adornment. I was just interested in the melted cheese! Then I decided that I wanted the outside of the tortillas to be crispy, so I started browning them under the broiler. This led to many burned quesadillas, but I still loved them. It wasn't until I saw one of my roommates in DC making hers by letting them sit in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat until lightly browned on each side that I realized her method was the way to go. What can I say, I'm slow sometimes!

They are also my favorite thing to order in bars or other low-to-mid priced restaurants. The woman who worked the grill at the deli across the street from my last job did a damn tasty quesadilla; it was pretty much the only thing I would get when I had lunch out. The best quesadillas I have ever had were from an unlikely source: the student cafe at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. I worked on a campaign out there for a short time in 2002, and our office was about a mile away from SBC. I ate lunch at the Bistro as much as possible. Greatest 5 weeks of my life? Possibly. I wish I knew what their secret was.

I won't insult your intelligence with a recipe for quesadillas! These were pretty basic: just salsa, co-jack cheese, and shredded leftover roast chicken. Sometimes I'll saute some onion slices, pepper strips, and chopped garlic to include in the filling. Adding fresh cilantro is always a good idea.

Rating: This is awesome

Frugal Thoughts

Frugality is on everyone's minds these days. With our crazy economic situation and the government's current band-aid-on-a-gaping-wound response to it, it seems like we'll all be standing in the bread line sooner or later! Am I the only one who is totally ready for the new TV season and end-of-the-year glut of movie releases? I need some good escapism right about now.

I've been re-evaluating my lifestyle quite a bit over the past several months to try to cut corners. The most-repeated frugality tip out there is to cook your own food; eating out tends to be the biggest portion of the average person's discretionary spending. I consider myself pretty lucky that I know how to cook AND I enjoy doing it. Since I already know the basics, I've been thinking of ways to challenge myself to cut the grocery bill even further.

I set a goal for this week: make a Sunday Night Dinner and use up the leftovers in other dinners before next Sunday. I bought a 6 pound chicken to roast, since chickens were on sale, and made it with mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli. I even made gravy from the pan drippings, which I hardly ever bother to do! After dinner I discarded the chicken skin (it does NOT reheat well) , pulled the uneaten chicken into strips for later use, and boxed up the rest of the stuff in separate containers.

My plan for tonight is to make chicken quesdillas. That will use up the chicken. If there's anything left after tonight, it should be easy enough to throw it into a stir-fry or curry or something later in the week. Tomorrow night I'm going to make salmon fishcakes with the mashed potatoes, using budget-friendly canned salmon. I'll probably serve the leftover broccoli as a side with this. So that just leaves the gravy. I have no clue what to do with it! Any ideas? I could always just freeze it and use it the next time I roast a chicken, but that seems like less fun than coming up with a way to recycle it now!

Since we're on the topic, here are a few of my favorite frugal links:

That last one scares me a bit, but it's nice to know that it can be done, right?