Friday, April 24, 2015

Salmon Cakes

Last week, it was A's turn to cook and she was craving Salmon Cakes.   You did not hear any complaints from our grateful crew about A. surrendering to her hankering!  

This particular recipe calls for coating the prepared patties with panko bread crumbs.  Wikipedia explains that "panko is a variety of flaky bread crumb used in Japanese cuisine as a crunchy coating for fried foods. Panko is made from bread baked by passing an electric current through the dough, yielding bread without crusts, and it has a crisper, airier texture than most types of breading found in Western cuisine.”  I like to use panko breadcrumbs in my meatballs.

What makes panko bread crumbs different from regular bread crumbs the processing. Panko bread crumbs look like flakes or slivers of bread rather than their traditional, crumbly counterparts. Each panko flake or sliver covers more surface than a traditional crumb which results in a crispier, lighter coating. 

These patties were light, crispy and delicious indeed! Perfect topped with the sauce....either one.  Keep reading.

Salmon Patties
by: A
1 1/2 pound fresh salmon - diced into small pieces
1/2 onion - grated
2 pieces of white bread (pepperidge farm) diced very small
2 tablespoons mayo
Lemon zest and juice from one lemon
Fresh parsley
Salt and pepper

Combine all of above, shape into patties and place in freezer on parchment lined sheet pan for 20 -30 minutes

Coating preparation
Beat 2 eggs with a little oil and water in flat dish
Put flour in another flat dish
Put panko bread crumbs in a third flat dish

Dip patties in flour, then egg, then panko. Fry in a mixture of olive oil and butter until golden and cooked through.

Combine ½ cup of mayonnaise, ½ cup of sour cream, lime zest and juice, chopped cilantro and finely diced jalapeno to taste. Add salt and pepper or whatever else you want.

A. had another tomato-based sauce prepared but she thought it was too tart so she whipped up the creamy number described above.  If that were me, I would have been all twitterpated causing me to hop in the car, rush to the Co-Op and buy a commercially prepared replacement, probably made by Stonewall Kitchen. That's why she's my cooking idol, next in line to Martha.

A. served the salmon cakes with oven baked asparagus and varigated carrots.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Chicken Provencal

Now that Older Daughter’s shower is a wonderful memory, I am attempting to get back on track with my dinner club posts.

Seems like you all read that declaration before.

Honestly, I always have the posts written in my mind….it’s getting them to the keyboard that seems to be the hurdle.

Two weeks ago, we had dinner at M.’s house.  It was still a little chilly that night so she had a nice, relaxing fire going…the perfect ambiance for what she chose to make, Chicken Provencal, Cooks Illustrated edition.  What Cooks Illustrated does best is re-engineer fancy recipes to make them seem less intimidating for the common cook…although M. is far from the common cook.  

As the name suggests, Chicken Provencal originated in Provence, France and is basically a stew with lots of olive oil, garlic and herbs, the foundation of all cooking in Provence. The bone-in thighs and tomatoes give this dish a lot of flavor and the anchovies give the sauce depth.  You will need a dutch oven to make this dish but the delicious melt-in-your-mouth chicken is worth the investment if you don’t have one…plus you can make a gazillion other things in what will become your new favorite cooking vessel!  

This dish produces a sinful sauce, so you will want to have lots of crusty bread available for sopping!  M. also served with polenta.  Above is a photo from the countryside in France....a wonderful trip!

When we have dinner at M.’s house, it’s always my turn to bring salad.  A co-worker gave me a wonderful Fig Vinaigrette recipe: 3 tablespoons each of balsamic and red vinegar vinegar, a generous 2/3 cup of olive oil, 3 garlic cloves, minced, 2 tablespoons of fig jam, salt and pepper.  Mix the vinegars, oil and garlic together, whisk in the jam, salt and pepper to taste.  Toss on a salad of arugula and Manchego cheese.  Delicious.

Chicken Provencal
From:  Cooks Illustrated

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion , chopped fine (about 2/3 cup)
6 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 anchovy fillet , minced (about 1 teaspoon…you could also use anchovy paste)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes (14 1/2 ounces), drained
2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence (optional…this mix usually contains the other herbs listed)
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaf
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup niçoise olives , pitted
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

Pre-heat oven to 300 degree.  Season the chicken with salt.  Heat 1 teaspoon oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat until shimmering.  Add 4 chicken thigh, skin side down and cook without moving until skin is crisp and well browned, about 5 minutes.  Using tongs, flip chicken and brown on second side and transfer to a large plate.  Repeat with the four other thighs.  

Add the onion to the Dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until browned, about 4 minutes.  Add garlic, anchovy and cayenne; cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about one minute.  Add wine and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Stir in tomatoes, chicken broth, tomato paste, thyme, oregano, herbs de Provence, if using and bay leaf.  Remove and discard skin from chicken thighs, then submerge chicken in liquid and add accumulated chicken juices to the the pot. Increase heat to high, bring to a simmer, cover and transfer pot to the oven; cook until chicken offers no resistance when poked with the tip of a paring knife, but still clings to the bones (about 1 1/2 hours).

Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a serving dish and tent with foil.  Discard the bay leaf.  Set the Dutch oven over high heat on the stove top, stir in 1 teaspoon lemon zest, bring to boil and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened and reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes.  

Meanwhile, mix remaining 1/2 teaspoon zest with the parsley.  Spoon over chicken, drizzle chicken with remaining olive oil, sprinkle with parsley mixture and serve.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A "That Thing You Do" Kind of Shower

Older Daughter’s bridal shower was this past Sunday.  It was at my home and after some major furniture rearranging and chair renting/borrowing, we turned my family room into a mini banquet hall for 30 guests.  The theme was “The 60’s” and the whole affair went off without a hitch thanks in large part to Sister (who took wonderful photos), Younger Daughter, Niece and the other bridesmaids.

Let me explain the 60’s theme.  Older daughter and her then friend, subsequent boyfriend and now fiancé (and soon to be husband in seven short weeks!) bonded over the music from the movie That Thing You Do (remind me to write Tom Hanks a thank you note) so what better theme to build a party around than the thing that got it all started!

We tried to pay attention to every detail…the colors paid homage to the movie colors and we all wore "Shades" to greet the'll understand that reference if you watch the music video above.  We served dishes popular in the 60’s including fondue and green bean casserole, along with other party favorites like meatballs and gravy, baked ziti, and quiche.  Many dishes were served in old Corning Ware dishes that Sister found on-line!  
There was a throw-back candy bar that included Mary Jane’s, Candy Dots, Mello Cups, Charms, Swedish Fish, Goetz Caramels and Malted-Milk Balls.  
Prizes for those who won the games we played (including guessing the price of things in the 60's) included mini VW buses, record album socks, martini glasses (complete with tiny bottle of Grey Goose and olives)...
...and a compact case with a daisy popular in the 60's won by one of Older Daughter's co-workers! 
We spun records on a real record player (it was so good to hear Bobby Sherman again).  
We made bowls out of old record albums....
....and flowers out of old 45’s to include in our centerpieces….you can learn about how to make them here!  
For props, there was a vintage radio, much like the one Guy Patterson convinces two future band-mates to buy in exchange for his drumming prowess and posters from the movie.  
And perhaps the cutest idea of all, we used old record albums as plate chargers….Younger Daughter’s idea.   The guest sitting at the Bobby Sherman album won a prize!
We served cupcakes on a cup stand stand made out of old record albums.  How stinking cute is that?!
Coffee was perked in a honest-to-goodness stovetop percolator.
Daughter received many lovely gifts but perhaps the nicest gift of all was sharing the moment with people that mean so much to her.  It was a wonderful day and I can barely wait for the June 12th wedding!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Salmon Steaks in Chraimeh Sauce

So sorry for the delay in posting, dear readers.

I can explain.  

My MacBook Pro would not boot up so it was off to the Apple store with my device in hand.  Apparently there was a problem with the OS.  All I know is that between my modem problems and laptop issues, life without connectivity has been both a colossal nuisance and oddly liberating.   

As we sat at the Easter dinner table, the yougins' asked how we communicated and planned social activities before we had computers, cell-phones and texting capability.  The Boomers and Traditionalists replied that we talked to one another, either in person or on the phone.  We spent hours at our friend’s houses, listening to music — 12” albums, there are some of my favorites right over there — or eagerly anticipating the next episode of our favorite shows because, in those days, binge watching was not an option.  

It was a simpler time.

In other news….It was back to the Jerusalem Cookbook a few Wednesdays ago at C’s house.  She made Salmon Steaks in Chraimeh Sauce and, let me tell you, it was absolutely delicious.  Perfectly balanced flavors and not one flavor, not even the salmon, shined through.

There are many different variations of Chraimeh Sauce, but the one thing they all have in common is the red, hot and spicy, and, in this case, rendering the flavor of the fish subordinate.  Chraimeh, like pasta gravy for Italians, is a point of pride in Tripolitian families, each showcasing their own saucy characteristics…color, heat and consistency.  As a matter of fact, the cookbook explains that the Jews introduced tomatoes to Italy in the 17th century os it makes sense that the culinary traditions parallel.  

This recipe is usually made with white fish, like bass, but the authors chose to use salmon because it is readily available.  Serve this dish with plenty of crispy bread so your guests can sop-up the sauce…and forgive them in advance for abandoning their best table manners.  You may want to draw the line at plate-licking but, I will tell you, this sauce will provoke such behavior!  

Served along side of couscous or rice, this dish is easier to make than it seems and will soon become a dinner-party favorite.

Salmon Steaks with Chraimeh Sauce
by:  Jerusalem Cookbook

1/2 cup sunflower oil
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 salmon steaks
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 Tablespoon caraway seed, ground
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 green chile, coarsely, chopped
2/3 cup water
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons superfine
1 lemon, cut into wedges
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of the sunflower oil over high heat in a large frying plan for which you have a lid.  Place the flour in a shallow bowl, season generously with salt and pepper, and toss the fish in it.  Shake off the excess flour and sear the fish for a minute or two one each side, until golden.  Remove the fish and while the pan clean.

Place the garlic, spices, chile, and 2 tablespoons of the sunflower oil in a flood processor and blitz got for a thick paste, adding more oil if necessary to bind things together.  Pour the remaining oil into the frying pan, heat well and add the spice paste.  Stir and fry for just 30 seconds, so the spices don’t burn.  Quickly but carefully, add the water and tomato paste to stop the spices from cooking.  Bring to a simmer and add the sugar, lemon juice, 3/4 teaspoon salt and some pepper.  Taste for seasoning.

Put the fish in the sauce, bring to a gentle simmer, cover the plan and cook for 7-11 minutes, depending on the size of the fish, until it is just done.  Remove the pan from the heat, take the lid off, and leave to cool down.  Serve the fish just warm or at room temperature.  Garnish each serving with the cilantro and lemon wedge, along side of the couscous or rice.  

Monday, March 16, 2015

Irish Tea Cake

So in honor of Saint Patrick's Day, Sister, Brother, Sister-in-Law and I gathered at Sister and Mom’s house to feast on ham and cabbage.  Sister made it in the crock pot and it was quite delicious but Brother was getting all riled up because Sister kept taking the lid off of the crock.  

He claims each time you remove the lid, it adds an hour to the cook time.

That sounds like malarky to me.

Anyway, Brother's assignment was to bring bread and my assignment was to bring dessert and beer.  I chose Guinness Blonde -- my new favorite -- and Killians Red....keeping with the Irish theme.  I also made Irish Tea Cake.

Made with Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter — made from Irish cows that graze on the green pastures of small family farms — and a wee bit of steeped Barry’s Irish Tea, this cake is delicious. Packed with wholesome and simple ingredients and similar in texture to a pound cake, it's not too sweet and perfect with a cup of tea.  Great for a late morning or mid afternoon

The easy recipe calls for adding a bit more milk if the batter is too stiff.  That's when I added the steeped tea and it gave the cake a wonderful, flaxen hue.  One review suggested poking holes in the cake and drizzling some Irish cream on top!  Now, that’ll get you tapping!

I made my version in a springform pan and cut a circle of parchment so the bottom would not stick...a must! Next time, I'll serve with fresh berries and cream!! I'll have to make one for Himself and let him confirm its Irish authenticity!  

Irish Tea Cake
Adapted from:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/8 cup of steeped Irish Tea
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch round pan. I used a springform pan lined with parchment disc on the bottom.

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing until fully incorporated; stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into the batter alternately with the milk. Add the tea.  If the batter is too stiff, a bit more milk or tea can be added (maybe even some Irish Whiskey). Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack, then turn out onto a serving plate. Dust with confectioners' sugar when cool.