As of today, A Good Dish will be published weekly for the summer months. Lots of great summer recipes, information on potters, products, and reviews are coming your way, just a little less frequently until Labor Day. Please remember to share A Good Dish to help it grow and keep commenting – I so appreciate all your support and ideas. For more photos and quips, you can also follow me on Instagram as agooddisher. A beautiful Memorial Day, easy summer eating and happy summer days!
Salmon burgers, patties, cakes, croquettes, or whatever you prefer to call them, probably aren’t the first thing you think of when compiling a grocery list. You should keep them in mind, however, because salmon burgers are easy to make, economical, healthy and can be eaten hot or cold, giving you flexibility in timing when you make and serve them. They fit into all but vegetarian and vegan diets yet there is probably some seasoning blend, perhaps with Italian herbs or curry, that would make a meatless soy version acceptable.
I try to make fish or seafood at least 3 times a week, especially fish rich in desirable omega-3 fatty acids like wild salmon, sardines and Arctic char. In winter, I bake fish simply with a little white wine and herbs but as the weather turns warmer, I try not to turn on the oven.
More and more, it is difficult to stay informed on which fish are not contaminated, wild or sustainably farmed and therefore safe to eat. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a new app – Seafood Watch – which makes this much easier. They do the work to keep up with the best choices for fish and other seafood, good alternatives when your favorite is tainted and what to avoid based on sustainability issues. It’s free to download and makes shopping for fish much simpler.
On days when what is available at the grocery seafood counter doesn’t look appealing or prices are astronomical, I look for other ways to serve fish to my family. Sometimes I make a canned salmon salad (recipe coming this summer). Other times, I sauté frozen scallops or make pasta with fresh or tinned clams. I’ve even been known to serve fish sticks on occasion (from deep water fish) or simply open and plate a can of sprats (smoked sardines) when it is really to hot to do anything else.
A few weeks my sister told me her family loves the salmon patties she makes them for dinner. I make frozen, pre-made wild salmon burgers (from Costco) as a back up when I don’t have a better dinner option, but why not make them myself? How hard could it be? Lots of recipes for salmon burgers call for chopping up fresh fish but with the price of wild salmon hovering between 20 and 30 dollars per pound, I am not about to use it for a burger. I followed my sister’s lead and used canned wild salmon: much more economical (between $4-6 per can), shelf stable and available year round. She learned the recipe from a mother at her daughter’s pre-school and adapted it to fit her current gluten-free diet by substituting almond flour for bread crumbs. Smart. Just as I added my own twist with fresh herbs, pickles and mustard, you can adjust it to suit your tastes.
Traditional salmon croquettes contain about half potatoes. Because this recipe substitutes vegetables and a small amount of almond flour for the potatoes, the fish is the main event. I added some chopped sweet pickles to a batch with tasty results. If you use a cast iron pan for its heat retaining quality, the patties cook quickly so they won’t overheat your kitchen. Broiling is even faster (but make sure to oil your pan to avoid sticking) if you are willing to turn on the oven. I serve them with some horseradish mustard (half Dijon mustard, half horseradish with a dash of pickle juice). Susie said her family likes them with a crunchy cabbage salad. We thought they were good both warm with mashed potatoes and cooked greens and cold on a green salad. You will want to double the recipe and have a few leftovers – they are even better the next day.
Susie’s Salmon Burgers
- 1 14.75 oz can of wild red or pink salmon, rinsed, drained and mashed (I leave the bones-for the calcium and they just blend in if you mash well – but I remove the skin for aesthetic reasons although it isn’t necessary. Do as you like).
- 3 TBs olive, avocado or coconut oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3-5 stalks celery, depending on size, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup almond flour, breadcrumbs or ground oats
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp salt
The following are optional but, I think, make a big difference in flavor:
- 1/2 cup chopped dill (optional)
- 1/4 chopped chives (optional)
- 1 TB chopped sweet pickles
- 1 TB Dijon mustard (optional)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper (optional)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (optional)
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 TBs oil and sauté onion until becoming clear. Add the celery and cook until it starts to soften. Add the garlic and cook one more minute.
Add the cooked vegetables to the mashed salmon and mix to combine. Add the eggs and crumbs, oats or almond flour, herbs, mustard, seasonings and the cheese, if you are using it. Mix just enough to combine. If the mixture isn’t holding together, add one more egg.
Form into medium sized burgers (I find this recipe makes 6-7 patties). Wipe out the pan you used to sauté the vegetables, add another tablespoon or 2 of oil, heat and pan fry the salmon cakes for a couple of minutes until nicely browned. Flip and cook until both sides have a nicely browned crust. Pile on a plate and continue cooking the rest, adding oil as necessary. I tried broiling the patties and they worked just fine. They had a little less crunch but a lot less fat. If you broil, definitely oil the pan.
Serve the cooked salmon burgers unadorned (or on buns, rolls or brioche), with plain or horseradish mustard if you like. These patties refrigerate very well and are quite good in a lunchbox with a salad or in a sandwich with mustard, lettuce and pickles. Makes 6-7 medium or 4 large burgers.
While our son was away at college this year, Brooks and I ate mostly vegetables, beans, whole grains, fruit and some fish and seafood with an occasional grass-fed burger or free-range turkey or chicken, piece of cheese or yogurt and lots and lots of salad. It suited us just fine and we were feeling pretty virtuous. When Alex came home and snapped out of his exam-induced, lack of sleep stupor and finished his seemingly endless loads of laundry, he looked up one day and asked “Couldn’t we eat something fun for a change?” My heart sank but I put on a smile and replied “sure!”
I actually enjoy cooking for my family, especially when they enjoy what I make. I thought I was making appealing meals but they were not satisfying my flavor-craving son. We don’t want to eat the salty, fatty, white flour way he wishes, but could I find a compromise? Our boy had thrown down the gauntlet and I wanted to rise to the challenge. I needed time to think so when it was time for lunch, we walked down Amsterdam Avenue and got a lobster roll at Luke’s – delicious every time but a temporary fix that didn’t solve the problem.
I knew seasoning and spice factored into his ideas of flavor so I began there. I bought some fresh black pepper linguini with the zip already in the pasta and added some veggies Alex likes – peas and arugula – with some garlic in olive oil. Pretty simple and a hit – Hoorah! Next I pulled out the chicken and apple sausage, an old standby for him, and coupled it with seasoned rice and broccoli, 2 sides he eats without complaining. When I heard “boring”, I curbed my instinctual reaction to tell him where he could go and tried to think how these ingredients could be better combined. As I was thinking fried rice, Alex asked why I didn’t make a stir-fry. There it was – we had come to the same idea at the same time and I knew how to go forward. I wouldn’t have to completely change our diet, just rearrange the parts and add a little zing. I could stir fry some onion and celery with plenty of ginger and garlic, toss in the broccoli, rice, sausage and some sesame soy combo to satisfy his taste. Yes, he would have been happier with white rice but he would have to settle for brown as that was where I drew the line of compromise. (If you are not eating grains, add more veggies and cut down the amount of sauce). When I tried it again the next day with leftover chicken and more ginger and garlic, we all liked it even better. (I did notice he was picking out the celery!)
Even though I was insulted by his comments at first, Alex helped me realize I was not being as adventurous with food as I imagined. I still like pretty simple cooking but now I am making an effort to add a little zest and more seasoning to shake up my routine. The real bonus to his involvement is that our son is discovering what goes into food prep and stands on the edge of cooking for himself.
Stir Fried Rice with Whatever You Like
2 TBs neutral oil, like canola or avocado
1 medium onion, sliced and chopped
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3″ piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 cups cooked and cut up protein (sausages, ham, chicken, shrimp or tofu)
1-2 cups lightly steamed broccoli (or whatever green veg you like or have leftover)
3 cups cooked rice (I used brown but use any kind you like)
2 TBs soy sauce
2 TBs water
1 TB rice vinegar
1 TB toasted sesame oil
Big pinch cayenne
Heat oil in a large sauté pan, add onion and cook 2 minutes. Add celery and cook another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and ginger and cook another 30 seconds. Add cut up sausage (or whatever protein you are using), rice and broccoli and stir until combined well. Add sauce and cook one more minute, stirring to mix completely. Taste and add more sauce ingredients as you choose. This would be good sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and scallions. Serves 2-4 people or one hungry 20 year old.
A few other solutions I think will suffice: Sriracha-glazed lamb chops on garlic mashed potatoes with sautéed greens, brown rice nori rolls (lots of wasabi) with watercress salad, leftover chicken doused in green sauce and made into tacos, and rice and beans with salsa and guacamole wrapped into a burrito. It may not be Eleven Madison or Amada but it sure beats what he will get back at school!
Taking time to make a meal is a choice. Plenty of options exist, like prepared foods, take-0ut and delivery, yet I choose to cook when I am able. Cooking and sharing meals is a way to express care and connect with others. Buying handmade pottery is also a choice, and one I do whenever possible. Using pots made by hand reminds me to slow down and appreciate what I am eating or drinking and makes a meal feel more celebratory. Those pieces feed a hunger for the handmade, for intimacy and for beauty.
I love to sip my morning coffee from a hand-crafted mug that feels just right in my hand, put flowers on the table in a graceful vase or serve a salad in a generous wheel-thrown bowl. There is something personal about using handmade dinnerware that makes food look important and feel special. After all, it was made by hand by a person! Sure, there are loads of beautiful objects that are industrially produced. Some of the bowls I use every day come from Ikea and our oval, factory made, diner-style plates are from the Bowery Restaurant Supply. It is the handmade pieces we use, however, which make a meal, or even a cup of tea, seem significant.
At least in Manhattan, handcrafted pots are rarely available to buy retail anymore except at seasonal craft fairs or studio holiday sales. We used to have lots of small shops and galleries where you could buy handmade pieces but they are mostly gone, probably due to rising rent. When you can find them, in upscale shops or museum stores, the pots are usually at the highest price points of the artisanry market. Fortunately, we have been able to find places selling ceramics when we travel, having had luck in cities from Chattanooga to Copenhagen.( I will compile a list of outlets and post it soon – please share any sources you know). Some of our favorite travel keepsakes are handmade pots. For example, my husband bought a lovely hand painted porcelain tumbler in Montana last summer (I think it was $60). Every time he uses it, and that is daily for almost a year, he enjoys its beauty while it reminds him of what a good time he had on that trip.
Part of the problem may be cost. Have we become so used to discounted prices for cheap, imported manufactured goods that we balk at buying a handmade cup for $40 (but spend $4 or more on a cup of coffee regularly)? Are we happy to go out for a pricey brunch but are offended at the cost of an artist-made cereal bowl? Or purchase expensive, factory-made sets of china but think it outlandish to spend the same money on handmade dinner plates? Studio rents in places like New York skyrocketed years ago so artists have had to move further afield while trying to make a living selling their work. The balance to the high cost of a unique piece is the satisfaction and repeated pleasure in its use.
The good news is that there are still lots of working potters out there and many have websites through which to buy their work. Prices vary widely as do colors, techniques and styles so there are lots of pots from which to choose. In A Good Dish, I will routinely highlight the work of interesting potters and how to get in touch with them to buy their work, a resource for you not only when you need a simple recipe for dinner but when you want to buy handmade pottery to use or to give as a gift.
Because I have been a potter for decades, I have lots of pots – both my own and those of other potters that I have collected over the years – and I use them often and will use them here, whenever possible, to plate the recipes I post. In this way, you can glimpse the wonderful wares of potters from all over the country and from other countries. When a pot in a photo is uncredited, the piece is probably historic, mine, unsigned or commercial.
If you are only using IKEA plates or mass produced dishes, as beautiful and practical as they might be, I encourage you to incorporate some handmade pieces into your daily routines – a coffee mug or teacup is an easy place to start. You might be surprised at how much more you will enjoy what you are eating or drinking.
Spring is lovely for many reasons – fresh breezes, blooming flowers, fresh green vegetables. But it isn’t a season of much locally fresh fruit, at least not here in the northeast. Apples and pears have been in cold storage so long they really aren’t crisp anymore and it is even nearing the end of citrus season. Sure we can get kiwi from Italy and pineapple from Costa Rica but until local strawberries come into their own, our fruit is being shipped in from far away. I’m not sure if rhubarb counts – I think it is a vegetable and requires large amounts of sugar to taste good.
For smoothies or baking, frozen fruit can be a good solution, available year round and fine for blending or muffins. But for a more substantial breakfast serving or for dessert, I recommend cooking dried fruit – easier and more delicious than you might guess if you haven’t tried it. Basically all you do is add water or juice and spices, boil, simmer and soak for a few hours or overnight. The name “stewed fruit” may conjure up elderly, apron-clad grannies trying to regulate their systems but these homemade apricots, cherries and pineapple are not your grandmother’s jar of sugary prunes. Don’t let your misconceptions about “stewed” fruit get in your way. Let’s call it simmered fruit, since stewed implies long cooking under a lid and this isn’t, and change its image.
Organic, or at least non-sulfate, dried fruit is pretty easy to find in stores and re-hydrates into a tasty, old-fashioned kind of dessert. Choose from unsweetened plums (a/k/a prunes), peaches, pears, apricots, apples, raisins, pineapple, cherries or berries. I use lots of sliced lemons (I tried lime but it was too tart – if you use it, add some honey or maple syrup) or oranges plus cinnamon and ginger but you could use cardamom, nutmeg, a piece of vanilla bean, allspice, even some lemongrass. A little citrus zest or tiny shake of cayenne before serving helps add zing. Simmered fruit becomes thicker and more flavorful when it sits for a day so it is best made ahead. As a bonus, it keeps well for several days in the refrigerator so you can use it more than once.
Simmered fruit, by itself, is a satisfying dessert but you can gussy it up by adding whipped cream, liquor (a splash of brandy, creme de cassis or ruby port might be good) and nuts or serve it over ice cream or yogurt or even lady fingers or pound cake. I’ve read that some people like it on hot cereal, waffles and pancakes – could be good. I’ve been out of new breakfast ideas lately so I tried some simmered apricots and prunes with lemons, oranges and cinnamon on plain yogurt and topped it with walnuts, almonds and chia seeds. It was more delicious than I expected! Plate your simmered fruit in a pretty compote dish or ice cream bowl with a cookie alongside it and no one will complain you didn’t bake.
In a small saucepan, place 2-3 cups (or big handfuls) of dried fruit of your choosing. For an example, let us say 1 cup each of prunes, apricots and cherries. Add 1-2 pieces of cinnamon sticks, 1 thinly sliced lemon, a few thin slices of a navel orange, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ginger powder, 1/4 tsp cardamom powder, a shake of cayenne and water to cover it all by an inch. If you want it to be very sweet, substitute orange or apple juice for some of the water. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer and cook for half an hour. Let sit in the pot until cool and the liquid has thickened and then put in a glass jar and refrigerate until ready to use.
Serve the fruit by itself topped with a little lemon or orange zest and a cookie or two or as a kind of sundae on top of ice cream with nuts and whipped cream or with plain yogurt and nuts and seeds for breakfast. Or reheat and serve over a piece of sponge or pound cake or lady fingers. I like it solo when I want a sweet that isn’t sugary. The serving size will depend on how you use it but about 1/2-3/4 cup is about right – a little goes a long way. It is tasty any time of year.