Friday, March 25, 2011

March Meal Malaise

3/2/11 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

March meal malaise

Welcome to March! Otherwise known as the “in-like-a-lion, out-like-a -lamb” month. This familiar old saying reminds us that the month usually begins with cold, unpleasant weather and ends mild and pleasant. Is that true? Well, we won’t know for another 30 days!

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, weather in the Pacific Northwest this March is going to start off fair but unsettled. It will be mild along the Pacific Coast with gales for both Oregon and Washington coastal areas. Later in the month there will be both showers and gales along the Pacific Coast. Idaho, Oregon and Washington will see some clearing. Mother Nature will finish us off with clearing and cold.

As spring weather forecasts go, that’s pretty normal. How it will play out on a daily basis is a roll of the dice. Every day will be different. Personally, I’m thinking that we’re going to pay for all those bright, sunny and dry days that we enjoyed in February.

Right now, there are a few harbingers of spring in my garden. The daffodils are about 6-inches tall, the tulips are just poking their heads out of the ground while the camellias, rhodies and azaleas are budded out. My biggest fear is that (like last year) we will have a freeze and lose all of those beautiful buds.

Fortunately, winter vegetable gardening is not my thing so I don’t have to worry about losing a crop of peas, broccoli or cauliflower.

I do have to worry about “meal malaise.” As winter dwindles down and the selection of fresh meat and local veggies becomes sparse, I tend to lose interest in meal planning. Right now I’m leaning heavily on all those fruits and vegetables that I canned last fall to brighten up dinner. Our jars of green beans, peaches and pears are meal savers.

Buying fresh fish is difficult at this time of year. IQF (individually quick frozen) halibut or salmon is one way to insure a quality product. Less expensive fish can be used in fish cakes. Today’s first recipe is an interesting variation on traditional fish cakes. The recipe is simple so don’t let the instructions for cooking the fish deter you.

I like to serve salmon patties with mashed potatoes, buttered peas and coleslaw. French fries (baked in the oven) or new potatoes are a traditional alternative. Any dark green vegetable or romaine salad is also good. Look for seasonal asparagus, broccoli, green beans or spinach as veggie choices. And if you’re not fond of coleslaw, try some tomato and mozzarella slices drizzled with Italian dressing.

A bit of chopped parsley makes a nice garnish. You could also top them with a relish of finely diced avocado, tomato, cilantro, onion and peppers mixed with Italian dressing.

FYI: I frequently use a good quality canned salmon for fish cakes. Last week the can of Icy Point Salmon that I picked up had some great ideas for using their product. I have listed them at the bottom of the column. Check a couple of these out when you’re in hurry to prepare a quick dinner. Enjoy!

Adapted from “A Glorious Harvest”
Henrietta Green

1-1/4 cups milk
1 small onion, sliced
2 whole black peppercorns
3/4 cup fresh cod (or any fish that flakes well)
1/2 pound russet potatoes, peeled
2 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 large egg, hard boiled, shelled and chopped
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
Pinch of cayenne
Salt and pepper
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1/4 cup flour, more if needed
Corn oil for frying
1 lemon, sliced to serve

Put the milk, onion and peppercorns in saucepan and place over medium heat until almost boiling. Turn the heat down, add the fish, cover and poach very gently 10-15 min., until the flesh just begins to break apart when tested with a fork. Strain the fish, reserving the milk and set aside; let cool.

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes until soft. Drain and mash them, adding the butter, parsley and about 1 tablespoon of the poaching milk. Use more if needed. However, do not overdo it: If the mash is too wet and sloppy, the fish cakes will not hold together while being fried.

Once the fish is cool enough to handle, skin it and flake the flesh into a bowl with your fingers, taking care to remove all bones. Mash it lightly with a fork and stir in the hard-boiled egg, lemon zest and cayenne. Season to taste. Gently fold the fish into the potatoes, adding the beaten egg white to bind the mixture. Let rest 30 min.

Divide the fish mixture into 8 equal portions and roll each into a ball between the palms of your hands. Press gently to flatten them. Sprinkle the flour over a board and roll the fish cakes in it until they are lightly covered. Fry the fish cakes in fairly hot oil for a couple minutes on each side or until they start to turn a golden brown. Serve immediately with lemon.

Canned Salmon Serving Ideas
Icy Point Salmon

1. At breakfast: Mix salmon with cream cheese and serve on a toasted bagel.
2. At lunch: Mix canned salmon with celery, onions and mayonnaise and serve in a whole wheat pita pocket.
3. At lunch or dinner: Toss canned salmon with rotini noodles and seasonal vegetables for an easy pasta salad

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal!
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

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