Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ode to Joy

There's something about having grown up in the brutal winters of Chicago that leads me to embrace Spring like it's the second coming.

Despite having gotten out and firmly situated myself in what must be the world's most temperate climate, a climate where you never freeze and you never sweat, I still love Spring.

Spring feels optimistic. It inspires hope. Every year, Spring equals new.
New clothes, new shoes, new places to go on vacation, new foods at the market. The last of these, of course, being my favorite among favorites.

After the recent parental visit weekend (featuring much dining out at many fabulous places) and after foods such as the Chocolate Pot de Creme at Boulevard which I am pretty sure contained in its tiny cup twice the sum total of calories I typically ingest in a day, I was ready for - craving, really - some lighter fare.

Night number one was a simple preparation - just some pan roasted wild salmon and a few spears of asparagus. I rubbed the salmon with a little salt, pepper, smoked paprika and olive oil and threw it in the hot pan. Ditto for the asparagus, omitting the paprika.

By the time the salmon was done, so was the asparagus. Delicious, healthy, easy, fresh.

Alas, once again, my eyes were bigger than my stomach, and I was left with a few leftover spears and a couple of ounces of salmon.

Of course, I was also getting ready to take off for the week to the wilds of Central Wisconsin for a longer-than-usual business trip. This meant no trips to the grocery store. I would have to make do with what was on hand for dinner the night before departure.

Time to get creative.

Here's what I was working with:

A bit of cooked salmon, a few spears of roasted asparagus, an egg, a lemon, a bag of unshelled green garbanzos (I saw them at the store earlier in the week and could not pass them up!), a baggie of frozen (spelt) breadcrumbs, some dill, a stalk of borderline-rubbery celery, some sorry-looking parsley, and one gigantic shallot.


Here's what I turned it into:

Salmon Cakes with Green Garbanzo Salad and Asparagus in a Blanket.


And here's how:

1. Prep the green garbanzos. This involves shelling them. When I was done (it took at least 10 minutes, and be warned, the stem bits can prick your fingers), I had about 3/4 cup of fresh garbanzos.

In the pod.
Cute! A little green garbanzo!
All shelled and ready to go.
2. While I was shelling the garbanzos, I put a small pot of water on to boil. I had no idea how long the garbanzos would take to cook and I overcooked them a bit. Turns out they take about only as long as fresh peas, so be warned. They are delicious and taste like a cross between fava beans and edamame. I drained them and rinsed them under cold water to stop the cooking, then put them on a towel to dry while I dealt with the other items.

3. Stem the parsley. I just pulled the leaves off the stems, whole. Like so.

Peel strips off the lemon peel - make sure you don't get the pith. Slice into thin strips (julienne). Whisk together the juice of half a lemon, some salt, and some olive oil to make a little dressing. Add the garbanzos, parsley and lemon strips and toss.

4. Prepare the salmon cakes by combining in a bowl the following:

about 2 teaspoons minced shallot
half a stalk of minced celery
1 tablespoon of minced dill
1 scant tablespoon of capers, drained and chopped
1/4 cup of breadcrumbs
a pinch of cayenne
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of egg, beaten (reserve the rest of the egg for the "blanket")

 Add the leftover salmon, flaked (skin removed and discarded).

Mix this until combined and then divide it in half. Form patties by mushing it together with your hands. It looks like they will fall apart if anyone in a 4-block radius slams a door, but I swear they'll hold.

5. Prepare the "blanket" batter. Add to the bowl with the remaining beaten egg about two tablespoons flour (I used whole spelt flour), a pinch of salt, and a splash of milk. Whisk to combine.

6. Now get your pans ready. Heat over a medium flame a bit (a tablespoon, maybe? I didn't measure) of canola or grapeseed oil in a small frying pan (this is the blanket-cooking pan). Swirl to coat the pan and then use a paper towel to remove any oil that's running around the pan. You want a nice coating but you don't want to fry the blanket.

Put a few tablespoons of the same oil in another frying pan (the salmon cake pan). Heat until shimmering. In this pan, you want a standing pool of oil, probably about 1/8".

7. Pour the blanket batter into the smaller frying pan and tilt the pan so the batter covers the bottom. Cook undisturbed until bubbles form on the surface, pop, and don't close themselves.

8. Meanwhile, gently slide the salmon cakes into the hot oil. I found that the best way to do this was to use two spatulas, one under the cake and one to help slide it off into the oil without splashing. This is a good trick for flipping them, also.

9. Cook the salmon cakes a few minutes until browned and crispy, then flip them. Don't forget to flip the pancake blanket, too!

10. Drain the salmon cakes on a paper towel lined plate. Heat the leftover asparagus for a minute in the microwave. Wrap the asparagus in the pancake blanket, seam side down.

11. Plate your delicious dinner!

I have to say, I'm really glad I decided to make a pancake for the asparagus rather than just tossing the leftover egg. It was really fun to have Asparagus in a Blanket. What I learned is that I should eat more things "in a blanket." Or, as the French say, "dans une couverture."

The salmon cakes came out crispy and flavorful and didn't fall apart, much to my utter incredulity. I was kind of expecting to end up with salmon hash when I was forming the patties.

And the green garbanzos are a total pain in the butt to shell but their flavor is delicious. I will certainly be looking for other ways to prepare them before they disappear from Whole Foods until next April.

The whole meal felt very Spring-like. Just what I wanted!


Chrissy said...

I'm sorry, but only you would have those ingredients just hanging out left over in your fridge. When we are getting ready for a trip, the leftovers in our fridge almost always include 2-3 old hot dogs, tablespoon of milk put back in fridge even though you can't do anything with that amount for four people, squishy old vegetables, and yogurt. I dare you to come to my house to make a meal with the contents of my leftover fridge.

Kate said...

Dare accepted!