I’ve got a good record with fish cakes. A perfect fish cake is flavorful and not too dry. Such were the “Easy Salmon Cakes,” from the July/August 2011 issue of Cook’s Illustrated (recipe below). The straightforward recipe asks you to gently pulse the salmon chunks in the food processor. Mayonnaise and minced shallot enhance the taste of these winning cakes.

EASY SALMON CAKES
Cook’s Illustrated, July/August 2011
Makes 6 cakes

If you buy a skin-on salmon fillet, buy 1 1/3 lbs. to yield the necessary amount of meat. When processing, it’s OK to have some salmon pieces larger than 1/4-inch.  Just don’t overprocess the fish. Serve with lemon wedges and/or tartar sauce.

3 Tbsp. plus 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
4 tsp. lemon juice
1 scallion, sliced thin
1 small shallot, minced
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/4 lb. skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup veg oil

  1. Combine 3 Tbsp. panko, parsley, mayo, lemon juice, scallion, shallot, mustard, salt, pepper and cayenne in a medium bowl. Working in 3 batches, pulse salmon in a food processor until coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch pieces, about 2 pulses, transferring each batch to the bowl with the panko mixture.  Gently mix until uniformly combined.
  2. Place remaining 3/4 cup panko in pie plate. Using a 1/3-cup measuring cup, scoop level amounts of salmon mixture and transfer to a baking sheet; repeat to make 6 cakes. Carefully move each cake to the panko and coat, gently patting into a disk measuring 2 3/4-inch in diameter and 1-inch high. Return the coated cakes to the sheet.
  3. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place cakes in the skillet and cook without moving until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip the cakes and cook until the other side is golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Transfer cakes to a paper towel-lined plate to drain for 1 minute. Serve.

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Instead of slicing a scallion, I used a garlic scape without a problem. And I used a pinch of smoked paprika, rather than cayenne pepper. This flawless recipe includes a perfect amount of panko crumbs to coat six fish cakes, as well as the perfect amount of vegetable oil to fry them. I did whip together a tartar sauce (mayonnaise + chopped dill pickle) and slice lemon wedges to match my fabulous fish cakes.

Orzo, I admit, is a “no brainer” side dish. You can’t fail with it…especially if a six-year-old is at your dining table. The “Orzo with Brown Butter and Parmesan,” from the August/September 2011 issue of Fine Cooking, tempts us to “vary the flavor” by tossing in any assortment of ingredients. And so, I added frozen peas and maitake mushrooms. Orzo: fine as always. My wine was a 2009 Spanish Viura; adding it to the butter-toasted orzo reminded me of risotto, with its mesmerizing scent. I used vegetable-bouillon broth instead of chicken broth. The grated Parmigiano-Reggiano adds a nice dose of cheesiness to the final dish.

PRICES
Shallot (1) = .27¢
Skin-On Salmon Fillets (20 oz.) = $14.85

RECIPES: no one will question perfectly breaded, moist salmon cakes, and orzo, set up like a risotto, will win more points for your team
PREP TIMES:
after carefully assembling the fish cakes, they need only 6 minutes to fry; enjoy the orzo after 30 minutes of prep and cooking
TASTES:
sweet salmon, mayonnaise, shallot, dressed ably in panko crumbs; orzo + butter + wine + anything you want = easy success

Next time, I will champion a vegetarian meal, with the “Lemon Cardamom Tofu with Pistachios and Roasted Lemons,” from http://taganskitchen.blogspot.com/2011/04/when-passover-rolls-around-i-inevitably.html (recipe below). See the splendor when you return to my site soon.

Lemon Cardamom Tofu with Pistachios and Roasted Lemons

Grind: 3 cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon cardamom pods, 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper corns, 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (optional), 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 bunch cilantro. Toss on 2 pounds of sliced extra firm tofu. Roast on a lined baking pan at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. squeeze the juice of one lemon over tofu when removed from oven.  Thinly slice one lemon, brush with oil, and roast on a lined baking pan along with the tofu, until browned, or place under the broiler until lightly charred. toast pistachios. Toss everything together and enjoy. Serve warm or at room temperature. This dish could also be made with chicken or lamb replacing the tofu.