Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Anny, come to supper!"

When I had this meal as a child it was my maternal grandmother who made it for my grandfather (and me too indirectly).  One of his favorite combinations of food just happened to be one of mine also.  Simple, plain and really economical.  Ma always let me know when she cooked Black-Eyed Peas and Salmon Cakes (she called them croquettes).  I know it might sound unlikely, but I tell you I can't think of one without the other.  Of course Black-Eyed Peas are one of the most ubiquitous food items found on New Year's day in Deep South USA.  But personally I like to cook them at least a couple of times during the year.  

Salmon, I love!  From canned, very good canned I might add, to a lightly grilled fresh filet served with a soy/honey drizzle, to thin raw slices glistening on a beautiful plate of sashimi.  It's a delicious fish and definitely "good for me".  And I love fish cakes of all kind, anyway.  Crab Cakes are indeed one of my favorite appetizer's when I'm out visiting a restaurant that knows its onions.

Ma was "cook extraordinaire" to all of us; I think now it was because she could cook virtually anything.   And it was just the best.  She was an avid gardener and she "canned" as she said, everything.  And I do mean everything.  My brother and I were commissioned on early summer days to be out in the pea patch picking peas right alongside Ma and Mama.  The trip back to the cool front porch only expanded our chore by being given a pan and a load of peas to shell.  We thought (my brother and I) that was akin to torture, but the lessons we learned then are today seldom taught.  By the end of each summer the freezer was full of purple hull peas, butter beans, corn etc.  Her pantry was lined with gorgeous jars of ruby-red tomatoes, numerous relishes (some recipes she created herself) and tons of pickles from dill to sweet salad pickles...a post for me on another blogging day.  I love preserving food, whatever form it takes.  In the freezer, on the shelf canned in practical Mason jars or pickled with seeds and herbs floating inside the jar.  Indeed, I'll pay another tribute to Ma and showcase a thing or two this summer that I've "canned".  She was the very best teacher imaginable in this culinary category. 

Salmon Cakes

1 large can Alaskan Red Salmon
1/2 white onion (diced)
1/4 sleeve Ritz crackers (crushed finely)
2 eggs
Fresh Parsley (chopped)
Black Pepper
All-purpose flour
Panko bread crumbs
Extra virgin olive oil
1 fresh lemon

In the mix


Put the whole can of salmon into a large mixing bowl, liquid and all.  Remove the skin and discard.  Squish, with very clean fingers, the salmon until finely minced.  Add the onion, crackers, eggs, parsley and black pepper.   

Stir together until well mixed; place waxed paper over the top and press against the salmon to seal.  Allow an hour or so in the fridge for each ingredient to get acquainted.  

I love waxed paper by-the-way, can't really say why.  But I do think its underutilized these days.  I have a vivid memory of Mama making sandwiches for Daddy's lunch and wrapping them in waxed paper secured with a tooth pick.  But I digress.
In the fridge
Prepare the dredging items for assembly.  After an hour or so remove the salmon and begin. 
Mise en place
Scoop a golf ball sized portion of the salmon out and drop into the flour.  Turn to coat and remove to shape into a flat cake.  Dredge in the Panko on both sides and place on a waiting platter.  Continue in this manner until all is done.
Lookin' good!
Place a very small amount of olive oil into a cast iron skillet.  I love cast iron if you haven't noticed.  Heat oil to a moderate temperature and place the cakes in but do not crowd.  Cook each side until browned nicely...the only thing you're actually cooking is the egg.  Remove onto paper towels to drain and place on a platter to serve.  Spitz lemon over and sprinkle with salt.
Salmon Cakes
Black Eyed Peas with Orzo

1/2 to 1 cup dried black-eyed peas
Black Pepper 
1 fresh tomato (diced) 
Cane Vinegar
Orzo pasta

Soak the peas in enough water to cover for a couple of hours; they don't require as much time in the pool as dried beans.  Rinse well and place in a pot and cover with water.  Cook on medium heat until they begin to soften.  Add salt/black pepper to taste and the diced tomato.  Cook until the peas are tender and the tomato is well cooked.  This adds a great flavor to the rather ordinary peas.  At the last, I add just a touch of sugar and vinegar.  To balance the flavor profile; not to sweeten at all, just for balance.  And the vinegar for taste; I love cane vinegar. Cook Orzo in salted water until al dente and drain.  Serve the peas over the pasta.
Black-Eyed Peas with Orzo & Salmon Cakes
My grandmother would not have used the same method I did here.  She certainly didn't even know what Panko breadcrumbs were at the time and never added parsley or lemon to her cakes.  She never added tomato to black-eyed peas to my knowledge and never served them over pasta.  But this is my way and if she could have been with me cooking this, she would have loved it.  She taught me to think for myself in the kitchen, by her inspiring example.

1 comment:

  1. I'm totally cooking this for dinner tomorrow!