Archive for the ‘animal’ Category


Strictly speaking. (BAKED SALMON CROQUETTES)

January 29, 2013


For a couple of weeks MG and I have rid our diets of sugar, caffeine (Coffee, I miss you), wheat (Bread! I didn’t mean it! Please take me back), dairy, booze, etc. As the 14 days of clean eating were coming to a close I was making up stuff to ease us back into our really fun and slightly decadent reality. The key word is ‘ease’ because I didn’t want all of that abstaining to wind up being in vain. So, for these cute little suckers, I allowed for a dredge of breadcrumbs. Without the dip in the crumbs, this version of the recipe would be all-of-those-things free and full of healthy protein, salmon. I used the canned stuff for the sake of speed cooking but using 1 3/4 cups of freshly cooked salmon flaked with a fork would be a million times better.

This recipe can be seasoned in different ways, scallions, soy, ginger, or with mayo or add an egg, some old bay seasoning, cayenne, chopped herbs, etc. Just make a delicious mixture and form into patties. I left it at easy, threw some cooked brown rice (for sticking power), garlic, shallot and rosemary in the mini chop and mixed it with the fish that I seasoned a little. Simple as bonjour.



(makes 10-12 small croquettes)

1 can of salmon such as Icy Point, about 14 ounces

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

2 tablespoons olive oil

a splash of red wine vinegar

1/3 cup cooked brown rice

1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, or scant teaspoon dried

3 cloves garlic

1 small shallot

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon herbs or spices of choice*

Cooking oil, preferably in spray form.

  • Preheat oven to 400F. Cover a baking sheet in foil and spray (or drizzle) with your favorite cooking oil.
  • Flake the salmon thoroughly and mix in a medium-sized bowl with dijon, oil and vinegar.
  • Place rice, rosemary, garlic and shallots in a food processor until it forms a paste (or finely chop with a knife).
  • Combine the rice mixture with the fish in the bowl. Season well. Set aside.
  • Mix the breadcrumbs with the seasonings of your choice*.
  • Form the salmon mixture into 1/4 cup patties (not too big or they will be very break-y), dredge patties in the deluxe breadcrumbs and place on the prepared sheet pan.
  • After all of the patties are formed and crumbed, spray (or drizzle) the top of each one lightly with oil.
  • Place in the oven and cook as close to the heat source as possible until the desired color is achieved and croquettes are heated through. Flip once, about 8 minutes on each side.

* Here you can use dried herbs or any mix of spices to trick out the breadcrumbs. I used this blend from Penzey’s that I got from my rad sister.

Salmon croquettes are also excellent served on tiny bread to tiny people…


And here is something I wrote about Icy Point Salmon back when I used to wear a thumb ring. I really do like this stuff.


‘I think we can consider it a ‘whole food’, so much so that the salmon still has its bones! When you open a can of this stuff you are looking straight into a cross section of a beautiful Alaskan salmon. It is steamed in the can this way, bones and all, so that every part of the fish is edible and needs only to be broken up with a fork and used in your favorite recipe. It is a staple in my pantryXX’

The bones are soft and edible. What that looks like:


That’s healthy but if it freaks you out, just cook up the fresh salmon. Ça va.


December 30, 2012


When the Saints played the Colts in Superbowl XLIV (2010) I made up this dish, Mussels in Chorizo and Beer. It was the product of us being in a foreign neighborhood and running around trying to find cool ingredients for an extraordinary Superbowl concoction to make at our friends’ place. While it was being eaten almost no one yelled at the TV.

Even though it has no particular cultural alliance, once the mussels and chorizo came together I felt like it was reminiscent of something my Italian grandparents or great grandparents would have served back in the day. Back when Sundays were still a red sauce based, all day eating affair and calamari with the tentacles still totally freaked me out. (The ‘rubber bands’ were okay though.) All of my aunts, uncles and cousins would fight for a seat in the dining room, the losers sent to the card table parked in the back bedroom. I was the youngest and had my choice of laps to sit on, a great strategy especially at dessert.

The Christmas after that gourmet Superbowl when my cousins and I decided to honor the Feast of the Seven Fishes, I knew exactly what my contribution would be. We simmered pounds and pounds (and pounds and pounds) of mussels in the garlicky tomato sauce studded with spiced sausage. A side of pasta for folks like my dad and sliced up focaccia for the dunkers. The table groaned under six more fish, two more pasta dishes, salads and sides galore. It was a beautiful sight. All of the foods we were most excited about, all at once.

In more recent years we have experimented with some other seafoods and we have learned how to reign it in. This year, back by popular demand, we made the mussels again. I think they might become a regular addition to the table. We have some traditions and they are not strict, but it is sure that favorites will make an appearance; manicotti, antipasto with the biggest hunk of Parmiggiano you have ever seen, killer seafood salad, rum cake. Somehow even a platter of sushi has made it into the yearly mix. Our feast grows and changes a bit each Christmas, as does our family and by the same token it has a strong foundation in our history and represents the memories we share however hazy they may be. (Next year I promise to nail down the recipe for Pete’s Seafood Salad That We Think Grandma Used To Make.) The resulting dinner, both nostalgic and new, reflects everyone who has participated in it. And out of love, it also reflects all of those who eat it.


1 pound chorizo or hot Italian sausage

1 tablespoon butter

1 onion, chopped

2 shallots, chopped

1 tablespoon fennel seed

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large can chopped tomatoes

1 can beer

1/4 cup fresh dill or other fresh herb

4 pounds mussels, scrubbed

salt and pepper

  • Cook chorizo in a large saucepan, breaking it up into pieces until browned.
  • Remove meat with a slotted spoon and drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.
  • Add butter to the saucepan and sautee onion, shallot, red pepper flakes and fennel seed with a touch of salt and pepper.
  • Stir in garlic and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and add beer and dill.
  • Bring to a boil again and add mussels.
  • When most of the mussels have opened and are cooked through, Remove them and arrange in a large serving dish. Pick out and discard any mussels that have not opened.
  • Boil the tomato mixture for about 3 minutes, add the chorizo back in and heat through.
  • Season well and pour over the mussels in the dish.

Serve with bread for dipping.

(Photo courtesy of Jackii Laurenzano)



December 23, 2012


I need to share this photo. It is the most exquisite plate of cured meats eaten in one of Barcelona’s cute little xampanyerias. We sampled the house cava, meats and cheeses accompanied by lots of the tomato bread pa amb tomaquet  found all over the place in Catalonia. Cured meats are a big deal in Spain, so we did our best to really treat them like the special deal that they are, eating them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night snack. It was the perfect thing to obsess over because eating a plate of charcuterie left some room so that we could stop short at any other good looking tapas we saw along the way to wherever we were going… which was usually to eat tapas.

Starting with the top right you are looking at chorizo, moving clockwise next is lomo, which is made from the loin of the pig and is therefore significantly leaner than the others but no less delicious. Lomo is followed by traditional Iberico (swoon), then salami-like salchichon, and in the center is cecina or ‘dried’ beef which was knockout.

Variations of these meats are available in the States but it’s just not the same. Sure when you are eating something local in a foreign place, it is the atmosphere and the sounds, the smell of the fabric softener, the sky color and all the other details that amplify the experience but I have a theory about a number of delicious European foodstuffs that are also exported to the U.S. and it is simply… they send us the good stuff but not the best. This is why I have my own personal French calvados dealers.


Be real Spanish and serve this bread with your next meat and/or cheese platter.


1 loaf of your favorite bread

2 cloves garlic

2 ripe tomatoes

your best olive oil


  • Slice the bread lengthwise and toast it lightly (optional). 
  • Slice each clove of garlic in half and rub it on the cut side of the bread. 
  • Slice each tomato through its equator and rub each half all over the bread until it is just skin. 
  • Arrange the bread on a platter and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.


Together forever.



September 25, 2012

Maybe I’m the wrong person for the job of ‘oyster critic’ because I treat all oysters equally. I don’t care if they are east or west, strong or mild, large or small. In Louisiana I was unfazed by oysters the size of an adult’s flip flop. I’ll never get mad at folks who put a ton of condiments on their oysters and though I keep the accessories light myself I am good for a touch of mignonette or a tiny dab of hot sauce and lemon to enhance the experience. In addition I tend to use adjectives that might not be included in regular oyster aficionado’s jargon and I also might have been drinking some. Which sets the tone for Friday night when I took myself out for a three course meal with three courses of (my own) pairing at good old Walter Foods where a lady bar-side will never be treated poorly.

In an attempt to not be on the phone the whole time, I decided to record my response to each oyster as I did a tasting of the seven varieties offered that evening. For this course I drank a Sazerac because I really like them and I thought each of those flavors would be great with oysters; a hint of anise, a little sweet, a little citrus, herbaceous bitters and (rye) whiskey which I think goes with everything. Warning: it was not my first drink of the night.

So please refer to the photo above starting at the first overturned oyster to left of the mignonette (about 7 o’clock) the long and thin Malpeque (PEI) described as fishy, middle and neat. Something geometric about the shape came through in the texture/flavor and it was straightforward, didn’t go outside the lines. Next in the circle was a Blue Point (LI) which I deemed tangy, juicy and firm. All good things for an oyster! Then came a whisper of a Beau Soleil so tiny and delicate it was barely like eating an oyster at all. I might have even drank it. Sitting in the 12 o’clock spot was a Rappahannock (VA), a nice juxtaposition with the Beau Soleil, it was large, chewy and satisfying. Mild in its brine but still had nice flavor. St. Simone was next, I think it was my first encounter with this kind of oyster. It was very light and on a scale of Oyster 1-10 it was a 5, sort of lingering in the center. A non-descript opening act before the last two awesome awesome awesome oysters. It made me really believe that the order was not only very purposeful but extremely.

Golden Mantle (BC) was tiny but fat. I think proper term is ‘deep cup’ which also means lots of liquor (the liquid in the shell) which is an important part oyster eating. It had a very nice grassy quality to it and something reminiscent of a mussel because I wrote ‘mussel’ next to the name. It had nice character and I would bring it to a party. The grand finale was the Black Point. I’m sad that I don’t know the origins of this one but no matter. It was the best! I asked the bartender if they did that on purpose but he might have been indulging me in his answer. This oyster was a nice size and picturesque (sic). The perfect oyster, smooth with a chew that was on point. Black Point.

That Sazerac was bigger than I thought!

Dear Walter,

Your oysters are so good. See you soon!





June 11, 2012

This season we joined a CSA coming from Pennsylvania’s Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative and hosted by a dedicated gal who works with the sandwich professionals, Saltie. Sure we pick up our weekly share dangerously close to Saltie’s perfect food (I’m talking about you, Little Chef) but with a bit of restraint I go home and sort out what I will make from the bountiful box instead.

A full share offers up to a dozen different items, plus eggs and fruit which are additional options. The produce is so inspiring to cook with, meals have been extra fun to come up with lately. A challenge to use as much as possible before another box comes in! Potatoes, kale and collards, delicate lettuces (leafy greens galore), radishes, herbs and kohlrabi too, it seems like my fridge always has something to give.

While cruising through the farmers market for some interesting protein to go with all that gorgeous Lancaster veg, I came upon a fishmonger from Pura Vida, a Hamptons-based fishery. I asked for something good to grill and she gave me a pound of a thick filet, glistening with washes of red and purple grey . I am not sure if she called the fish ‘sand shark’ or if I just made that up… but I went home saying, ‘we’re having sand shark kebabs!’ Upon further research I came to the conclusion that either I am living on another planet (very possible) or she called it by some fisherman’s nickname or something, as most folks do not eat actual sand shark.

Whatever it was, it was killer. I haven’t been back to the market to inquire about the fish again. And with no luck getting in touch with the Pura Vida people I have decided, with the help of this website:, that I was eating tautog. It’s a hearty and sneaky (local) fish that might fit the description of what I got. Anyway it would make a fine substitution for whatever deliciousness I did happen to encounter so no harm done in the translation. In fact any sturdy fish filet or steak would work.

The meal that came together consisted of a whole bunch of  CSA goodies. The cubed mystery fish was left to sit for an hour or so in oil, lemon zest, mint, scallion, garlic, salt and pepper. The collards were lightly oiled, seasoned and folded up before skewering. (We have been grilling all different greens this year, kale, mustard, endive, etc. with lots of success.) Onions were the referee between the two. (see photo) After we took kebabs from the grill, a little squeeze of fresh lemon and a drizzle of olive oil finished them off. With accompaniments of foil-packet grilled potatoes and green-leaf lettuce dressed with garlic scape vinaigrette, at least six items from the box were used. Such high-quality ingredients and a good brainstorm equals a simple weeknight cook out with superior results.

I never soak the skewers. Quel rebel