Monday, September 19, 2011

Poor Man's Cakes

I think that the best part of writing a cookbook would be coming up with awesome dish names.

This dish is a mix of a lot of different recipes. It came about because I love crab cakes but can't really afford crab, nor is good fresh crab easy to find. So I developed tuna cakes or rather tuna cakes developed themselves.

I don't know if the same holds true for crab cakes, but I've found tuna cakes to be a great vehicle for leftover things. You just chop them your leftover vegetable in little pieces (or if it's corn, not so much) and stick it in your tuna cake. I realize not everyone loves tuna, but if you are a tuna fan, this is a great inexpensive dish. If I do say so myself.

Sorry about the not-so-awesome picture, but it was this or a half-eaten one.

Tuna Cakes
Makes about 8 patties (about 2.5 in. in diameter)

1 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup red pepper, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tblsp parsley, minced
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 pinches cayanne pepper
half a lemon or lime, juiced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cans tuna, drained
2 cups panko bread crumbs*
canola oil

1. Heat up a little of the canola oil, about 1 tblsp, over medium-high heat in a medium non-stick pan and add the onion and red-pepper. Cook until soft. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 1 minute until garlic is fragrant a little soft. Set aside and let cool.
2. In a large bowl gently mix the parsley, dijon, mayonnaise, cayanne, lime and tuna. Add the onion/pepper mixture to their bowl. Then add 1/3 a cup of the panko crumbs. Mix gently again.
3. Place a good amount of canola oil in a non-stick pan and heat over medium heat. There should be enough oil so that the pan is easily coated and your patties don't get all blackened, but make sure they also aren't swimming in oil.
4. Place the remaining 1 2/3 cups of panko crumbs on a plate. With your hands, shape your patties so that they're between 2-3 inches in diameter and about 1/2 an inch thick. Lightly coat the patties with the panko crumbs and place in the hot oil.
5. Cook the patties for about 5 minutes or until a deep golden brown on each side. Mine got a little darker than that but they tasted perfectly fine. Repeat with all the patties and place on a plate with a paper towel to drain excess oil. And... you're set!

We usually eat these with whatever sauce is hanging around the house, more than likely salsa. Go ahead and try your own garnishes.

*Panko crumbs are Japanese style crumbs (they are used on tempura) that are starting to get easy to find. Their texture is so much more crunchy and satisfying than the regular kind. Go get them and use them on everything.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reflections with a Side of Regret

Five things I've learned from writing a food blog - so far:

1. When developing/tweaking a recipe, it is handy to have a pen and paper at the ready so that you can take notes and not get the difference between tsp and tbsp all wrong.

2. Pen and papers will combust when placed too close to the stove.

3. Do not let a toddler add salt to anything.

4. When letting a toddler "help" you cook, they will inevitably attempt to brush their teeth with a steak knife.

5. The FedEx guy carrying your husband's birthday present DOES NOT take precedent over the meat you are browning.

Learn from my mistakes, friends, learn from my mistakes.

Monday, September 5, 2011


This is a dish I remembered from my youth and the memory of it made my mouth salivate. The name of it literally means, "tomatoed." A vegetarian dish is rare in Mexican cuisine but this is a delicious and filling veggie-friendly treat. If a bit involved. Don't worry, we'll hold hands through the whole thing.

One thing to add about Mexicans is that we like our garnishes. I know, it's not enough that you already made kind of an involved dish, now you have to make garnishes for it. But trust me, the garnishes really make a dish, and you'll be left with something a little hollow if you skip them. Something to think about.

Now, there are easier ways to make this sauce (don't worry this isn't so complicated), but I wanted to layer flavors and it worked out pretty well. The sauce is supposed to be simple and just add a refreshing tomatoey flavor to the tacos.

To the tomato sauce!

Maybe someday I'll remember to take a picture BEFORE I start eating.

Enjitomatadas (Filled with Beans)
Serves 2 -with leftovers

Canola Oil
Corn tortillas
2 cans of black or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 cups of chicken broth (or veggie broth)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Tomato Sauce (recipe to follow)

Crumbled Queso Fresco
Thinly sliced onion
Sour Cream

1. Start my making the beans. Heat about a tablespoon of canola oil in a 3 quart pot over medium-high heat. Sautee onions until soft and translucent then add garlic, cumin, oregano and coriander and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
2. Add beans and broth, stir to combine all ingredients. Lower heat to medium and simmer for about 20 mins, until beans start to soften and are easy to mash with the back of a spoon.
3. Mash beans vigorously with a potato masher until fairly smooth. Sometimes when I'm lazy they don't turn out so smooth...Keep beans on the heat if you want them a little thick if not take off the heat and set aside.
4. Heat about 5 tablespoons oil in a medium non-stick pan for the tortillas on medium high heat. You want your tortillas to be coated but not dripping in oil. Check to see if oil is ready by placing a small portion of a tortilla in the oil, if it sizzles it's good to go. If not, then keep waiting.
5. With tongs carefully place a tortilla in the oil and cook for about 30 seconds or until it starts to become just golden. Then flip and repeat with other side of tortilla. Tortilla needs to still be soft in the middle but a bit crispy on the edges. It's ok. It takes practice.
6. Once your tortilla is ready, shake off the excess oil then put on a plate. Scoop a spoonful of beans onto half of your tortilla then fold tortilla in half. Repeat with as many tortillas as your beans will let you, adding more oil when necessary. We eat about 4 or 5 per person.
7. When finished with the tortilla/bean tacos cover your tacos with the Tomato Sauce and garnishes and enjoy immediately.

Tomato Sauce
Makes about 2 cups
Canola Oil
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tblsp tomato paste
1 can of tomato sauce
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 cup chicken broth (or veggie broth)
1. Heat about 1 tblsp of canola oil on medium in a small saucepan and add onion. Cook until translucent.
2. Add garlic and cook for about 30 sec then add tomato paste, cook for another 30 seconds.
3. Add chopped tomato and tomato sauce and make sure you scrape the bottom of the pan to pick up all the nice brown bits. Bring to a boil and boil for about 1-2 minutes.
4. Remove sauce from heat and place in a blender and blend until smooth.
5. Return sauce to heat then add broth, cumin and oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes then take off heat and you're ready to ladle it on top of the tortillas.

You'll have leftover sauce but with if you can make a delicious alphabet soup. Stay tuned!