Recently I read an article about the adventurous spirit of California diners.
I celebrate Californians for being at the forefront of maximizing flavor in California cuisine. That adventurous spirit, to me, is analogous to California’s history of the adventurous gold miners.
The newest take on California salads, taking Californian flavor to the next level, is microgreens. Microgreens are the Lilliputian members of salad greens that have been appearing with increasing frequency on restaurant menus.
They are the smallest possible rendition of salad greens, herbs, edible flowers and leafy vegetables. Micro-sized, they deliver explosive bursts of flavor.
Watch for them accenting favorite restaurant entrées. Use baby lettuce or mesclin, while waiting to find microgreens available at the market.
Last weekend on a bed of baby greens, I served salmon cakes. The salmon cakes were made from previously frozen salmon fillets that happily were on sale.
I perused cookbooks and several salmon cake recipes piqued my interest. I combined one recipe that focused on Asian flavors with a second recipe featuring frozen or previously frozen salmon. The result was wonderful. A basic recipe for salmon cakes and my delicious Asian version follow.
Salmon Cakes — Cut into large cubes 1 pound fresh or frozen salmon. Add 1 cup dry bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons green onions, ¼ cup parsley and 2 tablespoons finely minced garlic. Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Lightly pulse 1 second on and 1 second off to mix all the ingredients until the salmon is almond-sized pieces. If you don’t have a processor, chop all the ingredients and gently mix by hand. Don’t process salmon continually until the mixture is the consistency of mayonnaise or there will be no texture to the salmon cakes.
Oriental Salmon Cakes — Prepare basic recipe, but add 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger, 1/ 4 cup finely chopped leaves and stems of cilantro to replace the parsley and ¼ teaspoon red curry paste (optional).
Shape either salmon mixture into 4-5 patties. In a large frying pan, heat 2-3 tablespoons oil over moderate heat. Fry cakes until golden brown and crisp about 2-3 minutes. Turn and fry until golden brown on the other side, 2-3 minutes longer. Work in batches, if all of the cakes don’t fit at one time. If you need to hold the salmon cakes for a short time, turn the heat down low and add just a little bit of liquid, wine, stock, or water to keep the cakes moist. Serve salmon cakes on a bed of fresh baby lettuce or in a fresh lightly toasted bun. For a quick accent sauce, serve the cakes with your favorite creamy salad dressing and garnish with chopped avocado or salsa. For a special sauce, try Pacific Cream Sauce.
Pacific Cream Sauce — Ingredients required 1/4 cup butter, 5 tablespoons flour, 3/4 cup warmed milk, 2 egg yolks, 1/2 cup whipping cream, 1/4 traspoon fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper, and 3 tablespoon grated Italian Fontina cheese.
Preparation: Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir in the flour until smooth. Turn heat to low and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Do not brown. Remove skillet from heat and slowly pour in milk, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Return to medium heat. Cook the sauce, stirring constantly, until it just boils and thickens. Remove from heat temporarily. Measure out 2 tablespoons sauce and place in a small bowl and stir in egg yolks and cream. Add another 2 tablespoons sauce and stir. Pour the egg mixture back into the small skillet that contains the reserved sauce. Cook, stirring constantly until sauce thickens enough to coat a metal spoon. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, salt and peppers. Cover fish filets or steak with sauce. Finish with a sprinkle of Fontina cheese. Makes four servings.