Eating better food for less and other tales from a no-moneymoon

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fishing for Recipes

At the crossroads of thrifty and lazy, I often find myself trying to find a recipe that will work with what I already have in my (healthy) larder. What usually happens is a sort of food mash-up, if you will, as I compare a few recipes based on ingredients and then take away the instructions I need to make it happen.

So when I was a bit wistful for a long ago Caribbean sailing trip and wanted to eat something healthy and high in omega-3's, the answer was Baked Salt Cod Cakes.

Epicurious turned up Portuguese Style Salt-Cod Fritters and a little Googling led me to Baked Codfish Cakes. The former provided instruction on poaching the cod in milk and the latter provided a baking temp and time, and the much-needed baking powder-to-potato proportion. Then I added in some of my own ingredients to invoke the salty treats we'd had in the British Virgin Islands. Yum.

Makes 12 small cakes

10-12 inch filet of salt cod, rinsed and soaked for 2 days
1-2 cups milk
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half
1 bay leaf
2 medium-sized potatoes
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion minced
1 sweet red pepper (small) minced finely, or 1/4 of a regular red pepper, minced
3 sprigs cilantro, chopped
3 sprigs thyme, leave pulled off
2 sprigs parsley, chopped
ground black pepper

This recipe starts 2 days ahead of time, but is well worth it. Rinse and submerge salt cod filet in in water and refrigerate for 2 days. Change the water 2-3 times. Rinse the cod before cooking.

Place the cod, bay leaf and garlic in a saucepan and cover with milk. Add water until the cod is covered. Bring to a boil, turn back to simmer for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, boil the potatoes until very well done. After the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and mash in a large bowl.

Remove the cod and once it is cool pull away any remaining skin. Flake the cod (a nice way to check for bones, for us neurotic cooks!) and add to the potatoes. Add 4 teaspoons of the milk-water cooking liquid and the olive oil. The mixture should start to stick together.

Add in remaining ingredients. Form into cakes and place on a greased (olive oil), foil-covered baking sheet. (Parchment paper would be better and might not require the olive oil.) Bake in 375F oven for 15 minutes. Turn over and bake 8-15 minutes more. **My baking sheet is thick, so a thinner sheet may cook the cakes faster.

In terms of health, the potatoes aren't great, but in this amount they aren't a huge carb intake either. Plus, baking the cakes offers the crispiness of cod fritters without the fat. I made these small so we felt like we were eating more and the smaller cakes would also be great for entertaining. Larger cakes might need some more "glue" in the form of more oil or an egg. I'll have to try that next time. This recipe was meant to have leftovers, but of course we ate them all.

I served the cakes with some roasted broccoli to make the meal healthier and a little rum cocktail to complete the Caribbean escapism. The cocktail was another mash-up, landing somewhere between a Painkiller (the drink we had at every port of the BVI) and a banana daiquiri. I had coconut milk to use up from a previous recipe, so this wasn't exactly healthy. In fact, you could call this the Diet-killer: 2 ounces coconut rum/rum + 1 banana + juice of 2 oranges + 2 Tablespoons lime juice + 1/2 can coconut milk + 2 cups ice. Blend it. Drink responsibly.

Omega-3's from an inexpensive pantry item
Fried fun without the fat
Fruity cocktail on the terrace -- worth every fattening sip

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