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I’ve Got A Secret Salmon Burgers

22 Feb

Listen, gang. I’m going to share this with you because it really is just too good to keep to myself, but you cannot, under any circumstances, tell my kids what I’m about to say. Ever. That includes you, Mom.


Awesome, then.

For loads of us, today starts six weeks of avoiding meat on certain days. And while options are certainly way better than when I was a kid (fried fish? or pizza? which would you like?), it can still be a challenge, particularly when our kids are fixated on chicken and beef for dinner. Sure, you can bring out the pasta and the olive oil and garlic or the tomato sauce, and you can chuck some shrimp in there, but sometimes you need a meat-and-potatoes feeling dinner even when there’s no meat involved.

Enter the salmon burger. It’s hearty, it sits on a potato roll so you can eat with your hands, it feels all manly and stuff, and it’s darned healthy most of the time (check your labels! some of those salmon burgers in the freezer section are terrifying!). It’s also one of those things that’s easier to make from scratch than hassling with pre-made and frozen. And these, my lovelies, have a secret that makes them both more delicious and way healthier.

Are you ready? Because this is the part where you read in silence. Ixnay on the aringshay with the ildrenchay, capice?

The secret is this: You know how we use breadcrumbs as filler/binder in hamburgers and meatloaf and those sorts of things? These yummy meatless burgers use oats.

HA! Whole grains and fiber goodness that makes the outside of these deliciously crunchy like a “real” burger, and your kids will never suspect a thing. Eat your heart out, Jessica Seinfeld. We real-world moms have this one covered.

You’re going to use quick-cooking oats for these burgers. Don’t have those? Give regular oats a whirl in your blender or food processor to break ’em up–same difference. Mix them up in a bowl with your salmon and your egg and all the other yummies in this recipe, gently put ’em in a hot (HOT!) pan with a little olive oil, and you’ll have a meatless meal your kids and your pediatrician will love. Rock on with your bad grain-hiding self.

You’re going to start with cooked salmon, either canned (oh stop it–it’s totally fine if you read your labels) or a filet or two that you’ve cooked (any old way) and flaked up. This does two things: it makes the burger assembly easier and it ensures nobody gets any tummy nasties in the very small chance your burgers don’t cook all the way through to a specified high temperature. The rest of this is super easy.

I give you salmon burgers with a secret. Don’t go telling on me and ruin them, OK? You need:

Salmon, either a 14.75 oz can (look near the tuna at your grocery store) or a filet or two, cooked and flaked up.

1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)

The juice of half a lemon

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until it’s screaming hot.

In a bowl, gently stir together everything up to and including salt and pepper, flaking up the salmon as you go, until everything is looking all combined and burgery. Take a small handful of the mixture and squeeze it together–if it doesn’t hold in a ball, add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to the mix. Using your hands, form the mixture into burger patties, making sure they’re flat in the middle and that you’ve squeezed them enough that they’ll hold together.

Pop them into the fridge for a few minutes. This’ll help them hold together on the stovetop.

Once your pan is super hot, coat the bottom of it with oil. You’re not deep frying–you just want enough to stop the patties from sticking. Gently lay your burgers in the pan, giving them a little room to groove (I cooked mine in two batches). Cook them for about three minutes, gently lifting one up after that to see if it’s browning.

Once it’s brown on the cooked side, carefully flip your burgers over and let them go until they’re crunchy on both sides. Serve–we liked ours on potato rolls, but you have them however you’d like.


Fluke (Oven Baked Salmon Sticks)

26 Jan

DH and I both had big lunches yesterday (and mine was delicious!) and didn’t need real dinners last night. I also didn’t really feel like cooking and cleaning up. The kids, though, were hungry, and my healthier eating resolution is still sticking (except for lunch–shaddup, I know).

What to do, what to do?

I mentally ticked off everything that might make dinner that was in my freezer: chicken, ground beef, rockfish, salmon. Aside: the friend I had lunch with and I had a great conversation about that in the car, and it’s so true. Having the basic stuff of meals in the cold box makes life so much easier when it comes to home-cooked, healthy meals. It’s so worth the time to figure out your family’s six or seven staple meals that are simple to put together, and make sure you have those basic ingredients in your pantry and freezer. Lifesaving.

Anyway. Salmon. Salmon is good–it’s full of omega-3s and is super easy to cook, and everybody likes it. So I pulled out two filets, defrosted them in a bowl of water in my sink, and cut them (along the grain) into fish sticks. I whipped two eggs together in a bowl with a fork, and put a handful of Panko in another bowl. Each salmon stick got dunked in the egg, rolled in the Panko, and placed on a foil-lined, olive-oil sprayed baking sheet. They then got a sprinkle of No-Salt and about 10 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees.

As it happens, DH wandered into the kitchen as the kids sat down to eat. “Those look interesting,” he said. “Kind of like tempura.” So I broke a hunk off of one and handed it to him, just so he’d see he wasn’t missing a gourmet meal. Guess what he said then.

“This is the best salmon you’ve ever made.”




Y’all those little goofy salmon sticks took me five minutes to put together. Cleanup was throwing four bowls in the dishwasher and a hunk of  foil into the recycling bin. And if I’d known he was gonna eat them, I’d have tossed some lemon pepper in with the Panko. I mean, I didn’t even take a picture because I had no intention of telling you guys about them–they were that thrown together in a moment of “must put something on the table.”

Best salmon ever. Total fluke. Go figure.

Rockfish with Spanish-Style Tomato Sauce and Olives

3 Jan

Happy January!

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday! Did you get any fun kitchen toys? I received a beautiful Cuisinart waffle iron and a very pretty antique wood mortar and pestle, both of which I love. Share in the comments what you received–I can’t wait to hear!

So. A new year. And like a lot of families, we’re trying hard to eat healthier. I pulled some rockfish out of the freezer yesterday morning and pondered how to make it for a few hours, and came up with this–a Spanish-style tomato sauce with black olives and sweet roasted peppers that was delicious. It would work over any kind of white fish, and would also be delicious over chicken, I think (or by using it as a simmer sauce for chunks of fish or chicken, and then serving that over rice). We enjoyed our fish over Spanish rice and everyone seemed to really like it.

I started pulling spices out of my drawer for this and remembered that I had a bottle of Mexican Seasoning from The Spice Hunter, so I used that instead. It was delicious. If you don’t want to invest in another spice mix, use chili powder and oregano and maybe a little paprika.

I also used a pinch of saffron in this sauce. Before you freak out–because who’s not heard that saffron is the world’s most expensive spice–I got a little jar of it for a few dollars at Trader Joe’s, and I quite literally used just a pinch. Saffron adds a lot of depth to tomato-based sauces and that tiny bit does make a difference, but you won’t ever pick the flavor out from tasting the sauce. I recommend buying some and keeping it in your freezer for pinches here and there, but you can certainly leave it out if you’d rather.

Roasted red peppers make an appearance in this dish–I used about half of a small jar and chopped them up before stirring them into the sauce. My family all thought they were tomatoes until I filled them in. The dish would be delicious without them, too, so go either way on that.

This fed all four of us and I have a little bit left over that I’m waffling between having for lunch today and sharing with DH tonight. Either way, I am going to make a double batch of this sauce and keep it in the freezer for those crazy hurricane days, when I can pull some chicken or fish out of the cold box along with some sauce and simmer them together for a quick, easy dinner. (Too busy for this for a weeknight meal? Make the sauce one day and refrigerate it for another, when you can just start with the lay the protein in the pan step. Easy peasy.)

This is absolutely being added to our regular meal rotation, and I hope you’ll give it a try as part of your own healthier new year. You need:

1 tbsp olive oil

About a pound of fish or chicken, cut into about 3-inch strips

1/4 cup finely diced onion

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/2 tsp Mexican seasoning (or the substitute above)

A pinch of salt

A pinch of saffron

14 oz can of tomato sauce

4 oz can of sliced black olives (or about a quarter-cup of fresh sliced olives)

About 2 tbsp roasted red peppers, sliced

Salt and pepper

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium burner. Add the onions with a pinch of salt  and cook until they’re soft and translucent. Stir in the garlic and Mexican seasoning and keep it moving for about 30 seconds, until that garlic starts to smell good. Then stir in the sauce and saffron, lower your burner to medium-low, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir in the olives and red peppers, remove the sauce from the heat, and either refrigerate for another day or keep going to make the whole meal.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a small baking dish with olive oil or nonstick spray (I used an 11 x 7 inch Pyrex dish). Lay your fish or chicken in the dish so the pieces don’t overlap:

Sparingly salt and pepper your protein, and then pour the sauce over the pieces evenly.

Cover with foil and bake until it’s cooked (140 degrees for fish, 165 degrees for chicken–use a meat thermometer and spare yourself food poisoning).  My fish pieces were about two inches thick and took about 35 minutes to cook. Carefully remove the foil (watch the steam!) and enjoy.

Oven Crunchy Kid-Loving Fish

8 Dec

If you live near a city as I do, you probably have food trucks racing around, parking on popular corners to dish out everything from enchiladas to cupcakes at lunchtime. At last count, my area had a salad truck, a frozen yogurt truck, and at least one sandwich truck on the streets. But my favorite one–the only one I really visit these days–is a fish truck. And the reason it’s my favorite is that I can either choose crab cakes or yummy prepared entrees, or fresh, sustainable seafood to prepare myself. Which is awesome for someone who enjoys playing with food.

Several weeks ago, I bought three pounds of rockfish from my friends on the truck. I cooked some that night and carefully wrapped the rest in portions and stowed it in my freezer.

Let me say this before I go any further–having a stash of raw fish in your freezer is such a huge time-saver that I can’t recommend it enough. It thaws and cooks much faster than chicken or beef and is a snap to prepare in no time. Nights that follow crazy hurricane days almost always find me pulling seafood out of the cold box for dinner. It’s easy and delicious and so good for you that it’s a complete no-brainer, and sustainable fish is a fantastic food trend I hope sticks around awhile.

Anyway. We had one of Those Days last week and I pulled out some rockfish and made it like my mom used to, with breading and Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese. Only I used Panko bread crumbs (yes, I’m on a Panko kick. Ride along with me–it’s a super fun ingredient), so my fish went into the oven instead of a fry pan, and there was nary a drop of fat involved.

The result: Dinner was done a half-hour after I pulled my fish out of the freezer. My kids gobbled it down just like I did back in the day. Cleanup was super easy, and everyone wins.

Sound good? Find a good purveyor of fish and get together:

1 pound (ish–a filet for each person) rockfish or other white fish. You want thin cuts for this.

2 eggs

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp garlic powder

salt and pepper

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray it with something non-stick (I used olive oil).

Skin your fish (use a paring knife and just slice the skin off, holding the fish flat and skin-down on a board with your non-dominant hand while your dominant hand gently slides the knife under the skin).

Beat your eggs in a bowl. In another bowl, mix together your dry ingredients.

One by one, dip your fish in the egg mixture, and then toss it gently into the bread crumb mixture to coat. Lay the filets on your baking sheet. When they’re all lined up, bake them for about 15 minutes or until they’re done (white all the way through and flakey when you stab one with a fork). Watch your kids devour fish and rock on with your bad oven-baking self.

Simple Fish with Tomatoes

18 Oct

Last week, I told y’all about the rockfish DH brought home from a business trip to Long Island. I also told you all about the rice I made to go with it. This is what I did with the fish, and it is so stinkin’ easy that you may never cook fish on the stovetop again.

Rockfish is a meaty fish. Our filets are super-thick (about two inches) and eating them is a lot like eating steak. They were perfect for this preparation. You could use a thinner cut, but adjust the time accordingly. You can also use a different kind of fish–this would be great with cod, halibut, or another white fish.

I threw this together in about five minutes and everybody ate their dinner without complaint. Seriously, does it get any better than that? You only need:

1 can diced tomatoes, drained (or about a cup of fresh chopped tomatoes, seeded)

1/4 of a sweet onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp Italian seasoning (or basil and oregano)

1 pound of fresh or frozen/thawed white fish (you can use less or more–just adjust the other ingredients)

1/2 a lemon

In a small bowl, stir together the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and spices and let them sit about 10 minutes.

Preheat your broiler (to low if you have a choice).

Spray an ovenproof dish with olive oil or nonstick spray–I used a little casserole I got at Ikea a few years back, but use whatever you have that’ll fit your fish in a single layer with not much room to spare. Even a bread or brownie pan would work, but be sure to line it with foil so you don’t get garlic scent in your next batch of baked yumminess.

Spoon about a third of your tomato mixture into the bottom of the pan. Salt and pepper your fish as you’d like and lay on top of the tomatoes. Spread the rest of that mixture on top. Set it in the oven and broil it until it’s cooked through–my uber-thick rockfish took about a half hour in the hot box to cook.

Remove from oven. Sprinkle with lemon juice and enjoy.

Simple Grilled Swordfish

11 Aug

I’m swamped, gang. Absolutely swamped. So there is no clever commentary or little story to accompany this recipe, which was born when I saw frozen swordfish on sale a few days ago. I’d never had swordfish before (I’m a Baltimore girl, hon. We eat crab and rockfish) and simple flavors seemed best for my de-flowering, so to speak.

This was quite good. It took only about 7 minutes on my cast-iron grill pan to cook, which is a big bonus, and would do just as well on our outdoor grill. If you’ve not tried this fish either, it’s a nice introduction. You only need:

Swordfish steaks, one per person (I made two large steaks–adjust other ingredients according to the number you’re making)

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp white wine (chicken broth or apple juice will work if you don’t have wine around)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lemon

salt and pepper

Grate the zest from your lemon and reserve the inside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, wine, lemon zest, and garlic. Put your fish steaks into a large zip-top bag, pour in the marinade, swish it around, and put it in your refrigerator for a few hours, turning it every hour or two.

About a half-hour before dinner, heat up your grill or grill pan until it’s screaming hot. Remove the fish from the bag and squeeze half the lemon over it. Spray your grill with oil or nonstick spray and grill the fish about 5 minutes on each side, until it’s cooked through.

Sprinkle with remaining lemon juice and serve.


Grilled Tuna with Fresh Herbs

19 Jul

Let’s get something out of the way right here at the tippy-top. I know you’re not all fish eaters. Fish is fishy, you don’t like the texture, it’s expensive, it smells up the house. I hear you, and I respect that choice.


This isn’t fishy. The texture is a lot like steak if you cook it all the way through (more on that in a sec.). I found mine on sale for about the same price as chicken boobs. And my house smells like it always does a few hours later; you wouldn’t come in and ask what fish we had for dinner.

Today, we’re talking tuna steaks. I know–$18 per pound at the fish counter. But go on over to your frozen seafood aisle and take a gander. I found these beauties there, vacuum-packed and flash-frozen, for about $5 per pound, and they grilled up beautifully. Tuna is healthy and light and firm and delicious, and does not smell (OK, the canned stuff smells. This is not that. See?).

This recipe is super simple–it’s based on a Mark Bittman classic and took me about five minutes of hands-on time to prepare, plus about 15 minutes on the grill pan. Yep, I cooked this inside on my cast iron pan. You could absolutely toss it onto your outside grill, and ’tis the season.

I used herbs from my garden, so I grabbed handfuls of what I had. If you have a favorite fresh herb, go ahead and play with this–anything goes. Dried herbs will burn, so definitely find some fresh either in somebody’s yard or at the farm market. I served this with wild rice, steamed broccoli, and my tomato-cucumber salad, and I know it was a hit because dinnertime was silent. Just eating. Beautiful.

Give this a try, even if you’re not a fish eater. Your heart and your mouth will thank you. No air freshener needed. You’ll need:

Tuna steaks, one per person (the rest of my ingredients are based on two steaks, because that’s what I cooked)

Two cloves of garlic, minced, or two frozen garlic cubes

About two tablespoons of fresh minced herbs; I used basil, thyme, and oregano

The zest of half a lemon (reserve the naked fruit for later)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Heat your grill or grill pan to screaming hot over medium-high heat.

Mix together the garlic, herbs, and lemon zest in a small bowl with a fork. Add a squirt of lemon juice to moisten it to a paste-like consistency.

Dry your tuna steaks with paper towels. Lay them on a board or plate. Sprinkle them lightly with salt, and then rub the top side with the herb mixture.

Spray or rub your grill with olive oil, reduce the heat to medium, and lay the steaks on it, herbed side down. On the grill, salt and rub down the other side while the first side cooks. Leave them alone (stop nudging them around!) for about five minutes, or until you can see them start to cook through the middle:

Flip and grill until they’re to your desired level of done-ness. Mine was raw in the middle because I took it off a few minutes in; DH’s was cooked through after about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle lemon juice on cooked tuna, and enjoy.

Shrimp and Broccoli Lo Mein

21 Mar

I started Friday thinking we’d have Shrimp Pad Thai for dinner. As the day went on, thought, I realized something. I just wasn’t in the mood.

It happens, right? You meal plan and shop and prepare, and then at the end of the day, you’d just about rather eat anything other than what’s on the menu.

The beautiful thing about being a grown-up, of course, is that you then get to decide whether to stick with the plan or move along to something else. I won’t tell you about the night DH and I had ice cream for dinner simply because the wait was too long at our favorite restaurant and  we just could (*ahem*), but there are perks to being taxpaying, crazed adults.

I didn’t want to waste the shrimp I’d defrosted, and I didn’t want to let my green onions to go waste. A quick search found a lo mein recipe that worked, except that it had a bunch of stuff in it that I either didn’t have (red peppers, fresh ginger, and a bunch of other stuff) or people here wouldn’t eat (carrots). So I improvised with what was in the pantry and my freezer. Which is another huge perk to being an adult. It’s playing with your dinner, yes? Playing is fun!

This turned out well. I loved it. DH would have liked it more had the sauce been a bit more subtle, but he’s a subtle sauce kind of guy. The kids had some without comment, which is a victory in my book, and it was even better the second day. That said, I recommend it for a quick meatless meal. I did eat this so fast that I totally forgot to take a photo–mea culpa.

To make it, you’ll need:

8 ounces uncooked spaghetti

1/4 cup dark sesame oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped green onions

8 oz shrimp, peeled, tails removed

16 oz broccoli florets (I used frozen)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon grated ginger powder

In a large pot of salted water, boil spaghetti noodles until they’re on the tough side of al dente. Drain.

In a wok or large skittle, cook the onion, garlic, and green onions in the sesame oil over medium-high heat until you start to smell it–two or three minutes. Add shrimp and broccoli (I tossed mine in still frozen) and cook until the shrimp are about done and the veggies are softening a little.

Stir together cornstarch and the broth in a small bowl. Add that mixture to the wok and stir gently until it starts to thicken up, about a minute or two. Stir in the remaining sauce ingredients. Once everything’s combined, pour your spaghetti in and stir it all around over the heat, letting the noodles finish cooking in the sauce. Enjoy.

Slow-Cooked Salmon

14 Mar

This is the day I have the most trouble getting out of bed in the entire year. The Monday after spring-forward is brutal. I do a lot of grousing about outdated traditions and stupid ways of doing things and the appalling way we continue on with things because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Bring on daylight savings and leave it there, I say.

It’s a good day for an easy dinner, and one that’s comforting as well.

This one’s about as easy as they get, and it’s healthy, which is a fantastic bonus. If you like sushi, you’re going to love this–it’s all about cooking fish low and slow, which gives you a wonderfully fall-apart texture that’s amazingly similar to your favorite nori.

Unlike other slow cooking recipes, this one doesn’t require a special appliance. You’re going to do this in your regular oven. And it’s hard to go wrong with this. The temperature is so low that it’ll be fine if you forget about it for awhile, which is a huge blessing on this particular Monday.

Like some of my other recipes, this one is all about the method. You should season your salmon any way you’d like–lemon pepper, lemon juice, orange juice, honey, lime, barbecue sauce, whatever (I offered a few suggestions here). I use a commercially-prepared Asian salad dressing because that’s my favorite. And, of course, this is great for Lent Fridays or Meatless Mondays, or just healthying up your diet in general. I usually microwave-steam some asparagus or green beans, and serve it with that and rice or potatoes.

Sushi lovers, rejoice. And try this. You’ll need:

Salmon filets, one per person

Seasoning of your choice

Olive oil spray

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees (that’s not a typo). Season your salmon and lay it in a baking dish sprayed with olive oil. Bake it for about a half-hour, or until it’s cooked through to your liking (I like mine rare, so I go about 20 minutes with one filet). Enjoy.


Don’t forget you can win an autographed copy of Modern Spice! Go here and leave a comment to enter. And my little blog is still in the running over at Babble’s list of 100 best food mom blogs! You can vote for it here–and thank you!!


Retro Fish

23 Feb

Half an hour to dinner and no idea what to feed the kids.

Been there? I think we all have (and if you haven’t, just keep it to yourself; I love you but I don’t want to hear about it. Thanks.). It happened to me last night. DH and I had leftover chili, and I had no clue what to give my non-chili-eating children.

They’ve been asking me for fish tacos for a few days. That would have been simple enough except that I had no limes in the house. Lemons either. Or guacamole or salsa. And we’re trying to eat through what’s in the fridge and freezer, so going out to get that stuff wasn’t high on my priority list, especially since I waited until a half-hour before dinner to think of it.

But we did have plenty of rockfish in the freezer, and I remembered my mom’s chicken cutlets that my brother and I loved as kids, and it seemed simple enough to translate chicken to fish, and so I went for it. Old school in the kitchen, yo.

The results? Huge hit. Huge. I swiped a bit myself and it was delicous. Just as I remembered–crunchy outside, moist inside, easy to eat with fingers or a fork, and simply yummy.

The boy ate his with his fingers. The girl still wanted tacos, so I threw some into some taco shells and sprinkled cheese over top.

I made these in my cast iron skillet, which I love for browning. It’s heavy and while it takes awhile to come up to heat, it stays hot for a long time and doesn’t fluctuate as food goes into it. If you don’t have cast iron, be sure your skillet is good and hot before you pop these babies in there–you want brown and crispy, and a cool pan will give you tan and mushy. Which is not at all what we’re going for.

Any white fish will work in this recipe. My guess is that salmon would be equally good, and shrimp would work if you lower the heat a bit and keep a careful eye on them. Of course, you can always follow my mom’s lead and do this with chicken strips too. Simple and easy and something everyone will eat–a home run in my book. You’ll need:

Enough fish or chicken for your family (I used about a half-pound of rockfish for the kids and we had some left over), cut into strips

About a cup of dried bread crumbs (I used plain, but Italian would be good too)

About a quarter cup of shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

Two eggs

Olive oil

Heat a medium-sized skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat until it’s screaming hot. Don’t go nuts and crank the stove to high or you’ll have burned outside and raw inside, which is gross. Medium high.

Break your eggs into a bowl and whisk them up.

Pour the bread crumbs and cheese into another bowl and stir them together.

Once your pan is hot, coat its bottom with olive oil and turn the heat down to medium.

Coat each fish or chicken strip first with egg, and then with the breadcrumb mixture. Shake gently to get rid of excess crumbs. Plop it down in the oil and leave it alone for about three or four minutes, until the bottom is golden brown. Flip and cook the other side. My strips were on the thick side, so I then cooked each side on its own too.

Remove to a plate that has two or three layers of paper towel on it. Let drain for a moment, and serve.

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