August 9, 2012
Fishcakes, Minted Peas and My Life as an Urban Gardener
I've dipped my toe into the world of gardening by planting seven different herbs in my apartment. Confession - it started out as nine - RIP flat leaf parsley and anise.
Now that I've been tending to these herbs since the beginning of the summer I rather fancy myself an urban gardener, although my thumb has yet to turn any shade of green, and my 'garden' is often a source of frustration where it should be a source of calm. But, I'm working on it.
It seems like a piece of cake - plant, water, put them in the sun - but proving more of a challenge than expected. First of all, when working with limited indoor space, giving the plants access to the sun is a constant game of musical planters. Rosemary and lavender need a ton of sun, so I shuffle them over here and sacrifice the mint for a while because it seems to grow like a weed no matter where it is. The oregano looks a little sun-deficient, so I shift that to the left in place of the thyme. I cherish the late morning hour when I can actually get all of the herbs in the full sun at once - at all other times it's a dance. I'm also always trying to figure out whether their sad and forlorn look is because they need more sun, or because they need more water, or less of each, or more of both. Truthfully, I now understand why people talk to their plants - it's because they are trying to figure out what the heck they want.
But, I am learning quite a bit, which is the goal. I see this as a practice round for when, one day, I get my hands on some real gardening space - preferably outdoors. At that point, I envision myself as gardener extraordinaire, calmly and confidently orchestrating the growing of all sorts of veggies and herbs, by that time I will be a pro. Until then, I have some work to do.
Fresh herbs are a necessity in the kitchen. I'm not saying you need to grow them, but you need to use them. I'm a big fan. Fresh herbs offer flavor and vibrancy to food in a way that dried herbs simply can't. Anyone looking for ways to up their food's flavor ante should definitely start getting friendly with fresh herbs.
This meal gave me an opportunity to use a lot of the fruits, or should I say, herbs of my labor. Fresh mint into the peas. Dill and tarragon into the fishcakes. If I were growing chives, I would have used them in place of the scallions.
Using the mint gave me such a pop of flavor that I didn't even need to use butter. A smidgeon of olive oil, salt and pepper and those peas were perfect. Herbs are magical like that. The fishcakes too - minimal fat in these bad boys. I didn't even use butter when I made the mashed potatoes that serve as the foundation to these cakes - in part because they were delicious new potatoes, velvety and waxy and buttery as they are - but also because the dill and tarragon bring serious flavor to the party.
This is a great dish to call upon when you have leftover mashed potatoes as, ideally, the mashed potatoes should be completely cooled to room temperature, or even cold. Feel free to sub in other types of fish if you don't have, or like, sole or flounder. While I think tarragon and dill are a tantalizing combo in these cakes, you can also experiment with other fresh herbs like parsley, chives or chervil.
What you'll need:
For 5 or 6 fishcakes
4-5 filets sole or flounder
2-3 cups whole milk
Salt and black pepper
4-5 potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed with salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped dill
2-3 Tbsp chopped tarragon
3 scallions, diced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and black pepper
1 cup breadcrumbs
Olive oil, safflower oil or grapeseed oil for pan frying
2 cups frozen or fresh peas
1 small handful chopped mint
Salt and black pepper
A drizzle of olive oil
Poach the fish
In a sauté pan wide enough to comfortably fit the filets in one layer, add the milk and a generous pinch of salt and black pepper. Lay the fish filets, side by side, in one even layer on the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat on medium-low and gently poach the fish for 5-6 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through. Once cooked, use a spatula to transfer the fish to a large dish and leave to one side. Discard poaching liquid.
*the exact timing will depend on how many filets are in the pan and how thick each filet is.
Prepare the fishcakes
In a mixing bowl, combine the cooled mashed potatoes, chopped dill and tarragon, diced scallions, minced garlic and salt and black pepper.
Use a fork to flake the cooled fish. Add the flaked fish to the mixing bowl.
Use your hands to combine the ingredients thoroughly.
Pour a thick layer of breadcrumbs into a dish - season the breadcrumbs with salt and pepper. Use your hands to form the fishcake mixture into patties - the size of which is up to you. Be sure to put enough pressure on the mixture that the patties are cohesive and stick together. Coat all sides of the fishcake in breadcrumbs and set aside. Do the same for the remaining fishcakes.
Pan fry the fishcakes
In a large, heavy bottomed sauté pan, add about 2 inches of oil. Place over medium-low heat - once the oil ripples a bit, add the first batch of fishcakes. Cook on each side for about 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown. Once browned and crispy, remove from the pan and cook the remaining fishcakes.
In a small pot, combine the peas, olive oil, salt and pepper. Place a lid on the pot and place the pot over medium-low heat. Cook for a few minutes, until the peas are just cooked and tender. While the peas are still hot, add the fresh chopped mint and stir to incorporate. Place the lid back on the pot to trap the heat and wilt the mint until you are ready to serve.
Posted by Carrie | acookgrowsinbrooklyn