Salmon or Seafood Cakes

Crab cakes are wonderful and delicious; problem is that good lump crab meat, even the stuff in a can (not the “crab dust” you get in a tuna-style can) is super expensive, i.e. over $10 for even the smallest usable amount. Salmon and other types of fish fillets, and even other types of shellfish like scallops, are much more reasonably priced.

My trick for making a tasty “crab cake” without the crab is to use salmon, instead. This feat can be accomplished, of course, with canned salmon; I still consider that an upgrade because tuna-style canned salmon tends to be of much better quality than the canned crab sitting on the shelf next to it. But if moderate poverty (and not extreme poverty) is driving you toward a cheaper crab alternative, frozen or fresh salmon fillets work swimmingly. I can imagine that tilapia or other types of fish fillets would work just as well.

When I cooked these the other day, I used what my parents had leftover around the house. There were three individually packaged salmon fillets as well as a handful of bay scallops.


2 large eggs, lightly beaten
15 oz or so of seafood, salmon fillets, tilapia, scallops, etc.
1 small apple, peeled and shredded
1/3-1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumb
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder (I use Badia)
1 teaspoon paprika
(optional) 1/4 cup shredded cheddar
salt and black pepper

Cilantro Sauce

dijon mustard
lime juice
cilantro, chopped

Lightly grill, bake or pan fry any fish fillets. If you’re feeling ambitious you can marinate the fillets ahead of time in citrus juice and ginger. The fillets don’t necessarily need to be baked through (the cakes themselves will be baked, after all), just enough to be able to fork flake the fillet. Shellfish can simply be thawed. Larger pieces can be chopped up.

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. If the mixture is too wet, add more breadcrumbs. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape into cakes and arrange on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake until golden brown. Serve with cilantro sauce.

The New Deviled Egg Craze

Anyone who has known me for a span longer than two years has seen me get on “kicks,” preoccupations of various types that turn into hobbies, habits or regular entries in my repertoire of recipes. My latest cooking craze is deviled eggs.

Salmon Eggs before the pastry bag arrivedIt started a few weeks ago when I was hosting a small cocktail party built primarily around the showcasing of two cheese fondues (another of my culinary kicks). I wanted to feature something else besides just fondue on my hors d’oeuvres menu, but I didn’t want to spend much additional money (since I am generally poor and had already spent my weekly “entertainment budget” on the sum of food and booze). Most easy hors d’oeuvres that came immediately to mind were cheese-based spreads and dips, both of which would be silly accompaniments to fondue. Also, I wanted something finger-food-ish, since the fondue would already require much dipping. Any vegetable-based appetizers I found seemed either too complex for a last minute addition or two expensive (fresh vegetables are not cheap, so even something as simple as crudites was off my list).

At long last I discovered a fairly standard deviled eggs recipe when browsing I had never really liked hard-boiled eggs because of the predominance of the egg white; on rare occasions when I do have breakfast eggs, I get them sunny-side up, dip bread in the yolks and leave the cooked whites untouched. But I figured, I didn’t really have to eat them, did I? I was embellishing my menu for the sake of my guests, anyway. I would be happy enough making do with fondue alone, and deviled eggs met my other criteria of being a finger food and being cheap (eggs are under $2 a dozen and I had most of the other ingredients for deviled eggs in my cupboards already)

As with most recipes, however, I’m usually not satisfied just to make the “standard” recipe, especially when a classic food seems ripe for experimentation. I delved further into the online recipe archives before finding two varieties of deviled eggs that seemed promising. The first was a recipe for seafood eggs that gave me a starting place, but ended up largely altered from the original.

Snapware Stackable Egg ContainerSARAH’S SEAFOOD DEVILED EGGS

12 hard-boiled eggs, shelled
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 can crabmeat or salmon, drained and flaked
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives or green onion
paprika, for sprinkling

Cut eggs in half legnth-wise and scoop out the yolks. In a small bowl or container (I use 3 cup measuring cup), combine yolks, mayo, lemon juice, mustard, pepper, Old Bay, fish and chives. I like to use electric egg beaters because they combine the yolk mixture easily and thoroughly without pulverizing the texture of the fish or eliminating the color flecks of the chives like a food processor or immersion blender would. Once the yolk mixture is combined, spoon the mixture into the yolk halves and chill for at least two hours before serving.

I have made the above recipe twice now, once with crabmeat and once with salmon, and it turned out delicious each time. What I especially like about this recipe is the fact that it produces enough filling really to load up the egg. Since the egg white is my least favorite part (I regard it as something of a protein-rich cracker, i.e. merely a means of yummy yolk delivery), the more of it heaped with filling, the better.

Mango Curry Eggs from the pastry bagThe second deviled egg recipe I tried was the biggest hit with my guests that night, and I cannot deny that it was mighty tasty. This recipe was also a bit altered from the original to suit my aesthetics.


6 hard-boiled eggs, shelled
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mango chutney
1 tablespoon green onions or chives, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Cut eggs in half length-wise and scoop out the yolks. In a small bowl or container, combine yolks, mayo, mango chutney, green onions, lemon juice, and spices. Once the yolk mixture is combined, spoon the mixture into the yolk halves and chill for at least two hours before serving.

As I found myself having increasing success with deviled egg recipes, and thus found myself making the recipes more frequently, two points of interest arose. The first was logistical. Shelled hard-boiled eggs are slippery characters, and in my first attempts to transport deviled eggs (even just from the refrigerator to the table, but also in the car to other locales) I discovered how easily the finished deviled egg will tip, depositing filling on its neighbor or on the bottom or sides of its container.

Pastry BagThe logical recourse was, of course, to find a plate or container specifically designed for the purpose of corralling deviled eggs. Seems like a simple enough endeavor, but it turns out that finding a deviled egg tray to suit all my needs was a taller order than I imagined. First of all, most of the trays I found were serving plates… all well and good for the table, but without a lid they did me no good (the deviled egg filling will get dry if stored uncovered in the refrigerator). Most of the containers with deviled egg trays and lids were either too cheap (i.e. cheaply made with a dozen bad reviews on Amazon) or too expensive ($40, really? For a plastic deviled egg tray?)

After much investigation I stumbled upon the Snapware Egg-tainer. Not only is it a stackable tupperware-style container designed for deviled egg transportation and storage, but the indented egg trays are plain white and removable so to be attractive for serving on a table that’s a bit classier than a tupperware spread. Unfortunately Amazon failed me on this one. While I did find it on Amazon, it was only offered by third party sellers, and thus saddled with sizable shipping costs. After some further research I found that it was available in-store at my local Bed, Bath and Beyond for $8.99 (two stacked trays for 12 eggs each). So far I’m getting a lot of use out of my trays, and thinking I may have to get another set sometime soon.

Eggs from the pastry bagThe second point of interest as I delved further into deviled egg cookery was aesthetic, namely that most pictures of deviled eggs in cookbooks feature yolks that have been squeezed out through the starred tip of a pastry bag. To give my eggs a professional appearance, I decided to invest in a pastry bag and tip set. My pastry bag research left me a bit confused as to whether I would need a large or small bag, and whether I would need a coupler attachment. In the end I decided on the Ateco Extra Wide Pastry Decorating Tip Set plus a Large Tip Coupler. Unfortunately the tip coupler did not come with instructions on how to install it on the pastry bag, so I decided to try the bag once without it. The tip was difficult to keep in place, so the next time around I decided to use the coupler. To the best of my assessment the only way to install the coupler would be to cut off a small part of the bag; I did and it seems to hold in place well enough (though I do have to remove the coupler for cleaning). The pastry bag allowed me easily to make stylish deviled eggs, but the unfortunate part of the bag is that it’s difficult to get all the filling out in the end. With my curried egg recipe that doesn’t have much extra bulk, this means that I’m scrambling for filling by the time I get to the last eggs. It’s worth making the more attractive, though.

Check back soon as my adventures in deviled eggs continue.

Late Night Bites: The Pleasure Bar

The Pleasure BarI’ve always done my best to avoid the nine-to-five, and after a brief stint as a legal secretary in 2003, I’ve been largely successful. For the most part, I enjoy doing things at off hours; being at work or asleep during both sessions of rush hour traffic has undeniable appeal; grocery shopping is a breeze at 11pm. However, the one persistent difficulty I’ve found since the advent of a 10pm quittin’ time is restaurant patronage.

Sure, most bars are open and welcoming when I get out of work, but even those with restaurants attached stop offering food past a certain time. Too often kitchens close at 10pm, sometimes at 11pm (which is doable but can be a tight squeeze), and more rarely at midnight or 1am. I understand that it ceases to be advantageous for most restaurants to offer food after popular dinner times, and that a small number of restaurants will cater to the late night crowd, but finding those restaurants has proven more difficult than I expected.

A couple weeks ago I went to the Pleasure Bar after work on a Friday night. The Pleasure Bar is a venerable Pittsburgh institution located in the heart of the Liberty Avenue business district in Bloomfield. I’ve often dined there and drank there in the past, and it’s one of the few places in the city where I’ll go for Italian food (most Italian restaurants violate my primary law of eating out: Don’t eat food at a restaurant if I can made it better, easier and/or cheaper at home). It had been a couple years, however, since I’d eaten at the Pleasure Bar, and I had never attempted to grab a late night bite there, so I did some research ahead of time.

Inside the Pleasure BarDespite being a venerable Pittsburgh institution in business for over three decades, the Pleasure Bar does not have a website, so I had to pester their hard-working staff with a call to ask how late the kitchen would be open. I was told “Probably until 11:00″… which might help explain the lack of website, probablys being difficult to express in print.

And so, I made a point to leave work at ten on the dot, and put the pedal a little closer to the metal than usual in effort to arrive in Bloomfield by 10:30. On street parking was a breeze, and I was sitting at the bar asking if the kitchen was still open by 10:31. I was told: “For about two minutes.” Luckily, I had found amidst my research earlier that day a menu of their pub food on and so I was able to squeak my order in under the wire.

While I did not receive my order in the aforetold two minutes, service was swift and I quickly found myself with two piping hot appetizer plates and a chilly beverage. First up was an order of fried provolone that exemplified everything a gal could ask for in a plate of fried cheese: crisp breading, gooey center, hearty marinara on the side, a dusting of parmesan. The provolone wedges more than met my criteria for restaurant food, as I would never attempt to make fried cheese at home when such an ideal specimen is readily available at the Pleasure Bar for under five bucks.

My second appetizer was tasty, but mildly disappointing. The crab stuffed mushrooms came full of promise; sizable mushroom caps filled with quality lump crabmeat, baked in alfredo sauce and bubbling with baked cheese. How can you go wrong, right? While I was duly impressed with the quality of the crabmeat, I found that it lacked any sort of zip. A squeeze of lemon, a whisper of garlic, a dash of spice would have gone a long way to making these stuffed mushrooms delectable, but as it was, I found the dish a bit lackluster. Would I be able to make it better myself at home? Maybe. But would I have been able to make it cheaper? Definitely not. At $7.50 for a dish teeming with sweet lump crabmeat, these mushrooms are a great deal.

In fact, the Pleasure Bar proved to be an excellent bargain. Two quality appetizers and a couple of well drinks came to a total of $18, showing the Pleasure Bar to be a great option for starving creative types like me to find after work refreshment. Now, if only I had a better idea of how long the kitchen would “probably” be open, I would name the Pleasure Bar a prime spot for late night eating. As it is, this restaurant is a great spot for inexpensive Italian food, provided that you don’t incur any speeding tickets on your way to place the last order of the night.

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