Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 8, 2010

Foodie with Family: Spring and camo casts


March is finally here, and while we're sure to face a snowstorm or two before we've seen the last of winter, signs of spring are beginning to pop up like daffodils. Canada geese are winging their way North-ward, the first official day of spring is a couple weeks away, Lent is here, corned beef briskets and cabbages are piled high at the grocery store, Easter is around the corner, and Shamrock Shakes are back on the menu.

It's so close that you can almost smell the fresh grass beneath the snow.

Geese aren't the only creatures in flight this time of year. My 8-year-old, Ty, attempted flight off of our loveseat last week -- aided in his endeavor by propulsion provided by his elder brother -- and landed in the local emergency room. It turns out that the same maneuver that worked so admirably when younger brother propelled older brother did not work quite so well in reverse. Or so they say.

Ty was provided with a stylish camouflage full-arm cast. I'll bet you didn't know that a full arm cast is like a Swiss army knife. It doesn't just protect your broken bones -- because Ty had three of them -- it is also a formidable weapon against brothers ("Get back or I'll brain you with THIS!"), a tool to get out of bathing, a portable autograph book and a musical instrument. ("Mom! Look! It's a drum!" quoth he while pounding his cast repeatedly with a large stick. I died a little just then.)

And while Ty looks forward to having his cast removed, I'm considering having all my children put in permanent full-body casts. I thought it might save a little trouble down the road. Of course, the idea is just in its first stages. It needs a little refinement.

Thankfully, this is the season of things being rebuilt, reborn, remade and rejuvenated. It couldn't come at a better time. Bring on the spring!

Fish is big on menus right now. Healthy, delicious and quick cooking, it's nearly the perfect protein. New England Style Fish Cakes are one of our favorite ways to eat it.

This recipe yields enough for a large family or for company. If you are cooking for fewer mouths, halve all of the ingredients except the eggs. Those you can simply reduce to two.

New England Style Fish Cakes

2 lbs. firm fleshed boneless and skinless white fish fillets such as cod, blue hake, or haddock

2 c. freshly made medium fine breadcrumbs. This is roughly equivalent to 6 slices of bread.

3 medium stalks of celery, finely diced

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced then chopped again until finely minced

3 large eggs

1 T. dried basil

11/2 t. Old Bay Seasoning or other seafood seasoning blend

Salt and pepper to taste

Neutral oil, such as canola, for pan-frying

Roughly cut the fish fillets into two-inch chunks and place the pieces into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade. Pulse several times until the fish is broken down into a puree that still contains some pieces. No pieces should be larger than pebble-size.

Add the processed fish and the remaining ingredients to a large bowl and mix until uniform.

Place a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add a thin coating of oil to the pan; a tablespoon should be sufficient. Swirl the oil to coat the pan.

Working quickly, form 1/2-cup of the fish mixture into a thin patty and carefully place it into the oiled pan. The pan should fit four patties at a time. Once all four patties are in the pan, raise the heat to high and cook for five minutes. Carefully flip the patties and cook for five more minutes. Transfer the fish cakes to a plate lined with a paper towel.

Serve immediately.

This addictive tartar sauce is much more flavor-packed than most alternatives. It's fantastic on fish, of course, but it's also great on french fries and hamburgers. Once you've tried it you'll plan entire meals around it.

Tart-er Sauce

1 c. Greek yogurt

1/4 c. mayonnaise

1/4 c. minced green onion

2 T. minced cabbage

1 T. minced green pepper

1 T. lemon juice

2 t. dill pickle relish

1/2 t. dried dill weed

1/4 t. celery seed

Stir all ingredients together in a bowl, cover tightly and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

The beloved cool, minty milkshakes that make their appearance in March are a sure sign of spring. But why go out when you can make one at home in five minutes? Celebrate spring at home in your pajamas! If you're feeling a little wild, add a couple tablespoons of chocolate syrup for a Grasshopper Milkshake.

Shamrock-Clone Shakes

1 c. vanilla ice cream, slightly softened at room temperature

1/3 c. milk

3 T. half and half

1/8 t. peppermint extract

4-5 drops green food coloring, optional

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Serve immediately.

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