Friday, July 11, 2008

cooking for mom

Many people who love to cook say their mothers taught them everything they know. My mother isn't really into cooking.

That's not to say she's not good at it. She roasts a mean Thanksgiving turkey, packed my lunchbox with egg salad sandwiches my classmates would trade me for, and spent the good part of a summer canning the best homemade peach jam I've ever tasted. She clips recipes and dutifully turns out holiday meals and family dinners, but it's not her thing. Mom likes projects. She can draw, she can paint, she makes handmade gifts like scented soap and 7-bean soup mix. Last year, just for kicks, she roasted her own coffee beans (purchased raw on the Internet). Her idea of an afternoon well-spent is not standing over the stove--give her a necklace to bead or something to scrapbook or a good sale at Macy's.

Whenever I come home, she is more than happy to step aside and let me at her wonderful kitchen, with its open center island and big windows that look out onto the backyard. Compared to my efficient but dark and narrow railroad kitchen, it's heaven. I try to cook at least one meal for my parents when I visit. Not only to give Mom a night off, but to luxuriate in all that lovely counter space.

So what did I make in that big, beautiful kitchen? Fish, of course. A trip to Florida doesn't seem complete without eating seafood at least once. Sadly, most types of seafood are shipped in from other parts of the world, but sitting down to a plate of blue crabs or a fried cod sandwich at least makes me feel like I'm on a beach vacation. For this dinner for myself, my parents, and Dan, I wanted to make something with a slightly tropical feel plus some simple sides with in-season produce.

Monday night dinner at home:
Guacamole and chips

Fish cakes with lemon mayo
Boiled corn on the cob
Avocado-tomato salad

Key lime pie

Fish cakes
I made these with tilapia because it's mild (and inexpensive) but cod, mahi mahi, or any other firm white fish would work just as well. I've also made a version of this recipe with canned salmon, which is entirely different but equally tasty.
(Serves 4 to 6 people)

1 1/2 lb. tilapia filets
2 Tbsp. olive oil
About 2 cups breadcrumbs
2 eggs
3 scallions, minced
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 Tbsp. chopped cilantro (or any other fresh herbs)
1 Tsp. ground jalapeno (or minced fresh jalapeno, to taste)
1 Tbsp. each salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut the fish into small chunks (about 1/2 inch) and place in a large bowl. Add the eggs, oil, and breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly. If the fish isn't binding together, add more breadcrumbs. If it seems too dry, add another splash of oil. Add the lemon juice, scallions, herbs, jalapeno, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. Using your hands, form the fish mixture into six patties about 3 inches across. Place the patties on a oiled baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and flake when pierced with a fork.

Serve with lemon mayonnaise (1 cup mayo mixed with the juice and zest of 1 lemon and a dash of salt).


Audrey said...

wow this is going to sound tres ladies home journal, but i don't care: we have a whole bunch of tilapia in the freezer, and i had no idea what to do with it! thanks lisa for the fish cakes idea!

Lisa said...

You're very welcome. Use up that tilapia! I didn't mention this in the recipe but you can also puree the fish in a food processor if you prefer a smoother, crab cake-like texture.

Anonymous said...

I know what I'm having Colin make me for dinner next week!

Daniel said...

The joy of cooking in Florida as opposed to NY isn't just the spacious kitchen. It's grocery shopping at Publix--where shopping truly is a pleasure.

It's kind of sad how exciting real supermarket shopping can be when you've gotten used to bodegas.

Lisa said...

Ah, Publix. Don't even get me started. We might have to move to Florida for the grocery shopping alone.

Vanessa said...

When I used to live in NY, going to Publix would bring tears to my eyes!

I was just craving tilapia yesterday! These sound delicious.

Anonymous said...

Standing in the Publix produce section
brings tears to my eyes after the
Iron Chef leaves Florida....
Care package anyone?

Anonymous said...

I think Florida is hot and shouldn't be inhabited, but I have been saying that for years and no one seems to be listening. That all being said, West Palm Beach RULES!!!! And I guess if I had to be in Florida I would cook whatever you suggested. Here's how. ETL

Jennifer Henry said...

I was just getting used to NY bodega-style grocery shopping, then we fell upon Price Chopper in Gloversville, upstate NY! I went MAD with choice! (Mainstream choice, mind you - NO chance of finding soy yoghurt) - but CHOICE).

Jennifer Henry said...

Lisa, I just made these fish cakes last night for the family, and the girls (and us adults) loved them! I chose to blend the fish in the food processor, and make about 30 small fish cakes rather than 6 big ones. The lemon mayonnaise was great, as was sweet chilli sauce. I think they'd work really well as finger food for a party, too!

Lisa said...

Jennifer: So glad you liked them!


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