Thursday, February 10, 2005

I admit to being an incurable cookbook addict. I have been for years. I have hundreds of them. I still cannot possibly go to a bookstore and walk past the bargain book table without perusing the available cookbooks. Some are hopeless, but I figure that if I can find a book with a good recipe or two for a couple of bucks, it is money well spent.

Recently I happened across one of these, titled "Two Dollar Dinners," by Paul Gayler, (Artus Books, London, 1996). It had a bargain book sticker on it that indicates that I had paid a mere $2.98 for it. I hadn’t picked it up for quite a while, and rifled through it to see what I might want to try. There were a number of recipes that I just don’t think we’re going to talk about: Hot Dog Fusilli, Tian of Sardines, French Onion Soup with Herring Crostini, or Cabbage, Turnip and Blood Sausage Soup.

However, the book fell open to a sure sign of a couple of recipes I had liked: dirty, splashed pages. One was for a green tomato gazpacho and another for Shanghai fishburgers with cumin and ginger ketchup. A great meal, I thought, for a casual weekend supper. I made a few changes to accommodate my taste, including changing the fishburger title to one more appealing. And voilĂ !

Here’s the menu: Green tomato gazpacho, seafood croquettes with cumin-ginger aioli, roasted potatoes and for dessert, wine-poached plums. Most of the work can be done ahead. Make the gazpacho the night before, or early in the morning. Make the croquette mixture and aioli and refrigerate. Cut red-skinned potatoes into good-sized chunks and toss to coat with olive oil and a little minced garlic. Poach halved seeded plums in red wine with a little sugar and the juice and zest of an orange.

When you’re almost ready for dinner, roast the potatoes for about 45 minutes at 350F. Form the croquettes. Serve the soup, and as you are clearing the soup bowls, cook the croquettes. The plums can be served warm or cool, with vanilla ice cream if you like. How easy could it be?

Green Tomato Gazpacho
2 slices firm white bread, crusts removed
1 lb green tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1/2 cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
6 tbsp olive oil
5 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
Sour cream and basil for garnish
Put the bread in a bowl and pour a cup of water over it. Put the tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, onion, garlic and coriander in a blender or food processor and purée. Pour into a large glass or ceramic bowl. Put the bread in the processor, turn it on and drizzle in the olive oil, then the vinegar, then about a half-cup of the tomato mixture. Blend for another 30 seconds. Whisk this into the tomato mixture in the bowl. Taste and add salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Chill well before serving with a dollop of sour cream mixed with minced basil. Serves four.

Seafood Croquettes with Cumin-Ginger Aioli
1 lb boneless filet of white fish: cod, tilapia, or catfish
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
3 green onions, minced, using 1" of the green part
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp cornstarch
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
Lettuce leaves, for garnish
For the aioli:
1/2 cup real mayonnaise
1 tbsp catsup
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
In a food processor, pulse the fish several times, or until just finely minced, not pureed. (Or you can do this by hand.) Transfer to a bowl and add the ginger, onion, cilantro, pepper flakes, soy sauce, eggs and cornstarch. Season lightly with salt and pepper and refrigerate at least an hour, and up to 8 hours.
Mix together all the ingredients for the aioli and refrigerate.
Shape the fish mixture into 8 small croquettes. Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté over medium heat until golden, 3-4 minutes per side. Drain briefly on paper towels. Serve atop a leaf of lettuce with a dollop of aioli on each one. Serves four.

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