Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Salmon Burgers for the Big Game

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Well, the holidays are over but the football bowl games aren’t. That’s not something that really meant much to me in the past but now I have a new husband who first likes to watch football, and secondly loves as much as I do to have folks come and share various landmark experiences with us. Not that, in my mind, football is a landmark experience, but then I’m not a guy.

Some things are pretty well a given at these gatherings. Rotel-cheese dip with tortilla chips. Chicken wings. Little cocktail wienies in some sort of sauce. Finger sandwiches. Celery stuffed with pimiento cheese. You know what I mean.

But at some point the host has to come up with some real food. Usually it’s burgers on the grill, or something bought from the BBQ joint down the road.

Here’s what we’re going to have for the big game on New Year’s Day: salmon burgers. Easy, tasty and good for you (don’t tell the guys about that part). I do them with fresh salmon from the supermarket but it’s easy enough to substitute canned if you pick through and toss skin and bones. You’ll need one large can of salmon.

And you know how I am about doing things ahead. So make them completely ahead, stash covered in the fridge, and reheat on a baking sheet in the oven when you’re ready to serve.
I will use bell peppers and arugula as the garnish, but there’s no reason you can’t use lettuce and tomato, and you’ll still have a great burger.

How cute would these be if you made them into mini-burgers and used Sister Shubert rolls from the supermarket freezer. Salmon sliders!


1 lb fresh salmon, skin, bones removed, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beathen
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup onion, finely minced
¼ cup white raisins, finely minced
1 tbsp dried dill weed
Finely grated zest and juice of one lemon
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 c Vegetable oil
½ cup mayonnaise
Finely grated zest and juice of one lemon
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp finely minced cilantro
6 Kaiser rolls
One each red and yellow bell peppers, cut into rings
Arugula or fresh spinach

Combine the salmon, egg, 3/4 of bread crumbs, mayonnaise, onion, raisins, dill, lemon zest and juice, and cumin. Form into 6 patties and coat in the remaining crumbs. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Fry the burgers, turning once, until golden, about 8 minutes total. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.
Meanwhile, combine all sauce ingredients. At serving time, place a layer of greens on the bottom of the roll. Top with the warm salmon burger, then with the pepper rings and drizzle generously with the sauce. Serve at once.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

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The Italians are big on Christmas traditions. There are several traditional sweets for the holiday season. One is panettone, a yeast-raised cake with raisins and citron in it. It might be served toasted with breakfast tea or coffee, or slathered with mascarpone cheese and served with Marsala wine in the afternoon, or after dinner, with a glass of spumante wine.

There are many legends about the origin of panettone (as, it seems, there are about many Italian traditional foods). The most common cites a baker named Toni, who had a beautiful daughter. A young man who worked for Toni wanted to marry her. In an attempt to impress the father, the young man created a special sweet bread filled with fruits. The bread made Toni's bakery famous. People began to call the bread "pan ad Toni" or Toni's bread. Of course, he allowed the young man to marry his daughter.

Although they are usually available in specialty food markets only around the holiday season, I buy a few extra to keep, because a panettone makes the best bread pudding you’ll ever have. I like to make it in individual ramekins, as you see in the picture. They come out of the oven puffed and brown and fragrant. But it can also be made in a 9-inch by 13-inch casserole. Either way, it’s a very moist dessert and needs no sauce.

I love it with either amaretto or Grand Marnier as the liqueur, but I have a friend who made it with hazelnut liqueur and loved it. If you’d rather not use the liqueur, substitute either a teaspoon of almond extract, or the finely grated zest of an orange. It will still be a wonderful ending to your holiday meal, and any leftovers will be great warmed over for brunch the next day.


1 panettone (17.5 oz.)
8 eggs
½ cup sugar
3 cups half-and-half
1 large pinch kosher or sea salt
2 tbsp. amaretto or Grand Marnier
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel the paper off the panettone and trim off the darkest outsides. Cut the remaining cake into ½" cubes.
In a large bowl, with a wire whisk, beat the eggs with the sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in the half-and-half until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the liqueur and vanilla.
Butter ten to twelve 6-ounce ramekins and add the panettone cubes. Divide the egg mixture among them and let set for at least a half hour at room temperature, or up to two hours.
Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted near the center comes out clean. For the souffle effect, serve immediately from the ramekins. If you prefer, let them rest until time for dessert (they will deflate a bit) and unmold onto serving plates.
If you prefer to make it in one casserole, baking time will be about 45 to 50 minutes, but it will need to set at least ten minutes before you cut it.