Cabbage Panic and Not-My-Mother’s Tuna Patties

Tuna patties-nicely golden brown!

It happens every time we receive a CSA box- I panic a little. It’s irrational really, but I can’t seem to help it. At first, it was the greens, I would panic about what I was going to do with all my greens. We weren’t big salad eaters and my family didn’t regard a plate full of salad as dinner. I eventually figured out that I didn’t have to eat platters full of raw salad in order to get greens into my family’s diet. I found ways to incorporate them into other dishes like soups, omelets, even mashed potatoes and voila, everyone was eating greens and happy.
Lately, my panic has been more of the cabbage variety. I don’t know why. I like cabbage. We ate it on a pretty regular basis when I was growing up, but it was usually boiled in a pot of caldo de res, or shredded on top of fish tacos, or, on the rare occasion that we ate out, it came transformed into coleslaw in a foam cup with KFC stamped on the side. That was really the extent of my experience with cabbage. I’ve been warming up to it, but sometimes inspiration completely fails me when I stare at this innocuous vegetable. It’s really a blank canvas that adapts and plays well with many different flavors and modes of preparation, but I’ve had to work hard around my cabbage bias to see it that way. This time around, I worked half of a pretty large Napa Cabbage into tuna patties and the other half into a casserole, but I’m going to share the tuna patties with you because they turned out great.

You see, I ate plenty of tuna patties growing up. It’s one of the foods I associate with home cooking. My mother would make a batch with several cans of tuna, mix them with egg, onion, celery, salt and pepper and then fry them. She would then slather them with red chile sauce and serve them with nopales. They were really good, but they absorbed huge amounts of oil and we seemed to gobble them up, well, like cookies. No matter how big a batch my mom made for our family of seven, there were never leftovers. When I moved out on my own I tried to lighten up her recipe several times. I coated them in bread crumbs and baked them, or tried to “light” fry them, but they never worked well with the red sauce application. So, here I resolved to move away from my mother’s tuna patties and allow them to evolve into something more veggie-ful. I added thinly shredded fennel, a handful of chopped dill, steamed cabbage, steamed and chopped heirloom carrots, and of course, green garlic.They have still retained the heartiness that came with my mother’s original recipe but without the greasy edge. I browned mine in a heavy pan spritzed with olive oil. You could bake them, but they might not hold together as well. I served them up with a side of green garlic and kale mashed potatoes and a dill sauce. It was a mouthful of spring. I hope you try them.

I chose to steam the cabbage first, because the volume of the cabbage would have made it hard to work enough of it into each single patty. I also steamed the carrots, but you could opt to shred them instead. Shredding would have been more practical. Alternately, you could sautee the cabbage and carrot together. I used a small mandoline to shred the fennel.

Not-My-Mother’s Tuna Patties (makes about a dozen patties)

Not-My-Mother's Tuna Patties and Green Garlic and Kale Mashed Potatoes.

2 (5 oz) cans tuna packed in water, drained
half a head of cabbage, cored and sliced thin (I used Napa)
half of a fennel bulb shredded, or sliced thinly
2  small carrots, steamed and diced small, or shredded
half of a green garlic stalk, or 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup of chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup of breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp of hot red pepper flakes (optional)
olive oil for browning

Place a pot of water to boil over high heat with a fine mesh colander set over it, making sure the bottom of the colander doesn’t touch the water. Shred the cabbage and drop it into the colander once the water is boiling. Cover and steam for 3-5 minutes until cabbage is tender-crisp. Set aside to drain in the colander. Once cool enough to handle dump the steamed cabbage into a tea towel and wring most of the water out. If you are steaming and chopping the carrots, do so now.

steamed cabbage after wringing water out

steaming the heirloom carrots

Set a large skillet to heat on stove over med high heat. Spray/drizzle with olive oil. Combine steamed cabbage, fennel, dill, carrot, garlic, tuna, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add eggs, and mix well. Add bread crumbs, combine. Pan should be ready for browning patties by now.

Tuna patty mixture ready to be scooped into the pan.

Using an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measure, scoop mixture into pan and then slightly flatten with spatula. Brown about 3-5 minutes per side until golden brown. Flip carefully, the patties are a bit delicate because of the high veggie content. You may need to use the two spatula method–use one spatula to hold down the patty while you ease the second spatula under it. That’s it! Serve with dill sauce and lemon wedges.

Dill Sauce

1/4 cup mayo

1/4 greek yogurt or light sour cream

juice from half a lemon

handful of chopped fresh dill

salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything up in a bowl! You can double the recipe if you need more sauce. This is delicious on fish or chicken, or almost any veggie.

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Green Garlic- my fleeting Spring love!

I’m sure if you did a quick internet search you would come up with several articles, blog posts, etc about why people love green garlic and all the health benefits it contains. But today I’m going to tell you why I love green garlic and how I came to do so.

You can see how I easily mistook this guy for a large scallion the first time I saw one. The green parts are edible, just make sure you wash it as you would a leek; separating the layers to get all the dirt.

Green Garlic is basically young garlic which has been plucked from the ground before it has split into cloves. Green garlic contains all the health benefits of regular garlic with the added benefit that you can eat it raw without burning off your taste buds! It is sadly available only for a fleeting moment in spring when it breaks the earth with its fragrant green tops and gives us the privelege of tasting its beauty. I know I sound melodramatic, but let me tell you if you’ve never had green garlic before- you too will spout your love from the roof tops when you do. Those of you who have, I know you understand. 😉

How we met:
I still remember the day clearly. It was last spring- I had invited a friend over for drinks and a bite on a Friday evening. She went with me to the Farmer’s Market to pick up my CSA box at the farm’s stall. I don’t remember what else came in my box, most likely carrots, lettuce, an herb or two. What I do remember was seeing a leek-like, scallion looking thing in my box. I thought it was a very large green onion and wondered that I had only received one. I knew it wasn’t a leek because the stalk was too tender. Suffice to say that I from the contents of my box and pantry/fridge I decided I would make a fried rice to enjoy with a beer in front of the television with my friend.

I prepared my fried rice the way I normally do- carrots, peas, mushrooms, protein of some kind, steamed white rice, sesame oil, soy sauce, and a very large handful of sliced scallions stirred in right before serving. I served my friend and myself and sat down to enjoy our repast. I knew the second I took my first bite that I had added something different to that dish. I looked up at my friend and she said “This is delicious! It is honestly the best fried rice-ever!” I felt the same way and I knew it had to be my “scallion” that didn’t taste anything like a scallion. It was kind of garlicky and buttery all at the same time. It had the bright flavor that scallions would have added to the dish, but with a very faint bite of garlic. When we were done eating I went to look for the contents list that usually comes with my box, and there it was- green garlic! I was hooked. I looked for it at the market and was only able to get it one more time. I dreamed about it from last spring to the present and was overjoyed to finally see it on the list of upcoming veggie box occupants. I’ve been sending my husband to the farm stand with explicit instructions to purchase more green garlic if it’s available. There wasn’t any at the farm stand today. I’m down to my last two stalks. It makes me sad to think about it. So, in an effort to conserve my green garlic a little longer I made a pesto with it today. I still had plenty of dill and incorporated a good amount of it into this pesto. The flavors were amazing. It was everything I wanted it to be. I’m going to slather it on everything this week. Seriously, everything. I might even turn my last green garlic into another batch I can freeze for later (if it makes it to later). I must admit that when I transferred it to a bowl after it was done, I took a heel of bread and cleaned the inside of my food processor with it. It was that good. I’ll let you be the judge. But please, please, seek out this beauty at your local farmers market before it disappears until next spring and then you too will be left with nothing but a fleeting memory, wondering if it  was all just a dream.

I set aside some of the pesto before adding the cheese to brush onto some chicken thighs before grilling. I meant to add arugula to the pasta to wilt in with the pesto, but completely forgot in my anticipation to eat the pesto! I also made a simple roasted sugar plum tomato bruschetta to which I stirred in a spoonful of the pesto when it was done. I’ll include directions for that at the bottom. The sugarplum tomatoes I used are organic and were purchased from Trader Joe’s. They were a product of Mexico. I try not to purchase tomatoes out of season, but I couldn’t pass up these cuties on my last trip. I miss tomato season.

Green Garlic and Dill Pesto

1 whole green garlic, sliced in half lengthwise and rinsed between layers to get all the dirt out.

1/4 cup of chopped fresh dill

1/4 cup of lightly toasted pine nuts

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

A handful of shaved/shredded parmesan cheese

olive oil- enough to make make a thick sauce (I didn’t measure, I just poured in while the blades on the food processor were running, but if I had to guesstimate, I’d say 1/4-1/3cup?)

Toast the pinenuts over medium heat in a dry skillet. Place into food processor. Chop the washed green garlic  and also place into food processor along with dill, salt and pepper. Pulse until ingredients begin to come together, then with the food processor running, stream in olive oil a bit at a time, until mixture loosens and moves about easily. Add parmesan and pulse again to combine. Taste the pesto for seasoning. Adjust salt and pepper if necessary. If pesto is too thick, add a bit more oil and pulse again. Pour. Over. Anything. Eat and be happy.

Pesto in a bowl. The lighting in my kitchen makes this look yellowish but it was a very nice green color. Not to mention delicious!

Roasted Sugarplum Tomato Bruschetta

I spread it over toasted slices of pugliese bread and sprinkled with shaved parmesan cheese.

1 16 oz container of sugar plum tomatoes

2 Tablespoons minced green garlic, or substitute 2-3 cloves regular garlic, finely minced

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Halve all tomatoes and place into earthenware or other roasting dish along with garlic. Spray/drizzle generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes depending on your oven. Keep an eye on them, you may need to stir once or twice to prevent scorching around the edges. I stirred in a heaping spoonful of my green garlic pesto to the tomatoes once they were done. Do a taste check and adjust salt if necessary. Serve over toasted bread slices or pour over the pasta along with the pesto.

I love the beautiful red color!