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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Kitchen Call: Lenten meal without the legumes

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  • Lenten meals don’t need to be built around dried beans. They’re only traditional because dried beans and a few root vegetables were the only foods left at winter’s end in the centuries before refrigeration.
    Carrots, turnips, potatoes, all the sturdy veggies lived in a hole under the kitchen floor — the root cellar. A kettle bubbled constantly over the fire. Anything available, mostly dried beans, was thrown in, and the pot was never emptied for fear of running out of food. So one day’s dinner tasted much like the one from the one before it. And so on, for weeks and weeks and weeks.
    With modern appliances, end-of-winter asceticism is just a piece of history, honored as a choice rather than a necessity, just as giving up something that resounds of plenty, such as meat or sweets. The suggestion here is a three-course meal that can easily be made ahead in parts and broken up into a couple of two-course meals. A soup, a vegetable compote and fish.
    The soup is made with sturdy cauliflower, pureed with half-and-half to a creamy consistency. The compote, a fun title for a bunch of veggies simmered together until thick and delicious, can go atop toasted bread or beside a main course. It also makes a great pizza topping with a sprinkle of mozzarella.
    This is easily made all at one time, or partially a day ahead so that the cook can add the last few ingredients and heat. And if you want to make a meal of it, you can pair it with the veggie-topped toasted French bread slices. If you don’t tell the kids that the main ingredient is cauliflower, they won’t notice.
    The fish, expensive during the winter, is flaked and stretched virtuously with potato and spinach into good-tasting, good-for-you patties. The recipe uses less than half a pound of fish. The exterior is browned and crispy from what chefs call “standard breading procedure,” a dip in flour, then egg wash, then breadcrumbs. Kale lovers can substitute that green for the spinach. I’ve seen similar fish patties in the “seafood burgers” column at upscale burger joints.
    FENNEL-TOMATO-OLIVE COMPOTE
    Makes enough for 12 crostini, or serve it up alongside the fish.
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed, chopped
    • Salt, pepper
    • 1 t thyme
    • 1 t chopped garlic, optional
    • 6 plum tomatoes, fresh or canned, chopped
    • 1/2 cup large olives
    • 1/4 cup capers
    Heat the olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add the fennel, salt, pepper. Cook until tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Do not brown. Stir in thyme and garlic, if using.
    Stir in the tomatoes, olives, capers. Cook 15 minutes longer, until it forms a thickened sauce. Use this to top slices of toasted French bread.
    Page 2 of 2 - CAULIFLOWER SOUP
    Makes 4 to 6 servings
    Top it with homemade croutons, cutting thick bread into cubes and frying them in olive oil, then sprinkling with coarse salt and a favorite herb before draining on paper towels.
    The cook has an option to use vegetable or chicken stock.
    Be sure to rinse out the pot before returning the pureed soup to it. That way, it keeps its silky texture without bits of vegetable in it.
    • 2 T butter or vegetable oil
    • 1 large leek, finely diced, soaked in cold water, and patted dry
    • 2 carrots, diced
    • Salt, pepper, to taste
    • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
    • 1 medium cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds) cut in florets
    • 1/4 cup half-and-half
    • 1 T chopped fresh thyme
    • A few drops favorite hot sauce, optional
    Melt butter, oil, or a combination of the two in a heavy pot. Add leek, carrots and salt and pepper to pot. Cook, stirring often, for 6 minutes until the leek is tender and translucent. Add the stock and cauliflower. Bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer, 15 minutes, until cauliflower is tender.
    Stir in cream, thyme and hot sauce, if using. Puree the soup; return it to the pan. Let mixture return to boil. Taste for seasoning before serving hot.
    POTATO, SALMON, SPINACH PATTIES WITH DILL CREAM
    Makes 10 patties
    Thick Greek yogurt substitutes so well for sour cream that most won’t guess the difference.
    • 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed
    • 2 cups mashed potatoes, chilled
    • 6 ounces cooked salmon fillet, flaked
    • 4 large eggs
    • Salt, pepper to taste
    • 3/4 cup flour
    • 2 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
    • 1 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill or 1 T dried
    • Vegetable or canola oil, for frying
    Squeeze all moisture out of the spinach. Transfer to a bowl; add potatoes, salmon, 2 eggs, salt and pepper. Mix well; set aside.
    Set up three plates — one with flour, a second with 2 more eggs well-beaten with a teaspoon of water and a third with bread crumbs.
    Form spinach-fish mixture into 3-inch patties, about 3/4-inch thick. Dip each one into flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs. Place on a baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 4 hours.
    Whisk together sour cream, dill and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
    Heat oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Cook patties in batches, turning once, until golden and cooked through, 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot with dill cream.
    Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by email at KitchenCall@aol.com. Read Linda’s blog at LindABCooks.wordpress.com. Follow Linda for quick recipes on Twitter at @Kitchencall.

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