Like most Americans of a certain age, I ate canned tuna all the time when I was growing up. But when someone first suggested that I try canned salmon? Well, I was horrified.
Why would I even bother with canned salmon when fresh salmon is readily available? But Pacific wild salmon, the most sustainable choice, turns out to be very seasonal. And then very pricey when it is available. So, I decided to give canned salmon a whirl, rationalizing that most canned salmon is of the wild variety anyway.
Well, it turns out that canned salmon is delicious, and perfectly suited to swap in for canned tuna in any of the recipes I love. The only downside is that it can be dry. So for this recipe for fish cakes I had to dream up the ingredients required to make the cakes moist — and still healthy.
I started with sauteed onion, letting it get a little caramelized to add extra flavour. Then I added low-fat mayonnaise, a good moisturizer and not bad tasting, especially if you cut its sweetness with a little vinegar. To bind the cakes I used crushed sesame rice crackers. These little gems are low in calories; 20 of them weigh in at 110 calories. I often reach for them during that late afternoon hour when I'm otherwise ready to eat my hand.
Heat-wise, I went with wasabi, which glorifies fish. At the supermarket, you'll find two main varieties of wasabi: the powdered kind, which is shelf-stable (you just add water) and wasabi in a tube, which must be refrigerated after being opened. Either will work nicely in this recipe. And if you can't find wasabi in your store, add some bottled horseradish instead.
These salmon cakes are topped off with cucumber pickles flavoured with rice vinegar and fresh ginger. The pickle liquid also helps to bind the cakes, while the crunch of the cucumber slices provides a pleasing contrast to the cakes' tender texture. These little pickles are so quick and easy to make — you're done in 10 minutes — I don't know why I don't make them more often.
WASABI-SPIKED SALMON CAKES WITH PICKLED CUCUMBER
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced seedless cucumber
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil, divided
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
Two 6-ounce cans boneless, skinless salmon
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
2 to 3 teaspoons prepared wasabi
1 cup crushed sesame flavoured thin rice crackers (about 32)
In a small bowl, toss together the cucumber, ginger, vinegar, salt and sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
In a large nonstick skillet over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the onion and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Reserve the skillet.
Add the salmon to the onion along with the mayonnaise, wasabi, crushed crackers and 1/4 cup of the liquid from the marinated cucumbers. Form the mixture into 6 burgers.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of the remaining oil. Add the salmon burgers to the skillet. Cook until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil, turn the cakes over and cook until golden on the second side, about another 3 minutes.
Transfer to 6 plates and top each salmon cake with a mound of the pickled cucumber.
Nutrition information per serving: 230 calories; 120 calories from fat (52 per cent of total calories); 13 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 45 mg cholesterol; 15 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 16 g protein; 500 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."