Monday, October 4, 2010

Got calcium?

Calcium-rich Salmon Cakes from Good Food, Great Medicine (2nd edition - page 192).  The recipe is below.  

The calcium conundrum

Have you seen the recent research suggesting that calcium supplementation can increase the risk of heart disease? Here’s a brief overview.

A recent analysis of studies in which calcium supplements were compared to placebo showed that those who took calcium supplements had a greater risk of heart attack than those who did not. Combined with the knowledge that calcium supplements have only a very small effect in preventing fractures due to osteoporosis, we see continuing evidence that our calcium sources should be food based whenever possible.

Based on the calcium supplement concerns mentioned above, it would probably be wise to forgo calcium fortified foods like juice and commercial breakfast cereal in favor of naturally occurring calcium options. If you aim for about three servings of calcium-rich foods daily, you probably don’t need to take a calcium supplement. (Some experts even recommend as low as 500 mg daily). Here are some examples of food which will deliver about 300 mg of calcium in each serving:

■ 8 ounces of milk
■ 6 ounces of plain yogurt or kefir (recipe for Rich Yogurt Aioli at end of post)
■ 1½ ounces of hard cheese
■ ½ cup ricotta cheese
■ ½ cup tofu (made with the natural coagulant calcium sulphate)
■ 1¼ cups cooked greens like spinach, kale, or collard greens
■ ¾ cup edamame (fresh soy beans)
■ 3 ounces canned sardines (not boneless)
■ 4 ounces canned salmon (eat the bones – you won’t notice them in recipes like salmon cakes)

Salmon Cakes

This is a good way to bring canned salmon or tuna — or any leftover cooked fish — to the dinner table while shamelessly exploiting the weakness most of us have for hot fried things. These are golden brown and crispy, speckled with green onion, and lively tasting. You could serve them as appetizers if you made them smaller.

(Serves 3 – 4)

1 can (14 – 15 ounces) salmon, preferably red sockeye
or – about 2 cups flaked leftover cooked salmon

2 eggs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup thinly sliced green onion (3 – 4)
¼ teaspoon salt (more if using fresh fish)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats

(About 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil for frying cakes)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees (for keeping fish cakes warm).

1. Drain canned fish and break up with a fork. (See Note)

2. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs briefly with a fork and add lemon juice, green onion, seasoning, and oats. Add to fish and mix gently but thoroughly.

3. Using a ¼-cup measure, scoop mixture into about 6 – 8 portions and form into patties. A spoon and a fork make good tools for this job. (You can form the patties in advance and lay them between plastic wrap misted with non-stick spray until ready to cook.)

4. Heat 2 – 3 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Fry patties in 1 – 2 batches, about 5 minutes on the first side and 3 minutes on the second, or until browned and crisp. Transfer to a plate in the oven to keep warm. Serve with a side of Rich Yogurt Aioli (recipe follows) mixed with some minced green tops of green onions, if possible.


■ If using canned salmon, include the nutrient-rich skin and bones attached to the salmon. I just break them up with a fork so they are completely undetectable. If you tend to look sideways at canned salmon, try canned red Alaskan sockeye. It’s beautiful stuff, and worth the extra expense if it means you eat more salmon. Save drained salmon juice for Crowded Chowder on page 194.

Try serving your Salmon Cakes with roasted beets and broccoli (see Roasted Vegetables and master recipe on pages 123 - 124, and roasted beets on 125 in Good Food, Great Medicine, 2nd edition) and perhaps a side of Nutty Brown Rice (page 172 ).   Not included in this picture is the critically important accompaniment called Goop.  Read on.

Rich Yogurt Aioli (Goop)

This has always been known as Goop among family and friends. The name has neither dignity nor appetizing connotations, but it is what has become my culinary signature. Goop is a distant cousin to aioli (eye-OH-lee), which is the famous garlic-infused mayonnaise of the Provence region in France.

In this version mayonnaise is a proportionately-small (although important) part of the sauce. Its main role is to provide richness. Yogurt provides the main character. The French would be appalled by the presumption, but in any case it is used as an aioli substitute in our house.

It is thick and creamy when made with drained yogurt (see preceding page) and usually tongue-biting. Fresh garlic is the key to good goop. You can use more than the recipe calls for if you prefer to err on the side of yowza! You never know who might need to have their sagging immune system boosted.

It should be added that there is nothing wrong with classic all-mayonnaise aioli. Mayonnaise made with good oil is good food. (See page 96.) We much prefer the taste of the yogurt version, however, and yogurt is an important food in its own right.
Goop is especially good with roasted vegetables (page 123), steamed vegetables, raw vegetables, and salad vegetables — and goop can single-handedly justify the existence of the baked potato. It is also a fine sauce for fish (or any seafood, for that matter) as well as meat loaf or roast beef or chicken, or any rich meat dishes.

Goop Recipe (Rich Yogurt Aioli)

Even though I call for 2½ cups of yogurt, the final volume is closer to 1 cup after it is drained overnight. Some folks (including me) enjoy goop made from yogurt that has only drained for a few hours; it is more refreshingly potent when its texture is not too thick.

(Makes about 2 cups)

2½ cups Nancy’s low-fat yogurt

½ cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon freshly crushed garlic

½ teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. Drain yogurt for at least 3 hours in a strainer lined with a basket-style coffee filter. (See Draining Yogurt following.) You will probably end up with a bit more than 1 cup of drained yogurt.

2. Stir remaining ingredients into drained yogurt and mix well. Store in the refrigerator. It keeps well for over a week but the garlic loses some intensity. It’s best when eaten within a few days.


■ The proportion of yogurt to mayonnaise may vary in either direction but there must be enough garlic to raise eyebrows, and enough salt and pepper to round out the flavor. The freshly ground pepper is very important; about 30 grinds should give you close enough to a half-teaspoon.

■ The longer you have allowed the yogurt to drain the thicker the goop. If you want the texture of thick ranch dressing, allow yogurt to drain just a couple of hours.

Which yogurt?
Our favorite is Nancy’s, a genuinely natural yogurt made in Springfield, Oregon. As a rule,
avoid mass-market brands. Even the unsweetened and unflavored versions generally include ingredients like gelatin and cornstarch, which keep yogurt from naturally separating and create a smooth texture.
Yogurt is best known as a good source of friendly bacteria that fortify the immune system, but it’s also nutrient-rich, calcium-rich, and protein-rich. Even people with lactose intolerance can usually eat yogurt because the bacteria that turn milk into yogurt gobble up a lot of the lactose in the process.

Draining yogurt
(Makes about 1 – 1½ cups drained yogurt)

Naturally-made yogurt begins separating as soon as you dip a spoon into it, and the draining continues until the yogurt is gone. Draining the whey from the yogurt gives it a thick, smooth texture that makes it much more versatile - and just as good (and a whole lot cheaper) than Greek yogurt. You can use it as a substitute for sour cream, or even cream cheese, if you leave it long enough. (It is sometimes called ‘yogurt cheese’.) Some even use drained yogurt as a replacement for mayonnaise, spreading it on bread and adding it to tuna salad.

1. Scoop 2½ cups yogurt into a 3-cup strainer lined with a disposable, basket-style coffee filter or even a paper towel. (You can also buy an official yogurt drainer in some stores.) Remember that additives like gelatin and cornstarch will inhibit draining.

2. Aim to drain the yogurt for at least 1½ hours on the kitchen counter or in the refrigerator, but for a very thick and creamy texture drain the yogurt in the refrigerator overnight. In 12 hours you will end up with a scant cup of yogurt cheese. Save the liquid that is drained off. Yogurt whey is tart and refreshing; I drink it, but you can also add it to soup or a smoothie.

■ If you sweeten the thick, drained yogurt with honey and soften the edges with a couple of tablespoons of cream, it is spectacular with fresh fruit or fruit desserts.