Monday, October 13, 2008

Pesto Tuna Cakes

Halloween is right around the corner, which means we're throwing our annual party! Yippee for costumes and a full spread and friends!

I'm trying out a few new things this year, and had to get a jump on it early. First I made the pumpkin truffles- my first venture into ganache and real candy making. What a pain- but I'll post about that another day. Then I needed to try out a recipe that sounded great in my head, but I didn't know if it would actually taste good or not.

The idea is pesto tuna cakes. You know, like crab cakes but with tuna... and pesto. Really my motivation for this recipe is to get something filling, finger-food friendly, and green on the table. I was wary about the basil and garlic flavor with the fish.

Well my friends, turns out it is delicious! Although my original plan isn't very green as I had planned. I made two versions of the recipe, one with the pesto inside and one with the pesto just on the outside. The inside idea was the one I wanted- I though it would turn the cakes a nice green, but they stayed a normal tan and didn't have as much punch to the flavor. The ones with the pesto on the outside was really more in case the flavor was crummy so we could scrape it off! Turns out the way to go is a nice combo- put the flavor on the inside for a complete experience and the pesto on top for a lovely presentation.

Pesto Tuna Cakes

  • 2 Cans Tunafish, drained
  • 1/2+ C. Plain Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Egg
  • Dash Mustard Powder
  • Dash Paprika
  • 1 Batch Pesto, divided (see below for recipe)
  • Olive Oil

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the tuna, breadcrumbs, egg, mustard, paprika, and half of the pesto.
  2. Form this mixture into small patties; for appetizers they should be about 1-1.5 inches across, for entrees around 3-4 inches.
  3. In a large pan, heat around 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, place cakes in the hot oil to brown on one side. Flip to brown the other side.
  4. Remove from pan and spread a small amount of the remaining pesto on top of the cake. Serve warm.

Pesto Sauce
  • 1 C. Fresh Basil
  • 2-3 Cloves of Garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. (about) Walnuts (or pine nuts)
  • 1/4 C. Grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 C. (about) Olive Oil

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Blend until smooth, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl.
  3. I prefer to start with a little oil and then add more as it needs to be moistened.

Chicken Mole

Mmmmmm, Mole! That spicy, Mexican flavoring that combines the heat of peppers and the bite of chocolate into one savory meal sure to please the senses. I've made moles before, the most notable was back in like 6th grade when I was supposed to make a Mexican dish for some school potluck which turned out just terrible. I think I got a little overexcited by the chocolate and I hadn't quite mastered the whole cooking thing just yet. I've also used it as inspiration in a past Platinum Chef entry.

As I stated back then, this is not a dish made by grounding up small ground-dwelling mammals. This is a Moe-LAY- much different. And this time it was fairly traditional and oh so tasty! It had a great low heat that built up and was unexpected. I'm sure if I were going full traditional, I would have been roasting all sorts of peppers all day and pulled out about 20 spices, but this was something a little easier. I mean, c'mon, how many exotic peppers can I get my hands on here in Maine anyway!

I served this over white rice with some sweet potatoes that I roasted with a little brown sugar and olive oil. It would have also been great in corn tortillas or just on its own!

Chicken Mole
Based off various recipes at

  • 1.5 Lbs. Chicken (I used breasts, but thighs or other parts would be fine!)
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 Tomato, chopped
  • 1 tsp. + 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2+ tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/2+ tsp. Paprika
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Chili Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp. Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1+ Tbsp. Chipotle Powder
  • 1 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1/2+ C. Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 tsp. Sesame Seeds, plus more for garnish

  1. Cut the chicken up into large chunks, the kinds that would take 2-3 bites to eat. Season with 1 tsp. of cumin. (I actually did this once the meat was in the pan.) In a large pan, brown the chicken over medium heat, flipping occasionally to get all sides.
  2. Add in the onion, garlic, and tomato. Continue to cook over medium heat so the onions and garlic gets delicious and aromatic, and the tomato starts to break down.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together all the remaining ingredients to make the sauce. Add it in to the pan and bring to a low simmer.
  4. Cover and let it cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid, stir, and let the mixture simmer for another 5 minutes to let the sauce thicken up.
  6. Remove the bay leaf, sprinkle with some sesame seeds, and serve warm!

Sweet & Sour Tofu

In a continuing effort to make more vegetarian dishes, I'm trying to incorporate more tofu into our diet. Adam just loves tofu. I'm not sure why... I mean it is very versatile and the texture is ok, but I don't see why it is so great. That's ok though- I am happy to prepare and eat it even I have no passion for it!

So not to continue on the "Negative Nellie" trend, but I have up until now avoided any sweet and sour recipes for the sole reason that I'm not a huge fan of bell peppers when they are so forward in a recipe. For example, never will I make stuffed bell peppers or get a pizza with mostly pepper topping. So the idea of sweet and sour anything with those big chunks of pepper just lightly sauteed really had no appeal. But, in the spirit of trying something again with an open mind and palette, I went for it.

I have to say, it was really good and the peppers were not "too much" for me. The flavors all mixed beautifully and I dare say it was a lot like the take-out version, but much healthier! Go tofu!

Sweet and Sour Tofu
Based from

  • 1 Package Extra Firm Tofu
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 Clove of Garlic, minced
  • 1 Bell Pepper, chopped
  • 1 Carrot, sliced
  • 1 8 oz. Can of Chunk Pineapple
  • 1/4 C. Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 C. White Wine
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp. Sesame Oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Cornstarch plus 1-2 Tbsp. Water
  • Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

  1. Press the tofu between 2 towels or thick layers of papertowels to drain. Once the tofu has been drained, slice it into large 1.5" chunks.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat some olive oil over medium-high heat and add in the tofu. Cook the tofu until it is browned on all sides.
  3. Add in the onion, garlic, pepper and carrots and saute until the onions start to become translucent.
  4. Add in the pineapple with juice, all the liquids & brown sugar and stir to mix. Let it simmer gently for a minute or two.
  5. Mix the cornstarch in the small amount of water and then add into the pan. Stir in the red pepper flakes and any salt and pepper you may want. Let it simmer so that the sauce thickens up.
  6. Serve hot over rice or noodles.