Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Faux Crab Cakes

hearts of palm crab cake with corn salad and fonio pilaf
It has not escaped my attention that we've been eating pretty poorly recently. Poorly as in health-wise. We've consumed a lot of tasty food, but nothing with enough vegetables or fiber to make it beneficial to our physical well-being. Sure, a laminated pastry stuffed with pistachio cream does wonders for the psyche while it's being consumed, but ultimately it's adding to the layer of fluff that has been increasing around my midsection over the past year. 

I have the privilege of being able to work from home four days per week until Labor Day, so there's no excuse not to put a proper dinner on the table most nights. Plus, it's summer, so fresh produce is bountiful and delicious, and our balcony herb garden is ready to add flavor to any meal. While we Minxes are not vegan or even vegetarian, I've been trying to use less meat recently. Tofu has been in heavy rotation, and sometimes there's no meat substitute on the table at all. 

The other day, I recalled that we had a recipe for faux crab cakes, made with hearts of palm, in our second book, Baltimore Chef's Table. The recipe came from Great Sage, a very good vegan restaurant in Howard County. Rather than dig up the book and use that recipe, I decided to see what other variations on the theme could be found on the Internet. I found a couple of versions that included canned chickpeas. Yuck. No thanks. Another recipe called for sautéing the hearts of palm with celery and onion, but I wanted something even easier. I did pull out our cookbook and saw that Great Sage baked the hearts of palm for a bit, presumably to dry them out. It was 92F on the day I planned on making these, so turning on the oven was out of the question. It also used celery and peppers. What I wanted was a good old-fashioned Maryland-style crab cake with no extraneous vegetables or legumes. Just a simple binder, filler, and Old Bay Seasoning. So I made up my own recipe, and I gotta say, it turned out very well. Even the dog--who hates vegetables--liked them.

Faux Crab Cakes
This recipe can easily be doubled. 

1 14-oz can hearts of palm
2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon mayonnaise (use vegan mayo if you are so inclined)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon gluten-free panko (regular is fine, too)
Oil for frying (corn, canola, whatever you like)

Drain the hearts of palm and place them on a clean kitchen towel. Gather up the edges of the towel and twist them tightly together. Over the sink, wring out as much water from the vegetables as possible. You'll have crushed the hearts of palm in the process, but not enough. Using your hands, rip the vegetable into small chunks and pieces to resemble crab meat.

hearts of palm before squeezing, after squeezing, and after breaking down into small pieces.
Kinda crabby-looking, eh?
Put the hearts of palm pieces in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Form into two rounded patties of equal size.

Add about 2 tablespoons of oil to a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, put in the palm patties. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown. Flip and brown the other side.

Serve with your favorite mayonnaise-based condiment, like tartar sauce. I served mine with an esquites-style corn salad and Yolele fonio pilaf.

2 servings.

Tell me that doesn't look like a crab cake.

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