I think I could make a habit of this.
Not Seattle (I made a habit of that, long ago, and could again, any old time). Of this home away from home business. It's pretty much the cat's pajamas.
For much of my life, travel lodging has meant tent stakes and Coleman stoves, which is right in line with the way I roll. Hotels have had their place, particularly as we've found ourselves in places known less for their quiet wide open and more for their sheer spectacle. (It's not that people don't camp out on the Mall. I'm just not so sure s'mores are allowed.)
But as we're learning to navigate this new cross-country existence, I'm coming to treasure the gift of lent homes. There is something exquisitely ordinary about the whole thing.
Take, for example, the laundry factor. If you've traveled with kids, you'll understand me when I say, Four Seasons has nothing on a washer and dryer, en suite. Mints on the pillow? Momofuku by phone? Nice, but no thanks. Give me a Kenmore side-by-side, any day.
As it happens, there is normally a sweet babe in residence, which has meant the luxury of a full-size crib for my youngest. There are brand-new-to-us toys and books to adore, and a walk down memory lane in a little high chair revival.
There's a neighborhood to walk, when the mood strikes, plus a P-patch in full bloom, just down the road. There's a yard out back, with grass and a hammock and one very-well-pruned rhubarb patch. This means right-there space to run and jump and play, plus a door to fling open for late evening breezes. Seriously better than a car park and dumpsters.
There's the freedom to nap at ten, two, or never, as no one's coming knocking to tidy up the room. There are no neighbors sharing walls to worry over. There are keys instead of key cards, stunning photos instead of schlock art, flowers to bring in instead of fluorescent lights to keep out. Personality. Privacy. All the familiar comforts of home.
One of which, of course, is a full-blown kitchen, though we haven't been doing a whole lot of cooking. Between picnics in parks and dinners with friends and quick-and-dirty breakfasts that get us out the door early eventually, there's been little need, and less desire.
Besides, we landed smack-dab in high berry season, which, in Seattle, is downright spectacular. We've downed four half-flats of raspberries and strawberries in two weeks. Four of each, and we don't fly out until Wednesday. (We did chocolate-coat several of the latter for dessert. And breakfast. And the occasional Elevenses.) That doesn't leave a lot of room for much else.
But it's nice to wile away a wicked case of insomnia by rolling out a double crust at half past two. It can't be any less effective than counting sheep. And the surprise of it buys time enough to inhale your second cup.
Our only real effort has been aimed squarely at seafood, which we've been feasting on as often as time and pant-size allow. We pulled every last shred from a Dungeness crab, then did it again just a few short days later. We poached shrimp for tacos, and steamed four pounds of fresh local clams. (I'm fairly certain Motel 6 doesn't encourage this.) And two sides of wild sockeye fed us for days. The first night, I seared two salt-and-peppered slices. The next night, I slow-roasted all the rest, a gloss of oil and a wide skillet and a half hour at 275°. I ate all I could, then tucked the rest away for these.
These being the salmon cakes I've been ad hoc'ing for a while, a fact you'll see in the 'this or that' ingredients. As long as you've got a good knob of ginger and a surfeit of salmon, you've got what you need for tender fragrant crisp cakes. Barely sweet with melted leeks, sparkling with ginger, the salmon's bound with just enough egg and crumb to hold together. Both make an encore once the cakes are shaped, that standby one-two dunk that guarantees a grand crunch. Do try this at home, wherever yours may be.
Gingered Salmon Cakes
Yield: 12-16 small (2") salmon cakes
Were it just me, I would add a good handful of chopped cilantro, one finely minced stalk of lemongrass, and a half dozen slivered kaffir lime leaves to this. However, my one junior seafood fan loathes green bits for now, and I'm loathe to put him off a good thing.
Panko is that wonderfully light, crisp bread crumb that hails from Japan. Most major groceries stock it in the Asian food section. Most Asian groceries stock bags twice the size for half the price. Worth it, either way.
For Salmon Mixture:
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 leek, white and light green thinly sliced (or 1 small onion or 2 shallots, minced)
1 1/2 Tablespoons grated or finely chopped ginger
4 scallions, whites and light greens sliced
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup panko, bread crumbs, or crushed saltines
2 tsp. salt
4 loose cups leftover cooked salmon (lightly flaked, major bones and skin removed)
3 eggs, beaten with a fork, in a wide, shallow soup plate or bowl
2 cups panko seasoned with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, in a wide, shallow soup plate or bowl
olive oil, for pan-frying
In a medium skillet over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs. olive oil until shimmery. Add leeks (or onions), and soften, stirring occasionally, ten minutes. Add ginger, stir, and continue to cook until fragrant, another 2-3 minutes. Scrape from pan into a large, wide bowl, and allow to cool slightly.
Line 2 large plates or baking sheets with waxed paper or foil. Have your bowl of beaten egg and bowl of panko ready.
Add remaining ingredients (scallions, panko, beaten eggs, salt, and salmon) to leek-ginger mixture. With two clean hands, moosh all together until well combined. Rinse hands, but don't dry. With damp hands, pick up around 2 Tablespoons of salmon mixture, and roll/pat it into a hockey puck sized disc. I keep these smallish, around 1 1/2 - 2" across and 1/2" thick, as this size holds together well and cooks evenly. (The high crust:salmon ratio doesn't hurt, either). Place finished pucks on lined sheet, and continue, until you've used up your salmon.
To bread your pucks: take one patty in your left hand, and set it in the egg bowl, making sure both sides are glossed with egg (I use fingers to help a little egg along the top; these don't flip successfully). Take egg-coated patty in your other hand, set it in the panko bowl, and coat well with the crumbs, using fingers to apply generously and press lightly. Set on second lined sheet, and repeat, until finished. It goes quickly, once you get the hang of it.
Slick a large skillet with olive oil, aiming for a quarter-inch across the entire pan bottom. Heat over medium, until oil shimmers. Using a spatula, lay 4 - 5 patties in the hot oil, taking care as the oil may splatter. Don't crowd the pan; you want 1 - 2" between each patty, minimum, so as to keep the heat up. Cook 3-5 minutes on one side, pressing down gently with your spatula, until bottom is golden brown and crisp. Flip gently with a spatula, and continue to cook on reverse, 3-5 minutes, until bottom is golden. Hold finished patties in a low oven (200°), or serve immediately, in stages. Top off oil between batches, and allow 1-2 minutes to heat before laying in another round. Allow also one premium specimen to land in your hand for munching as you flip. Cook's prerogative.