Saturday, October 29, 2011

Onion Cakes!

Onion cakes with sweet-and-sour sauce.
 Lots of people up here have traditional, inherited, or invented recipes, from stick salmon (split and held open by sticks for roasting by an open fire) to potato casserole to wild berry cobbler, or just a mess of butter-fried oyster mushrooms, or chanterelle soup.
Recently at local potlucks - with our growing source of exotic foods at the Sunset West Co-op - we've been noshing on things like hot tofu pockets and edamame (steamed green soybean pods). A batch of kelp pickles found an excited gourmand in a young Coast Guardsman who remembered them being prepared by his grandmother.
Cooking from scratch helps in a tight economy. West enders, who have always had more raw, wild and rough food than cash, know that already.
I'm not a great cook; but I came from a place like this, and I can just turn anything I find into something good. Call me a Poor People's Cook; my family couldn't afford to throw anything away, and if you grow up eating those foods, you never lose the taste for them.
I just taught somebody at the food bank that those frozen vegetables and salmon burgers make the base for a delicious salmon chowder. A box of cheap macaroni-and-cheese is transformed into something special at the campground when a cup full of chopped young, fresh nettles are added to the pot. Oatmeal and dried date pieces added to biscuit mix make a robust, tasty bannock or soda bread, so good with hot coffee in the morning. And let's not forget blackberry wine.
Anyway, here's my contribution for surviving in a rural economy, especially if you need something different for a potluck.The Onion Cakes originated as a simpler version of the traditional Chinese coiled-dough green-onion cake. It's pictured here packed up in a bamboo steamer with sweet-and-sour sauce, ready to go to the Hallowe'en parties at the Clallam Bay Inn and the Three Sisters of Clallam art gallery.
First of all, I'm not giving a detailed recipe for experienced cooks. YOU know how to make biscuits, so just replace the "box biscuits" with your own. Throwing a couple eggs into the mix doesn't hurt, either, for binding and crispness.
So here's the "recipe:" Mix up a big batch of box mix biscuits. Chop up any kind of savory (not sweet) onions finely (about a cup to every three cups mix) and and egg. Stir until everything is just moistened; too much stirring will make the cakes tough. Fry up in tiny cakes in fat just hot enough to sizzle without spitting, flipping once to brown both sides. This works great on the wood stove as it heats up the house in the morning.
The sweet-and-sour sauce is apple-cider vinegar, sugar, water, flour, a dash of salt and red food coloring (just for the pretty), simmered and stirred until it forms a piquant sauce. Mix it to taste. Don't lean over the pan too close to taste; hot vinegar fumes will evaporate right into your sinuses. Ask me how I know.
These are really good with beef fat, but since they're for a party I've used a canola/olive oil mix. You never know if Jewish, Muslim or Hindu friends will show up, even out here (or maybe, with the growing tourism, especially out here), and we all have veggie friends, here where there are so many fine wild plant foods to gather and enjoy.
I make these cakes from scratch, and use fine whole wheat bread flour, to lend a nutty flavor. The cakes and the sauce get better as they cool, so you can make them up in the morning and take them to the party in the evening.
Call it my version of frybread. Everybody's got a recipe of their own for that - and they're all good.

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