hairNo, really color. I’m partial to purple.

The husband has a fit every time I do this.

“Aren’t you too old to be messing with your hair like that?” he demands.

No. Actually, I’m the perfect age. I’ve reached that magical number where I’ve come into myself and have a comfort in my skin I could only dream about at 17, 27 … even 47.

I like streaking my hair in Skittles colors. It dresses those tresses right up.

Kind of like dinner last night.

We’re still eating our way through the pounds and pounds of fish the husband and young son caught last summer. I decided to make fish cakes with a frozen bag of mahi mahi.

Fish cakes are usually straightforward fare: Grind the fish; mix in breadcrumbs, eggs and savories like onion; bake or fry.

It all seemed a little too staid.

So I dressed those fish cakes up: Added cumin and garlic — and mint for good measure. Made a pepper- and paprika-spiced sauce. Braised the cakes to give them an ethereal lightness.

Dinner was close to what everyone expected, but it was different enough to spark a little interest and conversation.

Kind of like my hair, which I’m having colored today.

I’m thinking teal.

Dressed-Up Fish Cakes (adapted from Jerusalem)

The original recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s cookbook calls for cod. I prefer mahi mahi or red snapper. Those fish have a bit more body and flavor to them.

You can mix up the fish cake additions any way you want. Ottolenghi and Tamimi call for copious amounts of cilantro and parsley, which I didn’t have last night. I used celery leaves to great effect. You can tinker with the tomato sauce recipe, too. I used red wine instead of white and chile de Arbol in place of fresh chilies. Just don’t skimp on the spices. They’re what warm these fish cakes up and give them their smoky, Mediterranean taste.

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 chile de Arbol, crushed
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 pounds mahi mahi, cut into chunks
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup celery leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped

Heat the 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan.

Add the spices and the cup of onion. Season with salt and pepper and saute until the onion is soft — about 8 minutes.

Add the wine, tomatoes, chile and garlic and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then add the sugar.

fish-cake-sauceReduce the heat to a bare simmer while you assemble the fish cakes.

Place the mahi mahi, onion and garlic in a food processor. Using on- and off-turns, process until everything is very finely ground.

Transfer the fish mixture to a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then add the breadcrumbs, celery leaves, cumin and eggs.

Using a fork, gently stir the mixture until it just comes together.

Scoop up 1/3-cupfuls of the fish. You should have eight fish balls altogether:

fish-cakes-raw

Press the fish into patties.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a cast-iron skillet. When hot, add half the fish cakes. Brown for 3 minutes on each side, then slide into the tomato sauce.

Repeat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the remaining fish cakes.

fish-cakes-browning

When all eight fish cakes are nestled in the tomato sauce, carefully pour the water into the sauce. It will almost cover the cakes.

Cover the saute pan tightly with foil or a lid. Simmer for 20 minutes.

When done, remove the pan’s covering. Sprinkle on the mint and let the cakes rest for 10 minutes.

Serve hot.

fish-cakes-cooked

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