Friday, March 4, 2011

Delicious Tuna Croquettes recipe inspired by the Queen of Soul Food!

A few nights ago I decided to surprise my hubby with one of his favorite food. I figured I will share the recipe with you because it's really easy and would make a great appetizer or great snack for the week-end or any week night when you just want something delicious and quick.
The recipe below is originally from Evelyn Woods, sister-in-law of Sylvia Woods owner of the world famous restaurant Sylvia's restaurant in Historic Harlem! I have never had the pleasure of eating there but since I have had her book "Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook" for over 5 years now, I have had the pleasure of eating some delicious meals inspired by her cookbook!

 I say inspired here because I have the habit of always adding my own ingredients to a recipe. I can never stay true to the ingredients suggested when I am cooking an American dish. Having been raised with French and International Food, my palate is pretty obstinate and always after delicious flavors. For example, if a cake recipe did not call for flavoring like cinnamon, vanilla extract or nutmeg you can count on me to add one of those or lemon zest to the recipe. I even twist a simple waffle recipe to taste like a delightfully perfumed little treat! I love adding unexpected flavors to my cakes and dishes so below I will just share her original recipe and add pictures I took 3 evenings ago when I was fixing those croquettes. Even though I don't like frying, this recipe is certainly worth it.

Ingredients for Tuna croquettes by Evelyn Woods
Two 6 ounces cans tuna, drained
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped bell pepper
3 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ginger teriyaki sauce ( or 1 teaspoon soy sauce plus a pinch of ground ginger)
1/8teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8teaspoon salt
2to3tablespoons vegetable oil

 1. In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients (except the oil)! Well in the book she explained step 1 by listing all the ingredients one by one come on! If you read the ingredients it's obvious that you keep the oil for frying and mix everything else.

2. In the author's words: "In a large skillet , heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium -high heat until the oil bubbles when a little bit of the tuna mixture is tossed in. Drop the tuna mixture by soup spoonful into the oil to make patties about 3 inches in diameter. Fry until browned on the bottom, for 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and fry until browned on the other side, for 1-2 minutes more. Drain on paper towels. Continue until all patties are cooked,adding more oil to the pan if necessary." ( Sylvia's family Soul Food Cookbook p.159)

I use a measuring cup or soup spoon to place each patties in the oil and I do put much more than 2 tablespoons of oil . I use my wok constantly so I do not use a skillet. I generally fill my wok  1/3 of the way for all my frying, which I do rarely because I really do not like frying food. I don't  like the smell of fried food and I especially do not like to deal with left over oil. I never re-use the same oil because it's unhealthy  and I discard my oil by pouring it in clear jar that I seal with a lid and wrap in an old grocery bag before placing it in the trash can.  In college I was taught in my environmental sciences classes that pouring oil in the toilet, the drain or the backyard like some people do, it not healthy at all for the environment! I don't buy jars for that, I simply save empty jars from pasta sauce or jams and re-use them as needed! Well that was a little GREEN lesson here! (smiles)

Soooo back to the recipe, I did not use ground red peppers in mine. I did use ginger and soy sauce instead of the ginger teriyaki sauce and I used more ginger than suggested in the recipe. I don't care to measure my onion and bell pepper. So I just used what I had left over from the lunch I had fixed earlier that day. I actually had sardines for lunch and had used onions and green pepper with some seasoning and apple cider vinegar to make a small fresh sauce for my sardines.
In fixing the tuna croquettes I prefer to use olive oil. I also added some garlic to the recipe. I would have preferred fresh ones but had used it all for my lunch so I made due with garlic powder.The recipe in the book did not suggest adding any so that's just me playing with flavors here. I also added cayenne pepper, some red Cajun spices that I got from the Dekalb farmer's market in Atlanta,GA and I added some fresh chili peppers that were left from my lunch. So as you see I added a few ingredients that the original recipe in the book did not call for. I call my version my Cajun tuna croquettes considering all the 'heat' I added!
But the croquettes did not taste that spicy just very juicy and tasteful. Said with all modesty right?lol. I did not drain my tuna unlike what she suggested. My tuna had vegetable oil and I figure I will pour the whole thing in my mixture to moisten it.

Mixture for tuna croquettes
Now, if you are watching your weight your probably should not imitate me on that! Remember I mainly fixed those for my husband and he barely has any extra body fat. He is all lean muscles so he can afford eating like this once in a while. I can too...while I do the quality control that is!!! Quality control a.k.a. snacking while cooking!!! (lol)
 But I left the rest to him! The picture above shows the plate I fixed for my hubby.  He was delighted when I presented this plate to him as soon as he stepped into the kitchen upon returning from work. I heard many " Humm this is real good" " Man this is goooodd" the whole time he was eating them. In the meantine all I ate for dinner was what you see on the picture below, after saving some for  my lunch for the day after.  Well, yes that was my only serving...considering that by the time all was said and done I did not have much appetite left due to my diligent quality control while cooking... Yessss, I snacked on quite a few of those while I was cooking them! (Making a guilty grin)

So you see that I did indeed add my little twists to the original recipe. I am sure a lot of people are like me! A cookbook is mainly for inspiration and guidance after all! Don't you think?! I like to own what I cook so I can't help twisting a recipe. I stay true to the ingredients only to some extent! When it comes to flavoring a sauce,a cake or a any dish I stay true to my well trained French palate! (smiles)

 The author explained in the book that the recipe was actually intended for salmon cakes but that day they ran out of salmon and all they had left was tuna. So if you don't have tuna or don't like tuna you can simply use some salmon and you will be gooood to go!!! (smiles).

I hope you will get the chance to try this recipe and indulge! This is truly an easy recipe worth sharing! I got home from my morning walk and decided to take some time to share this recipe and my adaptation with you. If you can try it let me know how yours turned out. For the fun of it you could cook both the original version of Miss Wood and my own "Cajun" adaptation and tell me which you like the most. Every one's taste is different so that would be a tasty experiment!

Before I leave I will also share with you a picture of some branches I cut this morning. It has nothing to do with cooking but it will have a lot to do with eating my meals while enjoying the charms of flowering shrubs.  One neighbor allowed me to cut it from her yard when I asked her this morning. It's so exciting to see Spring coming back. Each morning as I was passing by my neighbor's home this week, I kept thinking about how lovely those would be as floral arrangements. So glad I got the opportunity to get some today.

Branches cut during my morning walk from some flowering shrubs in a kind neighbor's front yard!
 On my pescetarian menu this week-end are Fish tacos at J.Alexander's restaurant tonight or tomorrow, Salmon fish sandwich at F2O on Sunday and I will probably fix more of those tuna croquettes for my hubby sometimes this week-end.  Please remember to use a towel to soak some of the oil off of your food every time you fry.
Here are some pictures of Sylvia's restaurant that I just found online:
           I find her life's story to be very inspiring, not just her cookbook.  Hope to get the pleasure of visiting her establishment one day mainly for her red velvet cake! I personally don't care much for " Soul Food" . I initially got the book for cultural reasons as I was curious to educate myself more on the dishes that are so popular with " Soul Food's Lovers". I fell more in love with her personal story than I did with 'Sould Food' itself.  I greatly appreciate her values and the ones she inculcated her children. Another recipe from her cookbook that I used to fix a lot was her chicken soup. I had also adapted it to my taste but it has enough ingredients in it to keep me from being too creative. Cooking that soup is a true labor of love. Should I cook it again I will make sure to share some pictures with you.

I was wondering...What place would you recommend for tuna or salmon /crab cakes? I ate a few years ago at a restaurant in Saint Louis Missouri which I believe was called the Fish Market. I felt in love with their salmon cakes, so so good!!!Too bad  it's now closed! Do you have a salmon/tuna cake recipe worth trying or a restaurant that you would recommend for their salmon or crab cakes? Who is the best salmon/crab cakes cook that you know? Anything that makes their recipe stand out? When was the last time you enjoyed some delicious yummy salmon/crab cakes? Has any of you eaten before at Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem? How is it?



  1. Those look delish N'na!! I don't normally eat any other meat than shrimp and scallops w/in the past three months...but I may honestly consider eating some of these!!! They look Divine!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. @Lala this is truly a very delectable snack or appetizer so go for it!