David Tanis often riffs on international classics in his cookbooks, and the recipes in his new cookbook, One Good Dish, are no exception. His sea scallop cakes, inspired by Thai fish cakes, borrow flavors from Southeast Asia without worrying too much about authenticity. Tanis uses scallops for lightness (and, I assume, their ability to whip into a mousse-like texture with ease), blending them with a potent herbal mix of cilantro, scallion, garlic, ginger, and fish sauce. Instead of deep frying the cakes, he gently fries them in coconut oil to add a hint of sweetness. Topping off the dish is a nutty dipping sauce—rich, sweet, and sour, it's the perfect finish to the scallop cakes.
Why I picked this recipe: It was hard to pass up the prospect of light, fragrant seafood cakes.
What worked: While I loved the light, herby scallop cakes, the real winner here is the nutty and sweet dipping sauce.
What didn't: I needed to cook the cakes over much lower heat (medium-low) in order to cook them through without burning them. Pay careful attention to the heat on your stove, and consider cooking a test cake before frying a whole batch.
Suggested tweaks: You could use an equivalent amount of white-fleshed fish like cod here instead of the scallops. If your cast iron skillet isn't well-seasoned, you'll want to use a non-stick skillet to cook the cakes. I served these with lettuce cups, a few lime wedges, and chopped herbs.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.