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Penny-pinching patties are tasty and healthful

You can customize Salmon Patties by using favorite flavors and ingredients to make an affordable, healthful meal. Photo by Sue Doeden1 / 2
Salmon Patties can be used to top a salad of fresh greens and vegetables. Photo by Sue Doeden2 / 2

With a career that demanded she work outside the home, my mom was often tired in the evening when she came through the door and faced her hungry family.

During the week, there were two things she was concerned with when planning and preparing our evening meals. She looked for dinners that were uncomplicated to put together, yet still tasty and nutritious. And she shopped for good quality food at budget-minded prices. Not much different from working moms of today.

As a Catholic family minding the Lenten meatless Friday law, we ate plenty of my mom's homemade macaroni and cheese and her special tuna salad with lettuce and peas, both pretty thrifty meatless meals for a family of four. Once or twice, though, in the weeks leading up to Easter, she'd surprise my dad on a Friday night with one of his favorite meals: salmon patties with mashed potatoes and creamed peas.

Today, canned salmon is still a good choice for a quick, healthful meal. Just as my mom discovered when she shopped for red salmon, it's still higher priced than canned tuna. When you're shopping for salmon in the can, you'll notice two most common canned varieties: pink and red. Pink salmon is typically less expensive than red sockeye salmon. It also contains less fat and fewer calories than the red salmon. My mom insisted on splurging on the higher-priced red salmon for her patties.

Apart from the delicious flavor of salmon, there's no doubt that both pink and red salmon offer several health benefits. An oily, fatty fish, salmon is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3s are known to help control and maintain muscle and tissue development, they're good for the hair and skin, and they help protect against heart disease.

I've never been much of a seafood lover, but I must say Mom's salmon patties were the best. She used few ingredients, but every time the hot fish cakes were brown and crunchy on the outside and soft-textured and mild flavored on the inside.

Salmon Patties are delightfully easy to make. I've added red peppers and celery to the onions in my mom's old recipe. One of the charms of this recipe is that you can add or delete ingredients as you wish. Add a little lemon juice or Worcestershire sauce. Use green peppers rather than red. Just customize the patties with flavors and ingredients your family will love.

Salmon patties can be formed much smaller and used as appetizers. Make your favorite sauce or dip to serve with the mini-fish patties. I still relish creamy mashed potatoes and creamed peas with Salmon Patties, but when I'm in the mood for something on the lighter side, I place one patty on top of a salad of fresh greens and vegetables. It's delicious with a dressing made of your favorite buttermilk variety jazzed up with some horseradish, minced garlic and Dijon mustard.

Whether you're doing meatless Fridays during Lent or not, grab your can opener and make Salmon Patties. They're an easy-to-make, easy-to-eat choice any day of the week.

Salmon Patties

1 (14.75-ounce) can pink salmon or red sockeye salmon

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1 rib celery, finely chopped

1 large egg

1 slice bread, preferably whole grain

2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley or 2 teaspoons dried parsley

1/4 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup canola oil or butter

Open can of salmon and scoop into a small colander. Allow liquid to drain from salmon. Remove any pieces of skin from the salmon. Pick out bones, if desired. Flake the salmon with a fork and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Add onion, bell pepper and celery. Sauté over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are tender. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg. Process slice of bread in mini food processor or blender to form fine crumbs. You should have 1/2 to 3/4 cup of crumbs. Add all crumbs to beaten egg in bowl. Stir to blend. Add drained and flaked salmon, vegetable mixture, parsley and paprika and combine. Shape mixture into patties. Place on a plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and up to half a day.

On a sheet of waxed paper, combine flour, salt and pepper. Dredge both sides of each of the salmon patties with flour mixture. Cook in 1/4 cup butter or oil in a skillet over medium heat until browned.

Tips from the cook

--My mom always picked out the skin from the canned salmon, but she mashed the soft bones right into the salmon patty mixture. She knew those little pieces of cartilage are a good non-dairy source of calcium. Cooked into the salmon patties, no one will even notice the bones.

--Using a 1/2 cup of uncooked mixture for each patty, you will be able to make 5 salmon patties.

--Spanish smoked paprika can give the Salmon Patties a new dimension when used as a replacement for sweet Hungarian paprika.