Salmon Cakes with Lemon Dill Sauce

I am always trying to eat more salmon, so when I saw canned wild Alaskan salmon at Trader Joe’s, I bought a few cans to give it a try.  Problem was I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.  In the back of my mind, I thought I’d heard of salmon cakes, something I’d assumed would be similar to a crab cake.  But when I started searching for recipes, I wasn’t having a lot of luck finding one that got good reviews, was simple to make, used canned salmon, and wasn’t fried.  I thought those were reasonable criteria but I guess I was asking a lot!
I finally came across a recipe in Eating Well called Easy Salmon Cakes that got 3.7 stars out of 5.  Not quite the raving endorsement I’d hoped for, but they seemed to meet the other criteria.  Unfortunately, the comments muddied the waters quite a bit – it sounded like most of the people who rated them highly made some significant changes, so I wasn’t going to be able to just follow the recipe.  Plus, these “easy” cakes were not so easy at all!  They called for sauteeing veggies, making breadcrumbs, and both sauteeing AND baking the salmon cakes.  So after reading the comments and trying to figure out what the general themes were, I made some adjustments to both the ingredients and the process and gave them a try.  Major changes were to cut down on the amount of breadcrumbs, add carrots for more moisture and flavor, keep the veggies raw, and just bake in the oven instead of sauteeing first.  Somehow I managed to get lucky on my first try and they came out great!
The website recommends serving them with Creamy Dill Sauce, which sounds good.  But I still had some Lemon Yogurt Sauce in my fridge from when I made Garbanzo Burgers, so I just added a spoonful of mayo and some chopped fresh dill and it worked great!  (Update: since this post, I have made a variation of the creamy dill sauce sauce a number of times, so I’ve added my version below!)

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Salmon Cakes with Lemon Dill Sauce
adapted from Eating Well
1 small onion, cut into chunks

1 stalk celery, cut into chunks
1/2 cup carrots, cut into chunks
12 ounces (2 small cans) canned wild salmon (skinless and boneless), drained well
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 + 1/4 cups plain breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pinch of salt

Lemon Dill Sauce
1/4 cup plain yogurt (I have had success with both whole and 1%)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon (or a good squeeze) of lemon
1 teaspoon dried dill (1 tablespoon fresh would also be great if you have some on hand)

Preheat the oven to 450.  Cover a baking sheet with foil and generously spray with oil.

Place veggies in a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped.  Pour into a mixing bowl and add salmon, egg, mustard, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, and ground pepper.  You may need to break up the salmon with a fork, and then mix until all ingredients are well combined.

Put 1/4 cup breadcrumbs in a small bowl and mix in a pinch of salt.  Use the side of your hand to score the salmon mixture into 8 equal portions (cakes will have about 1/4 cup of mixture each).  Form cakes by shaping with your hands, carefully coating with breadcrumbs, and placing on prepared baking sheet.  They will be a little prone to falling apart at this stage, so just gently place on the breadcrumbs and turn over, trying to keep them together as best as possible, and push them back together if a piece breaks off (I have actually found it’s easier to make a ball from the mixture, roll it in the breadcrumbs, and then flatten into a patty on the baking sheet!).

Generously spray the tops of the salmon cakes with oil.  Bake for 10-12 minutes (or until bottoms are golden brown), flip cakes, and bake for another 5 minutes to brown the other side.  While the salmon cakes are cooking, whisk together ingredients for dipping sauce.  Serve with a side salad or vegetable, or as a starter to a larger meal.

Do ahead: Prepare salmon mixture earlier in the day (while your kids nap, are in school, etc.!) and store covered in the fridge until you are ready to make your salmon cakes.
Serves 4

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