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Home With the Lost Italian: Fish cakes made with ahi tuna

Cooked and uncooked ahi tuna cakes. David Samson / The Forum1 / 5
Mini Ahi tuna sliders. David Samson / The Forum2 / 5
Cooked and uncooked ahi tuna cakes. David Samson / The Forum3 / 5
Ahi tuna cake sandwich. David Samson / The Forum4 / 5
Ahi tuna steak from Deep Blue Seafood in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum5 / 5

Giovanni and I spent the better part of last Saturday adventuring around town with the express purpose of discovering new things to do in Fargo. We started at the Red River Market, now in its second season with a new location at Fourth Avenue North and Broadway.

We didn't make it to this market last summer, and I assumed that it would be similar to other local farmers markets we've been to, with about six to 12 stands selling whatever produce was currently in season, requiring no more than 15 to 20 minutes of our time before moving on to the next adventure.

Boy, was I wrong. The Red River Market, or RRM, wasn't just a stop for us — it became an event that filled up our morning. We arrived just before 11 a.m. and spent almost two hours browsing the market stalls, talking with vendors and enjoying live music. The offerings go far deeper than just fruits and vegetables, with local producers selling lamb chops and brats, microgreens, organic rolled oats, farm-fresh eggs, hand-crafted soaps, flowers, herbs, honey and more.

There were vendors offering prepared foods, too, to be consumed on site or at home, including the Texas Q BBQ truck, where Gio bought "The Texan," a slow-smoked brisket creation that he declared to be the best sandwich he has ever eaten.

Our purchases included a loaf of Italian-herbed focaccia from Jen's Breads, some spicy Hong Vit radish microgreens from Dirthead Microgreens, my favorite jalapeno pesto from Deb's Corner Foods, refreshing popsicles from Gigi's Ice Lollies, and a lovely bar of orange poppy soap made at Heart and Soil Farm in Grandin, N.D.

I enjoyed a fine cup of joe from the Twenty Below Coffee stand (my first) as Gio and I navigated the throngs of folks who had turned out to do some adventuring of their own on this sunny summer Saturday. It seems that, contrary to popular belief, not everybody in Fargo-Moorhead heads to the lake for the weekend.

As we walked back to our car, our bellies full and arms laden with purchases, we decided that our next stop would be a visit to the new Deep Blue Seafood store in southwest Fargo to find the fish for our fish cakes.

Deep Blue Seafood opened last month at 4480 23rd Ave. S. They have a rotating supply of fresh fish. Saturday's features included Australian barramundi, marlin, blue fin tuna, ahi tuna, baby octopus, Gulf shrimp, live crabs and lobsters and more.

We talked with Glen, the fishmonger, who steered us toward the ahi tuna steaks (also known as yellow fin) for our fish cakes. Ahi is commonly served in raw dishes like sashimi, or served rare; however, I am unable to eat it in this state as it triggers an allergic reaction. I loved the idea of enjoying this succulent fish in a cake form. The store is planning to add prepared food soon to its offerings, with specialties to include fish and chips, frog legs and even alligator.

Asian flavors go really well with fresh tuna, and upon arriving home, I made a fresh aioli with ginger, orange juice and Sriracha hot sauce. We served our ahi cakes in sandwich form — large patties for Tony and me, little sliders for Gio — over a layer of arugula and topped with a sprinkling of microgreens.

Our Saturday adventuring was so successful that I think we'll make these stops part of our weekend routine. Don't you just love summer?

If you go

Red River Market: Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Deep Blue Seafood: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays

Ahi Tuna Cakes

Makes 15 to 16 appetizers or approximately 10 entrée-sized cakes (4 to 6 servings).

1 pound fresh ahi tuna, cut into 1-inch pieces

¼ cup real mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

3 dashes Tabasco

4 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1 egg

1/3 cup diced red pepper

1/3 cup diced red onion

1/3 cup diced green onion

Juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon orange juice, freshly squeezed

1 teaspoon granulated garlic or ½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

½ to 1 cup Japanese-style breadcrumbs (panko)

Vegetable oil for frying

In a food processor, pulse all ingredients except the red pepper, onions and breadcrumbs, several times until combined. Transfer mixture to a bowl, add peppers, red onion and green onion and use a rubber spatula to lightly toss all ingredients until combined. Add breadcrumbs, starting with a half-cup and adding more as needed.

Test the mixture by squeezing some in your hand. If it crumbles, the mixture is too dry; add more mayonnaise, one teaspoon at a time. If liquid leaks out, it is too moist, so add more breadcrumbs. The mixture is ready when it can hold the form of a cake.

Form the mixture into desired-sized cakes. Heat ¾ cup of oil in a 10-inch pan over medium-high heat.

Test for readiness by tossing in a few breadcrumbs. If they sizzle, the oil is ready.

Place the ahi tuna cakes in the pan, being careful to leave a little space between each cake. Sauté on each side until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes each side. Serve immediately with ginger orange aioli or favorite sauce.

Tony's tips:

• The fish cakes can be made and/or formed in advance, and refrigerated for up to three to four days before cooking.

• Fish cakes can be frozen either cooked or uncooked, for several months. To freeze after cooking, allow the cakes to come to room temperature before placing in the freezer.

• To store, place the cakes on a baking sheet lined with wax or parchment paper and place in the freezer for one to two hours. Transfer the frozen cakes to an airtight container or freezer bag, separating any layers with wax paper.

• If reheating cooked cakes, bring them to room temperature first and cook in oil for two to three minutes until hot.

Spicy Ginger Orange Aioli

Makes approximately 1½ cups.

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

4 egg yolks or 4 ounces pasteurized liquid egg yolk

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed

3 to 4 tablespoons orange juice, freshly squeezed

1 tablespoon chili pepper sauce (i.e., Sriracha, Tabasco, etc.) — start with 1 teaspoon for less-spicy version, adding more as desired

½ cup olive oil

1 cup canola or vegetable oil

Kosher salt to taste

Combine all ingredients except the oils in a food processor. While machine is running, add the oils very, very slowly to emulsify. It is imperative to add the oils in a slow, steady stream to achieve emulsification. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator for up to one week.

Tony's tip:

To make an aioli into a salad dressing, slowly whisk in warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is achieved.

“Home With the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 11-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

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