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Spring is on the Way


 Buddy and I went for an early morning walk late last week. In recent weeks he would stick his head out the doggy door and then quickly retreat. My four-legged son didn’t think much of the sub-zero weather! But on this morning there was a hop in his step and I was quick to follow him. It was a balmy 27°, yes I said balmy, it felt like it was 67° out.
  As Buddy and I headed down the driveway I heard sweet music in the air over me. I looked up in an old cherry tree and there it was – a beautiful robin singing in the morning sun.
  I looked for more as we continued our walk, but no more were to be found. Upon our return there he was, still high in his perch. My guess is he tweeted his friends to stay down south – still a little cold and snow covered in these parts.
  Seeing this robin and the fact that Mardi Gras and Lent are upon us, can only mean one thing. Spring is soon to follow. The boys of summer have already begun spring training in Florida and Arizona. The PIAA Basketball playoffs have begun and March Madness for the college squads will soon follow.
  I hope that the snow finds its way down the drain, so the high school baseballers can get started – practice begins March 3rd.
  What a great time of the year. Hope springs eternal for every team still playing hoops and every team taking batting practice and getting ready for warmer days. There may be a championship at the end of the rainbow.
  Get out and enjoy some local playoff basketball. Our area has been blessed with solid play in both girls and boys action.
  Back to Mardi Gras. I don’t know about the beads, drinking and all that, but I do know during Mardi Gras time, great Cajun and creole cuisine can be found at many of our local eateries. Whether it’s jambalaya or gumbo; po’boys or Cajun barbeque; seafood or sausage – get out and enjoy these dishes and try something new.
  Most restaurants downtown serve Mardi Gras dishes during our local celebration. I have always enjoyed 33 East and Franco’s. Both do a great job. You may even find a little alligator, if that’s to your liking. Across the county many restaurants add some New Orleans flavor to their menus.
  Cloud 9, at the airport, has a great menu. Owner Francis Daniele sent some Cioppino up to the Webb Weekly offices and all I can say is wow! If you like mussels, clams, shrimp, calamari and scallops in a heavenly, white wine and garlic sauce served over pasta, you will love this dish. Check out the recipe on page 10.
  Orlie’s down in Muncy, the Kast Hotel in Newberry and Pier 87 out the Sock are all serving great food with Louisiana flavor. Oh, and I can’t forget the Sticky Elbow on Washington Blvd. They have many menu items frequently sprinkled with southern flavor.
  Tommy Springman at the County Store in Pennsdale offers many great Cajun traditions that can be cooked at home. He’s offering up some suggestions on page 16, and he’s always quick to answer a question about preparation if you have one.
  Whether you take that someone special out, or make a home cooked meal, enjoy something different. Try something new.
  Well, now that I’ve gotten going on food, and most know that I am a food pusher, let’s talk about Lent and what to eat.
  I was raised Catholic growing up. It’s a Catholic teaching to not eat meat on Friday. That was fine with me. It meant fish sticks and tater tots, or grilled cheese and tomato soup and yes the traditional pizza or fish, mac and cheese and stewed tomatoes. No meat, no problem. Spaghetti and marinara sauce, extra grated cheese, any pasta and non-meat sauce and yes, extra grated cheese please. Let’s not forget the bread and peppers.
  I never got that not eating meat thing being a problem as I got older. How about any fish or seafood you could buy or catch? Maybe with a little tarter sauce, maybe with a little cocktail sauce, maybe a little melted butter. Boiled, baked or fried. It’s sort of like all the different ways you could eat shrimp in the words of Bubba Gump.
  Back to our local restaurant and eateries. Our area chefs do a great job during Lent, providing not only just meals for Catholics observing their Lenten obligation on Friday, but preparing great fresh fish and pasta dishes that everyone can enjoy each day. And to think I was happy with fish sticks and tater tots.
  One thing I did enjoy eating during Lent, was my Pappy Maietta’s salmon croquettes. When I talked about them last fall, many of you requested a recipe. I couldn’t believe there was so much talk over what began as an Italian dish that was inexpensive and filling. Thanks for all the calls, emails and messages.
  Pappy would make salmon croquettes all year, but they were especially enjoyed during Lent. Pappy would often serve them with tomato soup. You could use the soup as a ‘gravy’ and spoon it over the croquettes.
  Well, I have a recipe for you. Even though my wife Michelle wasn’t big on salmon croquettes, I found a recipe close to home. Let me add that you can substitute anything for the salmon. If you want a milder taste, use haddock, pollock, or white fish. Shrimp, crab or clam, chopped or minced of course, make great croquettes. Remember the only difference between a croquette and a cake is the shape. If you would sooner have a ‘cake’ just make them round like a burger instead of coned shaped.
  Michelle is big on the crab version of the salmon croquette. Some folks also use turkey or chicken and top them with gravy. To each their own. But for Lenten purposes, you would use fish or seafood.

Salmon Croquettes
   This is my wife’s grandmother, Anna Esposito’s recipe. In true Italian tradition, this family recipe doesn’t really have amounts, or exact directions.
  I would go with 2 cans of salmon, 1 cup of breadcrumbs, onion diced small to taste – around a ¼ cup if you need a measurement. Pepper and garlic to taste. 2 beaten eggs. Mix everything together and form into cone shape. Fry or bake until brown. Depending on the size, this should get you 4 or 5 croquettes. Enjoy!