cauliflower fritters

fritters

For once in my life, I opened a new food magazine and actually made something out of it right away. I don’t know what came over me – the Ottolenghi cauliflower fritters on the last page of Food & Wine just sounded too good to pass up.

fritter batter

I made them more or less as written – I did leave out the shallots, because I really didn’t feel like chopping shallots, and I substituted ground coriander for the cinnamon, because I know from personal experience that there are very few things I like cinnamon in and cauliflower is not one of them. The recipe was easy to throw together, and really delicious. Leftovers were good, too, although no longer crispy.

yogurt lime sauce

I also made the yogurt sauce with lime juice and zest that the recipe called for. It was pleasant, although it gave the dish an overall Caribbean effect that I thought was a little strange. We preferred dipping the fritters (and accompanying lamb kebabs) into the curry mayonnaise that was left over from our starter of steamed artichokes.

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Bhel Puri

plateful

Last weekend we squeezed in another supper club get together. This one was a South Indian theme, so we had a nice spread of curries.

the spread

We served all the main dishes family style. There was rice, Goan shrimp curry, Keralan chicken, a pot of mixed vegetable curry with sweet potatoes, and our contribution, a coconut milk curry with cauliflower and fresh spinach. We also brought several chutneys, which were made for our appetizer, bhel puri, but also worked nicely with everything else. Continue reading

the fritter experiment

Ever since our last trip to Portland I’ve been dreaming about the corn fritters we ate at the Whiskey Soda Lounge. I was determined that when corn came into season up here I would try making them myself. Of course, now I don’t quite remember what was in them, but nothing ventured nothing gained. I bought a few ears of fabulously sweet corn from Steve at Dunbar Gardens last week and we grilled them with a little ancho chile salt one night for dinner. We also put a couple of poblano peppers on the grill, and the next night I skinned them and tossed them in a food processor with the leftover grilled corn kernels. I saved out some of the corn and added it in after processing, for texture. Then I mixed in about a third of a cup of flour, one egg, and a handful of chopped fresh cilantro. I plopped spoonfuls of this into a hot skillet and cooked them until golden.

The result was absolutely nothing like the fritters at WSL (which I’m quite sure were deep-fried and possibly full of dried shrimp and minced Thai chile), but it was very tasty nonetheless, much like a Southwest-y version of the “corn oysters” my parents used to make when I was a kid. We ate the fritters as a side dish with a Thai beef-eggplant stirfry, then I refried the leftovers for breakfast with fried eggs and habanero sauce. Now that was good.

Corn’s still in season, what variation shall I try next?

Tender

Tender (plus beet)

After a bit of a dry spell, we bought ourselves a new cookbook: Tender, by Nigel Slater. Nigel is one of those people that could write a shopping list and I’d buy it. When it’s a discussion of fresh vegetables and home gardening and things to cook in season, there’s definitely no question. I brought it home and immediately read it cover to cover.

The way I envision using this book is the all-too-frequent case where I have a vegetable languishing in the fridge and I can’t think what to do with it. I might not follow one of Nigel’s recipes – much of what he does is very similar to what I do when I’m winging it – but having all the possibilities laid out at once is tremendously helpful, and his tone is deeply encouraging. In this case, I had some beets.

beet

We ate the greens off the beets a couple of weeks ago, and it was about time to use up the roots. Nigel’s recipe for beet tzatziki actually only used one beet, but it reminded me of their existence and I made borsch with the remainder a few days later.

beet tzatziki

Beet tzatziki is pretty darn simple: just yogurt seasoned with garlic, fresh mint, and grated raw beet, in pretty much any proportion. The trick seems to be finding any middle ground between the moment you start stirring it together and the moment (very soon afterwards) when it suddenly looks like thickened Pepto Bismol. Or raspberry ice cream. Something very, very pink. In any case, it tastes good. It makes your dinner plate look kind of awful, though.

beet tzatziki

about to process

The chickpea fritters that Nigel suggests to go with the tzatziki were a lot of fun. I’ve made falafel many times from a mix, and read recipes for making it with soaked, ground chickpeas, but it never really occurred to me that I could just puree cooked chickpeas with herbs and an egg and fry it. It might not be a true falafel but they were extremely good. They’re very soft-textured, though, so I think they’re best eaten with a fork rather than stuffed into a pita, which would just mush them into hummus. Not that that wouldn’t be tasty, too.

falafel ingredients

falafel

falafel

Chickpea Fritters

adapted from Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater

  • one can chickpeas, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 egg
  • bunch of parsley
  • handful of mint
  • salt and pepper

Roughly chop the parsley and mint leaves and the garlic. Put everything into a food processor and whirl it around until it’s mixed but still just a touch chunky. Let it sit for ten minutes (apparently this is important, although I didn’t notice much difference).

Heat a film of olive oil in a nonstick pan (or two, if you don’t have a pan big enough for all of the fritters at once). Add the chickpea mixture in dollops – it will be very soft. Smooth out the dollops with the back of the spoon, then leave them the heck alone until they begin to brown on the underside. Don’t poke at them, they’ll fall apart! When they seem to be getting a good crust, flip them over quickly with a thin spatula and cook the other side.

Serve with tzatziki (beet or otherwise) and a green salad.

tulips and corn dogs

tulips

spring rainstorm

The tulips are officially open up here in Skagit, and the annual Tulip Festival street fair came and went without any major disasters. The weather was a mite iffy, but there were enough sunbreaks to keep things lively and the traffic thick – and most importantly, it didn’t snow. We had to venture out onto the flats so I could tear down my photography and weaving displays at Pleasant Ridge Gallery, but otherwise we stuck to walking in town. We tasted curry sauce, admired handmade hats, and bought new hose guides from our favorite metalwork artist at Red Grass. It was too cold for ice cream, so we stuck to our primary mission of corn dogs.

corn dogs and wine

As I’ve written before, every year our local wine shop features a flight of Pinot Gris, available to anyone who walks in with a corn dog during the street fair. I personally can’t resist this, and the pairings are generally amazingly successful. Haven’t tried drinking wine with a corn dog? You should.

fine dining

Our corn dogs this year turned out to be oddly sugary, which was problematic with the drier wines, but we had excellent luck with a slightly oaky Oregon pinot gris – the oak and the sugar sort of cancelled each other out. Next year I feel like we should do a full testing of all the corn dogs on offer, though, so we can pin down the best ones ahead of time. Sugar in a corn dog is really weird.

Maggie

Unfortunately for Maggie the Wine Shop Dog, we did not drop anything.

a few minor difficulties

cold fried chicken

After a really odd week of record snowfall, record cold, cancelled school and lots of snow shovelling, we decided to treat ourselves by making a weekend supper of fried chicken, biscuits and collard greens. The fried chicken was inspired by my latest library find, Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller – a gorgeous, heavy, hunger-inspiring book. The chicken, which called for brining followed by double-coating, seemed a bit more involved than the buttermilk fried rabbit I made a few months ago, but very doable. Well, it was indeed, but unfortunately my brain wasn’t fully in gear and we hit a few bumps along the way.

brine for chicken

First came the brine for the chicken. I hadn’t read the recipe in its entirety, or I would have realized the brine needed to be assembled, boiled and chilled ahead of time. On Saturday morning I went to put the chicken to brine and panicked at the listing of five lemons and a whole head of garlic, then calmed down and realized we only needed a quarter recipe for the amount of chicken we had. I made a few adjustments, combining kosher salt with water, one and a half lemons, four bay leaves (carefully plucked from the cold-shocked, snow-buried tree in the backyard), two cloves of garlic, some peppercorns, and the top half of the picked-over bunch of parsley we had left in the fridge. I brought all this to a boil, then stuck the pot into the snow on the deck to chill it as quickly as possible. At least all that stupid snow was good for something.

chilling the brine

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pakora

mushroom pakoras

For a brief, interesting period, a Punjabi grocery store set up behind the outlet mall in the town just north of us. It was hard to find and only occasionally open, but they carried all sorts of things that we normally need to go to Seattle, or at least Everett, to find. It closed, of course – but we had stocked up on several ingredients first, including a bag of chickpea flour – which I inexplicably did nothing with for an embarrassingly long time.

Finally I decided it was stupid to have chickpea flour and not use it, so over the holidays we made pakoras to go with cocktails. Pakora is like Indian tempura: vegetables dipped in a batter of chickpea flour and spices, then deep fried – a bit of a production, but not at all difficult. I used a batter recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s first cookbook, but decided to use mushrooms after looking at my parents’ copy of Alford and Duguid’s Mangoes & Curry Leaves.

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crunchy bunny

fried rabbit

Our friend Katharine, who seems to be determined to keep us in rabbits, tracked down a source for local, farm-raised bunnies and brought us one. This one, unlike the one we braised last week (which she shot in her garden), was a tender young thing and nicely fat, which opened up the cooking possibilities considerably. I decided to follow my friend Laura’s suggestion and fry it like chicken. I found a recipe for Buttermilk Fried Rabbit on the site Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook, and given that I’ve never even fried chicken before, I thought this came out very well.

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ouzo shrimp and bread salad

salad

When I decided to make two new recipes for dinner out of a brand new Malouf & Malouf  cookbook, I figured there was a chance it might be a complete flop, but at least it would look pretty. Fortunately for me, it was pretty and tasty: shrimp with ouzo and garlic, and a salad of watercress, red onion, radish and fried strips of pita bread. It was good enough to make again; a little tweaking is in order for next time, of course.

fried pita strips

The most exciting part was cutting a pita bread into thin strips and frying it in olive oil and butter until golden and crispy. That was really, really fun. The resulting croutons were almost like buttery potato chips. Continue reading