Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sweet-Corn Fritters

There's something marvelous about fritters. They tap into my longing to be a strong American pioneer wife (as does anything with molasses), and the word fritter is fantastic. Etymologically, what more could you ask than for a word that means "tiny, tasty morsels" to also mean "to squander or disperse piecemeal; waste little by little"?*

This recipe verges on corn pancakes--they're deliciously fluffy and light--though spicy enough to keep the sweetness of the corn under control. The trick with cooking these suckers is to wait until you see bubbles emerging through the raw batter on top of each fritter in the pan before you flip them, just like you would for thick breakfast pancakes.

*In looking for the dictionary.com link above, I discovered the the two meanings of fritter are not etymologically related: The fritters pictured above are [Middle English friture, from Old French, from Late Latin frīctūra, from Latin frīctus, past participle of frīgere, to roast, fry], while the frittering away of time on, say, this blog is [Probably from fritter, fragment, probably alteration of fitters, from fitter, to break into small pieces]. Huh.

Sweet-corn fritters
Original recipe here

Combine in a large bowl:
1 cup flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
pinch paprika, salt, and pepper

Beat together, then add to the dry ingredients and mix well:
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk

2 cups (approx.) sweet-corn kernels, cut off 6 cobs (UPDATE: cooked or uncooked works, as long as the corn's not cooked to death. Frozen corn is also an option)
1/2 cup sliced scallions or shallots
Small handful parsely or cilantro or basil or baby spinach leaves, chopped
1-2 small hot peppers, Thai peppers or jalapeno, minced

Pour a generous amount of vegetable oil into a large skillet, then drop heaping spoonfuls of batter into the pan in small batches. Fry for approx. 2 minutes on a side.

Eat over a spinach salad, or dolloped with sour cream.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ratatouille: A Movie and Dinner

Some of you may recall that I became extremely excited about the new Pixar movie, Ratatouille, when it was announced last fall. After seeing it, I had no choice but to do a version of the dish as whipped up by Remy, our rodentine hero. Especially since the Human Vacuum's mom (my mother-out-law, previously mentioned here and in my other ratatouille recipe here), had just come home with a bunch of individually-sized enameled baking dishes from a Long Island tag sale.

Mine isn't quite French Laundry (which served as the food consultant for the film), but it's a little fancier than your average ratatouille and there's something very satisfying about getting your own personal baked dish of anything, I think. It's like being at a restaurant, except there's no fussy plating. You just yank the baking dishes out of the oven and plonk them down in front of people.

As always, I have omitted the peppers here, since I don't like them and they would have ruined my disk-based composition.

Remy's Ratatouille
(Inspired by Pixar's Ratatouille. Seriously, I worked hard to duplicate the steps taken by a cartoon rat during a musical montage. Sheesh, I'm a nerd.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a small skillet, heat:
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil

Fry until golden:
5 cloves garlic, finely minced or microplaned

Add and cook until the color starts to darken and the caramelize:
6 Tablespoons (or one small can) tomato paste

Oil the bottoms of 4 individual shallow enameled dishes (or one large one), then spread each one with the tomato paste mixture, dividing it equally. Arrange in the dishes, in an alternating pattern so that they look like the picture above:
3 zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch coins and lightly salted and oiled
3 yellow/summer squash, cut into 1/4 inch coins and lightly salted and oiled
3 roma tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices and lightly salted and oiled
3 Chinese eggplants (the long, narrow, bright purple ones), cut into 1/4 inch coins and lightly salted and oiled
(NOTE: If you have time, cut the veggies in advance, salt them--but don't oil them--and spread them out to paper towels. The goal is to remove as much moisture as possible ahead of time to keep the product from getting soupy. I did this in a pretty perfunctory way and I was fine.)

Dust with cracked pepper and tuck in springs of fresh rosemary and thyme (or the dried herb of your choice). Cover with foil or parchment paper and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the veggies are meltingly soft and the tomatoes are wrinkled and collapsed like little old men.

Sprinkle with toasted bread crumbs and lots of parmesan and serve immediately, or let cool and reheat when ready to serve.

Because the Human Vacuum loves his ratatouille over pasta, I put a bowl of olive oil slicked, peppery bowties on the table as well, and extra parmesan to pass.

Update: Apologies to commenters. I had to disallow comments on this post because of spam.