SPICY CORN FRITTERS – Crispy Pancakes With A Sweet & Sour Kick!

corn fritter textCorn on the cob is great, but sometimes one wants to enjoy fresh corn without having to floss our teeth before smiling afterwards.

SPICY CORN FRITTERS to the rescue! Yes, they’re a little more work than dropping an ear of corn in boiling water, but once you try one…or more of these crispy pancakes, you’ll agree that they’re worth the effort.

SPICY CORN FRITTERS – makes about 11, depending on how big you make them

  • 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup + 1½ tsp sugar, divided
  • 1 red jalapeño chili, minced (or serrano, if you like to kick it up a notch)
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 2 T cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 8 oz (2 ears, about 1½ cups) – fresh, frozen, or canned
  • vegetable oil for frying

Make the sweet & sour sauce by combining vinegar, 3/4 cup sugar, chili, and 1/2 tsp salt in a small saucepan. Bring to boil, uncovered. Continue at a hard boil until sauce is reduced to 2/3 cup total. You don’t have to stir, but keep an eye on it so you don’t reduce it too much. This takes about 5 minutes, depending on how high your burner is. Cover and set aside until ready for use.

If you’re using fresh corn, like I do in the summer, remove raw kernels. This is quite easy – rest one point of the shucked ear at a diagonal, holding it away from you, and run a sharp knife from midway downwards. corn de-kernalFlip the cob and repeat. Boil kernels in a little unsalted water for about 2 minutes, until done (adding salt at the beginning of cooking can lead to tough corn). Drain.

If you’re using frozen corn, thaw.

If you’re using canned corn, drain.

Into a blender (preferably the small pitcher that comes with some blenders), place the cilantro, garlic, black pepper, and water. Blend until pureed.

In a medium bowl, combine all-purpose flour, rice flour, 1½ tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and baking powder. Stir corn and cilantro mixture into flour.

Heat 2 T vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet (yes, you have to oil nonstick pans) over medium/high heat. When hot, pour in 1/3 cup amounts, spreading out batter to about 4″. Cook until well browned on bottom. Flip and cook other side.

Serve immediately, spooning on Sweet & Sour Sauce.

 

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TOMATO-SPINACH TIMBALES: A Festive Side Dish!

tomato-spinach-timbale-textDuring the holiday season it’s always fun to make festive foods. I created TOMATO-SPINACH TIMBALE with a little trepidation since December is NOT tomato season. While supermarket tomatoes generally lack flavor, even during peak times, my worry was for nothing, since the cooking process plus the flavors of the other ingredients brought out the best in these red beauties.

TOMATO-SPINACH TIMBALE – makes 4

  • 2 round tomato,  at least 2″ in diameter
  • 6 oz fresh spinach
  • 1 T butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk (any kind)
  • 6 T seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp dried minced onion
  • 2 egg
  • 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled

Peel tomatoes by submerging them in boiling water for about 1 minute – until skin starts to split. Remove from water and let cool until the skin can be peeled off without scalding your fingers. Discard peel. Slice tomatoes in half along the equator.

Steam spinach for about 5 minutes, until wilted. Wrap spinach in a paper towel and squeeze out excess water. (I wrap a terry cloth towel around the paper towel – the terry towel maximizes absorption, and the paper towel protects the spinach from lint.)

In a medium sized bowl, beat eggs.eggs-beatenAdd butter, milk, bread crumbs, salt, and dried minced onion.timbales-mixing1Remove spinach from paper towel and chop.spinach-choppingStir into egg mixture.timbales-mixing2Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

Butter 4 custard cups or small ramekins.custard-cup-butteredPlace a tomato half, cut side up, in each. Using your fingers, spread open the tomato so it touches the cup sides.tomato-in-custard-cupSprinkle on feta cheese.timbales-fetaTop with spinach mixture to the brim, patting down to get rid of air pockets.timbales-spinachPlace cups in a baking dish and fill halfway with boiling water.timbales-bakingBake at 350º F for 25-30 minutes, until spinach layer starts to brown. Remove from oven. Take cups out of the water bath and place on a rack to set for 15 minutes. To remove the TOMATO-SPINACH TIMBALES, run a rounded knife around edges, then invert, removing cup.

 

Mushy Peas: A Super-Food Disguised As A Side Dish!

Mushy Peas

Mushy Peas

Mushy Peas.  Could this sound any more disgusting?  Mushy anything is usually not a good thing.  Mushy apples, mushy lettuce, mushy sandwich.  No thanks, I think I’ll give that a miss. But Mushy Peas?  Well, that’s something else.

It’s very common in the UK, served along side fish and chips, or a nice pie.  Not only are Mushy Peas tasty, pretty (vivid green), easy, and cheap, they’re also amazingly good for you.  When I googled ‘Mushy Peas’ recently I was astounded – they’re full of protein, fibre, and all kinds of nutrients.  Who knew something so delicious could be so good for you?  They make a wonderful side dish to many foods, plus they add that lovely green to the plate.

Now I’m sure I’m going to get some flak for this, but I use split peas to make my Mushy Peas. In the UK they use marrowfat peas.  But I live in the US and can’t find them here.  I can find tinned mushy peas, but what a waste of money!  Also, the green food coloring they put in the tinned ones is becoming a health concern.  Who needs the grief!   Making them yourself is MUCH cheaper.  And split peas make delicious Mushy Peas – I don’t care what anyone says!

Even though they only take about 15 minutes to cook – you do have to plan ahead because the peas need to soak at least 8 hours.  Usually I just get the soaking started before I go to bed. But if I forget, I can still get them soaking in the morning before 9AM and they’re fine.

IMPORTANT:  don’t skip the baking soda!  You might not think it makes a difference, but it does.  I didn’t think it would be any big deal to leave it out so I did a couple of times.  The first time I’d forgotten I left out the baking soda and couldn’t figure out why the peas took so much water to cook and the peas just didn’t come out right.  Plus they were a khaki brown color instead of the pretty bright green from before.  Next time, I left out the soda again – it still had’t occurred to me how important the soda was (duh!) – and the same thing happened.  THEN it hit me – ‘Oh, yeah!  I guess I should have followed EVERYONE’S instructions – use baking soda.’ Since then, the peas have come out perfectly.

MUSHY PEAS – makes about 1 cup

  • 1/2 cup dried marrowfat or split peas
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • optional:  salt, sugar, Tabasco Sauce, or any other flavoring you fancy

At least 8 hours before cooking time soak the peas in plenty of water and the baking soda.  Stir it up to dissolve the soda.

About 20 minutes before serving time rinse the soaked peas in a sieve, then put them in a small saucepan (or larger depending on how many dried peas you’re using).  Cover the peas with about ¼” of water and turn on the burner to a medium low heat.  Keep a close eye on them because they’re going to start foaming once they start boiling.  When that happens, turn down the heat and keep them simmering until the water is ALMOST absorbed. Then turn off the burner and let them finish cooking from the remaining heat. (If you cook them to the point where the water is gone – even if they look perfect – they will get really dry really fast.) You don’t have to mash them – it just happens on it’s own.  Add in salt (a little goes a long way – I use just under 1/4 tsp salt for this amount) and any other flavoring. In the UK, sugar is often added.

We have Mushy Peas nearly every night with our dinner.  Easy peasy!  (lame joke, I know – don’t judge!)