Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tomato Fritters: Clearly, I Have a Fritter Problem

Yes, I've posted recipes like this before, but usually for just squash fritters, because my garden is always overrun with squash. This year I have one solitary squash plant and, uhm, fourteen tomato plants. (They came in six packs! What was I supposed to do, throw them out?)

Anyway, I always felt like they needed Greek yogurt or balsamic vinegar or lemon or something to give the squash fritters a little more flavor and tang. I now realize that better flavor can be accomplished with, you guessed it, tomatoes. The fritters get sweet and they stay really moist inside- fully cooked but not dried out. I eat them plain now, right out of the pan, as soon as my mouth can stand the temperature.

The herbs can vary a LOT and still be amazing. I like these combos: a teaspoon each of dill and garlic powder, plus a 1/4 cup chopped chives
OR 1/4 cup each of chopped parsley, green onion and fresh mint. 

In this recipe, I went with Herbs de Provence and no onions or garlic. Rosemary is pretty strong so there's not very much. (I wouldn't use white onions or raw garlic by the way, these don't get cooked long enough.)


I cup of chopped tomatoes, without juice
1 cup of packed down grated summer squash, without juice
1/2 cup semolina flour, or all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried Herbs de Provence (or other spice combo from above)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup crumbled goat's cheese
1 large egg

Panko bread crumbs, optional

Oil for frying, I used about 1/4 cup of oil, but frankly I don't really measure. If you don't like olive oil, avocado oil is really good (or both)

More salt and pepper to sprinkle on top afterwards

Grate or food process the summer squash, one large or two small is plenty. Put the pile in a strong paper towel and squeeze the heck out of it with your hands until all the juice comes out. If you have a little more or less than a cup it doesn't really matter.

Chop the tomatoes like you would for pico de gallo. Two tomatoes, or a bunch of cherry tomatoes should be about right. Pick up the pieces of tomato, leaving as much of the juice and seeds behind as you can, and place them on a paper towel, then lay another paper towel on top and gently press to get more juice out. Again, slightly more or less than a cup doesn't matter. 

Put your veggies in a mixing bowl and add the flour, baking powder and spices and toss well with a spoon. Next add the crumbled goat cheese (to be honest I think I had more like a 1/3 cup goat cheese, but this is kind of up to you.) Add the egg last and mix well. The batter will be like chunky drop biscuit batter.

Heat the oil on medium high until it's really hot. Make the fritters about a heaping tablespoon each. I like to scoop out the batter with the spoon, but then I shape it a little bit in my hands like a flattened meatball before I put it in the pan. Fry them for at least a minute in each side. Now sometimes I accidentally turn them too soon, because I panic about how brown they are getting, but they can be pretty dark brown and they will be really good, crispy on the outside and juicy and cheesy on the inside. 
When you pull them out of the pan place them on a paper towel in a single layer to drain, and salt and pepper them immediately.

Now, if you want them even more crisp- when you are spooning and gently molding the batter into the little patties, you can then coat each side with some panko bread crumbs. If I were doing this, I would do them all first before starting to fry them, because it takes too much time to coat each one before you plop them in the pan; you don't want the cooking times of each patty to be that far apart. 

If you are avoiding red meat, you could make a larger hamburger-patty shaped version and stick it on a toasted bun with a little mayo or HP sauce. You could also serve the larger ones at breakfast with a fried egg on top (and you can be all trendy that way, it seems everyone puts fried eggs on their food these days, right?) If you're doing gluten-free just use corn meal instead of flour. If you're doing non-dairy this in an opportunity to use one of those Toffuti cream or ricotta cheeses.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Summer Country Captain- Inspiration from the American South...via British India

Country Captain is a curried stew that's popular in Georgia and the Carolinas, and according to Wikipedia it was a favorite dish of General George Patton. (That makes it fancy and historical, so you should enliven your dinner conversation with gripping tales of the second world war.) It's savory and sweet and slightly exotic, and I call it "Summer" Country Captain because instead of using canned tomatoes, I use fresh. If it's winter-time and the tomatoes are total crap, well then please use chopped canned tomatoes; but I have a garden bursting with more tomatoes than I can use right now, so here's my version of this recipe.  Y'all are going to want to try this.

2-3 pounds of chicken thighs, or enough to cover the bottom of whatever pot or deep pan you're going to use.
1/2 cup flour
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon oil (I use olive oil, I'm Greek)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 orange or yellow bell peppers, chopped
3 rounded cups of roughly chopped fresh sweet tomatoes (or use canned)
1/2 cup golden raisins (don't worry if you think you don't like raisins, they plump up and melt into the stew)
1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 shot dark spiced rum (or brandy of you don't have rum)
1/3 cup water or stock
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon garlic powder 
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1 big pinch red pepper flakes (or more if you want it super spicy)

1/4 cup sliced almonds (important)
Cooked rice (not so important)

First sprinkle the chicken with a little salt and pepper, then coat the pieces in flour.  Heat the butter and oil in the pan on high heat and then brown the chicken on both sides, this will take like 3-5 minutes per side. 

Remove  the chicken and set aside while you saute the chopped onion, pepper and the spices in the hot oil, stirring frequently. After about 5-6 minutes of sauteing, add the chopped tomatoes, rum, sugar and water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a low brisk simmer and add the chicken pieces, kind of immersing them in the veggies and liquid.

Add the golden raisins or fruit at this point. Most recipes say to add them at the end, but I like the way they flavor the sauce when you add them earlier. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes on that same temperature (on my stove top it was a 3), then you can turn it all the way down to low/warm after it's done until it's ready to serve. 

Serve one or two chicken thighs per person and plenty of sauce, over a bed of *rice, with slivered almonds sprinkled on top. Now rice is traditional of course, but I don't see why buttered noodles, mashed potatoes or grits wouldn't be just as good.

It's best served with chilled, slightly sweet, German white wines or a cold Pilsner beer.

*To make rice, just boil twice as much water as you have rice (It's 2 water to 1 rice), along with a little butter and salt, then add the rice, turn the heat down to a low simmer and cover, cook for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving. 

People sometimes mess up their rice by either adding the rice into the cold water (mushy rice) or by letting the water boil too long before they add the rice (crunchy rice) so, keep your eye on the water! You want to add the rice when the water first starts bubbling away, then set the timer for the 20 minutes.