Friday, January 11, 2008

How to Fritter Away the Week

After all the cooking over the holidays, I finally hit a cooking slump this week. The refrigerator has been full -- of ingredients -- but I just haven't wanted to do much to make a meal out of them.

This evening, though, I knew I was finally ready to tie on the apron and wield my mixing arm. And I had a recipe in mind: "Mediterranean Chickpea Latkes," found on Epicurious.

Since I already had cooked chickpeas (local, thanks to the fair Titania) on hand, along with local garlic, rosemary, egg, and flour, I knew I'd be able to whip up these tempting morsels with no problem. I also had the idea that some of that salty Bulgarian feta and maybe even some steamed local squash would work well in the fritters, too.

So I pulled out the ingredients and got to work.

Since my food processor still hasn't been replaced, I pulled out my pastry cutter and worked together the chickpeas and feta, adding garlic, spices, and some olive oil to ease the work.

I decided that a handful of butternut squash cubes, along with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses, would do wonders for the texture -- not to mention the flavor! So I worked those in, too, mashing and mashing until I had a more workable batter. I added the remaining ingredients, fired up the stove, and spread my wings to fry.

Of course, the first batch turned out a little sloppy as I realized I needed more flour to compensate for my additions to the recipe. But the second batch proved more sturdy, though the fritters still ended up soft and creamy inside with a crispy coating.

My first bite convinced me that I had a winner on my hands: a velvety texture, the perfect combination of spices, the tang of the pomegranate molasses, and just the right amount of substantial nutrition to make me feel like I could just eat these forever. Though I could have easily eaten them completely unadorned, I decided to mix a little plain nonfat yogurt with a bit of pomegranate molasses, and I drizzled that over both the fritters and the steamed broccoli I had cooked to go with the meal.

In my book, it's hard to go wrong with any of these ingredients individually, but when you throw them together in just the right way, the sum of their parts becomes transcendent. And while I still hope to make pasta e ceci this weekend, I'm sort of eyeing the rest of the chickpeas and thinking I might make this dish again instead. (Tough call!)

Sure, I may have frittered away the week -- and tonight! -- but now I'm ready to run rampant in the kitchen, coming up with more delicious dishes.

Chickpea Surprise Fritters

The original recipe, from the December 2001 issue of Bon Appetit via Epicurious, kept the "latkes" fairly simple, seasoning them with just garlic, rosemary, cumin, salt, and pepper. It suggested, however, that a drizzle of pomegranate molasses would make an excellent garnish. If it's good enough for the outside, I say, it's good enough for inside. So I added it to the batter, along with some steamed squash (since that blends so well with the rest of the flavors and adds even more nutrition with no fat), and adapted as needed. The resulting fritters are melt-in-your-mouth good, but don't just take my word for it -- go make some!

1 c cooked chickpeas, drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese
1/4 c butternut squash, cubed and steamed
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T pomegranate molasses
1 large egg
1/4 c whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

In large bowl, mash together chickpeas, garlic, rosemary, feta, squash, olive oil, and pomegranate molasses with a pastry blender until mixture reaches a paste-like consistency. Add the egg and continue to mash until batter has few lumps. Add remaining ingredients and stir until flour is entirely incorporated. (If batter is too thin, add more flour.)

In a large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat, heat a thin layer of canola oil. Drop batter into oil with a spatula, forming fritters about 3" to 4" across. Fry until brown and crispy on both sides, turning when needed (usually after a minute or a minute and a half). Lift fritters onto plate with a spatula, blotting excess oil with a paper towel or napkin. Continue with remaining batter, adding extra oil if needed.

If desired, whisk together 1/4 c plain nonfat yogurt with 1 tsp pomegranate molasses to serve as a sauce for the fritters. Serve fritters while still hot.

NOTE: If you don't have pomegranate molasses, you can omit it with no problem. It sure is nice, though!

Makes 6-8 fritters, serving 2 people


At 1/16/2008 11:59 AM, Blogger Kelly said...

I'm catching up on your blog during my lunch hour at work...22 posts of yours unread?! That's just not right!

This recipe sounds terrific and I'm thinking I'll give it a try tonight. I have a chunk of feta that I would normally do a pasta and greens situation with, but this sounds like something the picky four year old will eat. Canned chickpeas, alas...

Thanks for sharing!

At 1/16/2008 12:45 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Guess it's a good thing I'm behind in posting then, right, Kelly? :-)

It is definitely a wonderful, addictive recipe... I confess I ate ALL of them in one sitting! (But then, I hadn't had much to eat throughout the day...) I think they'd be good with chutney or pickle, too.

Hope your little one is convinced! (If anything, it's the kind of food a four year old would probably enjoy smearing on his/her face. ;-))

At 1/16/2008 4:16 PM, Blogger Bri said...

Yum! These look fantastic! A little leftover yam would be great too, if you didn't have leftover squash. I love the seasoning you added, I bet it was a very tasty and hearty dish. I'd love to make them soon, but some members of the family don't eat eggs. I wonder if they would still have the proper consistency. Maybe cottage cheese? Maybe a little buttermilk? Do you have any ideas? Yummy...with the sauce you threw together and the broccoli, I bet it was a winner, and would be awesome for guests. Maybe you could get away with them as a brunch item at the inn?

At 1/17/2008 7:15 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

You're absolutely right, Bri, a little leftover yam or even regular potatoes would work. And considering I had to add extra flour, my guess is you could do without the egg and then add flour just until you get a consistency you're happy with. (For me, though, using that pastry blender, the egg helped me mash everything into a smoother batter.)

Why not replace the feta with the cottage cheese, if you prefer that? I think there's a LOT of room for improvisation in this recipe, so have at it!

Now, serving it at the Inn, sometime, hmmmmmmm....!!!

At 1/17/2008 2:15 PM, Blogger Bri said...

Thanks for your feedback Jennifer. I appreciate all the egg has to offer, and will make it like that sometime for sure, but for religious reasons, others in the household wouldn't be able to eat them. So, I'll just improvise based on your suggestions. Maybe the cottage cheese will help with binding and replace some of the protein the egg has. I bet, if you made some tasty chutneys, you would get rave reviews at the Inn. Even as a nice hearty couple of bites on top of a wintry salad. Yum!


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