Monday, August 19, 2013


My Mister decided to make sushi for dinner on Sunday, and we thought it would be fun to invite friends over.  With company coming, we needed something besides sushi to fill everyone up, so I decided to try something new.  Tempura veggies.  

Image Credit:

I've never made them before, so I started googling and found a couple of recipes that looked promising, and combined them a bit and came up with this:

The key to good tempura is the batter. You want it to be light and runny you aren't making fish sticks.

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg
2/3 cup ice cold seltzer water or gingerale

Put the egg in Ice Water and mix with chopsticks. Don't mix it perfectly. Dump all of the dry ingredients in. Give it a few choppy mixes with chop sticks. Don't attempt to blend all of the items together. It has to be lumpy for a true tempura texture. Dip and then fry until golden brown.

I doubled the recipe so we'd have plenty, and it was just barely enough to fry a good sized zucchini, an onion, a sweet potato and several mushrooms.

Once I had the recipe I needed a little more understanding of the How To, and found this website that walked me through all the steps (it's also where the picture came from since we ate ours up too fast to take a picture):

1. Prepare Vegetables
You can tempura fry just about any vegetable you have in the kitchen. In this case we used mushrooms (halved), onions (peeled and sliced), sweet potato (peeled and sliced into rounds), and broccoli florets (from the freezer, no preparation required!).
Other suggestions might include: Bell peppers, carrots, cabbage, green beans, snap peas, cauliflower, baby corn.
2. Heat Your Oil
Bring the oil in your deep fryer or Dutch oven/cast iron pot to 360°F. Some electric fryers only allow you to increase the temperature in specific increments, so if that's the case, go for less temperature and longer frying time for root vegetables and a higher time for things like broccoli that won't require as long of cooking.
3. Prepare the Batter
In a medium to large size mixing bowl, add the rice flour and seasonings (if you wish). Next add the club soda, ensuring that it is cold before mixing. You're looking for the consistency of pancake batter. It should be loose enough to coat things easily, but not drip off completely on the way to the fryer. If the batter is too thick, add club soda or ice water 1 tablespoon at a time until mixture loosens. If too thin, add rice flour 1 tablespoon at a time until it comes together. Bubbles are good, lumps are bad, make sure to mix thoroughly!
4. Coat the Vegetables
Most vegetables can be tossed in the batter bowl ahead of time and allowed to sink a little to coat each one. It's far easier than hand dipping, which means of course that you have one batter covered hand the entire time (not always awesome). Toss items in and help them sink or roll to be coated with the batter. A flat whisk works wonders for this.
5. Fry the Vegetables
Next, lift vegetables out of the batter with your whisk (a fish spatula or large slotted spoon can also work out with success) and allow them to drain slightly, scraping the back of your whisk on the side of the bowl to remove excess. Drop vegetable pieces into the oil one at a time, ensuring that they don't touch. Most everything will immediately sink to the bottom (although mushrooms float). Use a spider strainer or long handled utensil (like a metal skewer) to loosen them and keep them moving. This will allow them to cook evenly on all sides. Cook root vegetables for 4 minutes and all others for 3 This time might differ if your oil is at a different temperature.
6. Remove From Oil
Remove your freshly fried pieces from the oil with a spider or the basket the unit comes with (though truth be told, we like to use the spider no matter what we're cooking in). Place them on a few layers of paper towels to allow remaining oil to drain. Give them a light sprinkling of salt and allow to cool slightly.
7. Return Oil to Temperature
Before dropping in your next load of veggies, make sure your oil comes back up to temperature. If it doesn't, things can get a little soggy and although they'll still be tasty once removed from the fryer, they will be a little greasy instead of crispy and chewy.
8. Repeat
Continue repeating steps 4 through 7 above until all of your vegetables have been coated, fried and hopefully enjoyed! This is a great way to entertain — simply tell people you'll provide the oil and ask them to bring a few of their favorite vegetables and gather round the table! Fry, nibble and chat away and let the good times roll!
Additional Notes:
• On Club Soda: Try tossing your club soda into the freezer while your oil heats up. It will be enough time for things to chill without freezing, allowing you to have perfect tempura pieces coming out of your fryer for longer! The colder the batter, the crispier your crust and less soggy your veggies will be!

Friday, August 09, 2013

Grilled Flatbread Pizza

I planned on making pizza for dinner tonight, and since zucchini week(s) is in full bloom, I thought I'd recreate this delicious zucchini parmesan pizza.  Then I saw a link on another blog to flatbread with creamy red pepper scallion spread.  I wasn't interested in the spread or the salad (I wanted pizza!), but the flatbread and the grilling sounded amazing.  And it was.

I followed the instructions from the blog on the flat bread (except I doubled it):
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the bowl
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
  • 2 cups bread flour (or a little less, see directions)
  • 1/2 cup medium grind cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Add water and sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer fit with a dough hook. Sprinkle in the yeast and let sit for 5 minutes to bloom.
Mix in the olive oil then Add one cup of the flour along with the salt. Mix on low until well incorporated, and then turn the speed up to medium and mix for 3 minutes.
Add another 1/2 cup of flour and the 1/2 cup of cornmeal, and mix well, starting on low and then switching to medium speed. Then add another 1/2 cup of flour, again starting on low and switching to medium. Knead on medium for about 5 minutes. You may occasionally have to get in there with your hands if the dough starts climbing up the hook. It should become smooth and elastic and slightly tacky. At this point, incorporate flour by the tablespoon, with the mixer running. When it starts to seem dry, stop adding flour. This could be anywhere between 1/4 and 1/2 cup. Knead again on medium until it is elastic easy to stretch, about 8 more minutes.
Meanwhile, drizzle about two tablespoons of olive oil into a large mixing bowl. The dough will double in size, so make sure you have enough room. Form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl, tossing it around to coat with oil. Cover the top in plastic wrap and put in a warm place. Let dough rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
When dough has doubled, fire up your grill. Keep the flame high and close the lid. If you have a thermometer, it should be at about 500 F.
Somewhere around this point I gathered all my toppings and sliced the veggies (thinly!) I also discovered as I was cooking that since my zucchini was a little on the big side, the slices weren't cooking much, so I took them off and grilled them directly on the grill- do this on a cooler part of your grill while the first side is cooking.  It helps to have all the toppings on a tray so they can be easily and quickly transported to the grill.

Punch the dough down, give it a quick knead and tear it into 4 equal-ish pieces. On a large cutting board, form each piece into an oval that is about 8 inches long and 5 inches across. I just use my hands for this, but you can use a rolling pin if you prefer.
Place the dough on the grill. It should take about 3 to 4 minutes for the bottoms to get grill marks and become firm. If it takes a little longer that’s cool, but definitely check one after 3 minutes.

Here is where I diverged from the original recipe.  When the first side of the flatbread is cooked (I burned mine a tiny bit on the first round) flip it over, turn down the heat a little and add pizza sauce and any toppings.  My favorite combo was the zucchini, eggplant, mushroom, tomato, parmesan cheese and bacon bits.  Make sure to put the grilled veggies on at this point and put a little more cheese over the top to hold everything on.  Close the grill and cook for a minute or two until the cheese is melted and toppings are as cooked as you'd like them.

Remove pizzas from the grill and cut them into manageable pieces and enjoy.  These were incredible.  My Mister even commented on how amazing they were after his first bite, and he doesn't dole out praise like that unless he really means it.  

I think we'll be using the flatbread recipe instead of pizza dough from now on.  The original blog post gives the following instructions for oven baking: 

~ If you prefer to bake the breads, you can do so in a 450 F oven, for 12 to 15 minutes. Place directly on a baking stone for the crispiest results, but a large baking sheet will work, too!

I think I might try it sometime when it's not so hot outside, and just roll it out regular pizza style.