Friday, March 16, 2012

A Delicious Memory From My Childhood--Updated For Today

When I was little, my mom learned to make the most delicious vegetable fritters from her older sister. They would both fry up a number of different veggies wrapped in a simple, but delicious batter. It was a foolproof way to get us kids to eat our veggies! One of my very favorites of these was cauliflower fritters, crisp exteriors enveloping a creamy, cheesy interior.....yum! The original recipe is fried in quite a bit of oil, something people didn't give too much thought to, back in the day. So when my husband remarked a while ago that he really missed those fritters that my Mom used to make, I set out to see if I could come up with a version which was healthier, but still delicious. I first tried spooning the batter onto nonstick aluminum foil and baking at a high temp, but the outside wasn't crisp enough. Next I tried shallow frying them in just a tiny bit of oil, but the insides wouldn't cook before the outside was overdone. I have to say, in all honesty, my first efforts were not pretty! My husband, always the trooper, ate them anyway. But I perservered, and several versions later, I have something that I am proud to serve. I use a combination of cooking methods; shallow frying (in about a teaspoon of olive oil) in a nonstick frying pan paired with a final bake on a cookie sheet at a high temp to finish cooking the interiors. It works and we can now enjoy these whenever we want to, guilt free!

Cauliflower Fritters
Serves: 4 to 6 (as a side dish)

1 head of cauliflower
4 Tbs. grated Romano or Parmigiano cheese
1 Tbs. flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 Tbs. fresh parsley, minced
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. pepper (or to taste)
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400°. Cut or break the cauliflower into floweretts, discarding the tough core. Steam them over simmering water in a vegetable steamer until completely cooked through and very tender. (Alternatively, microwave in a covered container in a half inch or so of water, stirring occasionally until completely cooked through and very tender; drain well.) In a large bowl, with a potato masher, mash the cauliflower into small pieces. Add all remaining ingredients except the olive oil and mix very well. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet. Drop the fritter batter by tablespoons into the frying pan, leaving a half inch or so between the fritters. Flatten them slightly with the spoon. By the time you finish filling the pan, the first ones should be brown on the bottom and ready to carefully turn over. When they are browned on the second side, transfer them to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining fritter batter. When the batter is all used up, move the cookie sheet to the oven and bake for approximately 10 minutes or until they are cooked through (if you have an instant read thermometer, push it sideways into one of the fritters; it should read 160°).

Notes & Pointers:
My favorite nonstick skillet is cast iron, as it is very heavy, holds the heat, and cooks evenly. You also don't have to worry about suffering the "Teflon Flu" from overheating some nonsticks (which if you've experienced once, you never want to repeat!!!). The fritters are quite fragile, so when you turn them over, use a spatula to turn them and a fork or a second spatula to ease them over to the second side. You will probably not need salt since there is quite a bit of salt from the cheese, but the best way to check the seasoning is to cook up a tiny bit of the batter and taste it.

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