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08/15/2014

~ Oh My Thai: Spicy Red Curry Sweet Corn Fritters ~

IMG_1018Here in Pennsylvania, I grew up eating savory deep-fried corn fritters in July and August (when local sweet corn is in season) and sweet apple fritters in September and October (when local apples are in season).  I grew up eating potato pancakes as well, which are technically a type of fritter, but, we don't refer to them as such because they are pan-fried.  Doughnuts were/are made on Doughnut Day, and, even though they're deep-fried, we don't call them fritters either. Why? Like their precursor cousin the beignet, they don't contain any chopped protein, fresh or dried fruits and/or vegetables, and, with or without holes, they're just plain old deep-fried dough!

IMG_1025A bit about fritters:  Defined as small, sweet or savory, deep-fried (not pan fried), dough- or batter-based cakes (fritters contain no bread or bread crumbs) made by combining chopped food (not whole pieces or chunks) with a thick, seasoned batter, dropped into hot oil and deep-fried until crisp on the outside and cooked-through on the inside. Depending on the consistency of the batter, fritters can emerge flat (like pancakes) or round (like golf balls).  Once chopped, almost anything can be made into a fritter:  meat, poultry, fish, seafood, fruits or vegetables.  

Fritters can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, as a snack, side-dish, main-course or dessert.  Fritters are sold on street corners and in five-star restaurants where they can be picked up and eaten with the hand or eaten with a fork.  Fritters are the original fast food and pub grub. Fritters are multi-cultural -- you can find a fritter anywhere in the world where they deep-fry food!

You can find fritters anywhere in the world where they deep-fry food!

IMG_1049Thailand is no exception and the Thai people like sweet corn A LOT. Thai cooks incorporate it into their currys, soups, salads and desserts. Throughout the country, it's a popular snack food. Street vendors sell corn on the cob prepared on portable grills.  At the University of Bangkok, like any other college town, fast food joints cater to the appetites of hungry college students, and this includes corn fritter stalls.  For the love of corn fritters:  tod mun khao pod! 

Why?  Eating fritters is a fun way to fritter away the day!

IMG_08844  cups fresh, cooked corn kernels, shaved from 8 large ears of blanched corn

2  tablespoons sugar, for sweetening the blanching water

1/2  cup thinly-sliced then finely-diced green onion, white and light green parts only

1/2  cup minced cilantro, stems included

3  tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce

1  tablespoon Thai fish sauce

2  tablespoons Thai red curry paste

1  cup all-purpose flour, plus 2-4 more tablespoons flour, if necessary

1/4  cup rice flour

1  teaspoon baking powder

1  teaspoon white pepper

3/4  cup water, reserved from blanching the corn, more or less (Note:  Plain water mixed with 1/2-3/4 teaspoon sugar may be substituted.)

corn or peanut oil for deep-frying

IMG_0815Thai cucumber relish and/or sweet chili sauce are the traditional accompaniments

IMG_0137Note:  ~ Oh My Thai: Spicy Quick-Pickled Cucumber Relish ~ and ~ "Would You Like Sweet Chili Sauce With That?" ~ can be found in Category 8 or,  by clicking on the Related Article links.

IMG_0822 IMG_0837 IMG_0838 IMG_0842 IMG_0854~Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add the sugar to the water.  One-at-a-time lower the corn into the water. When the water returns to a boil, blanch the corn for 1 minute.  While the corn is blanching, use a pair of tongs to dunk the tops down into the water.  Do not overcook.  Using the tongs, remove the corn to a large plate and set aside until corn can be easily handled with your hands, about 20-30 minutes.

PICT0005~ Step 2.  When the corn has cooled to the point where you can comfortably hold it with your hands, it's time to shave the kernels from the cobs.  This is quite easy.  For details and tips, read my post ~ How to:  Shave Corn Off the Cob with No Mess!!! ~.  You can find it in Categories 4, 15 or 20.  Note: Corn shaving is not a precise sport. Six cobs will yield about 3 cups. Eight cobs will yield a bit more than needed, but it insures enough.

IMG_0870 IMG_0876 IMG_0663~ Steps 3 & 4. Prep green onions and cilantro as directed.  In a small bowl, stir together flours, baking powder and white pepper.

IMG_0895~ Step 5.  In a large bowl, place the corn.  Using a hand held vegetable masher, crush the kernels to release some of their liquid.  Take a minute or two to do this, and, put a little bit of muscle into it too!  

IMG_0907~ Step 6. Stir in and thoroughly combine the minced green onions and minced cilantro with the crushed corn.  

IMG_0924 IMG_0914~ Step 7.  In a small bowl, stir together the Thai soy sauce, fish sauce and red curry paste.  

Add the curry mixture to the corn mixture.  Using a large rubber spatula, thoroughly combine.

IMG_0948 IMG_0933~ Step 8. Add and thoroughly stir in the flour mixture.

IMG_0942Add and thoroughly stir in the water.  Set aside for 15 minutes.  If a loose, sticky batter hasn't formed, add a bit more flour, but do it judiciously.  Fritter batter is not formable, it is spoonable, meaning, if you can roll or pat it into balls or patties with your hands, you've added too much flour.  My advice:  don't add additional flour until you've deep-fried one as a test.  If it holds its shape and fries up crisp -- you're golden.  Also, size matters.  Don't drop over-sized scoops into hot oil because the additional time required for them to cook through to the center will cause the outsides to burn.

Deep-frying fritters is a tad tricky -- follow instructions carefully:

IMG_0955~ Step 9.  Preheat oil in deep-fryer to 360 degrees, according to manufacturer's specifications.  

IMG_0985Using a 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, drop loose-scoops (do not press into scoop) of batter down into the fryer basket which is submerged in the oil.

IMG_1000Note:  Do not place scoops of batter directly onto fryer basket.

Deep-fry fritters for 1 minute.  After 1 minute, lift basket out of the oil and give it a shake, to insure no fritters are sticking to the bottom. Return basket back to oil and continue to cook 2 more minutes.

Transfer fritters to a cooling rack that has been placed over a few layers of paper towels.

Sprinkle with a fresh grinding of sea salt & serve ASAP (hot or warm)...

IMG_1008... with cucumber relish & sweet chili sauce (Mae Ploy):

IMG_1050Oh My Thai:  Spicy Curry Sweet Corn Fritters:  Recipe yields 2 1/2 dozen appetizer-sized fritters.

Special Equipment List:  8-quart stockpot; tongs; cutting board; chef's knife; bundt pan (optional); hand-held vegetable masher; large rubber spatula;  deep-fryer; 1 1/2" ice cream scoop; cooling rack; paper towels

6a0120a8551282970b019b00a90739970d-800wiCook's Note:  If your are looking for another superb appetizer that pairs perfectly with these corn fritter, cucumber relish and sweet chili sauce, click into Categories 1, 11, 13 or 14 to get my recipe for ~ Crunchy Thai-Style Deep-Fried Coconut Shrimp ~!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

08/12/2014

~Oh My Thai: Spicy Quick-Pickled Cucumber Relish~

IMG_0810Thai cooks use a lot of cucumbers -- in soups and salads, and as garnishes.  This cool, crunchy and refreshing cucumber relish is one of the most common condiments for Thai food in general. It's found in all Thai home kitchens and on the streets of Thailand too, meaning:  the high-quality "street food" that vendors sell and many Thai people eat on a daily basis.  These cucumbers are often served to cut the richness of coconut-based curries, and, are particularly good when accompanying grilled or fried fare:  omelettes, fish cakes, corn fritters, satay, spring rolls or barbecued chicken (to name a few).  This bright, lively relish is a balanced combination of the "four signature S's" of Thai cuisine that renders it so addictive:  sweet, sour, salty and spicy! 

IMG_0687The following recipe is quite straight-forward and it does not vary much amongst people who know how to cook Thai food.  It is simply a few basic ingredients inherent to Thai cuisine.  That's it.  Yes, of course you can adjust the proportions to suit your palate (less sweetness, more heat, etc.), but please don't pick up a bottle of Chinese soy sauce in place of Thai seasoning soy, or, wrinkle up your nose and decide to not use the fish sauce (which is the salt of Thailand)!

IMG_0705My Thai Cucumber Relish (Nam Thaeng Kwa): 

IMG_0549For the syrup*:

1  cup rice vinegar

1/2  cup water

2  tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce

2  tablespoons Thai fish sauce

1  cup sugar

* Note:  Some Thai cooks bathe the vegetables in room temperature or slightly-warm syrup prior to serving, which softens the texture and mellows the flavors.  I like to refrigerate the syrup and assemble the relish using cold ingredients because I prefer a crispy texture.

IMG_0554 IMG_0562 IMG_0567 IMG_0573~Step 1.  Place the rice vinegar, water, seasoning soy and fish sauce in a 2-quart saucepan over low heat.  Stir in the sugar.  Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.  Simmer for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature. Transfer to a 1-quart food storage container and refrigerate for serveral hours or overnight.

IMG_0605For the vegetables and peanuts:

2-2 1/2  pounds  peeled, halved and thinly-sliced, English (also known as European, burpless, seedless or hothouse) cucumbers

1 1/2-2 cups, halved and thinly-sliced shallots

4-6  very-thinly sliced or minced, red Thai chile peppers, more or less, to taste

IMG_0539 IMG_05204-6  tablespoons minced, fresh ginger

1  cup minced cilantro

1/2  cup blanched, unsalted peanuts, lightly-toasted and coarsely-chopped

IMG_0527 IMG_0543 IMG_0590 IMG_0583~Step 1.  Place the peanuts in an 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish.  Roast on center rack of 375 degree oven until lightly-toasted, fragrant and golden, about 12-15 minutes, stopping to stir with a spoon about every 5 minutes during the process.  Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.  Using a mortar and pestle (this method is true Thai-style), or, a cutting board and a chef's knife (this method, for me, is much faster), coarsely chop the nuts.

IMG_0620 IMG_0611~ Step 2. Prep the cucumbers as directed. After peeling four large cucumbers, I have 2 pounds, 4 ounces.  Perfect!

IMG_0627~ Step 3. Prep the shallots. Refrigerate cucumbers and shallots for about an hour.

IMG_0652 IMG_0640 IMG_0663~Step 4.  Mince the chile peppers, ginger and cilantro as directed.

Note:  After a bit of slicing and IMG_0667dicing, things will look like this.  If it looks like a lot, trust me, it's not.  When I make this relish, I always make this amount.  My family enjoys it so much, I make it even when I'm not serving Thai food.  In the Summer, when our vegetable garden supplies me with lots of tomatoes, I chunk and add those to the mix too, which makes a fantastic side-salad to almost any American-style meat hot off the grill!

IMG_0693 IMG_0700~ Step 5. Place all of the prepped ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the chilled syrup.  Using a large rubber spatula, stir to thoroughly combine.  Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours prior to serving.

Note:  Kept refrigerated, relish will stay crisp and delish for 3-4 days:

IMG_1085Serve chilled in small bowls or ramekins:

IMG_0803Oh My Thai:  Spicy Quick-Pickled Cucumber Relish:  Recipe yields 6-7 cups.  Experience has taught me that everyone will munch on at least 1/2 cup of this cucumber relish/side-dish.

Special Equipment List:  2-quart saucepan; large spoon; 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish; cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula

6a0120a8551282970b019103a2f7c1970cCook's Note:  The first time I tasted real-deal Thai food the year was 1993 and it was right here in Happy Valley, PA.  The dish was ~Thai Red Pork Curry w/ Steamed Jasmine Rice ~.   It was prepared by for me by a woman from Thailand and, for me, it was love at first bite.  Over the next years, until Kanya moved back to Thailand, I learned as much as I could from her.  For a great story and a great recipe, click into Category 3 or 13!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

08/10/2014

~ Summer Squash & Saffron Rice Stuffed Tomatoes~

IMG_0351Summer tomatoes and Summer squash.  These two pure and simple Summer "vegetables" (botanically both are "vine-fruit" because they are the receptacle for the seeds of the plant) are two of my favorite August things to eat.  It has nothing to do with eating healthy, I just plain love them -- I'd love them even if they weren't healthy.  If you grow your own in your backyard you know you've got a lot of both right now.  If you don't grow your own, after one quick inexpensive trip to your local farmers market, and the time it takes to cook some rice, couscous or quinoa, you can have this simple, super-delicious, side-dish on your dinner table in almost no time!

IMG_04342 cups sauted squash + 2 cups steamed rice + 6 tomato shells:

IMG_0226That is it.  That is all you will need to prepare this side-dish!

IMG_9960My Motto:  Almost anything tastes better with a tomato and almost anything tastes better in a tomato!  

In the event you've never stuffed a tomato before, you're definitely going to want to click on the Related Article link below to learn ~ How to:  Hollow Out Tomatoes for Stuffing Them ~.  In the event you're familiar with this technique, you might want to browse over it quickly -- just to compare your method with my tips.

IMG_0449~ Step 1.  Hollow out:

6  large, ripe (not overly ripe), round, firm, even-sized tomatoes

~ Step 2.  Prepare as directed and cool to room temperature:

1  10-ounce package IMG_0161Vigo Spanish-Style Saffron Yellow Rice Mix (Note:  This will be about twice as much rice as you will need to stuff 6 large tomatoes.)

~ Step 3.  Prepare and cool to room temperature, my (Just click on the Related Article link below to get the recipe.):

Pure & Simple:  Summer Squash (Zucchini) Saute (Note:  This will be about twice as much saute as you will need to stuff 6 large tomatoes.)

IMG_0234Note before getting started:  The tomato shells, the rice, and, the squash saute can all be prepared a day in advance and refrigerated overnight.  How convenient is that!

~ Step 4.  Using an ordinary tablespoon, place about 6 tablespoons of rice in each tomato shell.  Lightly press the rice down, but do not compact or stuff it.  Add more rice to each shell, if needed, to fill each one half way.

IMG_0270 IMG_0255~ Step 5. Using your fingertips, place and arrange overlapping layers of squash over the rice until nicely mounded up and over the top of each tomato. Lightly season tops with sea salt. Note:  I know I am overly-compulsive, but, if you take the time to carefully and decoratively place the squash on top, it will make for a very pretty presentation!

Bake on center rack of 325 degree oven...

IMG_0259... for 20-22 minutes.  Do not overcook.

IMG_0302Squash should be wilted and lightly browned.

Tomato shells should be a bit bubbly but not blistered:

IMG_0315Cool in pan for 5-10 minutes.

Tomato skins will wrinkle as they cool:

IMG_0327A perfectly executed steaming hot stuffed tomato:

IMG_0418Summer Squash & Saffron Rice Stuffed Tomatoes:  Recipe yields 6 side-servings.

Special Equipment List:  serrated paring knife; grapefruit knife; grapefruit spoon; paper towels; standard-sized muffin tin; 2-quart saucepan; spoon; 12" skillet; spatula

IMG_8827Cook's Note:  While these stuffed tomatoes go great with a piece of grilled chicken or steak, my favorite food to serve them with is fish -- particularly white fish.  Just click on the Related Article link below to get ~ Mel's 30-Minute "Brain Food" Meal:  Broiled Cod w/Spicy Saffron Rice, Peas & Stewed Tomato Sauce ~!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)