Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cauliflower-Feta Fritters with Pomegranate

I really love a good fritter but I am often disappointed in the fritters we make at home.  We have made a few different versions of zucchini fritters at home (here and here) and both times I found the texture of the fritters to be disappointing.  They were soggy and a little oily.  Even when the flavor of the fritters is perfect (like it was with these Sweet Potato and Kimchi Pancakes), I just can't get them to crisp up enough.  One exception to our fritter disappointments was this Thai recipe for Corn Fritters.  They were delicious and had great texture.  Somehow our fritter disappointments haven't in any way dissuaded me from making more fritter attempts.  This version was among the most successful and I think I have discovered the trick to making fritters at home - you don't want a batter per se.  Instead you want a mixture that barely holds together with chunks of vegetable and just enough flour and egg to bind the fritters together.  All of our fritter failures have featured batters with more liquid than vegetable (or included watery vegetables like zucchini).  And that is totally where we went wrong.  This recipe made for a very thick batter that had almost no liquid to it at all.  It was almost like a chunky dough rather than a batter.  Of course that type of consistency makes the fritters a little more delicate because they have so little filler.  They are hard to flip and don't hold together particularly well, but the flavor and texture of the cooked fritters are both excellent.  The fritters tasted gloriously cauliflower-y.  I liked the flavors of garlic, lemon and salty feta.  I also thought that the contrast of the heat from the cayenne and crushed red pepper flakes against the smoky cumin-flavored yogurt and the sweetness of the pomegranate seeds made for a really interesting and flavorful dish. 

Recipe after the jump!

Cauliflower-Feta Fritters with Pomegranate
(Slightly) Adapted from Smitten Kitchen 

2/3 of a large head cauliflower (about 1 pound florets), cut into generous 1 to 2 inch chunks
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp lemon zest
3 ounces crumbled feta (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 tsp table salt or more to taste
1/2 tsp baking powder
Olive oil for frying
3/4 cup lebneh (or Greek yogurt)
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Handful pomegranate arils

Cook cauliflower in a large pot of simmering salted water, uncovered, until firm but tender, about 5 to 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to an ice bath to stop cooking. Drain well. Spread on paper towels to dry as much as possible.

In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk together egg, garlic and lemon zest. Add cauliflower florets and mash with a potato masher until they’re crushed into an average of pea-sized pieces (i.e. some will be bigger, some smaller, but most will be little nubs). Sprinkle in feta and stir to combine. In a small dish, whisk flour, salt, cayenne, red pepper flakes and baking powder until evenly combined. Sprinkle over cauliflower batter and stir just until combined.

Heat oven to 200 degrees and place a tray inside. On the stove, heat a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat. Once hot, add a good slick of oil, about 2 to 3 tablespoons. Once the oil is hot (you can test it by flicking a droplet of water into it; it should hiss and sputter), scoop a two tablespoon-size mound of the batter and drop it into the pan, then flatten it slightly with your spoon or spatula. Repeat with additional batter, leaving a couple inches between each. Add additional olive oil as necessary. Once brown underneath, about 2 to 3 minutes, flip each fritter and cook on the other side until equally golden, about another 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer briefly to paper towels to drain, then the tray in the oven to keep them warm until needed. Once all fritters are cooked, mix yogurt with lemon juice, cumin, s&p. Spread fritters on serving platter. Dollop each with yogurt mixture and sprinkle with pomegranate arils.

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