March means the beginning of spring in some parts of the world, but it is still winter in other areas. While the March winds are still blowing, enjoy these comfort foods. Then, as spring begins, enjoy the refreshing flavor of lemon thrown into dishes and desserts.
Ricotta Fritters with Meyer Lemon Glaze
Nature’s bounty never tasted better than in the richly flavored, satisfying vegetarian meals from “Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite,” by Sarah Copeland (Chronicle Books). They showcase a global range of flavors, from Hungarian to Korean, with more than 140 recipes that are electric with flavor and loaded with nutrients. This is the simplest little beignet, drizzled or dunked in a lemony glaze.
2 Meyer lemons
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
vegetable oil for frying
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
zest of 1 Meyer lemon
fine sea salt
3/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
generous 2 pinches of raw sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Place a wire rack over a baking sheet lined with paper towels, a set of tongs, a slotted spoon and a splatter guard near the stove.
Zest one lemon and set aside for the batter. Juice the lemons into a medium bowl. Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and about 2 1/2 tablespoons of the lemon juice in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap while you make the fritters.
In a large, deep frying pan or heavy pan, heat 4 inches of oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 350F on a deep-fry thermometer. Keep hot over a steady low flame, letting it reach about 365F but no higher. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, zest and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together the ricotta, egg, yolk, sugar and vanilla in another medium bowl. Add to the flour mixture and whisk to combine. Test the temperature of the oil by spooning a drop or two of the batter into the pan; the oil should sizzle and the batter should brown slowly and evenly and rise to the top.
Working in batches of three to four fritters, gently drop 1 tablespoon of batter into the hot oil at a time, giving each one space to set its shape before adding more. Fry until the batter puffs and is crisp and golden on one side, about 2 minutes. Flip the fritters in the oil with a slotted spoon until golden brown on both sides, another 2 minutes. Transfer fritters to the rack over the baking sheet with a slotted spoon. Repeat until all fritters are fried. Drizzle the warm fritters with the glaze, stack fritters high and serve warm. Makes 12.
Squash Pear Soup
If soup is in order, and pears are still available from winter storage, try this version to warm you up. The pears add a mellow, sweet taste to this soup that compliments the squash really well. If you are freezing the soup, omit the cream or milk and add it after reheating, right before serving.
This is from “Cooking Inspired: Bringing Creativity and Passion Back into the Kitchen” by Estee Kafra, Feldheim Publishers. Kafra, founder of the website KosherScoop.com, believes, “food is the way we nurture both ourselves and the people around us,” and wants to make cooking easier and more creative for home cooks. This book is a collection of the best recipes from this fast growing site. More than 200 beautifully photographed recipes create a visual feast for the eyes and palate.
3 tablespoons butter or oil
2 onions, diced
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 pears, peeled and chopped into roughly 1-inch pieces
4 cups chicken broth or enough to cover
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup whipping cream, milk, or coconut milk
freshly ground pepper
Melt butter in a 4-quart pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions; cook for 5 minutes or until they begin to soften. Reduce heat to medium. Add squash and pears; cook for 10 minutes. Watch to make sure the mixture does not burn. If it starts to dry out, add about 1/4 cup of water, mix well.
Pour in just enough broth to cover the vegetables and fruit. Add the thyme, sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer. Cook 15 to 18 minutes or until squash is fork-tender. Using an immersion blender, puree. Stir in the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Editor’s Note: For more recipes, go to www.cookingwithsheilah.com.