Indian-spiced battered vegetables
Some traditions are worth keeping, but some were designed to be broken. At Thanksgiving, I’ll keep the turkey but pass on the marshmallow fluff. Family games after dinner are timeless, but I’ll take a movie over football. With the turkey must come stuffing, but instead of the ubiquitous green bean casserole, I’ll enjoy my vegetables dipped in an aromatic chickpea-flour batter, lightly fried and served alongside a tangy tamarind sauce. I like this unconventional side dish because it serves a crowd and brings something fresh and flavorful to the table. This month, after twenty years, we are reviving my family’s tradition of spending Thanksgiving with extended family in Pennsylvania. We’ll see if an eighteen-hour car ride with tired kids in tow is a holiday convention worth keeping.
RECIPE: Indian-spiced battered vegetables
1 cup chickpea flour
1 tsp salt, baking powder, cumin and turmeric
Pinch of cayenne
1 cup seltzer or sparkling water
Mix dry ingredients, and stir in seltzer water. Let batter rest 30 minutes.
Your favorite vegetables. Here are some I like: 1 onion, sliced in rings; 1 carrot, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch slices; 1 zucchini, sliced into 3-inch sticks; 8–10 broccoli florets, stems peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut into 3-inch sticks, lightly steamed; green beans, ends removed
Heat 3 or 4 inches of canola oil in a wok, frying pan or deep fryer to between 360 and 375 degrees. It’s important that the oil be hot enough that the vegetables cook quickly without absorbing too much oil. Dip vegetables in batter with tongs or chopsticks and then in oil, making sure they are coated with batter. It should take 2–3 minutes to get a nice golden brown crust. Carefully remove from the oil using a deep-fry skimmer, tongs or chopsticks and drain on paper towels, then transfer to a baking sheet. Keep warm in a 200-degree oven while you continue to cook the remaining vegetables. Serve once all the vegetables have been cooked. Serve with tamarind dipping sauce (see recipe below).
Tamarind Dipping Sauce
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup water
2 tbsp tamarind concentrate
Generous pinch of cumin, cayenne and salt
1 tsp sugar, if needed
Heat the ingredients—except sugar—in a saucepan until warm and dates are softened, about 15 minutes. Purée mixture until it is a thick sauce. Adjust salt, sugar and pepper until the sauce is sweet and tangy with a little zing from the pepper. Serve at room temperature.