I’m baaaaack!!!! After 2 months of maternity leave, some amazing bonding time with my delicious baby, and lets face it, plenty of adjusting to my new life with five kids (!!!), I’m so happy to tap back in to my creative energy and BRING IT!
Of course I must thank all my dear friends who filled in for me these past couple of weeks: Amy from WhatJewWannaEat, Sina from TheKosherSpoon, Melissa from LilMissCakes, Miriam from OvertimeCook, Eitan from CookwithChefEitan, Melinda from KitchenTested and Whitney from Jewhungry! I hope you all enjoyed their recipes and guest posts as much as I did!
Now with Rosh Hashanah just a few days away, I really wanted to highlight the symbolic foods of the holiday, which include carrots, gourd (pumpkin), beets, leeks, green beans (or black eyed peas) and dates. It’s also customary to eat apple dipped in honey, a sheep or fish head, as well as pomegranate seeds. Many people of sephardic decent have a custom to hold a seder, where special blessings are recited over the simanim (symbolic foods) before they are eaten. It is not unusual for all or some of the ingredients to be cooked into separate appetizers, so I thought it would be fun to create one simple, yet sophisticated, dish that would incorporate most of these foods.
I was wracking my brain trying to think of something other than another boring “simanim salad” (you can watch me make an amazing one in this old post) when it came to me in the dead of night (while nursing my babes!); Fritto Misto! Fritto misto is Italian for “mixed fry” and is an assortment of lightly fried foods, often served as an appetizer. I know lots of people get scared off by the idea of frying, but if you do it right, this tempura batter is so light and elegant, and it’s not greasy at all.
The biggest trick to avoid having your food turn out greasy is to make sure it doesn’t soak up the oil. You MUST, MUST, MUST use a deep fry thermometer. It’s imperative to keep your oil at 350 degrees so that when the cold batter touches the hot oil, it immediately begins to fry and crisp up. If the oil isn’t hot enough, the thin tempura batter won’t hold on to the veggies.
Another trick to making perfectly crisp tempura fried veggies is to use seltzer in the batter. The air bubbles in the seltzer help to lighten up the batter. The cornstarch also contributes to a crispy coating.
The last, and equally important thing that contributes to a light, crispy tempura is to use ice cold seltzer and mix the batter in a cold bowl, set over a bowl of ice water. If you’re batter is nice and cold, it will work it’s magic when it hits the hot oil and you’ll get yourself a non-greasy addictive appetizer.
Of course I couldn’t just make a mix of fried simanim, it’s got to have a dip! So I indulged in some amazingly sweet and caramelized honey roasted garlic. How gorgeous??? I mix that all up with some mayo, meyer lemon zest and juice and voila – sweet, light and delicious aioli that pairs perfectly with the fritto misto.
But I couldn’t stop there. Because I had a vision. A vision of the most elegantly set holiday table, complete with individual boxes of Simanim Fritto Misto at each place setting! It’s been a while since I posted table setting ideas (these apple napkins were fun!), and I really wanted to indulge.
Since I left the apple and honey out of the fritto misto, I put out some beautiful farm-fresh apples with an assortment of honeys. I love to serve different flavored honeys, it makes things so exciting and fun! I also skipped the pomegranates in my fritto misto (because I can’t fry teeny tiny little seeds!) so I put out some Vintage pomegranate seltzer instead. We’ve pretty much got everything covered besides for the Sheep’s head. I’ll let you figure that one out ;)
To set your own tables like this, lay a long strip of burlap down the center of the table. Place a cake stand over a large matching platter. Fill the platter with apples and place an assortment of honeys on the stand. Use milk glass or mason jar cups and set out boxes of simanim over coordinating napkins. Tape some neutral colored gift tags onto the boxes, write the name of each guest on their corresponding box and finish with a twine bow. Don’t forget the Vintage seltzer!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my comeback post, there’s a little something for everyone. If you like to be try new things in the kitchen, go for the fritto misto. Hate frying? Make my honey roasted garlic aioli for dipping your Rosh Hashanah challah. Love to set a beautiful table? Take some inspiration from my tablescape. And most of all, have a healthy and happy SWEET NEW YEAR.
Simanim Fritto Misto
1 bunch carrots, sliced in half vertically
1/2 lb. green beans, ends trimmed
1 delicata squash, sliced into rings, seeds removed
2 small beets, sliced into thin wedges
1 leek, white and pale green parts only, cleaned and separated
a few medjool dates, sliced in half, pit removed
1 c flour
1 c cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
2 cups chilled Vintage seltzer
canola oil for frying (about 1/2 gallon)
meyer lemon wedges for serving
honey roasted garlic aioli (recipe follows below)
special equipment: deep fry thermometer
Pour oil into a wide and shallow pan (wide enough to fit the long carrots) fit with a deep fry thermometer. Heat oil to 350 degrees.
In the meantime, in a bowl set over a second bowl of ice water, whisk the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Add in the seltzer, mixing until just incorporated (it’s ok if some small lumps remain, you don’t want to overmix). The batter will be very thin.
Working with a few vegetables at a time, dip into the tempura batter and fry, turning and separating the vegetables, as needed. The green beans, leeks, and dates will take about 2 minutes, the squash and carrots will take 2-3 more, and the beets may need a bit more. Drain on paper towels and remove to a wire rack.
Divide the simanim fritto misto among appetizer plates and serve with lemon wedges and honey roasted garlic aioli.
Honey Roasted Garlic Aioli
2 heads garlic
2 sprigs of thyme
1 1/2 tbsp honey, divided
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp meyer lemon zest
juice of 1/2 meyer lemon
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut off about 1/4 inch off the top of the heads of garlic to expose the tops of the garlic cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and 1 tbsp honey and season with salt and pepper. Top with thyme and wrap in foil. Bake until garlic is deeply golden and caramelized, about 45-55 minutes.
Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins and place in a food processor or blender. Add mayonnaise, lemon juice and zest, remaining 1/2 tbsp honey, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.
This post was sponsored by Vintage seltzer. All opinions are my own.