Market black box: all kinds of squash.
What I did with them: make tempura.
Tempura batter turns ordinary vegetables into exotic dinner fare, and you can just about any vegetable.
Here are some tips for tempura frying along with my favorite recipe for tempura batter.
Use an oil for tempura frying with a high smoke point and a neutral flavor, such as canola oil, grapeseed oil (also spelled grape seed) and peanut oil. Extra virgin olive oil is not recommended for tempura frying as it is not only expensive and has a lower smoke point, but it has a very strong flavor that can pass onto the finished foods.
A fryer with programmable temperature settings is handy as it will keep the oil at a constant temperature (not to mention a basket for lifting the finished product), but the tempura vegetables may also be cooked using a saucepan and a skimmer. Adjust the heat to keep it at a constant temperature if necessary.
Vegetables should be sliced or cut into pieces that will cook quickly and evenly in the hot oil. The cuts can be decorative, and a different cutting style could be used for each vegetable for contrast in the finished vegetable dish – crinkle cut carrots, sliced sweet potatoes, onion rings, and stick-shaped zucchini and red peppers.
Here are some suggestions for cutting different vegetables:
- Root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips and potatoes – sliced or cut thinly.
- Zucchini and squash – matchstick slices, julienne or into thin rounds.
- Beans and peas (fresh green beans, sugar snap peas and snow peas) – use whole.
- Button mushrooms – whole if small to medium size, cut in half if they are extra large.
- Onions – sliced into rounds with the rings separated.
- Broccoli – cut into small flowerets.
- Bell peppers – if they are small then cut into rounds, otherwise, into triangles or strips.
The recipe for tempura batter below uses both sweet rice flour (from short grain sweet rice) and all-purpose flour. Salt and baking powder are added, along with an egg white and ice cold water. Don’t make the batch ahead of time: make it immediately before frying for best results. Once the tempura-cooked vegetables have browned, remove them from the pot and place on a wire rack for draining. This will help prevent steam from the bottom of the cooked vegetables turning the tempura soft.
- 3/4 cup sweet rice flour
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of white pepper, optional
- 1 egg white
- About 2/3 to 3/4 cup ice-cold water
- Oil for frying
- Vegetables for tempura, prepared
- Heat oil in a fryer, to about 350 degrees F. If you don't have a fryer, a cooking thermometer will help.
- Place the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
- Beat the egg white briefly to break it up in a small mixing bowl.
- Add the beaten egg white and 2/3 cup of ice-cold water to the dry ingredients and whisk. If the mix looks very thick add ice-cold water about a tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached.
- Dip a few of the prepared vegetables into the tempura batter and place in the hot oil. Repeat, but do not overcrowd the pan as the temperature of the oil will decrease.
- Turn as needed to evenly cook the tempura vegetables.
- Remove when browned and cooked through, and place on a rack.
- Repeat with remaining batter and vegetables.
- Serve immediately.