Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fish and Chips, Minus the Fish

Sitting at my favorite Irish pub the other day, I saw a big platter of fish and chips going by perched (pun intended) on the waitress's arm. A fish joint alumnae (I was First Mate at the seafood shoppe), I was struck with longing - not for the fish, but for the batter. Oh, that batter. So I concocted my own vegetarian version - beer batter...tofu. Yep. Tofu. White fish is relatively without flavor (not entirely), so this turned out to be a better idea than I first thought. And to be honest, my first thought was "Lori, you're crazy. That's going to taste like crap."

It didn't. It even passed muster with my England-raised husband, who thrived on fish and chips.

Beer Batter Tofu

3 egg whites (vegans, you can easily substitute Egg Replacer here)
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup beer (I used Boddingtons Ale, but any mild ale will do)
2-3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbl. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbl. cornstarch
1 Tbl. Old Bay Seasoning
1-2 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
Oil for frying (eliminate if oven baking)
1 carton extra-firm tofu

Drain tofu and press slightly between paper towels to dry. Cut tofu on a diagonal, corner to corner, making two triangles. From there, stand one triangle on the "fat" end, then cut through, making three same-size triangles. Repeat with the other side. Set aside.

Mix flour, baking powder, soda, and cornstarch in a bowl. Set aside.

Beat together egg whites and milk. Add beer. Slowly stir in flour mixture, making sure all dry ingredients are wet. Add more flour as needed to make sure consistency is thick and doesn't run easily (this may take a little more flour - just keep experimenting until the batter is thin enough to adhere to the tofu and thick enough to not all run off).

Heat about 1/2 inch of safflower or vegetable oil in a skillet on medium heat. Once oil is heated, dip tofu into batter, using a wooden spoon or small spatula to keep the tofu from tearing or getting lost. Lower into oil carefully and fry, 4-5 minutes on each side, then transfer to paper towels to drain.

If you don't want to fry it, bake it! I did it both ways. Frying is much more flavorful, but the baking still retained a good deal of flavor. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray. Dip tofu as described above and place on tray (expect a bit more batter run-off with this method). Bake for 20 minutes (crust should be golden).

Serve with fries or boiled potatoes. And plenty of malt vinegar!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Red Hair, Freckles - Guess Who's Irish?

Despite the blonde highlights to hide the gray hairs, I was born an auburn-haired girl. Though it's faded over time, one need look only to the freckles to confirm the obvious. And today is my favorite day.

Since I couldn't wait to post my Irish stew recipe last month, I'll share my favorite Colcannon recipe here. Enjoy!


3 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small bunch of kale, sliced thin
2 cups cabbage, sliced thin
1/2 onion, sliced thin
3 Tbl. butter, cut into small pieces and softened
2/3 cup scalded milk
1/4 cup half-and-half (I use fat-free)
1/2 tsp. mace
salt and pepper to taste

Get your potatoes boiling. Meantime, coat a large skillet with cooking spray and heat. Saute onions, cabbage, and kale until cabbage and kale are soft. (I do this by adding water a few minutes into the saute and covering it.) Season with salt, pepper, and mace. Scald milk in a double boiler, making sure to heat it until just before boiling. NEVER boil it.

Mash potatoes in a large bowl, adding milk, half-and-half and butter as you mash. Add saute mixture and season again with salt and pepper to taste. If you like, add more butter or milk. There are no rules! Just enjoy.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

How to Stuff a Wild Zucchini

Sometimes I just want something more than steamed zucchini or fried zucchini. Sometimes I want zucchini to be just a touch more exciting than, well, zucchini.

I'd seen numerous recipes for stuffed zucchini, but none struck my fancy. So I made one up. It's not quite perfect, but it's better than plain zucchini.

Stuffed Zucchini

1 cup couscous
1 cup vegetable broth
2-4 zucchini, sliced lengthwise, seeds scooped out
1/2 medium green bell pepper
1/4 cup mushrooms (your choice)
1 3.5 oz container crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup chopped onion
3 Tbls. white wine (I used Riesling)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat broth in microwave until hot, about 1:30 minutes. Add to couscous and stir. Set aside.

Spray nonstick skillet with oil. Saute onions, peppers, and mushrooms until onions are clear, adding wine halfway through the sauteeing, reducing until almost gone. Add vegetable mixture and feta cheese to couscous and stir.

Stuff mixture into zucchini, pressing down lightly to compress filling. Place zucchini in a lasagna pan. Pour water into the pan until it's about 1/3-inch from the bottom (not the top!). Bake, covered with foil (or lid) 40 minutes. Take foil/lid off and cook 10-15 more minutes to brown the top. Or if you like your zucchini a bit more roasted, eliminate the water, spray the pan bottom with oil, and broil the entire thing for 15 minutes.