Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pasta with Asparagus and Snap Peas

I still might be waiting for things to happen in my garden, but all the great contributors to the local farmer’s market are more than making up for that by bringing in loads of lovely stuff. Ah, what lovely stuff! It’s the kind of stuff I want to eat all up, bare and raw right out of the bag on the 5 minute ride home.

This week, I found myself with some of the most deliciously sweet asparagus I’ve ever tasted and some wonderfully sweet and crisp sugar snap peas, the first local ones I’ve seen this season. I briefly blanched the asparagus and snap peas in some water I got boiling for pasta, then tossed them with that pasta along with sautéed scallions, lemon, white wine, and just a bit of half and half. The recipe on which I based this dish included a generous dose of bacon, but I –gasp- left it out. I wanted to feature the vegetables and enhance them with the wine and lemon, not hide them under the bacon.

I loved the lemon in this dish, and there was a good dose of it in the form of both juice and grated zest. I like the extra bit of flavor a crisp, light white wine gives, too. I used a Vinho Verde (from Portugal), which had a good balance of lemony tartness and gentle mineral flavor. I almost always use something very inexpensive to cook with. It just so happens that I like to drink most of these cheap bottles with dishes like this as well. If you already know what you like, use that, but if you’re not that into wine, I’d recommend something like the Vinho Verde (they can be less than seven bucks), or a Sauvignon Blanc or unoaked Chardonnay. Since there’s so little wine in this recipe, you could replace it with broth or pasta-cooking water if you’re not into wine at all.

I suppose this is kind of a “pasta primavera” recipe, and you could definitely replace the asparagus and snap peas with just about any other tender spring vegetables you like. I do recommend blanching the vegetables before mixing them with the pasta and other flavors, just so they’re not too hard and crunchy. Since you’ll be boiling the water for pasta anyway, it’s pretty simple to just use that water to blanch the vegetables, too. Really, it’s the method for this dish that’s valuable, since you could add, subtract, multiply and divide as desired, and have a great go-to quick dish for enjoying all the wonderful fresh vegetables out there.

At least that’s my plan. Of course, if you need to add bacon, or sausage, or chicken, or ham, you might not be onto such a bad plan either.

Pasta with Asparagus, Snap Peas and Lemon
Based on a recipe by Molly Stevens in Lunds and Byerly’s Real Food magazine

Water and salt for cooking pasta and vegetables
8 ounces asparagus cut into 2-3 inch pieces
4 ounces sugar snap peas, ends and strings removes, cut in half
½ pound dry pasta (I used fettuccine)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped scallions
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons half and half or heavy cream
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1. Bring a large pot of water (large enough to cook pasta) to a boil. Salt generously. Add the asparagus and sugar snap peas. Cook 2 minutes. Remove the asparagus and snap peas and drain. Set aside. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until tender.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallions and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes or until the scallions are tender, but not yet browning.

3. Add the lemon zest and juice and the wine. Bring to a boil and add the asparagus and snap peas. If the pasta is not yet cooked, remove the pan with the onion mixture from the heat and wait until the pasta is done. Otherwise, proceed to the next step.

4. Drain the pasta, reserving a half cup of pasta cooking water, and add it to the onion mixture, or transfer the pasta directly to the pan from the boiling water. Add the half and half and Parmesan and stir to coat the pasta and vegetables. If the dish seems dry, add some of the reserved pasta cooking water. Serve with additional Parmesan.

Makes 3-4 servings

One year ago: Multigrain Baguette

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Simple Spicy Feta Sauce

Things have been rather simple around here lately. Perhaps too simple. Maybe lazy is really the word I’m looking for. I’ve been settling down from family visits, gearing up for the next ones, exploring new things to do (that aren’t in my kitchen), and recovering from a variety of setbacks. I’m also waiting (not very patiently) for things to come up and/or produce fruits in my garden. 

Luckily, there are local farmers who are way ahead of me, so my recent hankering for Falafel could be sated along with an accompaniment of Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce made with delicious hot-house cucumbers. There was another sauce I wanted to try, however, and my tendency to scarf down all the cucumbers I buy at the farmer’s market before I can use them in any sauce or dish made me think it would be good to have a backup. It’s a very simple, very spicy feta cheese sauce with a touch of yogurt.

There’s a pizza restaurant just up the river that serves some fabulous spicy gyros and a spicy chicken salad that each are dressed with an amazing feta sauce. The sauce is rich and briny from lots of feta cheese and red-orange in color from a generous amount of some kind of hot chile sauce. It’s very spicy but unmistakably feta-y as well. I’ve wanted to reproduce it since the first time I tasted it.

Now, I’m not going to say that I’ve achieved a perfect reproduction in the simple recipe I offer below. I think something is not quite right or is missing or perhaps the differences can be accounted for by my particular brand of feta or chile sauce. At this point, I don’t care. I made a delicious sauce with ingredients I always have or can get easily and can make in just a minute or two in a mini food processor.

This sauce is so simple, one could really do a lot of things to it or with it. I think it could be thinned with extra yogurt or buttermilk to make a salad dressing and that some mint or parsley could be nice flavor additions. I served it with falafel that I formed into small balls before frying and used it as a dipping sauce, but it’s also good with falafel patties in a pita pocket. It could be any other sandwich or burger spread as well.

A huge haul from the farmer’s market this morning has me itching to try lots of new recipes to report on here, so I’m hoping the coming days will have more frequent Messy Apron posts. But, I don’t know. I could really get used to this lazy simple kitchen lifestyle with a pile of fresh vegetables and a bowl or bottle of dipping sauce or dressing.

Spicy Feta Sauce
You could probably use any hot chile sauce you like. I used Sriracha, mostly because it is a thicker sauce. The amount I used makes this quite spicy. Adjust to your liking.

½ cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon Sriracha (or other chile sauce)
2 tablespoon plain yogurt

1. Combine all three ingredients in a miniature food processor. (You could use a larger processor, but the recipe makes a small amount.)  Process until the sauce is mostly smooth, but there are still a few very small feta chunks present. Chill until ready to serve. Keep leftovers refrigerated for a few days.

Makes about ½ cup.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Potato Salad with Chinese Flavors

Before the entire village went global, one used to be able to give complete and definitive credit (or blame) for a dish with an ethnic identity crisis, such as a potato salad with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and bacon, to the American Melting Pot. Now, who knows?  Such a thing could have come from anywhere, but it’s probably safe to say that a dish of Peruvian tubers dressed in a classically French mayonnaise flavored with traditionally Asian ingredients doesn’t have an ancient history. I’m so glad to live in a time when that really doesn’t matter. This potato salad is delicious!

I lifted this recipe from a cookbook by Martin Yan, probably from the early 1990s (or late ‘80s). I’m not sure which book, because I never owned it myself, but just copied a few delicious recipes. This is, I think, the only one of those recipes I’ve made over and over again. I’ve changed a few things, made do when I couldn’t get an ingredient, and tried to make it every summer (like as an accompaniment to foods grilled with this Chinese Style Barbecue Sauce and Marinade).

The original recipe called for bok choy stems, which used to be hard to find, so I replaced them with celery. I’ve made this with green bell peppers when red ones were too expensive, and that works okay, too, although I like the taste of the sweeter red a little more. I also added some Chinese hot mustard to the dressing, which really kicks it up. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any this time around. Not wanting to delay this post, I replaced it with Dijon, which was good, but not the same. I’ve included the hot mustard in the recipe below, and I hope to have a chance to re-test this delicious recipe soon so I can adjust the recipe if what I have here isn’t quite right. I stand by it as an ingredient, however, and you could probably use as much or as little as you like.

The sesame-soy-rice vinegar blend in the dressing is delicious with potatoes and the flavors of the scallions and cilantro serve to enhance that. I’d also like to try this with more cilantro, perhaps some fresh ginger in the dressing, or a handful of chopped garlic chives. Just like any potato salad, classic, creative, or downright ethnically challenged, the bacon just makes it extra-delicious. Like many, many yummy dishes, the bacon doesn’t absolutely have to be there, so you could leave it out and have a vegetarian salad. If you like bacon, however, it’s just going to make you even happier.

While this potato salad has a heavy Asian influence, it’s potato salad first and is a fine accompaniment to many dishes and grilled goodies that you might serve with any other potato salad. I served it with BLT sandwiches. Yes, even more bacon.

Potato Salad with Chinese Flavors
Adapted from Martin Yan

You could leave out the bacon for a vegetarian salad.

I found a note with my old recipe that this dressing is also good on cabbage salads.

1 ½ pound potatoes, preferably thin-skinned boiling potatoes
2 strips thick-cut bacon, or 3 strips thin-cut bacon
½ cup chopped celery
about ½ of a large red bell pepper, chopped, plus a few pepper strips for garnish if desired
2 large scallions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon Chinese hot mustard

1. Scrub the potatoes and place them in a large pot. Cover with cold water by a few inches and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with a knife. (I like to keep the pot covered when boiling potatoes, but you would not have to.) Drain and cool completely.

2. Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain well and set aside.

3. Peel the potatoes and cut them into about 1-inch cubes. Place them in a large bowl. Add the celery, bell pepper, scallions and cilantro and toss together to combine.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, and hot mustard.  Pour over the potato mixture and gently stir to coat. Crumble the cooked bacon and stir in. Garnish with pepper strips if desired. Chill until ready to serve.

Makes about 6 servings. Keep leftovers refrigerated for a few days.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Calzones with Arugula Pesto

Well, I suppose I can’t really say I know all the secrets to making perfect calzones, ones that don’t leak as they bake or don’t get mushy. I can say, however, that just a little while ago, I made some that turned out as well or better than any I’ve made before. Putting aside whether or not that makes me someone who knows what I’m talking about when it comes to folded pizza pockets, I thought I’d tell you what I did this time and why I think it worked.

First of all, my basic method involved starting with Whole Wheat Pizza Crust (all-whitecrust works, too). The crust recipe makes four calzones, each of which makes a meal for one, a meal that is actually a biggish meal for me. I stuffed these with ricotta cheese mixed with a simple pesto made with arugula, parsley and pistachios, which I topped with kalamata olives before folding the crust over it all to tuck it in.

I gave up a long time ago on putting anything too saucy, like, well, sauce, inside my calzones. I make a relatively dry stuffing, usually heavily cheese-based and tuck in a few “toppings”, trying not to fill the dough to bursting. I think keeping things relatively dry keeps the calzones from getting too soggy, but also keeps the potential level of interior steam down so that there is less chance of bursting crust and filling leakage. Similarly, I try not to make my stuffing ingredients greasy. Let’s face it. Once the grease is folded into the crust, it has nowhere else to go.

Another problem I’ve had with recipes involving stuffed yeasted dough is having the dough rise too much and too quickly as it bakes so that it puffs so much it unfolds itself. This is another source of bursting and filling leakage. Clearly, the dough needed a longer rising/relaxing time before hitting the heat. This time I let the calzones sit on the baking tray for 20 minutes before baking. Not a single one of them popped open or leaked in the slightest! I’m sure this is the first time that has ever happened.

I made a batch of Pizza Sauce that we dipped these in to eat them and not only were they sturdy and easy to eat without a knife and fork, but they also happened to be delicious. The arugula pesto I threw together was simple but nutty and just slightly sharp from the arugula when mixed with the ricotta. The olives made it briny and salty, but not mushy and the crust was slightly crisp on the outside and chewy in the interior.

So, there’s my mini treatise on calzones. I’m sure some expert could prove me wrong, but I think most of the above guidelines are good starting points, and I stand by them…and I hope they continue to stand after I make another batch of calzones!

Here are some dough and crust recipes from The Messy Apron archives that I think might work for making calzones, at least with some modifications in size and baking time. (I haven’t tried most of them myself.)

Pizza Crust (all-white flour)
Yeasted Tart Dough with Whole Wheat Flour
Pastry for Empanadas (not yeasted)
Easy Cream Cheese Pastry (not yeasted)

I also think these other pesto recipes would work in the stuffing mixture:

Basic Basil Pesto
Spinach-Chive Pesto

Other cheeses and “toppings” you might add or use:

Homemade Cottage Cheese
other kinds of olives
well-drained pre-cooked Italian sausage
sun-dried tomatoes
cooked or frozen chopped spinach (well-drained)

You get the picture…

Arugula-Pistachio Pesto
This sauce doesn’t have to be used in a calzone. Use it anywhere you might use pesto.

I used salted pistachios. If you use unsalted, you may want to adjust the added salt to taste.

Since this is a relatively small batch of pesto, this might be a good place to use a smaller food processor. It takes a little effort to get all of the ingredients well-processed in a standard sized processor.

¼ cup chopped shelled pistachios (I used salted)
1 cup (loosely-packed) arugula leaves, any tough stems trimmed
½ cup (loosely-packed) parsley leaves and tender stems
pinch coarse salt, or to taste
a few grinds black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin

1. Place the pistachios in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the arugula, parsley, salt and pepper and process to achieve a coarse paste.

2. Through the opening in the top of the processor lid, pour the olive oil in a thin stream while the machine is running, and process until the pesto is smooth. Stop and scrape down the sides of the container as needed. Adjust seasonings if desired.

Makes about ¾ cup.

Calzones with Ricotta and Arugula Pesto
You could use whatever pesto you like in these calzones.

My ricotta cheese was very dry. Be sure to drain it of any excess moisture if yours is moist to avoid a soggy interior.

1 recipe Whole Wheat Pizza Dough or plain Pizza Dough (I used whole wheat), preferably risen overnight and punched down
1 medium clove garlic
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup ricotta cheese, drained of any excess moisture
1 egg, beaten
1 recipe Arugula Pistachio Pesto (see above) or other pesto you like, about ¾ cup
½ cup chopped kalamata olives
1 recipe Pizza Sauce for serving (or other sauce you like)

1. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Roll the portions into balls. Cover and let stand while preparing the filling mixture.

2. Chop the garlic. Sprinkle the salt on the chopped garlic and prepare a garlic-salt paste. Scrape up the garlic-salt paste and place it in a medium-size bowl.

3. Add the ricotta and egg and beat together well to combine. Mix in the Arugula Pistachio Pesto and set aside.

4. Roll each ball of dough into an oval about 1/8 inch thick. Place the dough ovals onto a lined or greased baking sheet.

5. Divide the ricotta filling mixture evenly between the four ovals, spreading it on one half of the oval and leaving at least half an inch around the edges to seal the dough. Evenly divide the olives among the four calzones and place them on top of the ricotta filling.

6. Fold over the empty side of the dough ovals. Try to do more folding than stretching. If the filling doesn’t fit without stretching the dough over it, you may have too much filling. Crimp to seal. Let the calzones stand about 20 minutes.

7. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Bake the calzones at 400 F for about 30 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned and crisp (it will likely soften as they cool). Cool on a wire rack. Serve with your favorite pizza sauce.

Makes 4 calzones, about one large serving each.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cucumber and Radish Salad

I get really excited about cucumbers. They’re one of those vegetables I don’t often buy in the winter or even early spring because the ones shipped in with their weird waxy coatings just don’t measure up to my high flavor expectations. The fresh, local cucumbers (or those I can grow myself – fingers crossed) aren’t usually here until late in the summer, usually too late to enjoy alongside the early-season local radishes in a salad.

Well, it was like Santa Claus came early this year when I found some locally grown hothouse cucumbers just last week. Hooray! Cucumbers! And they were pretty darn delicious, too. I don’t think I even finished putting away the groceries before I cut one up to taste. Thank you Summer Santa!

Since there were also some beautiful and tasty radishes at the farmer’s market, which started up last Saturday (also hooray!), I got to put them together with the cucumbers in this supposedly Japanese-inspired salad. It’s a pretty simple salad and I changed very little from the original recipe this time. I swapped out the sesame seeds for peanuts (because that’s what I had), and I also removed the added salt and poured in some tamari instead. Now, I can see why you might choose the salt over the soy sauce if you want a really perfectly pretty salad. The soy sauce does add some, well, brownness to the dressing, but it tastes so good, I didn’t mind.

The dressing is mostly rice vinegar, which makes the vegetables take on just a bit of a pickled characteristic, especially if you leave yourself some leftovers to savor the next day. Since rice vinegar is milder than grape wine or cider vinegar (or distilled vinegar, which I pretty much only use for cleaning things), I found it to be just right and not overwhelming.

I know there are more cucumbers and radishes out there, so I hope to keep making this refreshing summery salad. I would like try scallions in place of the onions, and maybe even try some pickled ginger. There are a lot of ways this could go, and since there’s a lot of dressing in the recipe, one could just keep adding to the bowl without making more complicated changes. That’s probably what I like most about the arrival of the season of fresh vegetables. They do all the work (or rather the people that grew them did!) and the cook really doesn’t have to do much but sit back and enjoy them. Hooray for early cucumbers!

Cucumber and Radish Salad
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine, June 2006

1 cucumber (or 2 smaller, about 10 ounces)
½ cup thinly sliced sweet onion
8 sliced radishes (about 4 ounces)
½ cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp dark sesame oil (or infused sesame oil)
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons finely chopped peanuts

1. Peel the cucumber(s) if desired. (Mine were very fresh and had tender skin, so I left it on). Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and slice into thin half-circle-shaped slices. Place in a medium to large bowl. Add the sliced onion and radishes to the cucumbers.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, tamari or soy sauce, sesame oil and crushed pepper flakes. Pour over the cucumber mixture and stir to combine. Chill for at least 15 minutes. Stir the salad a few times if you have the time.

3. Just before serving, sprinkle the salad with the peanuts.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Another recipe like this one: Cold Cucumber Soup
Holy cow, I can hardly believe this is the first cucumber salad I’ve posted to The Messy Apron! I’ve got some work to do!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pasta with Onions and Arugula

There are plenty of things to get excited about when spring settles in. Warmer air, longer days, flowers. Mostly what I look forward to, however, are green things. Specifically edible green things. Since arugula is the first of those green things I can grow myself that’s the first thing I get excited about. Well, that and the rhubarb growing by the shed, but today I’m talking about pasta.

This dish is about more than the arugula, though. Most of the flavor and substance of this pasta sauce (for lack of a better word for it) comes from sweet and aromatic caramelized onions and leeks. Taking the time to let a pan of onions brown, or in the case of leeks, practically melt down to a creamy consistency, takes this dish a bit beyond the usual toss-some-fresh-stuff-together-with-noodles dish. And it’s worth that time. I’m a sucker for caramelized onions anyway, and in this dish their flavor and creamy texture, enhanced by, well, cream, was even more delightful than I expected.

The arugula, which is pretty sharply bitter and a little spicy, was a delicious counter-point to the creamy onions. When this dish was ready to serve it didn’t look like it had enough arugula in it. I thought I was going to have to try it again with a double dose, but a few bites revealed that such was not the case. The arugula can carry itself through a dish like this even if the rest of the ingredients aren’t covered with it. Of course, if you’re not a fan of arugula’s strong flavor, you’re not going to be able to hide it in this dish. You could probably replace it with spinach or chard and still get something pretty tasty.

The original recipe for this dish included some additional flavors, such as currants, and some additional gooiness in the form of fresh mozzarella. I left out the currants because they didn’t suit my taste and I left out the mozzarella because my most recent attempt to make some, something I’ve done several times before, went disastrously wrong. But I don’t know where the mozzarella would have fit in this dish. The melty leeks and bit of cream made it rich and luscious enough without it. Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Arugula looks deceptively simple in a bowl, but the deep flavors of the caramelized onions, the creamy texture of the resulting sauce, and the contrast from the peppery arugula are complex and satisfying.

Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Arugula
Based on a recipe in Cooking Light magazine

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts (well-washed)
2 cups thinly sliced yellow onion
¾ teaspoon coarse salt, divided
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup chicken broth (I used reduced sodium), divided
8 ounces uncooked linguine
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
¼ cup heavy cream
2 cups arugula, coarsely chopped if the leaves are large
about 1/8 teaspoon (several grinds from a pepper mill) black pepper

1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet that has a lid. Add the leeks, onions and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently until the onions begin to brown, about 5-8 minutes.

2. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute more. Add ½ cup chicken broth. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Cook 20-30 minutes or until the leeks and onions are very soft and golden brown, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat if it seems that the onions are getting too dark before they soften.

3. Meanwhile, cook the linguine in boiling salted water until just a bit underdone. (The pasta will cook a little more with the sauce later.)

4. Uncover the onion mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes more, or until almost all of the liquid has evaporated.  Stir in the red wine vinegar, heavy cream and remaining salt. Reduce the heat to low and add the cooked linguine, arugula and pepper. Toss to coat the pasta. Keep cooking and stirring until the arugula has wilted.

Makes about 4 servings.

One year ago: Ham and Onion Tart with Rye Crust

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fried Morels Tempura Style

Each of the last few years, I’ve managed to try something new with the lovely, nutty, delicious morel mushrooms I manage to get my hands on. Usually, I try to do something that features them rather than just includes them. One year it was a rustic pie with sour cream and thyme and what has become my favorite easy pastry crust. Last year it was pasta with browned butter. Both of those dishes have relatively simple flavors that allow the unique taste of the mushrooms to be the big deal.

This year, I didn’t mess around. Well, I made a mess, but I didn’t add anything to my morels but a very simple tempura-style batter and a hot bath of frying oil. This resulted in what I now think is the ultimate fried mushroom. The breading turned out extra crisp and the flavor was all morel mushroom. Earthy, nutty, unique and elusive morel mushroom.

I based this recipe on the one I use with squash flowers, but I simplified it by leaving out the egg. I didn’t want any heaviness or extra flavor to hide the delicate mushrooms. Using club soda in the batter makes it light and puffy and crisp. I think you could use beer in place of the club soda, but I would use a crisp, lightly-flavored one so the taste of the beer doesn’t overwhelm the subtle flavor of the morel. Speaking of beer, my husband said these go fabulously alongside a nice cold one.

I think it’s really important to feature the morel as much as possible no matter how you use it. I didn’t even make a dipping sauce for these. If you love morels, they don’t need so much gussying up. Like Christmas and Mardi Gras, they only come once a year. One must capitalize on this seasonal bounty with appropriate gusto! Of course, as caloric as these fried mushrooms are, it’s probably a good thing that the forests and markets aren’t stuffed with morels year round. Something this fabulously delicious would get me into sooooo much trouble.


Batter Fried Morel Mushrooms

If you have a lot of mushrooms, I think you could double the batter recipe.

You could use beer in place of the club soda, but be careful to choose one that does not overwhelm the delicate flavor of the morels.

about 12-15 small morel mushrooms or mushroom halves
canola or vegetable oil for frying
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for sprinkling if desired
scant ½ cup club soda, plus more if needed

1. Clean the mushrooms very well, including the insides. Cut larger mushrooms into halves or quarters. Allow to dry thoroughly.

2. Pour the oil into a large cast iron or other skillet to a depth of about 2 inches. Heat over about medium heat until hot (about 350-375 F). (A dab of batter placed in the oil should sizzle vigorously.)

3. In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the club soda and whisk until smooth. Add more club soda if needed to make a smooth batter that is easy to dip the mushrooms in.

4. Dip or dredge the mushrooms or mushroom halves in the batter to coat and carefully place them in the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan but fry in batches if necessary. Fry until golden brown on one side, just a few minutes. Be extra cautious. I found these to spatter quite a bit. Turn the mushrooms (I use a pair of tongs) over and fry on the other side until browned.

5. Remove from the oil and drain well on paper towels. Sprinkle with additional salt if desired.

Makes about 12-15 appetizer bites or 3-4 servings.          

One year ago: Rye Pie Crust Dough