Monday, August 23, 2010

Cookbooks and Spiders

I could spend hours in the library engrossed in cookbooks, but I don't.  Usually, noisy kids and their clueless parents get on my nerves and send me running to the parking lot with a pile of books in my arms.  If I check out a book more than three times, I probably should go straight to Amazon and buy the darned thing, but I don't do that, either.  Every now and then, I'll feature one of these "library" favorites on the old blogaroonie. 

Let's begin today, shall we?  Here's one that's been on my library card a few times:  Miami Spice by Steven Raichlen. 

If you have any interest in South Florida cuisine, you should consider checking it out - yeah, really checking it out at your local library.  It is a lively departure from the usual cookbook layout and design; it's well-written, informative, and fun to read.  I am not the only one who thinks so.  It has a big gold sticker on the cover proclaiming it the winner of the Julia Child Cookbook Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

Raichlen, a cooking teacher and food writer, provides a look at the melting pot which is Florida cuisine.  He offers 200 recipes, incorporating the exotic flavors of Latin America, Cuba and the Caribbean fused with ingredients native to Florida.  

The reason I got this book again is for the plantain spider recipe.  I made these another time and my son and I went crazy for them.  It uses green plantains, which are as plentiful in Florida as poorly dressed tourists.  Basically, these are fritters that look like spiders after they are cooked.  Here you go, another crispy fried treat - just what we all need (sorry, these are addictive - trust me).

These warranted another swipe of the library card.
Plantain Spiders
(Miami Spice Cookbook)

2 large green plantains
1 piece (1 inch) fresh ginger, peeled
6 cloves garlic, minced
About 2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Peel the plantains as described below and grate on the coarse side of a hand grater or in a food processor fitted with the julienne disk. Cut the ginger into the thinnest possible slivers.
  2. Combine the plantain, ginger, and garlic in a mixing bowl and toss with 2 spoons to mix.
  3. Just before serving, pour oil to a depth of at least 1 inch in a small frying pan or electric skillet, and heat to 350 degrees.
  4. Using 2 spoons or your fingertips, form 1-inch balls of the plantain mixture and lower them into the oil.  Don't pack the plantain shreds too tightly; the fritters should look spiky and lacy.  Fry the spiders, turning with a skimmer or slotted spoon, until golden brown, about 2 minutes total.  Work in several batches, so as not to crowd the pan. 
  5. Transfer the fritters to paper towels to drain.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve at once.
New to the plantain scene?  Not to worry.  Just don't assume they are anything like bananas.  Raichlen provides these tips for how to peel a green one:

With a paring knife, slice off the ends and cut the fruit into 3-inch sections.  Make a lengthwise slit in the skin of each section.  Slide your thumbnails under the slit to pry off the skin.  Some chefs soak the plantains in ice water before skinning.  Others skin the plantains under running water to wash away the milky liquid that sometimes seeps from the skin.  If you do, pat the plantain sections dry with paper towels.

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