Fired leaves? A bit outlandish, perhaps, but surprisingly delicious.
Dropped into hot oil, leaves of spinach, mustard, watercress,cilantro, mint, and parsley very quickly turn crisp, translucent, andintensely green. These fragile, shattery fried leaves are a striking complement tosimply cooked seafoods, eggs, meats, or composed salads; they also makean intriguing condiment when dropped on hot melted cheese or bakedpotatoes. Wash and dry leaves thoroughly before frying. Even carefully driedleaves tend to spatter as they hit the hot oil, so be sure to wear anapron and stand back from the pan as you work. If you cook the leaves aday or two ahead, you’ll avoid the door of hot oil when you preparethe meal. Stored in an airtight container, fried leaves stay crisp forseveral days.
Add them to dishes just before serving; as soon as theytouch a liquid or moist food, they quickly go limp. Crisp-fried Leaves Remove and discard thick stems from 2 ounces spinach, mustardgreens (small leaves work best), watercress, cilantro, mint, or parsley(flat or curly) leaves. Wash leaves thoroughly. Drain well, then patdry.
If you like, cut spinach leaves and mustard greens across thegrain into 1/4-inch-wide shreds. Wrap leaves loosely in paper towels and enclose in a plastic bag.Chill at least 1 hour or up to overnight to dry thoroughly. In a wok or deep 3- to 4-quart pan, heat about 2 inches salad oilto 370[deg.
]. Fry greens a handful at a time (stand back, since oil maysplatter). Turn leaves with a slotted spoon until they take on abrighter green color and are at least partly translucent, 5 to 20seconds. (The leaves may not go completely translucent in oil but willbecome more so as they stand.
) If leaves turn a darker green and beginto scorch, they are overcooked. Lift leaves with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Serve hotor at room temperature. Or store airtight at room temperature in apaper-towel-lined container up to 3 days. Makes about 2 cups.
Shrimpwith Crisp and Creamy Mint Water 2 pounds large shrimp (about 16 to alb.), peeled and deveined 1-1/2 pounds European-style thinskinnedcucumber, cut in thin slices Mint mayonnaise (recipe follows) 2 cupscrisp-fried mint leaves (directions precede) 8 lemon wedges In a 5-to 6-quart pan, bring about 3 inches water to boiling. Stirin shrimp, cover pan, remove from heat, and let stand until opaque incenter (cut to test), 5 to 6 minutes. Drain shrimp and immerse in icewater to cool; drain. If made ahead, cover and chill up to overnight. On 4 dinner plates, arrange equal portions of chilled shrimp,sliced cucumber, and mint mayonnaise.
Garnish with the fried mintleaves and lemon wedges. Serves 8. Mint mayonnaise. In a blender, combine 1 egg, 1 clove garlic, 1tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and 1/2 cup lightlypacked fresh mint leaves; whirl until mint is pureed.
With blender onhigh speed, add 1 cup salad oil in a thin steady stream; whirl until alloil is incorporated. Add salt to taste. Use, or cover and chill aslong as 2 days. Quail Eggs in Crisp-fried Nest Water 12 to 18 quaileggs 1 tablespoon sesame seed About 2 cups whole or shredded crisp-friedleaves (directions precede) Salt In a 1- to 2-quart pan, combine about 2 inches water and the eggs.
Bring water to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 5minutes; drain and cover with cold water. Let stand until cool.Carefully peel eggs. If made ahead, cover and chill up to overnight. In a 6-to 8-inch frying pan, cook sesame seed over medium-low heat,shaking pan often, until seed is golden, 4 to 6 minutes.
Dry eggs with a towel. Place fried leaves in a basket or bowl andnest eggs in the leaves. Sprinkle sesame and salt to taste over eggsand greens.
Eat with fingers, picking up some of the greens with eachegg. Makes 4 to 6 appetizer servings. Melted Cheese with Crisp-friedLeaves Place a small wheel (8 oz.) brie or cambert in a 6- to 7-inchshallow pan or heatproof dish. Bake, uncovered, in a 350[deg.] ovenjust until cheese begins to melt, 12 to 15 minutes. Set hot cheese on a tray and place alongside in separate baskets orbowls about 2 cups crisp-fried watercress, mint, parsley, or cilantro(directions precede) and 1 batuette (8 oz.
), thinly sliced and toasted. To eat, spread hot cheese on a toasted baguette round and sprinklewith fried greens. Makes 12 appetizer servings. Oysters withCrisp-fried Spinach Salad oil 2 jars (10 oz. each) small oysters,drained, or 8 soft-shelled crabs (about 3 oz. each), thawed if frozenAll-purpose flour 4 eggs, beaten 12 oyster mushrooms or medium-sizeregular mushrooms 16 to 20 crisp-fried whole spinach leaves (directionsprecede) Soy-horseradish dressing (recipe follows) In a 3- to 4-quart pan, heat about 1-1/2 inches salad oil to375[deg.].
Dip oysters or crab in flour to coat, shake off excess, thendip in egg (egg doesn’t need to cover each piece completely) anddrain briefly. Put 3 or 4 oysters or 1 or 2 crabs in hot oil at a timeand cook, turning once, until golden brown on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes.Lift out and let drain in a single layer on a pan lined with severalthicknesses of paper towels; keep in a 200[deg.] oven while remainingfoods cook. Coat mushrooms with flour and shake off excess. Dip mushrooms inegg, drain, and fry in oil until golden, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Lift outwith a slotted spoon and drain with seafood.
On 4 warmed dinner plates, arrange seafood, mushrooms, and spinachleaves. Offer dressing to spoon over individual portions. Makes 4servings. Soy-horseradish dressing. Stir together 1/2 cup wine vinegar, 1/4cup sugar, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish.Use, or cover dressing and let stand at room temperature as long asovernight.