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, and
These fragile, shattery fried leaves are a striking complement to
simply cooked seafoods, eggs, meats, or composed salads; they also make
an intriguing condiment when dropped on hot melted cheese or baked
Wash and dry leaves thoroughly before frying. Even carefully dried
leaves tend to spatter as they hit the hot oil, so be sure to wear an
apron and stand back from the pan as you work. If you cook the leaves a
day or two ahead, you’ll avoid the door of hot oil when you prepare
Stored in an airtight container, fried leaves stay crisp for
several days. Add them to dishes just before serving; as soon as they
touch a liquid or moist food, they quickly go limp. Crisp-fried Leaves
Remove and discard thick stems from 2 ounces spinach, mustard
greens (small leaves work best), watercress, cilantro, mint, or parsley
(flat or curly) leaves. Wash leaves thoroughly. Drain well, then pat
dry. If you like, cut spinach leaves and mustard greens across the
grain 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 oil
to 370[deg.]. Fry greens a handful at a time (stand back, since oil may
splatter). Turn leaves with a slotted spoon until they take on a
brighter green color and are at least partly translucent, 5 to 20
seconds. (The leaves may not go completely translucent in oil but will
become more so as they stand.) If leaves turn a darker green and begin
to scorch, they are overcooked.
Lift leaves with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Serve hot
or at room temperature. Or store airtight at room temperature in a
paper-towel-lined container up to 3 days. Makes about 2 cups. Shrimp
with Crisp and Creamy Mint Water 2 pounds large shrimp (about 16 to a
lb.), peeled and deveined 1-1/2 pounds European-style thinskinned
cucumber, cut in thin slices Mint mayonnaise (recipe follows) 2 cups
crisp-fried mint leaves (directions precede) 8 lemon wedges
In a 5-to 6-quart pan, bring about 3 inches water to boiling. Stir
in shrimp, cover pan, remove from heat, and let stand until opaque in
center (cut to test), 5 to 6 minutes. Drain shrimp and immerse in ice
water 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 mint
leaves and lemon wedges. Serves 8.
Mint mayonnaise. In a blender, combine 1 egg, 1 clove garlic, 1
tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and 1/2 cup lightly
packed fresh mint leaves; whirl until mint is pureed. With blender on
high speed, add 1 cup salad oil in a thin steady stream; whirl until all
oil is incorporated. Add salt to taste. Use, or cover and chill as
long as 2 days. Quail Eggs in Crisp-fried Nest Water 12 to 18 quail
eggs 1 tablespoon sesame seed About 2 cups whole or shredded crisp-fried
leaves (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, 5
minutes; 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 and
nest eggs in the leaves. Sprinkle sesame and salt to taste over eggs
and greens. Eat with fingers, picking up some of the greens with each
egg. Makes 4 to 6 appetizer servings. Melted Cheese with Crisp-fried
Place a small wheel (8 oz.) brie or cambert in a 6- to 7-inch
shallow pan or heatproof dish. Bake, uncovered, in a 350[deg.] oven
just until cheese begins to melt, 12 to 15 minutes.
Set hot cheese on a tray and place alongside in separate baskets or
bowls 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 sprinkle
with fried greens. Makes 12 appetizer servings. Oysters with
Crisp-fried Spinach Salad oil 2 jars (10 oz. each) small oysters,
drained, or 8 soft-shelled crabs (about 3 oz. each), thawed if frozen
All-purpose flour 4 eggs, beaten 12 oyster mushrooms or medium-size
regular mushrooms 16 to 20 crisp-fried whole spinach leaves (directions
precede) Soy-horseradish dressing (recipe follows)
In a 3- to 4-quart pan, heat about 1-1/2 inches salad oil to
375[deg.]. Dip oysters or crab in flour to coat, shake off excess, then
dip in egg (egg doesn’t need to cover each piece completely) and
drain briefly. Put 3 or 4 oysters or 1 or 2 crabs in hot oil at a time
and 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 several
thicknesses of paper towels; keep in a 200[deg.] oven while remaining
Coat mushrooms with flour and shake off excess. Dip mushrooms in
egg, drain, and fry in oil until golden, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Lift out
with a slotted spoon and drain with seafood.
On 4 warmed dinner plates, arrange seafood, mushrooms, and spinach
leaves. Offer dressing to spoon over individual portions. Makes 4
Soy-horseradish dressing. Stir together 1/2 cup wine vinegar, 1/4
cup sugar, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish.
Use, or cover dressing and let stand at room temperature as long as