"In My Kitchen"
“In the past I served these golden spheres with spaghetti squash, which is good and makes a silly- reference to spaghetti and meatballs. But a simple tomato sauce is also good, and that’s what I’ve used here. I have what seems to be an endless supply of frozen tomato puree in my freezer, which works perfectly as a base for a light tomato sauce, or you can also use canned tomatoes to make the sauce. In summer, make the sauce with fresh tomatoes.
The mixture freezes well. You can make it, not really a big deal, freeze it, and pull it out when you need it. In addition to fritters, you could also use this to fill a stuffed pepper or a cabbage leaf, but I must say the browning that comes from a brief fry in olive oil is too delicious to lose.” –Deborah Madison in her 2018 Beard Award–nominated In My Kitchen.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- One 15-ounce can organic diced tomatoes or Italian plum tomatoes, diced
- A few pinches dried oregano or a teaspoon fresh or, in summer, marjoram
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste, or more, to taste
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 thick slices (8 ounces) of stale but not rock-hard country bread
- 1/2 cup milk, or as needed
- 1 glove garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped marjoram or oregano or 1 heaping teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1/2 cup parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup finely diced onion
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
- 1 egg
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Olive oil
- Almond meal or dried bread crumbs, if needed
- Tomato sauce
- Chopped parsley or marjoram for garnish
Make the tomato sauce: heat the oil in a sturdy skillet with the garlic. When you can smell the garlic, add the tomatoes with their juices and cook over a lively heat, smashing them against the pan to break up some of the chunks. Add the herbs and stir in the tomato paste to fortify the sauce. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Make the fritters: cut the crusts off the bread. Put the pieces in a pie plate and pour over the milk. If the bread is on the soft side, use less milk; if it’s hard, use more. I know this is vague, but it’s hard to be more precise since we’re all starting from different places. Better to have it a little too dry than too wet.
While the bread is soaking up the milk, chop the garlic with the marjoram (or oregano) and parsley. Return to the bread now and then and move it around, squeezing the wet pieces over the drier ones. When all the bread is soft, squeeze out the excess milk. Use your hands or a quick turn in a food processor to just break it up into coarse, large, moist crumbs; then turn it into a bowl.
Add the herb-garlic mixture and the onion to the bread along with the ricotta. Parmegiano-Reggiano, and 1 egg. Season the mixture with 1 teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper. Mix everything together—your hands are the best tool—then fry a little in some olive oil and taste it for salt, adding more if it’s needed. If the mixture is too dry to shape, add another egg. If it’s too wet, add almond meal or dried bread crumbs to absorb some of the moisture. You want to be able to shape the batter into spheres or ovals that will both hold together and keep their shape when fried. When you’ve got your dough to a place you like, form it into spheres or ovals, 2 to 3 teaspoons each. As you work, set the pieces on a clean surface.
Fill a cast-iron or nonstick skillet with an inch of olive oil and set it over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, add the morsels, taking care not to crowd them, and cook over medium heat, shuffling the pan frequently so that all the surfaces brown. To serve, spoon a little sauce on each plate, add the herb-laced fritters, and garnish with the additional chopped herbs.
Adapted from In My Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, 2017)