Simple Sides: Fresh Pear Fritters
By Dennis Linden
Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.
Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic -- this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your kids will build memories in all of your hearts forever.
Here’s a great snack or dessert recipe that takes advantage of the fall pear harvest as well as provides your young kitchen helpers with several valuable culinary lessons. Use any favorite variety of pear, just make sure that the fruit is firm-ripe. That is, the pear should not be green-hard and should have a slight give to it when gently squeezed in the palm of the hand. Actually all the pears available when I went shopping for ingredients were not even close to being ripe; the easy fix was sealing them in a large zip-lock plastic bag with an apple. Apples give off ethylene gas that will speed up ripening considerably. It took my pears just two day to ripen enough to use.
Besides learning how to peel, core and dice the pears for a child old enough to practice a few basic knife skills under supervision, the real culinary lesson in the recipe is the use of cinnamon, lemon, ginger and a touch of vanilla to complement the flavor of the pears with these all-natural ingredients. I found this recipe on the Internet, though the original ingredient list called for an additional 1½ cups of sugar!! Why anyone needs to add sugar to fruit is beyond me, yet I constantly find recipes targeted at kids loaded with sugar. The original recipe had sugar mixed into the batter as well as calling for rolling the finished fritters in a sugar-cinnamon mixture. C’mon America, stop fattening up your kids with totally empty calories! I simply cut the sugar out completely, which significantly decreased its calorie count and, to my palate, increased the real fruit flavor as opposed to the real sugar flavor!
If you want to teach your sous chefs how to separate yolks from whites, this recipe does provide a good opportunity, but be prepared with extra eggs on hand to compensate for the learning curve. I use a very convenient 100% Egg Whites Only dairy product that is minimally processed with NO artificial coloring. Egg whites are, here’s a shock, white; so why do most of these products add yellow coloring?
The final stage of this recipe involves hot oil on the stovetop. Even though an ice cream scoop is part of this process, this is a culinary task best left to the supervising adult in the room. Make sure the oil does not get too hot, as the fritters need to cook through thoroughly as well as brown on the outside. And, if you MUST add sweet to this sugarless dish, then let your kitchen helpers mix a bit of cinnamon into a small bowl of Melissa’s Organic Blue Weber Agave Syrup while you are busy scooping batter and frying the fritters.
Pear Fritters with Lemon and Ginger
Yields about 15 fritters
2 small Firm-Ripe Pears, peeled, cored, and finely diced
1 Tablespoon Finely Grated Fresh Ginger
1 Fresh Lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon Grated Lemon Peel (zest)
2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
3 large Egg Whites
1 cup Whole Milk
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1½ cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 cups Canola Oil
Small Ice Cream scoop
What the kids can do:
Prepare the pears, grate the ginger, juice and grate lemon carefully and under supervision.
Combine the pears, ginger, lemon juice and zest, plus 1 tsp. of the cinnamon in a small bowl. Marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks.
In another larger bowl, whisk the milk and vanilla until mixture is slightly frothy, then slowly mix in the flour – the mixture does not have to be completely smooth.
Add in the egg whites, remaining cinnamon and then the pear mixture to the flour bowl. Refrigerate batter for at least one-hour so it can firm up.
What the supervising adult should do:
Supervise the peeling, coring and dicing of the pears based on kids’ age and knife skill. Once batter has been chilled, pour ½ inch of oil into a 10-inch non-stick skillet and heat over medium-high flame.
Using a small ice cream scoop, carefully drop a ball of batter into the hot oil. Add 4 or 5 more to the oil, but do not crowd the pan. Fry until golden-brown, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, turn the fritters over and continue frying until golden-brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and drain briefly.
Serve warm on a platter. Dipping sauce suggestion: Agave Syrup laced with cinnamon!