Beer-Batter Your Vegetables

If you can believe it, there’s a pretty decent little Italian restaurant here in Zomba. Not, like New York Italian, but Italian-from-Italy-Italian, which means there’s no deep-fried chicken cutlet smothered in mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce and served with spaghetti and called “Chicken Parmesan,” and, alas, no New York-style pizza, but which means that all the pasta is fresh.

One of my favorite things to get there is an appetizer listed as fritto misto–battered and fried mixed vegetables; whatever’s in season–they’ve had green beans, carrots, zucchini, onion rings, eggplant, and okra. They serve it with several dipping sauces, including a sweet ketchup-like “tomato sauce,” a sort of chili-mayonnaise, and a very spicy sauce that I can’t resist tasting just so I can suffer a little.

The other night I was staring down several zucchini that I wasn’t sure what to do with, and I decided to try making a little fritto misto of my own. I found a great beer batter recipe online, and tried it on onion rings and spears of zucchini. It was very, very tasty; very light and crispy, owing to the baking powder and the bubbly beer.

So here’s how to make your own, with whatever vegetables you please.

You’ll need:

  • several cups of vegetables, cut into small spears, sticks, or, in the case of onions, rings, tossed with one tablespoon or so of flour

Mix together–it’s OK if it’s lumpy:

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup very cold beer

Meanwhile, heat some oil in a pot suitable for frying over medium-high heat. In the US, I use grapeseed or coconut oil for frying. Here, I use what I can find, which was, I think, sunflower oil this time. Not ideal, but it works fine. You want the oil to be deep enough to keep things sizzling but not so deep that they’re floating.

Dip each vegetable piece individually in the beer batter and place in heated oil, turning as necessary (use metal tongs) until all sides are golden. Drain on paper towels, and serve with your favorite dips.

(Why not try Sriracha-Lime Mayo, or a simple dip of equal parts rice vinegar and soy sauce with a few dashes of sesame oil and a squeeze of lime?)