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April 3, 2013

Giving asparagus a crunchy 'bake-fried' treatment

Giving asparagus a crunchy 'bake-fried' treatment

What I wanted? A simple recipe — any recipe, any trick, any technique — that would entice my 8-year-old son to embrace broccoli.

What I got? A simple recipe that ended up so good, so crispy, so delicious I no longer cared if he ate the broccoli (he did), because I wanted it all to myself.

And it was pathetically easy. I wanted something that accentuated, rather than masked, the flavor of the broccoli. I wanted something that appealed with both texture and taste. And that meant that as far as technique went, steaming and boiling were right out. We’d be doing some roasting or frying.

For inspiration, I considered the vegetable tempura served at Japanese restaurants. I liked the idea, but not all the fat (not to mention mess, trouble and time) that goes with the frying of it. So my goal was a crispy coated vegetable that cooked up without a lot of oil.

I started by cutting the broccoli into small florets. Small pieces not only cook faster, they also collectively provide more surface area. And more surface area meant more coating and more crunch.

Since I wasn’t frying, my coating would need to be made from dry ingredients (traditional tempura coating is a pancake-like batter), and those ingredients would need some sort of glue if they were to stick to my florets. Eggs whites were an easy choice. I whisked a few (from a carton for ease) in a very large bowl. Then I added my florets and used my hands to toss until thoroughly coated.

Onward to my dry coating. Breadcrumbs were an obvious choice, but I wanted something with more body and more flavor. After several attempts, almond flour (sold in the gluten-free and natural foods sections, or made at home by grinding almonds in the food processor) proved to be the best choice.

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