June 14, 2012

Three Compelling Reasons I am Unfit to Breed
(+ Italian Ricotta Fritters)

Let us be clear that there are far more than 3 reasons.  Entire volumes could probably be written.  But at any given time, there are three that top my list.  For your entertainment, and also as a dire warning for those of you who are encouraging me to breed, here are this week’s winners: 

1.   This Morning I Severely Chastised a Shoe

It definitely had it coming.  Don’t feel tempted to pity.  It had been a crap morning.  I’d had very little sleep, and my run had gone miserably, and all I needed was to get to the post office before 10.   But, as usual, I was running about 3 minutes late.  And that’s when the shoe decided to give me a hard time.  I wanted to slip it on without having to undo the elaborate double knot that is inexplicably necessary to keep a shoe on my foot.  But no; although it had come off just fine without untying the night before, it had miraculously shrunk in the night.  Of course, I could have just untied it, but at that point I had already invested so much time in the slip-on option that it seemed like that would be wasteful.  Plus, I wasn’t about to let myself be defeated by a shoe.  It was at this moment that I heard myself hissing in that mom-tone that pours out super-fast and all in one word:

“AreYouSeriouslyDoingThisToMeRightNow?  IDoNotHaveTimeForThis!  I just got you new laces, you INGRATE!” 

I almost never lose my temper.  The shaky mental state which led to this breakdown was a fluke.  But the point is, given the right set of circumstances, I will scream at a shoe for marring my daily timetable.  An inanimate object, incapable of rational thought or action.  Now imagine what I’d do with a child, who theoretically has some amount of critical thinking skills and empathy.  More than a shoe does, anyway.  I shudder to think.

Slightly less important, but nonetheless noteworthy, was the fact that I attempted to imply to my pseudo-child that she owed me good behavior as the result of a gift.  Not only is that clearly bad parenting, but it’s not even effective parenting.  If I ever reach the day when I give up on my moral compass and bribe my child for good behavior, shoelaces aren’t exactly going to cut it.  They weren’t even glittery or fluorescent.  See?  I even suck at bad parenting.

2.     Poorly-Named Child = Possible Serial Killer

On occasion, Mr. Bear and I play the “what would we name our children?” game.  This is by no means a statement of intent: we also do it for theoretical pets, slightly anthropomorphic geological features, and the heron that hangs out in the pond outside our window.   It’s just a way to pass the time and an opportunity to amuse ourselves by coming up with ever more ridiculous “-ayden” variations ($5 to the first person to name their child “Briquayden”).   If you ever needed any proof that I should not breed, let me gift you with the knowledge that the ongoing favorite, first, middle and last, is “Puny Human Belanger.”  Because the delight I imagine I would have each time I raised my voice and invoked the dreaded middle name in order to get something done, so very, very far outweighs the psychological damage I’d be doing to this theoretical child.  Can you imagine it?  “PICK UP THOSE SOCKS, PUNY HUMAN!”  “RUB MY BUNIONS, PUNY HUMAN!”  The fun never ends.

I’m pretty sure, of course, that the mental injury of bearing such a name would inevitably turn any child into a serial killer.  It’s the same reason that the world is going to end in our lifetime - and not with a zombie apocalypse, but with a screaming banshee mob of insurance analysts and cattle ranchers named Brayden.  I can’t do anything about them, but I can at least make sure that you don’t suffer the indignity of being dismembered by someone named “Puny.”  You’re welcome.

3.     That Picture Up There?  That Was My Dinner.

Those are ricotta fritters: glorious little balls of cheese and herbs and prosciutto and whiffs of nutmeg and lemon, rolled in crumbs and fried until so golden-brown that you could cry.  Do you know how long I worked on them?   Three hours.  That’s not to say that the recipe actually should take three hours to make, but the suggested prep time, plus the extra time that a first-time recipe always takes, plus the time I took out to mock Mr. Bear’s inane new video game…it ended up being about three hours.  Which I’m convinced wouldn’t be possible if there were bearlets scampering about the place.

Plus, I imagine that people look down on you if you if you serve your children appetizers for dinner and nothing else, which is nearly a daily occurrence at our house.  I like trying stuff out.  Only rarely does that stuff occur in actual meal form, with side dishes and such.  People frown at the sight of a toddler eating a trough of crab dip for dinner.  Appetizers get no respect as a full meal.   Especially if they’re fried.  Even if they are heavenly.  Well, I don’t have time for that sort of judgment.  After all, it’s going to take me three hours to make up another batch of these.  They’re worth it.


Italian Ricotta Fritters
Adapted from Saveur

Although this recipe is a bit time-consuming, there is nothing particularly difficult about it.  The sauce can easily be made ahead of time, and the only complicated aspect of the fritters is maintaining a consistent oil temperature while frying; I wouldn’t attempt the recipe without a deep-fry thermometer, but no worries: they’re pretty cheap and can usually be found at the grocery store.  The feeling of victory you have the first time you pull a perfectly-fried item from a pot of boiling oil?  Priceless.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil  [ 2 tablespoons ]
Garlic  [ 4 cloves, smashed ]
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes  [ ¼ teaspoon ]
Crushed Tomatoes  [ 1  14-ounce can ]
Basil Leaves  [ 6, torn in half ]
Kosher Salt  [ to taste ]
Freshly-Ground Black Pepper  [ to taste ]

Ricotta  [1 cup ]
Fresh Bread Crumbs  [ 1 cup ]
Pecorino Cheese  [ grated, ½ cup ]
Mozzarella Cheese  [ grated, 1/3 cup ]
Flat-Leaf Parsley  [ finely chopped, 1 teaspoon ]
Lemon Zest  [ grated, ½ teaspoon ]
Freshly Grated Nutmeg  [ 1/8 teaspoon ]
Egg Yolks  [ 3 ]
Prosciutto  [thinly sliced, finely chopped, 4 ounces ]
Kosher Salt  [ to taste ]
Freshly-Ground Black Pepper  [ to taste ]

Flour  [ ¼ cup ]
Eggs  [ 2 ]
Dried Bread Crumbs  [ ½ cup ]
Canola Oil  [ for frying ]

Make the Sauce:
1.   In a Medium pot over Medium-High heat, heat the Olive Oil.

2.   Add Garlic to Olive Oil and cook until golden, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes.  Add Crushed Red Pepper Flakes and cook for 1 minute.

3.   Add Crushed Tomatoes and Basil to pot.  Bring mixture to a boil, then lower heat to Medium and cook until sauce thickens a bit, stirring occasionally, approximately 6-8 minutes.

4.   Add Salt and Pepper to taste; set aside.

Make the Fritter Mixture:
1.   Mix together Ricotta, Fresh Bread Crumbs, Pecorino, Mozzarella, Parsley, Lemon Zest, Nutmeg, Egg Yolks, and Prosciutto.  Add Salt and Pepper to taste.

2.   Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator.  Chill until mixture is firm; this could take from 30 minutes to several hours.

Form and Fry the Fritters:
1.   Set out 3 shallow dishes.  In one, place Flour.  In the second, place Eggs.  In the third, place Dried Bread Crumbs

2.   Whisk Eggs.

3.   Roll fritter mixture into  1 ½-inch balls. 

4.   Roll a single ball in Flour to coat, then in Eggs, and finally in Bread Crumbs.  Set aside.  Repeat with remaining balls.

5.   In a medium to large pot, pour enough Canola Oil that it is at least 2 inches deep.  Clip a deep-fry thermometer to pot.  Over Medium-High heat, heat oil to 350 degrees. 

6.   Gently place a batch of ricotta balls in the oil; the size of the batch is up to you, but be careful not to crowd the pot.  Fry until golden-brown [about 3 minutes ], turning as necessary to maintain even browning.

7.   Remove fritters with a slotted spoon and set on paper towel to absorb any excess oil.

8.   Continue frying until all fritters are finished. 

9.   Re-warm the tomato sauce, if necessary, and serve together.

Makes approximately 20 fritters.

[ Notes:  The original recipe called for ½ teaspoon of 
red pepper flakes in the sauce; I’ve reduced it because my 
puny tastebuds whine at the mere sight of peppers.]


  1. Found you on BlogHerI'm not). (following you) and wanted to check you out as I write a (mostly) humor and food blog, although my current post is very serious. This recipe looks amazing, and BTW, if it's wrong to serve your kids apps for dinner, I don't want to be right (and apparently
    Find me here: http://BakingInATornado.blogspot.com

  2. Hey, Karen! I'm considering having apps for dinner again tonight - it's a problem. :) I checked out your site - it's really cool to find someone who's doing the same sort of thing as me and who started at about the same time. I love that Strawberry Milk Cheesecake you made from Sprinkle Bakes - the sprinkles in the crust are genius. :)