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Fried Figs and Capers with Crunchy Lentils

Fried Figs and Capers

Fried figs and capers is an example of piccolo fritto, a little plate of fried snacks often served with an apertivo in Italy. The “little fried” bites may consist of almost anything you like. I chose figs because they are seasonal and are unexpected on a plate of fried things. I paired them with capers because capers accent the sweet figs so well. The crunchy roasted lentils add a great bit of texture and make a wonderful snack all on their own too.

Fried Figs and Capers with Crunchy Lentils

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Fried Figs and Capers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked lentils (black, green or “French”)
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • pinch kosher salt (or more as needed)
  • pinch freshly cracked black pepper (or more as needed)
  • peanut oil (as needed depending on pan)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup semolina
  • 12 ripe figs (halved or quarted into bite size wedges)
  • ¼ cup capers (well rinsed and very dry)

Directions

Make the crunchy lentils: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the cooked lentils into a medium bowl and toss them with oil, garlic powder, onions powder, and a pinch of salt. Spread them out in as close to a single layer as possible on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place them in the heated oven and let them roast 25 to 30 minutes, shaking and stirring them every 8 or 10 minutes to assure even cooking. Let them get quite browned and crunchy, but not burned. Use your judgment on total cooking time.

Remove from oven and slide the parchment off the sheet and onto the counter to cool. Try and keep the lentils in place during this transfer. Once cool, they may be stored covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.

To fry: Heat 2 to 3‑inches of peanut oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat until temperature reaches 365 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Meanwhile, pour buttermilk into a wide shallow bowl; add a pinch of salt and set aside. Combine flour and semolina in a separate wide shallow bowl; add a pinch of black pepper and set aside. Line 1 large baking sheet with parchment paper and another with paper towels and set aside. Use a slotted spoon to dip fig wedges into the buttermilk, then transfer the wet fig to the flour mixture. Do not let the spoon touch the flour. Using just one hand roll the fig edges in the flour mixture; coating it on all sides. Using the same hand lift out the breaded fig, tapping it on the edge of the bowl to remove excess flour; transfer to the parchment lined baking sheet. Note that you will have one clean hand. Follow this breading procedure, keeping one hand clean throughout, until all the figs are breaded.

Working with a just a few at a time, fry the breaded figs in the hot oil without crowding. Fry undisturbed, until a pale golden crust sets, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, very gently turn any pieces that won’t otherwise brown on the top, but don’t disturb them too much as the crisp breading is fragile. Once golden, lift out the pieces with tongs or a mesh skimmer, letting the oil drip back into the pan for a moment, then set gently set on the paper towel lined baking sheet to drain. Repeat with remaining figs.

While the oil is still hot place the capers into a long handled, heat-proof fine mesh sieve. Place the sieve in the oil taking care that the capers are submerged fully, but the sieve handle hangs over the edge of the pan and sits securely on its own. Let the capers become quite crisp, about 2 minutes. Then, using an oven mitt if necessary, lift the sieve up to let the oil drip off, then dump the fried capers onto the paper towel lined baking sheet with the figs.

To serve: Scatter the crunchy lentils onto a serving plate, top with figs and capers. Serve communally with forks and napkins, while still hot.