Hard to believe Thanksgiving is next week. It seems the period between Labor Day and Halloween drags a bit, settling into school and accepting that summer really is over. Then, with a flip of the switch sort of feeling, it's November. Frankly, I love this month for two reasons. First, it's my birth month, and my mom always made the day special. We couldn't afford extravagant gifts, but what she gave was something you can't put a price tag on. She made me feel unbelievably special, like a princess for the day.
It would begin the night before, as she set my stick-straight hair with pink foam rollers before bedtime (picture the sleepover scene from Grease, except a nerdy-looking girl with coke bottle glasses). Then I'd wake and get to decide my birthday dinner. My sister usually complained at my choice, but it was my day, and perhaps I secretly chose something she didn't like to feel like I hand the upperhand—even if for just one day. My dad often made my birthday cakes, and one year created the most amazing looking Garfield and Odie cakes (I said I was a geek folks), complete with chocolate-covered cherry noses.
The second reason I love this month is because it's the start of a warm, celebratory season. Everyone seems to have a bit more pep to their step and sparkle in their eyes. It's a time of wonder, childhood fantasies and to give thanks. And so, if you're still planning your Thanksgiving menus, I'll be posting some recipes sure to make this year's meal is deliciously easy. First up are ricotta pumpkin fritters below. They're my twist on zeppoles, an addictive Italian fried dough.
The wonderful Jen Schall will be posting an excellent tutorial on creaming vs. cutting butter later in the week. Also up are the 411 on mashed potatoes, a no-cook cranberry salsa and you can get started adding the ingredients for my sweet potato, ricotta and leek souffle to your shopping list. Need a foolproof dessert? Swap out apples for the berries in my free form tart and skip the fuss of fluting all those piecrusts.
Golden Ricotta Pumpkin Fritters
Makes about 48 small fritters
Homemade pumpkin puree lends a depth of flavor to this recipe. See the note below for making your own.
These fritters cook up quick and are best served hot, so wait until guests start arriving to make them.>
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
8 ounces ricotta cheese, well drained
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Canola oil, for frying
Confectioner's sugar, for garnish
1. Fill a heavy-bottomed deep saucepan halfway with canola oil. Heat the oil to 375ºF degrees.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Add the ricotta cheese, pumpkin, eggs and vanilla extract to a medium bowl. Beat with a fork until mixed well. Pour over flour mixture and stir until wet and dry ingredients are incorporated, being careful not to overmix.
That's Butler Pure Vanilla Extract—8 ounces for only $10!
I discovered it on the lower east side on my birthday last year.
4. Drop a scant teaspoon of the mixture at a time into the heated oil. Fry until light golden brown, about 30 seconds on each side. Drain on a parchment lined baking sheet.
5. Pile drained fritters on a platter and sift powdered sugar over the top if serving for dessert, or with a ramekin of savory jam.
PUMPKIN PUREE: Cut a small pie pumpkin (also called sugar pumpkins) in half, scoop out the seeds and place cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 400º until flesh is tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 to 40 minutes depending on the size. Let cool completely, then scoop out flesh and add to the work bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Spoon into a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a bowl for 10 minutes to let any excess water drain.