Tunnel Vision

December 11, 2020

“Be comforted, dear soul! There is always light behind the clouds.”
~ Louisa May Alcott

 

 

Recent news of vaccines on the way has brightened the light at the end of the 2020 tunnel, but we are still in the middle of it, and it can seem pretty dark at times.

Jews around the world are in the middle of celebrating Hanukkah, also called the Festival of Lights. I’m not Jewish, but I find the Hanukkah story a beautiful metaphor for these difficult days: a lamp that held only enough oil to keep it going for one night, but burnt for eight nights, until help, in the form of additional sacred oil, finally arrived. In a sense we are all trying to keep that light in our hearts and spirits going until help, in the form of the vaccine, and its availability to everyone, arrives.

Lately, many evenings, mornings or afternoons, I can feel like whatever keeps me aligned with the light inside is almost depleted. Then a friend will send something that makes me smile or laugh or I will be reminded of someone or something that I love, that lifts my spirits, that reaffirms how fortunate I am, and my inner light shines for one more night.

Many of us have seen our livelihoods reduced or disappear altogether as a result of the pandemic. There is so much need evident for others around us too. It can feel overwhelming.

In addition, we have been separated from each other by necessity for so many months, holiday time only intensifies the need to connect physically; but for the safety of ourselves, our loved ones, our neighbors and the world, we need to maintain our distance and keep that light of patience and hope going for a bit longer.

So the holidays will have to be different this year. It is good for all of us, no matter our faith or belief, to remember times in history when it wasn’t safe for people to be together, for religious reasons or social ones, as they would have wished or as we have become accustomed to doing today. Making adjustments in our expectations for annual traditions is a small price to pay for keeping our fellows safe.

So, in honor of doing things a little differently this year, I will be offering unique recipes for the season. Later this month, I will be a sharing couple of alternative cookies for Santa (one savory!), which I plan to post here at Summer Solstice.

Whether you are celebrating Hanukkah or the idea of some crunchy, not-too-sweet, battered and fried apples as tonight’s comfort food just sounds yummy, I hope you’ll make and enjoy my recipe for Apples Tempura. They are delicious with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. I’ve also included my recipes for Shoyu-Salted Caramel Sauce and Black Sesame Ice Cream, in case you want to go all in with the concept:

 

Apples Tempura
with Shoyu-Salted Caramel Sauce
and Black Sesame Ice Cream

Tender apple slices, fried in tempura batter and dusted with a hint of powdered sugar, these not-too-sweet treats are a nice change from apple pie and much quicker to prepare. They make a fun snack, unique dessert or nice bento box treat. This recipe will serve 6-8, but they can be wrapped and reheated in the oven the next day, if your household is smaller. I’ve used Fuji, Gala and Envy apples for this recipe, but you could use whatever you like to use for pie, or have on hand. Keeping your tempura ingredients super-cold, will make for a better result.

Below the Apples Tempura instructions, I’ve included two simple recipes for Shoyu-Salted Caramel Sauce and Black Sesame Ice Cream, if you would like to dress them up for a special dinner.

For the Apples Tempura you will need:

2 tablespoons honey
3 medium to large apples
1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
Several dashes of ground cinnamon
Sunflower seed oil, for frying (enough to be 1 inch deep in your pan)
1 large egg
1 cup ice-cold sparkling water
Powdered sugar, for dusting

 

Combine the honey with 1 cup of water inside a plastic zip back or medium bowl (your bag or bowl should be big enough to hold your apple slices).

Peel, core and slice apples about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick. Soak the slices in the bowl or bag with the honey water for about 30 seconds (this prevents browning). Drain and pat dry completely.

Put 1 cup of the sifted flour in a small bowl and the remaining 1/2 cup onto a plate. Stir a generous dash or two of cinnamon into the flour on the plate.

Heat the oil to 360° in a small, but deep sauce pan or frying pan (a smaller pan will require less oil). If you don’t want to bother with a thermometer, add a single corn kernel to the oil as you begin to heat it. When the kernel pops, remove it and you are ready to fry.

Make the tempura batter while the oil is heating:

In a medium bowl, beat the egg until the yolk and white are just mixed together.

Stir in the ice-cold sparkling water and mix with the beaten egg.

Add the 1 cup of flour to bowl with egg mixture. Mix with a large fork or chopsticks. Do not overmix – some lumps are OK.

Before dipping your slices into the batter, lightly coat each apple slice in the plate with the cinnamon flour, so that all surfaces are coated (this will help the batter to adhere).

Using chopsticks, a spoon or fork, toss floured slices into batter to lightly but thoroughly coat.

When oil is ready, add battered apple slices slowly, so as not to crowd the pan and/or lower the oil temperature. Fry battered slices, turning a few times, until golden.

Remove to drain on paper towels. Continue frying remaining apple slices.

Keep tempura batter cold in fridge between batches.

Dust fried apples generously with powdered sugar, mixed with a few dashes of cinnamon.

Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream or at room temperature as a snack or bento box treat.

You can also get fancy and serve with one or both of these:

Black Sesame Ice Cream with Shoyu-Salted Caramel Sauce
Black Sesame Ice Cream is a favorite in Japanese Ice Cream shops. This version takes a shortcut by stirring crushed toasted black sesame seeds into prepared vanilla ice cream. 

Shoyu-Salted Caramel Sauce couldn’t be easier to make. Its secret and subtle saltiness comes from a hint of soy sauce. Black sesame seeds can be found in the spice section or bulk bin of your favorite health food store, gourmet store or Asian market.

Black Sesame Ice Cream

6 tablespoons black sesame seeds
1 quart good-quality vanilla ice cream, softened

Toast sesame seeds in a non-stick skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Grind seeds to a powder (but not a paste) using a mortar and pestle, plastic baggy and rolling pin, or clean spice grinder. Stir black sesame powder into softened ice cream.  Return to freezer and freeze until firm. Serve topped with Shoyu-Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe follows).

Shoyu-Salted Caramel Sauce

1/4 cup water
1/2 cup organic sugar
1 teaspoon organic soy sauce

Combine ingredients in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring, and bring to a boil. Let boil two minutes, stirring often. Turn off heat and let cool completely (stir a few more times as mixture cools). Use to top ice cream, sorbet, fruit and cakes.

Makes about 1/4 cup of caramel sauce.

 

2 Responses to “Tunnel Vision”

  1. Jordania

    There is indeed light behind the clouds. Thank you for the thoughtful reminder.

  2. Rick

    Thanks for continuing to share your light, Gina!

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