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August 4, 2021
Thinking Outside the Fry Basket

Turn your summer produce into fritters, your stone fruit into a fritto misto, and your cactus paddles into milanese.

During the steamy days of August, when a lot of stone fruits and green vegetables are at their finest, there’s always a bit of a temptation to eat everything in its rawest form. The juicy tomato sandwiches and crunchy cucumbers beckon. But I’m here to make the case that the best meals of August aren’t comprised of raw things. They’re composed of fried things—hot weather be damned.

Take, for instance, the New England delicacy of fried clams sitting on a nest of French fries, eaten next to the ocean. Or the lovingly folded batch of beef-filled epok epok taken to a park picnic. Or the elegant platter of ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms that have been gently rolled around in a one-to-one mix of seltzer and flour, then fried just until they turn a warm blond color. Now that’s summer food.

Not only is this category of food a foolproof way to make yourself feel like you’re on vacation (for real, try it)—it’s also a way to cook a meal (or snack) quickly, without any lengthy stewing or roasting. It’s simple to set up, especially in a heavy Dutch oven with tall sides that will help avoid any spilling, and especially if you have a digital thermometer to tell you when the oil’s hot enough. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can take a clever trick from Christian Reynoso, and drop a tiny pinch of flour into the oil. (When it bubbles, your oil is ready to go.)

Once you’ve fried a plate of chicken livers, zucchini fritters, or cactus paddles, the only thing standing between you and dinner is potentially adding a flash of fresh acidity to the spread. This could be a slaw, a few big handfuls of dressed greens, or a cherry tomato salsa. You can even reach for the jar of pickled green beans in the refrigerator. Don’t overthink it—the beauty of summer frying is in its underrated simplicity. —Anna Hezel