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Summer Vegetable Tempura Batter Recipe

Tempura is a great way to enjoy Summer's bounty. We have tempuraed just about everything we can think of - carrots, beets, jicama, garlic greens, sea beans, red and yellow peppers, you name it. Everything comes out great -- as long as you stick to a few basic rules:

1. Use iced seltzer water. It helps prevent the batter from absorbing too much oil. You can also use iced beer or ginger ale - for a twist

2. Don't make the batter ahead of time. You may need to add more liquid as you work to keep the batter sufficiently liquid.

3. If you are frying both meats and vegetables, you should cook the vegetables first - as the seafood might impart a flavor to the oil. Additionally, if you have strong flavored vegetables, such as garlic greens, you should fry the milder ones first.

4. Use the right oil at the right temperature. We found rice bran oil to be the best choice. It has a high tolerance for heat, with no burning, and no perceptible flavor of its own. Also, don't let the temperature of the oil fall below 340-degrees. If the oil is not hot enough, the tempura will come out greasy.

This particular tempura recipe uses only rice flower. We like sweet rice flour, but you can also use wheat flour. We found that rice flour is lighter, more versatile , and gluten-free.

Ingredients:
4-6 cups of rice bran oil (for cooking)
2 egg whites
2 cups sweet rice flour (regular rice flour will work, as well)
1 cup iced seltzer water (or beer, is you have some on hand)
salt and pepper to taste
A variety of vegetables and young sprigs of fresh herbs or young leaves. Be creative -- you can tempura just about anything.

Directions:
1. Put oil in deep frier or large, heavy bottomed fry pan and heat to 350-degrees.

2. While oil is heating, in a medium mixing bowl, add flour to egg whites slowly, until egg is absorbed. The mixture should be dry and lumpy.

3. Add seltzer water to four mixture slowly until the batter is smooth and easy to stir. It should be thinner than pancake batter, but thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add salt and pepper.

4. Place the remaining cup of flour in a shallow bowl or plate. Dredge vegetable slices or wedges in a small amount of rice flour, and then dip in tempura batter. Shake off excess batter, and place in hot oil. Cook until golden brown on all sides -- about 4-8 minutes total. (Note that if you have used ginger ale or beer as the liquid, the tempura will brown more quickly.)

Enough to make 1.5 to 2 pounds of vegetables.
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