This spring I’m in the thick of revising the middle of my novel and pulling together the ending of a story that first haunted me during the final year of my MFA. A novel sounds novel until you actually start writing one and aim to see it to its finish.
Since starting the unwieldy project in 2011 (creating two geographical settings and two timeframes is no cake walk, folks), I’ve faced off some feisty demons who’ve clawed at my determination and chowed down on my self-esteem. Who do you think you are trying to make magic with puny sentences? Shouldn’t you be having children by now? You’re selfish to spend so much time alone with characters that don’t even exist.
Those demons hadn’t bothered me when I first started writing in college. I was a different person then with different demons. Part of my undergraduate education was funded by a generous writing scholarship (which was certainly motivational), but by the time I graduated, I’d set aside the solitary life of fiction writing. Writing had been located in a place suffused with bone-deep sorrow, and at 22, I wanted so much to be free of that sorrow and to be open to the vast and complicated world beyond my notebook and pen. There were stories out there I needed to learn before I could write fiction again. For the next ten years I set out to learn them as best as possible.
These days keeping a blog has helped my fiction writing in ways I hadn’t imagined. The consistency of posting short writings every week for an audience lends structure to my fiction writing time. Focusing my blog posts on food creates an immediate thread in blog writing and allows me to share something that brings me and most folks satisfaction: well-made meals and desserts. Along the way I’ve made friends around the world whose blog writing forges community through humor and curiosity and honesty. Thank you for offering an opening into your lives and for indulging me in my food obsessions.
Below you’ll find an easy (the directions look long but are not hard to follow) dessert that brings together lemon and ricotta cheese for fritters that will rock your world. These fritters are best eaten shortly after frying so you can enjoy the crunchy outer layer that gives way to the melt-in-your mouth, lightly sweetened ricotta cheese center. I made a half-batch, but I’m including the recipe for a full batch so that you can make these for your friends and family.
Ricotta Fritters with Lemon Glaze
(adapted from a Sarah Copeland Feast recipe)
Makes 12 fritters
– 2 lemons (the recipe calls for Meyer lemons, but regular lemons were just as lovely.)
– 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
– Vegetable oil for frying
– 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
– Zest of 1 lemon (because of pesticide residue, I highly recommend using organic citrus if zesting.)
– 2 1/2 tsp of fresh lemon juice
– Fine sea salt
– 3/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese (fresh was not available at the supermarket, but the packaged variety was still delicious.)
– 1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
– Generous 2 pinches of raw sugar
– 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet lined with paper towels, a set of tongs, a slotted spoon and a splatter guard near the stove.
2. Zest one lemon and set aside the zest for the batter. Juice the lemons into a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and about 2 1/2 TBS of the lemon juice. Cover with plastic wrap while you make the fritters. Save the leftover lemon juice for another use.
4. In a large, deep frying pan or heavy pan, heat 3 inches of oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 350F on a deep-fry thermometer. Keep hot over a steady low flame, letting it reach about 365F but no higher.
5. In a new medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, zest, and salt.
6. In another bowl, whisk together the ricotta, egg, yolk, sugar, and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture, and whisk to combine.
7. Test the temperature of the oil by spooning a drop or two of the batter into the pan; the oil should sizzle and the batter should brown slowly and evenly and rise to the top.
8. Working in batches of three to four fritters, gently drop 1 TBS of batter into the hot oil at a time (the batter is sticky, so you may need to get your hands “dirty” here), giving each one space to set its shape before adding more. Fry until the batter puffs and is crisp and golden on one side, about 2 minutes. Flip the fritters in the oil with a slotted spoon until golden brown on both sides, another 2 minutes.
9. Transfer fritters to the rack over the baking sheet with a slotted spoon. Repeat until all fritters are fried. Drizzle the warm fritters with the glaze, stack fritters high, and serve warm. Makes 12.