Sweet Sassy Molassy
I’m not going to lie – this recipe is a little banana cakes. But here’s the skinny. Marx Foods, fine food experts and foodie dream, held a contest to turn fregola sarda (a Sicilian treat similar to Israeli couscous) into *gasp* a dessert. So my brain got to working and did a lily pad leaping move from rice pudding to beignets to arancini to a coulis in lieu of marinara. Wait, what? Now factor in that I have to include star anise or saffron or vanilla bean. Or all three. Can it be done?
Fast forward a bit as the hubby and I are biting into the little fried gems that look exactly like Sicilian arancini (fried risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella cheese), but tasted exactly like fried rice pudding. Saffron gilded the pudding yellow, vanilla bean enriched the lovely cream, and fresh blackberries received a spicy kick from red wine studded with star anise. The success was tangible. And tasty. I know you want in, so what are you waiting for?
Sweet Fregola Sarda Arancini with Spiced Blackberry Coulis
1 c. of fregola sarda
2 1/2 c. of heavy cream
1 1/2 c. of whole milk
1 vanilla bean
pinch of saffron
1/2 c. of flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. of bread crumbs
4 tbs. of sugar
oil for frying
powdered sugar for dusting
First make the coulis. Put the allspice, cloves and star anise in a tea ball and put in a saucepot. Add the berries, sugar, and wine, and bring to a simmer, continuing to cook for about 8-10 minutes. Take out the tea ball. Pour the berry mixture into a blender and purée until smooth. Strain out the seeds with a sieve, add the orange blossom water and set aside to cool.
Now for the arancini – add the fregola sarda, milk, cream, saffron and vanilla bean (halved and scraped into the pot) to a pot and bring to a gentle simmer. Let simmer for 40 minutes, or until fregola are tender and the cream has thickened. Fish out the vanilla bean and chill mixture.
While your fregola sarda are still cold, form into 16 small portions – sometimes I take a large bowl and put the risotto inside, and then score it like a pie into 8 slices. I then take each “slice” and split it into two pieces. Voilá – sixteen portions! Wet your hands and form each of the portions into a smooth ball. Place on a cookie sheet lined with a sheet of wax paper. When you’ve rolled all of the arancini, place in the freezer to allow them to solidify a bit.
While the arancini are cooling, break out 3 shallow dishes. Add the flour to one dish. Scramble the egg in the second dish. Place the breadcrumbs and sugar in the third dish. Take the arancini out of the freezer and start an assembly line. First dredge them in the flour, shaking off the excess. Then, plunk them in the egg to wet them all over. Lastly, dredge in the breadcrumbs and place on a clean dish or another cookie sheet lined with wax paper.
Heat a pot of cooking oil to 350° and gently lower a batch of arancini into the hot oil (3 at a time is good). Cook until beautifully golden on the outside, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with coulis for dipping.