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Superbowl chaat 

Vegetable pakoras

I know little about the upcoming football showdown (it's in Miami, correct?), and frankly, I don't care. What's important is the need for superior snacks for a marathon session in front of the television. Movie-awards buffs will need similar sustenance just a few weeks later for the Academy Awards.

For inspiration, I turn to India and South Asia, where cricket matches last for days and the only thing that sustains weary spectators is a nonstop supply of "chaat" -- savory snacks.

Wave "sayonara" to the chip-n-dip combo and say hello to pakoras, deep-fried veggie fritters made from a highly spiced, chickpea-flour batter. And don't worry, the "dip" stays, but in this case, it's a refreshing, herby-green chutney that will do touchdowns on your tongue.

Invite your guests during the pre-game blab-fest and enlist a few to prep and fry, which will take about an hour. Make enough for kickoff, and then during halftime, fire up the oil again for another batch. I promise they'll go fast.

And yes, pakoras go great with beer.

Vegetable pakoras

Adapted from Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian

Vegetarian Cooking, by Yamuna Devi, with help from Marthannah Stevens of Boston

Batter:

2 cups chickpea flour (also known as besan or gram flour)

1 teaspoon baking powder (use if you like a puffier result)

3/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon coriander

1/8 teaspoon asafetida (available at Southeast Asian groceries)

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (optional)

Approximately 1 1/2 cups cold water

1 quart vegetable oil

Veggie options: Rounds of zucchini or sweet potatoes, bell pepper rectangles, eggplant rounds (small, thinner eggplants), cauliflower florets, spinach leaves

With a rubber spatula, mix all batter ingredients, except for the water, to combine. Add water gradually, mixing well after each addition, and continue until batter is the consistency of pancake batter. Let rest for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, either prep vegetables or make green chutney.

Heat oil in a heavy, deep pot or a wok until temperature reaches 335 degrees. Alternatively, test oil with a spoonful of batter, which bubbles in response when ready.

Zucchini, eggplant and bell pepper require a medium-consistency batter. More delicate items such as spinach leaves require a thinner batter. For a mixed order, prepare the heavy-batter items first, then water down batter as needed for more delicate pieces.

Dip veggies into batter, completely coating surface. With a pair of tongs, place into hot oil and let cook until medium golden brown. Turn with tongs to brown on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to paper towels.

Eat while pakoras are still warm and serve with chutney.

Green chutney:

1 large handful chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1 small handful chopped and stemmed mint leaves

1/2 inch gingerroot, peeled and finely chopped

1 or 2 cloves chopped garlic

1 plum tomato

1 small green chili, seeded and diced

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and well combined. Add salt to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O'Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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