Green Bean and Asparagus Tempura with Blood Orange Aioli

Once all my Passover kitchen things were carefully packed away, I started in on all flour-based products really hard. I’m pretty sure that’s why I had a cold the whole week of the holiday: bread withdrawal. (That could totally be a thing, right?)

Somewhere in between matzah and a couple strangely cold days, Spring showed up. The whole city is buzzing with renewed energy and the promise of warmer weather. The best part of all this is the fresh and local produce starting to appear at farmer’s markets and groceries.

This week I combined the two things I was just so excited to have back in my life: fresh greens and flour!

Tempura is something that I love to eat but haven’t ever made. Recently, I’ve started ordering it more often at Japanese restaurants. It’s rarely overly greasy and usually it’s a great balance of flavor, texture, and acid (in the dipping sauce/vinegar) to start a meal off on the right foot.

For this tempura, I wanted to create a dip to pair well with the fresh greens. I’m a sucker for mayonnaise based sauces with fried foods and went with the gorgeous brightness (in taste and color) of the blood orange to provide the acidity that comes alongside a classic tempura dish. You could also use the citrus of your choosing for similar results!

Normally I would be all about making my own aioli/mayo as the base, but in the interest of saving time to focus on making the tempura, I went with ready-made mayonnaise. It’s so easy to add ingredients to it, to quickly kick it up.

The last year has been the first year that I’ve gotten into frying. The one tool that helped me concur my fear of frying? A thermometer. Seriously. Before, there was no way to know when the oil was hot enough and now I have a clear way of being sure.

While eating tons of fried food probably isn’t the way to go, knowing how to fry is a great tool to whip out when you need to add some punch to your weekly menus. The textures you can create in bubbling hot oil just aren’t replicable through other cooking methods.

Tempura is such a unique texture too. This recipe in particular, results in a thin batter coating, but fried at the right temperature and for long enough leaves the vegetable perfectly cooked with an amazingly light and crunchy exterior.

Since it’s usually just me in the kitchen as I put together the blog, I get to do most of the eating. I was a little hesitant about polishing off most of the tempura for lunch, but it was filling and delicious without that heavy, oily feeling you can get after eating a plate of fried food. I’m definitely going to break this recipe out as an appetizer or snack for large groups of people and maybe experiment with cubes of fish or meat too!

Tempura recipe from Saveur’s Website 
Green Bean and Asparagus Tempura with Blood Orange Aioli
Blood Orange Aioli
  • 1 Garlic clove
  • ½ cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp (scant) Blood orange zest
  • 1½ Tbsp Blood orange juice
  • 1 tsp Olive oil
  • Salt to taste
Green Bean and Asparagus Tempura (This recipe makes a lot of batter! I used about a quarter of it for 10 stalks of asparagus and 20 green beans)
  • Asparagus and green beans
  • 1.5-2 quarts Canola or Vegetable Oil
  • ¼ cup Sesame Oil
  • 2 Egg yolks
  • 2 cups Ice cold water + ¼ cup ice
  • 2 cups Flour plus a little extra for dredging (optional) The original recipe calls for cake flour as its low-protein and will help reduce the gluten development. I used AP flour with great results.
  • Salt to finish
Make the Aioli:
  1. In a small food processor, chop up the garlic. (If you don't have a machine to mix this in, you can do it by hand but make sure the garlic is crushed very finely.)
  2. Add the mayo, mustard, zest, and juice to the bowl and blend together until smooth. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and mix it once more. Salt to taste.
  3. Put it in the fridge while you make the tempura and allow the flavors to meld.
Make the Tempura:
  1. Wash and thoroughly dry your vegetables. Trim the ends. For the asparagus, pick uniformly thick stalks so that they will cook evenly. I chose the thinnest ones in the bunch.
  2. Set up a sheet pan lined with paper towels to drain the tempura on after cooking.
  3. Begin to heat up your canola or vegetable oil in a deep heavy-bottomed pan or cast iron pan to 350°.
  4. While the oil is heating, make your batter.
  5. Mix the two egg yolks with the water in a mixing bowl and add ¼ cup of the ice in with the water and egg. Keeping the batter as cold as possible will limit the development of gluten and help make your tempura crispy.*
  6. Mix in the flour - but do not overmix! The original recipe advised using chopsticks to mix the liquid and flour. I used a fork pointed downwards (so as not to beat) and left the batter with visible lumps of flour still in it.
  7. Once your oil is at the right temperature add in the ¼ cup sesame oil. If the temperature drops, wait for it to come back up.
  8. Optional: Place a little bit of flour on a plate for dredging the vegetables in before frying them to help the batter stick better. I found that the flour stuck to my green beans but not to my asparagus. Ultimately, I didn't notice much of a difference between the two.
  9. Working in small batches, dip the vegetables in the batter and then place into the hot oil. Small batches will help keep the oil temperature consistent. Cooking will be quick- about 2-3 minutes. Make sure to turn them over once when in the oil. You can also dip your fingers in the batter and sprinkle the batter over the frying vegetables to add more crunchy texture!
  10. Let the tempura drain and serve immediately with the blood orange aioli for dipping and eating awesomeness!
*You can do other things to help ensure low gluten and extra crispy tempura, like chilling your bowl before mixing the batter and also prepping everything else before making the batter so it won't stand for any length of time allowing gluten to develop.