WASHINGTON -- Apart from the occasional lazy weekend morning, your waffle iron is probably more useful as a paperweight than a culinary tool.
That was the case for Daniel Shumski -- until he decided to explore the versatility of his small kitchen appliance in 2010.
"You know, I love my waffle iron and I love waffles, but I wanted the waffle iron to be capable of a lot more than just waffles," says Shumski, a writer and editor whose work has been featured in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, among others.
Shumski made it his mission to discover how many types of foods he could make in his waffle iron, and he published his kitchen adventures on his blog, waffleizer.com. Four years later, he's compiled his recipes into the book "Will It Waffle?"
"We're talking things like waffled quesadillas, waffled falafel, waffled chocolate chip cookies," Shumski says.
In the book, Shumski experiments with foods that were never meant to be prepared with a waffle iron -- or any sort of griddle device, for that matter, such as sweet potato gnocchi, crispy kale, shrimp wontons and the traditional Korean dish bibimbap.
The waffle iron effect on meatballs puts them among Shumski's favorites.
"If you make waffled meatballs, and serve it with spaghetti and marinara sauce, then what you end up with in those meatballs are little nooks and crannies where that marinara sauce can collect. There are sort of repositories for the sauce and it's perfect," he says.
The same goes for the waffled sweet potato gnocchi. "They're like little sauce vehicles, which is really what you're looking for sometimes."
Daniel Shumski makes virtually everything in his waffle iron, including these zucchini-Parmesan flattened fritters. Find the recipe below. (Courtesy 'Will It Waffle')
Over the past four years of using his waffle iron to cook breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between, Shumski has stumbled upon some tasty recipes and unorthodox preparation methods.
If he's having friends over for brunch, his go-to dish to serve is chocolate- stuffed waffle French toast.
"To me, it's a natural, because it comes together so quickly. It's really not any more work than regular French toast, but the results are amazing," Shumski says. "You end up with this melting chocolate in the middle and these nooks and crannies that the butter can melt onto in the top."
If he wants to raise a few eyebrows with dinner guests, he fires up the waffle iron and throws on a filet mignon.
"I do realize that most people are probably not thinking that they should stick filet mignon in their waffle iron, and that is what I did," he says, adding that it works surprisingly well.
"You've got this high heat on both sides so you don't have to worry about flipping the steak, and you get a nice char on the outside and then the inside stays pink. It works beautifully."
And for a quick lunch, a waffled quesadilla is Shumski's default.
"When you talk about what you need to make a quesadilla, the ideal thing is heat from both sides so that it cooks on both sides at the same time, and something that allows the cheese to melt and doesn't take too long. And so really what I just described is the waffle iron."
Shumski's says his book is less about creating the most extreme, unconventional dishes in his waffle iron and more about encouraging home cooks to think outside the (waffle batter) box and try new things.
"To me, the waffle iron now is just another tool. You know, I use the stove and I use the oven too, but I just love knowing that the waffle iron is there if I need it and that I can do so much more than just waffles," Shumski says.
"Someone told me that if it wasn't called the waffle iron, if it was called the food iron, then maybe people would think of it more broadly, and maybe that's the case."
Recipe: Zucchini-Parmesan Flattened Fritters
- 2 cups shredded zucchini (about 2 medium-size zucchini)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Nonstick cooking spray
Place the zucchini in a strainer or colander and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Let it stand for 30 minutes. Rinse well with cold water. Press to remove excess liquid from the zucchini and then blot dry with a clean lint-free towel or paper towels.
Preheat the waffle iron on medium. In a large bowl, whisk the egg and then add the milk and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Whisk well to combine.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Mix well and stir into the large bowl with the egg mixture. Add the zucchini and toss until well combined.
Coat both sides of the waffle iron grid with nonstick spray. Place rounded tablespoons of the zucchini mixture on the waffle iron, leaving space between each scoop for the fritters to spread. Close the lid. Check after three minutes.
Cook until lightly browned and cooked through, and remove from the waffle iron. Repeat steps five and six with remaining batter. Finished fritters can be kept warm in a oven on low. To serve, top the fritters with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan.
- Substitute finely chopped broccoli or shredded carrot for the zucchini. (It's not necessary to soak these.)
- Substitute an equal amount of grated cheddar or Asiago for the Parmesan.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon onion or garlic powder in step four with the salt and pepper.
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