In case you haven’t noticed, a plague of locusts has descended on the Middle East, affecting Egypt and southern Israel, mostly. (Israel is also plagued by head lice—ask any mom whose kid comes back with a head full and needs to go running for the Crisco—yeah yeah, don’t believe me, but it works the best and contains no harsh chemicals…Check www.licequeen.com for more info on THAT particular plague. Of course, that also begs the question of why two plagues out of ten have descended upon the Holy Land.)
As Gilda Radner would say, “Nevermind.”
But all is not hopeless. While the locusts feast on the crops, there is no reason Israelis can’t feast on the locusts!
As food prices go through the roof and there are starving people who need protein all over planet Earth, I offer some locusty suggestions for Israeli entrepreneurs, chefs and home cooks—harvest the locusts as quickly as you can—and before they get contaminated by the insecticides the Israelis are shpritzing everywhere.
They say the ones that landed are kosher and pareve, but check with your local rabbi before you ingest. If they say Ok, you can feed the hungry for very little money, flash-freeze boiled and cleaned locusts by the pound, in big plastic bags with zipper locks, like they do with chicken parts or—you shouldn’t know from it—shrimp. Find the right mass recipes, and market to Costco and BJ’s to create a food trend that’s high in protein, low in fat, and supposedly tastes like—you guessed it—chicken. The Midrash in Shemot Rabba suggests pickling them, but there is so much more you can do. Use logic. If it tastes like chicken, treat it like chicken, and go even further—if you dare. As a veteran of the ABC Network’s The Taste and The Chew, you know I can’t let a chance to offer recipes like this pass me by.
(I made a jalepeno salt and pepper luckshen kugel with caramelized pear—tip o’ the toque to Chef Diane DiMeo—on The Taste, and meatloaf with mashed potato roulade with onions, mushrooms and Croatian Ajvar on The Chew—thank you Mario Batali! My Bad on The Chew—getting wrong info and pronunciation on the ajvar… and of course there was no bacon, not even Facon, in my meatloaf, either. Boo hoo NOT—I had a ball and a blast on both shows and a much needed hilarious time away from real life.)
So if you want to treat locusts like chicken, clean them well, then boil them in a veggie broth, take what you need for the dish and freeze the rest, so you have them on hand for other recipes.
Use your favorite Southern Fried Chicken batter and fry them in the (joke alert) aforementioned leftover Crisco from the lice plague. (Better still—use olive oil.) For French-fried locusts, bread them with cornflake batter or panko and deep fry them instead of potatoes for a side dish. Or marinate them in your favorite bourbon-based barbeque marinade and put them on the grill. Serve as you would Buffalo wings or any style chicken wings, on tacos with shredded lettuce, on burger buns or as finger foods.
You can make a creamy, corny locust soup by sautéing the locusts in onions and garlic, with salt to taste and adding them to a pot filled with one can of creamed corn in prepared cream of mushroom soup. Garnish with cilantro and baby corn.
Locusts Orientale: Make locust tempura, and serve it in a bento box with sushi, sashimi and other Japanese treats. Prefer Chinese? Get out the wok, and stir fry some pre-boiled locusts with broccoli, onions, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts in brown sauce, served over white or brown rice.
If you have a smoker, smoke some of those bugs and have them ready to serve piping hot and crisply fried with scrambled eggs and homefries…a perfect breakfast or brunch dish. Toast locusts in a buttery sweet walnut dressing and toss them into salads. And for cold nights, don’t forget the locust stew, made with lots of onions, parsnips, turnips, carrots and dill, tomato sauce and lots of chunky potatoes. You can also toss them into your favorite lentil soup.
And finally, for dessert: Using recipes you have used on other foods, you can create locust baklava, candied locusts, chocolate covered locusts, and sweet baked locusts served on a bed of sponge cake soaked in rum, droozled with tangy strawberry sauce and milk chocolate, topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with bits of candied orange rind and a soupcon of coffee powder. That should kill those locusts off for good.
By Jeanette Friedman