23 June 2009

The Darings Do Dumplings

Late yes, but so good they deserved the post anyway. A few years ago I decided to have a dumpling making party- I invited a few friends over, we made a few fillings and spent a happy hour sealing wrappers. Then, when it came time to cook the dumplings, we ended up with a mushy on the outside/raw on the inside mess. My friend M- disputes this, and says that only the pork ones came out raw and the rest were fine, but pork crudo dumplings sort of ruined it for me and I decided to leave dumpling making to the pros, until this month's Daring Cooks Challenge at least.

Jen, from Use Real Butter, chose dumplings as last month's challenge and the real challenge was to make the wrappers from scratch. I was nervous at first but her directions were great and the dough came together in no time at all. While the dough was having a rest, I made a pork filling, following Jen's recipe exactly. Make that almost exactly. I thought I had a huge knob of ginger at home but it turned out I had about 2T worth, half what the recipe called for. I hoped that would be all right and pressed on.

I started to roll out the little rounds and realized that it would take me the entire afternoon to roll, stuff and seal all of the dumplings so I called for backup. Zach and I set up an assembly line. He would roll out the little dough knobs and I would stuff and seal. Pretty soon we had about 40 dumplings lined up and ready to go. I put half in the freezer and pan fried the rest for lunch.

While they may not have been quite as pretty as the dumplings you get from restaurants, they were just as, if not more delicious. The filling had the perfect blend of ginger and soy, even though I used less ginger than called for. The crunch of the golden brown crust played perfectly off the soft top of the wrapper and (cooked!) pork filling. This recipe is definitley a keeper.

Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers
Recipe from Jen at Use Real Butter
Makes about 40 dumplings

pork filling: (this makes a bit more than you will need- use the rest as filling for stuffed cabbage or make a dumpling burger or meatloaf out of it)
1 lb (450g) ground pork
4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks green onions, minced
7 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried - rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
1/2 cup (75g) bamboo shoots, minced
2 T (25g) ginger root, minced
3 tbsp (40g) soy sauce
2 tbsp (28g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm water
flour for worksurface

dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste (optional)
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion (optional)
sugar (optional)

Make the filling:
Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two).

Make the dough, Method 1: Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water).

Make the dough, Method 2 (my mom’s instructions): In a large bowl mix flour with 1/4 cup of water and stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. We want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.

Both dough methods: Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking - about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side (see images in post for how to fold pleats). Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float.

To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of napa cabbage leaves or on a well-greased surface in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered for about 6 minutes.

To pan fry (potstickers): Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.

To freeze: Assemble dumplings on a baking sheet so they are not touching. It helps to rub the base of the dumpling in a little flour before setting on the baking sheet for ease of release. Freeze for 20-30 minutes until dumplings are no longer soft. Place in ziploc bag and freeze for up to a couple of months. Prepare per the above instructions, but allow extra time to ensure the filling is thoroughly cooked.

To serve: Serve dumplings or potstickers hot with your choice of dipping sauce combinations.

22 June 2009

A Surprise from the Garden

I am not good with plants. I never have been. In college, I killed a cactus. When we bought out house last fall, I saw the rosebush outside and wondered how long it would last. I decided on the less is more approach to rose care, meaning I ignored it and hoped it would ignore me and not immediately keel over. For the past few weeks, roses all around DC have been in bloom and our little rose plant (I'm not sure I would call its two spindly stalks a bush) yellowed and looked sickly in general. Then this morning, as I was wheeling my bike out on the way to work I saw this gorgeous pink and peach rose. I was so shocked I immediately pulled out the camera thought I should post the picture, even if it's not food related. Have a good Monday-

21 June 2009

Just What the Doctor Ordered

It's been a rough couple of months for me, as my lack of posting may have tipped you off too. I was having a particularly tough week when I logged on to my email and saw that Goldie from Confessions of a Serial Baker sent me a Sweet Lemonade Award. The award is for having a great attitude and while I know my attitude hasn't been the best lately (and I thank all of my friends for putting up with me) this award really means a lot to me and came at a time when I really needed it so- thank you Goldie.

And now, my nominees for the Sweet Lemonade Awards are:

Vera of Baking Obsession. Vera's can-do attitude and beautiful photography make me feel like I could make any of her recipes (and the ones that I have have been fantastic)

Hannah over at Bittersweet wows me with her pictures and cheers me up whatever my mood with her delicious vegan treats.

19 June 2009

Chocolate Chip Cake

This is a little cake I made with as I was testing out cupcakes a few weeks ago. I only have two cupcake pans, so when I filled the pans before I finished the batter, I whipped out a ramekin and decided that a cakelette was in the works. I baked it for a bit longer than the cupcakes and took it out when it had risen over the edge of the ramekin and was a delicious looking buttery golden color. Unfortunately, the center of the cake fell as it was cooling but that just meant I had to cover it up with whipped cream and strawberries. Zach and I shared it out in the garden, as this was before the killer mosquitos took over the yard. Just looking at it again now makes me want another one.

01 June 2009

Turkish Style Baked Eggs

I was reading Chocolate and Zucchini the other week and saw Clotilde's link to The New Vegetarian Column in the UK's Guardian newspaper. I was intrigued as I had read about the column's author, Yotam Ottolenghi, on other blog posts as he is the owner of a delicatessen, in the true meaning of the word, in London. I'm always on the lookout for meals that don't involve meat, and Zach and I love getting Turkish food out, so I eagerly read through Ottolenghi's recent columns looking for things to make.

When I had found this
recipe and announced to the office that I was going to make baked eggs with yogurt and spinach for dinner, my co-worker S- actually started laughing. I will admit that it might sound a bit strange, but if you think about it like a variation on eggs florentine, with the spinach, yogurt instead of hollandaise and a bit of chili oil on top, it starts to sound a lot more normal.

It only took about 10 minutes to put everything together and it should have only taken another 10-15 to bake but I can never tell when baked eggs are done and cooked them for way too long. The finished dish was still really good though, topped with garlicy homemade yogurt, even if the eggs were overcooked. The chili sauce was a revelation though-- as its very similar to an amazing sauce that
Zaytinya, one of our favorite DC restaurants, puts on its manti.

I made a few changes to the original recipe, as I couldn't find arugula and reduced the fat content a bit (per usual) so my version of the recipe is below.

Turkish Style Baked Eggs
Adapted from The New Vegetarian
Serves 2-3 for dinner

1 bunch (300g) fresh spinach
2 t. olive oil
4 eggs
3/4 C (150g) Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
2 T (20)g unsalted butter
1/2 t. sweet paprika
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
6 sage leaves, shredded
salt for topping

- Preheat the oven to 300F (150C). Wash the spinach, remove the stems. Head a big frying pan over medium high heat with the oil. Add the spinach and a pinch of salt. Cook until the spinach is wilted and all of the water has evaporated. If you can, use a spatula to squeeze more water out of the spinach.

- Put the spinach in a small, ovenproof dish and make four wells that go almost to the bottom of the spinach. Break and egg into a custard cup (try to keep the yolk whole) and then pour into a well; repeat with remaining eggs. Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the egg whites set. (you might want to give it a stab with a fork to check doneness as it's very hard to do by sight)

- While the eggs are cooking, mix the yogurt, the crushed garlic and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Leave on the counter till ready to serve.

- Wipe out the pan you used for the spinach. Add the butter and turn on the heat. Cook until the butter stops foaming then add the paprika and red pepper. Cook for 1 minute. Add the sage leaves, cook for another minute and turn off the heat.

- Remove the eggs from the oven when they're done. Fish the garlic out of the yogurt mix, then pour the yogurt on the center of the egg dish. Pour the butter mix over the top and serve immediately.