Steamed Pork Dumplings

IMG_6466textAn oldie but definitely a goodie.  I’ve been making these since I first saw the recipe in Bon Appetit back in the 70′s.  When my kids were small, we used to have a New Year’s get together with friends and I made these every year.  I tend to make them for parties because they make a lot, you can make them ahead, and re-steam them to serve.  For buffet tables, I like to put my electric wok out with the steam basket inserted, and keep it going on low with these dumplings in it.

The making of these is simple, considering the rewards.  The filling has a lot of ingredients but after you do the chopping, all you have to do is mix it together a bit with your hands, like meat loaf.IMG_6450eAfter the filling is mixed, fill potsticker wrappers (found in Asian groceries and some supermarkets) with a little of the mixture (a small cookie scoop makes this a breeze), hold it in the palm of your hand, and bring the wrapper up around the filling with the top open.  I like to tap the completed dumpling on the counter once to flatten the bottom.IMG_6460eIMG_6464After filling all of the dumplings, it’s time to steam them.  I like to use these bamboo steaming baskets sitting  inside my water-filled wok, but you can do it with anything you might have handy that you use for steaming.  Just be sure to spray the basket you are using with cooking spray, because otherwise these things will stick.  I promise you, they will stick.IMG_6454Steam the dumplings over boiling water for about 20 minutes, and immediately remove from the steamer and allow to cool a bit.  I like to serve them with a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, and a tiny bit of rice vinegar as a dip.

Steamed Meat Dumplings (Siu Mai)
1 lb ground pork
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
8 water chestnuts (about 1/2 of 8 oz. Can), diced
3/4 cup chopped canned straw mushrooms, or one can regular mushrooms, chopped
1 green onion, minced
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sherry
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
5 dozen purchased won ton or siu mai wrappers
Combine all ingredients except won ton wrappers in large bowl and blend well.  If using square won ton wrappers, cut corners off with scissors.  Put about 1 teaspoon filling on each wrapper, gather up sides and allow dough to pleat naturally.  Flatten filling slightly with thumb and gently tap bottom on flat surface so dumpling will stand upright.

Arrange dumplings in steamer and steam 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve hot with dip.
makes 5 dozen

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Blackberry Clafoutis

IMG_5659eBehold the clafoutis.  It is so pretty, and easy, and delicious, and best of all, versatile.  It tastes kind of like a thick crepe, and you can put different fruits in it depending on your mood or what you have on hand.IMG_5640ecroppedThis one has blackberries, but I have made it with raspberries, blueberries, and cherries.  I believe that the cherry clafoutis is the classic, but certainly the other fruits are a great substitute.  A mixed berry clafoutis would be really good too.IMG_5656eThe prep for this dish took about 5 minutes, and it bakes for 45 minutes, so you can have this delicious dessert ready in an hour.  It tastes good hot, at room temperature, or cold, and I like it best with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, neither of which I had on hand today, sadly.  But it is totally delicious by itself.

This is the recipe I followed, which I believe is an adaptation of Julia Child’s recipe.  The only variation I made was to use almond milk in place of the dairy milk, something I have been doing more of in baking.  I didn’t really see any difference in the finished dish.IMG_5648e

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Yum Nua

I’m still cooking my way through the Quick & Easy Thai cookbook (see previous entry) by Nancie McDermott.  I still haven’t found anything in this book that I don’t like.IMG_5563etitleI’ve always been a big fan of the beef salad from Thai restaurants.  I’ve made a couple of attempts to reproduce it using other recipes, but this is by far the most accurate rendition, in my mind.  I could barely tell the difference between this and takeout Yum Nua.

Grilled Beef Salad with Chilies and Lime
serves 4-6
1 lb. boneless beef steak, grilled medium rare (I used top sirloin, and I grilled it rare)
1/3 cup chicken broth
3 Tablespoons fish sauce
3 Tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons dried red chili flakes
2 Tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 green onions, thinly sliced
a handful of fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
a handful of fresh mint, chopped
Sliced cucumber, lettuce, and rice, to serve
Thinly slice grilled beef across the grain into bite-sized strips.
Combine chicken broth, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and chili flakes.  Mix.  Add beef.  Add the shallots, green onions, cilantro, and mint and mix. Serve with lettuce and rice.Yu

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Thai Trio

pork w rice and grapefruit salad

A friend (thanks, Pat!) gave me a Thai cookbook, Quick & Easy Thai by Nancie McDermott, for Christmas, and I’ve been reading through it like a novel.  As you do.  And I’ve been marking the recipes I want to try with little post-it strips.  As you do.

I finally got around to going to the Asian grocery and buying a few supplies I needed, and the past two days I’ve tried three dishes from the cookbook that pretty much blew me away with their fresh and bright tastes.

The first thing I made, because the Asian grocery had some pretty, thin-skinned Asian eggplants, was the Roasted Eggplant Salad with Cilantro and Lime.  I ate it for dinner last night, at room temperature.  I finished it off tonight though, and I have to say that even though it was really great yesterday, the chilling and mellowing overnight improved it and it was even better tonight.roasted eggplant saladRoasted Eggplant Salad with Cilantro and Lime
serves 4

1 lb. Asian or globe eggplant
2 Tablespoons thinly sliced shallots
2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons coarsely chopped garlic
3 Tablespoons fish sauce
3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh hot green chilies (I used fresh jalapeños)
2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped roasted, salted peanuts
If you use the Asian eggplant, cut them in half lengthwise.  If you use a globe eggplant, cut it lengthwise into quarters.  Cook these eggplant strips, skin-side down, on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, place all of the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.  Cut the thick strips of eggplant crosswise into 2 inch chunks and add to the bowl.  (If you use globe eggplant, remove the peel first).  Gently toss well to mix the eggplant with the seasonings.  Mound the salad on a small platter, juice and all, and garnish it with a pinch of fresh cilantro leaves.  Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Tonight I made another salad from the same chapter, and it turned out to be kind of a variation on the theme of the eggplant salad–the dressing was very much the same.  This one may sound a little odd, but I loved it: Pink Grapefruit Salad with Toasted Coconut and Fresh Mint.grapefruit salad

The author goes into detail about the fruit called the pomelo, which is the fruit of choice for this salad.  I have never used it, but the author says that it is quite dry and easy to section.  Once, for a different recipe, I tried sectioning grapefruit, and they are not easy to section–I ended up making a big mess.  So since my HEB produce section did not have pomelos (big shock) I went ahead and bought a jar of already-sectioned grapefruit.  Much more expensive, but in my mind it was well worth the extra money.

Pink Grapefruit Salad with Toasted Coconut and Fresh Mint
serves 4

3 Tablespoons shredded coconut
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 cups bite-sized chunks peeled, sectioned grapefruit
2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped roasted, salted peanuts
1 Tablespoon coarsely chopped shallots (I was out of shallots and I used green onions)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh hot green chilies
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint or cilantro (I used mint)

Toast the shredded coconut in a small, dry skillet over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes, tossing often, until toasted.  Cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar and stir well to dissolve the sugar and form a smooth sauce.  Add the grapefruit, toasted coconut, peanuts, shallots, chilies, and mint, and toss gently to combine.

Finally, I made a dish called Nahm Prik Ohng, or Northern-style Dipping Sauce with Ground Pork and Tomatoes.  Apparently the “dipping sauce” idea comes from the author’s suggestion that you use pork rinds to dip up the dish, but…ew.  She also says it’s okay to serve it over rice, so that’s what I did.  It was delicious, and combined with the grapefruit salad, I thought I was in heaven.  Then I may have finished up the eggplant from yesterday.  I had to test it for y’all and see if it was better the second day, and it was.  You’re welcome.pork and riceNorthern-Style Dipping Sauce with Ground Pork and Tomatoes
serves 4-6

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 Tablespoons chopped shallots (I used green onions)
1 Tablespoon red curry paste (available in Asian groceries and many supermarkets–not mine. )
1/2 pound ground pork
20 cherry tomatoes, coarsely chopped (I used grape tomatoes and left them whole)
1/2 cup water
3 Tablespoons fish sauce
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
In a medium skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium heat and then add the garlic and shallots.  Cook, tossing now and then, 1-2 minutes, until they are shiny and fragrant.  Add the curry paste and cook, mashing and stirring well to soften, about 1 minute longer.

Add the pork and toss well.  Stir in the tomatoes, water, fish sauce, and brown sugar, and bring to a gentle boil.  Cook 5-7 minutes, stirring now and then.  Serve with cucumbers, green beans, cabbage, rice, or pork rinds (ew).

I love this book.  I will be cooking more from it soon.book

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Peanut Butter-Sriracha Toast

peanut butter sriracha toast

Hello, weird sandwich that I didn’t even know I needed in my life.  Hello, wonderfully delicious spicy sandwich that just woke up my mouth.

Peanut butter and jelly?  Never again, not while I have Sriracha.  This baby will make you beg for another one.  From the new (February, 2014) issue of Bon Appetit, a publication that is just a shadow of its former self, but that occasionally makes me remember why I keep subscribing.

Peanut-Butter Sriracha Toast
Spread peanut butter on a slice of toast.  Top with sliced scallion, fresh cilantro leaves, and Sriracha.  Finish with lime juice and flaky sea salt.

I’m off to have another one.sandwich partially eaten

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Pasta e Fagioli Soup (Olive Garden copycat recipe)

PFcompleteI found this recipe a long time ago when copycat recipes were first appearing on the Internet.  I had always enjoyed the soup at the restaurant, and I gave it a try.  It tastes pretty close to the original, makes a ton (unlimited soup, anyone?) and comes together fast and easy.  Seriously, the hardest part about making this is opening all the cans.

Here are the ingredients.ingredients

If you read through the list of ingredients on the recipe, you will see that celery appears there, but not in my picture.  This is not a mistake.  Celery is the food of the devil and I will not have the nasty, smelly, stringy, horrible, crunchy, watery stuff in my house.  But you may add it if you like.

To make the soup, brown the ground beef in a soup pot, add the onions, garlic, and carrot, and sauté until they are softened.  Then add all the other ingredients except the pasta, simmer for an hour, and finally, add the separately-cooked pasta before serving.  It could not be any easier, and it goes down very nicely on a cold, gloomy day like today.

Pasta e Fagioli (a la Olive Garden)
(makes a bunch–about 8 servings)
1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, diced (1 cup)
1 large carrot, julienned (1 cup)
3 stalks celery, chopped (1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can red kidney beans (with liquid)
1 15-ounce can great northern beans (with liquid)
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 12-ounce can V-8 juice
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 lb (1/2 pkg.) ditali pasta

Brown the ground beef in a large saucepan or pot over medium heat. Drain off most of the fat.  Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté for 10 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients, except pasta, and simmer for 1 hour.

About 50 minutes into simmer time, cook the pasta in 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of boiling water over high heat. Cook for 10 minutes or just until pasta is al dente. Drain.  Add the pasta to the large pot of soup. Simmer for 5-10 minutes and serve.PF cooking

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Valentine’s Day Dinner–Salmon with Blackberry Lime Sauce (plus a dessert)

IMG_3821For some reason (maybe the pinkness?) I think this dish would be a fabulous choice for a stay-at-home Valentine’s Day evening with your honey.  And I’m also going to give you a dessert suggestion because…chocolate.

I found fresh blackberries on sale recently and went looking for a sauce to make with them.  I found this one, and oh, is it good.  And over roasted salmon…well, just look at it.  And it tastes that good, too.

Roasted Salmon with Blackberry-Lime Sauce
(serves 2)
12 ounces salmon filet
seasoning (I use salt, pepper, and Monterey Steak Seasoning
2 cups of blackberries, fresh or frozen
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons butter
Zest of one lime
Juice of one lime
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced fine
¼ – ½ teaspoon of chipotle chili powder
Dash of salt and pepper
Combine lime juice, zest, and butter in a small saucepan and heat gently to melt the butter.  Add the honey, chipotle powder, and blackberries.  Stir well and simmer over medium heat for about 7 or 8 minutes, until the blackberries have softened completely.  Place contents of the saucepan in a strainer and force the contents through over a bowl.  You will be left with a little blackberry pulp and all of the seeds.  Return the strained liquid to the saucepan and simmer until the salmon is done.  Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 425°.  Place seasoned salmon, skin side down, on lightly greased baking sheet.  Roast until done to your liking–I usually roast mine for about 15 minutes, but it also depends on the thickness of the filet and your desired degree of doneness.

To serve, divide the salmon into two portions; put a little of the sauce on each plate and lay the salmon on top.  Drizzle with more of the sauce, and sprinkle with fresh rosemary.

And now for that chocolate dessert I promised.  I have been making these for years, and they are yummy.  They are good just the way they are, but I also like spreading a little raspberry jam on top of each one, and topping them with whipped cream and a single raspberry.Little Chocolate Mousse Cakes

Petits Fondants au Chocolat (Little Chocolate Mousse Cakes)
Makes about 24
8 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons brandy
4 eggs
Set racks at the lower and upper thirds of the oven and preheat to 325°. Prepare mini-muffin tins by spraying with cooking spray, then place a small round of waxed paper or parchment paper in the very bottom of each.  (I have skipped this step, because it involves fussy things like measuring and drawing circles on waxed paper and cutting them out, but I have bitterly regretted skipping it, and wound up eating the little cakes out of the molds with a spoon.  Just saying.)
Melt the chocolate over hot water, stirring occasionally, then set it aside
to cool slightly. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a
boil over low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure all the sugar
crystals dissolve. Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the butter.
When it has melted stir in the brandy, then the melted chocolate.
Beat the eggs until they become liquid then whisk them into the chocolate
mixture in a stream.  Be careful not to overmix. Pour the batter into the molds and bake about 35 to 40 minutes.  Cool briefly in the pans then unmold. Cool at room temperature.  To serve, spread raspberry jam on top of each little cake, and top with whipped cream and a raspberry.

I think this menu would be nicely rounded out with some tiny new potatoes, roasted in olive oil, and maybe some lightly sautéed spinach.

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Chicken Stewed in Coconut Milk (Kuku Wa Nazi)

finished dishThis recipe comes from the magazine Saveur, April 20, 2010.  The dish comes from Kenya.  It is a little bit spicy, very slurpy, and easy to make.  I made a few changes to the original recipe, mostly to use items I had on hand.  For example, I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of bone-in–I realize that the bone-in has more flavor, but I had the boneless thighs in the freezer and the dish cooks faster with them, anyway.

the ingredients

the ingredients

Chicken Stewed in Coconut Milk (Kuku Wa Nazi)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 cloves garlic, minced (I only used 2)
4 green or red Thai chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced (I used serranos and did not seed them)
4 plum tomatoes, cored and minced
1 medium red onion, minced (I used a yellow onion)
4 skinless bone-in chicken legs and thighs, separated (I used boneless thighs)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 14-oz. cans coconut milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 cups cooked rice, for serving
finely chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
1. Heat the oil in a 6-qt. pot over medium-high heat.  Add the turmeric, garlic, chiles, tomatoes, and onions and cook, stirring often, until the onions are caramelized, 20-25 minutes.  Add chicken to pot along with lime juice and coconut milk.  Bring mixture to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low; simmer,stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender, about 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
2. To serve, put rice into 4 serving bowls and spoon chicken and sauce over rice.  Garnish with cilantro and season with more black pepper.

chicken has been added to sauce

chicken has been added to sauce

ready to eat
ready to eat

 

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Food Gifts

IMG_2633This year I’m taking the easy way out (if you’re getting one of these gifts, just pretend you didn’t just read that, and imagine me slaving away for days).

Let’s face it–bark is easy to make.  It’s kind of satisfying, too, to chill it and break it up into those nice, irregular, tasty pieces, and it looks pretty packaged up.  Of course, it tastes awesome too, which a food gift ought to do if it possibly can.  So, all  in all, it’s a winner.

This year I’m making three different kinds of chocolate bark: Pecan Bark, which has white chocolate and peanut butter chips and pecans; Oreo Mint Bark, with dark chocolate, white chocolate, and mint oreos; and Chocolate Chipotle Bark, which I wrote about a couple of years ago, here.  To round it out, I made Peanut Butter Bars, which taste uncannily like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and are also dead easy to make.IMG_2729IMG_2725

I can eat a whole pan of these by myself, I think–I’ve never tried, but that’s why I have to give them away.

And so easy.

Peanut Butter Cup Bars
1/2 cup butter
1 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

(Line a 8×8, 9×9, or 7×11 pan with foil for easy removal of bars later.)
Melt 1/2 c. butter on low heat. Remove from heat and stir in confectioner’s sugar. Add peanut butter and graham cracker crumbs, stirring until creamy. Spread mixture into pan, patting down evenly.

In same pot, on low heat, melt butter. Add chocolate chips and stir until chips are nearly melted and very soft. Remove from heat and continue stirring until chocolate is smooth and shiny. Spread over peanut butter layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cut into bars.
Store peanut butter cup bars in refrigerator.

IMG_2664I made the Oreo bark from this site, but I modified it slightly so I will tell you how I did it.

Peppermint Oreo Bark
1/2 cup candy cane bits (available in the baking aisle, and a whole lot easier than crushing candy canes
12 mint chocolate sandwich cookies, chopped (about 1 cup) *
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Melt the dark chocolate and spread it onto the wax paper.  The thickness is up to you–but remember, if it’s too thick it takes more time to set, is harder to break, and makes fewer shards.  Immediately sprinkle with the chopped cookies and press down to make sure all the pieces adhere.  Chill for at least 10 minutes.
Melt white chocolate chips and spread over the dark chocolate/cookie layer.  Immediately sprinkle with the candy cane pieces.  Chill before breaking into irregular pieces.

*I used Trader Joe’s candy cane cookies, but Oreo makes a mint cookie too; it’s green instead of red, though.  If you use the green Oreos, I think I would top them with the little Andes mint pieces, also available on the baking aisle.

Finally, I made Pecan Bark.  This may be the easiest of the three barks, and it doesn’t look as pretty as the others, but take it from me–it is delicious.IMG_2882

Pecan Bark
2 cups chopped pecans
2 tablespoons butter
dash of salt
12 oz white chocolate chips
12 oz peanut butter chips
Toast the pecans in a skillet in the 2 tablespoons of butter and the salt until fragrant.  Allow to cool slightly.  Melt the white chocolate and peanut butter chips together, stirring to combine.  Add the pecans.  Spread on a wax paper lined cookie sheet, and freeze for 20 minutes, or chill in the refrigerator until firm enough to break into pieces.IMG_2868IMG_2869

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One Hour Focaccia

one hour FocacciaI thought I’d put this recipe on the blog, because I keep going back to it and have to search for it every time.  Also, people have asked me for the recipe and…I have to search for it every time.

I have nothing much to say about it, except that it is good, and easy, and you should try it.  The prep takes 20 minutes, the rise takes 20 minutes, and the baking takes 20 minutes.  One hour flat to homemade bread goodness.  You can vary the spices, etc.–I used a sprinkle of garlic powder on top this last time.  I also had more success using that green canister, semi-Parmesan cheese on top, but that is probably because the last time I used real Parmesan, it was pre-grated.  I would like to try it with real Parmesan that has been grated on a micro-grater.

Also, I finally learned to spell “focaccia”.

The recipe is here.

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