Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pot Stickers

 chicken and vegetable pot stickers

There are variations on what we westerners call "pot stickers," but the one I know best is the Chinese Jiǎozi, which you can find at any swank or dive Chinese restaurant in the U.S. I love this dish, and I now love making it.

Read more about pot stickers here: Jiǎozi

The basics: ground meat, vegetables and seasoning wrapped in a thin dough, then fried or steamed. So, dumplings. I ignored the "ground" part and managed to make some excellent pot stickers.

1 lb chicken
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, shredded or grated
2 cups chopped cabbage (green or red)
2 tsp grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, pressed or diced small
1Tbs seseame chili oil
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup cooking oil (I used canola)
1 egg, beaten
1 package wonton wrappers (You can use spring roll wrappers, cut in fourths)
sauce: equal parts soy sauce and rice vinegar

This makes 30+ pot stickers, and while it's not a quick dish, it's easy enough and lots of fun. Your first few dumplings may be a little sloppy (depending on your fine motor skills) but you'll get the hang of it and they'll get more consistent. Most importantly, they'll taste great.

Make the filling:
1. Marinate small, skinless, boneless chicken pieces (I used breast tenders) for an hour in wine, oils, garlic, ginger, yellow onion and a little salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, chop cabbage, green onion, shred/grate carrot and mix it together in a bowl.
3. Cook chicken in marinade on top of the stove in a skillet with a lid. I turn up the heat to get it bubbling, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, turning once or twice. Essentially, the chicken will be stewed so you can break it apart easily with a fork and knife after cooking.
4. After cooking, put chicken and juice in a large bowl and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
5. Add chopped veggies to the chicken and stir, coating everything with the juice.
6. Cover and refrigerate.

Build the dumplings: (note: this step is best done to music, preferably with a friend)
1. Beat an egg in a small dish.
2. Put wrappers on one dinner plate and have another one handy for the finished (wrapped) dumplings.
3. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of the wrapper, diagonally.
4. Take your fingertips and apply egg along all four edges of the wrapper.
5. Fold the wrapper diagonally over the filling, making a triangle, and pinch the edges shut. If you have excess dough, you can fold the triangle point on itself, making it more compact.
6. Do it again 35 times.

Cook the dumplings:
You can boil, steam or deep-fry these. I chose to steam them because they end up a little crispy without being drenched in oil. To my shame, I used a non-stick skillet for fear of tearing the dumplings, and I winged it. Here's the method I used:
Add equal parts canola oil and water to skillet (about 2 Tbs each per 5-6 dumplings), heat to med-high, then place dumplings in and cover. Let steam for a minute, flip, steam another minute, and then remove lid and finish browning as water evaporates. Remove to plate, add a little more water and oil, and repeat.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Food Books

The other day, I received an unexpected treasure in the mail: a box of great food/cook books, all with copyrights dating from 1960-1964. My wonderful Auntie M sent them to me, and I'm so, so grateful. The one I'm diving into first is "The I Hate To Cook Book" by Peg Bracken (©1960 by Peg Bracken. Harcourt, Brace & Company).

What an amazing writer. I have yet to try a recipe because I'm reading the book for her wit. She's ahead of her time and funny as hell. And while I love to cook, I may not have 50 years ago.

A quote from her introduction:

"Some women, it is said, like to cook. 
 This book is not for them.
 This book is for those of us who hate to, who have learned, through hard experience, that some activities become no less painful through repetition: childbearing, paying taxes, cooking. This book is for those of us who want to fold our big dishwater hands around a dry martini instead of a wet flounder."

Read more about her here: Peg Bracken Bio 

(note for cartoon trivia geeks: she has a famous son-in-law who created a very famous cartoon. Her husband's name was "Homer.")

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dinner on the Grill

Grilled chicken breasts, grilled vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette, fingerling potatoes with olive oil and rosemary

I marinated the chicken breasts for an hour in red wine, olive oil, garlic, tarragon, chives, basil, salt and pepper. Cook 3-4 minutes on direct heat on each side, then move away from hottest coals, cover and cook for 10-12 more minutes. Cooking time varies depending on how hot your grill is and the size of the chicken breasts.

 Veggies on the grill - should have used a red bell pepper (for color)

The vegetables were the star of this dinner, though. One of my favorite flavors is slightly charred broccoli florets doused in balsamic vinaigrette. They're still crunchy, and balsamic vinegar is a perfect complement. Same goes for the bell peppers, zucchini and yellow squash. Put rinsed and chopped vegetables into a bowl and add salt and pepper. Add dressing (1part balsamic vinegar to 2 parts olive oil and a squirt or 2 of any mustard) and toss before grilling. They don't need much time on the grill -- maybe 3 minutes each side over the hottest coals -- and they are good at room temperature, so you can cook them first, then throw them back in the bowl with the dressing and toss again.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Mom's Tabbouleh

To this day, my mom's tabbouleh is the best I've ever had. So, to honor my wonderful mother, I made it for Mother's Day.

This is another easy, 1-hour dish, packed with whole ingredients, lots of nutrition and great flavors. 

1 cup bulghur  
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 - 2 cups minced parsley
1/2 cup minced mint leaves
1/3 cup minced onion
1 or 2  tomatoes, chopped
 (or 12 grape tomatoes, halved)
Optional additions:
chopped radishes
chopped cucumber

In a small bowl combine bulghur & hot water. Cover with plate. Let sit 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile make dressing in a small measuring pitcher or bowl:
oil, lemon juice, allspice, garlic, salt, pepper and start chopping parsley and all the rest.

Combine bulghur and remaining ingredients in large bowl. Mix.
Stir dressing and drizzle over bulghur mixture, stirring to coat.
Refrigerate until 1/2 hour before serving.

Serve with Romaine scoops and/or pita bread.

Thanks, Mom!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Braised Pork Tenderloin


I made braised pork tenderloin last night. It's one of my default meat meals because it's easy to cook and hard to screw up. Pork tenderloin is, well, tender, even if you cook it a little too long (as I did last night). You can treat it like a red meat (in red wine and rosemary, for example), or you can season it with restraint, using just white wine and tarragon. It always works.

This time, I coated the pork tenderloin in olive oil, a little salt, pepper and Penzeys Bouquet Garni (a great seasoning resource). I then heated up diced onions in olive oil for a few minutes in a large skillet on low-med heat added the pork, turned up the heat to med-high to brown, turned over the pork and continued to brown (just a few minutes each side). Next I added about 1/3 cup red wine, 2 cloves garlic (crushed or diced), covered and reduced heat to simmer for about 35 minutes. Cooking time will depend upon size of tenderloin, but 30-40 minutes usually covers it.

Remove cover, transfer pork to plate, and cut into medallions while turning up heat in pan to cook down sauce. After 2-3 minutes, add medallions back to pan and coat with sauce for 1 minute. Turn off heat. Great with rice or potatoes and something green.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hummus Shorcut

Hummus isn't complicated to begin with, but I've discovered a shortcut that serves my purposes so well that I almost never make it from scratch. I don't usually buy it from grocery store deli sections because it can be so expensive, and I'm almost always disappointed with how it's seasoned (too much tahini, not enough lemon, fake garlic). I also don't own a food processor (something I'll remedy, one day), so making it from scratch is actually more expensive and labor-intensive than using my shortcut. That said, I have made some really good, lumpy hummus using a potato masher.

There exists a canned hummus that you can season to your liking. It contains chick peas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans), tahini and salt. You get to add lemon, garlic, olive oil, salt, paprika. As much or as little as you want. There is more than one brand, and it usually costs about $1- $1.50 for a 12 oz. can. It's perfect. The work has been done, and all you have to do is season it.

Where do you find it? I first found it at a great little grocery store in South St. Louis. If you have a Greek or Middle Eastern market near you, you can almost surely find it there. I've also begun seeing it in major grocery stores, in aisles marked "ethnic" or "international."

I like a lot of lemon in my hummus, so I add juice from a whole, good lemon, 2 cloves raw garlic, crushed, and salt and pepper to taste. Then I drizzle olive oil and shake a little paprika over the top. The whole thing costs under $2.