May 31, 2008
I had bought some wonton wrappers on an impulse a few weeks ago and they had been silently mocking me from my refrigerator ever since. I had done my recipe research and decided that pork pot stickers – which I had never made before – were just the thing I needed. So when I set out for my errands yesterday, I sought out ground pork, cabbage, green onions, and fresh ginger. Ground pork was on the list, though perhaps not in the cards. Two grocery stores later (granted one was East Nashville’s Turnip Truck, a natural grocery) and I was left without ground pork. Now I live in Nashville – the pig is not exactly an alien creature down here – so clearly I shop at the wrong grocery stores.
Back at home and considering if it was worth the gas to go to a third grocery store, I remembered the frozen shrimp in my freezer. Suddenly the idea of shrimp pot stickers sounded great and I set out to find a recipe that would not require another trip to the grocery store. I found a recipe that would work from that doyenne of Asian cooking – Martha Stewart. Now I readily admit that this recipe was one where I left out or modified many ingredients I didn’t have, but in the end the filling tasted great. Perhaps it would have been even better if I had left in the cilantro (I’m not a big fan of cilantro, so I doubt it); if I had used real chili oil (olive oil and a pinch of chili powder worked fine); or if I had used a shallot (I used minced onion and with a bit of garlic and no one was the wiser).
I also realized I had stupidly bought rectangular wonton wrappers all those weeks before – Martha thinks that round ones are better. But I couldn’t have managed to do that signature wrinkle top on them, so really it was all for the best. I would note that I had to trim the rectangular wontons into squares so I could have perfect triangle pot stickers. But I saved the scraps and with the leftover ginger and green onions I figure I’ll make Asian flavored noodle soup next week.
Now cooking the pot stickers – this was where this entire experiment could fall apart. In theory, pot stickers are supposed to stick to the bottom of the pot and then release when you add water for the steaming. In reality, I would urge you to modify Martha once again. Don’t bother with the cast iron pot even if it’s perfectly seasoned. After one batch stuck a little too much to my cast iron pot – even after adding the steaming water – I switched to nonstick and they browned perfectly, released easily, and saved my sanity. Perhaps it was not exactly authentic – but then my pot stickers are inspired by Martha Stewart, so I’m not exactly worried about authenticity.
In the end, the pot stickers were a satisfying and unusual treat. As an added benefit, the recipe made a ton, so I have a freezer full of shrimp pot stickers and am looking forward to pulling them out the next time I’m craving something different.
From Martha Stewart Living
Makes about 30.
- 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves ( I left this out)
- 1/2 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1 large egg white
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chile oil, or 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil mixed with a pinch of cayenne/chili powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil ( I used toasted sesame oil)
- 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 medium carrot, grated
- 3/4 cup finely chopped (about 2 ounces) Napa cabbage
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 small scallions, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced (about 1 small) shallot ( I used a combo of minced onion and garlic)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 package 3-inch round Chinese dumpling wrappers, available at large supermarkets
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon rice-wine vinegar
- 1 scallion, sliced
- Finely chop 1 tablespoon cilantro leaves. Set aside. Coarsely chop half of the shrimp by hand, and set aside.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine remaining shrimp, egg white, chile oil, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Puree into a smooth paste. Transfer to a medium bowl, add chopped cilantro, reserved chopped shrimp, carrot, cabbage, ginger, scallions, shallots, salt, and pepper, and mix well.
- Place 1 teaspoon of filling toward the front of a dumpling wrapper. There are two methods of sealing dumplings. Pleating one edge of the wrapper gives the dumpling its distinctive curved shape and allows it to stand upright in the pan. Do this by moistening edges with water using your finger. Bring the edges together, forming a taco shape, and pinch them together only in the top center to seal. Pinch 6 small pleats (3 on either side of the sealed center point) along one thickness only of the wrapper. Seal dumpling by pressing pleated and unpleated edges tightly together, enclosing filling. Alternatively, moisten wrapper edges with water, fold in half into a crescent shape around the filling, and pinch edges tightly closed. While forming dumplings, keep remaining wrappers covered with plastic wrap. Place filled dumplings on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and cover with plastic wrap.
- In a small serving bowl, whisk together ingredients for dipping sauce.
- Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a well-seasoned 11-inch cast-iron skillet (or nonstick skillet) over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Arrange half of the dumplings tightly together in heated skillet, and cook until deep golden brown, shaking the pan one or two times, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 cup hot water, partially cover, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and cook until the bottoms of the dumplings are very crisp and all the water has evaporated, about 4 to 5 more minutes. Slide a spatula under dumplings to loosen them from the pan. Serve this batch of dumplings immediately or place them on a baking sheet, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and keep warm in a low oven. Wash skillet, and repeat process with remaining dumplings. Transfer to a plate, garnish with remaining cilantro leaves, and serve with dipping sauce.
May 29, 2008
It was a dark and stormy Wednesday night, and I had gotten home from work late with nothing planned for dinner. What to do? What to do? I had the phone in my hand and pizza on my mind when I suddenly recalled seeing a little recipe tucked up in the corner of the latest issue of Saveur magazine (my absolute favorite food magazine). I flipped open the magazine and there on page 75 was a recipe that promised dinner on the table in only six ingredients and a mere 5 minutes of over-the-stove cooking time. I paused, weighing the options — wait an hour for pizza or whip together a quick homemade dinner. The answer was clear.
This dish is unbelievably simple, and the completed dish certainly adds up to much more than the sum of its parts. The only thing that takes some time is waiting for the rice to cook, but while you’re waiting you pour yourself a glass of something and chop the scallions. Once the rice is cooked, it comes together in a flash — literally 5 minutes of actual cooking time. This would be the perfect recipe for leftover rice, which we always seem to have on hand and never know what to do with it.
When the dish was finished, S and I snuggled down at our TV trays (our tiny Uptown Charlotte apartment has no room for a table) to a hearty and tasty dinner. The recipe makes the perfect amount for two people (a rarity). I was surprised by how much I loved the pine nuts. They aren’t my favorite nut, but they lent a pleasant crunch to the dish. Speaking of texture, the chewiness of the rice somehow made the dish more filling for me. The rice wasn’t a vehicle for other things; it was truly substantial.
We followed the recipe exactly, but this fried rice is practically a blank canvas waiting for your stroke of creativity. You could add anything here and it would only improve what is already excellent. Vegetables, seafood, chicken, tofu — the possibilities are endless. The next time we make this, S and I agreed that the dish could use extra spice. The spiciness was subtle, but if your preference is for heat, definitely add a bit more dried pepper.
One of my favorite things about this fried rice is that it provided the perfect place for me to use the dried chilies from my mother’s garden. My family is in Kentucky, and I miss them more than words can say. It was nice to pull down the chilies that my mom and I picked together last summer and put them to good use. She would be proud. So now put down that phone, refile that take-out menu and head to the kitchen. You’ll be glad you did.
Japanese-Style Fried Brown Rice
Saveur, May 2008
2 dried chiles de arbol – sliced into thin rings
2 tbsp. Asian sesame oil
7 scallions – thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 tbsp. pine nuts
3 tsp. light soy sauce
2 cups cooked short grain brown rice – cooled
Heat 2 tbsp. sesame oil in a 10″ nonstick skillet over high heat.
Add scallions and 2 tbsp. pine nuts and cook, stirring frequently, until the scallions wilt slightly and the pine nuts take on a light golden color, about 2 minutes.
Add rice and soy sauce. Cook, stirring to break up the clumps, until the rice is hot and all the ingredients have mingled together, about 3 minutes.
Garnish with chiles.
May 26, 2008
Posted by J under Cheese
| Tags: Avocado
, Fresh Herbs
, Weight Watchers
, WW Points
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There are a couple of smells I associate with late spring and one of them is the smell of a hot grill. Nothing is better on a hot grill than a juicy burger. Personally, I love burgers. I once watched the Barefoot Contessa stick a pat of butter into the middle of burger…genius! In reality, a burger should never be considered a low fat food. No matter what kind of meat you choose. Just embrace the fatty goodness.
That being said, H and I are trying to be a little more mindful of what we are eating. So more fresh vegetables and a close eye on our fat consumption. Weeknight dinners are usually hectic, but now with sun being up later, there is plenty of time to slap together some burgers. This night in particular, we had a package of ground lamb, originally intended just for JC, but now to be shared with mom and dad. After a quick bike ride over to our local grocery store to pick up some fresh mint, lemon, and local goat cheese, we were ready to go.
This year, my mother in law brought us tons of wonderful herbs, which have flourished in our backyard, even with my black thumb. So I decided a little rosemary, oregano, and chives would go nicely with the fresh mint and lemon. A little garlic and salt along with the feta and it was ready for me to stick my hands in and mix it all up.
We put them on the grill with a little fresh corn and we were set for a delicious meal. JC at least tried the bruger, but was more excited about eating the corn. Who can blame him grilled corn is always incredible! But I will talk more about grilled corn another day.
With a plate of sliced fresh tomatoes, avocado, and lettuce, we were ready for a late spring feast. I dislike mayo, so I always substitute avocado for it. I know the tomatoes still have a few months before they reach perfection, but these weren’t too bad.
I needed to flatten out the burgers a little more and possibly add a little more mint, but in all this weeknight concoction was pretty tasty and something we will add to our ever increasing menu.
Serves 4 – 12 points without a bun, 15 points with a whole wheat bun
1 pound Ground Lamb
Zest of one lemon
2 oz. Feta Cheese
2 tsp. Salt
1 Tbsp. each of Mint, Chives, Rosemary, and Oregano
2 cups Spring Mix
4 Whole Wheat Buns
1. Mix the lamb, lemon, Feta, Salt, and Herbs together with your hands, so that everything is evenly distributed.
2. Divide the meat mixture into 4 and make into patties. Spray the patties with Cooking Spray to keep them from sticking.
3. Place on grill until done.
4. Dress the buns with avocado, lettuce, and tomato. Buns can be placed on the grill to warm and toast a little.
Note: We store our buns in the freezer. If you do the same, wrap the buns in foil and stick on the grill 5 minutes before you place the burgers on the grill. They should defrost quickly and be ready to toast right before you take the burgers off.
May 24, 2008
May evenings are an idyllic time here in Nashville. With the mild weather and the longer days, there are more people on the streets enjoying everything from the outdoor seating to the flowers in bloom to the mere fact that it is not yet blisteringly hot. This past Wednesday, I decided to enjoy a particularly fine May evening by exploring the very first day of the East Nashville Farmers’ Market. And in doing so, we inaugurate the very first Kitchen Confit Roadtrip. Granted this roadtrip was less than 10 minutes from my apartment, but in the future our travels will take us further afield as we explore good food in all its incarnations and locations.
Located across the Cumberland River from downtown Nashville, East Nashville is one of Music City’s most intriguing neighborhoods. In fact, the East End/Five Points section of East Nashville is our own little version of Berkeley, CA. The neighborhood is home to East Nashville High School – Oprah’s a graduate – and also a number of churches, live music venues, and beautiful homes. The neighborhood has a plethora of starving musicians and activists, but it also has Margot – a southern version of Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse; the Turnip Truck – a versatile natural grocery; and enough hybrids with Obama bumper stickers to make Al Gore proud. So it made sense that when an organic, producer-centric, farmers’ market popped up in town, it would be in East Nashville.
On this first farmers’ market evening, there was a bluegrass band playing, since it likely violates all sorts of statutes to have an event in Nashville without a fiddle. The market was definitely busy and there were plenty of people and young families milling around the 10 or so booths set up. Most of the produce consisted of greens and root vegetables – which is what you’d expect since these are the produce products currently in season locally. There was one booth that was selling organic strawberries, but the line was so long I couldn’t get close enough to see the price, let alone the berries. There were also booths selling local cheeses, other dairy products, and free range meats. Almost all of the producers were happy to talk about their products – detailing the methods they used and underscoring the freshness of their merchandise – I overheard a woman selling milk tell a little boy that the milk had been inside the cow just yesterday!
All in all, the market shows promise. Once the growing season reaches it’s peak here in Tennessee, I’ll likely be making a weekly trip to stock up on fresh local produce – though by then we’ll be in the sweltering section of summer. On this May evening it was just nice to see people out and about and enjoying the beautiful day.
The East Nashville Farmers’ Market is held every Wednesday from 4 pm to 7 pm. It is located right next to the Turnip Truck on Woodland Street.
May 23, 2008
Posted by J under Chicken
| Tags: Chicken
, Soba Noodles
, Weight Watchers
, WW Points
Even in the dead of a hot, humid, southern summer, when I am sick, I will eat soup. Though not just any soup, but a miso based soup. Miso soup by itself is good, but sometimes you need a little more substance at dinner time. So what I wanted would be filling yet light. Of course, if it is quick to throw together then it might be almost perfect. I needed the soup that would fix everything…my icky cold and a hectic week at work.
Flu with 100 degree fever + Soup = Ready for a 10 mile bike ride
Bad Day at work + Soup = Not a care in the world
Like I said it is my never-fail cure-all, and I needed it now. So while looking for another new kitchen gadget and reading the latest Gastrokids article on the Williams-Sonoma website, I found a recipe for Chicken Soba Noodle Soup that I had to try.
I loved the broth. Lots of ginger! I was not able to find yellow miso, so I used white miso, which gave it a very light miso flavor. I did want something a little more pronounced, so next time I will not substitute. With the spinach, chicken, scallions, and soba noodles, the soups was filling, yet because of the broth it was still light and delicate. It was enough for H and I to have for dinner and still have some leftovers for lunch the next day.
If you happen to fall into the crowd that likes Udon, you could easily make that change. Personally, I prefer udon to soba, so next time we might switch the part of the soup. I added the slightest amount of soy sauce and of course my favorite, Japanese Red Pepper. I love the kick it adds to soups.
Chicken and Soba Noodle Soup
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Soup , by Diane Rossen Worthington.
1/2 lb. dried soba noodles
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1/4 cup yellow miso
1 tsp. peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 boneless, skinless whole chicken breast, about 1/2 lb., cut into small cubes
2 1/2 cups packed baby spinach leaves
2 green onions, white and light green portions, thinly sliced
soy sauce, to taste – I added 2 tsp.
Japanese Red Pepper Mix, to taste
1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together the stock, water, miso and ginger. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the miso is completely dissolved, about 3 minutes.
3. Add the chicken pieces and cook until the chicken is just opaque throughout, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until slightly softened but still bright green, about 1 minute. Add the green onions and cook for 1 minute more. Add soy sauce. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
4. Using tongs, divide the noodles evenly among warmed bowls and then ladle in the soup. Sprinkle with Japanese Red Pepper to add a little kick. Serve immediately.
May 21, 2008
Say what you will about the Food Network, but a guilty pleasure of mine is to snuggle down on the sofa and watch an episode or four of the Barefoot Contessa. I am completely convinced that Ina Garten and I would be BFF if we knew each other in real life. We would get together to plan posh dinner parties and lazy afternoon picnics at the beach. And every year around the holidays, I would send Ina a box of her very own jam thumbprint cookies, which brings us to the subject of this post. I have baked these cookies countless times, and they have never failed me. I’ve even baked these in unfamiliar kitchens with foreign tools and unknown brands of flour. Still they prevail. And did I mention that they are delicious? Oh, and so beautiful you almost (just almost) don’t want to eat them?
The driving force — the engine, if you will — of these cookies is butter. Three sticks to be exact. That’s ¾ of a pound of butter . . . how can these cookies not be good? And to gild the lily even further, there’s a ruby center (raspberry preserves) and a toasted crown of coconut.
I’ll admit these aren’t the speediest cookies to whip up. There are several steps (a swim in the egg wash, a dunk in the coconut, a dollop of preserves), but none of the steps are difficult. It’s the kind of cookie you bake while listening to the Splendid Table and contemplate what to make for dinner. Before beginning, I recommend clearing off a wide swath of counter top – you’ll need it. The recipe makes a lot of cookies so you’ll also need at least a couple of cookie sheets.
Note that the recipe calls for each cookie ball to weigh 1 ounce. The first time I baked these, I did not have a scale and they turned out fine. The balls of cookie dough will be approximately the size of a golf ball. When we moved to Charlotte (and to a much smaller kitchen), we considered each piece of kitchen equipment, and I couldn’t bear to part with the scale. I consider it essential. You don’t have to run out and buy a scale to bake Ina’s cookies. But if you’re like me, and search for any excuse to add to the kitchen collection, this would be the perfect time to make the purchase. Your cookies will all be the same size, and they’ll emerge from the oven evenly baked.
Ina Garten’s Jam Thumbprint Cookies
¾ pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
Raspberry and/or apricot jam
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured surface and roll together into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
Roll the dough into 1 ¼ inch balls. (If you have a scale they should each weigh 1 ounce). Dip each ball into the egg wash and then roll it in coconut. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. Drop ¼ teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut is golden brown. Cool and serve.
May 18, 2008
After the disappointing Pear and Ginger Muffins, I was left with a hankering for some good, sweet, crumbly breakfast foods. I was craving coffee cake. Months ago, I had seen this recipe on the Smitten Kitchen blog and had been looking for a reason to try it out. But when I announced my intention to my husband C, he protested. Apparently, he thinks that all the baking I’ve been doing is causing him to gain weight. I assured him that this coffee cake would be taken in to my workplace to feed grateful co-workers and that it need not grace his lips, but he still seemed skeptical.
I didn’t have any rhubarb, but I did have two apples, so I chopped them up and set them aside. I then moved on to the crumb part, and that’s when I knew this would be a good recipe. One stick of melted butter combined with the sugars, spices and flour made a crumb topping unlike any I’d ever seen. The topping was thick, almost like play dough. And by having melted butter, it was more thoroughly incorporated into the topping than it would have been if it was cold butter. Once the cake batter was done, and the apples added, the topping was applied by tearing chunks off of the buttery mass. The topping was basically as high as the batter itself, and since the best part of the coffee cake is the crumb topping, this was a very good thing.
Once the cake was in the oven, the cinnamon and spice aromas permeated our apartment. C began wandering into the kitchen, and asking when the coffee cake would be out. When I reminded him that that the coffee cake was destined for my co-workers, the begging began. In the end after making him smell the cooling coffee cake for 30 minutes, I relented and cut him a piece. ‘Mmm… better than Starbucks’ coffee cake’ – which he assured me was high praise.
So if you like your coffee cake heavy on the crumbles, and better than that Seattle chain, this is the recipe for you!
Apple Crumb Coffee Cake
With apologies to Smitten Kitchen and Adapted from The New York Times 6/6/07
2 Apples – peeled and chopped into a ¼ dice.
For the crumbs:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups flour
For the cake:
1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces.
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. Peel and chop the apples and set aside.
2. To make crumbs, in a large bowl, whisk together sugars, spices, salt and butter until smooth. Stir in flour with a spatula. It will look like a solid dough.
3. To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and set aside.
4. Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon apples over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over apples; it does not have to be even.
5. Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.
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