Daring Cooks: Dumplings! (with edits)

June 15, 2009

dumplings cooking

Hi there!  Just wanted to jump back in and add a few notes about this recipe.  All the new notes will be in green!

This month was my first daring cooks challenge.  It was hosted by Jen of Use Real Butter, and she chose Chinese Dumplings and Potstickers!  In my typical fashion, I had a whole month for the challenge, but I made the dumplings last night (the reveal date was yesterday!).  I planned to blog about them as soon as I finished eating them, slip my post in at the last second, and call it a night.  Well, needless to say, it didn’t quite happen that way.  Here’s what really happened:  I did make the dumplings last night, around seven.  They came out perfectly, but by the time I was done I didn’t really feel like having dumplings for dinner and my roommate was tempting me with the idea of going out to get Ethiopian.  Here’s the thing.  I’ve been craving Ethiopian food ALL WEEK and haven’t been able to get someone to go with me.  So of course, I caved.  I threw the rest of the dumplings in the freezer and we went out.  We had an awesome meal, hung out on the restaurant’s back patio for a while, and then I came home and promptly fell asleep watching Heroes, forgetting all about my plans to make a sneaky last-second post.  That brings us to this morning.  Well, I figure 8 hours late isn’t too big a deal, so here you go!  Potstickers!


Here the dough, after being kneaded.


Filling the dumplings…


And here the are now, crimped and ready for the pan.

ready to eat

And here they are again right before I put them in the fridge and went out to Ethiopian!  I did try one though.. delicious!

Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers

pork filling:
1 lb (450g) ground pork
4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
1 small onion, minced
7 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried – rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
1/4 (55g) cup ginger root, minced
3 tbsp (40g) soy sauce
2 tbsp (28g) sesame oil
1/2 block silken tofu
One note: the original recipe had cornstarch in the filling.  It acts as a binder.  I didn’t use it for two reasons:  One, I didn’t have any (simple!).  Two, I learned, on the dumpling episode of Bobby Flay’s Throwdown, that adding silken tofu to dumpling filling yeilds a silky (go figure) and perfectly textured dumpling.  I don’t like it when the meat part of the dumpling cooks up too hard, and tofu works perfectly to keep it the texture I like.   It also acts as a binder, helping the filling hold together while keeping it moist.

dough: (double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches – or just halve the filling recipe)
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm water (although I ended up using much more)
flour for worksurface

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

To make the dough: In a large bowl mix flour with the 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.

Knead the dough about twenty strokes, adding more flour as needed to keep it from sticking, 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. Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

*There are two other, easier, ways to do this, both of which I tried.  One, you can just roll the dough into a log and cut off pieces, squish them flat, and then roll them a little flatter.  You can also take a bigger piece of dough, roll it out like a pie crust, and then use a 4-5 inch round cookie cutter (or even the rim of a glass) to cut out circles.  Both of these methods worked well for me.

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.


Barely a Recipe: Spring Greens with Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese

June 11, 2009

A funny thing happens to me (and I suspect many others) as summer rolls around.  As much as I love to cook, when the weather gets hot and the days get long, that love kind of fades and turns tepid, and all of a sudden, I’ve just lost the urge.  Now don’t get me wrong, I still think about food all the time.  During the day I dream up recipes, delude myself with notions of elaborate meals that I will somehow have the energy to prepare when I get home, and convince myself that yes, this cooking thing is really going to happen.  But day after day six o’clock rolls around and guess what?  I just don’t feel like it.  Sound familiar?

I’ve got a solution… for now, at least.  Make this salad.  It’s simple, but special enough to make you feel like you’ve done something nice for yourself.  It’s also incredibly healthy.  Beets are a nutritional goldmine- they’re loaded with vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C, and surprisingly, are higher in iron than spinach.  Take that Popeye!  They’re also naturally sweet, which means that you’ll be less likely to be craving something sugary for dessert later.

Now, as a pair, beets and goat cheese are nothing new.   Why?  Because they work perfectly together.  The tangy creaminess of the goat cheese is the perfect complement to the beets’ deep earthy sweetness.  And when you toss everything together, the juice from the beets mixes with some of the goat cheese to create a built-in dressing.  It couldn’t be simpler.

To make this salad even simpler to throw together, you can roast the beets the night before.  I like to throw them in the oven after dinner and pull them out before I go to bed.  That way, they practically make themselves!

Spring Greens with Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese

2 beets
1 tablespoon olive oil (for drizzling)
1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 -3 big handfuls salad greens, well washed and dried
2-3 ounces of chevre, or other goat cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil
squeeze of lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Start by making the beets (as I mentioned, I would highly suggest doing this the night before).  Preheat the oven to 400 (F).  Place the beets in a cast iron skillet (or even an oven-safe pot).  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake, covered loosely with alumninum foil, for 60-90 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.  Remove from the oven and let cool completely before peeling (you should be able to remove the skin easily with your fingers).  Chop into 1/2 inch cubes.

For the salad:  In a bowl, combine the greens and the beets.  Crumble the goat cheese over the top.  At this point, you could really add any dressing, but I just like a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze or two of lemon, and some salt and freshly ground pepper.  Toss and serve.

June Top Tens: Blog Envy!

June 8, 2009


Hello there!  I’m so pleased about last month’s Top Tens event.  We started small, but all the entries were great and I got to make a bunch of new blogger friends.  For me, that’s a win-win situation!  For this month’s event, I’ve got a new challenge for you.  I hope this works, because I really like this idea.  Here goes:  Blog Envy:  Top Ten Recipes You’ve Been Meaning to Make. You know how it goes… you’re checking out blogs and you find an incredible recipe.  Maybe it’s the picture that grabs you, maybe it’s the way it’s described.  We all know that bloggers can be quite persuasive!  So what do you do with that recipe?  Well, of course, you add it to that long list of bookmarked recipes that end up just sitting there, waiting to be made.  Now, it’s sad for all those great recipes to just sit on a list, so let’s do something about it!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Pick out the top ten recipes (from blogs) that you’ve been meaning to make.  Make a list, with links.
  2. Pick one of these recipes to make!  Leave the blogger a comment letting them know that you love their recipe and are going to make it for this month’s Top Tens challenge. Provide a link to the challenge on my blog so they will know what you’re talking about!  For example:  “Hi (Deb, Ree, Helen..etc)!  I just love your recipe for (triple chocolate cake, ricotta gnocchi, beet salad, etc).  It’s on my list of the top ten recipes I’ve been meaning to make and I’ll be preparing it for this month’s Top Ten’s challenge on Food*Nerd!”
  3. Prepare the recipe (you can make any changes you like) and blog about it, including a picture.  In this post, also include your list of Top Ten recipes with links.  Link back to this post on my blog.  The link to the event is: https://foodnerd.wordpress.com/2009/06/05/june-top-tens-blog-envy/
  4. Send an email to me at foodnerdblog [at] gmail [dot] com with your name, your blog’s URL, your Top Tens list, and a link to the post where you made one of your top ten recipes.
  5. The challenge will be running from now until June 30.  You can post any time between now and then.  Have fun!


May Top Tens, the Winner!

June 3, 2009


So I can’t believe that this has taken so long, but I’ve finally put together the roundup and picked a winner (by random draw). Here’s the list of all the entries. I enjoyed reading these so much.

Audrey’s Top Tens – Audrey has a new blog called Superfine Spot.  It’s only been a month and she’s already got a ton of posts!

Sarah’s Top Tens – Sarah’s blog is The Application of Heat. She’s a Daring Baker and has got some really exciting stuff going on.  Check out her triple chocolate pyramid!

Plutosangel’s Top Tens – Plutosangel’s blog is One of a Grind, and she’s got some really intriguing recipes and writing.

Sneh’s Top Tens – Sneh writes the wonderful Gel’s Kitchen, and is the host of a great event called No Time to Cook, which I’m co-hosting this month!

It was such a treat to read all of your memories.  I loved getting reminded of memories that I had forgotten about, and hearing about experiences that I never could have imagined.  You guys made my month!  So spread the word, I’ll be continuing this event each month, and I’d love to get more people involved!  Stay tuned for the next installment!

Oh, and how could I forget??  The winner!  This month’s winner is Audrey of Superfine Spot!  I’ll be contacting you about your prize 🙂

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pops

May 31, 2009

chocolate pops

Sneh at Gel’s Kitchen is hosting an event called No Time to Cook, highlighting recipes that can be made in 15 to 20 minutes.  This month’s theme is chocolate.  I haven’t mentioned this here before, but for the past month and a half or so, I’ve been avoiding eating sugar, for reasons that I’ll probably end up explaining soon.  So I wanted to make something that was naturally sweetened.  One of the best natural sweeteners is banana, and it works really well in these simple, quick, pops.

chocolate pops 04 chocolate pops 08

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pops

  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 1 small or 1/2 of a medium avocado
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • milk or almond/soy milk to thin the mixture
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt the chocolate over medium heat.  In a blender or a food processor, combine all ingredients and a few splashes of milk.  Blend until completely homogeneous, adding just enough milk to get the mixture to come together.  In the end the mix should be about the consistency of thin pudding.  Pour into popsicle molds and freeze. That’s it!

How to Charm a Vegan: Spinach Mushroom Quiche

May 28, 2009

I’ve got a great recipe for you.  I don’t know if you have vegan friends, but I definitely do.  Here’s the thing with vegans.  A lot of them are really great cooks.  They’ve got to be inventive, and hence, they’ve figured a thing or two out in the kitchen.  However, when vegans go to other people’s houses (non-vegans I mean), they’re often left picking at sides and salads.  It’s sad!  There’s so much good vegan food out there for both vegans and non-vegans to enjoy.  This quiche, or “Viche”, as my friend dubbed it (vegan quiche=viche, get it??) is delicious whether you’re vegan or not.  My inspiration for this recipe came from 101 Cookbooks, where Heidi takes a very similar approach but puts it all in a tart pan.  Very elegant, I admit, but I like my quiches to have a little bit more depth.  I also changed up some of the seasoning.  So give it a shot, it’s a real crowd pleaser.  

Despite the long-looking recipe, it’s acutally really easy to put together.  I’ve to a few how-to photos for you below.

You’ll start with the crust.  The whole thing comes together in a food processor, and then you press it into the pan. It’ll be a bit crumbly.  Guess what?  It doesn’t really matter if it’s neat or not.

To make the filling, you start with the onions.  You guys know the easiest way to chop an onion, right?  Well, if not, here’s how!  Cut the onion in half, and then make vertical cuts that go almost all the way to the butt of the onion.

At this point, you can also make some horizontal cuts, but I don’t really think that’s necessary.  I just  start slicing across the onion, and it just about dices itself.  That’s it!

You’ll throw the onions and mushrooms in a pan with some olive oil and the seasonings, and then you should really take a break with a glass of wine while you wait for the onions and mushrooms to cook.  

TDon’t worry if your kitchen starts to get a little messy!

I don’t have pictures of the rest, but you don’t need them.  I just wanted to make sure you knew the easiest way to cut an onion.  Here’s what the quiche will look like right before you put it in the oven.  When you take it out, it’ll be brown, but I didn’t get that shot because this was a last minute endeavor and the Viche needed to be whisked off to a potluck.  Oh well, maybe next time.


Vegan Spinach-Mushroom Quiche Recipe

For the crust:
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup almond meal
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour or whole spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
1/3 cup unflavored soy milk or water
1/3 cup light sesame oil or pure olive oil plus more for brushing the pan

For the filling:
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
10 ounces white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dry white wine or water
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
3 garlic cloves, slice crosswise into 1/8-inch rounds
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
Pinch hot red pepper flakes
1 pound firm tofu, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 pounds fresh spinach

Preheat the oven to 350

Combine the oats and almond meal in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper, and process until the oats are finely ground.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy milk (or water) and oil. Using a wooden spoon, mix in the dry ingredients to form a dough. Alternatively, add the soy milk and oil to the food processor a little bit at a time and pulse until combined with the dry ingredients.

Lightly brush a standard pie pan with oil. Put the dough in the pan. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the dough and press down evenly, making sure to work the dough up the sides of the pan. Trim the tart of any excess dough and refrigerate while you make the filling.

To make the filling, in a wide saute pan over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onions, mushrooms, cumin and turmeric, raise the heat to high, and saute for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring and shaking the pan until the vegetables are caramelized. Add the wine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and continue to cook until dry. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the vegetables into a mixing bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the remaining 5 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Simmer gently for 3 to 4 minutes or until the garlic is golden. Do not let the garlic brown or it will become bitter. With a rubber spatula, scrape the garlic oil into the bowl of a food processor.

Crumble the tofu into the bowl of the food processor. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, soy sauce, nutritional yeast and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and puree until smooth. With a rubber spatula, scrape the puree into the mushroom-onion mixture. If the mixture is a little bit dry, add some more lemon juice or soy sauce.

Remove and discard the tough stems of the spinach. Wash the leaves in a large bowl with several changes of cold water. Transfer the spinach to a pot and cook, covered, over high heat for several minutes, just until wilted. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Drain well and squeeze dry in a paper towel, or clean terry cloth. Transfer the spinach to a cutting board and chop fine. Add the spinach to the rest of the filling and stir well to combine.

Fill the crust with the tofu and vegetable mixture and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes,until firm.

Let the pie cool for 8 to 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Sneh’s 10 Fondest Food Memories

May 26, 2009

This next top ten comes from Sneh of Gel’s Kitchen. I just discovered this blog and am already loving it. Sneh is also hosting an event, No Time to Cook, which I talked about in this post. These are some wonderful memories. Thanks Sneh!

  • My earliest food memory goes back to the time when I was 4 years old. It was my first time kneading dough for wheat flatbreads (chapatis). I was fascinated by how water worked itself into the flour to make this dough that got smoother and tighter as you kneaded it. I still remember the smell of the flour and the high I got as I molded and shaped and reshaped the dough as I fancied.
  • Another memory that I remember fondly triggers everytime I smell fresh chapatis being roasted on the pan. My mum used to make hot chapatis when I got back from school, each puffing up into a golden ball speckled with delicate browns. She used to butter them, sprinkle them with sugar and roll them up nice. One of the yummiest things I have ever eaten.
  • On my honeymoon in Bhutan, Nick and I used to trek alongside the Paro river with a box full of eggs hard-boiled in our hotel room using a water-filled container and a coil heater. After a leisurely breakfast sitting on the white rocks, watching the river flow with not a soul in sight, we used to hold our cans of lemon tea in the ice-cold running water, instant chilled drinks!
  • Hunting for a reasonable sized frozen turkey in Singapore for Thanksgiving. Finding only a 5kg one. Buying and stuffing and roasting it. Then since it was only Nick and me, eating it for the next one month [after freezing large portions of course!]
  • A few years ago I iced my first cupcake and it was love at first ice. I still remember going nuts with the sprinkles and colors. I loved it! So when Nick threw me a baby shower, I insisted on making 30 gorgeous cupcakes, each one unique with a different frosting and sprinkles, candies and all the bells and whistles. It took me 4 hours and I had a blast!
  • Buying Fish & Chips off a nice little eatery along Bondi’s beach stretch and feeding the whole thing to the seagulls flocking around us begging for more, over one hour on the beach!
  • Nick and Rivs baking their first ever chocolate cake with ganache, specially for my birthday last year. It was sinful and delicious. I still remember watching them potter around the kitchen, making a mess, asking me where things were and everything covered in chocolate. Priceless!
  • Discovering Rotiboy in the food court of Singapore’s Parkway Parade Mall. Oh boy, do I miss Rotiboy!
  • The omelette bar at a resort in Indonesia had this brilliant showman of a cook who made custom omelettes on the fly and you could pick your stuffings and toppings. It was quite an experience.
  • Dinner on the beach with sand sifting through our toes, candles flickering in glass domes, the waves lapping right upto our table and music and chatter drifting off this fantastic Grill restaurant a little further up from us as we watched the stars and the cargo ships lit up like christmas trees on the horizon. The food was fantastic, the charred aroma of meat being barbecued the most tantalising thing I have ever sniffed, Nick and my last meal as non-parents, utterly romantic and one of the reasons why I get teary-eyed everytime I think of Singapore.
  • No Time to Cook: Chocolate!

    May 25, 2009

    Good morning! I want to step out of my usual role as resident food nerd to tell you all about a wonderful event hosted by Sneh at Gel’s Kitchen, No Time to Cook.

    The idea is to share a recipe that can be prepared in 15-20 minutes. I am very excited about this event- I love a good challenge, and when that challenge involves chocolate, well, all the better. So head on over to Gel’s Kitchen to check out this wonderful event. You’ve got until May 31st so send in entries.

    I’m not quite ready to share my entry with you, but here’s a little hint…

    little bit of beauty for sunday

    May 24, 2009

    Happy Sunday everyone, enjoy it.

    *Oh, and Wednesday is the last day of my event! So get those entries in!!

    Sometimes the simplest things…

    May 23, 2009

    …are just so damn beautiful.  Wouldn’t you say?