Chinese Dumplings

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So far, I would have to say that the highlight of my trip to China has been cooking alongside Mandy and learning how to make Chinese dumplings. I did my best to take notes, ask questions and keep a careful eye on all of the steps. I even consulted with Mandy via gmail chat as I wrote out this recipe to be sure that I had it right. That being said, Mandy has told me several times that the problem with making real Chinese food is that recipes and exact amounts are rarely used. Most people that she knows that cook do it by taste, smell, and texture. Or, to them a cup is the green cup that their grandmother had on the counter. So I encourage you to use your best judgment as you go forward with this recipe. If you’re mixing and it feels like there should be more soy sauce, corn starch, or even green onions for that matter, go with your gut. For example, after finely chopping the garlic and throwing it in the bowl she said, “I don’t know, what do you think, more garlic?” Of course I responded with, “Heck yeah more garlic.” Also keep in mind that the filling should stick to itself pretty well, but not the sides of the bowl.

A huge thank you to Mandy for opening up her kitchen to me and doing her best to teach me!


We started with shopping for fresh ingredients

Pork, Cabbage, and Mushroom Filling for Chinese Dumplings
As taught to me by our friend, Mandy

Ingredients
1 1/2 lbs ground pork
3/4 cup Chinese cabbage, finely chopped
3/4 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 green onions, including whites, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh minced ginger
1 egg
1 tsp chicken bouillon (or one cube, crushed)
2 tsp corn starch
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt

~50 dumpling wraps*
1/2 cup water (for sealing the dumplings)

Corn oil and water for cooking

*Available in most well stocked grocery stores in the refrigerated section (or near produce) or can be found at Asian specialty stores. It might not hurt to call ahead and ask! I will add an updated link to this recipe when I get home and test out making my own dough!


Some of the ingredients


Chop Chop!

Directions
Place all of the first group of ingredients in a large bowl. At first, use two clean hands to lightly mix together and evenly distribute various ingredients. When the ingredients appear to be evenly distributed hold the bowl with one hand and use the other to fold the ingredients from the back side of the bowl to the front. Turn the bowl a quarter turn and fold again. Repeat until the filling is sticking together after each turn. This process keeps the filling from being overworked and getting tough. If for some reason it just doesn’t seem to be coming together you can try adding a little bit more cornstarch and a tablespoon of beaten egg.


Folding ingredients together

To fill the dumplings, hold the dumpling wrapper in one hand and place about 2 tbsp of filling in the middle. Wet one finger and run around the edge of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper (kind of like a taco) and pinch in the middle. The sides will still be open at this point. Now, each open end is going to get 3 pinches. Each pinch will work it’s way to the middle. You want the final dumpling to be able to stand on it’s own.


Filling


The theme of the evening was pinch, pinch, pinch

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large skillet (with a lid) over medium heat. Add a group of dumplings to the pan and cook in oil for two minutes. After two minutes, add 1/2 cup of water (or enough to come 1/3 of the way up the dumplings), cover the skillet with a lid (careful there will be some splatter!) and cook for 6-8 minutes or until all of the water has been absorbed. Repeat with remaining dumplings.

For dipping, Mandy threw together some soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, garlic, and green onion. I didn’t get the exact measurements or a picture, though.


I made beef and mushrooms with gravy and mashed potatoes,
Jesse put it all in one bowl and enjoyed 🙂

Shrimp in Tomato Sauce with Feta

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I am working on a verrrrry long China post (hopefully will be posted tomorrow morning), so this is going to be short and simple! Much like the preparation of this meal.

The most time consuming part of this dish was removing the shells and de-veining the shrimp. Luckily you can purchase raw shrimp without the shell. I forgot that half of the shrimp in my freezer had the shell/vein so when it came time to prepare the meal I was happy to have my mom there to help me get through it quickly. As a side note, I can appreciate the tail on for the appearance of the dish, but when it comes to eating I think it would be more pleasant to have the tails removed. It’s really up to you and the dish will turn out great either way.

I think this shrimp would go wonderfully with a simple side of pasta in garlic butter, with rice, or, as I served it, with a nice crusty bread brushed with garlic butter. I liked to use the bread to sop up the extra sauce. Add a green salad or green beans and you have a well rounded meal that will be well received by guests, but also simple enough for week night.



Shrimp in Tomato Sauce with Feta
(Adapted from Annie’s Eats)

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with liquid
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1½ tsp dried oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
3 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1.5 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails on if you like)
5 oz. crumbled feta cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
Fresh lemon wedges, optional for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil . Then add the onion and cook until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits stuck to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half.

Reduce the heat to low. Stir in the tomatoes with the liquid, tomato paste, oregano, salt and pepper and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

In a small bowl, toss together the bread crumbs, parsley, and the remaining tablespoon olive oil.

Carefully pour the tomato sauce into a medium size casserole dish, then lay the shrimp in a single layer on top of the the tomato mixture. Sprinkle the feta cheese then the bread crumbs over top of the shrimp.

Bake for 15 minutes until the shrimp is pink and the bread crumbs have started to brown. Squeeze the fresh lemon juice over top and serve immediately.

Chicken Salad

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I like my chicken salad sans fruit and nuts and leaning more towards the moist side. How do you like your chicken salad?

Years ago I had chicken salad at a party that I fell in love with. Something about the flavor was unique, a little more tangy than a typical chicken salad, but still simple. I really hate it when people try to hide grapes and apples in chicken salad (I know, everyone says it’s good but I just can’t get past the fruit in mayo) so the simplicity of that salad was perfect for me. Unfortunately, it was a family recipe so it wasn’t up for sharing. I thought I detected a flavor similar to coleslaw so I took a little mental note and tucked it away for later. Despite wanting to try my hand at recreating it, it has remained tucked away for several years. Finally last week I decided to give it a go for a simple lunch on the day of my parents arrival to San Diego.

After typing the recipe out it appears that I have taken away from some of the simplicity, but it was thoroughly enjoyed by both of my parents, Sean and me. It had just a hint of tang and, due to a greater amount of liquid than most chicken salads, a nice amount of moisture. I served on sandwich thins with a side of sliced veggies and fruit. With a finer chop on the chicken it would also make a nice topping for crackers.

Tangy Chicken Salad with *Homemade Mayonnaise
(Mayonnaise adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride)

1 egg, at room temperature
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup canola oil
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
3 cups chicken, cooked and chopped
1 celery stalk, diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp diced pimentos
2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped

Add the egg, lemon juice, vinegar and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Turn on and process. Very slowly stream the oils into the food processor. After adding all of the oil, process another 30 seconds. You just made mayonnaise! Remove 1/2 cup of mayonnaise (place in an air tight container, pressing plastic wrap into mayonnaise) and store for later use. Place the remainder of the mayo in a large bowl.

To the bowl add the sugar through the lemon juice and stir to combine. Add the chicken, celery, green onions, pimentos and parsley. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

* I really liked the flavor the home made mayonnaise with olive oil gave the chicken salad, but if you’re looking for easier prep time you can certainly just use 1/2 cup of store bought mayonnaise.

Note: After 3 days in the fridge it was a little runny. After pouring off some of the excess liquid it still tasted great so don’t worry if it appears to be watery after storage.

The Best Meal I’ve Had in a While

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It was Saturday night and I was looking for pretty much any excuse to not go to the gym and started thinking that I really hadn’t eaten lunch, and since it was already almost dinner time I should probably buckle down and come up with something (leaving no time for the gym). I peeked in the fridge and wasn’t really inspired by anything. Then I remembered a promise I made myself a few weeks ago to start using more cookbooks. I have a bunch of them, some really good ones too, but for some reason when I’m looking for meal inspiration I always start with the internet and my most trusted blogs/recipe sites. So I sat down on the floor in front of my cookbooks and started browsing (this browsing had nothing to do with looking for an excuse to not go to the gym).

I have a few cookbooks marked with sticky notes for things I want to try but still, nothing was calling to me. Finally I pulled out a 5 year old copy of Cooking Light magazine that I impulsively bought at the check out counter but had never actually used. I took one look at the picture on the cover and instantly remembered why I had impulsively bought it. At the time I saw the picture, thought it looked amazing, threw it down on the conveyor and didn’t think twice. When I got home I opened the magazine and read the title of the recipe “Pineapple and Teriyaki Glazed Salmon”. Ick! What had I been thinking, I don’t mix fruit flavors with savory dishes.

Well since that day I have expanded my palate by leaps and bounds. While I still don’t think I’ll be having pork chops and applesauce or eating a big hunk of apple pie, I am no longer afraid of a slightly sweet tang to my savory dishes. So it was decided. I ran to Trader Joe’s and picked up the things I needed. Can I just tell you how much I am kicking myself for not having made this dish sooner? It was amazing. The salmon was moist and flaky and the glaze was sweet, slightly acidic and salty. So so good. I served it with a simple couscous cooked in chicken broth with just a little bit of parsley and oregano added at the end. Also, I’m not usually a fan of frozen vegetable medleys but I saw this Healthy Colors mix a few weeks ago and it wasn’t too bad. Though next time I think I’ll just stick with fresh green beans because the Salmon is the star of this meal.

One last note, the original recipe called for 4 salmon fillets with this amount of glaze, trust me you’re going to want more than that (I got up mid meal to get just a little more). So if you make 4 fillets double the glaze and thank me later.


Pineapple Teriyaki Glazed Salmon
(Adapted from Cooking Light, May 2006)

2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp fresh orange zest
6 ounces pineapple juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
1/4 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small sauce pan, over high heat, combine the brown sugar, soy sauce, orange zest, pineapple juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool and thicken a bit.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper both sides of the salmon and set in the skillet. Cook for 3 minutes without moving. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Carefully remove the salmon from the pan and place with the cooked side up in the baking dish. (Alternatively you could use a cast iron skillet, flip the salmon and put the whole pan straight into the oven)

Bake for 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and generously brush glaze over the tops of the salmon. Return to oven for 1-2 minutes or until the fish flakes easily.

Serve with couscous or rice and a simple vegetable.