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Archive for June, 2009

Begin with a generous amount of olive oil:

oil

Heat it over medium-low heat. Add enough flour to turn it into goop, and fry it up into a nice roux:

roux

Add a generous amount of minced garlic, a little Better than Bouillon, three or four good squirts of lemon juice, lots of basil (dried is fine), any combination of crushed red or ground white pepper, and a small palmful of salt.

sauce

If it thickens up very fast on contact with the moist ingredients and threatens to burn before you’ve finished adding them, you can add a little cold water and mix it in. When you’ve gotten them all into the sauce, it’s time to thin it out with cream (light and heavy both work) Don’t use milk – it will curdle! Stir thoroughly as you add cream, to make sure the roux mixture is all broken up and incorporated. Add cream a little at a time until the sauce is the right texture for your taste and purpose. Taste it; if it needs something, give it to it. If you are likely to have leftovers, add more lemon than you think you need; the strength of the lemon flavor diminishes overnight in the fridge.

sauce

Use it on pasta, veggies, as a hot dip, as a pizza sauce in place of marinara, whatever you need a yummy sauce for.

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Dumplings

Dumplings are a versatile food. You can put all kinds of things in them, not just specifically crafted dumpling filling – some of the things I have successfully made dumplings with are leftover lentil or bean soups, chili, applesauce, mashed potatoes, and stirfries of various types. I have attempted but do not recommend tuna salad dumplings and chocolate dumplings. Dumplings have two major cooking methods: boiling and frying. If you fry your dumplings (as I will do in the example below) then the filling must contain plenty of moisture so you don’t wind up with an extra-crunchy dinner. If you have a filling that’s a little on the dry side, you can add a few drops of water before you seal up the wrapper.

I use Shanghai-style dumpling wrappers, which I procure from the Asian grocery down the street. Lay out any number of them on a plate:

wrappers

Then put one heaping spoonful of filling in the middle of each. Don’t overload the wrappers; I know it doesn’t look like much filling, but once they’re sealed up they’ll be quite plump.

w/ filling

Seal the dumplings by dipping your finger in a cup of water, trailing it around the edge of the dumpling wrapper in a ring (replenishing the water on your finger as necessary), and then folding the whole thing in half and pinching tightly along the semicircular edge.

folded

Coat a frying pan with olive or canola oil and put it on medium-low heat (you can go up to medium if you’ve done this before and you’re confident in your ability not to burn the dumplings). I do not recommend including anything but the oil outside of the dumplings at the stage; if you want to put something like soy sauce, salt or spices, or powdered sugar on them after the fact, do it when they’ve come off the heat. Arrange your pinched starchy containers of filling, laying them on one side:

in pan

Move them around with a spatula or similar utensil periodically, to make sure they don’t stick – just nudge them enough to make sure they have a layer of oil between them and the pan itself. Turn them over periodically. You don’t have to make sure they’re done on a given side before turning that side up; nothing is stopping you from turning them back over. The more you turn them, the less likely they are to burn when you aren’t looking. When they have cooked to your desired level of crispy brownness:

browned

Then turn them out of the pan and eat them.

To boil: Bring a pot mostly full of salted water to a rolling boil. Drop in tightly sealed dumplings (if they have gaps, water will get in and filling will get out) and give them a stir. Continue cooking them until the dumpling wrappers are tender and transparent, then either drain them in a colander or fish them out individually with a slotted spoon. Consume.

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Dumpling filling is just what it sounds like: a thing you make to put in dumplings. I’ll be covering the dumplings themselves in a separate post. I make dumpling filling with two basic ingredients – textured vegetable protein and a veggie. Kale is the best veggie I’ve tried for the purpose, but other greens would work too, and for this example, I used chopped broccoli.

broccoli

I boiled it. In theory, you could roast it, but you want a nice moist result for your dumpling filling: it’s the water in the filling that cooks the wrappers, if you fry rather than boil the dumplings. Reserve the cooking liquid. Measure out the same volume of water as you plan to use of TVP (for instance, if you want a cup of TVP, measure out a cup of the vegetable’s cooking liquid.) Add Better than Bouillon and the herbs and spices of your choice.

liquid

Bring it back to a boil and then dump it in a bowl with your measured amount of TVP. Stir it up to make sure every one of the flakes is incorporated.

tvp

Let that sit for a while, and then mix up the TVP and the vegetable. You can taste it at this point and see if you put in enough herbs and spices, and add more if you didn’t.

filling

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