Sichuan Wontons in Chili Oil

Sichuan Wontons in Chili OilMy Little Dumpling
Most people when they are learning to cook start off simple. Scrambled eggs. Roast chicken. Pancakes. The first things my daughter taught herself to make were pork dumplings.

To be fair, dim sum and all other Chinese dumplings are basically her favorite food. So, it makes sense that this is what she would want to know how to make. And, this is pretty much her M.O. She finds something that she is interested in, become obsessive about it, and then sets off to master it. And, once she has, she moves on to the next thing. Her current obsession? French Macarons. And there is now almond flour on every surface of my home…

As luck would have it, our cookbook club was cooking through a Chinese cookbook at the time she wanted to learn about dumpling—and there happened to be a wonton recipe that we decided to try. So I figured it would be a fun day of bonding with my daughter and teaching her a new skill. Little did I know I was about to be schooled…

Making the filling for the dumplings is fairly uncomplicated. All you are doing is just mixing the ingredients together. The difficult part of making dumplings is in the folding of the wrapper. They can be tricky and it takes some practice to get it right. The first few that I produced were misshapen and scary and the filling kept squishing out. My (at that time) ten-year-old daughter’s? Perfect. So perfect, in fact, she had to show me and my many years of cooking experience where I was going wrong. I have no idea where she learned to do it, but apparently, my daughter is a dumpling prodigy. And I, a mere mortal, bow to her greatness.

We did end up having a great time working together and the dumplings were so good. The best part was sitting down after it was all done to devour them with spicy chili sauce…

Sichuan Wontons in Chili Oil 
Adapted from Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking
by Fuchsia Dunlop
Yields 4 servings, about 15 to 20 wontons

Ingredients
For the wontons
1/2-ounce piece of ginger, unpeeled
5-ounces ground pork
1/2 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Salt and ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons chicken stock
3 tablespoons finely sliced spring onion greens
7-ounce package of wonton wrappers
Flour for dusting

For the dipping sauce
4 tablespoons light or tamari soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar
5 tablespoons of chili oil, including sediment
3 heaping teaspoons of crushed garlic
2 tablespoons of finely sliced spring onion greens

Directions
Make the wonton filling
Crush the ginger with the flat of a cleaver or a rolling pin and put it in a cup with just enough cold water to cover.

Place the pork, egg, sherry, and sesame oil in a bowl with 1 1/2 tsp of the ginger water and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well. Mix in the stock, 1 tablespoon at a time. Finally, add the spring onion greens.

Make the wontons
Fill a small bowl with cold water. Take a wonton wrapper and lay it flat in one hand. Use a butter knife to press about 1 teaspoon of the pork mixture into the center of the wrapper. Dip a finger into the cold water, run it around the edges of the wrapper, and fold it diagonally in half. Press the edges tightly together and lay on a baking tray that has been lightly dusted with flour.

Place a large pan of water on high heat and bring to a boil.

Prepare the sauce
While waiting for the water to boil, prepare the sauce. Set out three or four serving bowls. In each bowl, place 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar, 1-1/2 tablespoons of the chili oil, and 1 heaping teaspoon of crushed garlic. Stir the ingredients to blend.

Cook the wontons
When the water has come to a boil, drop in the wontons. Stir gently to prevent sticking. When the water returns to a rolling boil, pour in a small cup of cold water to calm it down. Allow the water to come to a rolling boil and repeat this one more time. When the water has come to a boil for the third time, the wontons should be cooked through (slice one open to make sure).

Remove the wontons with a slotted spoon, drain well, and divide them between the prepared serving bowls. Scatter each bowl with some of the chopped spring onion greens. Stir everything together and serve immediately.

Stir Fry with Baby Boy Choy, Snow Peas, and Shrimp

Stir Fry with Baby Boy Choy, Snow Peas, and ShrimpBaby, I have a cold
For this first normal day of the new year, I had intended to write about my plan for better eating habits for 2019 and I DO plan on eating better. My biggest problem right now though is that I cannot shake this cold! To make things worse, I know I am not alone in my quest. The number of friends, family, and coworkers who are fighting this same battle is astounding. So instead of outlining my plan to be healthier in 2019, I’m trying to figure out just how to get healthy.

We sell a Jasmine Green Iced Tea here at the store from Teas Tea that I love. The best thing about it, other than the taste, is the fact that it is loaded with vitamin C. Plus, it’s a great way to stay hydrated. This is why I have been having it every day since I got sick. Of course, you can always drink the hot version too. The heat will help with your sinuses.

Soups are a no-brainer when you are sick, especially this Chicken Soup with Dill or my favorite, depending on my energy level, Mexican Matzo Ball Soup. Choosing any one of these options is a good way to go as well: Thai Hot and Sour Chicken Soup, Minestrone, and Spicy Chicken and Rice Flu Chaser Soup.

Because anytime you have a cold and have stuffed sinuses it can be hard to taste anything, I tend to eat spicy foods when I am under the weather. A spicy stir-fry is my go-to for a few reasons. The first is if it’s spicy, I am able to taste it. Second, ingredients like ginger, garlic, and chilies, which are most often found in stir-fry, are great natural remedies for illness. Lastly, it’s fast and filling and not boring so the rest of the family will eat it too.

For those of you out there fighting this battle along with me, carry your tissue packs with pride and know that we shall eventually persevere. We will get through this!

Stir-Fry with Baby Boy Choy, Snow Peas, and Shrimp
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 6 servings with rice or noodles  Read more…

Baked Brie

Baked BrieHot Stuff
If a party is happening at my place you can bet there are going to be snacks. I say snacks because the phrase hors d’oeuvres can be a bit high brow for what the function actually is. You do not have hors-d’oeuvres at a football party. You have snacks. Munchies. Grubs…You get the idea.

For the rare party that I throw at my place, I almost always have a cheese plate with various cheeses and fresh fruits. It’s easy and elegant and you can set it out and let people serve themselves. Same goes for a dip platter with veggies—or depending on the dip, some interesting crackers. These are easy go-to pre-dinner nibbles that allow you to interact with your guests but they’re not hot, and for parties on a cold night, I like to have at least something that is warm.

The difficult thing about serving hot hors-d’oeuvres is that it requires you to be in the kitchen and not mingling. Instead, you are in a constant stage of putting stuff in the oven or taking it out. One of my favorites is my Hot Cheesy Things which are a family favorite as well as a definite crowd pleaser. But again, there’s that oven thing.

This year I think I have found a solution to the dilemma. Baked Brie.

Obviously, this is not a new concept but you can modernize it a bit by choosing a different type of jam than the traditional raspberry or another sweet version. I’m making mine with a Maple Bacon Onion jam that we sell here at the store but it would also be good with a Balsamic Onion Jam or even a Fig Jam. Of course, anything spicy would work well too—like a little Thai Sweet Chili sauce…Yum!

Because I am using the onion jam I am going to sprinkle a little fresh thyme for a little more flavor.

Baked Brie
Yields about 16 servings Read more…

Gam’s Egg Salad Sandwiches

Gam’s Egg Salad Sandwiches‘Wichcraft
Where would we be without the sandwich? There is nothing more simple to pull together for a meal than the sandwich. Sandwiches in some way shape or form are the most consumed lunch dish around the world. I know in my house, life as we know it would come to a screeching halt if there were no way to make a sandwich for lunch.

Now, some people have different ideas about what constitutes a sandwich. The most basic definition is meat between two slices of bread. By that standard, a cheeseburger is a sandwich. Umm..no. A burger is a burger and in a class unto itself. Same with a hot dog.  A legitimate sandwich, in my world, does, in fact, start with two slices of bread but what goes in between those two slices can be a varied wonderland of possibilities.

I have made it my goal as a parent to make sure that my kids know how to make a serious sandwich. Turkey on white bread with a little mayo, while tasty, is woefully lacking in creativity and style. Take that same turkey, add a little cranberry sauce or even a lovely chutney with crispy lettuce and a slice of Havarti on crusty sourdough and now we’re talking… bonus points for using the dill Havarti.

One of my sons has become a master of the monster sandwich. This work of art consists of multiple slices of every possible deli meat I have in the fridge, mayo, cheese, tomato, avocado, and lettuce on a fresh roll the size of a Volkswagen. (He’s 14. He’ll burn it off in an hour…) His creativity more than makes up for his lack of restraint. If the meat choices lend themselves to an Italian feel, he will go with a little oil & vinegar just to spice things up. This feast is then washed down with an entire gallon of milk! But, that’s a discussion for another time…

Then there is my other son. Sigh. He’s my bologna, bread and mustard kid. He could eat the same thing day after day and not get tired of it. Zzzzzzzz…On the positive side, I have managed to get him to prefer eating the good wheat bread and the really good German bologna instead of the other scary stuff. So, at least he is eating actual food while sits there set in his ways. The struggle is real my friends…

There is one simple sandwich that we all love. And, if you mess with the recipe in any way there will be riots in the street…or perhaps just in our house. I have been making egg salad ever since my grandmother showed me how she made it when I was eight years old. It’s a classic. Though, there aren’t too many people packing in it their lunchboxes.

The simple recipe consists of hard boiled eggs, mayo, dry mustard, and a little salt. That’s it. The egg salad is then spread on wheat bread and only wheat bread with absolutely nothing else. Lettuce need not apply. This is the sandwich that the kids usually take to school on the first day much to the befuddlement of their friends. If I happen to have hard boiled eggs in the fridge, this is always how they will end up.

If you are a fellow sandwich worshiper, I recommend giving this classic a try just as a nice change of pace. Feel free to adjust as you see fit…

Gam’s Egg Salad
Yields enough egg salad to make 3 or 4 sandwiches depending upon the size of the bread. Read more…

Mexican Matzo Ball Soup

Mexican Matzo Ball SoupHigh Holiday Spice
When I think about Rosh Hashanah, I immediately think honey cake and brisket—this makes sense being traditional foods to celebrate the Jewish New Year. Those are quickly followed by chicken with pomegranate sauce and of course, fresh warm round challah. (I’ll pass on the Gefilte fish.) These are all foods I love (minus the fish) and one can find a lot of comfort in tradition. But, sometimes it becomes necessary to spice things up.

I ran across an article in the NY Times food section yesterday about a chef, Fany Gerson, who is of Jewish heritage but was raised in Mexico City. This fascinated me because while there are people of Jewish faith in any number of places, I just never put those two things together in my own mind. And, by doing so, my mind is blown. (Apparently, Mexico has one of the largest Jewish populations in Latin America…who knew?)

She grew up eating the same traditional foods for the holidays but over the years, the recipes were personalized using the flavors of their surroundings. As I read the article my mouth started watering at the description of the foods they would eat. Freshly baked challah with cinnamon and apples? Yes, please. Rugelach with chipotle-laced cherry filling? OMG! I did not see a mention of a cookbook in the article but I hope to God it’s coming soon.

One of my most favorite things, holiday or not, is Matzo Ball soup. I will choose matzo ball soup over chicken noodle any day of the week and twice on Sunday. This is why when I saw this recipe, I flipped out. It combines two of my favorites…Matzo and Mexican. How can you go wrong with that? This one is definitely on the menu this weekend. I don’t care if it’s 90 degrees outside…

Mexican Matzo Ball Soup
Read more…