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Sunday, August 22, 2004

IMBB #7 - Apple-Blackberry Dumplings

The theme of the seventh Is My Blog Burning? is "You're Just the Cutest Little Dumpling!".

Now dumplings cover a lot of ground, both sweet and savory. They aren't even all alike, as some are yummy things enclosed in some sort of dough (apple dumplings, or kuo teh [we call these "pot stickers" on the west coast of the US but they are called "dumplings" in other places - in any case these are the tasty Chinese appetizers]) and baked, steamed, or fried or the dough itself dropped in some simmering liquid and cooked there until done. And it's absolutely no wonder that they have made it into the language as a term of affection; while dumplings seem to be slightly out of fashion these days, they are good homey food, the type of thing that your grandmother would make for you and perhaps with you on a winter's afternoon.

I was, however, at some loss as to what to make, as I do not come from a dumpling tribe. I pondered the idea of getting firm peaches from the market and wrapping them in dough (as it is summer, even if I live in a cool climate), and I got some kuo teh wrappers from the store, and resolved to get some more practice making Chinese dumplings. (My first attempt was an abject failure - couldn't get 'em to seal.)

And then I looked out my kitchen window and saw my apple tree. I went into the yard and saw this:

The apple tree

Well, it is late August and some of the early apples are ripening here in California.

Additional inspiration came from an issue of "Food and Wine" magazine; a story about a society caterer had a dish of apples poached in Sauternes with blackberries. Well, I have been at some trouble to eradicate the thicket of Himalaya blackberries that once completely overran my yard, but one last stand still remained between the garage and the fence:


So apple-blackberry it was.

I used a recipe I had found on a google search for recipes on southernfood.about.com, slightly modified:


1 cup flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1/3 cup milk

Sift dry ingredients together, cut shortening in, add milk to make a soft dough.

Roll dough out thin (recipe said 1/8", I am not that neat-handed with pastry) and cut in large squares (recipe recommends 6-7" but I used smaller).

Core and peel apples.

Wrap apples in dough, putting a pat of butter, some brown sugar, and some spices (I used some powdered ginger and Penzey's Cake Spice) in the core. I also stuck a couple of blackberries in and folded up the corners of the pastry.

I baked them in a buttered dish at 450 for 15 minutes and then poured some syrup over it I had made with 2 tablespoons butter (melted), 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 3/4 cup hot water. Then I reduced to 350 F and baked for about 25 minutes more.

The dumplings were definitely not cute because I should have made slightly more pastry for the four small apples I used and it fell apart in places and did not come together in others. (The amount given above would work nicely for three.) But they sure smelled good.

Dough-wrapped goodness

For the eating, I, like Clotilde, have a penchant for things pink, so I used a pink-and-white Limoges soup bowl that was originally my great-grandmother's.

Pink, pastry, what's not to like?

This also helped to contain the sauces. I continued along the English theme for those; one was a simple blackberry coulis (blackberries, sugar, a little lemon, pureed in the FP), and the other creme anglais ... yep, custard. American style would be with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, although my own dear grandmother would have probably floated some heavy cream on the lot.

I will say that while the insides were good, the pastry left a bit to be desired; more shortening, or butter, so it was closer to flaky pie dough would probably have helped it some.

Now if you will excuse me ... it is dinner time and I feel like going out for Chinese food, heavy on the potstickers.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Well, foo

The lovely picture I thought I got of the beans-and-tomatoes thing made with green beans, wax beans, and red tomatoes ... well, I hit the wrong button on the camera and it turned out I was making "movies". So I'll have to make it again. At least my photos for the IMBB entry turned out.

I have been busy in the kitchen, just no time to blog about it as the houseguest has arrived.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Back to the kitchen

I didn't do much cooking this past week. I had a burst of activity last weekend and was also a bit less energetic when I got home because my car was out of commission due to flat and shop work so I was walking to/from BART. I also had the worst of my period last week, which contributed to the low energy.

I did get a chicken at Andronico's on the way home because I wanted to try the sesame chicken noodle dish in the latest Cook's Illustrated. I had thought of getting a rotisserie chicken, but my native thrift kicked in. I still haven't done the sesame chicken, though, as I ate the delectable breast meat shortly after the chicken came out of the oven (*grin*). I have another bird (I went to the Bowl on Friday, when I had my car back) so might try again.

I did make minestrone with chard ribs (chard was on sale at Andronico's when I got the chicken), green, and wax beans last night, and a blueberry buckle. I cooked the chard greens seperately. More on the minestrone when I have a chance; I have more cooking and a whack load of cleaning ahead of me today.

The Society for Getting Dinner on the Table notes with approval the wide selection of pre-prepared vegetables at Trader Joe's. Actually I think the one thing I haven't particularly noted there is the shredded cabbage you can find in most supers these days, but they have various root veggies cut in chunks, julienned carrots, petite green beans in a microwavable bag, sugar snap peas (which are low-care in their natural form), two kinds of stir-fry mix, and as I noted this am, "chard of many colors" de-ribbed and cut up. I might be availing myself of this, because I love chard, and my experience this week reminds me that if I am low-energy or very pressed for time (as I often am in the am) I may pass on it because of the prep. Also, in my effort to reduce my number of shopping trips, it's nice to know that I can find chard at TJ's.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Soybean Succotash

AKA "Soybean Stuff", or "Soybean Schtuff" when I'm under the influence of Mutts (Yesh!).

I first put this together in January of 2003. My twin influences were the succotash recipe in Laurie Colwin's More Home Cooking and an article about cooking with soybeans, including succotash, in the then-current issue of Cooking Light. I believe I had tried Colwin's recipe, with mixed results (one of the only disappointments from her book, and I have cooked a lot from it), but a light went on when I read the CL article.

I have made it a lot since. It makes a pile, so I eat it for my lunches all week. It is a substantial dish, and excellent with chicken, beef, salmon, and pasta. (The pasta especially if you have some roasted red bell pepper sauce around.) If you like me are following the old-fashioned and new-fangled practice of eating a colorful plate, it certainly fits the bill all in one (especially if you add a dark green to it).

Normally I think of this as a winter dish, as it makes up very well with frozen and canned stuff. But I was trying to do some deep weather magic as well as making something for my lunches, so I made it on Tuesday night. I decided to time myself this time, and it took about half an hour from start to finish, the last ten minutes or so which did not require my attention. Since it is summer where I am you could use fresh corn.

Soybean Stuff


About 3 tablespoons olive oil (enough to cover your pan)
1 large or 2 small onions, diced
1 or 2 red or orange bell peppers, diced
1 green bell pepper or some fresh chiles, seeded and diced (I like anchos) (obviously you can make this as hot as you like)
1-2 cloves garlic, diced

1 12 or 16 oz bag shelled edamame (soybeans)
1 12 or 16 oz bag best quality frozen corn (the quality does make a difference)
Note: The bags should be the same weight if you can arrange it
1 14 oz can whole or diced tomatoes in juice (I often use tomatoes and chiles) - if you use whole tomatoes, cut or chop them up.

Spices to taste - salt (1 teaspoon minimum), pepper, and some other seasoning; Colwin says to use ginger, I usually use ancho chile powder or chili powder, at least a tablespoon. This would probably be tasty curried as well. Or you could think Asian with the spicing and garnish the result with a little seaweed (indeed, unfermented soy products such as tofu are often eaten with seaweed in Japanese cooking).

Juice of 1-2 lemons or, better yet, limes

Optional - green beans, fresh or good quality frozen (1 lb or whatever you have), and/or parsley or cilantro, chopped.

What to do with them:

Heat the oil up in a Dutch oven or sturdy pot with a lid. I use my Le Crueset French oven. When it is warm, add the diced onion, and saute for about five minutes. Add the peppers and saute for about five minutes more, stirring often to avoid burning (you might want to reduce the heat at a point). When the peppers and onions look sauteed, put the garlic in for one minute, then mix the chile or curry powder in to toast for a minute or so.

Add the tomatoes and their juice to the pot. You can wash out the can with a little water and add to the pot. Add the frozen edamame, stir, and cover the pot. Add salt and pepper. Cook until beans are done, 8-10 minutes. If you are in the kitchen, give it a stir every couple of minutes.

As I am usually not planning to eat some of this right away, I turn off the heat when I add the green beans (if using) and frozen corn, cover the pot, and let retained heat do the cooking. If you are planning to eat right away and are using the beans, cook them for a couple of minutes after the soybeans are done in the covered pot. In any case, take the pot off the heat and dump the corn in, stir, cover, and let sit for a couple of minutes.

Squeeze limes or lemon in. If you are using parsley or cilantro, add that at serving time.

Made with red, orange, and ancho peppers, no green beans:

Soybean Stuff

Simple Tomato Sauce

I got this formula that inspired this from the fabulous guide to Dinner on the Table, How to Cook without a Book. It saved me when I went through a period of jonesing for Genova Deli's extremely delicious but rather pricey tomato with dried funghi sauce. It really does get a good tasting red sauce ready in about the time it takes to boil the water and cook the dried pasta.

A key to this is keeping excellent quality crushed tomatoes in the pantry. Muir Glen and Progresso are the best brands according to the author. I am a Muir Glen gal all the way - they are excellent canned tomatoes. If you can't find crushed, but have a 28 oz can of tomatoes in juice, crush them in your fingers as you add them to the pan or use a potato masher.

The basic formula - garlic as aromatic warmed up in olive oil, then simmer the tomatoes with salt, pepper, and some herbs - is even speedier than what I did, as I used an onion and they take longer to saute.

So here was my tomato sauce with mushrooms:


2-3 TBS olive oil

1 large onion, diced, (about 7 minutes)

About 1/2 lb mushrooms (I had the shiitake which I bought on special at the Bowl), cleaned and diced - saute for about 3 minutes more


1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
Salt, pepper, oregano

Simmer until thickened, stirring frequently.

I remembered I should start the pasta at this point. I should have started the water when I had the onions in. I let it simmer until the noodles were done.

Memorize Pam's formula (occasionally varying the aromatics and add-ins) and you won't have to reach for bottled sauce again:

Heat fat and garlic, then cook it for two.
Add canned tomatoes and simmer for a few.

This is a great book if you are somewhat overwhelmed by the idea of recipes on weeknights; it concentrates on easy to remember formulas for simple family suppers (stir fry, roast chicken, seared meat, simple soups, pasta dishes).