Farm-to-School Week, Cooking Demonstration, and a Simple Dumpling Recipe

•November 8, 2010 • 1 Comment

Hello readers!  Lots and lots of things have happened since last I updated…a numbered list should serve us well in this next endeavor:

1) I just got back from a week-long trip to New Orleans.  Having been to New Year 2010, I thought I would be prepared for the mayhem of Halloween.  I, indeed, was not.  Wading through a massive ocean of inhuman visages, sounds and smells, I made it out alive with enough energy to write a blog post for all my friends (that’s you!) to read.

Thankfully, there was plenty of downtime for my darling Ladée and I to cook several delicious meals.  Unfortunately, there isn’t any photo documentation of what we made, so you will have to make do with very detailed, verbose descriptions:

  • Veganomicon’s chickpea cutlets with a cauliflower-broccoli purée
  • Sushi with homemade seitan katsu, green onions, haricot-verts and carrot
  • Canned lentil soup, cold, eaten on the Mississippi River at the end of Canal Street

Yum!

2) I finally got a lovely little Cuisinart from my dear friend SB.  Needless to say, a great deal of the foods I’ve been preparing have been purée, blended, mashed, and baby food-ified.  This little thing has cut down cooking time by so much!  Cashew spreads have never been easier!

3) I got the opportunity to do a cooking demonstration as a part of the DC Farm-to-School Week!  Here I am at the Kickoff celebration, creating a beautiful geometric apple sculpture.  Unfortunately, people kept coming up and eating it, so there’s really only one shot of it:

Yes, that is me, wearing traditional French chef attire: a red cardigan, a blue button-down checkered shirt, and skinny jeans.

SB did me the great honor of asking me to do a cooking demonstration for a class of second graders at a certain Chinese immersion public school in DC.  Here are a few snapshots, courtesy of SB:

I think some of the children were scared of me…but the majority of them seemed to like me and the recipe, so I’ll count it as a success!  If you can’t surmise from the photos, we made vegan dumplings with tofu, carrot, green onion, garlic, fresh shiitakes, and some soy sauce.  Simple but delicious, especially if they are steam-fried!  The kids themselves did a really great job folding the dumplings, and some of them got pretty creative with it.

The recipe is included below.  Happy folding!

Ingredients:

2 tbsp canola oil, plus more for frying
1/2 block firm tofu, crumbled
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, minced
3-4 shiitake mushrooms, diced
2-3 tbsp soy sauce (more to taste)
1-2 tbsp rice vinegar (more to taste)
1 medium-sized carrot, grated
1 stalk green onion, chopped
2-3 sprigs cilantro (more to taste)
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
wonton wrappers
water for sealing dumplings and steam-frying
Tools:
cutting board
sharp knife
wooden spoon
spoon to scoop
frying pan
Steps:
1. Heat canola oil on medium high.  Add garlic and sauté until golden and fragrant.
2. Add ginger and sauté until golden.
3. Add mushrooms and sauté until they release all their water.
4. Add soy sauce and rice vinegar and sauté for one minute.
5. Add tofu and sauté until it releases all its water.
6. Add carrots and sauté for one minute.
7. Turn off heat.
8. Add green onions and cilantro and stir.  Allow mixture to cool.
9. Using a small spoon, scoop a small amount of the filling into a wonton skin.
10. Moisten the edges of the wonton skin with water, then fold and seal dumpling.
11. Repeat until all skins are used.
12. Heat canola oil in a pan on medium heat.  Add dumplings and fry for one minute.
13. Add about a half cup of water and cover pan until dumplings are cooked.
14. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro.  Serve with soy sauce.

Wasabi pea gnocchi in a ginger-miso broth with pickled eggplant

•September 9, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Sometimes, a cook is struck with inspiration out-of-the-blue.  I’m not sure how such a project landed in my head, but I decided I would make gnocchi.  Maybe I was craving something light and airy; maybe I just wanted to try my hand at making pasta again.  For some reason, I can’t seem to use flour to make anything besides roux–pasta, dumpling skins…none of them have turned out as well as I had hoped.  I did make a flatbread with relative success, but I’m pretty sure the measure of success is relative to my other misadventures.

In any case, I’d never made gnocchi before, and I soon discovered that, like other dumplings, they require a great deal of preparation time, or someone who loves you enough to sit at a table and cut them for half-great deal of preparation time.  A. has perpetually demonstrated his unerring support for my culinary adventures, particularly those that push dinnertime to around 10pm.

Also, hand-made gnocchi, much like other hand-made dumplings, are a task best suited to a life unburdened by employment.  What a blessing it is to have all the time in the world to roll dumplings while browsing for jobs online (i.e., watching things on Netflix, i.e., watching videos of cute animals doing cute things)!  Of course, the unfortunate aspect of it is that, with this sudden surge in free time comes an increased attention to the number of dollar bills flying out of bank accounts and into grocery store cash registers.

(Interestingly enough, the little neighborhood Latino grocery store has slowly begun appealing to the novel gentry around town.  During the past several visits, I’ve witnessed the sudden appearance of a small section of organic dry goods, as well as several brands of organic tofu.  But this is discussion for another time.)

So, there are three parts to this recipe: the gnocchi, the broth and the pickled eggplant.  Let’s start with the easiest:

Pickled Japanese Eggplant:

  1. Pause the video of “pug puppies playing.”
  2. Go to a Japanese grocery store.
  3. Buy some pickled eggplant.
  4. Come back home and finish watching “pug puppies playing.”  Watch related videos until your loved one arrives.
  5. Spread a bunch of stuff around the counter and muss up your hands to look like you’ve been preparing for the meal for hours.

For the gnocchi:

1 cup potatoes, steamed and mashed

1/2 cup sweet peas

1 tablespoon flaxseed plus 3 tablespoons water, mixed (This is to replace the egg as a binder.  I suppose you could use one egg in lieu of this mixture, but I don’t play that game, mmkay?)

1 cup flour

2 teaspoons wasabi paste

2 teaspoons ginger

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Buy a food processor, as using a blender sucks.
  2. Blend everything except the flour.
  3. Now, since blending dough is a horrible idea in a blender, I poured everything out, mixed half of the flour in right quick, then added the rest of the flour and mixed it.  Alternatively, if you have a food processor, you could add the first batch of flour and blend until just mixed, then pour everything out and mix in the rest.  NOTE: Don’t knead the dough excessively, just enough for the flour to get mixed in!  I made that mistake, and the gnocchi got too chewy (i.e., they developed too much gluten).
  4. Chill the dough.  This makes it easier to manipulate.
  5. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a string (or several strings, in case your table is not long enough…but you knew that already) about a half-inch thick.
  6. Cut the dough into pieces, a little over a half-inch each.  Press the gnocchi into the tines of a fork, just enough for it to make an impression (hopefully with a very friendly demeanor, since first impressions are the most important) and curl a little bit.
  7. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil.  Boil the gnocchi until they float to the top.

Now, the ginger-miso broth (best prepared while your loving partner is rolling out that dough):

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons minced ginger

about 2/3 cup vegetable broth (I cheated hardcore and used vegan boullion)

1.5 teaspoons miso paste (I should mention that I don’t measure things to a T, so you might want to start with a little, then adjust to taste)

a dash of agave nectar or some other natural sweetener

a little sesame oil to sautée the garlic and ginger

  1. Heat the oil.  Add the garlic, then the ginger.  Sautée until fragrant.
  2. Add the broth.  Reduce to a simmer.
  3. After the broth has reduced to a desirable quantity, add the miso pasta and mix well.
  4. Leave on a low simmer until read to serve.

To serve, place a small handful of gnocchi on the plate, drizzle enough broth to cover, garnish with sweet peas on the outside (of the gnocchi, not the plate, duh…why would you put it on the outside of the plate) and a bit of pickled eggplant in the center.  Enjoy with your special someone, who must really love you if s/he just spent several hours indulging in your unemployment-fueled culinary adventure.  If alone, search for “chinchilla dust bath,” view, and pour yourself another glass of crisp white wine.

Una danza entre las estrellas: la carta

•July 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Click here to see the forthcoming dinner of the century of the week

Quic-pics: Polenta with home-made seitan medallions and tomato sauce, asparagus and red pepper risotto

•July 9, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Upon browsing the picture folder on my desktop, I found some lil’ treasures I forgot to post: polenta with home-made seitan medallions and tomato sauce, and an asparagus and red pepper risotto AM and I made a month or two ago.

As far as the polenta is concerned, the recipe is pretty straightforward–three parts water, one part grits, a few dashes of olive oil.  Stir until the consistency is creamy.  The seitan medallions were basic seitan, with a gluten-to-mashed-white-beans ratio of about 1:2, as I recall (but I have a poor memory nowadays, so don’t quote me on that), to which I added a variety of dried herbs and nutritional yeast.  The tomato sauce began as a balsamic and red wine reduction, to which I added crushed tomatoes with rosemary and thyme.

“What the hell is that thing on top?” some of you might ask.  Other might say, “Oh, that is an artichoke heart marinated in red wine vinegar.”  The latter group, in this case, is correct!  Good job.

AM and I made risotto with asparagus and roasted red pepper.  My seitan medallions made a guest appearance, as you can see.

The risotto is also quite straightforward–we achieved a delectable creaminess through the addition of a simple cashew purée, which we added towards the end of cooking.  A note to the risotto-wary: risottos are best done with a sous-chef, or at least someone to talk to you while you stand hunched over the stove stirring and stirring.  Here I am demonstrating how to perform this step with a left hand:

Alternately, you can create a risotto tag team, as evidenced by this picture of AM’s arms (they are actually probably my arms, judging by the shirt, but let’s just pretend):

Happy Friday, have a lovely weekend!

Onigiri with miso tempeh filling

•July 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

可愛いですね?  (Cute, reet?)

おにぎり are delicious balls of rice which may or may not be stuffed with delicious fillings.  おにぎり are made with sushi rice (including rice vinegar, sugar, and some salt) and can be accented with a strip of nori, or other assorted decorations.  The only requirement is that the onigiri look adorable.  That is what makes them very Japanese.

I was inspired by the おにぎり on Makiko Itoh’s website Just Bento, where she introduced her readers to a very precious and convenient shortcut to rolling onigiri into lovely, lovely shapes, such as a triangles and circles.  Please refer to her Onigiri FAQ for tons of information regarding おにぎり.  Aww, they have faces and are pandas!!!

I really wanted to re-create the tempeh filling AM and I used in our sushi the other day, but, unfortunately, I am all out of umeboshi paste.  Instead, I mashed the tempeh with some green onions, kombu-infused soy sauce and black pepper.  Simple, but delicious.

Following Itoh’s directions, I used a teacup and some plastic wrap (If the end result weren’t so cuuute, I’d say shame, shame…) to begin my おにぎり.  I made a hole in my little scoop of rice and put some filling in, then covered it up with a bit more rice.  Wrapping it all up together in the plastic wrap, I made an extremely delightful-looking lunch, accompanied with a tiny roll of sushi filled with some lo baak gou for a little bit of a Peranakan flair:

(Note: Those small black dots are not sesame seeds, as I don’t have any, but chia seeds!  Gotta make it just a little more vegan-weird, reet?)

These おにぎり were almost too 可愛い to eat!

…But not quite, so I just ate them all.  Happy Hump Day!

Peranakan Vegan: Lo baak gou (savory daikon cake)

•July 6, 2010 • 1 Comment

As most of you already know, the Hsu family is descended from a long line of ethnic Chinese who settled in Penang, Malaysia, many generations ago.  They are members of a community called the Peranakans, or the Straits Chinese.  My ancestors were probably wealthy merchants, or perhaps very fancy, regal people on the prowl for humid adventures on the Malay Peninsula.  In any case, we arrived some time in the past, and played a very integral role in the creation of a delicious regional food culture–Nyonya cuisine (nyonya means madame or auntie in Javanese, as most of you already knew).  From this delightful mélange of Chinese and Malay influences comes the first in a (hopefully) long line of veganized Nyonya dishes: lo baak gou, or savory daikon cake.

Many Nyonya dishes are quite meat-and-seafood heavy, so veganization will be a fun little challenge.  As a point of reference, I consulted my brain-bank (i.e., memory) for my grandmother’s recipe: shredded daikon, rice flour (regular and glutinous), dried shrimp (he bee), shiitake mushrooms (doong gu), and Chinese sausage (lap cheong).

So, I started with shredded daikon (around 4 cups) and rice flour (one cup regular and one cup glutinous).   A food processor would have been helpful for the shredding of the daikon, but since all I have is a crappy blender, I did this by hand–this was the opposite of fun, so I recommend that you use a food processor for this if you have one.  Squeeze the water our of the shredded daikon as much as possible, and reserve for later use.  I soaked some pre-sliced shiitakes in warm water, then diced them up and threw them into the mix.  I saved the mushroom water to add to the mix later on.

Now, the challenge was what to use instead of sausage and dried shrimp.  Normally, I am not the biggest fan of imitating the presence of meat, but for the sake of my memory of Grandma’s beloved lo baak gou, I figured I’d approximate as much as possible, at least this first time around.  I used TVP (ahh!), enhanced with kombu-infused soy sauce, five-spice powder, pepper, achiote molido (for color) and a touch of agave.  The result was a salty, briny flavor at least a little bit reminiscent of dried shrimp.  I guess.  I mixed all of these ingredients together in a bowl, adding the mushroom water and daikon water until the mixture was a thick paste, not too liquidy and not too firm.

I poured the mixture into an aluminum baking pan and steamed it for an hour, until a knife came out clean.  After letting it cool, I sliced of rectangular pieces and pan-fried them until crispy, then garnished with some Sriracha and chopped green onions.  Behold the result:

Hopefully, Grandma will be proud.  Alternatively, she may be thoroughly unimpressed and take it upon herself to veganize it the “right” way.  Through thick and thin, I can always count on my elders to tell me I’m doing something wrong and fix it for me.  Hurrah for old people!

Sushi filled with maitake, avocado, Japanese cucumber, and umeboshi-spiced tempeh

•June 24, 2010 • 1 Comment

Since turning vegan, there have a great deal of things I don’t get to partake in anymore (DUH, you say.), one of which is ravenously devouring a boat of sushi.  This was best accomplished around American holidays (Valentine’s Day Boat, New Year Boat, Tree Day Boat), and best done with someone you are not dating, so as to avoid looking like a complete eatin’ monster in front of him or her.  And, don’t kid yourself, you’d eat the complementary salad and miso soup just because it’s in front of you.

Unfortunately, such days of near-psychotic gluttony are fewer and farther in between for me.  For the time being, I’ll leave the depletion of ocean creatures to my flesh-eating friends.

Where does that leave me, though?  How could I completely give up sushi, a wonderful, magical food that allows me to inhale everything in front of my mouth yet masquerade it all as a practice in austere aesthetic and culinary appreciation?

Make my own, duh!

I was inspired/completely overwhelmed at H Mart out in Wheaton.  Besides spending a week’s worth of salary on all sorts of wonderful Asian foodstuffs (look out for some veganized Malaysian/Nyonya favorites!), I picked up some fresh, organic maitakes, a Japanese cucumber and a rolling mat.  Having been inspired by the Veganomicon’s use of tempeh, I brought some to A’s place to somehow turn into a yummy filling.  The original recipe calls for veganaise (or another tofu-based mayonnaise thing-thing), which has never really flown with me…so we placed our faith in some experimentation.

A. rounded things out nicely with some semi-firm tofu and some umeboshi paste.  I whipped the tofu, (raw) tempeh and umeboshi paste into a spreadable consistency, and rolled it up along with everything else I brought.  A. sprinkled some Japanese basil on top, along with the typical black and white sesame seeds.  The result was spectacular.  See for yourself: 

We made it at A’s house, so we were missing a few important items, such as a sharp, serrated knife.  Instead, we used scissors, which explains the rolls’ ragged look and also explains why Masaharu Morimoto left a death threat signed in pretty, calligraphic blood on my door.  Happy Thursday!

 
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