Wednesday, August 13, 2008

3, 2, 1 and we're back

Is anyone out there?

It's been a while but the vacation from blogging has been nice. I have been engulfed in culinary school classes, work, golf, gym and cooking. Yes, cooking, eating and eating out, maybe a little too much. And if that wasn’t enough, this summer has been full of long distance travels for weddings. Beginning in May, we went to Richmond, Virginia for a friend's wedding (the bride and groom listen to the priests while anxiously waiting for the "curtain" to drop) then it was off to Lake Tahoe in June for a cousin's wedding and we’re finishing the summer of weddings with a trip to Denver in September. I’ve loved all of it, especially spending time with family and friends since I don’t get to see them often. Since these trips are for the brides, the grooms, rehearsals, and free liquor, the husband and I agreed to take a short vacation to the beach, just us. Until the family asked to come along…. And now we have 9 people headed to Myrtle Beach for long weekend equipped with board games, beach towels, bathing suits, sun screen, and Asian dumplings.

I now also know the reasons for abandoning my blog and blogging for short periods. When I am exhausted and need some time off, instead of giving up the rockstar lifestyle, Liberal Foodie- the blog is the unfortunate victim. Basically, I disappear for couple months and then return with stories about food, travels and everything in between. For now, I am back. I think. If you've visited before, this is nothing new. Please bear with me.

Onto the food; especially the dumplings that are going to Myrtle Beach in a few weeks. I’ve never bought a pack of dumpling wrappers because I was intimidated by the entire process. On July 4th weekend, I tasted flavorful, asian-y, pan fried vegetarian dumplings from Trader Joe’s. After eating a few, I convinced myself to try making them at home.

At the Chinese Asian Market (CAM), I bought a pack of dumpling wrappers, firm tofu, napa cabbage, carrots, green onions and few other ingredients. I googled recipes and one that stood out was Alton Brown’s Vegetarian Steamed Dumplings.

This is his recipe with my adjustments in bold.

1/2 pound firm tofu
1/2 cup coarsely grated carrots,
1/2 cup shredded Napa cabbage- I used 1 whole napa cabbage
2 tablespoons finely chopped red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced- his recipe did not include garlic however since I live my life for the taste of garlic, I included it.
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 egg, lightly beaten- I omitted the egg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bowl of water, plus additional water for steamer
35 to 40 small wonton wrappers
Non-stick vegetable spray, for the steamer
1 tablespoon Vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.

Cut the tofu in half horizontally and lay between layers of paper towels. Place on a plate, top with another plate, and place a weight on top (a 14-ounce can of vegetables works well). Let stand 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, cut the tofu into 1/4-inch cubes and place in a large mixing bowl.

To make my life easy, I used a shredder on my cuisinart for the veggies. Hand chopping is certainly acceptable. First mince garlic and ginger in the shredder, then carrots, and finally napa cabbage. Scallions are easier to handle when cut by a knife, otherwise they make a big gooey mess in the shredder. In a large bowl, combine the cubed tofu with carrots, cabbage, red pepper, scallions, ginger, garlic cilantro, soy sauce, hoisin, sesame oil, salt, and pepper. Lightly stir to combine.

A deviation from the recipe is to cook the mixture before filling the dumplings. In a large pan on medium-hot heat, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil. When the oil is wavy, add the mixture. If it begins to smoke, turn down the heat. Cooking is my personal preference for these because it par cooks tofu, cabbage and carrots and releases garlic and ginger’s flavors. Allow the mixture to cool before shaping the dumplings.

To form the dumplings, remove 1 wonton wrapper from the package, covering the others with a damp cloth. Brush the edges of the wrapper lightly with water. Place 1/2 rounded teaspoon of the tofu mixture in the center of the wrapper. Shape as desired. My favorite, and the easiest, shape is to fold opposite sides together to form a triangle, press and seal. Be sure to gently press out excess air. For a fancier look, bring the two sides of the triangle base together, dab with water and press. Be sure to do this carefully so the wrapper does not tear. Haalo at Cook Almost anything at least Once has a magnificient picture (and recipe) of the finished product. Thank you!

Set on a sheet pan and cover with a damp cloth. Repeat procedure until all of the filling is gone. I recommend freezing the dumplings in the sheet pan before steaming. This keeps them from sticking together.

Using a steaming apparatus of your choice, bring 1/4 to 1/2-inch of water to a simmer over medium heat. Add enough water to a saucepot with a steam basket and bring the water to a rolling boil. The dumplings should not ever come in contact with the water. Spray the steamer's surface lightly with the non-stick vegetable spray to prevent sticking. Place as many dumplings as will fit into a steamer, without touching each other. Cover and steam until done. I can't remember how long for the frozen ones because I anxiously opened the lid 4 times. Taste one. Cover and steam 10- 12 minutes over medium heat. Remove the dumplings from the steamer to a heatproof platter and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat until desired number of dumplings are steamed. Serve hot or warm.

Frozen dumplings are good for up to 3-6 months.

After making these beauties, I plan on keeping my freezer stocked with wrappers and premade frozen dumplings.


Katie Zeller said...

Sounds like a lovely summer...
Welcome back!

Veggie Option said...

Welcome back!

liberal foodie said...

thank you ladies. I am glad to be back.

FoodHussy said...

welcome back!!!!

liberal foodie said...