I am no stranger to homemade potstickers. They are one of Craig and my favorite snacks. Usually they have meat in them. These didn’t. I didn’t have any homemade sausage, and to be completely honest, I didn’t want to monkey with meat. So I started throwing things together, and these ended up pretty delicious! All amounts are loose. I wasn’t even referencing a recipe, so I added things as needed, and was not in a frame of mind to take meticulous (or any) notes. This was my post-Christmas-craziness emotional therapy meal. I needed it. After 30 hours in a very warm house with 13 extended family members and 7 dogs, and all of the stress that comes along with trying to stick to any kind of timeline; all I wanted to do was binge-watch Netflix and meditate over the task of getting the flavors right and mindless assembly of dozens of little dumplings. So I did. And it was wonderful.
*Start with your tofu. Open the package, drain, wrap in paper (or super clean lint-free) towels and set on a flat surface (I like to use my cutting board). Set something else that’s flat on top (I use another cutting board) and set something heavy on top. This squeezes extraneous moisture out of the tofu, making the texture firmer and helping it crisp faster. I usually let it sit for 30-40 minutes. When you are sick of waiting, remove your contraption and towel, and cut into 1/4″ or thinner slices. Pan fry in neutral cooking oil in a nonstick pan(I usually opt for medium heat, though I trust you to know what works for your stove at home) until they’ve gotten golden and crispy on one side, flip, repeat. Remove to a cutting board and cut them into little cubes.
*Peel and cube your carrots. Try to either match or dice smaller than the tofu pieces. Gently saute over medium low heat until the carrot softens up.
*Slice your cabbage and then chop into small pieces. Once carrots have softened, add to carrots and stir/flip to incorporate. Splash a few tablespoons of rice wine in there to create a little steam.
*Grate about 2 tablespoons of ginger and garlic, mix with a couple tablespoons of tamari, and a splash of rice vinegar.
*Finely mince everything but the very ends of 3-4 scallions, set aside.
*Once your carrots and cabbage are wilted and not liquidy, add into bowl with crispy tofu cubes.
*Wash and chop your mushrooms into pieces equal to or smaller than the tofu. To do this, I sliced the mushrooms, made a pile, and then ran my knife through the pile, coarsely chopping. Add your mushrooms into a hot pan and begin to saute. Once the mushrooms have begun browning (remember, every bit of browning is flavor, and it is supremely difficult to actually burn just mushrooms and oil, so really give it some time), turn the heat to med-low and toss in a couple of tablespoons of miso paste. Also add a few tablespoons of rice wine or rice wine vinegar (I trust you). The miso paste is pretty much the only thing that acts as a binder for all of the ingredients, whereas in a meat-based filling, the meat acts as a binder. Once it’s all wrapped up, it’s no biggie, but it’s kind of a pita to seal without something holding it all together.
*Mix everything up in a bowl(drizzle in a tablespoon or so of sesame oil at this point too), then get set up to wrap. I like using a spray bottle to moisten the wrappers, but a little bowl with water and your finger works too (it’s just infinitely more time consuming).
*My method is to lay out a grid of 16 wrappers, place a scoop (I think my scoop is 3/4oz) of filling in the center of each wrapper, mist everything, and then get to sealing. I don’t have photos of the process, but here’s a link with some good instructions. Occasionally, partway through, I’ll need to re-mist the wrappers. No biggie. I set all of them aside on a sheet tray. Once it was filled, I put it in the freezer for 2 hours, then transferred them to a resealable gallon sized freezer bag.
*Doesn’t matter if it’s from frozen or from fresh, instructions are the same. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat with a little neutral cooking oil. Place your gyoza, flat side down, and pour 1/4 cup water (about) into the pan. Cover with a lid, or, if your pan doesn’t have a lid, some foil.
*Allow gyoza to steam for 3-5 minutes. When the wrappers have taken on the translucent look of cooked wrappers, remove the “lid” and allow the remainder of the steam to escape. Continue cooking another few minutes until the bottom has browned. At this point, they’re ready to eat, but I like turning them and getting a bit more crispiness, so I do 2 sides. When cooked, remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain/cool a little before eating.
*To make sauce, combine equal (about) parts tamari and rice vinegar. If you like sesame oil, add a bit of that as well. If you like spicy, add some gochujang or sriracha. I personally think these are better without it, even though I put hot sauce on everything.
It only gets more autumnal if you add in some roasted squash. On nights that I just can’t put together my brain enough to plan any type of meal, and we have leftovers from the last few days sitting in the fridge, I love to microwave a big pile of them, then top with a super runny fried egg. The yolk gets all runny and makes a delicious sauce for the veggies. Added benefit – 10 minutes to prepare, including the time it took to heat up the pan. Also, meat free, tons of fiber, and high in antioxidants!
Extra bonus surprise – red-tinted pee!
This was incredible! As part of my cold-food push last week, I made a soba noodle salad. And it was delicious.
The great thing about salads like this is that you can usually make them with stuff you have lying around the house. I did pick up some scallions and a bell pepper for this, but everything else is generally a staple in our house. Your mileage may vary.
Cold Peanut Sesame Soba Noodle Salad (serves 4-6)
1/2 english cucumber, cut into 3-4″ matchsticks
1/2 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, cut into thin slices
5 scallions, white and light green parts sliced on a bias
9 oz package (or similar) dry soba noodles, spaghetti, udon, whatever kind strikes your fancy.
2-3 T peanut butter
1 T sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 T sesame oil
2 T neutral oil (I used avocado)
4 T soy sauce
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 T hot chili oil
1″ fresh ginger, peeled & grated
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled & grated
Toasted sesame seeds or furikake seasoning
*Prep your veggies and set them aside
*Toss your sauce ingredients all together and whisk to combine. If your peanut butter won’t break up, microwave for 10-30 seconds and whisk again. Taste. You may need more acid (vinegar) or salt (soy sauce). Continue to taste and adjust until things seem good.
*Boil your water for your noodles, cook according to package directions (my soba noodles took 4 minutes), drain, then rinse under cold water
*Toss your noodles with the dressing, then mix in your veggies. Taste again, you may need to adjust seasonings once again.
*Plate your noodles, top with some sliced avocado (if you like) and a sprinkling of sesame seeds/furikake seasoning.
*Enjoy, also, this makes rad leftovers and is good at room temp too, so would probably be a good picnic candidate
Every year it is the same thing for me. I get the garden planted and then constantly stress out about how nothing is growing. Eventually I get so discouraged that I give up on the idea that anything will ever produce. Then a week later, I am totally inundated with crop X and I and wholly unprepared to deal with the amount of food it’s producing. This year has been no different. Cool season crops grow so slowly (or so quickly) that you kind of keep tabs on them through spring, but as soon as the heat of summer hits, I always scramble to figure out what to do with them! The kale is covered in aphids, but the ducks love both kale and aphids, so that’s been a pretty easy crop to “dispose” of. The peas have done all the growing they’re going to, and in the face of a week of days topping 90 degrees have begun drying out. The ducks have been greedily gobbling those down. Anything that gets tossed into their pen is systematically defoliated and all I have to do is collect a bundle of dried out stems weekly. They’re basically the cutest compost pile you’ve ever seen. With my move to rid the beds of dying cool season crops, I’ve been doing little more than pinch prune the tomatoes and keep training them on their strings. This morning, I looked outside and realized that I have 2 huge basil plants that are beginning to bolt (this means they’re blooming, and makes the basil take on a more anise-y flavor). That means that I need to use them right away! My favorite use for basil, besides caprese salad (and that’s still a month off as none of the tomatoes have ripened yet) is pesto.
But let us discuss pesto just a little bit. Typically, pesto is made with pine nuts. Pine nuts are delicious, but if you’ve ever heard of Pine Mouth you’ll probably think twice about eating them. Plus, they’re super expensive. And for things like pesto where the nuts are there primarily for texture, it’s difficult to tell the difference between them and many other types of nuts. So I always go with whatever nuts I have lying around the house. This time, it was sliced almonds that I toasted.
The trick with basil pesto is that it turns brown by oxidation so quickly. The only way to effectively prevent this is to not allow the pesto to have any access to oxygen (difficult in a home environment) or to blanch the basil, which is very easy in a home environment. I went with that. You basically toss the basil in boiling water, count to 10, ensure that it’s turned a bright green color, then drain. If you’re not worried about the pesto oxidizing (like you’re going to use it right away or don’t care if it turns brown – the flavor doesn’t degrade with the color), then don’t bother with blanching it.
6ish cups basil leaves, stems and flowers removed, blanched if you so desire.
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2-6 cloves garlic (depends on how much you like garlic)
1/2 cup toasted nuts
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
Salt to taste
*Put your cheese, garlic, and nuts in the bowl of a food processor, and twirl until they’re pretty fine (technical term here – maybe uncooked couscous sized?)
*Add your basil, either blanched or otherwise
*Whirr the pesto ingredients and stream in olive oil until the pesto loosens up enough evenly process.
*Taste, add salt, and enjoy.
This pesto freezes beautifully. You can either freeze it as a solid block, or stick it in an ice cube tray, freeze, then stick the cubes of pesto into a resealable zip top bag and store in the freezer. Or put it all on everything you see for an entire week and then go into withdrawals because you’re out and the basil hasn’t bounced back enough to make another batch.
A few weeks ago, we had a small bbq. I made hummus. But I didn’t make just any hummus, I made Smitten Kitchen’s Ethereally Smooth Hummus. It was pretty good. In fact, I got a lot of compliments on it when I have never had hummus-related compliments before. That got me to wondering… if the defining characteristic of the hummus – the time consuming part, of course is what makes it great, or the rest of the recipe is. You see, Ethereally Smooth Hummus’ shtick is that all of the hulls are removed from the chickpeas before you blend up the hummus. Deb proclaims that it took her 10 minutes to pop a can’s worth of chickpeas out of their hulls. I doubled the recipe (we can eat a lot of hummus!) and it took me nearly 2 hours. Of course, I was camped out on the sofa and watching TV while I did it, so it wasn’t really that much of a bother, but it was markedly more time than one playing of Inna Gadda Da Vida. Regardless, I was supposing to Ivana that it would be interesting to see if the marked difference was the composition of the recipe, or the removal of the husks. So began The Great Hummus Showdown®.
Please excuse these photos. They were taken with a cell phone in bad lighting at a friend’s house(yes, I took a container of chickpeas with me to peel at a friend’s house. What?).
I wanted this to be as fair as possible, so I used the same batch of dried beans, the same jar of tahini, the same head of garlic, and squeezed all of my lemons in to one container so that their juice would mix. I am pretty serious.
I just wanted to show you the strange thing that happens to peeled chickpeas when you grind them…. The turn into the texture of brown sugar. Unpeeled chickpeas are similar to a natural peanut butter, but the peeled ones get powdery.
Then I didn’t take any more photos. That’s how I roll. Regardless, I made both batches identically. Then I made a batch of pitas, and brought it all to work.
Then I did a blind taste test and asked everyone which was superior. Most people paused, or retasted. When pushed, all but one said that the peeled chickpea hummus was better. Many of them, without prompting, also said that if it was any more effort, they’d definitely go for the other one though, because they were that close. So there you go. I will not be peeling chickpeas anymore. There really was an almost imperceptible difference – definitely not the time expenditure, at least in my experience.
4 cups garbanzo beans/chickpeas
3 medium-large white or yellow onions, cut into large chunks
5-10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, chopped, whatever
2 bunches parsley, rinsed thoroughly, stems chopped off
2-4 jalapenos, cleaned ribs removed if you don’t like too much heat
1-2 T diamond crystal kosher salt (less is you’re using mortons)
2 tablespoons cumin
*2-4 days before you plan to make your falafel, soak and sprout your beans. Or don’t sprout them, you can just soak them overnight also, then just drain before assembling.
*When you’re ready to go, start running the mixture through your meat grinder (on the smallest setting). I usually would grind some beans, then throw a hunk of onion in, then some parsley, etc. Don’t grind all your onion at once. It gets super watery and pretty gross. Alternatively, you can finely chop the onions and parsley, and this will prevent your mixture from turning green. I kind of like the cast it takes, so I just grind everything. Less effort.
*Grind everything. Stir in spices. Alternatively, you can use a food processor. I have not tried this, so I can’t make any assertions to how it affects the texture of the patties.