Tag Archives: food

A Feast of Dumplings

I woke up yesterday intending to make cheese. Then, somewhere between the shower and breakfast, I changed my mind. From some obscure corner of my brain, the idea of making home-made dumplings all of a sudden broke through. Mmmmm dumplings – I challenge you to find me a person who doesn’t like a good dumpling. Or, find me a culture that doesn’t have its own version: dumplings, gyoza, pot-stickers, kreplach, wontons, etc. etc. etc.

As usual, when I decide to make something I haven’t tried before, I resolve to make the whole thing from scratch. So, I had two tasks: the wrappers or “skins” and the filling.

Part I: Wonton Wrappers

I’ve seen the wonton wrappers or “skins” in the Asian grocery near my house but I wanted to make the wrappers by myself. Like most things, it turns out it’s a lot easier than you would think. All you need:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • Water
  • Salt
Dumpling dough

Dumpling Dough

A found a good recipe at Petitchef.com

Basically, just add hot water to flour and mix it with chop-sticks and then knead it until it’s a silky ball. Then, let it sit and rest for an hour or so in a covered bowl. On the right is my dumpling dough just after basic kneading.

wonton wrappers

Finished Wonton Wrappers

Next, fashion a few logs or cylinders out of your dough and then roll out each “log” using a rolling pin or, if you don’t have one, you can use a long glass. Once the dough is rolled out as thin as possible, use a a glass to make circles of dough. Then peel out the circles and there you have your wonton wrappers.

On the left is my stack if finished wonton wrappers. (Don’t forget to sprinkle flour between them so they don’t stick!)

Part II: The Filling

Making Dumplings

Filling Dumplings

I decided to fill some of my dumplings with vegetables and some with shrimp and vegetables. I took my time finely mincing a small pot full of vegetables that included scallions, carrots, asparagus, sprouts and red peppers. I also added some finely minced fresh ginger. For the shrimp, I peeled and de-veeined about a half pound of medium shrimp and minced them as much as possible.

Then, the fun part – taking a small scoop of filling, I filled all of my dumplings and found interesting ways of closing them up – I made some round and some oval-shaped. The dough closes nicely just by pinching it together or you can slightly wet your fingers to ensure the dough is really closed.

Finished dumplings

Finished Dumplings

I ended up with about 25 delicious dumplings. To cook them, I went for a mix. I steamed some of them, boiled some of them and pan fried the rest. They were all good, but the boiled dumplings were too dough-ey. So, I pan-fried ’em for guests at the last minute.

To make the meal complete, I made an easy Miso soup with Shitake mushrooms- just boil some vegetable broth together with Shitake mushrooms. Remove from heat and then add fresh Miso to taste. Last, as a “salad,” I steamed Kale with tofu, red peppers ,and soy sauce.

All in all, a success! Now that I have dumplings “out of my system” I can get back to cheese….

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Avi Bars

Granola Mix

After being inspired by #3 from my office, I decided to try my hand at whipping up a batch of Chewy Peanut Butter Granola Bars. I love anything with peanut butter and I’ve never tried my own granola bars before, so what the hell.

It turns out, they’re SO easy to make. I reviewed a bunch of recipes on the internet until I settled for Emeril Lagasse’s recipe on The Food Network:

Recipe at:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/peanut-butter-granola-bars-recipe/index.html

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup hulled green pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8 by 8-inch baking dish and set aside.

In a small saucepan melt butter with honey over low heat, stirring.

In a large bowl stir together oats, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cinnamon and salt. Pour butter mixture over oat mixture and stir until combined well.

On a large baking sheet, spread the granola evenly in a thin layer. Bake, stirring every 5 minutes to keep from sticking or burning, until golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes. (Do not overcook; the granola will crisp more when cooled.)

Cool the granola in the pan on top of the stove and stir in the raisins. When the granola is completely cooled, place in a large bowl.

Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, and peanut butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is at a boil. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture over the granola, stirring to coat well. Cool slightly and press into the prepared baking dish and let cool completely and harden. Cut the mixture into ten 1 1/4 by 4-inch bars and serve at room temperature. (The bars may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.)

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

The whole thing, from “soup to nuts” takes about 40 minutes total and you can do three other things while you are making these bars.

If you’ve ever found yourself getting by on Clif Bars or Lara bars or any other high-tech protein or energy bars, do yourself a favor and make some kind of bars on your own to see how easy it is. You can pack lots of nuts, fruits and energy together with any binding agent (peanut butter, corn syrup, agave nectar honey, etc. etc) and get a nutritious results.

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Preserved Lemons

At the Hazon Food Conference (see last few posts), I heard a talk by food writer Joan Nathan. Nathan is famous for her award winning cookbooks including the 2005 release The New American Cooking and the PBS series Jewish Cooking in America.

At the Hazon conference, Nathan gave a few different talks including one on foods of Israel. She claimed that Falafel is probably one of the oldest foods ever made (either the chic pea variety favored in Israel  or the fava bean variety favored in Egypt). I don’t have an opinion on the origin of falafel but I’ve  tasted some that could have been made by ancient Egyptians. See this article for a few falafel tidbits.

Nathan e also talked about a nice recipe for Preserved Lemons which I just finished making at home. If you like Moroccan food, the “secret ingredient” in a lot of the recipes is preserved lemons.

Nathan’s Preserved Lemon recipe from the NY Times is as follows:

“Classic Moroccan Method for Preserving Lemons

12 lemons
1/4 cup kosher salt (about)

1. Quarter 8 of the lemons lengthwise, leaving them connected at one end. You can also slice them thin.

2. With your fingers stuff about 2 tablespoons salt inside the lemons, close them and place in a sterilized wide-mouthed quart jar. Squeeze the juice of the remaining 4 lemons into the jar. Allow to stand, covered, at least one week on the counter, shaking the bottle each day. Then add more lemon juice to the bottle if necessary and if you like, olive oil to cover.

3. Close the jar and leave out on the counter for at least 3 weeks before using. When using the lemons, merely rinse with water, remove the seeds, and chop up for your recipes.

Yield: 8 preserved lemons

Note: For a flavorful variation, I sometimes add 4 crushed garlic cloves and 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika to the lemons. And for a short cut, freeze the lemons first, then defrost and proceed as above.”

Here’s a video explanation replete with funny Moroccan background music:

You can buy preserved lemons at specialty shops, but it took me all of 20 minutes to pack my jar full of lemons, salt and lemonjuice. Now, all I have to do is wait about a month for them to get preserved.

Here are a few Preserved Lemon recipes;

1.From Serious Eats: Preserved Lemon Citrus Chicken with Chervil Gremolata (There’s a good story by the recipe’s author on this page as well)

2. From The Food Network: Chicken Tagine with Green Olives and Preserved Lemon

3. From The Washington Post: Sauteed String Beans with Garlic and Preserved Lemon

4. From Recipe Zaar: Pine Nut and Preserved Lemon Couscous

Enjoy!

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The Hazon Food Conference

I plan on devoting the next few posts to my take-aways from the Hazon Food Conference where I was last week in in Monterey, California.

Monterey California

Monterey is gorgeous and the conference was fantastic. Hazon (Hebrew for vision) is a prominent Jewish environmental organization and the food conference brought together an eclectic mix of more than 600 farmers, wanna-be farmers, passionate eaters, activists, environmentalists.Hazon is famous for its Jewish environmental bike rides which it sponsors on the east coast, west coast and in Israel. Their slogan is: the people of the hike, the people of the bike and the people of the bite.”

“I finally found my people,” my friend Dara Frimmer said. I couldn’t agree more.
The conference reinforced my belief that the way we think about what we eat and the way we relate to our food is critical to the future of the planet and to each individuals’ health and sense of connectedness. As an activist in the Jewish community, it was great to explore these issues in a Jewish context.

At the beginning of the conference, the double decker, upside down Hazon Climate-Change bus pulled into Monterey after driving all across the United States fueled entirely on vegetable oil! Check out this video to see what this was all about:

I went to sessions on amd will write blog posts over the coming days on the following topics:

Honey Bees and “colony collapse disorder.” (did you know that we rely on honey bees for 2/3 of our fruits and vegetables?) Definitely check out the film: The Vanishing of the Bees.

Rice and how a cool companu called Lotus Foods is helping to introduce new, more efficient rice farming techniques around the world and is inyroducibg new rice varieties into the US market. (did you know that more than half of the world relies on rice for a significant part of their diet?)

Slow Money. Author Woody Tasch expounded on the Slow Money movement and how spending and investing locally can re-orient us toward building a sustainable, healthy economy.

Composting. Farmer D, an entre-manure from Atlanta, Georgia gave a presentation on the ins and outs of composting. Stop laughing- He’s litetally made a real busIness of shovelling shit.

Urban Agriculture. There are so many intrresting people doing cool things in this area. From school garden to roof-top gardens to reclaiming unused city land, this “field” is booming.

The role of “place” or “land” in Judaism. Rabbi Steve Greenberg discussed the centrality of being attached to the land in Jewish thought and history.

A do-it-yourself mozarella class. Having made a bunch of my own mozz, i skipped this one.

A do-it-yourself sourdough making class taught by Sarah Klein. She has a lot to say about bread and is a really good teacher.We made bagels. I got some pointers for my next sourdough starter.

Stay tuned for more posts about all of this and more….

The End of Food

I recently read a very good book called The End of Food by Paul Roberts which is a very interesting read for anyone interested in the history and dynamics of the global food economy. If you like Michael Pollan’s books, you will enjoy this as well. What is most interesting in this book is the detailed history and analysis of Agri-Business and how we’ve comodified our calories  and how we’ve (both the farmers and consumers) given away our connection to food to  companies like nestle, kraft, unilever who have found ingenious ways to “add-value” so as to make a profit. This process has been going on for hundreds of years.

Thank god I live in a city (NYC) where farmers markets abound. Check out Local Harvest to find farmers markets near you. They have a cool interactive map too. It’s much nicer to buy fresh fruit and vegetables straight from the local farms near New York.

New York is definitely known for its foodies. Check out foodie nyc for a cornucopia of complicated recipes ranging from soft shell crab, corn shoot and lovage salad toa rosemary, ginger, smoked paprika bloody mary. I have nothing against the gourmet lifestyle or the gourmands always seeking out the next best dish or chef. I also appreciate the restaurants that are increasingle featuring house-made dishes. See this News week article on the new house-made phenom.

What I really like, however, is the new urban-homesteading movement. More and more people live in cities — in 1800 only 3% of people lived in cities. In 2008, more than half the population of planet earth are urban dwellers!

It only makes sense that we will feel disconnected from our food supply. So – more and more of us are looking for ways to re-connect. Everyone makes choices about how to connect in the best way for them. For some people it’s farmers markets, for others it’s eating local, and for others, it’s cooking more and being conscious of the food they eat. For those like me, who like to do-it-ourselves, there’s urban homesteading. Even in dense NYC you can find ways to grow and make your own delicious foods.

Read about an urban-homesteading couple in Los Angeles at Reality Sandwich. There’s even a book for sale on Amazon: The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the city.

If you’re in NY and are interested in learning more, a good resource is The Local Fork, the locavores guide to NYC. I also like Leda’s Urban Homestead blog.

If you’re like me and like to make things that ferment (cheese, wine, beer, pickles, etc.) check out leeners — you can get just about anything from them.

I’d like to meet others in NYC who are interested in house-made / home-made / local / urban-homestead foods and the folks who make ’em. Send me a note and we’ll see if we can’t get a group of us together.

A Man Staring at Goats

The Men Who Stare at Goats

Well, it’s official – goats are everywhere. The latest Clooney movie is The Men Who Stare at Goats. According to Wikipedia, the film is about:

The book examines connections between paranormal military programs and psychological techniques being used for interrogation in the War on Terror. The book traces the evolution of these covert activities over the past three decades, and sees how they are alive today within U.S. Homeland Security and post-war Iraq. It examines the use of the theme tune toBarney & Friends on Iraqi prisoners-of-war, the smuggling of a hundred de-bleated goats into the Special Forces command center at Fort BraggNorth Carolina, and the connection between the U.S. military and the mass-suicide of members of the Heaven’s Gate cult in San Diego.[1]

Rabbis Goats and Other Characters

Then, I notice a neighborhood artist, Jonathan Blum with a new goat exhibit

If I could have a goat in Brooklyn, I would buy one right now. They are smart, nice and will eat just about anything. Then, I would be able to milk them twice a day and make my own cheese! Bliss. But where to put the goats? They’d be a mess on the streets of Brooklyn.

I got an idea while visting Georgia last summer. About an hour from Atlanta, in Tiger, GA,  I found a rest-stop/restaurant called Goats on the Roof. Below is a video I found of the place:

I think I could do Goats on the Roof in Brooklyn. What do you think?

“Got yer Goat” yet?

Getting my Goat On

Getting my Goat On

According to Goat World, there are more than 450 million goats in the world. That’s more goats than there are Americans…. The origin of the expression “to get ones goat” is unclear, but the Word Detective says that it’s an American expression dating back to the early 20th century and has something to do with goats being used to calm down horses at racetracks. Sounds fishy to me.

My favorite kind of cheese comes from goat’s milk. Goats produce around 1 gallon a day on average compared to 10 gallons from a cow. But if it’s quality and not quantity you are looking for, goat’s milk is richer and easier to digest than the cow’s. Sheep’s produce even less and their milk is even richer, and their milk makes great cheese.

51I6swQkjiL._SL500_AA240_I prefer the goat both for its cheese and its personality. Sheep are too sheepish and cows too big and clumsy. Goats are both manageable and smart enough to be worth having as “pets.” Although my life in Brooklyn prohibits having a goat or two, I am interested in raising a few at some point. If you think raising goats is only for the very hardy, consider that there’s even a “Raising Goats for Dummies” book. Anyone can do it!

This great article on Mother Earth News walks you through the process of raising and breeding goats and explains the different breeds.

The most problematic part of raising goats, for me, is what to do with all of the male goats (kids) that are born every year. To keep goats producing sufficient quantities of milk, you have to breed them every fall and they give birth to their kids (often twins or triplets) in the Spring — hence the spring lambs, etc. You keep some of the females for milk to replace any older does who drop out of your herd. But what about the males? They are usually castrated and sold as “lawnmowers” or pets or for meat. That’s disturbing. But what’s the alternative? You can’t keep all of the kids or you’ll be overrun by goats in no time.

Another funny goat tidbit — anyone ever hear of fainting or narcoleptic goats?

Last but not least, goats are smart. They’re smarter than we usually give them credit for as evidenced by this video clip:

Need I say more?