Before I begin here, let me first make it clear that I did not grow up eating dumplings of any kind. It wasn’t until my teenage years that I finally caved in to my parents’ insistence that I would actually enjoy the potstickers they always ordered at our regular strip-mall Chinese food restaurant. They were right. I did like them. Potstickers became my introduction into the dumpling world, and were for many years the only exception to my “no weird squishy foods” rule.
After “growing up” and “moving out” I began experimenting with cooking, enjoying gourmet restaurants, and expanding my, initially very narrow, culinary horizons. Friends who know me well might still say I’m one of the “pickiest” (Isn’t that a negative-feeling word? I prefer the term “discriminating”) eaters they know, but those who have known me the longest are often astonished by the variety of foods that I eat, order, and even make at home.
Since moving to our small rural town I have more time than ever before to try new things in the kitchen. It’s one of the hobbies that gives structure and a sense of productivity to my days. And I recently noticed one curious food that has made three appearances on my home menu in the past few months: dumplings. I’d like to share them with you here, both because they were all AMAZING and because I feel this is a notable milestone in my journey as a food eater.
1. Ricotta-based gnocchi. I followed an extremely simple recipe from delicious days and used the homemade ricotta that I wrote about in My first cheese baby. The only reason that these delicious gnocchi will not become a weekly occurrence at our home is the eye-popping calorie count. I served them tossed in fresh, homemade pesto from the my herb garden and a side salad (a passing acknowledgement to the underwhelming nutritional value of the dinner).
I’m very sorry to report that there were no photos taken of the finished product. They were devoured before anyone could capture proof of their dainty, fluffy, pillowy beauty.
2. Chicken and dumpling soup. I adapted from Annie’s Eats lighter chicken and dumplings, making it still lighter by exchanging pan seared chicken breast for the thighs and wings, but following the dumpling portion of her recipe to a t (or to a Tb, depending on what was called for).
Annie approximates that this recipe will yield 8 servings, and I’m proud/ashamed to admit that my husband and I reduced that to 4, scarfing half of the recipe yield for dinner and the other half for lunch the next day. We just couldn’t keep out of it.
3. POTSTICKERS!!! I have long aspired to try my hand at creating a homemade version of the dumpling that opened my eyes to the great and wonderful world of dumplings, but they seemed very intimidating with all of the requisite rolling, filling, folding, and pleating. I came across this recipe online months ago and relegated it to waiting in my Pinterest food board. I finally found the inspiration and courage to give it a whirl last night. I admit, this was not a simple recipe. My first attempts at forming the pleated little delicacies were lumpy, bulging balls of dough. My first foray into cooking them resulted in smoking, black-bottomed hunks of carcinogens. But I persevered, and my perseverance was rewarded with authentic tasting and reasonably attractive looking potstickers. When Trevor first bit into one he exclaimed, in obvious surprise, “they taste just like potstickers!”.
In fact, I was so happy with the results of those potstickers that weren’t grotesquely misshapen or burnt that today I made another batch of dough and used the remaining filling to create a whole new fleet of these for the freezer. I’m very much looking forward to enjoying them straight from the freezer and into the frying pan without first having to endure an hour of folding and pleating!
As a serious cheese lover I have long aspired to try my own hand at home cheese-making. Cheese, being everything wonderful that it is, seemed like a worthy, yet considerably intimidating goal, which is why up until last week I had shied away from any home-dairy experiments.
But now everything has changed. I found the courage to try this recipe for homemade whole-milk ricotta cheese from Annie’s Eats (one of my favorite recipe resources–www.annies-eats.com) and friends, let me tell you, it was easy to make and all-too-easy to enjoy.
My first ever cheese-baby served us in a variety of delicious ways over the weekend:
First, as a topping on a homemade whole wheat pizza dough. Topping pizza with fresh ricotta is one component of my eternal quest to find a satisfactory copycat recipe for my all-time favorite pizza which is no longer available at what used to be one of my favorite restaurants in Portland. (They obviously are not any longer, ever since they struck my favorite pizza from their menu.)
Next, it starred in two quick and easy pasta dishes for a Saturday night after-a-movie dinner. His was a baked pasta with whole wheat penne, pre-made tomato sauce from a jar (he swears that he actually likes it), homemade ricotta, and shredded mozzarella. Hers was an AMAZING recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen (my other favorite recipe resource–www.smittenkitchen.com) that showcased the ricotta in a whole wheat pasta dish with snow peas, freshly squeezed lemon, mint plucked from my patio, and grated parmesan.
You may have noticed that both the pizzas and the pasta dishes were customized; his and hers. If you continue to follow this blog you will notice that this is not a rare occurrence. Whenever it’s possible to do a construct-your-own dinner, I do it. It’s absolutely worth the peace and contentment that comes with both of us getting to personalize our meal.
You may have also noticed that my food photography leaves much to be desired. I know it and I regret it. That’s pretty much the extent of my phone camera’s capacity, though I will endeavor to make the arrangements more appealing as I learn.
My whole experience with cheese-making did leave me with one pressing question: can cheese cloth be reused? If yes, then making ricotta at home is not only tasty, but also budget-friendly. If no, then having to purchase a fresh $5.60 cheese cloth for each batch may relegate this recipe to special occasions only. I would greatly appreciate information from anyone who knows about this, especially the particulars on how to properly cleanse the cloth for future use.
And now, a small town living anecdote, repeated here to satisfy my mother: Trevor and I went to the movies on Saturday night to escape thinking about a fresh crop of car troubles that are plaguing our ever-untrusty volvo. Let me put it simply; the $14 admission for two was wonderful, but our theater event was just not the cinetopia experience we had grown accustomed to in the city. For those of you who don’t know, cinetopia is like the first class of movie theaters–wide, reclining leather seats with personal ottomans, state of the art technology, and beer and wine delivered directly to your seat. Our Saturday night at the movies was more of a ride in coach, in an old plane that smelled of crushed-velvet must and stale popcorn butter. I’m trying to chalk it all up to small town “charm”.