Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Snap Pea Harvest

On June 17th, somewhere between 8 and 9 PM, an 8-minute hailstorm preceeded by torrential rains destroyed my vegetable gardens, hosta collector's garden, and perennial borders. (Not to mention the roof of my house, garden shed, and chicken coop and the screens on the back side of my house, the security light and fascia above my garage.) We are still working on the clean up and negotiating with insurance adjusters, but yesterday I harvested my 2009 snap pea crop. This is the entire crop, pictured here.
"What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger!"

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge for June: Bakewell Tart

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

I followed the directions all the way on this one, and my tart was less than successful. The flavor was wonderful, but the tart, while browned almost too much on the outside, was still runny on the inside.
I used peach/blueberry jam from a vendor at my local Farmers Market instead of making an entire batch of jam just to have a cup to use for this recipe.
I'll try the recipe again, to see if I can detect any mistakes I made on this one, but I just don't think it worked for me as it should have. I've checked out other Daring Bakers' posts (just enter "daring bakers bakewell tart" into your search engine of choice) and the ones most of the bakers made came out baked through and cookie-like. (Check out this beautiful one and get the recipe and directions there while you are at it.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Daring Cooks Challenge: Pot Stickers

This month's Daring Cooks Challenge was to make pot stickers. My husband was really happy with this challenge, since he loves pot stickers. (The gnocchi last month, not so much.) They took a little longer to make than I thought. I started at 2:30 figuring I could serve them for dinner at 5:30-- well dinner was about an hour late, but they were worth the wait. Everything was easy, but rolling out and pleating 36 little dumplings was a time-consuming process. I cooked half for dinner and I'm going to try to freeze the rest for another meal.

The filling included ground pork, chopped shrimp, minced green onions, minced gingerroot, sesame oil, cornstarch and salt. Luckily I rechecked the recipe right before I began to fill the dumplings and realized I had forgotten the chopped water chestnuts (you'll notice they are not in the ingredient photo.)

The dough was a basic flour and water mixture, formed into little disks and rolled out into thin rounds about 3-4 inches across. The filling is spooned onto the middle of the dough round, and then the edges are brought together and pleated into little pockets.

After the dumplings were formed they were cooked. The options for cooking included steaming (I did mine in a bamboo steamer) and pan frying. I did some both ways, being certain that I would prefer the pan-fried ones, since this is the way I had always had them cooked in the past. It turns out that I liked the steamed ones better! The flavors seemed fresher and brighter and they didn't seem quite as heavy as the pan fried version.I made a simple dipping sauce from soy sauce, red wine vinegar and sesame oil, and we managed to eat all 17 of the ones I cooked. And they were good! This recipe is definitely a keeper!Here is the recipe:

shrimp filling:
1/2 lb (225g) raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb (225g) ground pork
3 stalks green onions, minced
1/4 cup (55g) ginger root, minced
1 cup (142g) water chestnuts, minced
1 tsp (5g) salt
3 tbsp (40g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm water
flour for worksurface

dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste (optional)
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion (optional)
sugar (optional)

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by clean hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two).

Make the dough:
Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water

Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes.

Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking - about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side .Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of napa cabbage leaves or on a well-greased surface in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered for about 6 minutes.

To pan fry (potstickers): Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.