Friday, May 28, 2010

I heart dumplings

I mean seriously, who doesn't love dumplings? warm, round(ish), tasty, melty, what's not to love? and your grandma probably calls you her little dumpling.

Once I figured out the trick to making these babies, I can't wait to make more. and the recipe is a peice of cake to double. (said trick is to hand form the dumplings instead of "form them using two spoons". sounds harder, but it's really easier!)

Spinach dumplings
(makes about 20)

1 pkg frozen spinach, thawed
one small onion, chopped fine
1/2 tbsp butter
1/3 ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 cup flour, or maybe a little more

drain the thawed spinach in a colander. fry the onions in the butter over medium heat, till browned. while the onions are frying, run the spinach under running water to get rid of any ice chunks. squeeze as much moisture out of the spinach as you can with your hands. when the onions are cooked, turn the heat off, and stir in the spinach along w/a little salt, breaking up the chunks. the ambient heat from the burner will help soften and warm the spinach. Let cool.

in a large bowl, cream the ricotta, parm, and egg. season w/salt, pepper & nutmeg. When the spinach & onions are cool, add them to the cheese mixture and mix well. One heaped tablespoon at a time, add the flour, mixing well before each new addition. When a soft dough forms, you've added enough flour.

how do you know when a soft dough has formed? When the mixture wants to stick to itself more than it wants to stick to the bowl, mix in one more tablespoon of flour. Now you've got a soft dough. taste, and season w/more salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Yes, I know there is raw egg in there. A teeny bit won't kill you.

Preheat the oven to 350, and have a baking dish ready. bring a big pot of water to boil. with very wet hands (have a bowl of cool water sitting next to the stove, you're going to want to dip your hands into it every few dumplings), roll balls of dough between your palms to make the dumplings. This is not unlike making matzah balls, except these will only expand a teeny bit. drop the dumplings into the boiling water. once they are all made, turn the boil down to a simmer, and once the dumplings have floated for a minute or two, remove them to the baking dish. bake at 350 for about 8 minutes, this will make the outsides a little crunchy. optional - dot w/butter & parmesan cheese before baking.

Like many recipes that look complicated, but aren't, I think the trick to success with this recipe is the read the entire recipe before starting, and not to panic when you're dropping dumplings into boiling water. Because of the high flour content, it is far better for these to be a little overcooked than a little undercooked.

the last batch was so good, I'm thinking of making more this weekend, and taking them to the party we're going to on Sunday!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

manga heaven

A budy of mine just loaned me all nine volumes of Yukito Kishiro's Battle Angel Alita manga!

This was one of the first manga and animes I was ever exposed to, so it's got a special place in my heart. And now I get to find out what happens at the end!!

I'm in manga heaven!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

the Seriously Easiest Bread Ever

I got this recipe off the interwebs, and I have no idea where. So if this is your recipe, please let me know so I can link to you!

This is seriously, the easiest, tastiest bread you will ever make (wait, don't I say that about every bread recipe?). Except this time I'm not lying! Active work was like 5 minutes, and that included turning the oven on and digging out the oven mitts. Why is this bread so easy? While you are sitting around eating bon bons, it's doing magical wonderful yeasty things in your fridge.

Easy Bread

makes 2 1-ish pound loaves

1 1/2 cups hot water (like around body temp)
1 packet yeast
2 tsp salt
3 1/4 flour (a combination of whole wheat & regular is fine)

optional - an ounce or two of cheese shredded or sliced thin.

blend water, yeast & salt in a 3 Qt non-metal bowl. stir the yeast in, but don't worry if it doesn't all dissolve. add the flour, and mix until the dough is just blended. There shouldn't be any flour sitting at the bottom of the bowl, and the dough should be wet and very sticky. . . don't knead it! read that again: do not knead this dough. keep your hands off! Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temp for 3 to 10 hours. Yup, you read that right. just let it sit on the kitchen table over night.

Next morning, the dough should have risen, flattened out, and look bubbly. put it in the fridge. don't knead it!! once you are ready to make a loaf, take the dough out, cut off what you want to bake, and knead it just a little. I happened to have some fancy cheddar cheese that needed to be eaten, so i sliced it thin, and folded it into the dough as I was forming my loaf. Let the loaf rise at room temp for about an hour, then score the top of the loaf with a very sharp knife. Bake at 450 in a preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. put a metal pan with 2 cups water into the oven at the same time, the steam will create a wonderful crust on the bread.

I still can not get over how easy this was. 5 minutes of work gets you fresh bread any day of the week.

Monday, May 3, 2010

book ADHD

It's been a few weeks of book ADHD. The weather is beautiful, my tomato seeds sprouted, the rest of the garden is calling, my hours at work have increased. And at night when I climb into bed with a book? Lately I just want to sleep.

That said, I've picked up and put down Tony Horwitz's Baghdad without a Map about three times. His fascinating travelogue goes from Cairo, to Yemen and up through the gulf to Kuwait, or at least that's how far I've gotten. A Jewish American man, following his breadwinner wife around the middle east is a situation that people Horwitz interacts with find equally confusing and hilarious. His writing style meanders, and sometimes flashes back and forward, which is a little confusing sometimes. Even so, I'm desperate to find more time to spend with this book because not only am I finding that I really enjoy travelogues, but this book was written in the early 90s, before 9/11, before the axis of evil, before pirates, before we knew how to pronounce Qatar, back when the gulf region was still exotic and romantic. A travelogue of the middle east without the word “embedded” is just wonderful thing.

The book ADHD abounds. This is also the third time I've picked up Sergei Lukyanenko's Twilight Watch, the third book in his Daywatch series. The book is great, really, it is. But I seem to be in the mood for something darker these days. I'm blaming my book ADHD on the weather.

I did recently purchase Jeff Vandermeer's City of Saints & Madmen, and China Mieville's The Scar, and both of those hold special places in my heart as super dark. And they are calling to me. Perhaps the cure for book ADHD is to pick up the book that so seductively whispers your name?