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Mar 25, 2018
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By the Book

By the Book: Cyprus: A Culinary Journey by Marianne Salentin-Träger

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016



I picked up Cyprus: A Culinary Journey by Marianne Salentin-Träger, and I was immediately blown away by the photography. Even though not technically a Greek cookbook – the island of Cyprus is further east, off the coast of Turkey – the recipes are definitely of influenced by Greek cuisine.

Despite beautiful photos, the recipe for Meatballs with Oven Chips required less illustration and more instruction. Since there was no temperature guidance or size suggestions to prepare the meatballs, I ruined the first two batches over too high heat, burning the outside and leaving the interiors raw. I finally settled on medium-low heat, which resulted in tender, flavorful insides and crisp exteriors. Likewise, I kicked the heat up to 400 degrees to cook the potato wedges after nearly 45 minutes at 340 degrees (the only temperature indicated in the recipe) produced soft, baked wedges, not crisp chips.

While the end result tasted wonderful, a third of the recipe ended up in the trash thanks to vague instruction. Unless you have experience making meatballs or other Greek dishes, skip this book.

Skill level: Intermediate to advanced with poor recipe instruction.
This book is for: Adventurous, experienced cooks looking for a taste of Cyprus
Other recipes to try: Baklava rolls with walnuts, Oven Omelette, Banana Cake
The verdict: Last week’s rib-eye takes the win.




Meatballs with Oven Chips
A recipe by Franz Keller
4 servings

600 g. (about 1 1/3 lbs.) raw lean beef from the haunch, freshly ground at the butcher’s (ground round)
4 shallots
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
2 medium organic eggs
2 Tbsp. olive oil
5 to 6 Tbsp. breadcrumbs, softened with a little milk
3 leaves of wild sage
Salt, pepper
A few drops chile oil

Serve with 20 leaves wild sage
8 medium potatoes (deep-fried or oven-baked)
Olive oil (not virgin)

• Mix the ground beef with the other ingredients, and season with salt and pepper. Form into meatballs and fry in olive oil until done.
• Peel the potatoes and cut into wedges. Deep-fry the wedges in normal (not native) olive oil over a medium heat, like chips. Deep-fry the remaining sage leaves in oil, too.
• Alternatively (and easier than deep-frying), put the potato wedges on a baking tray, sprinkle with some olive oil, season with salt and bake until crispy in a fan-assisted oven at 170 degrees Celsius (340 degrees Fahrenheit) for approximately 25 to 30 minutes.
• Serve the meatballs with the potato wedges and sage. Sprinkle everything with freshly ground sea salt!


Recipe printed with permission from C&C Publishing

By the Book: Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors by Erik Cosselmon and Janet Fletcher

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016



Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors is compilation of dishes from the titular restaurant located in San Francisco. While it was filled with fresh salads and sides, I was after a winning entree.

Most of the meat and fish dishes in the book overwhelmed. Preparing whole fish on a Monday night was out of the question. Proteins lean heavily toward lamb and rabbit, which makes sense for a Greek restaurant, but I don’t eat either. Many require grilling over charcoal, which I don’t have. I settled on a rib-eye. The recipe required only a simple rub, a few minutes on a grill (or in my case, a cast-iron skillet) and a douse in the restaurant’s Kokkari Dressing.

Rich rib-eye is always a winner, but the dressing was the standout here. This lemony, herbaceous, garlicky vinaigrette complimented the meat, cutting through the fatty steak. I normally baste my steaks in butter, but this vinaigrette offered the same rich finishing touch.

Skill level: Intermediate. Recipes are a little complex but doable.
This book is for: People who want light, fresh fare and are willing to work for it.
Other recipes to try: Kokkari Potatoes and Grilled Whole Fish with Kokkari Dressing
The Verdict: Check back soon when Kokkari takes on the next challenger.





Grilled Rib-eye with Kokkari Dressing
4 servings

2 20-oz. bone-in rib-eye steaks, preferably dry-aged, at room temperature
1 Tbsp. Steak Rub (recipe follows)
Kokkari Dressing (recipe follows)
4 lemon halves, each wrapped in cheesecloth

• Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to high. Season each steak on both sides with the steak rub, using a total of ½ tablespoon per steak. Massage the seasoning into the steaks well on both sides.
• Grill the steaks on both sides to desired doneness, about 7½ minutes total for medium-rare. Watch for flare-ups from dripping fat, moving the meat away from the heat until the flames die down, if needed. Transfer to a platter, drizzle the steaks with dressing, and serve at once with the lemon.

Steak Rub

½ cup sea salt
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano leaves
2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)

• In a food processor, combine all the ingredients and process until the herbs are completely pulverized and the mixture feels like moist sand. You can use the rub immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. For longer keeping, spread the freshly made mixture on a baking sheet and leave it at room temperature until it is completely dried out, a day or more, depending on humidity. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.

Kokkari Dressing
Makes ½ cup

6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. capers, rinsed and minced
2 tsp. minced shallot
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ tsp. chopped fresh oregano
¼ tsp. dried wild Greek oregano, crumbled
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

• In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, capers, shallot, garlic, parsley and fresh oregano. Add the dried oregano and whisk in salt and pepper to taste.

Reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books

By the Book: Ms. American Pie by Beth M. Howard

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016




Full disclosure: I didn’t like this cookbook. In the introduction, author Beth Howard claims she’s not a big fan of recipes. This was evident in her instruction: no mention of preheating an oven, inexact time estimates and her insistence that chilling dough before rolling is an unnecessary time suck. More experienced home cooks can handle these vague instructions, but Howard touts this book as a guide for those afraid to bake pies at home.

All that said, this messy BLT pie was delicious: A half-shortening, half-butter crust filled with local tomatoes, a full pound of Geisert Farms bacon, Marcoot Jersey Creamery cheese and fresh backyard basil, topped with more cheese and mayo. I nixed the optional lettuce garnish, since I’d just pick off the warm wilted iceberg anyway.

However, as I was patching up holes in my warm crust on a humid August afternoon, I grumbled at how much easier it would have been with chilled dough. When the finished filling soaked through the bottom of the pie, I knew a thicker crust could stand up to so much liquid. Sometimes those “fussy pie rules” make the difference between great and phenomenal.

Skill level: Intermediate. Explore all the fillings available, but stick to your favorite pie crust recipe.
This book is for: Experienced pie bakers looking for new ideas
Other recipes to try: Pulled-pork hand pies, Atlantic Beach Pie, Shaker Orange
The verdict: Despite poor instruction, quality ingredients took this pie to the top.



Blind-Baked Crust (recipe follows)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

4 large tomatoes (Romas are OK), sliced and de-seeded but not peeled
½ to 1 lb. bacon (or more if you love it), fried till crisp, drained and chopped
½ cup chopped fresh basil
3 green onions (i.e. scallions) thinly sliced
½ tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
¾ cup Parmesan cheese
¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup mayonnaise

Shredded lettuce (optional)

• Prepare the Blind Baked Crust: Before baking, poke the bottom of the crust with a fork, then sprinkle Parmesan on the bottom and baked uncovered at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
• Prepare the Filling: In the pre-baked pie crust, layer the tomatoes, fried bacon pieces, basil, green onions, garlic powder, oregano, red pepper and ½ cup Parmesan.
• In a small bowl, mix the cheddar and mayo, then spread over top of pie.
• Sprinkle remaining Parmesan on top.
• Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
• Remove foil and bake an additional 30 minutes.
• Serve warm or cold. For the real BLT experience, top with shredded lettuce.


Basic Pie Dough (For a Single-Crust Pie)

¼ cup (½ stick) butter, chilled and cut into large chunks
¼ cup vegetable shortening, chilled
1 ¼ cups flour, plus at least ¼ extra for rolling
Dash of salt
Ice water (fill a ½ cup but only use enough to moisten dough)

• In a deep, large bowl, work the butter and shortening into the flour and salt with your hands until you have almond- and pea-sized lumps of butter.
• Then, drizzling in ice water a little at a time, “toss” the water around with your fingers spread, as if the flour were a salad and your hand were the salad tongs. Don’t spend a lot of time mixing the dough, just focus on getting it moistened. Translation: With each addition of water, toss about four times and then STOP, add more water, and repeat.
• When the dough holds together on its own (and with enough water it will), do a “squeeze test.” If it falls apart, you need to add more water. If it is soggy and sticky, you might need to sprinkle flour onto it until the wetness is balanced out. The key is to not overwork the dough! It takes very little time and you’ll be tempted to keep touching it, but don’t!
• Now divide the dough into two balls (or three, if your pie dishes are smaller) and form each into a disk shape.
• Sprinkle flour under and on top of your dough to keep it from sticking to your rolling surface. Roll to a thinness where the dough seems almost transparent.
• Measure the size of the dough by holding your pie plate above it. It’s big enough if you have enough extra width to compensate for the depth and width of your dish, plus 1 to 2 inches overhang.
• Slowly and gently – SERIOUSLY TAKE YOUR TIME! – lift the dough off the rolling surface, nudging flour under with the scraper as you lift, and fold the dough back. When you are sure your dough is 100 percent free and clear from the surface, bring your pie dish close to it and then drag your dough over to your dish. (Holding the folded edge will give you a better grip and keep your dough from tearing.
• Place the folded edge halfway across your dish, allowing the dough of the covered half to drape over the side. Slowly and carefully unfold the dough until it lies full across the pie dish.
• Life the edges and let gravity ease the dough down to sit snuggly in the dish, using the light touch of a finger if you need to push any remaining air space out of the corners as you go.
• Trim excess dough to about 1 inch from the dish edge (I use scissors), leaving ample dough to make crimped, fluted edges.


Blind-Baked Crust

• Prepare Basic Pie Dough recipe for a single-crust pie, then roll and crimp the edges.
• Prick the bottom and sides of the pie crust with a fork.
• Lay a large piece of foil over the top and fill with pie weights (or beans, rice, coins, chains, screws – anything to weight down the crust to keep it from puffing up or shrinking.)
• Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.
• Remove the weights and foil, turn oven down to 375 degrees, and continue baking for another 5 minutes or more, to brown the bottom of the crust.

Note: The weights hold the crust in place as it bakes, keeping it from shrinking as the moisture evaporates. If it does shrink, it, it will rattle around in your pie dish, and thought it will be smaller than you had hoped, it will still taste good.


Reprinted with permission from MBI Publishing 


By the Book: Theo Chocolate by Debra Music and Joe Whinney

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016



I have fond memories of baking cookies with my mother and my grandmother when I was a little girl. We made the basics: oatmeal raisin, peanut butter and chocolate chip – all excellent cookies, but sometimes I want something more decadent. Gooey Double-Chocolate Mocha cookies from Theo Chocolate: Recipes and Sweet Secrets from Seattle’s Favorite Chocolate Maker seemed to fit the bill.

I’m gluten-intolerant, and since these only called for cup flour, I thought I could safely use a gluten-free flour blend. I wanted a pure chocolate cookie, so I left out the ground coffee, which the introduction declared optional. While the cookies were deeply chocolaty, they also spread into thin, flat disks during baking. The recipe said they would be “very fragile,” but the accompanying photo showed thick, fudgy cookies, not the delicate wafers I created.

While the cookie were rich, they were not enough to win this round. I’ll definitely try this recipe again, though, altering my gluten-free flour ratio to try and make them more substantial.

Skill level: More advanced techniques require an intermediate ability in the kitchen.
This book is for: Chocolate lovers, of course
Other recipes to try: Preston Hill Bakery chocolate bread, almond-olive oil sable cookies with chocolate, Chocolate (Factory) Eton Mess, Tallulah’s warm chocolate pudding cake
The Verdict: The pie bars from Sweeter off the Vine came together better than my deflated chocolate cookies.




Gooey Double-Chocolate Mocha Cookies
2 dozen cookies

10 oz. Theo 70-percent dark chocolate, chopped, divided
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
⅓ cup (1½ oz.) all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. finely ground Fair Trade coffee beans
2 eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup (5½ oz.) sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)

• Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
• Melt 7 ounces of the chocolate with the butter in a double boiler (see instructions below) and set aside to cool slightly.
• Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together in a small bowl, stir in the coffee and set the bowl aside.
• In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a bowl with a whisk by hand), whip the eggs and sugar together on medium speed until very thick and pale, 3 to 4 minutes (about 8 minutes by hand). Add the vanilla and mix well. Fold in the cooled chocolate mixture, then the dry ingredients, and finally the remaining 3 ounce chopped chocolate and the walnuts.
• Use 2 spoons or a small cookie scoop to drop rounded tablespoons of batter 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until they’re puffed, shiny and cracked, 8 to 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheet. They will be very fragile.

Melting Chocolate in a Double Boiler
• Heat a couple inches of water in a saucepan over low heat. Put the chopped chocolate in a stainless steel or glass bowl large enough to sit securely in the saucepan without touching the water. When the water comes to a simmer, turn off the heat and let the chocolate begin to melt. Stir the chocolate often, and when about two-thirds of it has melted, remove the bowl from the saucepan and dry the bottom of the bowl very well. Continue to stir the chocolate until it has melted completely.

Reprinted with permission from Sasquatch Books


By the Book: Sweeter Off the Vine by Yossi Arefi

Thursday, August 11th, 2016



Sweeter Off the Vine: Fruit Desserts for Every Season won me over with its meticulous organization and moody, saturated glamour shots of fruit. It seemed like the perfect choice for this time of year, when it’s possible to mark the weeks off a calendar by what’s available at the farmers market.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the farmers market for this recipe. Timing didn’t allow, so instead I started with disappointing peaches (for which there is no excuse this time of year), the wrong brown sugar, whole-wheat pastry flour instead of whole-wheat flour and a pantry unexpectedly devoid of rolled oats, requiring a last-minute grocery run. What’s the opposite of mise en place? Don’t answer that.

With such a preamble, it’s no surprise I wasn’t thrilled with these pie bars. The crisp topping needed significantly more butter to hold it together, and the filling could have done with more fruit. However, I’m wary to blame this all on the recipe since I estimated my fruit weights and eyeballed the required ½ cup butter. The whole idea is great – as someone who likes piecrust more than filling, this hits my dessert sweet spot – and there’s a potential here that made me want to try again. Though my version leaned toward dull, this should have complex flavors (warm baking spices, sweet fruit and nutty brown butter and oats) and textures (chewy crust, giving fruit and crunchy topping). On the other hand, with two different crusts and double bake times, next time, maybe I’ll just simplify and make a cobbler.

Difficulty: Intermediate. Nothing is technically difficult, but there are a lot of steps to keep track of.
This book is for: Fruit lovers and farmers market shoppers
Other recipes to try: Caramelized apple fritters, apricot and berry galette with saffron sugar, cherry and rhubarb slab pie
Verdict: Despite not entirely living up to their potential, these pie bars were still more interesting than the Home Baked brownies from last week.




Nectarine and Blackberry Pie Bars
Makes about 24 bars

Whole Wheat Crisp Topping (see recipe below)

¾ cup (170 g.) unsalted butter
1 cup (125 g.) all purpose flour
1 cup (130 g.) whole wheat flour
⅓ cup (60 g.) firmly packed light brown sugar
¾ tsp. salt

1¼ lb. (560 g.) nectarines (about 4 medium)
½ vanilla bean, or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup (50 g.) sugar (less if the fruit is particularly sweet)
½ tsp. lemon zest
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
Pinch salt
1¼ cup (200 g.) blackberries

• Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or a quarter-sheet pan with aluminum foil. Lightly grease the foil.
• To make the crust: Melt the butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the foam subsides, the milk solids turn light brown, and the butter has a warm and nutty fragrance, about five minutes. Remove the butter to a heat-safe container and let it cool to room temperature.
• In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar and salt. Pour in the cooled butter and stir gently until a ball forms. Pat the dough evenly into the prepared pan. Bake the crust until light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool while you prepare the filling.
• To make the filling: Pit and coarsely chop the nectarines. Use the tip of a knife to slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds; reserve the pod for another use. Add the sugar, vanilla seeds and lemon zest to a large bowl and use your fingers to rub the vanilla seeds and zest into the sugar. Stir in the spices, flour and salt. Add the nectarines and blackberries to the sugar mixture and toss gently to combine. Pour over the partially cooled crust. Sprinkle the crisp topping evenly over the top.
• Bake the bars until the topping is golden brown and the fruit begins to release its juices, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.

Whole Wheat Crisp Topping
Makes about 3½ cups (390 g.), enough for one large crisp or two pies

½ cup (65 g.) whole wheat or rye flour
½ cup (62.5 g.) all purpose flour
½ cup (45 g.) old-fashioned oats
½ cup (100 g.) firmly packed light brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking powder
½ cup (115 g.) unsalted butter, softened but cool

• Combine all of the ingredients except for the butter in a medium bowl and give a quick stir to combine, making sure to break up any lumps of brown sugar. Add the butter and use your fingertips to mix everything together until crumbs form. Use the mixture immediately, or store in a ziptop bag in the freezer for up to 1 month. You can use the crisp topping straight from the freezer; just add a couple of extra minutes to the baking time of your crisp or pie.

Reprinted with permission from 10 Speed Press

By the Book: Home Baked by Yvette Van Boven

Friday, August 5th, 2016



I love Yvette van Boven’s summer salad from her first book, Home Made. I first made it for another By the Book column years ago, and I still make it, regardless of the season. So I had high hopes for her newest book, Home Baked, which contains some of my favorite things: breads, cookies, cakes and beautiful photos and illustrations.

I chose to make her Triple-Chocolate Chunky Brownies, which she declared “by far the most delicious recipe from this book.” The brownie was packed with dark chocolate, white chocolate and cocoa powder, as well as walnuts. It was simply to make and worth the minimal effort, especially when served warm with a melting scoop of ice cream. But most delicious? I have had a better brownie – and I’ve made better, too.

Skill level: Easy. There are some more time-consuming recipes, like in the bread section, but nothing seems too difficult for a home cook.
This book is for: Baked-good addicts
Other recipes to try: Super-Duper Choco Cake with Beets and Hazelnut Filling; Chocolate, Espresso, and Dark Beer Cake with Chocolate-Hazelnut Frosting
Verdict: Check back next week when Home Baked takes on the next challenger.




Triple-Chocolate Chunky Brownies
24 pieces

7 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
3 Tbsp. butter, cubed, plus extra for the pan
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1½ oz. white chocolate, chopped
½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 eggs beaten

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 7-by-11 inch baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper that extends over two edges of the pan. Grease the parchment paper, too.
• Melt 3½ oz. of the chocolate with the butter au bain marie. Turn off the heat when it’s nearly completely melted and let stand for a bit while you prepare the rest.
• In a bowl, mix the brown sugar with the vanilla, flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt into an even-colored powder.
• Stir in the remaining dark chocolate, the white chocolate, and the walnuts.
• Pour the beaten eggs into the slightly cooled chocolate-butter mixture. Add the dry ingredients, mix well with a spatula, and spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Spread the batter with a spatula so that it reaches all corners.
• Bake the brownies for 20 to 25 minutes, until just firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with wet crumbs attached.
• Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then lift the brownies out of the pan, and let cool until the brownies have firmed up a bit before cutting into squares. Eat when still warm, as that’s when the chocolate chunks are still a bit melty.

Reprinted with permission from Stewart, Tabori & Chang

By the Book: Hey There, Dumpling! by Kenny Lao and Genevieve Ko

Friday, July 29th, 2016



Don’t let the silly illustrations and goofy photos fool you. Kenny Lao and Genevieve Ko’s Hey There, Dumpling!: 100 Recipes for Dumplings, Buns, Noodles, and Other Asian Treats is a seriously good cookbook. Among some cute asides and cringe-worthy exclamations (Peking duck dumplings: “We’re bringing sexy quack with this one!”) are satisfying recipes and helpful tips for amateurs.

I didn’t choose Hey There, Dumpling! to make a noodle dish. After trolling for that interesting-but-not-painful recipe sweet spot, I settled on Thai Green Curry Dumplings, which called for some ingredients that are atypical in my kitchen but not enough to make it cost prohibitive or hard to find what I needed in town. Lao recommends Twin Marquis dumpling wrappers, which I found at Jay’s International Food Co. on South Grand. Their toothsome texture and flavor make using wonton wrappers for dumplings a thing of the past.

The recipe was simple, clear and made for some complex layers of flavor in a cute little package. The only moment of confusion came when trying to decipher the folding instructions, which had less than helpful illustrations. Falling back on some previous pierogi experience, I created my own dumpling shape, which worked fine. More important, they tasted great – fresh and zingy with a hint of heat. Before this, I’d never made an Asian recipe I’d be happy to be served in a restaurant.

Skill level: Easy to intermediate. The dumplings are more labor intensive than difficult, and the book offers clear instructions and helpful tips.
This book is for: Dumpling lovers, obvi.
Other recipes to try: Classic pork and Chinese chive dumplings, mushroom dumplings, Szechuan chicken dumplings
The verdict: As much as it pains me to say it, Talde’s pretzel dumplings won the day. The Thai green curry flavors were amazing, but nothing beats a salty, fried nugget of pork fat dipped in mustard.




Thai Green Curry Dumplings
45 dumplings

1 lb. (455 g.) Napa cabbage, cored and finely chopped
2¼ tsp. kosher salt
1 lb. (455 g.) fatty (80/20) ground pork
1 Tbsp. minced fresh lemongrass
1 Tbsp. minced peeled fresh galangal or ginger
1 Tbsp. minced shallot
1½ tsp. coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp. freshly grated lime zest
1 tsp. minced fresh green Thai chile
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1-lb. (455 g.) package round dumpling wrappers
Dr. Tan’s Chile Dip (optional)

• In a fine-mesh colander, mix the cabbage and 2 teaspoons salt. Let stand while you get everything else ready, at least 10 minutes. Grab handfuls of the cabbage and squeeze as hard as you can to get rid of all the liquid.
• Transfer the dried cabbage to a large bowl and add the pork, lemongrass, galangal or ginger, shallot, coriander, lime zest, chile, pepper, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Use your hands to work all the ingredients together until well-mixed. It’s best to use your hands because you can get everything incorporated into the meat without making the pieces of meat too small.
• If you have time, cover and refrigerate the filling until nice and cold, up to 2 days. The filling will be easier to spoon into your wrappers when it’s chilled.
• When you’re ready to cook, follow the wrapping and frying instructions.
• Serve the dumplings with Dr. Tan’s Chile Dip, if desired.

Prep the Deck
• Get a foot or so of a work surface nice and clean. Your kitchen counter works fine. A big cutting board does, too.
• Have a flat plate or rimmed pan lined with waxed paper or parchment paper ready. This is where you’re going to put your finished dumplings. If you’re planning on freezing the dumplings right away, use a rimmed pan, but be sure to use on that fits in you freezer. (I’ve totally zonked on that before and used a pan bigger than my freezer.)
• You need a pack of round flour dumpling wrappers, sometimes labeled potsticker or gyoza wrappers. You can buy them in regular supermarkets nowadays. If you can’t find them there, they’ll definitely be at your nearest Asian grocery. They should be 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12 cm) in diameter, thin enough to flap around, and whitish. (The yellow ones are for wontons and have egg in the dough; don’t use those.) Each pack should have 40 to 50 wrappers, the number you’ll need for my filling recipes. (I especially like the Twin Marquis brand, but have also used TMI Shanghai-Style wrappers with success.) Wrappers are easiest to fold and seal when they’re at room temperature, so take them out of the fridge first. If you bought them frozen, throw them in the fridge overnight or just set them on the counter until they’re room temp. It doesn’t take too long – like 30 minutes or so. And have a damp kitchen towel handy so you can keep the wrappers moist while you’re wrapping. If they dry out, they’ll crack while you’re rolling.
• Set out a bowl of water next to the wrappers. You’ll use this to seal the dumplings. I know some people who mix beaten egg or egg white with water, but I like to keep it simple. And water works.
• Finally, your filling. You’ll want a bowl of it all mixed up and ready to go. Set this bowl after your wrappers and bowl of water and before your pan. It’s easiest to work with cold filling, so if you can, make it ahead of time and refrigerate it until you’re ready to start wrapping. Have a spoon, measuring tablespoon, butter knife, small offset spatula, or a pair of chopsticks ready for scooping the filling.

It’s a Wrap
• Open the wrapper packet, take out five, and cover the rest with a damp towel.
• Lay out the wrappers like ducks in a row.
• Dip your finger in the water and wet ½ inch (12 mm.) of the rim of each wrapper. You want it moister than a licked envelope, but not actually wet. The water will get the wrapper to stick to itself later, but too wet and it’ll make the wrapper soggy and unfoldable.
• Scoop a fat tablespoon (basically a level tablespoon) of filling into the center of each wrapper. You can sorta eyeball it once you measure out one. The more filling you use, the harder it is to wrap, but the more satisfying the dumpling is. If you’re new at this, start with a little less filling, I like to scoop the filling with a regular spoon and push it off so that it ends up in a tiny football shape. It’s easier to fold the wrapping around this than a golf ball shape.

Crescent Moon Fold
• Fold down the centerline of the wrapper along the long axis of the football-shaped filling glob/dollop.
• Keep sealing the edges of the wrapper, moving out from the center, until they’re sealed to the ends.
• Gently curve the dumpling into a crescent shape by pulling the ends toward each other.
• Make sure the edges are really stuck together.

Fry, Fry Again
• First, get the right pan. Choose a nonstick skillet with a lid you can pick up easily with one hand because you’re gonna need to flip it later. So well-seasoned cast-iron is great if you’re jacked.
• Coat the bottom of the pan with oil. I like using canola oil or another neutral oil. For a 12-inch (30.5-cm.) pan, that’s about 2 tablespoons. The oil will pool in a nonstick pan, but will spread out later.
• Start arranging the dumplings belly-to-belly in supertight concentric circles in a rosette shape. You should have one outer ring, one inner ring, and a few in the middle.
• Add 3 tablespoons water to the pan, set over medium heat, and cover. By starting with a cold pan, you’re not under any pressure to arrange those dumplings quickly. And you don’t have to deal with the whole cold-water/hot-oil scary splatter.
• Just let them cook now, rotating the pan every once in a while if you know your stove’s heat is uneven. Because there’s hot oil and water mixed in there, you want to keep the lid on tight to avoid getting burned. Don’t be scared of the popping you hear. That sound means the bottoms are getting nice and fried while the fillings and tops steam.
• What you’re waiting for is the water to evaporate. When it does, the sound under the lid will change from bubbly pops to a pretty serious steady crackle. Lift the lid away from your face and peek to see if the pan’s dry. If it is, take off the lid. If not, cover again. This step takes about 7 minutes with fresh dumplings and about 10 minutes with frozen ones. If you worried about whether they’re cooked through, you can use a meat thermometer to take the temp of one (the USDA says 165 degrees is what you need for meat) or poke one open from the top and peek inside. Try not to cut it all the way and let the juices spill out, though.
• After you’ve uncovered the dumplings, turn off the stove. Jerk the pan a little to give it a good shake and see if the dumplings are stuck or if they slide a little. If they seem stuck, shake the pan a little more to unstick them or slide a spatula under them to separate them from the pan.
• Center a heatproof plate that’s bigger than the pan over the pan. Put on oven mitts to protect your hands. Holding the pan and the plate tightly, flip them both together. Do it fast! Lift off the pan and voila! It’s a beautiful dumpling tarte tatin!
• Right when the dumplings are done, they’ll be really stuck together. I’m totally fine with that and think it’s fun to pry them apart. If you let them sit for 5 minutes or so though, they pull apart much more easily. And, at that point, the fillings aren’t burn-your-mouth hot. If you’ve gotta do a lot of batches to serve them all at the same time, tent the plate loosely with foil and place in a 200 degrees oven. I prefer to invite everyone into the kitchen and let ‘em eat while I keep frying.

Dr. Tan’s Chile Dip
½ cup (120 ml.)

½ cup (120 ml.) rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 small fresh Thai chiles, split lengthwise.

• In a small bowl, stir together all of the ingredients. If you have time, cover and refrigerate the mixture overnight. Pick out and discard the chiles before serving. The dip can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Reprinted with permission from Stewart, Tabori & Chang

By the Book: Preserving the Japanese Way by Nancy Singleton Hachisu

Friday, July 22nd, 2016



Canning, pickling and preserving are great, ancient ways to make the most of a harvest. In Preserving the Japanese Way, author Nancy Singleton Hachisu dedicates 350 pages to the methods, ingredients and dishes of her Japanese husband’s heritage by way of his mother.

While there are instructions for making one’s own soy sauce, miso and rice vinegar, the recipes do not require homemade everything. As the reader and cook, you choose how much time and effort you want to invest. I opted not to make my own soy sauce or mayonnaise for the ginger-soy pork sandwiches and instead happily picked up the items at the store.

The recipe was simple – thin-sliced pork butt soaked in a two-ingredient marinade overnight. I tossed it in a smoking hot pan with a dash of sesame oil, then assembled the sandwiches. The result was fine – just fine. We all agreed the pork was too salty and, should I attempt it again, would use a reduced salt soy sauce. The marinade also needed something else for brightness. More ginger? Herbs? More acid? With some tweaking – and a tomato slice or two ­– this little sandwich might have prevailed.

Skill Level: Easy to super difficult. I know this isn’t helpful, but this book truly contains recipes for the novice sandwich maker and the professional preserver.
This book is for: The curious and adventurous of most any ability.
Other recipes to try: Fish sauce fried rice, green beans cloaked in miso
The Verdict: While it has potential, the recipe as written falls short and Asian-American emerges the victor.




Ginger-Soy Pork Sandwiches
6 sandwiches

2 Tbsp. grated ginger
14 oz. thinly sliced pork butt with some fat
½ cup soy sauce
Mayonnaise, preferably homemade (see Note)
2 small onions
1 small head of red leaf or butter lettuce
12 slices pain de mie or another soft bakery bread
Dijon mustard
About ½ tbsp. sesame oil, for cooking

• Scrape the peel off of the ginger with the back of a spook and grate. Place the pork slices in a medium-sized bowl, pour the soy sauce over them and drop the grated ginger into the bowl as well. Pick up the pork slices one by one and smoosh in some soy sauce and grated ginger until all of the slices are coated with soy sauce and no longer pink. Slide the pork slices and marinade into a resealable gallon-sized freezer bag. Roll the bag up, squeezing out all of the air as you go, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour but preferably overnight.
• Assemble the sandwich components when you are about 45 minutes or so from eating.
• Make the mayonnaise, if using homemade (see Note); otherwise use jarred French mayonnaise. Avoid Japanese Kewpie mayo because it contains MSG. Cut the ends off of the onions, peel, and slice crosswise into ¼-inch half-rounds. Wipe the lettuce and make a stack of around 18 leaves (about 2 per sandwich) depending on the size of each leaf. (I prefer a thick layer of lettuce to one scraggly leaf.) Set up a bread station by laying the slices side by side on the counter or cutting board. Arrange them in a row of top pieces and a row of bottom pieces. Slather on the mayonnaise, dollop ½ teaspoon mustard onto the bottom slices, and spread. Lay 2 piece of lettuce on each of the bottom slices of bread and strew some onion half-rings on the lettuce. Lay another piece of lettuce on each of the top slices of bread.
• Set a large frying pan over high heat and film with a small amount of sesame oil when the pat is hot (hold your palm over the surface of the pan and you will feel the heat start to rise). Lift the pork pieces out of the soy-ginger marinade, shake off the excess liquid, and throw the pork pieces into the hot pan. Cook by tossing and separating the pieces that are clinging together with tongs until the pieces caramelize a bit over high heat.
• Lay 2 to 4 slices of pork on top of the piece of bread with the sliced onions and cover with the top slice of bread. Cut in half and serve immediately. Be warned – you may want more than one.

Variation: Throw on a couple of slices of ripe tomato in the summer.

NOTE: To make homemade mayonnaise, stir 1 tsp Dijon mustard (or ¼ teaspoon dried mustard) and ½ teaspoon brown rice vinegar into a farm-fresh egg yolk at room temperature. Whisk in about ¾ cup best-quality canola oil at room temperature very, very slowly. Once the mayonnaise looks like a creamy sauce (not oily looking), you can add the oil a bit faster. Season with a sprinkling of fine sea salt and dribble in a bit more brown rice vinegar to taste, if you like. Stir in ½ to 1 teaspoon sugar or honey if you prefer a more Japanese style of mayonnaise.


Reprinted with permission from Andrews McMeel Publishing

By the Book: Asian-American by Dale Talde

Thursday, July 14th, 2016



Dale Talde made his mark on the national stage on Top Chef and Top Chef: All Stars. His restaurant, Talde in Brooklyn, is Asian-American with influences as varied as his experience growing up the son of Filipino immigrant parents. His cookbook eloquently explains those influences in a lengthy but engaging (and at times irreverent) introduction. It’s not required reading to enjoy the recipes, but highly recommended.

The Pretzel Pork-and-Chive Dumplings are a staple on Talde’s menu and an ideal entry point to his brand of Asian-American. Though extensive, the recipe is simple to execute. Fatty ground pork is mixed with ginger, soy, sesame oil and a mountain of chives, then swaddled in wonton wrappers. Like pretzels, the dumplings are parboiled in a frothing alkaline bath of baking soda and water, then slathered in a coating of egg and butter. When fried, the dumplings turn as gloriously brown as a Gus’s soft pretzel.

And what’s a pretzel without mustard? Talde’s doctored Chinese mustard makes the perfect pungent accent to this salty, buttery treat. A note: This recipe makes about three dozen dumplings. Unless you’re cooking for a party, I recommend halving it. It’s not that you’ll make too many; rather, you run the risk of eating all 36 in one sitting.

Skill level: Medium. Most recipes require an extensive pantry of Asian ingredients and prep work, though Talde is totally fine with shortcuts.
This book is for: Fans of both authentic Asian cuisine and Americanized Chinese food
Other recipes to try: breakfast fried rice, buttered toast ramen
The verdict: Talde set the bar high. Bring it on, cookbooks.




Pretzel Pork-and-Chive Dumplings
Makes about 36

For the filling:
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
¾ cup thinly sliced chives, preferably Chinese chives (flat, like blades of grass)
1½ lbs. fresh pork belly, ground by your butcher, or other fatty ground pork, cold
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Asian sesame oil
1 tsp. potato starch or cornstarch
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. chicken bouillon
½ tsp. ground white pepper

For forming and par-cooking the dumplings:
36 wonton wrappers (round), preferably “Shanghai style”
4 quarts water
3 Tbsp. baking soda
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 stick (¼ lb.) unsalted butter, melted

For finishing the dumplings:
About 1 cup vegetable oil for shallow frying
¼ cup pretzel salt
1 cup Tahini Mustard Sauce

Make the filling
• Heat the oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat, add the chives, and cook, stirring, just until they’re wilted and very fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Let them cool slightly. Combine the pork in a mixing bowl with the chives and remaining filling ingredients. Mix gently but thoroughly with your hands until everything is well distributed. Don’t overmix or the filling will be too dense.

Form the dumplings
• Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Fill a small bowl with water. Form the dumpling one at a time, keeping the yet-to-be-used wonton wrappers under a damp towel.
• Put a dumpling on the work surface.
• Add a slightly mounded tablespoon of the pork mixture to the center.
• Dip your finger into the water and use it to moisten the edge of the wrapper, then pinch and slightly flatten the filling to form a log shape.
• Fold the wrapper to form a semi-circle
• Firmly press the two edges together, leaving both sides open.
• Holding the pinched edge with one hand, invert the dumpling.
• Use the other hand to push the rounded bottom of the open end so it meets the pinched edge and very firmly pinch those closed. Force out the air from the pocket you created, then do the same to close the other open end. Make sure all the edges are tightly sealed; if two edges won’t seal, try moistening the edges with a little more water.
• Transfer the dumpling to the prepared baking sheet and repeat the process with the remaining filling and wrappers.

Par-cook the dumplings
• This step gives the dumplings that pretzel-like chew and aroma. Combine the water and baking soda in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Line a large baking sheet or plate with parchment paper.
• Working in three batches, boil the dumplings until their filling springs back when you squeeze it, 4 to 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the dumplings to the prepared baking sheet as they’re done.
• Brush the dumplings all over with the egg yolk (or drizzle and rub with a spoon to coat), then do the same with the melted butter. Let the dumplings sit for at least 2 hours or in the fridge, uncovered, for a day or two. The longer the better.

Finish the dumplings
• Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Put a paper towel-lined baking sheet in there, so you have a place to keep finished dumplings warm while you make the rest.
• Cook the dumplings in several batches to avoid crowding the skillet: Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add enough oil to reach a depth of about ¼ inch. As soon as the oil shimmers, arrange some of the dumplings in a single layer, leaving some breathing room between them. Cook, using tongs to turn them occasionally, until you see golden-brown blisters on all three sides, about 5 minutes total. Sprinkle on about 1 tablespoon of the pretzel salt, toss, and transfer the dumplings to the oven to keep them warm. Add enough oil to maintain a ¼-inch depth, let it shimmer, and repeat with the remaining dumplings and salt.
• Eat right away with a bowl of tahini mustard sauce.


Tahini Mustard Sauce
Makes about 1 cup

For the filling:
½ cup hot Chinese mustard (or Dijon, if you have to)
2 Tbsp. well-stirred tahini
2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. Asian sesame oil
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt

• Combine the ingredients in a bowl and stir really well.


Reprinted with permission by Grand Central Life & Style

By the Book: Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking by Dana Shultz

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016




Pad Thai has been one of my favorite dishes since I first tried it 20 years ago at King & I, so I was excited when I found a recipe for Peanut Butter Pad Thai in Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking. How could coupling two delicious ideas go wrong?

Unfortunately, this recipe had several flaws. An extensive list of ingredients to prep and multiple steps meant the total cooking time of 50 minutes nearly doubled when I put together the finished dish. Despite the extensive list of potent ingredients (including tamarind concentrate, maple syrup, tamari and chile garlic sauce) the dish lacked spice and tasted overwhelmingly of peanut butter.

This dish needed additional heat and acid to balance the rich peanut butter. For a better bite, I added several dollops of chile sauce, a healthy squeeze of lime juice and left off the optional peanut butter sauce entirely. After nearly two hours of work, this peanut buttery pad Thai left me yearning for the King & I classic.

Skill level: Beginner to intermediate. Most of the recipes were fairly straightforward, but are too complicated for a weeknight meal.
This book is for: Vegetarians, vegans, the gluten-intolerant and others with food allergies
Other recipes to try: White bean pozole verde, Better-Than-Restaurant Vegan Nachos, butternut squash-garlic mac n cheese
Verdict: Food 52’s onion carbonara takes the win!




Peanut Butter Pad Thai
2 servings as an entree, 4 as a side

12 oz. (340 g.) extra-firm tofu
6 oz. (170 g.) thin rice noodles
3 cloves garlic (1½ Tbsp. or 9 g.), minced
1 large bundle (6 oz. or 170 g.) green onions, finely chopped
2 whole carrots (122 g.), ribboned with a vegetable peeler or thinly diced

2 Tbsp. (32 g.) salted creamy peanut butter
3 Tbsp. (45 g.) tamarind concentrate or paste*
4½ Tbsp. (68 ml.) tamari or soy sauce (if gluten-free, use tamari)
3 to 4 Tbsp. (45 to 60 ml.) maple syrup (or substitute coconut sugar)
1½ tsp. chile garlic sauce, plus more for serving

For serving (optional):
Peanut sauce (recipe follows)
Chili garlic sauce
Freshly squeezed lime juice

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper
• Wrap the tofu in a clean, absorbent towel and set something heavy on top, such as a cast-iron skillet, to aid in draining the moisture.
• Once the oven is hot, cube the tofu into bite-size pieces and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes. Depending on the firmness of the tofu, the cooking times will vary. The longer it bakes, the firmer and chewier it gets, which I prefer. Check for doneness at the 28-minute mark and bake longer if desired.
• In the meantime, make the sauce. To a small skillet add the peanut butter, tamarind concentrate, 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) tamari, 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) maple syrup, and 1 teaspoon chile garlic sauce. Heat over medium heat. When the sauce begins bubbling, sir and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off heat and let rest. Taste and adjust the flavor as needed, adding more chile garlic sauce for heat, maple syrup for sweetness, or tamari for saltiness. The flavor should be sour-sweet.
• When the tofu is almost done baking, cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions. Then drain and set aside.
• Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the baked tofu, 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) pad Thai sauce, 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) tamari, and the remaining ½ teaspoon chile garlic sauce. Stir frequently and cook until brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
• To the same skillet, add the garlic and green onion (reserving a small amount for garnish), and ½ tablespoon (8 ml.) more tamari. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the cooked noodles and the remaining pad Thai sauce and toss with tongs to coat. Raise the heat to medium high and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tofu during the last minute of cooking to warm through.
• Remove from the heat and serve with the carrots, the reserved green onions, peanut sauce (optional), and additional chile garlic sauce.
• Leftovers keep covered in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, though best when fresh.

Peanut Sauce
¾ cup

½ cup (128 g.) salted natural peanut butter (or substitute cashew butter or almond butter)
1½ to 2 Tbsp. (22 to 30 ml.) tamari or soy sauce
2 to 3 Tbsp. (24 to 36 g) coconut sugar or organic brown sugar plus more to taste
½ lime, juiced (1 Tbsp. or 15 ml.)
½ tsp. chile garlic sauce
2 to 4 Tbsp. (30 to 60 ml.) hot water to thin

• In a small bowl, whisk the peanut butter, tamari, coconut sugar, lime juice, and chile garlic sauce together. Add the hot water to thin until pourable. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
• Leftovers keep covered in refrigerator for 7 to 10 days. Add more hot water if the sauce becomes too thick after chilling.
• Pairs well with dishes like pad Thai, stir-fries, rice noodle salads, spring rolls, and more.

* Tamarind concentrate can be found online and in Asian grocery stores.

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