Monday, July 21, 2008

it's a dumpling bee!

So in China, women get together around big holidays and make dumplings by the hundreds. It's like a quilting bee, with lots of whispering and stories about troublesome children and laughing. Here's my favorite recipe. It looks more time consuming than it really is, and best of all, you can freeze them (before cooking) and cook them from frozen for a quick dinner.

Jiao zi (Chinese dumplings)

* Filling:

1 cup shredded Napa cabbage
1 tsp salt
1 lb ground pork, or combination of ground pork and beef
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 tsp pepper
2 T soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder (opt)

* 1-2 pkg chinese dumpling wrappers (you can also buy wonton wrappers and use a large round cookie cutter to cut circles)

equal parts soy sauce and vinegar
sesame oil

Sprinkle 1 tsp salt over shredded cabbage. Let it sit for at least 5 minutes. Take it in handfuls and squeeze out the excess water. Mix the squeezed cabbage with remaining ingredients by hand or in a food processor. Be sure to mix it well so the meat absorbs the other flavors.

To assemble: Place one tablespoon of filling in the middle of a wrapper. Moisten the perimeter of 1/2 of the wrapper with your finger (dipped in a small bowl of water). Fold and pinch at the mid-point. Make 2 pleats on both sides of this mid-point. Pinch. Repeat with the other half. There are some photos of how to do this here:

To cook:

Boiling method: Boil water or broth in a saucepan or stockpot. Add 8-10 dumplings. When they float up to the top, boil them for 1 more minute, then remove.

Potsticker method (frying/steaming): Heat 2 T oil in a skillet until hot. Turn heat to medium. Arrange dumplings into rows in the skillet, with sides touching. Fry until bottom turns crusty. Pour in 1/2 cup water. cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 6 minutes. Put a large plate on top of the skillet and turn the skillet upside down onto the plate to serve.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

sleeping is for sissies

Bertram Russell once said,"Men who are unhappy, like men who sleep badly, are always proud of the fact." Unfortunately, I think this is true, at least among insomniacs. A room full of insomniacs is just as bad as moms at a baby shower: "You think that's bad? I was in labor for 18 hours! And then they used forceps!" It is in that spirit that I share the following: The night before last I slept for 1 hour and 30 minutes. And, no, I do not have a newborn. No, I wasn't about to take the LSAT. I was on an antibiotic, of all things, for a sinus infection. It was terribly potent and caused all sorts of gastronomic distress, numbness in the extremities, dizziness, and what can only be called sleep resistance. Every time I was near sleep I had that little body quake, the mechanism meant to keep you awake during something important like night driving or watching a neighbor's wedding video. I tried everything our bathroom pharmacopoeia had to offer, I read a boring text book, I counted backward from 100, I got on the internet (and, incidentally, found this amazing site about an old mental hospital in New York), I drank tea, and then I just stayed in bed for hours, simultaneously envying and getting irritated with dh, snoring blissfully by my side. Around 5 am it became a reverse psychology game with me. I was going to make myself stay awake until dh's alarm went off at 5:45, and would thus fake myself into falling asleep. My brain saw through this clever plan of its own design and I finally fell asleep at 6:00. At 7:30 the kids were up and dh was off on a business trip. But here's the thing: I survived! My kids knew I was really tired but I was still a relatively happy mommy. It's a major accomplishment for me because I have had frequent bouts of insomnia since I was 9 and I think it contributes to frequent bouts of pessimism. No small part of the credit here goes to Coke Zero and some tasty chocolate.