BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Triangles and Tribulations

If ever a single holiday could rival the festivities of Halloween, it would have to be Purim. The comparisons are obvious: Fanciful costumes, parties and games, and of course, sweet treats. Where Purim has the leg up on the competition, however, is in those much celebrated edible offerings. Rather than merely candy, hamantaschen are the traditional pastry-based prize. They’ve become synonymous with the observance, almost more important to the observance than the historical significance itself. A Purim party without hamantaschen would be like underwear without elastic; uncomfortable at best, but in practical terms, truly impossible.

Previous years have seen the sugar-flecked and jam-splattered variations flying fast and furious out of my oven. Traditional or avant-garde, it’s hard to go too far wrong when you start with tender, buttery cookie dough, so rich that the best cookies threaten to flatten out into triangular puddles while baking. Flipping the script in a drastically new approach is a dangerous proposition, considering their fervent following, but I can never leave well enough alone. Perhaps they’re only hamantaschen in spirit, but since any food with three corners can stand in as a representation of Haman’s hat, I’m hoping my wild digression might still get a pass.

Savory, not sweet. Steamed, not baked. Wonton wrapper, not cookie. We can argue the disparities all day long, but when it comes down to it, there’s no question about their taste. Stuffed with gloriously green edamame filling, these dumplings are a quicker and easier alternative to the typically fussy sweet dough, and offer much needed substance after overdosing on the aforementioned pastries. General folding advice still stands as a good guideline to follow when wrapping things up, but once you get those papery thin skins to stick, you’re pretty much golden. If you’re less confident in your dumpling prowess, cut yourself a break and fold square dumplings wrappers in half instead. You’ll still get neat little triangles, and with much less full.

Short on time but long on appetite, I’m not ashamed to take a few shortcuts to get these delightful little dumplings on the table. You can go all out with homemade edamame hummus and even dumpling skins from scratch, but this quick-fix solution allows you to steam up a quick batch at the last minute, or any time the craving strikes.

Edamame Hamantaschen Dumplings

1 Cup Shelled Edamame
1/3 Cup Edamame Hummus
1 Scallion, Thinly Sliced
1 Clove Garlic, Finely Minced
1/2 Teaspoon Finely Minced Fresh Ginger
1 Teaspoon Soy Sauce
1 Teaspoon Toasted Sesame Oil
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cumin

Savoy Cabbage
15 (3-Inch) Round Wonton Skins or Gyoza Wrappers*
Additional Soy Sauce, to Serve

*You can typically find these either in the produce section near the tofu, or in the freezer aisle with other Asian ingredients. Double-check the labels because these sometimes include eggs.

The filling comes together in a snap so for maximum efficiency, set up your steaming apparatus first. Line a bamboo steamer or metal steam rack with leaves of savoy cabbage to prevent the dumplings from sticking to the bottom, and start the water simmering in a large pot.

Simply mix together the shelled edamame, hummus, scallion, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, and cumin, stirring thoroughly. Lay out your dumpling wrappers and place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of each one. Run a lightly moistened finger around the entire perimeter and bring the sides together, forming three bounding walls. Tightly crimp the corners together with a firm pinch.

Place on the cabbage leaves and cover the steamer or pot. Steam for 2 – 4 minutes, until the wrappers are translucent. Serve immediately, with additional soy sauce for dipping if desired.

Makes 15 Dumplings

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Poke Fun at Soybeans

Despite rising temperatures and flourishing green foliage, my mind still wanders back to the tropical coasts of Hawaii. So distant in memory that it all seems like a dream, it’s hard to imagine what paradise looks like at this time of year. If the seasons don’t change drastically, do the foods? Although I’m one of the biggest proponents out there for eating seasonally, part of me clings to the hope that nothing ever changes on the islands. Without distinct seasons, it’s a perfectly reasonable concept, I reason with myself, trying to ignore how selfish the desire is. Truthfully, nothing ever stays quite the same, but I’m optimistic that the food culture will remain just as vibrant day in and day out, unfettered by the passage of time.

Progress is definitely on the horizons, and that is one adjustment I would never stand in the way of. Vegan renditions of classic Hawaiian fare proved somewhat difficult to come by, making the random sighting of soybean poke at a nondescript Foodland grocery store such a delightful shock to the system. Were my eyes deceiving me? Poke, defined as a preparation of raw fish, in bean format? Not a chance in hell would I leave without this fabulous impulse buy; a full pound came back to the hotel room with me that evening, and not an ounce remained by daybreak.

A stroke of simple brilliance, the combination of flavors fuse to create something that all palates can appreciate. With the savory flavors of garlic, soy sauce, and the bright pop of red pepper flakes melded throughout, you can’t go wrong. It was the first thing I tried to recreate upon my return home, so it’s about time this appetizer made it into the blog’s spotlight. For parties or gatherings, this stuff goes fast- You may want to double or even triple the amounts.


Soybean Poke

1 Pound Frozen Edamame in Shells
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Toasted Sesame Oil
1 Tablespoon (3 – 4 Cloves) Finely Minced Garlic
1/8 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
3 Tablespoons Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce
Coarse Sea Salt, to Taste

In a medium or large stock pot, set about 2 quarts of water over medium heat and cover with the lid. Bring it up to a boil before tossing in the frozen edamame- No need to thaw. Boil uncovered for 3 – 4 minutes, until the pods are thawed and tender. If you overcook them, the beans will start ejecting themselves from their shells, but they’re still just as tasty, if a bit softer in texture. Drain thoroughly.

Meanwhile, combine both oils and the minced garlic in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is aromatic but not quite browned. Add in the prepared edamame along with the red pepper flakes and soy sauce, tossing to incorporate. Saute for just 2 – 3 minutes longer to infuse the soybeans with the marinade.

Turn off the heat and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add a pinch of salt over the top if desired, but use that salt sparingly! The soy sauce already adds quite a bit of sodium into the mix, so you may find it doesn’t need any extra at all.

Enjoy hot or or at room temperature.

Makes 4 – 6 Snack-Sized Servings

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Can’t Stand the Heat

Making the transition back to a summer climate, that elusive warm state that up until recently seemed to exist only in exotic locales, many miles away, has been a bit more jarring than initially anticipated. Yes, of course, I realized that it would someday register above 70 degrees outside, and yes, New England is notorious for its oppressive humidity, but somehow that all slipped my mind as I daydreamed of summer just a month or two ago. Happily glossing over those unpleasant aspects, I somehow envisioned a June and July as the two most perfect months of the year; free of bugs, hot but crisp and dry, and with gentle showers in the evenings to cool things down each night. We’re still just on the cusp of Summer, but already reality has smacked me in the face and set me straight. That ideal summer just doesn’t exist, my dear.

And just as suddenly, the kitchen is no longer the 24/7 hangout, the thought of lighting up every burner and cranking the oven as high as it will go growing less appealing by the day.  Anything that can be made in quantity, stuffed into the fridge for later, and eaten cold with no fuss has become my favorite thing on the menu.  This means lots of cold salads, primarily, but rarely the leafy, insubstantial sort one might initially envision.  I’m talking nutrient-dense, hearty chilled melanges of anything from grains, beans, nuts, tubers, pasta- Anything in the house is fair game when I’m putting together one of these powerhouse one-bowl meals.

Having pledged my allegiance to no one cuisine in particular, what often results is an odd fusion of ingredients and flavors, as this particular riot of colors and textures in a bowl may indicate. Borrowing both an Asian and Mediterranean sensibility, cooked pearl couscous and fresh veggies meet edamame, all married together beneath of light blanket of miso dressing. Refreshing and light but still filling and full of flavor, it’s the kind of salad that’s just as happy being thrown on a plate for a rushed weekday lunch, taking in the glorious AC, as it is being bundled up with care for a picnic on the beach. No matter what Summer throws at you, you’ve got to be prepared!

Mediter-Asian Couscous Salad

Sweet Miso Dressing:

1 Cup Plain, Unsweetened Soy Yogurt
1/4 Cup Rice Vinegar
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/3 Cup White Miso Paste
3 Tablespoons Honey-Flavored Agave, or Amber Agave Nectar
2 Tablespoons Mirin
1 Tablespoon Tamari or Soy Sauce

Mediter-Asian Salad:

1/2 Pound (1 1/4 Cups) Israeli (Pearl) Couscous*
1 Cup Kalamata Olives, Pitted and Sliced
1 1/2 Cups Diced English Cucumber
1 Small Tomato, Diced
1/2 Cup Chopped Roasted Red Pepper
1/4 Cup Finely Diced Red Onion
1 Cup Shelled Edamame (Thawed if Frozen)
1/3 – 1/2 Cup Thinly Sliced Scallions
10 – 12 Fresh Mint Leaves, Chiffonade
1/4 Cup Toasted Pine Nuts

*For this particular rendition pictured above, I used the Harvest Grains Blend from Trader Joe’s, which simply adds some orzo pasta, quinoa, small beans and such into the mix. Pearl couscous is simply more accessible, in case you don’t have a local Trader Joe’s to raid.

First things first, whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing in a medium-sized bowl, and set aside for the time being.

Moving on to the bulk of the salad, cook you Israeli couscous or couscous blend according to the package, drain (or if it’s meant to absorb all of the liquid while cooking, simply transfer it to a strainer) and rinse under cold water until cool to the touch. This will both help to stop the cooking and get it down to a workable temperature. Move the cooked couscous into a large bowl, and add in all of the cut veggies, edamame, and herbs. Toss lightly to evenly distribute all of the ingredients. Start by mixing in about 1/2 cup of your prepared miso dressing, mix to incorporate and coat all of the goods, and stir in an additional splash or two until it’s dressed to your liking.

If you want to make this salad in advance, mix in only the initial 1/2 cup of dressing for now, and incorporate the final addition right before serving. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the top to finish.

Store in a large, air-tight container for 3 – 4 days. Separately, the dressing will keep for 7 – 10 days.

Serves 6 – 8

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