Saturday, October 15, 2011

Travels and Tastes - Santa Cruz, CA

At times this blog weighs on me like a ton of bricks.  The concept of taking pictures at every turn and finding something to write about feels daunting.  A little over a year in I feel as though some of the inspirations has gone.  I still cook, a lot, I recently went apple picking and made beautiful apple butter, I made an apple feast for the family, inventive, beautiful and delicious, but the time run away from me…and there is another dish that did not make the post.  A quickie little trip to the land of wine and food is all I needed to  find my inspirations and remind me of things I love most, food, wine, and travel.
All the people I know, who live in California are obsessively eager to advertise its worth.  They seem to have bought into the Eagles lyrics of “you can check out but can never leave”.  They all see too defensive and zealous upon hearing of beauty of any other place on earth.  I guess I get it; California is beautiful and expansive, with lots to offer for every wish and want.  It also caries quite a price tag if you wish to enjoy it fully, I guess this is where the defensiveness comes from.

We only had a very short time down in Santa Cruz, just a quick weekend getaway to see our new nice, but we did manage to take in a few sites and take our minds of long, dreadful, uneventful, gray, full of terrible commute winter that is awaiting for us back East
All in all… we had some perfect little moments, go some rest and wind back in our wings.

Fudge makes everything better

Especially on the side of the cappuccino cup

The romance of sailing, the good part – you can do it year round.

Met some locals

Some are nicer than others

You can get a fresh sea food salad in New Jersey, but it can never have the same pizazz.

Got to stand on top of the world at the Ridge Winery, possibly one of the prettiest and tastiest I have ever seen. 

Ate some grapes from the wine, Cabernet I think… was to distracted by the “beware of rattlesnakes” sign to concentrate on the taste.

Had some really great wine at the Bonney Doon winery, Gosh, I guess they really know how to make wine in California…

ad some amazing food at the Bonney Doon, like these simple, gorgeous lemony olives  

And fried Padrone peppers with smoked goat cheese… I am obsessively searching the internet for both now…

The Chicken and Waffles that made my husband beg for a waffle maker… and the Bonney Doon’s chef to take home…

No California trip is ever complete without a bonfire on the beach

Or a trip to the coast

I toast the beautiful state of California, every foodie’s dream land.  May I come back and enjoy it once more!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chicken Dumplings with Spicy Miso-Peanut sauce.

This is a variation on the Asian Pan Seared Dumplings recipe from awhile back.  That freezer of mine, needed some lazy day, cook in 10 minutes kind of food, for the days when I don’t want to make a major project out of dinner.  Besides, this dish always makes me think of how useful children of certain age can be.  I know it sounds terrible, but really, how great of revelation was it, when you first realized you can ask a kid to fetch you something?  I think it was the most liberating moment of my life, when a toddler could bring that whole cart of ice-cream and a spoon, so I would not have to separate my ass from the couch… And as they get older the more useful they become… here are a few examples:
1.       You never have to clean up the yard after the dogs again
2.       When you are all dolled up for a fancy night out, you can   always count on your daughter to deliver brutal honesty and on your son for sheer flattery.
3.       When you are laying in the middle of the pool and the only thing missing for a paradise is a glass of wine or beer… get a kid to bring it… what are they going to say “No”?
4.       With only a little training a kid can turn out dumplings and ravioli at the speed of an industrial machine
5.       You can borrow their zit cream
6.       You can ask them how to spell something
7.       They can make their own gourmet sandwiches for lunch… as a matter of fact they can make you one as well
8.       They can take of your garden in the summer  - If they kill all your tomatoes, well I didn’t say “Take care of it well”
9.       They will brag about your food to everyone and bribe their French teacher with Mom’s macaroons for good grades.  Now that’s love!

Chicken Dumplings with Spicy Miso-Peanut sauce
For the dumplings
1 package of frozen rice flour dumpling wrappers, thawed in refrigerator overnight.  The wrappers are sold in any Asian market in the frozen food section and come in a variety of shapes. 
1 lbs of ground chicken
½ cup of shelled edamame beans
1 medium carrot shredded
1 cup of baby bokchoy cabbage diced
1 ½ tsp fresh ginger grated
2 cloves of garlic grated
Zest of ½ lemon
2 scallions chopped
1 tbs soy sauce + 2 tbs more for the frying
1 tsp of Asian hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs of toasted sesame oil for fying
Vegetable oil for frying

For the sauce
2 tbs of peanut butter
1 tsp of red miso paste
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp of tamari
1 tsp of agave syrup ( or more to taste)
1 tsp of Asian hot sauce
¼ cup of grapeseed oil

Make the dumplings.  Combine all the ingredients except the chicken in the food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Pulse a few times, leaving the mixture with some texture.  Mix with the ground chicken.  Make the dumplings by adding about a table spoon of filling to each, than sealing the edges softened with water. 

Investment in cheap child labor is advised, considering the only form of payment she requires is those same dumplings for dinner.

Place the sealed dumplings on a plastic cutting bard, and freeze them on the bard for at least a few hours, better overnight.  Once well frozen, these can be placed in a freezer safe zip-lock bag and stored for months.

When you are ready to cook these, bring a large pot of water to a boil and heat a skillet with the mixture of vegetable and sesame oils ( if you use just sesame oil, it will begin to burn almost instantly, it has a very low smoking pint).  Boil the dumplings for about 2 min, than quickly fry them on both side in the preheated skillet.  At the last few seconds of frying, drizzle with the remaining soy sauce.
Make the dipping sauce by whisking all of the ingredients together.

Serve the dish with a simple salad.  I like to have a sweet element to counteract some of the saltiness in the dish, so I added apples to my simple salad of arugula, bell peppers and radishes. 
Enjoy and don't forget to feed the kids!