Dumplings for Dinner!

Happy New Year! (Notice the four-leaf clovers for good luck!) 

You won’t believe this, but finding a cooking class in Vermont is difficult. Local cookbook writer Molly Stevens used to have cooking classes at her home, and I still kick myself for never taking advantage of her expertise. But a local high school offers wonderful one-night cooking classes in the fall, winter, and spring. I like to take classes that challenge me or have a guide with me that first time when I make something I’ve always wanted to try at home but am too timid. I’ve learned how to make perfect pie crust (I followed the recipe once and have since gone on to follow The Joy of Cooking’s recipe), made homemade tofu (it’s delicious, although my attempts at making it at home have not been successful), and dim sum dumplings. My past experiences making dumplings at home never worked out; twice I made a delicious cheese and basil stuffed ravioli, only to have the sides leak in the pot, making for a watery dish all the way around. They were tasty, but I wanted to have delicious, healthy dumplings I can make easily, and inexpensively, at home, and that will stay intact!

At my class we made three different dumplings: spinach with currants and cashews, roasted red peppers and goat cheese, and chipotle and corn. For the past two years for New Year’s Eve dinner, I’ve cooked a meal of appetizers and have made a couple batches of these dumplings to munch on. These recipes make enough for an army, so there are always loads of leftovers for later on in the week, or if you’re having a crowd, they’d be great appetizers. But I admit, I am a totally selfish when it comes to these; all I want to do when they are ready is sit in front of a large platter and happily munch away forever, they’re that good!

For me, the dumpling wrappers are the make or break of this dish; I’ve used the square wrappers found in the grocery store, and they’ve never worked. I have to make a special trip to the Asian market in town to get these, and while it’s out of the way, they will last forever in the freezer. (I had some in there, still wrapped, for more than a year!) The photo is of the brand I always buy, they’re made in Brooklyn.

Recipes are below, but here are my assembling instructions. Make sure the filling is cool before putting the dumplings together.

1. Brush the dumpling wrapper with a little egg white.

2. Place about a tablespoon in the middle of the wrapper.

3. Fold in a half-moon shape, and seal carefully. This is the easiest way for me, but experiment with different shapes, if you desire. Brush with a little more egg white.


4. Take a Dutch oven and add a little bit of water for steaming. Spray a vegetable steamer with cooking spray or line with oil and place it in the pot. Turn the water on to boil.

5. When the water is ready, place the dumplings carefully onto the steamer, making sure they aren’t touching each other. Before I put them in the pot, I double-check and make sure they are tightly sealed.

You’ll notice in the above photo some are touching; big mistake, although if you’re like me, eating two dumplings at once isn’t the end of the world!

6. Steam for 3-5 minutes. They will be translucent when they are ready, like above.

(I was going to take a photo of my lovely tray of dumplings and sauces, but I was halfway through eating that I remembered I forgot!)

Spinach Dumplings with Cashews and Currants
1 ½ cup chopped frozen spinach, squeezed dry (I use just one box of frozen chopped spinach)
4 Tablespoons butter
2 cloves, ground (I use a dash of cloves)
1 teaspoon each: fennel seed, black mustard seed, cumin seed
Dash of salt
¼ cup cashews
¼ cup currants, soaked
½ teaspoon Garam Masala (an Indian spice I get at the co-op in bulk)
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Melt 2 tablespoons in butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add spices and saute until fragrant. Add spinach and stir until warm. Set aside.

Warm remaining butter and begin to fry the cashews until golden. Add currants and toss gently. Pull off heat and add remaining ingredients. Mix together and cool.

Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Dumplings
3 roasted red peppers*
1 medium-sized onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons or more fresh basil, minced
Dash of salt
¼ cup crumbled goat cheese

(*This is how I roast my red peppers. Wash and cut into fourths. Place on a cookie sheet, add a little bit of olive oil, and cook at 350 degrees or so until dark and soft. Let cool, dice, then place in mixing bowl. This can easily be done the night before or earlier in the day if you want to cut a step when you’re cooking.)

Saute onion in a little bit of olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic until fragrant. Add to the diced red pepper and stir. Add salt, pepper, basil, cheese, and set aside until cool. Serve with pesto, if desired.

Corn and Chipotle Dumplings
1 medium onion, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
2 Tablespoons polenta or cornmeal
2 Tablespoons chipotle in adobo sauce**
Salt to taste
Optional: cheddar cheese (I serve these with guacamole, so I don’t think the cheese is necessary, although it would be a tasty addition!)

Saute onion in a skillet with a little bit of oil. Add peppers and garlic and saute for a minute or so. Add corn and polenta and stir (if this is a little dry, add a touch of water). Add chipotle and salt. Mix and set aside until cool. Serve with guacamole.***

**Chipotle peppers in adobe sauce come in an 8-ounce can and are found in the Spanish food aisle. There are several peppers in the sauce. For this recipe, I used one pepper with a little bit of sauce. What to do with the leftover peppers? I wrap each pepper with a little bit of sauce in a small piece of plastic wrap, and place them all in a plastic bag and stick it in the freezer. It takes maybe 30 minutes at the most for them to thaw; they also last forever when frozen.

***This is my recipe for quicker than quick guacamole: Place one avocado in a bowl and smash with a fork. Add 1-2 finely minced garlic cloves, a little bit of lime juice, a dash of cayenne pepper, and salt. Stir and make any additional changes to taste.

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