Bidding a Fond Farewell to Winter

Despite the temperature, we've had gorgeous sunrises this month.

Despite the temperature, we’ve had gorgeous sunrises this month. #nofilter

This past weekend, the first weekend of spring, I decided to say goodbye to the winter of 2015, that dark, cold, icy, snowy, did I say COLD, winter. In my kitchen, this means saying goodbye to some of my favorite root veggies: turnips, rutabaga, parsnips, and Brussels sprouts, and hello to spring asparagus, radishes, and peas. So I decided to make one last Brussels sprouts recipe before I closed the door on the season.

Now, I’ve purchased one bottle of fish sauce in my life and it’s still sitting in the refrigerator. Used in that rare Asian dish, it lasts forever so it just sits in the door of the fridge waiting for that next recipe. But when I spotted a page of fish sauce recipes in the April issue of Cooking Light, I knew I could kill two birds with one stone, bid adieu to winter and use up a little of the sauce!

It is definitely time to make a season switch; the sprouts I bought, normally bright green and round like a golf ball, were small and oval with just a tinge of green. This is a simple recipe, you measure everything and place into a bowl and just pan roast the sprouts. I added a bit more crushed red pepper, so on a blustery 14-degree day, it was a welcome warm side dish to roasted chicken, but I thought it could be equally tasty on a bed of rice or quinoa. (Vegetarians, you can still make this, just leave out the fish sauce, it will still be delicious!) So, goodbye winter! Hopefully Mother Nature will take a look at the calendar and realize we need to warm up!

brussels
Sweet and Savory Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts

This recipe originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1/2 cup)

2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon lower-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 pound trimmed Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise

Combine water, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, and crushed red pepper in a small bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Let stand at least 20 minutes. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add Brussels sprouts to pan in a single layer, cut side down. Cook, without stirring, 5 minutes or until cut sides are evenly browned. Turn sprouts, and reduce heat to medium; cook 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Increase heat to medium-high. Add fish sauce mixture to pan, tossing to coat sprouts. Cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Mark Bittman in Berkeley          

berkeley

(Photo by Jim Wilson/New York Times)

One of my favorite food writers hands down is Mark Bittman. He can take three ingredients and make a dish fit for a king; his creativity in the kitchen is simple yet elegant. This lifelong New Yorker recently moved to Berkeley (which I take is a temporary move) and he writes elegantly about the winters farmer’s market in California’s Bay Area. Sigh. It honestly does sound like heaven to those of us in the snowbound states. You can read about his adventures by clicking here.

Brownies

Simple as that.

I try not to repeat recipes too much, but when something I wrote about three years ago is so delicious, I only thought it was fitting to bring it forward so new readers can take advantage! (Plus, I made these twice last week, so they are the forefront of my mind)

Baking is definitely not a specialty of mine; give me a piece of meat or a pile of vegetables and I can create something delicious, but baking is more specific and goes against my devil-may-care attitude I have in the kitchen. Unless it is super easy. Which this recipe is and trust me, you’ll be the bell of the ball if you share these with friends or foes. (Or the bell in your own home. Either way, you’ll be a star!)

Originally printed in the New York Times in 1943, it was noted these treats traveled well in a soldier’s care package. Trust me, those soldiers were lucky! The recipe I grew up making were mediocre; they were nice and soft right out of the oven, but were rock hard the next day. When I found this recipe, they turned into my go-to brownies. Deep, dark, and soft, even the next day, they are delicious enough that I even broke my “no sweets during Lent” vow and had two small ones. And it’s simple, it comes together in about ten minutes! You know how the Betty Crocker box mix gets “glossy” on top when it’s done cooking? This does, too, and it’s homemade, so you know what is going into it!

Note Amanda Hesser’s tip at the end (which I will say, dividing the pan into 16 is hardly a small bite, it’s a normal size brownie in my opinion), and I’ll add to that; make these and take a nice long walk in the March light and don’t worry about the stick of butter and cup of sugar!

brownies

Brownies
From The Essential New York Times Cook Book, Classic Recipes for a New Century, by Amanda Hesser, 2010. Makes 16 brownies.

¼ pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (Cook’s note: I use a bar of Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate)
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup sifted all-purpose flour
½ cup chopped nuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the base with parchment.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat.

3. Beat the eggs with the sugar until the sugar is mostly dissolved, and add to the chocolate mixture. Add the other ingredients and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

4. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost, but not quite, clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then invert the brownie onto a rack, remove the parchment, and turn it right side up. When cool cut into 16 squares.

Hesser’s Cooking Note: You might laugh at the size of these brownies, which are 2-in squares–brownie “bites” by today’s standard. Cut them larger at your (waistline’s) peril.

serious eaMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: A New (to me) Food Website
I can never have too many food websites to wander and dream. Friend and reader, Carol, sent me an email the other day, asking if I knew about the website Serious Eats. I didn’t, and of course immediately visited. Funnily enough, what caught my eye were a lot of articles focusing on Asian dumplings, like I wrote about last week! This website has the potential for losing lots of hours online, looking at recipes, checking out recommendations. You should check it out, too! www.seriouseats.com.

Pork and Shiitake Pot Stickers

dumplings3I love dumplings of all sorts, but I’m particularly fond of pork dumplings that you can order in Thai or Chinese restaurants. Now I have a pitch-perfect recipe to make them at home that is relatively easy, healthy, and most importantly of all, delicious!

I made these for a special Saturday night dinner, and they were so good, we almost ate the entire batch! I’ll admit, dumpling making is tedious and time-consuming, so pour yourself a glass of wine, because you’re going to be standing and folding for a while (unless you grab some help), but the end result is so worth it! The filling tastes like what you’d find in a restaurant, and the sauce has just the right amount of heat. I cooked the mushrooms and onions in a spicy sesame oil to add even more spiciness and it was so good!

I buy my dumpling or wonton wrappers frozen (Twin Marquis, a company out of New York) from the Asian market, but because I get there only about twice a year, I keep them in the freezer and defrost a package when I need them. Works perfectly!

I decided to make another batch of these to freeze. Guess what’s for dinner tonight?

Frying and steaming the dumplings are a perfect way to cook these. Place on a serving dish in a warm oven until you're ready to eat!

Frying and steaming the dumplings are a perfect way to cook these. Place on a serving dish in a warm oven until you’re ready to eat!

Pork and Shiitake Pot Stickers

This recipe originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
3/4 cup thinly sliced green onions, divided
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
4 ounces thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps
5 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
14 ounces lean ground pork
40 gyoza skins or round wonton wrappers
Cornstarch
1/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)

1. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 1/2 cup onions, garlic, ginger, and mushrooms; stir-fry 3 minutes. Remove from pan; cool slightly. Combine mushroom mixture, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, hoisin sauce, pepper, and pork in a medium bowl.

2. Arrange 8 gyoza skins on a clean work surface; cover remaining skins with a damp towel to keep them from drying. Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons pork mixture in the center of each skin. Moisten edges of skin with water. Fold in half; press edges together with fingertips to seal. Place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornstarch; cover to prevent drying. Repeat procedure with remaining gyoza skins and pork mixture.

3. Combine 1/4 cup hot water and brown sugar in a small bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add remaining 1/4 cup green onions, remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce, vinegar, and sambal, stirring with a whisk until well combined.

4. Heat a large heavy skillet over high heat. Generously coat pan with cooking spray. Add 10 pot stickers to pan; cook 30 seconds or until browned on one side. Turn pot stickers over; carefully add 1/3 cup water to pan. Cover tightly; steam 4 minutes. Repeat procedure in batches with remaining pot stickers and more water, or follow freezing instructions. After cooking, serve pot stickers immediately with dipping sauce.

TO FREEZE: Freeze dumplings flat on a baking sheet sprinkled with corn­starch 10 minutes or until firm. Place in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag with 1 teaspoon cornstarch; toss. Freeze sauce in a small zip-top plastic freezer bag. Freeze up to 2 months.

TO THAW: Thaw sauce in the microwave at HIGH in 30-second increments. No need to thaw pot stickers.

TO REHEAT: Follow recipe instructions for cooking, placing frozen dumplings in pan and increasing steaming time by 2 minutes.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day With a Feast!
fourleaf cloverI don’t have a speck of Irish blood in me, but I always like to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day because 1. The month of March is halfway over, one step closer to April and springtime; and 2. Who doesn’t want a big dinner of corned beef and cabbage? Cooking Light has created a special menu of healthy Irish recipes just in time for the holiday! You can check them out here. I think the Ploughman’s Lunch Platter sounds divine!