Steamed Chinese Dumplings

Chinese dumplings

Steamed Chinese dumplings are my downfall. There are few things I eat that give me as much pleasure as these wonderful creations that disappear as quickly as I can make them. Doesn’t matter whether I’m hungry or not, doesn’t matter when the dumplings appear, nothing really matters. If I’m there and the dumplings are there, they disappear and I’m happier for it.

I don’t much remember the first time I had dumplings, but I can tell you two of my most memorable dumpling fests. The first was an occasion in China, when a friend invited my wife and I over to their house to make dumplings. Now going to an apartment in China was a big step for us. That stuff didn’t happen very often, and to go for dumplings, that was a special deal — at least for me. What I didn’t know, is that I’d have to help make them, and that, was, at the very least, funny. I eventually learned how to make a passable pleating to hold the dumplings together and the rest — including the recipe for the filling — was very wonderful.

The second, was also in China, and a friend and I had gone to the Great Wall, and an old friend who was our guide, was bringing us back from there and pulled into a restaurant, ordered something in Chinese, and in a short while, out came the most gigantic plate of dumplings I’d ever seen. I thanked the chef, as I recall, and with three of us working on them, they didn’t last very long. As we were leaving, the chef brought another box of dumplings for us to have later. Amazing.

The steamed dumplings are about as close to the original as I could make them. I have to confess I did use frozen dumpling skins, but the truth is, their as good as any I’ve ever had and they are so much more convenient. If you want to make your own, there are plenty of online articles for that.


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Chicken Chorizo Empanadas

chicken chorizo empanadas

How do you make your own empanadas? Well, I had some chorizo and some fresh chicken in the fridge, so the idea of making chicken chorizo empanadas seemed like something that just HAD to happen. And surprising enough, It actually did happen (although the first try wasn’t very good, but that’s an altogether different story). Turns out, none of it was very hard, and you could use a good frozen package of empanada shells to make it even easier, if you care to. 

The story behind empanadas, on the other hand, was a revelation — at least to me. For a lot of reasons (not the least was my own ignorance of South of the Border cooking) I assumed that empanadas were Mexican. I mean, you get them everywhere in Mexican restaurants, right? Nope. These tasty little meat pies are originally from Argentina, it turns out, and while chicken and chorizo may (or may not) have been a part of the original pies, empanadas have become such a mainstay of all cooking below the U.S., I think they probably fit the norm now. 

The trick is that whether they were part of the original idea, they are first, extremely good and second, well, why not?


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If You’ve Never Tried Marrow Bones, Here’s How

Marrow Bones

Marrow bones are something that, if you’ve tried them and don’t like them, I understand. If you love them, they’re pretty easy to make and make an interesting appetizer. This post, however, is mainly for those who haven’t tried marrow bones yet, and haven’t had the intestinal fortitude to actually order them in a restaurant. First, as I said, they’re pretty easy to make and, if you don’t like them, I suppose you can toss them and know o avoid them in the future. If, like me, you really love them, then you’re all set.

The main thing about marrow bones is to get a nice size batch of bones, preferably not something you’ll have to cut. If you like long bones, get the butcher to cut them lengthwise, or if you’re like me, I try to get bones about two inches or so, which can be used as is, without any cutting. The rest is easy. Make a little parsley dressing and some nice sour dough toast and you’re ready to go.

To eat them, dip a knife into the bones, spread the marrow on the toast and add a little dressing on the top, maybe with a little lemon. The taste is beefy and maybe a little gooey, but honestly, it’s not a lot different from hummus or some other filling you put of bread, but a lot more tasteful — to my mind anyway.


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Cool and Creamy Cucumber Soup

Cucumber Soup

This is one of those lovely French dishes that just makes summer. It’s a light, creamy and cool cucumber soup that turns an ordinary meal into something wonderful. That’s the best description I can give it.

The main thing I really like about this dish is that it really focuses on the cucumbers. And with just a small amount of mint (which is essential) and a little onion, there really isn’t much else in there. I generally use two cucumbers, nice medium size ones, and save only a few slices for garnishing it at the end. The rest goes in the soup and I’m actually thinking of trying to add even a bit more cucumbers. We’ll see. 

This is probably not a full meal. It really doesn’t have that kind of heft to it, but it is perfect for starting almost anything else you might have — a salad, some chicken, maybe even some beef. It adds to just about anything. When you can get them, use fresh cucumbers. They make enough of a difference you’ll want them. But the truth is, just about any good cukes will do just fine if that’s all you have.



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Avocado Pickles, Nice and Easy to Make

Avocado Pickles

Avocado Pickles isn’t something I’d have thought of by myself, but listen up guys, these are interesting and a great treat. And they’re great for a little summer appetizer.

First, though, the only reason I came across the idea at all came from my daughter, who among other things likes to keep me posted on the food stuff she comes across as she finds them. This one came from a website, and that in turn came from another cookbook, which I adapted a bit. I haven’t looked at the original, so I can’t say how much this is different from the original, but it’s actually very simple to make and there are plenty of things you can do with this recipe, if you have a mind to try it.

The recipe starts with a brine made up of vinegar, sugar, salt, some mustard seeds and some pepper. I had some Anaheim chili’s in the fridge, so I used them to give the pickles just a little spice. You can probably use whatever you happen to have, and you’ll find it makes a slight difference in the finished product. The avocado’s are sliced and then the brine is added to the top in a quart jar. Use some not quite ripe avocados, the brine will soften them a fair amount.

The avocado pickles are something that’s a little spicy and delicious. It will keep in the fridge for about a month or so.


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Belgium Toast Cannibal

Belgium Toast Cannibal

Yup. Seriously. Belgium Toast Cannibal is what this is really called. I learned this from a new friend, when we got to talking (somehow) about steak tartare and how those in Belgium do it —  mainly for those tend to turn up their noses at raw beef. I love the idea of Toast Cannibal. It really kind of puts this where it should be, but with a bit of humor and without the “tartare” hanging around to scare people off.

The meat filling has a basic combination of beef (use a really good lean steak tenderloin) with some shallot, mayonnaise, egg and capers. Add a little Worcestershire and a bit of red pepper sauce for just a small amount of bite and serve it on a good sourdough bread. Add a few cornichons and you’ve got a great appetizer.

This is really good if you’ve got very few other items in the appetizer department. It’s kind of filling and very delicious.


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Cinco de Mayo — Steak with Mexican Flavors

steak mexicana

Steak with Mexicana flavors, is not one of those things I traditionally think about when doing Cinco de Mayo, but there’s no reason for that. It’s a quite a delicious treat, relatively easy to make, and makes a small four-person treat as part of a bigger meal or a great two-person dish. 

The real trick here is to roast the chiles poblano, which takes a few minutes, but makes an ordinary dish into something a bit special. The trick here is to blacken the skin so it can be removed quickly, then seed the peppers and chop them up into small pieces. The blackened skin is don by roasting the peppers over an open gas burner (or electric) or, if you would rather, cut them in half and place them on a broiler pan. Honestly, it really is that easy.

The steak is even easier. I tend to like ribeye, but you can also use tip steaks, sirloin – basically anything that’s lean and serves well as a medium rare steak. The end-result is dynamite.

The original for this recipe came from Bobby Flay’s Authentic Mexican cookbook, altered to fit my taste.


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