Monday, July 30, 2012

Steamed Pork & Squash Dumplings, Plus a Tea Giveaway!

Summer is truly here! And by that I mean I was able to procure the first piece of produce straight from my garden, a delightful little yellow bush scallop summer squash. I'd never had one before, and was surprised by how soft and juicy it was inside; it's very similar to cucumber in its texture. I wanted to make something new and exciting with my bounty, and when Teavivre contacted me about doing a giveaway of their Chinese teas, I decided to try to make traditional steamed Chinese dumplings; something I've always loved eating but have been far too intimidated by to try making myself. As it turns out, the part that I thought was the hardest was actually not that tricky at all, just time consuming. I read over the instructions at Rasa Malaysia and used this youtube video she recommended watching to learn proper dumpling pleating, and after a few weird-looking ones I got in the folding groove and watched an hour whizz past while I listened to The Thomas Jefferson Hour and finished up the last of my pleating. Then I steamed them, which was where I had trouble. I did not line my steamer with parchment paper the first time (my bad) and all the dumplings in that batch got stuck to it and tore apart. So, to avoid a dumpling massacre, make sure you line your steamer with parchment paper, and don't let the dumplings touch each other either, they need their space and will get stuck to each other and tear when you try to separate them. After taking those precautions, the next three batches came out just dandy, and when paired with a bit of soy sauce for dipping, they were heavenly.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Strozzapreti Pasta with Fresh Basil, Roasted Tomatoes & Garlic, Toscano Cheese, & Harrisa Olive Oil

Jeremy has been out of town the past week so I have been keeping myself busy by cooking, doing house/yard work, and putzing about my sofa. So far I have built a pallet garden, turned the weird mossy part of my backyard into a garden plot, planted sunflower seeds and corn, cleaned the refrigerator out, cleaned the bathroom, cleaned the kitchen, vacuumed and mopped the apartment several times, read Dead Until Dark, tried reading World War Z, and watched the entire first season of the HBO series Girls within a 24 hour period. I like to alternate between being incredibly productive and momentously unproductive, it's like when a bear goes into hibernation after months of vigorous bear-activity. Catching up on all the buzz-worthy HBO and Showtime series is my version of a cozy caniform's den. And for me, nothing goes better with sitting around and watching television than a big plate of pasta. Since it's been so hot out I wanted to have a lighter pasta dish, so I threw this together with an olive oil base rather than a cream base, and I used an amazing harrisa infused extra virgin olive oil from Devo. The oil has a blend of garlic, cumin, hot chilies, serrano peppers, and coriander. It added the perfect nudge of heat to the dish, and the combination of flavors went swimmingly with the pasta and roasted tomatoes. I wanted a light Italian side dish so got a few thin slices of bresaola, (an Italian dried beef), from the little cheese shop down the street and nibbled on it happily between pasta bites. It was a delightfully Italian meal, and I definitely recommend some thinly sliced cured meats as a side dish, like bresaola, proscuitto, or salami. Buon appetito!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Almond Custard Pie with Lavender Syrup

A few weeks ago while my brother was in town we drove over to Cherry Valley to attend the Lavender Festival at the Highland Springs Resort. None of us had eaten anything that morning because we were so excited about trying all the lavender-infused goodies at the ranch, and when we arrived right when the festival opened, we were told that none of the food booths opened for another hour. Slightly perturbed and incredibly hungry, we wandered around the grounds looking at the cute farm animals, admiring the long flowing fields of lavender, and sneaking extra samples from the syrup & olive oil booths until the food booths finally opened.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Squirrel Cake (aka Hazelnut Buttermilk Cake with a Maple Pecan Glaze)

Now that the inside of our new place is pretty much how we want it, I've been getting to work on sprucing up the exterior. It's rare to be able to rent a unit in Los Angeles with a yard our size and for the price we're paying, so I've been taking advantage of our large outdoor space and have put to root tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, carrots, beets, various flowers, berries, and a few other plants. Yes, there are even more plants than those previously listed. I have a slight tendency to go overboard when I get realllllly excited about something. With all the time I've been spending digging various holes in the backyard, I noticed a little furry neighbor rustling around in the trees and gallivanting across the electrical wires. He is a squirrel and his name is Fritz. At first I thought he was behind the mild destruction of my carrot greens, and I was fairly miffed at him for an extended period of time. But then I realized that it was being caused by an army of slugs living underneath some nearby leaf mulch (hello, sluggo) and Fritz and I became fast friends once again.