The first time I ever had charred shishito peppers was at Umi Sake House in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, and it blew my mind. A friend had ordered it to share, and when it arrived, I definitely looked at the small pile of peppers with a great deal of skepticism.
Peppers? As an appetizer? Wouldn’t that, you know, hurt to eat? But you guys, it… well, it does hurt. Sometimes. I wouldn’t lie to you. This is a place of honesty and trust, after all. But mostly, the peppers are an insanely addictive combination of sweet and bitter, with just a small dose of heat. Except for sometimes, like I mentioned, when it is a large dose of heat. But they always seem to be the minority, and in any case I think it just heightens the experience when you have no idea if you’ll come across a “surprise pepper” that lays on the napalm inside your mouth. Does that not sound great to you?
No? Just me?
I’m back! It turns out that I’m like a cat; I need to lie out and charge in a sunbeam if I’m expected to do anything at all for the remainder of the day. And well, the sun skidattles from the sky by 4pm this time of the year here, so I haven’t been doing much cooking for the past few months. Yikes. But now that it’s somewhat bright when I leave the office — even if it instantly becomes pitch black by the time I reach my front door — I can feel the desire to throw down in the kitchen returning to the frozen cockles of my heart. Hooray!
This weekend’s dinner gathering hosted by my friends Sara and Adrian was the perfect push to fire up the stove again. And what better on a cold Sunday night than something green and spicy?
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that this past weekend, I made an entire armada of dumplings. A flotilla of delicious morsels. A squadron of alright, I’ll stop with the naval analogies. The point is, whenever you decide to make something like dumplings, you have to commit to it. You can’t just make a dumpling or five, just like how you can’t just eat a potato chip or a family-sized pizza.
The good news is, making these things is kind of therapeutic. I usually just set up my station: bowl of dumpling filling to my right, a baking sheet to my left, dumpling wrappers and a bowl of water somewhat in the middle, and a damp kitchen towel in front of me. Then I turn on some Mythbusters reruns or maybe Adventures in Babysitting and get to work. Once you get the hang of things, it’s almost zen.
Another plus: dumplings freeze beautifully. Just line them up on a baking sheet covered in parchment or foil (making sure the dumplings aren’t touching one another), pop them in the freezer for an hour or two, and then transfer them all into a freezer bag until you want to eat them. Your future hungry self will thank you for the foresight.
Ah, summertime. The sun is out and we’re all lying around the beach indulging in glamorous champagne picnics. Or, maybe we don’t live in The Great Gatsby and/or Narnia, so maybe our summer outdoor dining experiences don’t involve butlers and buckets of perfectly chilled bubbly. Booo.
But hey, we don’t need all that. What we do need is excellent company, a venue relatively free of mosquitoes, and delicious, portable food. I’m sure you’ve got the first part covered, so I’ll help out with the third. (And uh, throw me a line when you’ve got the second part figured out because that one I’m still struggling with. *slaps mosquito*)
This luscious bean and chicken salad makes use of the in-season pole beans springing up in gardens and markets everywhere, and it has the added bonus of being more refined than hastily assembled sandwiches. The beans are barely cooked through so they stay nice and crisp, and the garlicky aioli adds a nice kick and binds everything together. The bits of roasted chicken tucked inside… well, who doesn’t love roast chicken? (If you have someone in mind, don’t trust that person.)
I know plenty of people who find tofu terrifying. It’s this weird, beige, jiggly block of something that smells vaguely like stale water — what are you supposed to do with it? I’ll tell you what you’re not supposed to do: eat it plain, straight from the packaging. I know a few traumatized folks who have done just that, the fools. They’re now convinced that tofu is a culinary abomination, but dear reader, this does not have to be your fate.
So what are you supposed to do? I propose that you fry it. And then dust it in a delectable concoction of salt, peppers, and ginger powder so you end up with a tasty, fluffy nugget of goodness. It will make a tofu believer out of you and it will take less than 30 minutes to put together.
But why tofu at all, instead of chicken or pork, or anything else? Because tofu is an excellent vehicle for showcasing rather subtle flavors instead of overpowering them with its own tofu-ness, is super fast to cook, is vegetarian-friendly in case you’re ever going meatless, and the texture just sings with this particular dish — slightly crisp on the outside, and pillowy on the inside. Oh yes.