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meatless monday: broccoli ginger dumplings

July 25, 2011

I have never been so ready to move. The living out of suitcases and sleeping on mattresses seemed quaint and exciting for the first week or two, in a sort of Fellowship of the Ring or Deathly Hallows kind of way. But Samwise probably had a wok strapped to his pack, and I’m sure Hermione, smart girl that she is, had a food processor tucked into that fabulous beaded bag. While I, mere mortal, am down to a saucepan and a toaster.

Oh, how I’m craving these dumplings.

I think they are going to be one of the first things I make after the move, along with ice cream. And pesto. And salsa. Maybe even cranberry sauce, just because I can.

It’s been a terrible thing, living without a food processor.  

Broccoli Ginger Dumplings

makes 60 or so dumplings

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 Tbs. grated ginger
about 2 big heads of broccoli, stems removed and florets cut into thumb sized pieces
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
salt and pepper to taste
wonton wrappers
cooking oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 Tbs. maple syrup (or brown sugar)
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger

Steam the broccoli until bright green and cooked through. Let cool and then chop well.

In a large saucepan, heat a Tbs. of olive oil over medium, add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes, until softened. Stir in the garlic and 2 Tbs. ginger, cover and cook for about 5 minutes until nice and soft. Stir in the heavy cream, turn the heat down to simmer, and cook for a couple minutes until thickened. Stir in the broccoli.

Transfer the broccoli mixture to a food processor and puree until mostly smooth but with some chunks remaining, for texture. (This can also be done with a handheld blender.) Then stir in the ricotta until all mixed together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Lay out about 15 wonton wrappers at a time. Put a tsp. of the broccoli puree on one side of each square – resist the temptation to overfill! If they are overfilled, your dumplings won’t seal. Put filling on all 15 of the wrappers before starting to fold them. When ready to fold, keep a little bowl of warm water next to you to use for moistening your fingers. Use a wet finger to moisten the perimeter of each wonton square, then fold one side over onto the other and seal to make a triangle. Then, fold in the arms of the triangle and press them together with a little water. Set on a parchment lined baking sheet or plate. Once you have assembled the first 15, continue with another set of 15 and so on until you have used all your filling.

To fry the dumplings, heat a pan to medium-high, add enough oil to coat the bottom. Put in one layer of dumplings, cover the pan and cook a couple of minutes until dark golden. Flip and cook the dumplings on the other side for another minute or two until golden. Continue, adding more oil if needed, until all the dumplings are cooked.

If you’d like to bake the dumplings instead, heat your oven to 400F. Grease 1-2 baking sheets. Lay the dumplings out on the baking sheets, brush them all lightly with oil, then bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm with dipping sauce.

To make the dipping sauce, just whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, maple syrup, and tsp. of ginger.

If you don’t want to make all the dumplings at once, they freeze really well. (Then you can use them later in soup!) Lay a batch in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in the freezer (finding room is never an easy task!) and freeze for an hour or two until hard. Then, transfer them to a freezer bag or container and freeze until ready to cook. You can cook them straight from being frozen, without defrosting.

Since they’re from the fantastic fusion mind behind Five and Spice, I’m sure they’ll be wonderful, but if you make these before I get a chance to, let me know how they are!



date a girl who reads

July 20, 2011

by Rosemarie Urquico

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants.

You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making.

Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book. Buy her another cup of coffee. Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or if she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by God, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does. She has to give it a shot somehow. Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world. Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two. Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype. You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet.

You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone.

If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads. Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

meatless monday: purée of yellow squash soup

July 18, 2011

If I had to pick a favorite cookbook, I would be hard pressed, to say the least. I would mention the Pioneer Woman and her fantastic cookbook. I would naturally give my regards to Julia Child. I would talk about the Lee brothers and the Southern cooking they so beautifully represent. But I would always come back to The Gift of Southern Cooking. Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock, two of the greatest cooks of the South, coming together to bring a South I do not know to a table I wish I could share with them.

I would say that they lend dignity to the South. But they don’t.

They simply illuminate it, in touching vignettes that are fading from a generation’s memory. It’s a South I’d like to see. It’s a South, despite living within it my entire life, I never will. Granted, it’s still tucked away in small corners, in back alleys of compact cities, in untouched streams and in backyard gardens. I’ve glimpsed it, just a few times.

Mostly in Virginia, the land that I love. But also in North Carolina. Texas, even; imagine that.

But it’s going, quickly now, chased away by a sort of Northern progress that isn’t Northern anymore. It’s one, amalgamated, societies and ways of life bleeding into one another until there is no beauty of discovery. No delight in finding your place. 

It’s progressive. It’s tidy. It’s largely successful.

But it is not the South of Edna Lewis. And that it a South I want to visit.

Fortunately, though many cookbooks in general, but The Gift in particular, I can. And I have, over and over.

Here is one of my favorite recipes from the book, a mild-mannered summer soup that is a summer staple. It is so simple and so incredibly good that I have fed it to nearly everyone who comes within a mile of me in squash season. And I have yet to have a single person (including my vehemently squash-hating little brother) dislike it.

I think that is what is generally considered a Southern girl’s success story.


bloody knuckles…

July 17, 2011

…do not make for easy typing. After making the hard choice between the mailbox and the tree, I drove my bike straight into the welcoming branches of the cedar tree today. The right side of my face has turned a sickly gray in a half-hearted attempt at a bruise, and I’m still trying to pick the spikes out of my palms. 

And I’m taking the rest of the night off. There are still oh so many boxes that need to be packed, but I am going to curl up and mentally decorate my new apartment. It’s the only method I have left to escape the chaotic cardboard-and-strapping-tape mess that has overtaken my home.

My favorite resource so far for a tight-budget makeover has been the wonderful Big Book of Small, Cool Spaces, where stunning inspiration mixes with clever tips on painting, creating the illusions of space, colors and so much more. Out of the dozens of books I thumbed through at the library, this is one I just keep returning to.

When the move is over and the apartment has had her long-needed facelift, I shall probably scrape together whatever funds I have left and buy a caseload, distributing them at random for the aesthetic good of mankind. 

But for now, I need every creative stimulant I can get, which is why I am so thankful for Tanya at Dans le Townhouse and her brilliant tutorial for faux craspedia. I want to make some so bad I can’t stand it, and am salivating thinking of my roving, taped up and waiting for me with my other art supplies. And my books. And my coffee pot. And my new mint-green tea kettle. And my map of Middle Earth.

Soon, I keep telling myself. It won’t be this way much longer.

If only I could say that about the ostrich egg emerging from my skull.


home again, home again

July 12, 2011

I’m waiting for my flight to board, with my $5.00 coffee and $8.oo internet access and I am actually ready to go home. I have slept far too little, danced far too much, laughed until I cried, played tag in heels, wished desperately for a cup of tea, shot off fireworks with a bunch of eight year olds while the real adults watched from the porch, and loved almost every minute of it. My family does have more than its fair share of dysfunctionality, and naturally we didn’t all get along that well. We hurt feelings and flared tempers and hugged a bit too much for my taste. We laughed long after the jokes stopped making sense and got offended at nothing.

We danced with perfect strangers and liked each other far better a few glasses of wine into the night. We took unflattering photographs and told embarrassing stories. We told each other how it wouldn’t take us so long to see each other again.

It will.

Because being a family isn’t nearly as pretty as the formal photographs that came after the wedding. It’s far more real, far more messy and grumpy and silly and fun. We are so far from the ideal family. Every one of us is a mess. We all slightly dread the reunions, and we’re always happy to get home.

But while we joined hands and prayed along with the pastor, wishing the new Mr. and Mrs. the very happiest of wedded lives, we all knew that despite the teasing, the arguments, the imperfections and the less than eloquent toasts, we wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Well, I might have for a cup of tea.

Don’t tell anyone.


summer days

June 24, 2011

Summers used to be so luxuriously long. June stretched to September, in a progression of weeks that passed like years, full of water and sand and lemonade, mixing and mellowing in the runoff from the sprinkler.

Today, summers seem over even before they begin. “Real” jobs slowly encroach and then overtake the sunburned ones I used to hold. Even while I try to grasp the days as they pass, life, in the form of weddings and money and obligations, is ushering me out of the season.

And I’m still trying to recapture the summers I know I’m growing out of. I’m craving just a few more Frisbee games. I’m not ready for my dog sitting and garden watering jobs to end.  I want a few more long, sunburned bike rides. I don’t want my raw knees to scab over and heal.

I come from a family of preservers. We can our peaches and freeze garden-fresh tomato sauce and dry our summer peppers to warm the winter.

But I want to preserve more. I want to bottle the smell of blistering hot peach cobbler. I want to record the sound of the ice cream maker grinding away on the porch. I wish I could remember what it felt like, falling in love for the first time. I want to keep feeling it.

I think that is beyond me. I can draw, and photograph, and write every little thing down. But that is a shallow imitation. It’s not real. The real thing is gone, evaporated like summer rain on hot asphalt.

I miss it, but I am so very glad that it came, beautiful and quick as a July thunderstorm. I danced in it, caught it on my tongue and savored it.

Maybe that is the only way. The best way, after all.


June 21, 2011

Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.


May your days be long and your skulls be merry,