Sunday, October 27, 2013

Making Dumplings with Jamie

I'm going to mix up blogging about current things and things I should have blogged about within the last two years to catch up.  It's kind of nice because only the foods or moments worth remembering will be posted! A natural filter!

One of my best memories is living and cooking with Jamie in DC after we both graduated from policy school.  Jamie has lived in China and Brazil and is a constant learner of languages and a participant of different world cultures.  She loves adapting cultures that have been introduced to her into her cooking. She was the perfect housemate!

One of our favorite comfort foods is Chinese dumplings.  There's so much room for creativity in the filling that it never gets old!  We used to make a ton of these and freeze them so we can always rely on boiling some dumplings when we had nothing else in the fridge.

Chicken, scallions, napa cabbage, and shiitake filling

Chicken, cabbage, mushroom dumplings

This one time, we had too much filling and ran out of dumpling wrappers.  We had a jar of Tom Yum soup paste in the pantry so we improvised and made quenelles out of the chicken, cabbage, mushroom filling to fill a pot of tom yum soup!

Quenelles are basically French meatballs (usually with a seafood paste mixture) shaped by scooping a dollop of the meat mixture multiple times between two spoons until it takes on a firm oval shape.

Tom Yum soup base

Shaping the quenelles with two spoons

quenelles boiling in a separate pot

Tom Yum soup with Chicken Quenelles

Two other versions of dumplings we made were fennel and beef and lamb with spinach,  lemon zest, red onions and ginger.

Beef with fennel and ginger

Lamb with red onions, ginger, lemon zest, and spinach

We shaped the two kinds of dumplings differently so we can differentiate the two afterwards.  The lamb ones were flat while the beef dumpling sat upright.

Lamb dumplings and beef dumplings

This time, we had leftover dumpling skins, so we took leftover sweet potatoes from another night and made a dessert dumpling filling with brown sugar and ginger.

Sweet potato dumplings with honey and sesame seeds

I would love to start making dumplings again (I've been eating ones that my mom made and froze in my freezer) with Mike and my Madison friends. Perhaps a dumpling making party  is in order?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Food Dilettante's Return to Food Blogging!

I'm still here!  I went on food blogging hiatus due to two major career changes.  I've since settled in Madison, Wisconsin, the land of milk, cheese, brats, and beer and found an unexpected job that I actually love!

I admit.  I came to Madison with a bad foodie attitude.  The relative lack of cultural diversity compared to Texas and D.C. made me not want to seek out restaurants in town.  I replaced going out to eat in Madison with eating out on my weekly business trips to either St. Louis or Tucson.  When I was in town, I grudgingly bought boring groceries and cooked at home.  Copps and even Metcalfe's pale in comparison to HEB and Central Market in Austin.  I used to relish in grocery shopping.  In Madison, I find moldy jalapenos next to tiny avocados that sell for more than $1.50.  I became uninspired by the sudden change in weather, job (which was a nightmare, by the way), local cuisine, and produce. 

Recently, I quit the horrendous job that caused me to move to Madison in the first place and started an amazing new job.  My colleagues are well-traveled, many are multi-lingual and have sophisticated and varied palates. My outlook on life in Madison is starting to change, and with the help of my colleagues and Yelp, I will hunt down awesome eateries around town and be inspired to cook with what I can find at the grocery stores and farmer's markets!

Stephanie, a new friend, colleague, and fellow foodie/food blogger, works remotely from Tampa but plans on touching base in Madison once a month.  We came up with a plan to try out at least one unique local eatery every time she comes up.  We celebrated our first restaurant tasting yesterday at Himal Chuli, a Nepalese restaurant close to the University of Wisconsin campus.

I've only gotten a taste of Nepalese food once when a Nepalese grad school friend shared some homemade momos with me.  I've longed to try out more Nepalese food as the memory of the tumeric-seasoned momos stayed with me over the years.  Lo and behold, Madison has a couple of Nepalese restaurants! 

We picked Himal Chuli for the higher Yelp reviews, and I was pretty happy with my experience (though my Nepalese friend's momos were still way better)! 

I don't think Himal Chuli's chicken and turkey-filled momos are seasoned with tumeric like my friend's, but it's dressed with a tomato and coriander sauce, which made the dumplings taste tangy and smokey.  Stephanie ordered the vegetarian momocha, which has peanut paste as the filling binder.

Chicken and Turkey Momos

Vegetarian Momochas

As good as the momos were, I was most excited about going beyond the one dish that I knew was Nepalese.  I opted for the roti and cauliflower takari.  My knowledge of South Asian and Himalayan cuisines is extremely limited, but based on the little exposure to Indian and Nepalese food, it seems like Himal Chuli's dishes taste like a lighter (no ghee?) version of comparable Indian dishes.  The cauliflower takari was comforting and well-portioned.  I liked the option of squeezing lime juice on the dish to cut through the heartiness of the dish.  The whole wheat roti is awesome - fluffy, slightly buttery, and thick.  I couldn't finish my last slice of roti but was still sad that my boyfriend helped me finish it off. 

Roti and Cauliflower Takari

Himal Chuli was a great way to finally kickstart my Madison food adventure!  And now that my job doesn't require me to work 60 hours/week, I no longer have an excuse to not blog!

- Food Dilettante