Suzi’s Blog

Cookbook Review: Growing Up Gourmet

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My wife Suzi has had her cooking school, Cooking by the Book, for 29 years. She’s recently made an observation: everybody eats. Ah, but how well do they eat? And what do they eat and how do the dishes evolve during the course of their lives.

Growing Up Gourmet: 125 Meals for Everybody and Every Baby is the new book by Jennifer Carlson, founder of Baby Gourmet. This cookbook is “universal” offering suggestions for all ages. If you have a baby, when and how do you advance your child’s diet from liquid to “mushy” to solid to real food?

Jennifer offers a pathway in 5 steps:

  • Simple Purees: 6 months +
  • Creative Combos: 6 months +
  • Adventurous Eaters: 8 months +
  • Independent Toddlers: 12 months +
  • Feed the Whole Family: one meal, two ways

Now, you can’t go back in time, but reading some of these recipes might make you wish your could. I did not feed my kids Roasted Butternut Squash Puree. In fact, I don’t’ think I had butternut squash until I was 30! Those Creative Combos include Creamy Broccoli Avocado and Chia Pudding. Imagine hooking a kid under one year on avocados? Or Wild Cod, Potatoes and Summer Squash.

The Adventurous Eaters can indulge on Peanut Butter and Banana Hot Quinoa Cereal or Cardamom Coconut Rice Pudding or Wild Salmon with Potatoes, Leeks and Spinach. Add a few months and the Toddlers can indulge in Pumpkin Waffles, Banana Kale Smoothies, and even Sweet Potato Curry. Those are recipes that, golly, I would like.

And in the final chapter, Feed the Whole Family, there are recipes definitely targeted to offering a meal everyone can enjoy. Your baby will be happy and so will you. This is food far, far from Gerber’s:

Chocolate Banana Beet Bread with Chocolate Yogurt Topping

Roasted Acorn Squash with Brown Butter

Baked Salmon with Corn Salad Sauté and Asparagus

Chicken and Sweet Potato Potpie

These are lovely recipes with, yes, gourmet flair. As a parent, as a grandparent, I cannot tell you how important it is to get those babies started down the right food path. Yes, a little kid can eat “sophisticated” food. And enjoy it. And learn the difference between good food and the, what can I say, trash that is found at fast food restaurants and sadly on many of the aisles in your supermarket.

The food here is vastly better for your baby. And vastly better for you, too. It’s never too early to begin a culinary life path of distinction. Growing Up Gourmet is both proof and path.

 

Shumai or Japanese Shrimp Dumplings from Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking by Masahuru Morimoto

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My local Japanese restaurant is wonderful. I walk in and even before I have sat down, I can hear the bottle of beer being opened and the back a voice in the kitchen shouts, “Shumai! Double order.”

This appetizer is ubiquitous in Japanese restaurants for a very simple reason: utterly and incredibly delicious. Soft flavor bombs. The dumpling wrappers become wonderfully soft as you cook them, letting your teeth slice through the delicate dough. The filling, although there is just bit in each dumpling, is overflowing with flavor. The shrimp provide substance when you bite and their distinctive flavor. But there is so much more than shrimp: onion, mushrooms, bacon, scallions, ginger, and just a little sugar. It’s complex. And, surely for me, it is addictive.

Now, in this brilliantly written recipe from Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking by Iron Chef Masahuru Morimoto, you have techniques to prepare idyllic Shumai at home. I love this book and I can give you a really good reason to buy your own copy: this recipe comes with a two-page spread of photos showing how to fold the dumplings in that very artistic style that epitomizes Japanese cuisine.

Here's my book review of Mastering the Art.


Shumai: Japanese-Style Shrimp Dumplings

Yield: about 20 dumplings

Ingredients:

Equipment:

  • A noncollapsible metal steamer insert or a bamboo steamer and parchment paper or cheesecloth

For the filling:

  • ¾ pound shelled white shrimp, deveined
  • ½ cup diced (about ¼ inch) yellow onion
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • ½ cup finely diced fresh shiitake mushroom caps
  • ⅓ cup diced (about ¼ inch) fatty bacon
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions (white and light green parts)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon sake (Japanese rice wine)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

For the dumplings:

  • 20 shumai skins or “Shanghai-style” round dumpling wrappers
  • 20 fresh or defrosted frozen shelled edamame
  • Vegetable oil
  • Shumai Sauce for serving (recipe follows)

Preparation:

MAKE THE FILLING

Pulse the shrimp in a food processor until you have a very chunky paste. (You can also smash the shrimp one at a time with the flat part of a cleaver, then roughly chop them.) Combine the onion and cornstarch in a medium bowl and toss to coat. Add the shrimp and the remaining ingredients to the bowl with the onion. Stir very roughly with your hands until the mixture is slightly sticky and clumps together, at least 30 seconds.

Steady the bowl with one hand and pick up a big handful of the mixture, then forcefully slap it against the bowl (this removes air and helps give the dumplings a slightly dense texture). Repeat once or twice, then do the same with the rest of the mixture.

FORM THE DUMPLINGS

Line a large plate or tray with parchment paper. Fill a small bowl with water. Form one dumpling at a time, keeping unused wrappers covered with a kitchen towel and transferring the finished dumplings to the parchment paper. (See the step-by-step photos if you have wisely purchased the book!)

Spoon a generous tablespoon of the filling onto the center of a wrapper. Spread it slightly so it sticks to the wrapper, leaving an approximately Winch border. Gather up the edges of the wrapper with both hands so that it resembles a flower. Transfer it to one hand, gently cupping it to stabilize the sides while you use your other hand to gently flatten and compress the filling with a small spoon. Set the dumpling down onto the parchment paper, holding the sides up for a few seconds to help set the shape. Top with an edamame and repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.

STEAM THE DUMPLINGS

Prepare the steamer, either a pot with a metal steamer insert or a bamboo steamer set over a skillet. If you’re using a steamer insert, rub the surface lightly with vegetable oil. If you’re using a bamboo steamer, line the surface with cheesecloth or parchment paper.

Pour about 1 inch of water into the pot or skillet. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly to maintain a slightly less rapid boil. Add the shumai to the steamer in a single layer, leaving about ½ inch of space between each one. Set the steamer in the pot or skillet, cover, and steam until the filling is cooked through (the shrimp will be opaque with pink patches), about 8 minutes.

Transfer the shumai to a plate and serve with the dipping sauce (see Note).

Note: Shumai can be cooked, cooled to room temperature, and refrigerated (covered) for up to 2 hours. Rewarm in the steamer until heated through, about 4 minutes. Shumai can also be frozen raw in an airtight container and kept up to 2 weeks. Steam directly from frozen until cooked through, about 10 minutes.


Shumai Sauce

Yield: Enough for about 20 dumplings [this recipe!]

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • Japanese or Chinese mustard paste to taste
  • Asian chile oil to taste

Preparation:

Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, mustard paste, and chile oil in a bowl and stir well.


Source: Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking by Masahuru Morimoto [Ecco, 2016]

 

TBT Recipe: A Sort-Of Turkey Cassoulet

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I posted this idea a few years ago as a way to make a great Friday meal the day after Thanksgiving. More and more, people find turkey to be a year-round pleasure. So, get some cooked turkey breast or even a whole small bird to roast off and make this winter treat. Been skiing? Hungry? Leg in a cast? You need a great meal. And this is it.

Holly calls this a sort-of turkey cassoulet. Not there is any question about the meat: it’s turkey. But the sort-of refers to how true to French cassoulet this American idea actually is. Cassoulet is French originating in the South in the region once known as Laguedoc.

Today, throughout France, you can buy prepared cassoulets in cans and jars in every supermarket, little grocery store, and neighborhood charcuteries. Some French versions require you to add pre-cooked meats — which is just what Holly does suggest here. Classically, to make cassoulet, meat and beans are cooked separately, then combined and covered with an herbed bread crumb topping, and finally given a last hour in the oven to blend and meld.

From yesterday, you have the meat already to go: lots of leftover turkey meat, the darker the better. Cassoulet is rich in flavor, texture and aroma. This meal will be triumph that rivals Thanksgiving, not a post-Thanksgiving minimalist memory. 


A Sort-Of Turkey Cassoulet

Yield: serves 8-12

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dried Great Northern beans
  • ½ pound bacon slices, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 or 2 celery ribs, chopped ½ cup)
  • 1 small carrot, scraped and chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can (about 15 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, drained
  • 1 pound garlic sausage or kielbasa, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • ⅓ cup dry vermouth or white wine
  • 2 to 3 cups bite-size pieces dark cooked turkey, duck, or goose meat
  • ½ cup dried French-bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces

Preparation:

In a large bowl, soak the beans overnight in enough water to cover them by about 3 inches. Discard any beans that have floated to the surface. Drain and sort out any debris.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a 4-quart Dutch oven or other large heavy ovenproof saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until almost crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels and set aside. Pour off all but about 3 tablespoons of the bacon drippings from the pan. Heat the remaining drippings over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrot and cook, stirring frequently, until softened.

Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes longer.

Add the thyme, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and the drained beans. Cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes longer.

Stir in the chicken broth and cover the pan tightly. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the beans are tender.

Stir in the tomatoes, garlic sausage, and vermouth and continue to bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Stir in the bacon and turkey, sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the top of the casserole, and dot with the butter. Return to the oven and continue to bake, uncovered, for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the crumbs are lightly browned and the mixture is bubbly.

Source: Thanksgiving Cookbook by Holly Garrison

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for1/560th second at ISO‑1000