Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Gyoza - Potstickers

Want to know how to make potstickers? AKA Gyoza. Naomi, the main character in my story, makes this for her boyfriend, Tauno, and his mom, Asta.

This is how my mom and my aunt taught me how to make gyoza.

Filling ingredients: cabbage, carrots, garlic, ginger, eggs.

I like ground pork. Get lean ground pork if you can find it. I got this from Marukai, a Japanese food market. This is .7 lbs.

Optional step if you don't want soupy filling is to put 1/4 cabbage in the food processor with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and then let it drain in a colander. I help it along after a few minutes by squeezing it down with a rubber spatula.

Food process the carrots, garlic cloves, peeled ginger and put in meat bowl.

Stir in the cabbage until everything is combined. Add one or two eggs, depending on how much filling you have so it sticks together while you spoon it onto the wrapper and so the vegetables stay together better after it's cooked.

Open your package of wrappers and pull one apart. Dip your finger in a little bowl of water.

Wet all around the edges. For the picture, I have the wrapper on a plate, but usually I hold it in my other hand.

Spoon filling in. Start small until you know the right amount. The gyoza are hard to fold if you put in too much filling.

Use all your fingers to hold the wrapper and filling like a taco. Pinch the end closed.

Push the wrapper on the thumb side over to the pinched end and squeeze again. Make sure the rest of the wrapper isn't touching.

Your fingers are ready for the next fold.

Keep doing folds on the front half of the wrapper.

Pinch in your last fold.

One lonely folded, uncooked gyoza with 7 folds. Auntie said 7 looks best and 5 is acceptable.

I fry 15 at a time in a 4 quart pot. I use vegetable (soybean) oil. Make sure your oil is hot before you start frying. You can check to see if the temperature is ready by putting the tip of a bamboo chopstick in the oil and if it bubbles, then the oil is right. If you don't know how to fry, read up on frying tips. I stir the gyoza around with the big bamboo chopsticks. The packages of wrappers come in 60, so if you fry 15 at a time you'll do 4 batches. Estimate 10 gyoza per person when planning for a meal.

All fried up. Crunchy and yummy! I wish you were over at my house. I place them on paper towels to drain.

These are the ingredients I put in the dipping sauce. The package is a sample of the wrappers. Sauce: soy sauce, roasted sesame oil, rice vinegar, chili oil and either squeeze of lemon or citron juice.


Naomi Symposium

I hosted a Naomi symposium for all my wonderful readers of my book "Song of Naomi." Thirteen fabulous friends attended and I forgot to take a picture of everyone.

One very brave man attended: Aare Onton. I hail his courage and am complimented by his support. Aare and Anu were my Estonian representatives. I can still picture them where they sat.

My best friend Alyssa came to help me frost and sprinkle cookies as party favors - which I forgot to hand out.

This is the second cookie that Naomi gets from the coffee shop that Tauno works at.

These are my and Naomi's to-die-for potstickers. To learn how to make them click here.

I did manage to record our two hour discussion on the book. Aare said there were moments of great philosophy that he enjoyed. Others were involved in a very heated debate on Tauno and how they didn't like how he did something, but another piped up and said it was fun being mad at him. The others, realizing they were doing just that, agreed.

Through the discussion, it was evident that each reader put themselves into the story and took out of it only what made sense to them. You can't write a story and spell out what the reader should feel. If they couldn't feel it on their own through the character, they certainly are not going to want to read about it.

A thick slab of shortbread cookies dipped in orange flavored semi-sweet chocolate. I want one right now. Alyssa dipped all of these for me too. I love her.

Yup, packaged and ready for the few who stayed late. That's when I finally remembered. These sugar cookies are so yummy - I wish you could taste it.

Two views of my table with just a peek of the food written about in my book.

My readers insist that the back of the book must include recipes for every meal Naomi eats. I can do that!

I am indebted to this group of brilliant readers who took the time to help me write a better book. All the feedback was invaluable.

Thank You!!

[This symposium was held in the fall of 2011. This is a repost from my previous blog.]

Friday, May 2, 2014

Tauno's Favorite Pear Almond Tart

Asta handed me a paring knife and a bowl of pears. I peeled, quartered, cored and sliced. She then showed me how to grind raw almonds with a mortar and pestle. I ground, stirred, and kept grinding. Next we cut sweet dough with a pastry cutter. She rolled out the dough and put it onto a large flat cookie sheet. She made an almond mixture called frangipani with the almond meal then spread it onto the dough. For the last steps, she placed the vertically sliced pears radiating from the center and folded up the dough on the edges.

“How does it look? Pear and almond tart, made by you and me!” Asta said.

Song of Naomi 1

This is my friend JK "cutting" the dough with a pastry cutter.
This is a video of me "cutting" the butter, flour and sugar. Keep cutting until the dough forms small pebbles, consistent in color and size. Then stir in ice cold water, only enough to moisten, not so it is sticky. Too much water will make the pastry cakey, not flaky. Then, grab it with your hands, form into a ball, and roll it out on a flat cookie sheet. If you are cooking on a warm day, place the dough in the refrigerator for a few minutes before handling.

This is a video of me forming the dough and JK attempting to narrate.
It's embarrassing, but funny. 

In the above picture, a bag of almond meal is to the left of the bowl. This almond meal, found at Trader Joes, is devoid of oils, probably a by-product of almond oil. In the video below, JK is pulverizing raw almonds in a granite mortar and pestle. (I didn't know pestle is pronounced with a silent T.) We found that up and down pounding is best until the almonds are in bits, then you can begin stirring. We had remaining almond meal left and as we kept stirring that, it turned into almond butter. The almond meal we made was chunkier than the store bought. If you grind your own almonds, omit the added butter in the frangipani mix.
JK was beating out her frustration about something in book 2.
Almond Meal!

The Dough Recipe
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 sticks of salted butter cut into cubes
3 Tablespoons of ice water

The Frangipane Recipe
1 1/4 cup of almond meal (if grinding your own, omit butter)
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
6 Tablespoons of butter, softened, not melted
4 teaspoons of almond extract
2 Tablespoons of flour

We made two different frangipane recipes, one firm, the other more frothy. We liked opposite ones but came up with in intermediate recipe. The frangipane spreads and rises when baking. Keep it more towards the center, not as spread out as our picture. The pears can extend beyond the frangipane.

We experimented with the pears and found the best flavor with fully ripe bosc pears. If your pears are not ripe, they will need to be cooked first. Boiling them may thin the pear flavor. We haven't experimented with microwaving them. When in a time crunch, use canned pears but dry them before placing them on the frangipane. Pictured are two different ways to arrange your pear slices, but do anything you like.
Fold the edges up, pinching if necessary.

We preferred the tart baked on the bottom rack to give a crispier crust and moister filling.

“Let’s go buy some Haagen-Dazs to eat with the pear tart.” Asta gestured for us to leave.

Biting into the tart, dripping with melting ice cream that was soaking into the rich buttery crust, combined with the sweet fluffy almond frangipane and the tart pears, transported me heavenward! No wonder it’s his favorite.