Monday, January 22, 2007

try this at home

Admit it. Most of us love these dumpling sort of treats. Most of us are acquainted with them through Italian stuffed pastas, and more than a few of us are acquainted also with the Asian sort of dim sum.

However, a visit to the local Japanese restaurant inspired some Swedish fusion ideas. Those little satchels are not your ordinary dumplings. However, one probably does not need to have Swedish leftovers in order to make these since the ingredients are familiar to most Western culture homes. It's almost like a shepherd's pie dumpling, come to think of it ...

Swedish Dumplings

Leftover roast 2-3 good hearty slices minced
1 cooked potato (any style, mashed, gratin etc.)
1/2 leek (be sure to rinse it well) minced
3 inch knob of extra sharp cheddar minced

1 large package of defrosted dumpling skins (gyoza or dumpling, not wonton)

1 t olive oil

optional: chives/garlic shoots/slim green onion shoots for garnish
food processor

Directions: There is a singularly easy way to make the filling, and it proceeds like this ... take out a food processor and coarsely chop each ingredient separately and put together in a bowl and mush together until all the ingredients seem evenly distributed.

If you're planning on making these as a fun appetizer, go ahead and make purses -- gather up the edges and squash together (the potato filling is great for this part since you need no water to seal them).

Place the dumplings in a nonstick pan over medium high heat with 1 t olive oil and heat for about 1-3 minutes checking the bottoms of the dumplings to see whether they're nice and golden brown. Then take 1/3 c of water and pour it into the pan and cover the pan with the lid leaving it slightly ajar and lower the heat and cook for about 5-7 minutes longer until the water has evaporated. Since the ingredients inside are already cooked, the only pressing matter is making sure the skins are well cooked and translucent.

For a nice presentation for a fancy appetizer tie with a chive or a garlic shoot and serve with a bit of warm gravy poured out in that very fancy way restaurants like these days (a very thin line of it) or that other fancy balsamic vinegar sweet sauce thing they like to daub plates with these days.

*Another option is to fold the dumplings shui mai style with an opening at the top and top it with a cooked pea which would make it an extremely charming shepherd's pie dumpling.

Have fun with your food!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

mmmm, butternut squash

Frightfully sorry. Undergoing a massive transition especially language-wise. As I've found, learning another language can quite deteriorate your mother tongue. Which is, of course, all the more reason to keep writing in English (as opposed to grammatically incorrect Swedish). Apparently, writing up recipes is contingent on how user-friendly I find my kitchen situation.

Unlike most of my recipes which I try to post, this one is neither simple or with a few easy ingredients. Make this recipe when you're feeling quite patient and the reward is even more delicious for the effort.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Thyme Lasagna in Goat Cheese Garlic Bechamel

1.5 kg (3 lb) butternut squash cut in half with the seeds scooped out
olive oil
1 t fresh thyme or 2 t dried thyme
1 minced onion
4 cloves garlic minced divided in half
2 c milk
1 T flour
2 T butter
4 oz. soft mild goat cheese
1 bay leaf

1 c parmesan reggiano cheese grated
1 c ricotta
fresh lasagna pasta
100 g (1/4 c?) extra sharp cheddar in thin wedges

A few days ago, I went on the "great lasagna hunt" which is, not unsimilar to the "Great Pumpkin" hunt of Charlie Brown in its efforts. Butternut squash is a rarity here in Scandinavia, and I had remembered looking at a recipe on which used butternut squash. Then, I remembered a friend of mine had made some extremely delicious large butternut squash and thyme ravioli and the meeting of the recipes was quite natural with an extremely tasty result.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Halve the butternut squash(es) and scoop out the seeds. On a large baking pan on aluminum foil, place the squash halves cut side down and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with thyme. Roast until very soft which is about 40 minutes. The flesh will be scoopable with an ordinary spoon.

In the meantime, grate the cheese and combine 3/4 of the Parmesan Reggiano with the ricotta cheese.

Then start on the white sauce. When I was growing up, I rarely ate white sauce with lasagna, but Swedes seem to love pouring both red and white sauce over the entire lasagna, but I think this is due to the no boil lasagna noodles, which I have never had success with on the first day. They tend to soften enough for the next day.

However, please try to find fresh lasagna noodles.

Over medium heat, melt 2 T butter and half of the garlic in a medium sized sauce pan. After about a minute, when the garlic is fragrant, add the flour and cook for about 3 minutes and then whisk in the milk and add bay leaf. After simmering the sauce until thickened for about 10 minutes, add the goat cheese and blend until smooth and remove from heat.

While the squash is still roasting, mince the onion and saute in 1 T of butter. Add the minced garlic. When the squash is ready, scoop it out (it should be extremely tender) and add it to the onion and garlic mixture and add salt and pepper to taste.

Turn heat down to 400 F.

In a 13x9 in lasagna pan or several smaller ones of aluminum (as I prefer for freezing purposes), construct the lasagna starting with the butternut squash layer, lasagna noodles, ricotta-parmesan layer, noodle, butternut, noodle. The topmost layer should have both ricotta-parmesan mixture and butternut and topped with the rest of the parmesan cheese and the thin wedges of extra sharp cheddar. Then, pour the bechamel sauce over entire lasagna.

Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes covered. Then uncover and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes and let stand for another 15 minutes after removing it from the oven.

Like I said, not for the impatient and ravenously hungry. This recipe can be broken down in steps -- such as roasting the squash the previous day, but as with most lasagnas, the most lavishly prepared are the most lavish for the tastebuds.

I'm trying very hard not to eat the last slice saved for my boyfriend.