Roe-Topped Dumplings

Roe-Topped dumplings. Good stuff. I had a hankering for something siu-mai-like, but on the whole I’m not a big fan of siu mai (texturally, they’re just a bit too smooth for me), so I trotted out my basic dumpling recipe and tossed in a can of crab meat and some roe for good measure.

These were super easy to make. No need to seal them!

And just because seafood is involved doesn’t make this an expensive dish. I made several trays of dumplings out of the recipe below (and it’s hardly a recipe, really… so flexible) and used a cheapo can of crab meat that was probably more like canned crab floss than actual meat. And the capelin roe is a steal at $9.99 for a 1 lb container of it at the Asian Food Market. Now there’s something to jazz up sushi night.

I like how pretty the roe looks when the dumplings are raw. I didn’t think it would cook up to a neon orange/yellow! (BTW, that roe lasts a long time and is great to top rice with to add some flair to your meals. I’m not a rice fan, but it’s adding a little bit more flavor and color to make me want to eat it more frequently)
Porky & vaguely seafood-y dumplings. These make for some easy “I’m hungry and want something substantial but don’t know what to make” dinners. Wish I’d made them for the food swap – they are very impressive looking, too.

Roe-Topped Dumpling Recipe
1.5 lb ground pork (more or less is fine)
1 can crab meat
1/2 head napa cabbage, shredded, salted, and drained
1″ peeled ginger, grated/minced
Soy sauce, sesame oil, sweet vermouth, white pepper to taste
Capelin Roe to top
dumpling/wonton skins
Pop ’em in to dumpling wrappers and steam for 10-15 minutes or freeze for later.

Hot Pot @ Shining Rainbow

Shining Rainbow. Hot Pot. Celina Bean. Daniel B.. AYCE. Awww yeah. Celina loves the hot pot at Shining Rainbow. At $20 for all you can eat per person (plust $10 for the pot of broth), it’s a pretty fun dinner. I think it would be a little on the expensive side for two people, but for a group it’s a really fun way to dine.

I was most excited, because aside from my ghetto hot pot night, I haven’t had hot pot at the grown ups’ table. When I was a kid, it was an adults-only event. Kids got pizza while the adults sat around a table filled with raw goodies, wire skimmers, and a big ass and dangerous bubbling pot of liquid. I would occasionally mooch off an adult and beg for shrimp.

Hot pot heater (it’s an induction burner, so the unit itself doesn’t get hot when you touch it, just when other metal touches it). Then you circle what you want from the hot pot menu. I really think we could have just said “everything and keep it coming” with our group, but. Yeah. We circled just about everything. Mushrooms, whole shrimp on skewers, eggs, veggies, Fish balls, fish balls stuffed with pork (Fuzhou balls. You want them. YOU WANT THEM), oysters, squid… OH THE SQUID (don’t forget those, either), soy bean sprouts, slices of lamb… so much to choose from.

We split our broth between ma la and the herbal broth. Ma la broth had a good bit of kick to it, but I could handle it. It was nice to have two options, though. The ma la broth at the end was awesome. I mean, so was the chicken, but this… good stuff. I initially slurped a little too forcefully and took a shot to the back of the throat that left me coughing and gasping for air. Holy chili oil, batman!

They’d occasionally come over and refresh the broth with some more hot water when it started to get low. God, it really was like the never ending hot pot.

Celina and her oysters. She loves the oysters at Shining Rainbow. I am equally in love with the squid. A few seconds in the broth until it’s all squiggled up and pretty… yum. Tender and delicious. I seriously could have eaten an entire bowlful of these and then some.

At the end, you choose some noodles. I flip my shit over the yam ones (so chewy and goooood), but the udon ones were pretty decent too. Wasn’t crazy about the shrimp wontons – tasted more like shrimp balls wrapped in wonton skins to me.

Oh, oh! There’s also a box with three sauces in it. One brown, one peanutty, and one chili. Mix them up for a dipping sauce for the cooked food from the hot pot.

Celina’s tip is not to be shy about asking for more food. I get a little weird about it, but hot pot’s one of those things that logistically can’t be a buffet. Service was a little on the slow side, but very friendly and accomodating. The owner came by and we all ended up talking to the next table about a limited edition reprint of a famous Chinese piece of art he’d recently bought. Cool things happen when you hang out with Celina.

Oh, and if you know someone who speaks Chinese, it wouldn’t hurt to bring them. They can totally get by on English, but it’s not their strong suit (sometimes there can be a lot of back and forth confirming and reconfirming). Albany John’s Chinese got us some raw eggs and water a few times. Hell, I don’t speak Chinese, so you’re welcome to borrow Albany John if you want.

Now I’ve tried hot pot as an adult. It was fun, and a whole lot less work than doing it at home. And now I wanna go back for dim sum because it’s been way too long since I’ve had Shining Rainbow’s dim sum.
Oh, and btw, their tea is the real deal. I drank way too much tea last night and was up until about 2 am or so. haha. But as a bonus I got at least a little headway on a project, so that was cool.

Gourmella’s

I guess Cusato’s new name is Gourmella’s (224 Quail St, Albany, NY). Something about someone who worked there buying it from the owners… I don’t know. All I know is that once I got this awesome cheese sandwich there.

This time I got an Italian Mix. This was a small. It was, like $5.25 or something like that. This sucker was freaking MASSIVE. And I was hungry. A large is only, like, $1-1.50 more. I’m afraid of a large. Italian mixes are like my sandwich love of Albany. Never had I had an Italian Mix before, and never is one so delicious as when consumed in the ALB.

And dear god, if you’re craving some meaty, irony goodness, Italian Mixes will fix that craving for ya. Fresh roll, meats & cheese sliced to order. Good stuff.

Albany John got a cheese slice. I thought it looked like a gut-buster. TWO plates! And the dough looked a little gummy. But that’s where assumptions’ll get you. No where. I took a bite, and it’s more than the sum of its parts. Decently fatty cheese, a puffy but not-dense under crust. The outer crust was even pretty good. Albany John’s a crust-hater, and even he liked it.

Gourmella’s is more like a convenience store and deli. There’s no seating, but they don’t care if you hang around eating your food and watch some of their TV. It’s more of a place to stay out of the cold if you’re not picking something up to bring home, which I’m guessing most people do since Gourmella’s is in the student ghetto, and people can just pop in and out.
The only thing I didn’t like was that they started cleaning something when we were there and I had to keep smelling bleach while I was eating. Not the flavor you want to have in your mouth while you’re eating a sandwich.

Razor Clams

LAZER CRAMS!!! Pew PEW! Oops, I mean, Razor Clams.

This one time I was watching a Martin Yan travel show (the Yan Can Cook dude) and I swear to you, he kept saying “Lazer Crams” over and over again. And now every time I see “razor clam” I keep thinking “lazer cram” and I imagine this tough little mollusk shooting lazers out of its body. Pew pew! Lazer cram! Pew pew!

Any way, I saw something on Serious Eats about them, and figured I’d try cooking them. I mean, if they’re clams they have to be delicious, right? They’re $4.99/lb at the Asian Food Market on Colvin about now. I got a large bundle for just under $7. It’s pretty cool to see their squiggly white bodies retract back in their shells when they get touched, too.

On the whole… eh. I’ll stick with regular clams, thanks. These were kind of a bitch to deal with. First I par cooked them to open their shells up. Then I had to get them out of the shells and de-poop them. These clams had a major poo sack on them! Gross. And suction-mouths at one end. For what they were, it was kind of a lot of work.

I tossed ’em with some pasta. It was fine – mild, clam-like flavor. But I think I prefer the normal clams in the area – quahogs and the like. Razor clams, eh, not so much.

I even left some clams uneaten. Me. Leftover Seafood. Seafood not completely decimated. What. The Heck.

Chinese Poke?

Okay, so poke (poh-keh) is the Hawaiian marinated food. But I had, like, none of the traditional poke seasonings, so I did my own thing, and it turned out pretty well.

I bought some frozen sushi grade tuna from the Asian Food Market on Colvin Ave. Eh. It was okay, but it didn’t taste amazingly fresh, so I thought some kind of cooking or curing was necessary.

Soy sauce + vermouth + sesame oil. It’s like my Chinese trinity of marination. I like sweet vermouth for the sweetness, ’cause somebody (Albany John) doesn’t like it when I add extra regular sugar to food. Whatever.

I had bite-sized slivers of tuna mixed in with a ton of onion slices sit in the mixture for about 15-20 minutes.
Make some sticky rice, toast up a few sheets of nori and slice up an avocado, and you’re ready to eat your knock-off poke.

Food Swap!

The lovely Renée hosted a Food Swap this weekend! Like a Soup Swap, except with food. There were about 11 of us, and everyone had made 12 pints of food to swap. Some of us did half vegetarian dishes, and half meat dishes, and some did 12 pints of the same thing.

Yum! Look at all of that food! There was so much, and they all sounded so good. Lots of hearty comfort foods. I invited a new friend, and she brought Mac & Cheese. It was one of the un-frozen foods, and didn’t last more than a few minutes until I got home. Freaking good.

And so was the baked ziti, which had the best amount of cheese in it (gobs). There were also burritos, beans, and… oh so much!

Sandor showed up with 12 pints of KIM CHEE!!!! We did our swappage, and mysteriously there was one kim chee left.

Which meant some kim chee for everyone to try! Hoorah! It was fucking delicious.

I made vegetarian Japanese Curry. The hot kind. Easy enough to make, easy to reheat. I made more than 6 pints, so the Mister and I have been eating it as well on our busier nights before the food swap.

I also made 6 “pints” of pork dumplings. Nothing crazy, just coarse-ground pork, shredded napa cabbage, and some chopped up Chinese chives (I keep wanting to call them leeks for some reason). But man, I love some boiled or steamed dumplings on the quick. I measured a pint bowl so it was a little overfilled, which was about 13 dumplings. Then I added in some more dumplings to each bag, because it didn’t look like enough. I had a few left over of those, too. Simple, but good stuff.

And now I’m psyched because there’s a whole variety of food sittin’ in my fridge!

Casola Dining Room – Irish Menu

I got to meet one of the area’s coolest dudes last year, Chef Christopher Tanner. He and his wife are an awesomely energetic couple who I met at a few different food events. He also happens to be a chef teacher at SCCC’s Casola Dining Room, and we talked about having the mister and me trying to swing by for dinner on one of the nights he teaches. Round the corner for tastiness.

We went on Irish week. How often do we think of Irish food as corned beef and cabbage, and some boiled potatoes? (Well, that’s the extent of the meals I’ve had with the anglo side of my family) Boring. I was excited eat during Irish week after seeing the items listed on the menu for the week.

Albany John and I got to sit with the lovely Mrs. Tanner and her parents. SOCIALIZING! YAY! We’ve been horribly boring/busy lately, and we’ve hardly had much time to, you know, talk with people other than each other, so we were really looking forward to meeting new people.

Bread course – some of the best Irish soda bread I’ve ever had. Seriously. My mom used to buy Irish soda bread every week near St Patrick’s day. Once she even went to the Rockland Bakery and was convinced it was the best stuff ever. To me it tasted just like every other kind of Irish soda bread I’ve ever had, which was dry, dense, and rather unpleasant.

Hot damn, I want this recipe. It was moist, crumbly and a little toasty around the edges, and slathering a slice of this with butter was freaking decadent.

Salaaaaad! Albany John got a salad for his appetizer course – it had beets, greens, and fried nuggets of brie.

I got the smoked cod appetizer. SMOKED COD CAKE!! On a bed of lightly cooked spinach! I think it was spinach. Greens. At first I ate the greens and was like “Eh, it’s okay, but it could use a little salt.” And then I had the cod, and OMG it was a match made in heaven. Salty cod. Unsalty greens. AWESOMENESS.

I followed seafood with more seafood – wild caught salmon with… deliciousness. I think it was colcannon, or something like it. Mashed potatoes with some greens. And tart red cabbage.

Oh dear lord, I wish I could get salmon like this in a restaurant. The top was licked with salt, butter, and deliciousness. It was cooked juuuust right. Meaning, not well-done all the way through. The center of the cut had lovely bits of medium-done meat. So good. Brings tears to my eyes and a smile to my mouth. SCCC students, whatever you do when you leave school, PLEASE KEEP COOKING SALMON LIKE THIS.

Albany John got the pork belly. Pork belly! I’m so glad he got it, because this was the other dish I wanted a bite of. There was also lamb shepherd’s pie that sounded awesome, but no one at our table ordered it.

Chef Tanner, I WANT THIS RECIPE. This was soooo freaking good. And believe it or not, not too fatty. Yeah, there are layers of fat, but this dish wasn’t greasy. I could have easily housed a few plates of this.

Yeah, yeah, potato patties and carrots were there too, but the belly was the star. I’ve gotta figure out how to make this. Man, I’m still swooning.

DESSERT! I got the strawberry sponge cake trifle thing (sorry, my memory is terrible about the name). It was good, but there was some sharp liquor or liqueur at the bottom of that dish.

Albany John got the steamed pudding? Crap… I can’t remember what it was called. Sorry. But it was awesome. Like a very soft cake with toffee. And the ice cream was beer flavored. No, seriously, it really tasted like beer + ice cream. Not sugary sweet, but rather a nice foil to the sticky-sweet cake. Albany John wants beer ice cream now.

Dinner was such a blast! Thanks for having us, guys!

Pizza DaVinci

Guess what pizza place is open at 9 am on a Sunday morning? Pizza DaVinci in Troy, NY!

Albany John woke up with the pizza hungers this weekend, and had me Googling to see what was open at the wee hours of Before 10:30 AM on a Sunday. Wee. Morning. Hours.

Figured we’d give them a shot since Troy is solid pizza territory. They have a special for pick-up orders. $7.99 for a large pie. Woah – those are college-days prices!


Not too bad for an $8 pie. Plenty of sweet and salty cheese with some browning going on, and a lot of fresh basil flavor in the sauce. The crust was the only thing I wasn’t all that into on this pie – puffy and not crisp, soft all over. The end crust pieces were definitely pizza bones. But overall, solid flavors with the cheese and sauce. They beat I Love’s whole pie hands down, at least in my book. I’d get it again.

Best of all, it was fresh pizza on a Sunday morning.

Artisan Bread in 5 a Day as Loaf Bread

Ever wondered if the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day recipe could be used in a loaf pan? I did. And it does. Work in a loaf pan, that is.

I used the basic boule recipe. But check their website. If you use King Arthur Flour (or another kind of high protein flour) like I do, you need to add a little bit more water to the recipe.

I found that measuring the flour by weight was easiest for me – 2 # flour, 3.3-3.5 C H20, 1.5 T salt, and 1.5 T yeast. Easy peasy. Wait about 2 hours and you can save it in the fridge/freezer, or pop that bad boy in a loaf pan and into the oven.

I tossed some ice cubes in, and it gave the crust a nice chew.


It makes some kick-ass sandwich bread, too. Yum city. A good crust, and soft but chewy bread innards. Super squishy and hard to deteriorate. Lasts several days, too. All of that water in there really stays, and it doesn’t got super stale and dry after a day.

My loaf pan is smaller, so I made mini turkey-ham & provalone double decker sandwiches. I’m already on my second loaf. And I tried playing around with whole wheat flour.

Guess what? If you use, like… 1/3 of the flour as whole wheat and the rest as KAF Bread flour you get super chewy and soft bread or rolls! But I had to add about 1/2 cup more water because of the whole wheat flour. Right now that batch of dough is sitting in my fridge aging and getting its sour on.

Awesome Brownies, Now With Carob

Awesome Brownies, now with carob! What’s with the crickets? Does anyone else like carob? Awesome carob powder brownies?

Hellooooo?

So Albany John let me know I might be a freak of nature because I freaking love me some carob. Yeah, yeah – we all watched Clarissa Explains It All, and we know her mom taught us that carob is the health-freak version of chocolate. But damnit, I like it. I picked up some carob powder from the co-op and thought I’d give carob brownies a go.

Changes:
I used about 1 – 1/3 C of powdered carob in place of chocolate chips/baking cocoa. And a few extra tablespoons of coconut butter/oil my sister made for me for Christmas (since chips have some fat in them and powder has, like, none). But that was about it.

And then I threw in some chocolate covered toffee bits, because, hello, toffee. Chocolate bits are minor.

Albany John kept screwing his face up whenever he had some. It’s a good thing I didn’t make ’em on Valentine’s day, ’cause he kept denying my adorable, wifely face smooches just because I tasted like carob. I’ll say this, though. I wasn’t as big of a fan of the carob powder from the co-op for carob flavor. There was a lingering raisin-y cloying sweetness in the flavor. Kind of distracting. Kind of not my thing.


And yet, I soldiered on. DROWN A DELICIOUS DEATH IN MILK, OH AWESOME CAROB BROWNIES!

Y’know, it’s funny that these brownies came out almost black. So dark. The powder was a light brown. But once liquid was added it darkened very quickly.