Saturday, March 28, 2009

Baozi from scratch

My college roommate and good friend, Pamela, introduced me to baozi during one of the weekends when I went home with her (which was most weekends). We'd usually leave late on Friday night after the Christian fellowship we attended on CWRU's campus. Once we arrived at her Westlake home, we'd bypass the upstairs, "American kitchen" and head down to the basement "Chinese kitchen" for a second dinner.

Now I'm half Chinese-- but before undergrad, my main experience with Chinese food was Chicago's chinatowns and my Cantonese grandma's cooking-- the key gastronomic memories being various stir fried dishes, Cantonese bbq ribs (the most ginormous barbarian-sized ribs you've ever seen, crusted in a magenta sauce), fried smelt caught by my dad and uncles from Lake Michigan (we'd eat the whole fish, bones and all), and copious amounts of steamed white rice washed down with some off-brand of orange-aide or pop. Yes, I'm from the Midwest and we say "pop." But I've really gotten off topic.

Pamela is also half Chinese, but her relatives are from Taichung, Taiwan. Her mom, Vicki, is an excellent and inventive cook and there was always several dishes waiting in that basement kitchen. Maybe there'd be beef curry with potatoes and carrots, stew with tea eggs, marinated firm tofu or spicy squid. But one of my all-time favorites were the steamed, meat and veggie-filled buns or baozi.

Years later, when Joe and I moved to Taiwan, we had a dumpling and baozi shop below our apartment, but I never thought they were as good as the buns we ate in the Poland's basement kitchen. The last time I had Vicki's baozi was in August 2001, when I got married-- in the Poland's backyard. I don't know how many she made, but I seem to recall big bowls filled with them. I guess my mind was on a few other things, so the details are foggy :-)

I had a hankering for them again the last couple weeks. So I decided to make some.
Joe's telling me to go to bed (I haven't been sleeping much lately because of Stephen's new and very bad wake-every-hour-after-1-a.m. habit. So I'm gonna post the picture now and post the recipe tomorrow.

Panko crusted catfish nuggets and slaw

I know I've really neglected Moody Foodie lately :-( But I am still eating and cooking regularly... just not a lot of new and interesting recipes. Earlier this week I found catfish nuggets on sale at Kroger. I don't deep fry-- for one it's not healthy and for two, I've got an aversion to splattering-hot oil. Catfish is great for coating and baking because its oils hold on to the crumbs and keep it tender. I used a mix of panko (Japanese bread crumbs) and cornmeal seasoned with salt, garlic, parsley and McCormick salmon seasoning. I baked the nuggets on a jelly roll pan for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.

I also made some vinegar slaw with cabbage (also on sale), carrot, onion, pickle relish, white vinegar, salt, sugar and canola oil. My main inspiration for vinegar slaw since moving to Kentucky has been d. Starnes barbecue restaurant in Paducah.

And... I made up a batch of cornbread muffins- 1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 can cream-style corn, 1 egg, 3 tsp baking powder, salt to taste, 1/4 cup oil, 1/2 cup plain yogurt (should have been sour cream, but I had to use up some yogurt!) and argh I can't remember how much milk... so better not follow this "mess-ipe" They were much better the second day. First day, half the muffin stuck to the paper lining.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


This weekend, Stephen and I met up with my parents in Evansville, Ind., and ate some amazing food at Biaggi's -- a chain that Joe and I always meant to go to when we lived in Champaign. Above are the leftovers from my entree, butternut squash ravioli with a brown butter sage sauce and toasted pinenuts. My first bite of this decidedly sweet and nutty pasta reminded me of my Nan Tilsch's kugel. Biaggi's was nice enough to sub the pinenuts for the original walnuts (I've got a mild allergy to walnuts) and I think even if I could eat them without having irritated gums, I'd like the pinions better. This is a dish I'd travel 90 minutes to have again :-)
Baby beat and arugula salad with chevre, avocado and cherries.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Old Chicago

Joe had his third semester final on Saturday, so we went to Old Chicago to celebrate. Shown here: my artichoke and spinach calzone and Joe's thick crust pizza.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Two bowls

Pineapple stir-fry rice bowl
This didn't turn out as I had hoped, but it was edible. Last week I had a hankering for pineapple fried rice, but I didn't have day-old rice on hand, so this doesn't have the right texture. But the ingredients go nicely together: Zucchini, carrots, onion, green beans, shrimp, pineapple and peanuts sauteed in oil, soy sauce, garlic powder, salt and a little vinegar and sugar.
Chicken vegetable soup with dumplings
I felt like the universe was telling me to buy a whole intact chicken rather than the sum of its parts... Gourmet magazine's February issue had a really yummy looking recipe, then March's issue had a whole how-to section on cutting up a whole chicken. A friend recently mentioned how much money it saved and I kept coming across them at the grocery store. But there's few sensations I hate more than having raw chicken fat under my fingernails, a near requisite for preparing a whole chicken into multiple dishes. I set out the store planning to buy a pre-made rotisserie chicken to use for soup. But when I saw that the scrawny birds getting shriveled in the chicken warmer at Kroger were almost $8, I pushed the stroller onward and picked up a raw chicken for about $3.50.

I roasted the chicken whole, effectively avoiding any more contact with raw chicken gunk than necessary, the removed as much meat as convenient before dropping the bones into my soup pot. After making the stock, I added chopped cabbage, sweet potato and a can of Italian-style diced tomatoes. I had planned to add corn, cannelini beans and onions to the mix, but I lost interest in the soup by that point and was running out of room in the pot. After everything was tender, I added the chicken meat back to the soup. We just finished off the leftovers tonight and to make it "new" again, I made some quick dumplings with flour, baking powder, milk, herbs, salt and garlic powder.