Green Plum Cooking School – March 20th, 2010
Anything fried is pretty darn good, right? Like the fried Oreos or fried Coke at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. I do admit that Lili and I did have a fried Oreo at the Rodeo a few years ago. I’m not some food extremist but novelty food isn’t everyday food and it’s certainly not something I need to eat again.
That’s all to prepare you that we are frying today in class. We are making Potato Lentil Dumplings – which is more like an empanada, really. I start the class on time but June and Karin walk in late. Humph. They were sitting downstairs since 8 am. I say, “After all that, you’re late!” Lili prances by and says, “Mommy, don’t be too hard on them.” Humph.
Meanwhile, I’m toasting some cardamom in a pan to activate the flavor of the spice and then add it to the melting butter. The butter is going in to the pastry dough for the dumplings. People are already asking questions. Be patient! It will all make sense, if they just watch and wait. Doesn’t it always? We made these for Friday lunch at t’afia the week before. They were delicious. Food should taste good; it just makes no sense when it doesn’t.
I sent Lisa downstairs several times during the class, even though I thought I was prepared. One trip was for thyme and parsley. The next trip was for the new Michael Pollan book, Food Rules – a fast and easily digestible 67 rules for what to eat and how to eat. The first rule is “Eat food.” Yep, he actually had to say it. Get the book, read it and make your kids read it. I’m making Lili read it. It’s like talking to your kids about the dangers of taking drugs – you think it’s obvious, but you still have to say it, still have to have the conversation.
Meanwhile, I’ve got green lentils, potatoes, onions, garlic and turmeric in a pan. I add some water to cover and simmer the mixture until it’s all cooked. While watching the pot simmer and come to a boil (even though we’re not supposed to), I recount the time I took Lili to Shipley’s Donuts on Main instead of doing the work and making donuts like she wanted to do. Another of Michael Pollan’s food rules is: “You can eat as much junk food as you want as long as you make it yourself.” But I was lazy and I took Lili to Shipley’s before school. We’re sitting there, her with her bag of donut holes, me with nothing and Lili looks around and asks, “Is this place sketchy?” She had just learned this word the week before. I say, “Why do you ask?” (by the way, this Shipley’s is sketchy by anyone’s definition; I wanted her to eat those holes and get the hell out of there), and she says, “Because there’s a lot of sugar in this place and sugar makes people sketchy.” Ah, grasshopper, you are learning….or you already know.
On to the dough for our dumplings. I’ve brought all the ingredients together and begin to knead the dough. I ask June to come up to continue kneading mainly so I can berate her. No one really knows how to knead – they either just push the dough around the table or they squish it, but either way they don’t knead it. June then very effectively demonstrates my points perfectly. Kneading requires some precision. My grandmother taught me this: imagine that your work surface is a clock. Start with your dough at 12 o’clock then, with your fingertips, pull the dough to the center of the table and press lightly and quickly into the dough with the heel of your hand. You then turn the dough clockwise by quarters (or 15 minutes) and repeat the process of pulling and pressing and turning and pulling and pressing and turning for 10 minutes. At the end, you have a nice smooth ball. We let the dough rest briefly.
I send Lisa downstairs for a rolling pin. She comes back with it and also a message from “Kanye” (aka Joe Apa) about what to do with the rolling pin, but we used it to do the dumplings anyway. June does a great job rolling out the dough and cutting circles. I fork the lentil potato mixture until it’s almost pureed. We brush the dough with water (so the edges will seal), place a little filling in the middle of the dough, fold it over and fork the edges. We fry them in two batches in the kitchen downstairs, in peanut oil that’s 375 degrees. We serve them with a side of curry paste. They are flaky, browned, crispy. Everyone is surprised at how “not fried” they seem. Humph.
NOTE: The recipes used in my Green Plum Cooking School classes can be found in my online cookbook, “Eat Where Your Food Lives,” available for purchase at http://www.ChefMonicaPope.com)