Epic Wonton Soup

Wonton Soup

Finally, I am back to share the rest of that epic recipe I hinted at in my previous post.  Thank you for your patience.

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I’ve been playing hooky all week.

I realize that most of the recipes I post on this blog reference some fond childhood memory.  Now, either I didn’t frown until I was fourteen or I have a tendency to glaze over the less desirable parts of my early years.  Since I photographic proof that I was an excellent pouter before the age of two, I’ll blame it on rosy nostalgia.  But this soup is my childhood, or it at least occupies a very happy corner of it.

Mushrooms steaming

Whenever my mother and I miraculously found ourselves home alone we would steal away to a little hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant up the street from my childhood home.  There we would indulge in an order of Shanghai Noodles and a bowl of wonton soup.  Their wontons were deliciously meaty, bursting with filling and flavored to perfection.  Sadly, their food has gone downhill.  Instead of providing their costumers with amazing food on the cheap, they are now, quite simply cheap.  But that’s okay, because now that I can conduct myself in the kitchen without trying to sample raw meat (I was a weird child) I can make it myself.  So my mother and I rolled up our sleeves and set about making this rather epic wonton soup.

Mushrooms

Now, it’s difficult to provide an accurate recipe, as my mother does not measure or weight any of her ingredients.  The magic of her cooking is in her intuition.  To my mother cooking is a creative endeavor and who has time to be bogged down by numbers when you’re in the midst of creating a masterpiece?

This may be why my mother has never been much of a baker.

Black Fungus (More delicious than it sounds)

Also, my mother has an extensive collection of fancy dried fungi.  This is black fungus. You don’t have to use all the varieties I have listed.  A medley of dried mushrooms, which you can find easily in your local supermarket, should do the trick.

Wonton Filling

Anyway, here’s the recipe as best I can recall.  Follow these steps and I’m sure you’ll get something delicious.  The broth is a hybrid of several different Asian soups, so if you want something authentic please look elsewhere.

Wonton

It may look like a lot of work, but if you’re smart about it (we weren’t) it’s not so bad.  Make the wontons several days before, freeze them and you’ll be miles ahead of the pack.  We garnished our soups with slices of this tenderloin and steamed Chinese broccoli, but feel free to change them up.  I think bok choy would be lovely.

Epic Wonton Soup

Enjoy our zippy little concoction.

Epic Wonton Soup: Serves 8-12 or a small army

For The Wontons:

800g wonton wrappers

¼ pound ground pork

¼ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 stalks green onion, cut into thirds

½ cup of water chestnuts

2 eggs, divided

1 tbsp water

2 tbsp ginger

4 cloves garlic

2 tbsp cornstarch

1 ½ tsp five spice powder

2 tbsp sherry

¼ cup soy sauce

4 tsp sesame oil

For the Broth:

2 cups boiling water

1 cup dried mushroom medley (try to get one with shitake mushrooms)

25g black fungus (more delicious than it sounds)

25g yellow fungus

1 medium onion, diced

4 cloves garlic

2 tbsp ginger, minced

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp peanut oil

1 1/2 tsp sriracha sauce

1 cup dry white wine

2 tbsp soy sauce or to taste

2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

8 cups chicken stock

1 red sweet pepper

2 stalks green onion, sliced

1 cup water chestnuts

1 egg, beaten

Directions:

WONTONS:

Place pork, shrimp, onion, water chestnuts, one egg, cornstarch, ginger, garlic, five-spice-powder, sherry, soy sauce and sesame oil in a food processor.

Pulse until all ingredients come together and are evenly distributed throughout.

In a small bowl whisk together the remaining egg and water and set aside.

Place a wonton wrapper on a dry, clean cutting board.

Dip you finger in the egg mixture and trace one corner of the wonton.

Place one teaspoon of the filling in the center of the wrapper.

Fold wrapper corner to corner so it forms a triangle.

Seal wonton by pressing the edges.  Be sure to remove as much air from the center of the wonton as possible.

Place a small amount of the egg mixture on the bottom corners of your wrapper and fold the corners toward the center, hugging the encased filling.

Repeat until you run out of wrappers.  Set aside until ready to cook.

BROTH:

In a large bowl place dried mushrooms and black and yellow fungi.

Douse with boiling water.  Cover and let sit for 30 minutes.

While you’re waiting, heat peanut and sesame oil over medium high heat in a large stockpot.

Once the oil begins to shimmer, add onion, ginger, and garlic.  Sauté until the onion is slightly translucent.  About five minutes.

Add white wine, sriracha sauce, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar.

Bring mixture to a boil then add chicken stock.

Once the mushrooms are soft, drain them using a fine mesh strainer.  Reserve the water.

Add mushroom broth to the chicken stock and bring mixture to a boil.

Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 -20 minutes.

Chop reserved mushrooms and add them to the broth along with the water chestnuts.

Bring the soup back up to a boil and slowly pour beaten egg into the soup.  Add wontons.

Once the wontons start to rise to the top, add green onions and red pepper.

Cook for three minutes, then remove from heat and serve.

Garnish with steamed Chinese broccoli and slices of Asian BBQ pork tenderloin.

*Be sure not to over cook the wontons or you’ll never forgive yourself.

Smoked Gouda Fusilli

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This recipe was the result of a shopping trip I took to St Lawrence Market in downtown Toronto.  While I would love to be virtuous and say I frequent the Market for its fantastic produce, that would be a downright lie.  It’s not that the produce at the market is bad, far from it, I just happen to find the Peameal Bacon Sandwiches and the stinky cheeses much more alluring.

Mushrooms

Every market is magical in it’s own way, whether it be large or small, but St. Lawrence Market is remarkable in it’s variety; you can find just about anything there.  One shop had well over thirty kinds of flour.

Mushrooms and Rosemary

There is nothing quite like wandering past shops offering up products that were so lovingly crafted; something as simple as a handmade croissant represents years of training, trial and error and passionate perseverance.  Each product tells a personal story.  Try getting something like that from your local grocery store.

Smoked Gouda

I wandered past my favorite cheese shop to pick up a little smoked Gouda and that’s when inspiration hit.  I ran home and made this Smoked Gouda Fusilli with little hesitation and I’m so glad I did; it garnered rave reviews from my beau.  This dish was as comforting as macaroni and cheese, but twice as flavorful.  The addition of sautéed mushrooms brought a new level of decadence to the dish and the red pepper gave the meal a sweet counterbalance to the salty, smokiness of the sauce.  The smoked Gouda melted smoothly into the silky white sauce and coated each piece of Fusilli beautifully.  The smokiness of the cheese was even more apparent after it had melted into the sauce.   Oh, and please don’t skimp on the black pepper; it gives the dish a certain something.

Smoked Gouda Fusilli

Smoky and seductive, this pasta dish is familiar enough to be comforting, but unique enough to raise a few eyebrows. For this recipe I got my inspiration from Victor’s cooking blog.

Smoked Gouda Fusilli: Serves 4

375g dried whole wheat Fusilli

4 tbsp olive oil, divided

1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced

½ red bell pepper, diced

1 ½ tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 cup smoked Gouda, shredded

1 cup milk (I used 1%)

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

1 ½ tbsp whole grain mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat.

Liberally salt the water and add pasta.

Cook according to package directions or until al dente.

Drain and toss with 2 tbsp of olive oil.  Set aside.

In a large skillet heat the rest of the olive oil over medium heat.

Add mushrooms, red pepper and rosemary.  Sauté until tender.

Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small saucepan melt butter over moderate heat.

Whisk in the flour until it forms a paste.

Slowly whisk in milk until combined.

Cook until slightly thickened.

Reduce heat and whisk in cheese, stirring constantly until melted and fully incorporated.

Add mushrooms, pepper and rosemary to the sauce and stir to combine.

Pour over pasta and toss until coated.

Serve immediately with extra Gouda.

 

Thin Crust Genoa Salami Pizza

Whenever I ask my beau what he would like for dinner the answer is inevitably pizza and I can honestly say I am not always happy to oblige.  If this surprises you I challenge you to try eating an unreasonable amount of pizza for the next three years and see how you feel about it. Every now and then, however, my beau and I are on the same page and experience a mutual craving for that classic Italian pie.

Red Pepper

To me, Friday is the perfect pizza night. As a child my family never really ate takeout that much, but on the odd Friday, and it was always a Friday for some reason, my parents would spring for a pizza and it would be like Christmas came early.

Genoa Salami

In honor of this beloved childhood tradition I whipped up a pizza last Friday night. I came across an astounding recipe for a no-rise crust (yes, such a thing does exist) and in mere moments the pizza was dressed and bubbling in the oven.

Pizza

I selected a decadent outfit of chewy Genoa salami, juicy red pepper, bitter-sweet red onions, lush basil leaves and, of course, a hefty helping of shredded mozzarella cheese. After a brief 15-minute stint in the oven dinner was served and I was chowing down on a sumptuous slice in my sock feet in front of Netflix.

Thin Crust Genoa Salami Pizza

The perfect kick-off to a stellar weekend, this thin crust Genoa salami pizza will more than fit the bill.

Pizza Slice

Thin Crust Genoa Salami Pizza: Serves 4

FOR THE CRUST: Adapted from here.

1 package of yeast

1 cup warm water

2 ½ cup all purpose flour

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

TOPPINGS:

1 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded

6 slices Genoa salami

½ red bell pepper, sliced

¼ red onion, diced

I cup pizza sauce

6-10 Basil leaves

Sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes

Fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°

Place water and yeast in a mixing bowl and let stand for 5-10 minutes or until frothy.

Add olive oil to the water yeast combo.

Shift together salt, sugar and flour in a separate bowl.

Using a dough hook attachment, add dry mixture to wet in ½ cup increments until the dough comes together to form a slightly tacky ball.

Remove dough from mixer and lightly knead.

Leave to rest covered by a clean tea towel for ten minutes.

Divide dough in two and stretch one half to fit an 11-inch pizza pan.

Place other half in the fridge for another time or form into a second pizza.

Spread pizza sauce over the dough and sprinkle with chili pepper flakes and ½ the red onion.

Sprinkle with cheese and arrange the salami so it is evenly distributed over the entire pizza.

Top with remaining red onion, red pepper and basil leaves.

Place in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes rotating halfway through.

When golden and bubbling, remove from the oven and let stand for ten minutes before slicing.

Serve with a sprinkling of fresh ground pepper and a nice cold beer.

Cheesy Mexican Penne

Cheesy Mexican Penne

A hefty bowl of Macaroni and Cheese may just be the quintessential comfort food. Equipped with the non-confrontational taste kids go for, it’s hard to argue with Macaroni and Cheese.  Like grilled cheese sandwiches, which I can’t seem to stop talking about lately, Macaroni and Cheese is very simplistic in its requirements. All this soothing dish entails is pasta, cheese, butter, milk, breadcrumbs and a few odds and ends. As with anything minimalistic, the room for embellishment is seemingly endless.

Red Pepper

Call me crazy, but I’ve never been a big fan of macaroni. I prefer a larger, meatier piece of pasta. The three times my mother actually made Macaroni and Cheese for my siblings and I (my mother is a very health conscious lady and I think she found it difficult to put that much butter and cheese into a single dish) she used penne instead of macaroni and crushed saltines instead of breadcrumbs. To me this will always be Macaroni and Cheese, despite the absence of one of the dish’s headliners.

Jalapeno

Like the Mac and Cheese of my youth, this week’s recipe is mac-less. It may not look like a take on Macaroni and Cheese, but trust me it is. I took the predictable pasta dish and transformed into a creamy inferno called Cheesy Mexican Penne. I was hopelessly hungry while I was fixing this so I opted to keep it stove top and not bake it, but if you possess that virtue called patience, by all means pop it in the oven.

Diced Vegetables

This Cheesy Mexican Penne follows all the usual steps of it predecessor, but the addition of tomatoes, jalapenos, red pepper and onion lend a zesty complex flavor to the dish. A few heaping spoonfuls of habanero salsa ups the spice factor without over powering the velvety cheesy sauce.  This dish is endlessly satisfying and the picture of spicy decadence.

Cheddar Cheese

The perfect pick-me-up as the temperatures continue to drop, this Cheesy Mexican Penne will have you feeling like you’re south of the border.

Cheesy Mexican Penne

 

Cheesy Mexican Penne: Serves 6

450g dried penne

4 tbsp flour

4 tbsp butter

2 cups half and half

1 ½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded

¼ red onion, diced

½ red pepper, diced

1 jalapeno, deseeded and diced

1 Roma tomato, diced

1 ½ tbsp Dijon mustard

4 tbsp habanero salsa

Salt and Pepper to taste

Fresh cilantro

Directions:

Place a large pot of water to boil over high heat.

Once boiling, salt the water liberally and add pasta.

Cook until al dente and drain and rinse the pasta and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Whisk in flour to form a paste.

Slowly add half and half, whisking after each addition until sauce is creamy and smooth.

Season with salt and pepper and add cheese.

Stir mixture until the cheese is completely melted.

Reduce heat and add veggies, mustard and salsa.

Allow to cook for five minutes until the vegetables are slightly softened.

Taste and season accordingly with salt and pepper.

Pour sauce over waiting pasta and stir to combine.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve.

Almond Crusted Shrimp and Mango Salad

I am back! Hope you guys had wonderful holidays!

Meanwhile after getting a good rest, I left my zone of comfort….

…and look at me! I fried something!

Mango

I never fry anything! I have a deep-frying phobia.

Cucumber

I, like the rest of humanity, happen to love fried food! Anything deep-fried is positively out of this world. I bet if you deep-fried a boot it would taste delicious, but as much as I love these crispy edibles I’m still wary of deep-frying at home. I’m sure it would be a different story if I had a proper deep fryer, but if I had said deep fryer I would also be 300 pounds. So, I figure it’s in my best interest to make deep fat frying as cumbersome as possible. I didn’t even do a legit deep fry for this week’s recipe. It was more of a shallow fry; I couldn’t quite bring myself to add the full amount of oil, guilt was holding me back. This time, I simply borrowed a deep fryer from my friend, it was Waring deep fryer.

No. No way I am buying one myself.

Red pepper

Yes, it was messy and yes, I did fear my kitchen afterwards, but these almond crusted fried shrimp were well worth the grease burns.  I served them atop a mound of spicy mango salad and garnished the whole lot with fresh cilantro and dry-roasted peanuts. The combination of the piping hot shrimp and chilled salad was out of this world. The shrimp was beautifully juicy and it’s breading brought a subtle crunch to the dish.

Red Onion

My beau was adequately impressed with my efforts. He could hardly believe I fried anything. I’m usually a stickler when it comes to nutrition, but I justified the whole exercise by saying it was for the blog. Do you hear that? If your at all interested in the state of your waistline don’t start a food blog, it messes with your logic.

Almond Crusted Shrimp

As deep-frying adventures go this one was fairly uneventful. Shrimp cooks quickly and the breading process with simple and efficient. Salads are always low maintenance, but I will warn you there is a fair amount of chopping involved.

Almond Crusted Shrimp and Mango Salad (II)

Decadently rich and restaurant caliber, Almond Crusted Shrimp and Mango Salad is one recipe you’ll be happy to have sitting in your back pocket when all you can think about is expensive takeout. This recipe will subdue those pesky cravings and save you a bundle at the same time.

Almond Crusted Shrimp and Mango Salad: Serves 4

FOR THE SHRIMP

16 shrimp, deveined and shelled with tails on

¼ cup almond meal

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp milk

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups peanut oil

FOR THE SALAD

1 mango, julienned

¼ cucumber, julienned

½ red bell pepper, julienned

¼ red onion, sliced

¼ dry roasted peanuts

½ cup fresh cilantro, torn

DRESSING

4 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp granulated sugar

¼ cup lime juice

1 tsp sambal oelek

1 tbsp fish sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Place veggies, mango and cilantro in a large bowl and toss to combine.

In a small bowl whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.

In another small bowl combine ground almonds and salt and pepper.

Combine egg and milk.

One by one douse each shrimp in the egg and milk mixture then roll them in the almond mixture and set aside on a plate.

When each shrimp has been coated heat oil in a large wok until it reaches about 350°

Drop shrimp into the oil and fry, turning once, until golden brown.

Remove from oil and leave to drain on paper towels.

Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat.

Divide salad amongst four plates and top with peanuts.

Arrange four shrimp on top of each salad and serve immediately.