Recipe: Pan-Fried Vegetable Dumplings
One of our favorite events every summer is The Sylvia Center’s Farm-to-Table dinner, hosted by Great Performances in the fields of Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, N.Y. The mission of The Sylvia Center is to inspire young people and their families to eat well through hands-on learning experiences on the farm and in the kitchen. Kristen Jovanelly, garden educator and manager at The Sylvia Center, offers us recipes the teenagers are learning to make.
Occasionally, shiitake mushrooms walk into our lives. They catch us off guard, almost with a glimmer in their eye, like they always knew we’d be back for them. So they wait patiently, eating away at trees, getting more and more delicious, anticipating this very moment. Calm your trepidations that you don’t know what to do with shiitakes — you can handle this. And, you can make everybody appreciate them with you!
At the Sylvia Center, a lot of our days are spent contemplating the question: how do we make kids want to eat this? Shiitakes are loaded with vitamins and minerals and they have a distinctive meaty sumptuousness that when tasted once, if they’re cooked correctly, will have you craving more and more. So how do we do it? Dumplings. Crispy well-cooked half moons brimming with the fresh flavors of ginger, carrots and sesame oil. I cannot say enough of this recipe; it’s our most popular by far. It even encourages kids to try tofu, an abhorred word amongst the middle school circles we teach in.
I highly suggest cooking these at home with many hands around to assemble dumplings. It can become a highly competitive game. But by the end, no matter what allegiances have been formed, everybody can settle around the table to stuff their faces and giggle as dipping sauce trickles down their chins.
Pan Fried Vegetable Dumplings
Makes 60 pieces
1 pounds firm tofu, drained
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 large bunch spinach, minced
12 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1 cup all-purpose flour, for dusting
60 fresh round dumpling wrappers
For Herbal Dipping Sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
½ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
To make the herbal dipping sauce, heat a skillet over high heat. Add the vegetable or canola oil. Once oil is shimmering, add garlic, scallion, 1 tablespoon ginger, red chili flakes and cilantro and sauté until fragrant and lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce, sugar and vinegar, and remove from heat. Once cool, transfer the sauce in the bowl and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the tofu, 1 tablespoon ginger, spinach, mushrooms, carrots, sesame oil and black pepper, and mix thoroughly.
Put water in a small bowl. Dust a plate with all-purpose flour. Put a wrapper on the palm of one hand. Dip the opposite pointer finger in the water and run it across the outer 1/2-inch edge of the wrapper. Put a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of the wrapper and fold into a half-moon shape, sealing the wet edges together. Place the dumpling on the plate. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.
Bring a large non-stick skillet to high heat. Add a healthy drizzle of vegetable oil. Place dumplings flat onto skillet, close together, in concentric circles. Add ¼ cup of water to the pan and cover immediately, and reduce heat to medium. Allow dumplings to steam until no water is left and dumplings are golden brown on the bottom. Add more water if necessary. Uncover and place dumplings, browned side up, on a platter. Repeat with the remainder of dumplings.
To serve, drizzle lightly with herbal soy sauce or serve sauce on the side for dipping.