There are many foods that I associate with my grandmother, whom my family lost recently, but none more than potato dumplings. I had these more at my grandparents’ house than at any other place, and we often made them on occasions when a lot of the family was together. I remember helping to make softball sized dumplings when I was little (or maybe they just seemed bigger back then). In my family they inspire the kind of affection only tradition can instill. Pictured are the better-the-next-day version – sliced and fried for breakfast.
Chop about one cup of onion and the same amount of diced bacon or pork. Peel and grate a 2.5 pound bag of potatoes. (There is no point making a small amount. To do this recipe justice you need to make at least a dozen. You want to use starchy, older potatoes.) Start a couple litres of water boiling in a stock pot or large dutch oven. Mix about three and a half cups of flour into the potatoes, or until they make a dough that somewhat holds together.
Form hand-sized patties of dumpling dough on a generously floured surface and put a tablespoon or more each of onion and meat on each patty. Generously shake pepper overtop (also salt if you are using pork and not bacon) and close dough around filling, making sure that none of the filling can leak out and there is no air inside. Your hands will be getting really sticky, and the dough will get wetter and stickier as it sits so you want to form the dumplings quickly and roll them in flour (add more flour if dough gets too soft to work with). Another reason to work quickly is that the flour does not prevent the potatoes from getting brown – this is why you want to chop everything, put the water on, and form and cook the dumplings as soon as possible.
Drop dumplings into boiling water, add a couple tablespoons of salt, wait til water returns to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for an hour. Gently pry dumplings apart if they are sticking together and eat with butter and salt while very fresh and tender, or slice and fry to eat for breakfast the next day with coffee.
The dumpling water is very starchy and flavourful - similar to the bowls of broth, noodle water or vegetable cooking water that 'family style' restaurants in
Topping nachos with corn, zucchini, peppers, and celery maximizes brightness, flavour and crunch while keeping the cost down. You can also use leftover carrots, eggplant, or other vegetables on hand as long as they do not have too much moisture. The cheese is, of course, vital - I love using a mixture of mozzarella for its texture with another harder and more pungent cheese for flavour. You can also chop up and cook the vegetables ahead of time so that they are ready for a last minute snack or meal.
Chop up one red pepper, half a large red onion, two to three skinny stalks of celery with leaves, one small zucchini or half a calabacita, and have ready one cup of corn kernels. Heat a small amount of oil in a wok or heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat and add the onions, then the corn, then the peppers, and finally the squash with 1-2 teaspoons of salt. The vegetables should be heated through but not cooked limp, and you will have a lot - we are talking about four cups of cooked vegetables for a normal, 365 g bag of tortilla chips. The celery should be left raw. Chop up a hot green pepper and mince some of the red onion for garnish, if desired. Lay out a single layer of chips on a baking sheet and spread cooked vegetables and chopped celery over them. Add 2/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar or other strongly flavoured cheese and top with about 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella. Bake or broil til there are browned spots on the cheese and chips. Pile nachos into a bowl and garnish with chopped hot pepper and chopped onion, if desired.
Cucumbers are very refreshing when it is really hot, and here in Sichuan spicy foods are seen as a source of relief from the humidity. Most spicy cucumber salad recipes that I run into are very sweet, and I wanted to get away from sweetness and make a salad that was clean, sharp, and spicy. A Uighur restaurant in town serves a little plate of something very similar with their zhua fan dish of rice cooked with lamb and vegetables. A few spoons of this also goes well with dishes that are rich and mild like fried rice or noodles. I ate the ones pictured with a beer, which was also perfect.
The ground red pepper I am using is quite coarse, very like Korean gochu karu. Here in