Asian vegetable dumplings

A recent failed attempt to eat at Selam (an Ethiopian restaurant that we’ve been wanting to try) resulted in a scramble for lunch plan B.  Happily, we landed at Bobo Noodle House, where I discovered their vegetable dumpling pho.

Perfect little flavor-packed dumplings floating in a rich, salty broth along with shitake mushrooms, tofu, and mung bean sprouts.  Mmm, I would happily have a bowl of this daily.  Despite being pretty reasonably priced, I cannot eat lunch at Bobo every day, so I set out to recreate the dish.

I had most everything on hand other than the dumpling wrappers, which required a stop by the freezer case of an international grocer.  I bought the wrappers, despite a couple of somewhat sketchy ingredients, including propylene glycol.  (When I mentioned to Matthew that propylene glycol sounded sketchy as a “food ingredient,” he replied that it’s what they use in antifreeze — yum!)

I based the seasoning for my dumpling filling off of this recipe, which I tossed in the food processor with the following:

  • Most of a block of extra firm tofu
  • Chopped carrots and bok choy, lightly steamed
  • Sauteed mushrooms

Warning: Each dumpling wrapper (mine were round and ~4 inches in diameter) will hold only a TINY amount of filling.  The above recipe will fill about 50 wrappers.  Just saying.

Before assembling my little dumples, I prepared a simple soup with veggie broth, dried shitake mushrooms, soy sauce, and more of the bok choy.  With that simmering on the stove, we worked together to assemble the dumplings.  The dumplings cooked in the soup for 2-3 minutes, and then we sat down to enjoy my creation.

A few notes:

  • The dumplings are best fresh.  We cooked eight for each of us.  I made up the other 30-some dumplings and froze them for later.
  • If you don’t want soup, you can steam the dumplings, or make potstickers.

No tofurky? No problem.

I have never purchased a tofurky, but I have sampled this interesting creation at potlucks, and I did make a homemade “tofu turkey” a few years ago.  It was rather delicious, but it also required quite a bit of work, and with so many other delicious vegetarian options out there, I have not attempted to recreate it.

Whether you’re celebrating a meat-free meal this year, or just need inspiration for some healthy, tasty side dishes, check out this tantalizing plethora of recipes at Well’s Vegetarian Thanksgiving.  Treehugger has some additional offerings here.

If you are doing the turkey thing (or any kind of meat), look for locally raised, pastured birds.  In St. Louis, I know of two sources: Local Harvest Grocery and Fresh Gatherings Cafe.  While it is probably too late to preorder a bird for this Thursday, there’s always Christmas and next year to consider.

Just dip it

A little elf  prepared this meal — I found it ready and waiting when I got home from work one evening last week.  I took a few bites, and, though it was quite good, knew my meal needed more veggies.  I sliced up zucchini “chips” and chopped some broccoli as an additional dipper.  Much better.

Start with a layer of refried beans, top with chopped tomatoes, corn, [spicy] cheese, salsa, and green onions (the last three ingredients were local).  Compared to our normal meals, this one involved a good bit of “prepared” food: canned refried beans, canned tomatoes, frozen corn, and tortilla chips.

Try one or more of these options for a  fresh, locavore version: homemade refried beans made from locally grown black beans, chopped garden tomatoes, and/or local corn off-the-cob.  If you really want to get crazy, you could make your own tortilla chips.  Or eliminate the chips altogether and stick with fresh veggie dippers.

This not-quite-seven-layer dip, with the veggie addition, makes an ideal quick, tasty, healthy meal.

The first and the last

I love it when we sit down to a meal and realize it’s almost all local food!  We made this salad with our first garden harvest of greens (although we’ve been buying local lettuce for a few weeks now), radishes, green onion, and locally grown kidney beans.  The sunflower seeds and dressing (homemade with a base of olive oil, vinegar, and minced garlic) prevent this salad from being 100% local.

Second component of the meal: butternut squash soup.  We bought 15 butternut squash in the fall; for this meal, we ate the last squash.  They kept beautifully for over six months with minimal effort.  We put them in mesh bags (the bags that onion come in, for example) and hung the bags from nails in our basement.  Simple!

For this soup, we roasted the whole squash, then added sauteed onions, butter, milk, cumin, turmeric, and salt.  I blended it all with my stick blender for easy clean-up.

It all came together for a simple, delicious, local dinner.