Thursday, May 23, 2013

Homemade Pita Pockets, Dumpling Wrappers, and Pesto Pizza

Things have been super busy around here so I haven't had much time to meticulously photograph my meals, even though we've been trying out lots of cool new foods. I've been especially interested in trying to recreate all of the bread products I normally would buy from the store - things like pita pockets, dumpling wrappers, pizza dough, and flour tortillas.
The great thing is that many of these foods are very easy to make at home, and taste 1000x better than their store bought counterparts (I'm looking at you, flour tortillas!).

I needed pita bread one day, and decided to just make it at home. I found an easy recipe on Food 52, and modified it slightly by using all whole wheat flour and halving the recipe. In an hour, I had perfectly puffed pita pockets:

Making all of these foods at home also saves tons of money. Rather than spend $3.49 for a package of 6 pitas, I used probably 10 cents worth of ingredients I already had on hand.

My other recent obsession has been making dumplings. Dumplings are a wonderful way to use up extra produce or leftover meat, and they are so fun to make and eat. This recipe is very easy- just flour and hot water. 

The dumplings are pinched together like little purses, then steamed. I serve them with a dipping sauce made of soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, sugar, scallion, and sesame oil, and sometimes lime juice if I have a lime sitting around.

The wrapper ends up delightfully chewy, the filling juicy and hot.

I don't have a steamer box or insert - but did you know that you can steam food without a steamer? It works really well for these dumplings. Add about an inch of water to a large pot. Add three 2-inch diameter balls of aluminum foil to the water, and balance a plate on top of the balls, making sure it is not touching the water. Bring the water to a simmer, add the food you want to steam to the plate, cover, and let the steam do its magic. I usually steam these for 8-10 minutes, though cooking times found in recipes online vary wildly.

I don't have any pictures of my homemade flour tortillas, but this is the recipe I use. I highly recommend making your own at least once. They are much more flavorful and texturally superior to any store bought tortilla I have ever tried. 

Last but not least, I have been making my own pizza dough for the past year or so. It's a little time consuming, but I think the resulting dough is well worth the trouble. I usually make pizza on Fridays, and whipping up a batch of dough is the perfect de-stressor after a long week. For an even more flavorful dough, you can make it the night before and refrigerate it until two hours before you are ready to bake. I use Alton Brown's recipe - but pay careful attention to his note at the bottom of the recipe suggesting that you reduce the sugar and salt amounts! Also important to note - you can make this dough in a bread machine if you don't want to knead it by hand. Proof the yeast in the warm water, then add the dry ingredients and run them through a dough cycle. When the cycle is done, just take the dough out and let it rest for a few minutes before you stretch it out.

This is the before shot of a delicious fennel, pesto, ricotta and mozzarella pizza I made (without my bread machine...sadly it died. Though, considering the fact that I found it in our alleyway ready to be picked up by the garbage truck, I'm lucky it lasted as long as it did!).

Pesto is another thing I am constantly making out of a variety of ingredients. Classic basil, Parmesan, toasted pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and lemon pesto is always a favorite, but more often than not I'm using a variety of herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil), greens (kale, spinach, carrot tops), and nuts (walnuts, pecans, toasted almonds) to create the perfect pesto. It's also a great way to use up excess herbs and greens before they go bad.

Other fun meals we've had recently - homemade ricotta gnocchi, Filipino chicken adobo (check back next week for a blog entry!), grilled cabbage salad with lime dressing, yogurt-marinated chicken thighs, and fresh Thai summer rolls. 

Stay tuned for more culinary adventures, and thanks for reading!

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