Posts Tagged ‘minced pork’

From the farmers market – act three – stuffed sweet peppers

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

After using them in salads, and roasting, and stewing them, I was still left with several colorful peppers from my last trip to the farmers market at Lincoln Square. With only a day until my next expedition I had to utilize the leftovers, and stuffing them sounded like a good idea. This is also the only way my kids will touch them, so stuffed peppers it was. This dish is a regular feature in my mother’s kitchen and though it may be a little old fashioned, I love cooking them. Like vegetable casserole, stuffed peppers are even better the next day, when the juices from the meat and the peppers have time to mingle. The same goes for stuffed grape or cabbage leaves.


I mostly use a mix of beef and pork minced meat, but if you are porkophobe go just for the cow. I’ve made them with chicken breast, but that never really worked for me – too dry, too flat. The meat choice is important. I use lean beef without antibiotics and hormones from Trader Joe’s and fresh rosy pork mince from the corner Polish deli (Poles really know their pork). If you have a butcher nearby where you can have the meat minced to order that’s the best deal. I would go for a pork shoulder and beef roast. The shoulder has just the right amount of marbled fat to make the stuffing tasty and juicy and you don’t need to use a lot of oil.

The tomatoes add an extra acidity to the whole mix and the carrot – sweetness. You can play with the spices – for a more Middle Eastern experience you can add ¼ tsp cinnamon and ½ tsp powdered cumin seeds. You can substitute cilantro (coriander) for the flat Italian parsley or fresh thyme for the dried sage. As for the rice – don’t worry that there is no extra water added to the stuffing – it will cook just fine soaking up the meat and tomato juices.

The stuffing will also work for stuffing tomatoes, zucchini or eggplants. Sometimes I mix my vegetables for a more dramatic effect.

The stuffed peppers I made today were supposed to last until tomorrow. They didn’t. Next time I should plan better and make more than 12!

Stuffed sweet peppers

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • ½ cup jasmine rice (or any white long grain rice)
  • 1 pound minced lean beef
  • 1 pound minced pork
  • 2 big plum tomatoes, cut in half and the flesh grated (or 4-6 Roma tomatoes)
  • 1 tsp dry sage
  • ½ tsp smoked Spanish paprika (or regular sweet paprika)
  • salt, black pepper
  • 1 handful flat Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 big plum tomato, flesh grated (optional)
  • 8 bell peppers or 12 long sweet banana or Mediterranean peppers, the tops cut and deseeded

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a big frying pan and saute the onion, garlic and carrot for 4-5 minutes. Add rice and stir for a minute. Add the minced meat, season with salt and pepper, the sage and smoked paprika, and cook for a few minutes mixing well and breaking up the meat lumps that will form. When the meat starts to brown, add the grated tomatoes and cook until juices reduce by half, another 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat, check the seasoning and add the parsley.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C), with the rack positioned in the middle. Sprinkle the insides of the cleaned peppers with some salt and spoon in the stuffing, carefully forcing it in if using the long variety (I use the spoon handle to push the meat mix to the end). Place them tightly in a broad baking pan, big enough to hold the peppers. They don’t need extra space in between as they’ll shrink a little during the cooking. Pour the water on the bottom, sprinkle with salt and the second tbsp olive oil, cover loosely with heavy duty aluminum foil and cook for 30 minutes. Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes or until the peppers are soft and slightly browned. Turn off the oven, cover with the foil again and leave in for 15-20 minutes before serving. You can spoon some thick Greek style yogurt on the plate and dig in.

Going East – Won ton with minced pork and fresh herbs

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

These little bundles stuffed with meat, vegetables or shrimp are my favorite Asian food. I can have them steamed, fried, boiled, in soup, with dips, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. A restaurant devoted only to those parcels of joy would be my ultimate dining heaven. Toss in Vietnamese fresh spring rolls, Chinese dim sum and Japanese gyoza and I will move to live there, wherever it might be.

Won ton

For years I was deprived of Asian dumplings and had to do with Polish pierogi (not that I don’t like them) and the occasional tired won ton or pot sticker in some mediocre eatery in Warsaw. I would have loved to make them myself, but the ingredients were hard to get, and it looked a bit too complicated. Well, not any more. The Asian stores in Chicago are amazing and once I found them my won ton obsession blossomed once more. With frozen pastry for all kinds of wraps and rolls, exotic herbs, vegetables and fresh shrimp cheaper than a pound of nuts, I was indeed in dumpling heaven. And it all was in my own kitchen.

The best won ton wrappers I have found so far are Dynasty brand – 3.5X3.5 inch (8X8 cm) in about 12 oz (340 g) packs. As for spring rolls – I use  Spring Home brand Tyj spring roll pastry – also frozen 5.5X5.5 inch (14X14 cm), 50 sheets. Those come with very helpful picture instructions on how to proceed. As for the filling – the sky is the limit. The best meat is fresh minced pork that is well marbled (lean is no good – it will be too dry once cooked). Napa cabbage, been sprouts, cilantro (coriander), Asian mint and basil can add a brighter flavor.

My kids love rolling spring rolls and fight over the limited counter space. I’m always amazed by the quantities they can eat in one sitting, and all that without complaining about the weird greens. Won tons are also on their favorite list, though they yet have to master the wrapping technique. It took me almost an hour the first time I made them, but now I’m pretty good, though not yet as good as an Asian chef. As with any other dumplings, once you get to it it’s better to make at least a double batch and freeze the extras, as you’ll probably have your fill of stuffing, folding and shaping for some time.

Won ton with minced pork

makes about 48 dumplings

  • 1 lb (500 g) minced pork
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • ¼ cup fish sauce
  • ½ cup shredded Napa cabbage
  • ½ cup been sprouts, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh mint, cilantro or Asian basil, chopped, loosely packed
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • ¼ tsp sesame oil
  • 1 pack 12 oz (340 g) 3.5X3.5 inch (8X8 cm) won ton wrappers – about 50, defrosted for about an hour
  • cup with water and a brush

In a bowl combine all the ingredients and mix well. On a clean surface place one wrapper. Spoon 1 teaspoonful of the mixture in the middle. Brush all the edges with water. Fold in half to form a triangle. Starting from the filling, squeeze the air out gently by brushing with your fingers towards the edges, then press to seal the won ton.

Now wrap one end around your finger, brush with a little water and press the other end to seal:

There, your won ton is ready. Place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper to prevent the dumplings form sticking to each other. Repeat with the rest.

The first few will be hard, but once you get it, it’ll be easier. Don’t overlap the won tons on the sheet and be careful to dry your hands and work surface – the wrappers get sticky when wet and they are hard to take back apart. You can make this few hours before cooking. Cover with foil and let stand at room temperature. Count the amount you will need and freeze the rest on a metal sheet, then transfer to freezer bags or containers. When needed take them out and lay on flat surface for at least an hour. Use in aromatic clear Thai soup or fry and serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

We love them the pot sticker way:

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat with ½ cup (125 ml) water and 2 tbsp vegetable oil for each 16 dumplings. Cover and cook for 6-8 min. They should be cooked through and have brown crispy bottoms. This is the side you should be serving them on. The taste explosion when you bite one is tremendous. They are great dipped in Chinese black vinegar or soy sauce, but I like to complicate things. My favorite is Vietnamese soy sauce recipe given by Trieu Thi Choi and Marcel Isaak in their Authentic Recipes from Vietnam.

Vietnamese soy sauce:

makes ½ cup

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp sugar (palm sugar preferable, but any will do)
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 small red chili, deseeded and minced (or ½ tsp chili garlic sauce)
  • 2 tbsp lime juice

Combine everything in a bowl and mix well.

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