In the mood for a Sweet Shortcut!

Here are three recipes for those times when you are entertaining but either don’t have time or aren’t in the mood to bake.  Now I admit I have been known to pop open a box of Dove Bars for company on occasion but in general, I prefer something a little more original.  I’ll order them by degree of difficulty and mess, starting with one so easy that it is not even a recipe, just an idea, and a tasty one at that.

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Yep, that’s it. Pieces of your favorite ice cream sandwich skewered with a juicy sweet raspberry on a cute bamboo toothpick.  Put your serving platter in the freezer for a bit so they won’t melt while they are being passed around.  Shouldn’t be a problem…they disappear quickly.

 

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Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches

You might be surprised to taste the difference between these semi-homemade ice cream sandwiches and the store bought variety.  I like to use small cookies so the dessert becomes a 3-4 bite treat.  The softEntenmann’s cookies make good sandwiches as do the crispy, buttery mini cookies that many gourmet companies package for sale.  The Chips Ahoy cookies tend to get rock hard in the freezer so I avoid those.
     Line a rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper and set your favorite gourmet ice cream out to soften a bit.  Use a table knife to generously mound ice cream onto one cookie and top with a second cookie.  Take care not to press the sandwich together too firmly, just a gentle touch so that it will hold together.  I like to quickly over-fill as many cookies as possible then put the whole sheet in the freezer to firm up for 15 minutes.  Then I quickly trim around the edges of each sandwich with a table knife to neaten them up.
     As an extra touch, I like to drizzle melted white chocolate and melted semi sweet chocolate over the tops of the ice cream sandwiches.  The quickest and easiest way to do this it to melt the chocolates separately in glass Pyrex cups in the microwave then stir and use a fork to drizzle.  After the sandwiches are frozen firmly, cover with plastic wrap or store in a zip lock freezer bag until ready to serve.
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Ice Cream Bonbons

 These little ice cream bonbons may be a little more work than the 2 previous desserts….but I think that these will be my go-to sweet shortcut for summer 2011.  If you like buttery caramel, covered in chocolate and dusted with flakes of sea salt just imagine how much you will love this same treat substituting caramel ice cream. Adapted from the June 2011 issue of Food and Wine in an article on Ice Cream Parlor Tricks,  these are just my style for summer entertaining.
10 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped chocolate wafer cookies (such as Nabisco Famous Wafers)
1 pint caramel ice cream (I used Haagen Dazs Dulche de Leche)
Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
In a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the dark and white chocolate together.  Scrape into a smaller cowl and let cool slightly.
Put the crushed cookies on a small plate.  Line 2 baking sheets with wax paper and place one in the freezer.  Fill a cup wit ice water
Working very quickly, scoop a 1 tablespoon size scoop of ice cream, packing it tightly.  Transfer it to the melted chocolate.  Using a skewer, poke the rounded top of the ice cream and coat the ball int he chocolate.  Lift the bonbon, allowing the excess chocolate to drip into the bowl.  dip the bottom of the bonbon in the cookie crumbs and set on the baking sheet.  Sprinkle salt on tom.  Let stand for 10 seconds then transfer the bonbon to the baking sheet in the freezer.  Repeat to form the remaining bonbons; dip the ice cream scoop in the ice water between scoops.  Freeze the bonbons until firm 30 minutes. then serve.
(I found it helpful to use a mini scoop (the one I use for cookie dough) and make all of the the ice cream balls at one time and freeze them solid before I began the chocolate dipping process.)
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In which I make Asian Potstickers!

It seems to me that everyone loves Asian dumplings…especially pot stickers.  I don’t believe that I have ever managed to make too many.  I offer up the recipe all the time but rarely get any takers.  Most people say that they wouldn’t have the nerve to try to make something like this. But they are actually very easy and  quite fun to make!  So I have photo-documented the process for making two types of pot stickers just to prove my point.

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Crab Pot Stickers with Sesame Ginger Dipping Sauce

This recipe from Gourmet Magazine is the easiest dumpling recipe I’ve ever tried.  It’s a great place to start if you’ve never worked with the wrappers before.  These wonderful little serving spoons are from CB2 .
For the dipping sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger root
2 1/2 teaspoons water
For the filling:
1 scallion
6 ounces jumbo lump crab meat
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger root
12 gyoza wrappers, thawed
cornstarch for dusting
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Make the dipping sauce.
In a small bowl, whisk together all dipping sauce ingredients.
Chop scallion and pick over crab meat to remove any bits of shell and cartilage.  Break up any larger pieces of crab.
In a dry small skillet toast sesame seeds with a pinch of salt over moderate heat, stirring frequently until golden, about 2 minutes,  Transfer seeds to a medium bowl and cool slightly,  Add egg white and ginger root to seeds and lightly beat.  Gently stir in crab and scallion and season with salt and pepper.
These are the thin, round wrappers to use for pot stickers. (There are several good brands available) They can be found in the freezer section of any Asian market. Keep them in the package while defrosting so that they don't dry out.

These are the thin, round wrappers to use for pot stickers. (There are several good brands available) They can be found in the freezer section of any Asian market. Keep them in the package while defrosting so that they don’t dry out.

 

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Defrosted wrappers, ready to be filled.
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Place one wrapper on a flat surface.  Dip a finger in water and moisten the edges.
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Place 1 tablespoon of the crab filling in the center of the wrapper. Then, using both hands, bring up the sides of the wrapper and gently pinch them towards each other. Let the filling show through at the top creating a shape like a draw string purse.
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Place the filled pot stickers in a single layer on a baking tray dusted with corn starch. (If you are not going to cook them right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)
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Heat the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Place pot stickers in pan, giving them enough room so that they do not touch.  Let cook until bottoms are starting to turn golden (about one minute) then…
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add 1/4 cup water and cover the pan immediately to allow the pot stickers to steam until cooked through, about 2 minutes.
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Remove lid and cook until any remaining water is evaporated and the bottoms of the pot stickers are golden brown.
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Serve with dipping sauce.  Makes 12. Recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc.
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Family Favorite Pot Stickers

These are the dumplings that my kids have grown up on. Once you get the hang of the folding and pleating, they don’t take long at all to assemble.  And they freeze beautifully so go ahead and make a huge batch.  Then the next time you are in the mood for pot stickers, you can cook them straight from the freezer (just increase the steaming time by a minute or two).  Of course you can use almost any ground meat or chopped seafood in these.  We most often turn to the convenience and light healthy taste of freshly ground turkey breast meat and I often add other veggies such as minced water chestnuts or scallions.
For the dipping sauce:
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar, optional
1 teaspoon minced scallion
1 teaspoon minced red jalapeno, or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons water
In a small bowl, whisk all dipping sauce ingredients together and set aside.
For the filling:
1/2 pound ground turkey breast
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons dry sherry or sake
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger root
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/3 cup coarsely grated carrot
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
In a small bowl, mix all filling ingredients together, gently but thoroughly.
36 gyoza wrappers
a couple of tablespoon of vegetable oil
low sodium chicken broth for steaming
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To fill the dumplings, moisten the edge of a wrapper with water and put a scant tablespoon of filling in the center.  Fold wrapper in half to create a half moon shape and seal the dumpling by making little folds in the top edge.  The bottom of the pot sticker will be flat as seen below left.  And the top will be pleated as in photo below right.
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Place filled pot stickers on cornstarch dusted baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate if not using immediately. Or to freeze, place whole baking sheet in the freezer until the dumplings are frozen solid then transfer to a zip lock freezer bag.
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These pot stickers are cooked just like the crab pot stickers in the previous recipe but I like to use reduced sodium chicken broth for the steaming liquid instead of water.  So heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet and fry the dumplings (one layer, well spaced) until they begin to brown on the bottom.  Add about 1/4 cup chicken broth and cover immediately to steam for 2-3 minutes. Remove the cover and let any remaining broth evaporate.  The pot stickers are ready when they are well browned on the bottom and “stuck” to the pan. (not too stuck since you are using a non stick pan) Serve with dipping sauce.
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