There are some weeks when I hardly cook at all. Last week was one of those weeks. I figure that I generally cook at least three times a week, often four. This week I cooked once. The rest of the nights were dining out and leftovers. There were plenty of leftovers for lunches and snacks, thanks to the huge batch of meatballs that came out of Smitten Kitchen’s lamb meatballs recipe (which used up some pretty old feta cheese). Then Matt brought home the rest of the individual pastrami sandwich he ordered for lunch from Harold’s New York Deli. To get some perspective on the size of their portions, I once took a picture of a single slice of their cake next to a wine bottle, which matched it in length. Too bad I can’t find that photo.
It’s as though I’m still in that pre-vacation mode, careful to be realistic about how much time I’ll actually have to cook before the kitchen is abandoned for restaurants or food truck tasting events. As a result, I didn’t have a whole lot prepared when Mother’s Day crept up, and I had the assignment of appetizers for my family gathering.
With leftover scallions, ginger, shredded mozzarella and other italian cheeses from home, the provisions of my mom’s pantry, and a dozen and a half button mushrooms, Matt and I cranked out two crowd-pleasing hot apps with little to no shopping, and minimal labor!
I did a variation on this stuffed mushroom recipe. I will admit that hollowing out the mushrooms is a bit labor-intensive.
This is an accomplishment for me, considering that I generally bite off way more than I can chew when it comes to recipes for entertaining. In addition, the first recipe I ever tried (and still use) for scallion pancakes is much more challenging, and has added steps. The most difficult part of making scallion pancakes is getting the scallions distributed throughout the dough, and not having them squeeze out everywhere and make a mess. The other recipe I use, an older one from Cooking Light, adds slippery sautéed mushrooms to the mix; those little suckers don’t like to stay in the dough.
But for a simple Sunday afternoon appetizer, a simplified recipe is the winner. You get most of your flavor from the dipping sauce, and it is much less messy to make.
Scallion Pancakes with Ginger Dipping Sauce
from Ming Tsai via The Food Network
Makes at least 24 slices of pancake for dipping
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 Cup boiling water
1/2 Cup scallions, sliced
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 Cup canola oil
Salt and black pepper
Ginger Dipping Sauce (makes more than you need for 1 recipe of pancakes):
1/4 Cup soy sauce
1/4 Cup vinegar, preferably Chinese rice vinegar, but don’t worry about substituting other light vinegars you have
1/4 Cup scallions, sliced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sugar
First, prepare the dough, which needs to rest for 30 minutes once made.
Sift flour into a bowl or a food processor. Pour the boiling water in at a steady stream while mixing, either with a wooden spoon or spatula or in a food processor. Add water until a ball is formed. After starting to mix with a spoon, we switched to mixing by hand to get the dough into a ball.
Let dough relax for at least 30 minutes, under a damp towel, while you slice and dice.
Prepare the dipping sauce. My substitution for Chinese rice vinegar was half seasoned rice vinegar and half regular white vinegar.
Prepare a lightly floured surface and roll out the dough into a thin rectangle. Brush to the edge with sesame oil.
Sprinkle evenly with scallions. Leave a little bit of room around the edges. Season with salt and pepper.
Roll from the long side like a sponge cake. Cut with a knife into 4 pieces.
(I should have gotten more pictures of this next part, but I was distracted. Guests would be arriving soon, and my dear husband needed assistance.)
Take one of the four pieces and gently twist three times, like a Tootsie roll wrapper. As you are doing this, it should stretch the piece a bit lengthwise. Take that snake and make a spiral, like a lollipop.
Take a rolling pin to this circle and flatten into a 5 to 6 inch pancake. Repeat.
The pancakes are then basically fried in canola oil. If you have a larger nonstick pan, you can do more than one at a time. With a smaller pan, I fried one at a time, adding canola oil as I went. You need a good coating of canola oil in the pan to get a golden brown.
Cut into wedges (I prefer using kitchen shears) and serve immediately with dipping sauce. They will be gone before you know it!