Monthly Archives: September 2005

Goodness Gracious: Gyoza!

September 30, 2005

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INT. CARYN’S APARTMENT–EVENING

Caryn and Winnie sit on pillows on the floor around the coffee table. Armed with a fancy set of chopsticks, each girl is devouring her own plate of tender dumplings stuffed as full as they can get.

CARYN

I never understand why people take the time to make perfect pleats on these things. Who looks at the pleats?

WINNIE

No time to examine them on the way to my mouth.

Caryn dips the last dumpling in the dark sauce and finishes it off. Winnie sets down her chopsticks.

WINNIE (CONT’D)

Still no sign of him?

CARYN

No. I’m getting bored. Maybe it’s time to look for another job.

Winnie laughs.

WINNIE

There’s no pleasing you, is there? Either you’re overworked and wanting to quit, or you’re bored…and wanting to quit. I can’t keep up.

Caryn starts to clear the table.

CARYN

All I know is that celebrities are weird. Who can keep up with them?

She plops her hands on her hips.

CARYN (CONT’D)

Maybe I’ll go to law school and become a lawyer like you. That seems interesting.

Winnie snickers at the thought.

WINNIE

Enough shop talk.

She gets up and follows Caryn into the kitchen.

WINNIE (CONT’D)

Got any mochi?

Gyoza (Pot Stickers)

This is a fairly traditional recipe for gyoza. You can substitute half the pork with an equal amount of minced, raw shrimp. Or chicken. Or use all vegetables. The mix is easy. The folding and pleating is the labor-intensive part.

5 oz. Napa cabbage, finely shredded

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 lb. ground pork

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced

2 green onions, green and white parts, chopped

2 tsp. cornstarch

1 TB. soy sauce

2 tsp. rice wine

1 TB. sesame oil

40 round gyoza skins

4 TB. vegetable oil, divided

1 cup chicken stock, divided

Dipping sauce:

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

splash of sesame oil

1. Salt cabbage in a collander over a large bowl. Toss to combine. Set aside for 20 minutes.

2. Combine pork through sesame oil with hands in a large bowl. Squeeze excess water from cabbage. Add cabbage to pork mixture and stir until well-combined.

3. Place a rounded teaspoon of pork mixture in the center of the gyoza skin. Wet the edges of the skin with water on your fingertip. Fold in half to form a semi-circle. Make pleats along the edges, squeezing tight to seal and tapping the bottom on the work surface to flatten. Set aside and repeat with remaining skins.

4. Heat 1 TB. of oil in wok or large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Place about ten gyozas in wok and pan fry until bottoms are golden brown, about 2 minutes.

5. Pour 1/4 cup stock into wok and cover with lid to steam gyozas until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove from wok and set aside.

6. Heat another TB. of oil in wok. Repeat process with another ten dumplings until all are cooked. Serve hot with dipping sauce.

Takin’ It Easy: Spinach Pie!

September 21, 2005

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INT. MR. R.’S MANSION–KITCHEN–DAY

The afternoon light warms the kitchen to a comfortable and sleepy temperature. Caryn sits at her table trying to stay awake. A magazine slips from her grasp and hits the floor with a THUD.

Caryn bolts upright as Flora enters.

CARYN

His lunch is on the counter.

Flora looks at the carefully prepared tray: spinach pie with a delicate, flaky crust, steaming tomato soup and a chilled glass of water with a lime wedge. Even a flower in a small glass vase.

CARYN (CONT’D)

Any sign of life in there?

Flora shakes her head no and takes the tray.

FLORA

Thank you, Caryn.

CARYN

Yeah, send him my regards.

Flora exits. Without a moment’s hesitation, Caryn returns to her nap.

Spinach-Ricotta Pie

Don’t put yourself out. Phyllo (filo) dough is actually so easy to work with and turns out a great dish. Be sure to thaw the dough completely before unrolling it.

1 lb. bag of baby spinach (about 15 cups)

2 TB. olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 TB. fresh oregano, chopped

4 eggs

4 oz. low-fat ricotta cheese

2 oz. parmesan, freshly grated

1 tsp. salt, divided

1/2 tsp. black pepper

4 TB. butter, melted

12 sheets phyllo dough

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Bunch or roll a handful of spinach leaves together, cut into thin strips. Repeat until all spinach is chopped. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.

3. Add spinach, oregano, and 1/2 tsp. salt to the onion. Cook over high heat until nearly all the liquid has evaporated from the spinach, about five minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

4. Beat eggs in large bowl. Add ricottta, parmesan, pepper and remaining salt. Stir until smooth. Add spinach mixture.

5. Brush the bottom and sides of a 13×9 baking pan with butter. Arrange half of the phyllo sheets in the bottom of the dish to cover and extend 1 inch up the sides (trim excess if necessary). Brush with butter.

6. Spoon spinach mixture over phyllo dough. Cover with remaining dough and neatly tuck the edge under. Brush with butter and diagonally score the top with the tip of a sharp knife.

7. Bake until pastry is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cut into 8 large squares and serve hot.

Serves 8.

Spicy Hot: Shrimp Wraps!

September 11, 2005

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INT. HOLLYWOOD MANSION–KITCHEN–DAY

Sizzling shrimp are the focus as Caryn prepares lunch. She tosses them around, determining that they are done, and then carries the skillet to the counter where the rest of the ingredients wait patiently.

Flora walks in with arms full of dirty laundry.

CARYN

Hey, Flora.

FLORA

It’s good to have you back again, Caryn. This place is so lonely when he’s on a movie.

Caryn smiles as she carefully drops the shrimp on top of the lettuce, cheese, tomato and jalapenos that sit in the center of a large flour wrap. Flora shoves the laundry into the chute and watches it tumble down to the basement.

CARYN

Will he be coming to the table for lunch today?

FLORA

No, Caryn, I’ll bring it to him.

Caryn stops, a bowl of pink sauce in her hand.

CARYN

Are you kidding me? I haven’t seen him in a week. Is he going to hide away in his room forever?

Flora shrugs apologetically. Caryn sighs with impatience. She finishes the wrap and slices it neatly in two before handing the plate to Flora.

CARYN (CONT’D)

In that case, Flora, tell him I’m leaving early today. I’ll put his dinner in the fridge.

Flora disappears through the swinging door. Caryn looks at the rest of the shrimp in the skillet. She resignedly shakes her head before taking out another wrap for herself.

Spicy Shrimp Wraps

This is a fast, but tasty, recipe for a quick meal. Pretty much all the portions of ingredients are negotiable, so adjust according to taste.

1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 TB. ground cumin

2 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. cayenne

2 TB. olive oil

1 lime

1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce

1/2 cup tomato, diced

4 oz. hot jalapeno jack cheese, shredded

1/2 cup pickled jalapeno, chopped

4 large flour wraps (or flour tortillas)

Sauce:

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 TB. sour cream

2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped

2 tsp. adobo sauce

1. To make sauce, combine ingredients in small bowl until smooth.

2. Combine salt, pepper, cumin, paprika and cayenne. Add shrimp and toss to coat.

3. Heat oil in large skillet over high heat. Add shrimp and saute until cooked through, about two minutes. Remove from heat and squeeze lime over shrimp.

4. Evenly distribute lettuce, tomato, cheese and jalapenos over the bottom third portion of each of the four wraps. Divide shrimp over the other ingredients on the wraps. Drizzle with desired amount of sauce. For each wrap, fold in sides and roll up from the bottom. Slice in two and serve.

Yield: 4 wraps.

Laborless Lemon Shortbread!

September 5, 2005

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INT. CARYN’S APARTMENT–DAY

Caryn lounges on the couch, still wearing pajamas that look like they’ve been on her body for a few days. A cup of lemon-blueberry tea steams from the coffee table. Next to the cup is a severely depleted pile of buttery, lemon shortbread.

Mom walks in from the bedroom, fully dressed for a day on the town. She turns down the volume on the blaring television.

MOM

Is that all you’re going to do all day? Lay around eating shortbread and watching weepy movies?

CARYN

I sense that you don’t approve.

MOM

I’m going shopping. Want to come?

Caryn rolls over on the couch and stretches.

CARYN

Mom, it’s Labor Day and I have no desire to do anything that even remotely hints at the idea of labor.

Mom hooks her little pink purse on her arm, which perfectly matches her pink capri pants.

MOM

Suit yourself, but you really can’t afford to eat any more shortbread.

Mom leaves and Caryn reaches for another piece.

Lemon Shortbread

1 1/2 sticks of salted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 TB. grated lemon zest

1/2 tsp. lemon extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream together butter and sugar until light. Sift flour into butter. Add zest and extract and blend until smooth.

3. On an ungreased cookie sheet, press dough into an 8″ square with lightly floured fingers. Smooth top and score into 2″ squares with the back of a knife.

4. Bake until lightly golden on edges, about 20 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Cut into 2″ pieces and continue to cool on wire rack.

Yield 16 cookies.

Memories of Childhood: Linguine with Clams!

September 2, 2005

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INT. KITCHEN IN ATLANTA HOME–EVENING–FLASHBACK, LATE 1970s

CHILD CARYN, about 5, sits at a table flanked by her YOUNG MOM and her blond-haired, blue-eyed SISTER KRISSY, about 7. Her YOUNG DAD sits across from her wearing square glasses with thick black frames. All are dressed in the appropriate attire for a family in the late 70s: bellbottoms.

Caryn and Krissy pick at the plate of pasta in front of them while their parents try to ignore them. Caryn sorts little pieces of indistinguishable seafood from the long strands.

CARYN

Mommy, what’s this?

YOUNG MOM

Linguine. Eat it.

CARYN

Lin-gweeeee-neeee?

Caryn spears a piece of shrimp with her fork and sniffs it. Krissy does the same and both girls immediately recoil in horror. For the rest of their meal, the girls attempt to clean the pasta of any evidence of the sauce before sucking up one strand at a time.

INT. CHURCH–CHRISTMAS EVE–FLASHBACK, EARLY 1980s

The traditional church with hard, mahogany pews is filled with the radiant light of the candles in the PARISHIONERS’ hands . The CHOIR leads the church in familiar Christmas hymns.

Mom, Dad, Krissy and Caryn, dressed in festive velvets and taffetas, sing the chorus with full, wide-opened mouths. One by one, the FOLKS in the pew in front of the family turn around to see who is behind them.

Mom and Dad seem to catch on to the unwanted attention before the two girls. Dad casually whispers to Mom at the start of the next verse.

DAD

Maybe next year we shouldn’t have the chicken with forty cloves of garlic before the candlelight service.

INT. ATLANTA KITCHEN–EVENING–FLASHBACK, 1980s

Caryn continues to grow up with every appearance. She wanders in wearing a neon orange sweatshirt with matching ribbons in her pigtails. Mom, now with a wavy perm in her hair, stirs parsley into a sauce on the stove.

CARYN

What’s for dinner?

MOM

Your favorite.

The drama queen spots the can of clams and staggers back.

CARYN

Nooooooooooo!!!!

INT. ATLANTA KITCHEN–DAY–FLASHBACK, LATE 1980s

Same place, same Mom in a sparkly blouse, but Caryn’s pigtails are now gone and she’s a tad bit taller. A large stock pot simmers on the stove. Mom peaks in as Caryn tries to steal a look too.

MOM

Want to try it?

Caryn is alarmed at the mere suggestion.

CARYN

Before dinner?

Mom flips off the lid.

MOM

Yep.

She scoops a little of the rich, tomato sauce into a bowl, leaving the chunks of pepperoni and sausage in the pot.

MOM (CONT’D)

I always like to have a little of the sauce with some bread for lunch. I like it better than on spaghetti.

She hands Caryn a slice of white bread. Mom and daughter tear off a piece of their bread and dip it into the sauce, coloring it a bright orangey-red. Caryn tastes it.

CARYN

Mmmmm. I wish we could have spaghetti every night!

Krissy, now the typical 80s teenager with big hair and colorful hoop earrings, walks in and sees them eating.

KRISSY

Hey! How come nobody called me?

INT. ATLANTA KITCHEN–EVENING–FLASHBACK, 1990

Dad, older but wearing the same thick-framed glasses as before, stands at the counter opening the mail. Mom stirs a pound of linguine into a pot of boiling water. The sound of a car’s motor is heard from the garage off the kitchen.

DAD

She’s baaaack.

Before long, a teenage Caryn comes in and unloads her backback in the middle of the floor.

MOM

Don’t leave that there. Take it upstairs.

CARYN

What’s for dinner?

MOM

Linguine.

Caryn dejectedly picks up the backpack and stomps out.

CARYN (O.S.)

Motherrrr, why can’t we ever have meatloaf or mac and cheese like a normal family?

Mom and Dad shrug to each other and continue about their business.

EXT. CARYN’S DUPLEX APARTMENT–EVENING–PRESENT DAY

A travel-weary Caryn drags her over-stuffed luggage up the steps of her front porch. She takes out her key to unlock the front door, but is surprised to find the door already slightly ajar.

INT. APARTMENT

Mom is sitting on the couch watching television when Caryn enters.

CARYN

Mom, what are you doing here?

MOM

I thought I’d come visit for a couple days. Good thing, too, because you really left this place a mess.

Caryn shoves the suitcases aside and plops down on the couch.

CARYN

You really could have given me a little warning before heading across the country to visit me.

MOM

I made dinner.

Caryn perks up at the thought of food. Mom goes into the kitchen.

CARYN

What’d you make?

MOM

Your favorite.

Mom’s Linguine with Shrimp and Clams

I learned to cook by watching my mother, who rarely made a bad meal. Originally from a Joy of Cooking recipe, Mom has made this quick pasta for as long as I can remember, much to the dismay of her children. She has adapted it over the years and often adds a dozen fresh littleneck clams to the canned. If using fresh clams, steam the clams in white wine by themselves in a pot with a lid. Make the sauce without the shrimp and add the steamed clams when you add the canned.

6 Tbl. olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

3/4 cup finely chopped parsley

1 cup minced clams with liquid (canned)

1/2 lb. shrimp, chopped into small pieces

1/8 tsp. oregano

1/2 cup white wine or vermouth

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 lb. linguine

parmesan cheese, freshly grated

1. Cook linguine according to package directions.

2. While pasta cooks, heat olive oil in large skillet until hot. Add minced garlic and cook gently 5 minutes.

3. Add parsley, clams, shrimp, oregano, wine and cayenne. Heat until bubbling and shrimp are pink.

4. Add sauce to hot cooked pasta and dress with parsley and lots of fresh parmesan.

Serves 3-4.

**This entry fulfills my obligation to the Memories of Childhood Meme for which I was tagged by Haverchuk. I’m now tagging Lisa at the new Lekker Lekker Lekkerste, Tara at the beautiful Seven Spoons and my buddy Danno at Cook’s Journal and Nola Cuisine (because he tagged me once before and I’m getting him back).