What I’m Reading Today

I’m back!  After an amazing food adventure to New York last week (post to come), holiday madness has officially set in here.  I’m in a bit of denial but figure some time in the kitchen might just cure that right up.

Shrimp and Cilantro Shu Mai are gorgeous little steamed dumplings.  Mark Bittman, in today’s New York Times, helps you realize that making them at home is no where near as difficult as you might think.  Won ton wrappers are easy to find, big supermarkets or your local Asian market will give you plenty of options.  With a very simple but well-seasoned filling of fresh shrimp, ginger, and toasty sesame oil, these dumplings can be made early in the day, covered with a lightly damp towel in the fridge, and steamed just before serving.  Bittman even has a video to walk you through the recipe.  Perfect party bites or great for dinner with sauteed pea shoots or snap peas. 
Does this cookie scream Christmas or what?  These Peppermint Meringues from The Washington Post (via Fine Cooking) are absolutely adorable snow-white kisses adorned with a dusting of crushed candy canes.  A few tricks on making your meringues bakery-worthy: have your egg whites at room temperature, whisk them in a very, very clean bowl, sift your powdered sugar so there isn’t a lump in sight, and invest in a pastry bag with a big star tip.  Finally, the best meringues, and the ones that really do look this white, are baked in an obscenely low oven for a long time.  This recipe calls for 3 hours at 175 degrees…sounds nuts but once that heat goes up the cookies start to brown and wont look nearly as lovely.
Tis the season for indulging.  No matter how hard we try, over-doing it during the holidays is tough to avoid.  Some while you’re baking cookies, sipping eggnog, frying latkes, or nibbling candy, make yourself a big ol’ batch of this Lentil and Barley Stew from The Los Angeles Times.  In under an hour, this hearty stew, prepared right from pantry ingredients, comes together.  Toss a simple salad and you’ve got a fabulous dinner.  Extras will freeze beautifully too.  Love their idea of topping it with a bit of crumbled feta but look in your fridge and use whatever cheese you have on hand for that little something extra.  Healthful and tasty, we could all use a bit more of that this month, right?
Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!
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