Zesty Seaweed Chips

Life always has a way of coming full circle.

When I was little, my mom would pack me a lunch of rice and dried seaweed that always triggered a wave of disgusted looks across the cafeteria table. Kids would declare “that’s gross!!!” as I tried to convince them they tasted just like chips. So I’d save up allowance to buy lunch and ditched the misunderstood Korean food somewhere between the school bus and the lunch bell.

I begged for Lunchables, Gushers, chips, and white bread sandwiches, but my mom, a typical health-obsessed-penny-wise Asian women, wasn’t having it. It wasn’t until I started coming home in tears that she finally broke. I still remember the first day I walked into the cafeteria, head held high, carrying a brown bag filled with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an apple - I was finally normal.

Fast-forward 20 years and I’ve finally embraced who I am and the food I eat, weird or not. And as I matured in life so did the American palate. Seaweed is no longer a fringe delicacy only found on hippy communes. You can now find overpriced, individually portioned packs of toasted seaweed at every Costco, Trader Joes, and Kroger. And no one would blink an eye if you picked up a seaweed salad with your New York Dragon Crunch roll.

I imagine that progressive moms everywhere proudly slip packs of toasted seaweed into their children's lunch boxes, and kids confidently brag about how good it is. Here’s a super flavorful recipe for zesty seaweed chips that are so good they will give potato chips a run for their money (oh btw they are way healthier too).

Zesty Seaweed Chips

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon oriental mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 5-6 sheets of roasted seaweed (I used Yaki Sushi Nori)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil

Instructions:

  1. Mix the first 5 ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Brush sesame oil onto one side of a seaweed sheet. Generously sprinkle the seasoning mixture as evenly as possible on the oiled side. Repeat for all the seaweed sheets.
  3. Heat a nonstick pan over medium high heat until hot. Lightly toast each side for about 10-15 seconds. 
  4. Cut each sheet into 8 rectangular pieces.

Scallops with Ramps and Caviar

Every so often you eat something so special that you’re rendered speechless. And those who know me know it takes A LOT to shut me up. 

What’s more is this dish didn’t come from a high-dollar restaurant; it was made at home by my boyfriend in 10 minutes and with only three ingredients: sea scallops, ramps, and caviar. Each ingredient is delicious on its own, but together they enhanced each other resulting in something perfect.

My boyfriend seared the scallops, intensifying their naturally sweet flavor. He then delicately wrapped each one with the green of a ramp, a variety of uncultivated green onion that is foraged in the mountains. They add a complex garlic dimension that tastes like the essence of spring: fresh, green, and wild. Ramps are uniquely delicious and extremely seasonal since they are only available from late April to early June.  

A dollop of briny capelin caviar was the last ingredient to a perfect trifecta. The caviar intensified the scallop’s sweetness just like a good finishing salt. It added pops of richness and a faint flavor of the ocean.

This dish is elegant enough for any dinner party and simple enough for a weeknight dinner at home. Make this dish while ramps are still in season. You still have a few weeks left :-).               

Scallops with Ramps and Caviar

3 scallops per serving - makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 sea scallops
  • 6 ramps (purchased at Whole Foods)
  • 3 teaspoons capelin caviar  (I bought my caviar on Amazon for $7)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Heat vegetable oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle salt on each side of the scallops. Once the oil is hot, add scallops to the pan. Cook scallops for 2 minutes on each side.

Cut off the white/purple end of the ramps (save for another purpose). Cut the green ramp leafs in half length-wise. Wrap each scallop with the two halves of the ramp, crisscrossing them at the top of the scallop. 

Top each scallop with a ½ teaspoon of caviar. Enjoy

Curry Gyoza

 Curry Gyoza

I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas. The pressure of getting everyone the perfect gift and the feeling that I’m hemorrhaging money never sat well with me. 

However, I’m not a total scrooge. I love the extra time spent with family and friends, and all the extraordinary dishes that are whipped out especially for the holidays. This is why Thanksgiving is so perfect: no presents or pre-Thanksgiving parties that are thrown for weeks on end - just friends, family, and food.

This year’s Thanksgiving was particularly memorable because I had back-to-back feasts: one traditional (turkey) and one Japanese. 

 Making Curry Gyoza   

The first Thanksgiving meal was at my mom’s house and the second was the next day at my best friend’s parent’s house. Mia’s mom has been cooking amazing Japanese meals for me ever since I was a kid, and I love her food just as much as my own mother’s. 

My sister and I arrived at Mia’s early Friday morning and we were soon joined by our childhood friend, Mamina. The four of us immediately started catching up on a year’s worth of stories and gossip while Mia’s mom prepared lunch. On the menu was fried curry gyoza (potstickers) and oden, a Japanese hot pot of assorted fish cakes, tofu, and vegetables.

 Making Curry Gyoza

We were all quickly enlisted to fill the gyoza, which has always been a communal activity. When done alone, wrapping fifty or sixty little potstickers can become tedious, but with a group of friends the task becomes a gyoza party! In what felt like no time at all, we made about 60 pretty little star-shaped packages, studded with a single pea.  

Mia's mom fried the gyoza and set it out on the table along with the simmering hotpot of oden. We all helped ourself to fish cakes and gyoza until we couldn't eat anymore. There was no better feeling.     

 Curry Gyoza
 Curry Gyoza

These fried gyozas are filled with curried potatoes and ground beef and adorned with a single emerald pea. The curried meat-and-potatoes heartiness is extremely satisfying, and I must warn you that these little guys are dangerously addictive.

Mrs. Brogan's Curry Gyoza

Yield: 50 – 60 Gyoza

Ingredients:

1 ½ pounds russet potatoes (about 3 medium)

½ pound ground beef

1 onion

1 carrot

3 cloves garlic

1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon curry powder

¼ teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

50-60 gyoza (dumpling) skins, a standard 12-ounce package will be enough and both round and square dumpling skins are fine

50 – 60 peas

Vegetable oil (enough to fill a pot with about 3 ½ inches of oil)

Gyoza Dipping Sauce (recipe below)

Bring about 2 ½ quarts of water to a boil. Meanwhile, peel potatoes and roughly cut into 1-inch pieces. Once the water is boiling add the potatoes and cook until fork-tender (about 10-15 minutes). Drain the water, leaving the potatoes in the pot. Mash the potatoes until there are no lumps and set aside.

Heat a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the ground beef. Break up the meat as it cooks so there are no large pieces. Cook until browned (about 10 minutes). Carefully drain any excess fat. Place the cooked ground beef into a bowl and set aside.

Cut onion and carrot into a small dice. Mince garlic. In the same skillet used to brown the beef, heat vegetable oil on medium heat.  Add the onion and carrots and cook until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and cook for 5 more minutes.  Sprinkle vegetables with curry powder and turmeric and cook for 1 minute.  

Turn off the heat and add the ground beef and mashed potatoes. Mix until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. 

Prepare a small bowl of water so you can moisten the gyoza wrappers; you only need a couple tablespoons of water. Next add about 2/3 of a tablespoon of the curried mixture to the center of the gyoza wrapper. Using you finger or a brush, moisten the dumpling wrapper around the filling. This will help you close the dumpling skin.      

Next, firmly pinch the dumpling skin into four points around the filling, leaving a small opening at the top to fit the pea garnish. Press one pea into the filling at the opening on top. Repeat, the filling process until all the dumplings are formed.

Fill a heavy bottom pot with about 3 ½ inches of vegetable oil.  Heat at medium to medium high heat until the oil reaches about 350 degrees.  Fry the dumplings in batches until they are golden brown (about 4-6 minutes). Be sure not to crowd the pot with gyoza (crowding causes the oil temperature to drop). Drain on paper towels. Serve with gyoza dipping sauce.

Gyoza Dipping Sauce

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 lemon wedge

Mix the ketchup and soy sauce into a small bowl. Squeeze the juice of one lemon slice and thoroughly mix.  

 Curry Gyoza
 Friends

BBQ Bacon Wrapped Persimmons

 BBQ Bacon Wrapped Persimmon
 BBQ bacon wrapped persimmon

“I’ll tell you my secret tip for cutting the calories, fat, and sugar in your favorite holiday recipes by 50%, EAT HALF OF IT” ~ tweet from Chez Pim.

It’s so obvious; yet it hit me like a ton of bricks. Just eat half of what I would normally eat? Genius! I’m going to arm myself with this approach at every holiday party from here on out. No low-fat food for me, just less of anything I want.  

Hors d’oeuvres make it easy to eat a little of everything without eating too much. I consider all hors d’oeuvre diet food based on their size alone. I mean, how many calories can you really pack into one bite?  

My boyfriend, Tommy, whipped up one of the best hors d’oeuvres I’ve had in a long time: BBQ bacon wrapped persimmons. When Tommy is bored he cooks (lucky me). He has the uncanny ability of transforming leftovers and miscellaneous ingredients into something magical. These BBQ bacon wrapped persimmons were no exception. They are sweet, smoky, and bacon-y. The mango-like flavor of the persimmon is unexpected and exotic when encased in a thin layer of crispy bacon. The barbecue sauce adds just the right amount of extra sweetness and spice. The minute I tasted these little gems, I fell in love just a little bit more. 

bbq bacon wrapped persimmon 1.jpg

A little about persimmons: 

Persimmons are common in Asia and are one of my all-time favorite fruits. I grew up eating the Fuyu variety, which are very sweet and have low acidity. They have a flavor that is similar to mango with touch of pleasant bitterness, which reminds me of a quality honey. They can be eaten at almost any stage of ripeness, from very hard to almost mushy.  

 BBQ Bacon Wrapped Persimmons

BBQ Bacon Wrapped Persimmons

 Yields 25 – 30

Note: Select a persimmon that is somewhat hard.  When you apply pressure with you thumb, the fruit should indent just slightly. You don’t want the fruit to be mushy at all, or it will be difficult to wrap and skewer with a toothpick. 

Ingredients:

1 medium persimmon (6 – 8 ounces)

10 pieces of bacon (do NOT use thick cut bacon)

1 – 2 tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons sweet barbecue sauce

2 sprigs of cilantro (optional, for garnish)

1/8 teaspoon paprika (optional, for garnish)

toothpicks

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Peel the persimmon and cut into ½ x ½ inch pieces. The number of pieces you cut will vary depending on the size of your persimmon. One persimmon should yield about 25 – 30 small pieces. 

Cut each bacon strip into thirds. Then wrap each piece of persimmon with a 1/3 strip of bacon and secure with a toothpick. If there is extra bacon on the end of the wrapped persimmon, then trim off the excess and reserve the trimmings for another purpose (bacon bits perhaps). You do not want to double wrap the fruit, or the bacon will not crisp during the cooking process. 

Lightly coat a cookie sheet with oil spray, or line with parchment paper or a non-stick silicon mat. Place the wrapped persimmons on the baking sheet and liberally sprinkle each one with brown sugar. 

Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and brush each bacon wrapped persimmon generously with barbecue sauce.  Return to the oven and bake for about 7 more minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes.  Move to a serving plate and sprinkle with paprika and cilantro.

 Inside of a Persimmon
 Cutting a persimmon
 Cutting a Perismmon
 Persimmon Wrapped in Bacon
 Wrapped Up