A Simple and Quick Asian Dumpling Soup

This soup is a really simple way to make a Quick Asian Dumpling Soup. Most of the ingredients are probably in your refrigerator and pantry. Ample Bites always has a few frozen pot stickers to supplement an order of sushi or to have for dinner, in lieu of pizza, on a bachelor night.

Quick Chinese Dumpling Soup
(Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, Soup Magazine, Fall/Winter 2012)

Serves 8

1 32-ounce carton low-sodium chicken broth
1 32-ounce carton low-sodium mushroom or vegetable broth
2 cup water
4 tsp grated fresh ginger
4 10-ounce packages frozen pot stickers
4 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
3 medium carrots, cut into thin 2-inch strips
2 small bunch green onions, trimmed and sliced diagonally

In a Dutch oven combine broth, water, ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil. Bring to a boil over high heat.

Add pot stickers, carrots and most of the green onions. Return to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 8 to 10 minutes or until pot stickers are heated through.

Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with remaining green onions.

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Roasted Pepper and Onion Salad with Blue Cheese

Roasted Pepper and Onion Salad with Blue Cheese is a nice salad to serve with winter meals, especially as a side for Thanksgiving or Christmas. The juices created during the roasting of the vegetables becomes a warm, unique dressing for the salad. The salad can be served without the blue cheese but Ample Bites recommends including the sharp but velvety texture of the blue cheese because of how it compliments the vegetables and the acidity of the sherry vinegar.

Roasted Pepper and Onion Salad with Blue Cheese
(Adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2012)

Serves 4 – 6

2 medium red onions, quartered through stem end
4 roasted red peppers, quartered lengthwise
6 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
8 cups (loosely packed) frisee
1/3 cup thinly sliced blue cheese

Preheat oven to 450F. Combine first four ingredients in a shallow 2-quart baking dish; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast vegetables, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized and softened, about 40 minutes. Stir in vinegar. Season to taste with salt, pepper and more vinegar, if desired.

Arrange frisee on plates, divided evenly. Spoon vegetables over frisee. Drizzle juices in baking dish over top. Top with blue cheese.

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Tomato-Garlic Soup with Fennel

After all of the rich and heavy food of the Thanksgiving weekend Ample Bites went in search of a light, winter soup and found a version of tomato soup that incorporates lots of garlic and a favorite Ample Bites vegetable, fennel. Try this savory Tomato-Garlic Soup with Fennel along with a toasty grilled cheese sandwich for a hearty lunch or dinner.

Tomato-Garlic Soup with Fennel
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 4

1 medium fennel bulb with tops
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 14.5-ounce can low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup hot-style tomato juice
1 tsp dried basil, crushed
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Reserve some of the feathery fennel tops to garnish the soup. Remove any tough or bruised outer leaves from the fennel bulb. Trim off and discard the root end and stems. Quarter the bulb lengthwise; remove and discard core. Chop fennel.

In a 4-quart Dutch oven heat oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add chopped fennel, onion, and garlic. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, covered, about 25 minutes until onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, until onion is golden, stirring frequently.

Add tomatoes, broth, tomato sauce, vegetable juice and basil. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer covered, for 15 minutes. Blend with an immersion blender to break down some of the larger vegetable pieces.

To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with reserved fennel tops.

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Smoked Salmon and Chive Pizza

Not only is Friday Pizza Night but the Wednesday before Thanksgiving can be, too. Ample Bites made Smoked Salmon and Chive Pizza while preparing for the biggest dining holiday of the year.

Smoked Salmon and Chive Pizza
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 4

1 pizza dough, divided into equal crusts
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
½ cup chives, chopped
½ cup smoked salmon, diced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded

Prepare pasta dough and divide the dough into four equal crusts. Preheat oven to 425F. Preheat pizza stone for about 20 minutes.

Saute onions in one tablespoon of oil until soft, stirring occasionally, until soft and just beginning to color. Set aside to cool.

Spread onions over pizza crust. Sprinkle the cheese, chives and salmon over the onions.

Bake each pizza for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and crust is golden. Before serving, drizzle with oil and cut into wedges.

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Healthier Veal Piccata

Ample Bites made this traditional Italian dish using veal but chicken can be substituted. Veal Piccata recipes normally include much more butter and the cutlets are sometimes breaded with flour, egg and breadcrumbs. This Healthier Veal Piccata uses only 2 tablespoons of butter, one to make a small portion of roux and the other to finish the sauce. The cutlets are not breaded. They are simply seasoned with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Enjoy this dish with some warm, crusty bread and nice dry white wine or the Chianti of your choice.

Healthier Veal Piccata
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 4

Extra-virgin olive oil
8 thin veal cutlets, pounded flat
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup dry white wine
1 ½ cups fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth
4 tsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
4 (1/8-inch) lemon slices
3 Tbsp capers
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet in the oven.

Season veal with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Place 2 cutlets in the hot pan and brown lightly on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the cutlets from the pan and place them on the wire rack in the oven. Repeat with the remaining cutlets, browning 2 cutlets at a time.

In a small saucepan make a light blond roux by melting 1 tablespoon of butter, then whisking in the flour.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Deglazed with the wine and reduce the wine by about half. Add the roux to the skillet and slowly add the chicken broth whisking. Bring the sauce to a boil, whisking, until the sauce thickens. Return the veal to the skillet with the rosemary, lemon slices, and capers; gently simmer to finish cooking, about 3 minutes.

Place cutlets on serving plate(s). Add butter to the skillet and reduce the sauce for about 1 minute, over high heat. Spoon the sauce over the veal.

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Leek and Mushroom Gratin

Ample Bites presents Leek and Mushroom Gratin. Yet another hearty side dish suitable for Thanksgiving dinner.

Leek and Mushroom Gratin
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Gourmet, October 2012)

Serves 6

¾ stick unsalted butter, divided
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
¼ pound Gruyere, finely grated – about 2 cups
½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 Tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
3 pounds leeks, root ends trimmed
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 ½ cups low sodium chicken stock
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over low heat, then cool.

Toss melted butter with breadcrumbs, cheeses, garlic, parsley, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a bowl until combined.

Trim each leek to an 8-inch length. Halve leeks lengthwise, then cut crosswise into roughly 1-inch pieces. Wash leeks and drain well.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 1 to 1 ½-qt heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook roux, whisking, 1 minute. Add stock in a slow stream, whisking, then bring to a boil, whisking. Add nutmeg and zest and boil, whisking, 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 400F. Butter baking dish.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add leeks and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper, then cover leeks directly with a round piece of parchment paper and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed and leeks are tender and just beginning to brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat until foam subsides. Add mushrooms and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed and mushrooms are just beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Remove parchment from leeks and stir in mushrooms. Transfer mixture to baking dish, spreading it evenly. Pour sauce over vegetables and top with crumb mixture. Bake until gratin is babbling and topping is golden, about 15 minutes.

Note: Gratin can be assembled, without breadcrumbs, 8 hours ahead and chilled (covered once cooled). Bring to room temperature, stir, and top with breadcrumbs before baking.

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Chicken Thighs Braised with Creole Mustard

Chicken Thighs Braised with Creole Mustard is the epitome of a comfort food. Ample Bites likes this dish because is so simple and it melds the delicious flavors of the meat chicken thighs, the mustard and the spices into luxurious meal.

Chicken Thighs Braised with Creole Mustard
(Adapted from Southern Comfort by Alison Vines-Rushing and Slade Rushing)

Serves 4

8 chicken thighs
1 ¾ tsp fine sea salt, divided
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced on a bias into ¼-inch pieces, plus 1 Tbsp finely chopped celery leaves
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
1 rosemary sprig
2 Tbsp Creole or whole grain mustard
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup low sodium chicken stock
½ cup half and half
1 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 350F. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large, deep, oven-safe skillet or pot set over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chicken thighs, skin-side down, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the skin is golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Use metal spatula to turn the thighs over and cook until the surface of the meat pales, about 1 minute longer. Transfer the chicken skin-side up to a plate.

To the skillet, add the celery, onion, garlic, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high and stir in the mustard, then pour in the wine. Cook until the wine is slightly reduced, 3 to 5 minutes, then add the broth and nestle the chicken thighs skin-side up into the skillet.

Cover the pan and braise the chicken in the oven for 25 minutes. Uncover and cook 20 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a platter and set aside.

Set the skillet over medium-high heat and add the cream. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaf, rosemary and thyme sprig, and stir in the chopped celery leaves and parsley leaves. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.

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Brussels Sprouts and Spinach

Brussels Sprouts and Spinach is a perfect side dish for a hearty Fall meal and it goes great with roasted turkey.

Brussel Leaf and Baby Spinach Saute
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of The Sprouted Kitchen, Sara Forte, October 2012)

Serves 4

1 pound Brussels sprouts
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine or champagne vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
4 cups baby spinach
2 generous pinches of sea salt
¼ cup minced almonds

Working with one Brussels sprout at a time, peel each individual leaf, starting from the outside and working toward the middle. Continue to peel until you get to the tough core where it is too tight to pull any more leaves. Discard the core and put the leaves in a big bowl. Repeat with remaining sprouts.

Over medium heat, warm olive oil in a large frying pan. Add all the Brussels leaves and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add the vinegar and maple syrup and toss to coat. Add the spinach to the pan and toss until it is just barely wilted. It is better slightly underdone, as it will continue to cook in its own heat.

Sprinkle with salt and almonds and serve immediately.

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A Rich Meal with Salmon and Mushrooms

Ample Bites cooks a lot of salmon but if you want to try a really rich, savory and enjoyable salmon dish … this is it. The Cedar-Planked Salmon with Mushroom Ragout, Goat Cheese Crumbles and Pinot Reduction is an elegant meal. It is actually a surprisingly simple dish to make if you have the ingredients and a soaked cedar plank. Simple ingredients, simple techniques, simple spices – awesome food.

Cedar-Planked Salmon with Mushroom Ragout, Goat Cheese Crumbles and Pinot Reduction
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Carolina Cooking by Debra Zumstein and Wil Kazary, 2007)

Serves 4

4 (6-ounce) wild salmon fillets, skin off
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil for sautéing
1 large cedar plank, thoroughly soaked in water
1 cup Pinot Noir
½ cup goat cheese crumbles

Wild Mushroom Ragout
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Extra-virgin olive oil for sautéing
3 cups fresh wild mushrooms (cremini, shiitake, oyster, Portobello)
1 cup dried wild mushrooms, rehydrated in 2 cups hot water
1 tsp thyme
¾ cup half and half

Preheat oven to 375F.

Season salmon on both sides with salt and pepper. Sear salmon on both sides in pan with oil. Remove salmon from pan and place on cedar plank. Put in oven and bake for 7 to 10 minutes.

Pour wine in a saucepan and reduce over medium-high heat until syrup consistency.

Sweat onion and garlic in a large sauté pan with olive oil. Add the fresh mushrooms. After they are reduced, remove the mushrooms and dice them on a cutting board. Return the diced mushrooms to the pan. Add the rehydrated mushrooms and their water. Cook down until most of the water has evaporated. Add thyme and cream and stir. Allow to thicken, then remove from heat.

Ladle mushroom ragout onto plate. Top with salmon drizzle with the wine reduction. Serve with you favorite seasonal vegetables and goat cheese crumbles.

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Flav’our Cooking School

Ample Bites journeyed to Forest Park, Illinois, a near west suburb of Chicago, to participate in a cooking class at Flav'our Cooking School. Our route from the far west suburbs during rush hour was circuitous but when we arrived in Forest Park we were pleasantly surprised by the updated downtown area on Madison Street where the school is located. There is a nice array of restaurants and boutique stores covering about a 5 block stretch. We arrived early enough to take in a glass of wine and Bruschetta con Prosciutto at Francesca Fiore, which was located a couple doors down from Flav’our Cooking School.

Upon arriving at Flav’our I was immediately impressed by the bright, open design of the store and cooking demonstration area. The high, ornate ceilings and tastefully displayed modern cookware give Flav’our an elegant and clean feel. The Chef/Owner, Denise Norton, and her staff do a very nice job of creating an inviting atmosphere for hobbyist cooks, like Ample Bites, to learn culinary techniques.

Our class consisted of Ample Bites and two friends along with nine other patrons. We were split into two 6-person teams with three on each side of two large butcher-block tables. These tables served as prep surface and dining table. As we cooked, we enjoyed a selection of wines by the glass, craft beers and complimentary water, tea and coffee. Ample Bites thoroughly enjoyed a couple pints of India Pale Ale.

Our teacher, a formally-trained Chef who is now a personal chef and culinary instructor, guided us through a Thanksgiving “Lite” menu that included Harvest Grain Salad with Orange Dressing, Turkey Potato Stew, Cranberry Compote, and Pumpkin Pie Pudding. At the end of the three hour class, we would enjoy the meal that we had prepared.

Our instructor facilitated the cooking process by organizing the needed cookware and ingredients for each of the four dishes. Our task was to read the recipes, follow the instruction and assemble each of the dishes. Along the way we were treated to some tips about preheating Dutch ovens, such as Le Creuset cookware, use of Silpat silicone pads for baking, and a slick – though not terribly safe – trick for mincing garlic.

I will not bore you with the details of each of the tips but I must comment on the value of understanding how and why to brown meat. The caramelization of the meat gives flavor to dishes like stews, chili, and braises. Three important tips to good browning are 1) preheat your cooking pan while it is dry, then add the oil to be used for browning, 2) space the meat with room to allow the juices to release and evaporate, even if you must do your browning in batches, and 3) be patient and allow the meat to brown, checking occasionally, and release from the pan.

Once our food preparation was complete and we began to eat our meal, the students in the class seemed to most enjoy the Harvest Grain Salad with Orange Dressing and the Turkey Potato Stew. You can find Ample Bites adaptations of the recipes for each below.

After years of being self-taught and learning from friends, family and The Food Network I thoroughly enjoyed my first formal cooking school experience and I expect to go back for more “training” after the holidays.

Turkey Potato Stew
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Flav’our Cooking School, 2012)

Serves 4-6

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound ground turkey
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp dried oregano
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, cut into coins
2 celery stalks, diced
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups beef or chicken stock
1 cup crushed tomatoes
4-6 medium red potatoes, cut into wedges
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped

Heat a large heavy pot with lid on over medium high heat. After about 5 minutes, add 1 tablespoon oil and swirl to coat the cooking surface. Add the turkey and season it with salt and pepper and brown. Flip halfway through and break the meat up with a spoon. Add the sage, fennel and oregano and cook for about 1 minute. Remove the browned meat from the pot and set aside.

Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add the remaining oil and swirl to coat the cooking surface. Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Saute until aromatic and tender, about 5 minutes. Add wine and deglaze the pot, scraping bits from the bottom of the pot. Add flour and stir to incorporate into the vegetables, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes to cook off flour taste. Add the stock slowly, stirring to incorporate into the roux and bring to a simmer to thicken. Add the tomatoes and potatoes to the pot and then add the browned meat. Add the thyme, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir several times during braising.

To serve, ladle into large bowls and garnish with parsley.

Harvest Grain Salad with Orange Dressing
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Flav’our Cooking School, 2012)

Serves 4-6

1 cup uncooked wild rice
5 cups water
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp orange zest, finely grated
1/4 cup orange juice freshly squeezed
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup dried tart cherries or cranberries
1 Granny Smith apple, diced
4 cups mesclun greens

Put rice and water in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until rice puffs and is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and reserve the rice.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Put the pine nuts on the pan, place in the oven and toast until lightly browned, 8-10 minutes.

Heat a grill pan or grill until hot. Brush asparagus spears with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until asparagus is al dente, about 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from heat and cut the asparagus into bite-sized pieces.

Put zest, juice, vinegar, mustard, shallot and garlic in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine the ingredients. Drizzle in oil while whisking constantly. Taste and adjust seasoning and oil to vinegar level.

Put wild rice, pine nuts, asparagus, berries and apples in a medium bowl. Add a portion of dressing to lightly coat the ingredients. Toss to mix and add more dressing, as needed. Put mesclun in bowl and coat with some dressing. To serve create a bed of mesclun on each plate and top with the grain salad. mixture.

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