When the rainy season sets in, as it has over this past week, I find myself wanting to do one of two things – either curl up with a good novel (preferably a brilliantly stumping mystery) and a steaming cup of tea on the couch/bed; or, more rarely, don a flowery apron and set about cooking or baking something time-consuming and complex.

The latter plan is almost always accompanied by a bit of wistful longing for the opportunity to gather with family and spend days-if not a whole week-prepping and cooking special meals for a festive occasion.

But the indulgent moment quickly passes, when the reality of having neither such a tradition at hand anymore (separation by oceans and continents and all that sort of thing), and the subconscious relief not having to deal with more pressure and drama (as is inevitable with any family, I believe) take over.

So I trudge on and make do by myself, which is what I did this weekend when I set ut to make some Pierogis.

Not sure what got me started on Pierogis; perhaps it was a craving for homemade dumplings but without the inevitable taste of ginger – as a result of my newfound craze for the Ginger Scallion Oil, I’m afraid I’d let it overwhelm every dish I’ve made in the past week and a half.

Pierogi and its cousins like Ravioli and Jiao-zi are not meant to be made alone; if not for any other reason, that they are enormously time-consuming and involve several stages.

But one of the benefits of living in the Information Age is that there’s always a loophole: I used pre-made Gyoza wrappers instead.

Even as such, it’s a laborious process, but watching a show like ‘Rosemary & Thyme’ provides for some great distraction.

As for the filling, potatoes are peeled, boiled and mashed

Onions are browned

Then the 2 are mixed together with shredded cheddar cheese and seasoned liberally.

Soon enough, the Pierogi are laid out, ready to be

boiled quickly or pan-fried,

and then topped with anything from the traditional sour cream and chives and dill; warm browned butter; or fried onions.

Here, they glisten underneath a liberal sprinkling of Turkish Kirmizi Biber and dessicated green onions.

Perhaps it’s just as well that I don’t have a large Polish/Russian family around me right now to blanch at this blatant mixing of ingredients from all sorts of cuisines.

Maybe this dream of mine will be realized someday; maybe not. Until then, however, I shall keep turning out these dumplings and all their relatives, slowly and methodically, to keep the wistfulness of a rainy afternoon at bay.


Adapted loosely from SF Chronicle via smittenkitchen.com

Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut
3-4 tbsp unsalted butter
3 onions, finely chopped

1 Cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 – 2 packages of gyoza (pot sticker) /wonton wrappers

Sour cream, browned butter or vinegar to serve

Cook the potatoes in a large pot of salted boiling water until just tender. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large heavy frying pan and cook the onions until they soften then lightly brown, darkly browned in spots.

Mash the potatoes in a bowl then mix in the onions and the cheese. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Working on at a time, brush the edge of the round wrapper with water and place a spoonful of filling in the center. Fold dumpling in half, pressing the edges together to thoroughly seal.

Place each dumpling on a baking sheet and repeat until all filling has been used.

To cook the pierogi: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the dumplings one at a time, until the surface of the pan is covered with dumplings. Do not overcrowd; work in batches. When they are done, about 2-3 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon.

Transfer to bowls and serve with desired garnish.

To pan-brown the pierogi. Heat some oil in a heavy frying pan and add dumplings in a single layer. When they are golden and in spots, browned, turn and brown other side. Add enough water to reach about 1/4-1/2 inch in depth. Cover and cook 3-4 minutes; remove lid and check for doneness. When the liquid is evaporated, they are ready.

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Noodles with Ginger Scallion Oil

Despite the diversity of food cultures in SF, I find it lacking in some – Korean food, for instance. There isn’t much outside the barbecue scene. Elsewhere in the country, however, Korean food is making great strides: David Chang’s Momofuku enterprise in NYC, and the Kogi Taco Trucks in L.A, to name a couple.

Chang’s Momofuku franchise continues to make such news that I realized I’d either have to move to NYC or tackle the eponymous tome of his. For now, obviously, I had to contend with the latter (we are pretending, of course, that I’d ever move out of my darling SF, flawed as it is).

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Baked Orechiette with Broccoli Rabe/Rapini

More often than not, the recipes that call out to me tend to contain some sort of meat. I’ve worked around this to make the dish vegetarian by simply including the seasoning for it rather than the meat itself. I was never really sure if this was in any way technically correct or if it wouldn’t mess up the science of the dish(as baking powder vs baking soda might do in baking, for instance); I only went by the approval (or lack thereof) of the palete.

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Blood Orange, Fennel & Avocado Salad

If I had to pick one block in the entire city that encompasses the best of Foodie SF, it would have to be Dolores Park area in the Mission District.

This is, however, a relatively new status for the neighborhood:

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Pilaf with Kirmizi & Urfa/Isot Bibers

Very rarely does one sing praises more about garnish than the dish itself, but in the case of this gem from the genius of Yotam Ottolenghi, brought to you by Mark Bittman, that is precisely what I’m doing.

The dish in question is a simple Pilaf, golden with turmeric and fragrant with bay leaf, coriander, clove and cinnamon; and curiously, but with wonderful results, baked in the oven. However, it is the garnish, either one of/a medley of 2 glorious Turkish spices that really raises the whole thing to levels above sublime.

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