Anatomy of a Weeknight Dinner

Who: The Family DALS
What: Dumpling Dinner
When: Wednesday Early Evening, Day 4 of a 6-Day, 90-Plus Degree Heat Wave
Where: Somewhere in Suburban New York
Why: Try them

6:30 I guess I should think about dinner.
6:31 Open fridge. Summer spinach, almost wilted, staring at me. Quick scan reveals heel of cabbage, bag of organic (yet still tasteless) shredded carrots.
6:32 Lightbulb! Dumplings!
6:40 Sauté all greens in aromatics (ginger, onions, garlic); drizzle with soy sauce and vinegar; remove to a bowl.
6:45 Damn it’s hot. Peel kids off TV room couch.
7:00 Hit the neighborhood pool. On the way, send bikini-and-flip-flop clad 12-year-old into store to buy wonton wrappers.
7:40 Home. Dumpling Assembly Line. Remind kids that allowance is something to be earned.
8:00 Dinner: Dumplings + a bowl of raw sugar snap peas.
8:30 Return to pool. (Why shower when you can swim?)

Veggie Dumplings
I’ve added chopped water chestnuts before (and also tofu) but I’m guessing that’s not the kind of thing you have lying around…and making use of what you have lying around is the name of the game here. Measurements are approximate — it’s definitely a feel-your-way kind of recipe. If you have leftover cooked shrimp or pork, just chop finely, and use in place of the vegetables below.

2 tablespoons neutral oil such as vegetable (or olive oil in a pinch)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 bunch scallions (light green and white parts only), minced OR 1/2 small onion, chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
few dashes red pepper flakes
generous handful (about 2 cups) shredded greens (chard, summer spinach, kale, spinach, collards, escarole)
small handful shredded (about a half cup) carrots
small handful shredded (about a half cup) cabbage (Napa, red, savoy)
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or to taste, depending on how many greens you have)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
20-25 wonton wrappers (I used Nasoya brand)
oil (if frying)

In a deep-sided skillet over medium heat, add oils, then scallions, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add vegetables and cook another two minutes until wilted. Add soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. Taste. Make sure it’s good. Remove to a bowl and snip with kitchen scissors. (So your kids don’t end up biting into a long stringy green and then declaring it their last bite. It happens.)

Fill a small bowl with water. Working one at a time, using your fingers, paint the rim of a wonton wrapper, then dollop about two teaspoons of your vegetables into the center. Fold over and pinch sides together so they resemble triangles, as shown above. Repeat with remaining dumplings, and don’t be afraid to enlist the kids, especially if those kids have been collecting allowance with not a whole lot to boast on the job description lately.

Once all your dumplings are assembled, steam over simmering water for 4-5 minutes, or fry a half dozen at at time for 1-2 minutes in vegetable oil over medium heat. If frying, remove to a paper-towel lined plate and cover with foil as you go.

Serve with a dipping sauce made of mostly soy sauce, a little rice wine vinegar, and a squeeze of lime juice.

 Click here to read more in the “Anatomy of a Weeknight Dinner” series.

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9 Comments

Emily

My dad spent time overseas with the Navy and learned how to make Chinese food while in China. This reminds me of all the times he enlisted my sisters and I in wonton, shu mai, and spring roll wrapping. Makes me long for another homemade Chinese food night like those of my youth

Reply
Julie

Jenny,

I love the references to kids who collect allowance with nothing on the job to boast about……I’m not alone!

Thank you!

Julie

Reply
Maureen @Raising The Capable Student

In NC, the heat has kept our neighborhood pool almost as warm as a hot tub, but it beats not swimming at all!

I agree with you – dinner is a group effort! Thanks for your practical recipes. I can always count on them being realistic to make in a bathing suit or at the end of a school day.

Reply
Andrea g

Love these posts. Is this your typical dinner time? Here in the Midwest I couldn’t fathom eating dinner that late at night, 630 is super late to me lol! I’m in bed at 930. My kids are younger 3, 6, 8; but I salute you headed to an activity so late and still making dinner happen

Reply
Andrea g

Love these posts. Is this your typical dinner time? Here in the Midwest I couldn’t fathom eating dinner that late at night, 630 is super late to me lol! I’m in bed at 930. My kids are younger 3, 6, 8; but I salute you headed to an activity so late and still making dinner happen

Reply
Sara

I also love this series of posts. Trying to wrap my mind around planning for fall dinners as my 8 year old starts traveling soccer…I know you can relate!!! I know you’ve posted about having dinner later than many of us (also from the Midwest here) so here is my follow up question: how are your mornings? What is breakfast/before school like for your girls now? I know it’s not technically a family dinner topic, but dinner/bed timelines and morning timelines are definitely interconnected :)

Reply
Robin

Love this idea- once again, not something that would come to mind for me! I had to laugh, though, as I have water chestnuts and a package of tofu on hand (thanks to dear daughter) and keep wondering what to do with it- now I know! I am curious… do you use a steamer insert over a pan of boiling water to steam them? And do they need to be oiled lightly to keep from sticking to the steamer?

Reply
Megan

Just moved from CT to Louisiana and made both the Korean Tacos (Monday) and Dumplings (today…along with a little leftover pork from Monday). I needed some new recipes to get me out of my dinner time rut. Both meals were perfect in the fact that the kids are back in school, hanging out with new neighborhood friends in the late afternoon/early evening and give me enough time to prep them out, meet some new neighbors, and have a very quick assembly once we all come inside. Best of all, not only were they easy…my family loved both meals. Can’t ask for more…thank you!

Reply
Starr

Made these for dinner tonight with ground chicken and the greens. Very yummy, even my picky eater 5 year old ate one.

Reply