Make Something New Every Day

This blog is inspired by all those who love to cook, whether experienced or not, and who continue to experiment with new ideas & ingredients, and best of all, share their passion with others.

The first entries are recipes prepared by the students of Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy in Oakland, CA. Fifteen students with varying cooking experience participated in my weekly workshop (via Tutorpedia), and successfully prepared various meals, snacks, and baked goods as part of an after-school program.

Along with the recipes from that class, I will continue to add new seasonal items, spanning every genre of the culinary world, as well as a helpful list of links to recipes, instructional videos, and places to shop and volunteer in your area.

Feel free to ask me questions and share your recipes and ideas as well. I look forward to cooking with you.

September 10, 2017


I believe my Yelp profile lists Пельмени as my last meal. There is nothing so comforting as dumplings, and since I have never found a store-bought or restaurant version that can top our family recipe, I now share it with you. 

It's more of a technique than a recipe. The dough is a very quick and easy pasta dough, and the filling is just seasoned ground meat. 

The devil is in the rolling, cutting, and filling. So get your friends together, get some beer, and make short work of the prep so you can get to the eating!

This recipe will make 60-70 pelmeni. If you think that's a lot, you've never seen a hoard of people devour 60-70 pels in a matter of hours. A decent serving is about 15 pels, so if you plan to feed a lot of people, and want to freeze some for later (YOU DO), double the following recipe. 

The Dough
2 eggs
2oz water
1t oil (olive or canola - just enough to make the dough easier to work with)
1/4t kosher salt
2C unbleached all-purpose flour

Whisk the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, crack in the eggs, add the water, and using a fork, whisk the eggs, water and oil together, then start stirring in the flour until a craggy ball is formed. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface, dust with a bit more flour, and knead until smooth. Try not to add too much flour. You want the dough to be smooth and a bit on the sticky side, because you'll add more flour as you roll it out, and you don't want it to get tough & chewy.

Wrap the dough in plastic, and let rest in the fridge for at least an hour. This will relax the gluten, and make rolling easier. 

The Filling
1/2# ground beef
1/2# ground pork
2-3T finely grated onion (use a microplane, or VERY finely mince the onion)
1 clove garlic, finely grated (use a microplane, or VERY finely mince the garlic)
1t kosher salt
1/4C water
2t freshly minced dill (or 1t dried)

Combine the meats in a bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Mix in the onion, garlic and dill. Add half the water and mix well (use your hands). If it looks like it can take it, add the rest of the water. Keep the meat in the fridge while you roll and cut the dough.

Rolling & Cutting
Line a couple baking sheets or cutting boards with parchment or dust with flour. 

Take the dough out of the fridge. If you stick your finger in it, and the dent stays there, you're ready to roll! 

Dust a large work surface with flour, and find a small biscuit cutter (about 2" wide). Roll the dough out til it's thinner than a poker chip, but thicker than a guitar pick. 

Cut a zillion discs. Dip the cutter in flour to prevent sticking. 

Follow the steps below to fill and seal the pels. 
Gently stretch out the disc. 

Add a good amount of filling. You can stretch the dough to seal it in. 
Pinch the seam closed, tucking the filling in as you go.

Sealed in half

Pinch the end together to form a little "cabbage" shape.

Let's Eat! 
Boil enough chicken broth (2-3 quarts) for the pels to have room to cook (as you would boil ravioli). I really like the Trader Joe's Low-Sodium Chicken Broth, and always keep a few quarts on hand. Once the pels float to the surface, allow them to cook a few minutes more (about 5-7 minutes total - a bit longer if frozen).

Serve the pels in bowls with some of the broth. I like to add a dollop of sour cream and some soy sauce. Mom likes sour cream and a little vinegar. 

To freeze extra pels, freeze them on the sheet pan with room between them so they don't stick (see top photo). Once frozen, transfer to a ziploc freezer bag or seal in a food saver bag. Store up to 3 months. 

 На здоровья! 

Cool, Creamy, Tart: Perfect Lemon Bars

I recently had occasion to bake on the hottest day in San Francisco's recorded history. Though I believe I was hallucinating from the heat, I somehow managed to pull it off - as a Deadhead and former professional pastry chef, I was up to the task. Normally, I cut these into 2-3" squares, but these were for my punky sister's birthday party, so I cut them into bite-sized cubes, which served cold, were just right for a sweltering summer soiree. 

These can be made ahead and kept frozen for up to a month. You can also juice the lemons ahead of time, and keep it frozen in 1C portions. Then, when the mood strikes, you're one step closer to enjoying these bad boys (next time you're presented with a ton of lemons, think LEMON BARS!)

For a quick video on the technique, see Ina Garten's version. But I prefer my recipe, as it has less sugar and flour in the filling, and less butter in the crust, but you'll never miss it. Use meyer lemons for a more dynamic citrus flavor, but any lemon (or mix of citrus juice) will do.

This 9x13" batch makes 12-20 squares (depending on how big you want to cut them), or can be cut into minis as shown above. 

For the Short Dough Crust
6oz unsalted butter, softened but cold (1 1/2 sticks)
3oz sugar (3/4C)
1 egg
1/2t vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt
9oz unbleached all-purpose flour (a bit more than 2C)
3/4t baking powder

Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg til combined. Add the vanilla. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then stir into the wet ingredients until just combined.

Dump the dough into a 9x13 baking dish, and with floured hands, press the dough evenly to a 1/8" thickness, making sure to go up the sides a bit. Chill the dish for 30 minutes, or covered, overnight. 

Preheat the oven to 350'. Bake the shell for about 15-20 minutes, just until set and starting to get golden. Remove the shell, and set on a cooling rack. 

The Filling
2C sugar
5 extra large eggs
2T lemon zest
1C lemon juice
3T unbleached all-purpose flour 

Whisk together the eggs and sugar, add the zest and juice, then the flour. Pour the filling into the warm shell, and return to the oven. Bake for another 25-30 minutes until set (if you give the pan a little shake, it doesn't jiggle). 

Cool the bars completely in the pan. I usually freeze them to make cutting easier, but you can also keep them in the fridge overnight. Either way, wrap them well. 

I use a bench scraper or thin but sturdy metal spatula to loosen the edges. To cut even bars, use a ruler or measuring tape to mark 3-4 bars on the short side, and 4-5 bars on the long side (yielding 12-20 bars). 

Dust the bars with powdered sugar just before serving. Store extras in the freezer for up to one month. 

На здоровья!