Shumai On The Fly, Oh My!

shumai appetizers with black bean on cinese spoonsI have this friend. We live in the same town now. But we met and became friends in Santa Barbara, CA, way back in the 1980s.

Not only are we friends, but I would say we are great friends. Despite the fact that months and months and months usually go by before we see each other, though we live just a few miles apart.

Part of this is because we are such great friends there is no pressure to constantly work on the friendship. But the other reason we go so long between visits is entirely my fault. 

I swear I love her; top 10 people in the world love her. But I tend to blow her off sometimes. Unconsciously. I am not harboring any beneath the surface ill will– I promise. We are able to laugh about it (believe it or not). But I admit I have stood her up at bars, left her standing out front movie theatres (holding 2 tickets). I even failed to pick her up at the airport once.

That said. Let me lay some groundwork for the rest of my tale.

I have been blogging a lot lately and many of the themes and recipes and stories I have shared are going to collide right here in front of you, right now. If you’ve read this blog before then you know, some of the things I like and do and say will reappear. And what’s weird is I did not plan it in this case. This is just how it came to be. It’s like I set something in motion and this is the cumulative effort right here.

So back to my friend…

The day is question was a typical day. I was busy. I had things going on with work. I had stuff happening here with the blog. I wanted to take a hike in the canyon with the dog. But nothing out of the usual, this is a fairly typical day for me.

When I left the house for a lunch appointment I took my cell phone. I live in Los Angeles so I am rarely out of range. Between work and blogging and my harried personal life I check my email several times an hour (both accounts). Like too many of us today, I am seldom out of contact.

It’s a good thing I had my cell phone with me because my lunch date called and canceled. It’s also good I check emails because my meeting with a work contact was also postponed. I had put a blog up in the morning, so suddenly, I had a very free day.

I took an unusually long hike, but my cell phone stayed blissfully quiet. So I did something I almost never do. I went to the mall! I went window-shopping. I even bought a new sweater. It was a nice afternoon. 

Later that day, when me and my cell phone got home. I noticed the message light was blinking on my landline. But who leaves messages on my landline? I mean who even knows I have a landline!

So rather than check the message, I jumped in the shower. A long leisurely shower. I dressed and started thinking about what I might throw together for dinner. I had just decided that maybe we should go out to eat. I could use a break from the kitchen.

But there was still the issue of that pesky message. So I went upstairs and pushed play.

As soon as I pushed play. Before I even heard her voice. I knew who was calling me. My friend from my Santa Barbara days. She is the only one who calls on this number because I have known her longer than there have been cell phones. It’s the number she wrote down for me in 1997 and I can’t get her to change her address book (she hates cross outs).

Of course, of course, of course, she and I had plans this night. She was dating a terrific new guy. She wanted us to meet him. She had a good feeling about this guy. The evening was very important to her. And I forgot to write it in my book! Why will some things never change?

I steeled for the worst and listened to the message. Bingo! Sure enough it was she. They were so “excited about getting together”. Her new beau had been reading SippitySup and had “high expectations” for the food I would prepare. “It’s too bad” she said “that we were only meeting for a drink and appetizers”. You see they had plans to see a play in Hollywood. The plan was to pop by my house have a drink and enough light food to pass as dinner. The plan was for them to be at my house at 6:30.

I looked at the clock. It was 6pm!

There was no way I was going to reschedule and admit forgetting her (yet) again! I got myself downstairs and threw open the fridge. Sure I had food. Food that takes cooking!  I am not a prepared foods kind of guy. When I invite you to my house for drinks and light fare. I do not mean cheese and crackers. I don’t even buy crackers.

But I do have one little prepared foods secret. I buy frozen shumai by the carton and keep them in my freezer. They take 3 minutes in the microwave. They taste great and they scratch that Asian food itch I get every 12–15 hours.

All they need is a creative sauce and a pretty presentation and they definitely count as impressive.

a perfectly steamed shumai appetizer served on a chinese spoonSo I popped these babies in the microwave. While they were heating I took some soy sauce and some mirin and some rice vinegar. I reduced this down in 3–4 minutes to a syrup. I know, I know. NEVER REDUCE LIQUIDS AT A HIGH HEAT. I know. But I was in a hurry.

To that I added a scoop of prepared black bean sauce. I grabbed a bag of pre-packaged salad greens. Picked out the ones with the prettiest colors and turned them into chiffinades.

Then, here is the part that made it all seem so intentional. I laid those greens on the bottom of a Chinese soup spoon. Topped them each with a perfectly steamed shumai. Drizzled it with my soy, black bean reduction and topped it with one perfect little cilantro leaf. They were so pretty I took a picture of them. Sure I was in a hurry, but I am not crazy. I already figured out that my near disaster had blog written all over it!

cipolline onion and roasted garlic stacked appetizer with radicchioThe next dish was a little tougher. But a few weeks ago I roasted a big pile of cipolline onions. I froze a dozen of them along with a lot of the whole roasted garlic cloves I cooked them with. Diligent readers will remember what a great I idea I said this was at the time, because these onions could come in handy. Well I was about to prove myself right.

Again, I turned to the microwave and reheated my onions and garlic. While that was happening a grabbed a couple fistfuls of the wild mustard greens I have been foraging. Yet another recent blog post!

These I wilted down in a bit of red wine vinegar with minced shallot. I sandwiched them between the onion and garlic. I grabbed as much of the radicchio as I could find from my bag of salad and made a nice bed for my onion garlic “stacks” to sit upon. 

lemon lime tangerine citrus martiniAll these will need is a citrus vinaigrette that I whipped together using the citrus from my foraging ventures. I even remembered to add a dollop of mustard to help with the emulsification as Nick taught me to do in my Aioli video post.

Since I had the citrus fruit out I shook up a quick Three Citrus Martini. Which believe me I can do with my eyes closed. 

I got all this together in 25 minutes which was a good thing because they were early. I could hear them coming down through the front courtyard as I clicked the last photo for this story!

The food was really quite good. If I had not been stupid enough to tell her that I‘d nearly forgotten they were coming I am sure she never would have figured it out.

Besides my friend’s date was very impressed. You must know by now Sup likes that! The beau said the food was great. He particularly liked the “earthy combination of the warm onions with bright citrusy vinaigrette”. He even liked the little plates and baby fork and knife to eat them with. I like the way this guy thinks. 

And the best part, they invited me to dinner next week. It seems the beau knows barbeque. He wants to smoke some pork butt for me. I LOVE pork butt!

Just remind me to write it down in my book, okay? I think they said Thursday or Friday… or was it Saturday?


Greg Henry