Not much of a bento …. More like a glorified snack box. But I’m sharing it anyway because it’s not about perfection, right?
For a while I was making bento that were rather time consuming. There’s nothing wrong with that unless, of course, higher standards keep you from making a portable and healthy lunch when you have less time.
I tossed together this snack of leftover samosas, fruit and pastries in less than five minutes, and they’re in a re-used Chinese take out container to boot. So here’s one for the imperfectionist in all of us. Cheers! And happy snacking.
PS: The madeleines and financiers were made by my dear friend from SweetMue.com. She’s been blending Asian flavor favorites, such as taro, red bean, green tea and black sesame, into traditional French pastry recipes. Her green tea cream puffs (not pictured) are a personal fave. I am also a big-time fan of her black sesame puffed pastry balls! You can follow her baking adventures on her blog, sweetmue.wordpress.com.
My dumpling kick and my try-to-waste-no-food kick continue to overlap. I had a bag of boiled new potatoes from Krabbefest 2012 (a Dungeness Crab-lovers delight) and a big bunch of cilantro and leftover tamarind concentrate after from my Taste of Southeast Asia dinner party. (Guests had to dress up as a tourist, local or otherwise. We had a lot of “backpackers” in fisherman trousers and beer brand T-shirts show up!)
Eureka, Indian food! I decided I’d attempt samosas, but this would require some serious improvisation.
I didn’t have any garam masala handy, so I made it. Peeled and toasted the cardamom pods that had been languishing on my spice rack for god knows how long and toasted the seeds on the stove top with a half stick of cinnamon, some whole cloves and black pepper corns. Then I dumped these in my “spices-only” coffee grinder and gave them a good whir. I cheated for the final ingredients, adding store-bought ground coriander seed and ground cumin to the mix.
I could have made the flaky pastry dough required, but this seemed a lot of effort for experimental, reconstituted leftovers. I opted for store-bought spring roll wrappers instead. The only problem — they were square, and I needed round. Placed a bowl upside down over a stack of skins, traced it with a knife, removed the edges and cut the results into imperfect semi-circles. Tada!
I was using frozen boiled potatoes that I’d thawed in the microwave. As anyone might imagine, they were a big watery mess. I think, in the future, it would be best to dice the potatoes and freeze them on a tray before tossing them into an airtight bag. Alas, I had not been so prescient. So I had to squeeze out my messy pile of sad potato bits in paper towels. But, you know, it worked. The rest was inspired by recipe I found in Andrea Nguyen’s lovely Asian Dumplings cookbook. But more about Ms. Nguyen later …
Real samosas, while ever-so-tasty, are a fried-food binge waiting to happen. I have an upcoming trip to Hawaii, which will require much more skin exposure than my usual SF wardrobe, and cannot afford to put on another pound. (Alas, bikini, you love me no longer…)
I was determined to bake instead of fry my little pockets. I’m sure this borders on heresy for some, but there you have it. Fit not fat, right? Fortunately, there were directions on the skin packets on how to bake. So I went with those …
Wow, these actually tasted quite good! I’m sure a less-abused batch of potatoes would have made a bit of a difference, but my leftovers still managed to turn into a crispy, tasty, Indian-like snack! Success!
I mainly use cookbooks for inspiration and then “off-road” after surveying whatever’s in my fridge.
A note on dumplings and cookbooks:
The Asian Dumpling cookbook, out on Ten Speed Press, is pretty darn awesome. I bought it at my favorite local bookstore Omnivore Books, which, as its name implies, concentrates all its stock on food-related reads. (Nice puns, eh?) The store also hosts free, fun author lectures all the time! Ngyuen has also put out an Asian Tofu book, also for sale at Omnivore, which I am itching to get a hold of as soon as my self-induced austerity measures expire.
You can go dumpling mad on her aptly named web site, www.asiandumplingtips.com.
When making recipe mash-ups for dumplings and other fare, I also turn to some fave cookbooks, such as Indian: Deliciously authentic dishes, A Korean Mother’s Cooking Notes, Dok Suni: Recipes from my Korean mother’s kitchen and Martin Yan’s Asia. (I know many Asian Americans question Yan’s authenticity, but he is so much more than his cooking show implies. This book has awesome recipes from Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and the Philippines. I use it all them time, especially when I get nostalgic for my backpacking days!)