Sometimes a biggish film breaks through all of that, though, and defies expectations and makes me love it, despite my ornery ideas. I love Kung Fuuuuuuuuuuuuu Panda. I love both films, 1 & 2. Yes, it’s another tale of an unexpected underdog using unexpected physical force to defeat a bully who seems stonger and is really mean! Yes, that story has been told a bazillion times. But there’s something about Kung Fu Panda that rises above all of that. I asked Malcolm why he admired Po (the panda). He said, “because he’s happy all the time.” That’s exactly what I was thinking, although I’d used the word “cheerful” in my head. I love the fact that he doesn’t get discouraged, he doesn’t have a dark and brooding side, he doesn’t have an angry side. When he fights his stronger bullyish foe, he laughs. Even when he’s getting beaten, even when he surprises himself by doing well. He laughs! It’s so unexpected, so anti-drama, and yet it makes you care about him more, which makes it more dramatic. The other quality that I admire in Po, that you don’t see very often in your cooler-stock-hero characters, is that he’s a fan. He admires his cohorts so much that he’s bursting, he’s desperate, he’s glowing with the pleasure of being in the same space as them. Even when he should revel in being the best of the best, instead he’s a warm furry bundle of disbelieving gratitude at being in their presence.
We had a lot of leftovers from our black rice, black lentil, golden beet meal, and Malcolm asked if we could use them to make dumplings like in Kung Fu Panda. Of course we can! It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. So I made the dough while Malcolm was at school, and we put them together when he got home.
The dough is quite simple. Traditionally, they’re steamed. I don’t have a bamboo steamer, so I used my vegetable steamer, which is not huge. I could fit 3 dumplings in there. I decided to bake the rest, because I’ve always wondered if that was an option. It is! They turn out lovely! Crispy, just the right amount bread-y. The steamed ones were nice, too. David said the steamed ones felt inexplicably lighter. You could put anything in these! Leftover beans or vegetables. Cheese. Just beans, just veg. Anything! Pretty much any filling for any savory pastry I’ve ever posted on this blog would work in here. I’ll give you a few suggested fillings, but…go crazy!!
Here’s Cee Lo Green with Living Again. Another unexpected hero!
2 1/2 cups flour
1 t. salt
1 t baking powder
3 T sugar
3 T olive oil
1 1/2 t yeast
Mix the yeast with 1/2 cup of warm water and 1 T of the sugar in a small bowl. Leave aside for about 10 minutes to get frothy.
Mix the flour, salt, 2 T sugar, and baking powder in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the olive oil and yeast and water. Mix well. Add more warm water, 1/2 a cup at a time, until you have a dough you can pull together into a ball. Knead for about 7 minutes, till it’s smooth and elastic.
Set in a lightly oiled bowl, turning it to coat everything with oil. Cover with a damp cloth, and set in a damp place for about 2 hours.
Punch down, and leave for another hour to rise again.
Punch down, separate into 8 pieces, and leave aside to rest while you prepare the filling.
Take a piece of dough. Roll into a ball, and then roll on a floured surface till it’s about 1/4 inch thick. It should be 4-6 inches across.
Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in the middle. Fold the sides up, pleating them as you do so, by folding the dough over in the same direction each time. When it’s all folded up, twist the center to seal.
Repeat with all 8 pieces and set them aside for about 20 minutes.
IF you have a bamboo steamer, then you probably already know what to do. If you have a regular vegetable steamer…bring about 2 inches of water to a gentle boil. Arrange the dumplings in the top of the steamer, as many as will fit without touching. Use some folded tin foil to place between them to makes sure they don’t touch as they grow bigger when they cook. Cover and steam, keeping the water at a steady low boil for 20 minutes. Take them off the heat and let them sit a minute or two with the lid on…then serve.
Preheat the oven to 400. Lightly butter a baking sheet. Arrange the dumplings to that they won’t touch each other if they expand. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes till they start to brown nicely.
BLACK RICE, BLACK LENTILS, ROASTED BEETS…
1 1/2 cups black rice, 1 1/2 cups seasoned lentils, 1 cup roasted beets, 1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts. 1/4 cup chopped olives, 1 cup mozzarella cheese. (Leftovers from this meal.)
BROCCOLI & ROASTED CHICKPEAS
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas
1 t thyme
1 t. oregano
2 t sesame seeds (I used black)
1/2 t. caraway seeds, crushed.
1 or T olive oil
In a small bowl, mix all of these together. Spread them on a baking sheet and bake at 425 (preheated) for about 20 minutes till the chickpeas are dry and starting to brown.
1/2 head of broccoli, florets only, chopped into small pieces. Steamed till just soft and bright green, and then well-drained.
1 cup grated sharp cheddar.
1 egg beaten
In a bowl combine the chickpeas, broccoli, cheese and all but 1 T of the egg. Mix well.
CHICKPEAS AND SPINACH
about 3 cups spinach, cleaned and roughly chopped
2 cups chickpeas (I use canned, so drained and rinsed)
1 clove garlic
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. tamarind concentrate. (or a dash of lemon juice, or leave it out altogether, and leave out the sugar, too. It will still taste good!)
1/2 t. tamari
1 clove garlic
1 small jalapeno, or other mildly hot pepper
1 chunk of fresh ginger about 1 centimeter cubed
3 T cilantro, or however much you like
1 cup sharp cheddar (I like the flavor, and it binds the filling, but it will be fine without this, as well)
Toast the sesame seeds, mustard seeds and pepper in a small saucepan until the mustard seeds begin to pop, and everything starts to smell very aromatic.
Make the filling. Dice the shallot, garlic, jalapeno, and ginger together so that they’re very very very fine. You can even use a processor if you feel so inclined. Warm the olive oil, and then add the shallot/garlic/hot pepper/ginger mixture, and cook for a few minutes, stirring, until it starts to smell good and turn brown a bit. Add the sugar and tamarind, and tamari. Add the spinach and cook until it wilts and the pan starts to dry up. Turn it into a bowl and mix with the chickpeas and cheese, and season with salt and pepper.
BLACK BEANS AND MUSHROOMS
1 batch roasted mushrooms
1 can of black beans
2 t. tomato paste
1/2 t. sage
1/2 t thyme
1 t. paprika
1/2 t. mustard powder
1/2 t. marmite
1/3 cup beer
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar
1 egg, beaten
warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add shallot – when it starts to brown add garlic, sage, thyme, marmite, tamari, tomato paste. Stir it all together. Add paprika & mustard and immediately add the beans, stirring well, so that the spices don’t burn. When the pan starts to dry out, add the beer, and continue to cook until the mixture is quite dry.
Put the beans in a bowl with the mushrooms and cheese, season well with salt and ground pepper.
RED BEANS AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH
1 largish butternut squash peeled and cut into half inch dice
1 t. sage
1 shallot – finely chopped
1 can (15 oz) small red beans, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic
chipotle purée (I buy a small can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, and I purée it. Use what you need and then pack the rest in an airtight container in the fridge. It keeps quite a while.)
1 t. oregano
1 t. smoked paprika
1/2 cup petite white corn (frozen is fine, especially if it’s December!)
1/2 cup cilantro finely chopped
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
squeeze of lime juice
Mix the butternut squash chunks with sage, shallot, and enough olive oil to coat everything lightly and roast in a 425 degree oven till the squash starts to brown and caramelize. 45 minutes or an hour – but keep an eye on it!
In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic, and stir to fry for a minute. Add the red beans, paprkia and oregano, stir to coat everything. Stir in as much chipotle as you like. I use about 1 teaspoon, but I have little boys, so I never make anything too hot. Taste a bean or two after you’ve stirred in one teaspoon, and then decide if you need more. Stir in the corn.
Mix everything up and stir till it’s all hot through.
Put it in a big bowl with the roasted squash, the cilantro, the cheese, and plenty of salt and pepper. Squeeze half a lime into the mix, and mix it all up.