Well, Recipes from the Road is currently parked, but whether you are hunkered down at home or currently “off the grid” in your Regency RV, one thing is certain: we all need to eat. This necessity leads me to some of the most important and underrated folks in our country: the people who make all that food we’re consuming possible. Although farmers and ranchers, deemed essential amid COVID restrictions, are getting some help from the Coronavirus aid package, it’s our local, small-time farmers and ranchers that are hurting the most…the ones without the big supermarket contracts, the ones who have sacrificed profits to make the slow conversion to organic and/or sustainable farming. These are the guys that know me by name and give my son a piece of fruit when we show up at our weekly farmer’s market. Government money can be slow to start trickling in and these guys are definitely feeling the strain. This week, about 30 of us lined up in our cars, popped our trunks and paid for a box of assorted produce from one of our local farmers. Everything in there was fresher, tastier and more vibrant than anything found on the depressingly depleted aisles of our grocery store and every cent went to one of our favorite local farms. We plan to keep it going until farmer’s markets reopen.
My box of fresh produce was an exhilarating exercise in cooking. I didn’t go to the market or store in search of items to a make a specific dish. I was given random, pristine ingredients to make dinner with. Ready set go. Amidst my haul was a massive bundle of vibrant mustard greens as well as some carrots and cucumbers. After a winter of stews and soups, I was not in the mood for slow-cooked greens with ham hocks. I was craving something crisp and fresh like the pristine greens on my countertop. I toyed with a couple different recipes…Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Lettuce Wraps with Mustard Greens, but the real winner was more of a Dim Sum…a dumpling wrapped in Mustard Greens, instead of dough, served with an enticing ginger vinegar sauce. I will say, if you don’t have mustard greens, this would work equally well with Chard or Collards. However, I found that the sharpness of the mustard greens elevated the sweet and tart of the sauce and stuffing. In any case, here’s a little inspiration from my box of local produce.
Mustard Green Pork Dumplings with Ginger Rice Vinegar Dipping Sauce:
- 1 lb. Ground Pork (you can substitute whatever ground meat or meat alternative you like), dry well then salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon Lemongrass Puree (I buy the refrigerated tube as the stalks are rarely available here)
- 1 teaspoon Raw Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Chili Paste (mine is made by Huy Fong, available in Asian food aisle)
- ½ tablespoon Hoison Sauce
- ½ tablespoon Hot Chinese Mustard
- 3 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 Scallion, minced whites (save chopped greens for later)
- 1 tablespoon Fish Sauce
- 1 Cucumber, peeled and julienned
- 1 Carrot, peeled and julienned
- 2 tablespoons Rice Vinegar
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 1 tablespoon Lime Juice
- 1 teaspoon Raw Sugar
- 1 tablespoon minced Cilantro
- 1 tablespoon minced Scallion Greens
- 1 large bundle of Mustard Greens
The Ginger Vinegar Sauce:
- 2 inches of Ginger Root, peeled and minced
- 6 tablespoons Rice Vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
Boil a large pot of water then submerge the mustard greens and blanch them for 2 minutes. This will make them malleable enough to stuff and roll later. Set them aside. Make sure the pork is bone dry and seasoned with salt and pepper. Line a wok with 1 tablespoon of coconut or peanut oil (your preference). Add the scallions then the pork. While the pork is browning, mix together the lemongrass puree, raw sugar, chile paste, hoison sauce, Chinese mustard, and garlic cloves. Fold the mixture into the browning pork and stir until fully coated. In the meantime, mix together the carrots and cucumber with the lime, raw sugar, rice vinegar and salt. Once the meat begins to caramelize, remove from the heat and add the fish sauce and cucumber/carrot mixture.
Dry the mustard greens and lay them out flat. Place a tablespoon or two of the pork mixture in the center of each leaf then roll them into a pouch. I used a bamboo steaming basket, but the dumplings can also be steamed with a traditional basket steamer inside a covered pan of water. Mix up the ginger vinegar sauce while the dumplings steam for ten minutes. I divided the minced ginger and sauce into individual ramekins.
As always, Bon Appetit! Stay safe and healthy, from our family to yours!