Steaming

Sometimes the way to lighter eating is not in the actual foods we eat, but in the cooking technique used for those foods. One technique that is often overlooked is steaming.  Steamed foods have many advantages; they don’t dry out, they keep their fresh, vibrant colors and flavor, they cook in very little time and they don’t require added fats.  In addition they are a nice change from frying, sautéing, grilling, baking and roasting.

Because cooking time is short, food doesn’t overcook and ingredients retain their vitamins, minerals and flavor.  Foods steamed with sauces infuse the dishes with lots more flavor.  It really is a healthy and tasty way to cook.

Steaming is really easy when you own an electric steamer or rice maker/steamer.  But if you don’t, all you really need is an inexpensive metal vegetable steamer basket, sold in most supermarkets.  If you are an Asian cooking enthusiast, you probably have a standard bamboo steamer; but again, Asian foods can be steamed in an electric steamer or a home-made top of the stove steaming setup.  Here’s how to make it:

Open the steamer basket and place it upside down in the bottom of the wok.  Place a folded napkin on the bottom of the pan to protect a non-stick finish. Fill the wok with four cups of water and bring to a boil.  Carefully place a pie plate containing the food over the steamer.  Cover and steam the food.  Be sure to wear oven mitts to protect your hands when working around the hot steam.

Dim sum, potstickers or any Asian steamed dumplings are an especially easy and delicious food to steam.  The following recipe came from Cooking Light May, 2005.  If you do have a bamboo steamer, you can do them all at once.  Cook each dumpling on a carrot slice to keep it from sticking to the steamer.  The carrot “trays” are edible, too.  Do not let dumplings touch in the basket, as they may stick together once cooked.

Shrimp Dumplings with Sweet-and-Sour dipping Sauce

Sauce:

2 Tbsp. minced red bell pepper
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger

Dumplings:

2 tsp. canola oil
1 cup finely chopped leek
1 Tbsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1 Tbsp mirin sweet rice wine (can substitute sherry)
¼ tsp; salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¾ pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
30 wonton wrappers
30 (1/4” thick) slices carrot

To prepare sauce, combine the first 5 ingredients.

To prepare dumplings, heat oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add leek and 1 Tbsp. ginger, sauté 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Combine leek mixture, mirin, salt, black pepper and shrimp, stirring well.  Working with 1 wonton wrapper at a time (cover remaining wrappers with a damp towel to prevent drying), spoon about 1 Tbsp shrimp mixture into center of each wrapper.  Moisten edges of wrapper with water, bring 2 opposite corners to center, pinching points to seal.  Bring remaining 2 corners to center pinching points to seal.  Pinch 4 edges together to seal.  Add water to wok or large skillet to a depth of 1 inch; bring to a boil.  Line bamboo steamer with 25 carrot slices; arrange 25 dumplings on top of carrot slices.  Cover with steamer lid.  Place steamer in pan; steam dumplings 23 minutes.  Remove dumplings from steamer; cover and keep warm.  Repeat procedure with remaining carrot slices and dumplings.  Serve with sauté.  Yield: 20 servings of 3 dumplings and about 2 tsp. sauce.  Calories: 133

All vegetables are really delicious, nutritious and beautiful when cooked by the steam method.  Try one of the following:

Green Beans with Walnuts and Sherry Vinegar

¼ cup shopped walnuts
1 ¼ pounds green beans, trimmed
Sherry Vinaigrette;
1 small shallot, chopped
2 tsp. sherry vinegar
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Toast walnuts in 425 deg. oven on baking sheet 7-10 minutes until fragrant.  Whisk together the shallot, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Whisk in the oil and parsley.  Set aside.  Preheat the steamer.  Pile the beans in the steaming basket, cover and steam until bright green and tender, 12-14 minutes.  Drain and pat dry on paper towels.  Add the beans to the vinaigrette; add walnuts and toss to coat.  Serve at once.

Potatoes with Thyme Butter

1 1/3 pounds waxy potatoes (preferably gold), cut into bite-sized pieces

Thyme Butter:
2 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme or ¼ tsp dried
Pinch each of salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the potatoes in the steaming basket, cover, and steam until tender, 25-30 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mash together the butter, thyme and salt and pepper.  Taste for seasoning.  When the potatoes are cooked, dump them into a serving bowl, add the butter, and toss to coat.  Serve hot.

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