I took Andy and AJ to Jing Fong in Chinatown for Father’s Day. Jing Fong is at 20 Elizabeth Street near the corner of Canal, and it specializes in Dim Sum. Dim Sum is a meal that consists of small dumplings, steamed and fried, savory and sweet. I prefer the steamed to the fried, and I love both savory and sweet dumplings! Dim Sum is served from steam carts and trolleys wheeled from table to table, where you just point and it is put before you in these bamboo baskets, straight from the kitchen. There’s nothing fancy about Dim Sum; it’s all about the different ways rice flour can be rolled, molded, and shaped around a delicious filled center. Dim Sum is best eaten before noon, in my opinion. In any case, it’s seldom served in the afternoon. So Dim Sum filled us up for most of the day. For dinner, I made Misty’s Vegetarian Lasagna, my third try. They say the third time’s a charm. And so it was.
What better way to enjoy the last berries of summer, than to put them in a delicious snack! Instead of using gelatin, which is made from parts of the cow that, trust me, you don’t want to know about, use agar-agar, which is made from seaweed. Thus this snack, a variation on the Knox Blox that I used to carry to my daughter’s soccer games, is a vegan jelly treat. It’s also low in sugar. So it’s (mostly) good for you.
3 cups strawberries
1 cup blackberries (or blueberries)
1/4 cup water
1 cup applesauce
1 cup apple juice (or orange juice)
8 teaspoons agar-agar powder*
First put the berries and the water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir the mixture occasionally. This will take about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. I hate it when America’s Test Kitchen uses the shorthand “off the heat.” It reminds me of the Queen of Hearts screaming at Alice “Off with her head!” So turn off the heat and put the berry mixture in the blender. Puree the berries until the mixture is smooth. You’ll end up with strawberry seeds but unless you want to strain it, the seeds won’t hurt. They’re just a minor inconvenience.
Put the puree back into the pot and add the applesauce. Stir and set aside. In a large bowl, pour the apple juice and sprinkle the agar-agar powder on top. Whisk to dissolve, about 3-5 minutes. Pour the juice mixture into the pot with the berry mixture and heat until bubbly, stirring constantly. Agar-agar needs to come to a boil in order to activate its jelling properties.
Pour the mixture into one 8×8 inch square pan or dish. Unlike gelatin, any mixture with agar-agar in it doesn’t need refrigeration to set. Just leave it on the counter to cool and thicken. Refrigerating the pan will hasten the process, of course. Cut cooled jellies into squares or triangles. If there are any leftovers, refrigerate them. To me, these Berry Blox taste best cold. They are not gelatinous, they don’t wiggle, they are not “gummies.” But they are yummy!
*Agar-agar powder is available in small packets from Asian markets and is usually quite a bit cheaper. I bought mine in Chinatown New York from Bangkok Center Grocery on Mosco and Mulberry. They were just $1.00 a packet.