Thursday, April 03, 2008

Evil snack

It's half past midnight. I only had a few slices of pizza around 6pm so naturally I'm hungry again. I've put together a plate of reheated leftovers from Monday's Spanish Tapas lesson: smoked salmon filled pastry, saffron rice with morcillas (Spanish blood sausage), Canalones stuffed with a forcemeat of chicken livers & calf brains and topped with béchamel, Mondongo Serrano (a spicy ox tripe dish with almonds, sort of a lightened, tomato-less callos). I'm finishing it all off later with a single dark-chocolate truffle. Can you say "cho-les-ter-ol"?! Teka sumasakit na yata batok ko hehehe.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Feel the burn

I had pieces lined up for posting about stuff that's happened from all the way back in December to yesterday but it's going to have to be this one because I burned my arm badly today. I was turning one of the chicken wings I was shallow frying when the oil splattered all over the inside of my right arm. Now I've got 2nd-degree burns from my elbow halfway up to my shoulder, and most of the way down to my wrist. Yeah I'm on painkillers. This was at around 7:15pm and I was only halfway done cooking our Thai dinner. I didn't stop cooking. Plated everything at 7:40pm: Green Papaya Salad, Chicken in Plum 7 Pineapple Sauce, Green Curried Mussels, Squid & Prawns, Pineapple & Bagoong Fried Rice.

Chicken in Plum & Pineapple Sauce

You'll need:
Some chicken pieces
Lemongrass root, bruised
Shallots, chopped
Green onions (optional)
Fresh pineapple or canned pineapple chunks (reserve the juice)
Plum wine (or just store-bought Thai plum sauce, white wine, and some sugar)
Hoisin sauce
Thai basil leaves to garnish

Put the chicken in a bowl and marinate with about a cup of plum wine or plum sauce mixture, the lemongrass, about a tablespoon shallots, and the green onions for at least half an hour (or even better, overnight)

Put the cornstarch in a bowl and whisk in enough water to make a thin batter (just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon). Take the chicken out of the marinade and put it in the batter making sure the pieces are well coated. Deep fry the chicken.

Meanwhile dilute a tablespoon of hoisin sauce in about a cup of the pineapple juice (add water if there isn't enough juice) and add it to the marinade. Put the mixture and pineapple chunks in a shallow pan and simmer til syrupy. Time it so that the mixture is ready and boiling just when the chicken is done frying. Put the chicken in the sauce and toss to lightly coat.

Transfer to a plate and garnish with fresh basil leaves.

First aid for burns

It's amazing that there are still people who believe toothpaste is the proper first aid treatment for a 1st to 2nd degree burn. Nobody in my family, of course, but there are people who believe it. Put the burn under the tap for minutes. It's that simple. The menthol in your toothpaste won't cool it. Look it up.

This was my 2nd disaster of the day. The first one was when I found termites in my library.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Pasta with Three Tomatoes and Truffle Oil

Work work work study study study cook eat study study sleep. No time for blogging, though there are a dozen blogposts in my head. Cooking is therapy though. Cooking is almost always a joy. Whether it's a stew that takes a full day, or a quickie pasta. Today, a non-school day (and therefore a work day), I made tomato confit, a batch of salsa pomodoro, and a few jars of infused oil (tarragon; vanilla; orange-peel-and-chilli). We made tomato confit in school last week--it took us more than three hours in the convection oven, so I wanted to see how long it'd take me in the conventional oven at home. I figured maybe 5 or 6 hours. It took me 10 hours! Whew! It was well worth the wait though. Just like we did in school I dressed up some pasta with salsa pomodoro, tomato confit and a pan-roasted tomato, drizzled with truffle oil, and I had my Pasta with 3 Tomatoes. After dinner it was back to the grind. Now to sleep. Tomorrow, school. *yawn*

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Mexican cuisine has always been a family favorite, and yesterday I realized we hadn't done Mexican in a long time. I didn't want to do anything elaborate so I went with the old favorites but as Emeril Lagasse would say, "kicked up a notch!" hehe.

Killer Quesadillas
Chop a bunch of cilantro, and a bunch of chives. Caramelize two large white onions. De-seed and julienne a few green chillies. Toss with lots of grated cheddar and season. Sandwich this filling between two flour tortillas and toss onto a hot pan. Scrunch the quesadilla down while in the pan & the cheese is melting to get it real thin. Toast both sides well--you want this crunchy. Cut into quarters.

Bash up some coriander root and sauté in oil. Toss the root out before proceeding. In the same oil saute chopped tomatoes in chopped red onions and garlic. Add lime juice and plenty of chopped cilantro. Season with salt & pepper, and some cumin to give it a little anghit factor haha!. Add chopped chili or just blast it with Tabasco.

Serve quesadillas with salsa, avocado slices (or make some guacamole if you like), sour cream, and lime wedges.

Also on the menu last night:
Chicken Fajitas, Pepper+Corn Muffins (corn muffin batter baked in halved red bell peppers)
Yakon & Fruit Salad.

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Fillet of Sole with Citrus-Amandine Sauce

Nothing tremendously original here; the pairing of fish and citrus is classic, and so is the the garnish of almonds -- amandine (aka almondine) -- but there was some novelty in it for me as I had just learned the technique of mounting with butter. To mount a sauce with butter is a technique where small pieces of cold, unsalted butter are whisked into a pan of sauce just before serving. The butter gives the pan sauce a velvety texture, extra flavor, a glossy sheen and best of all, extra calories hehehe.

On Seafood Day2 in school last week each of us had to prepare a mounted butter sauce, to be graded as a quiz. Our choice of fish, and our choice of sauce. At first I wanted to get really original with the sauce but in the end I played it safe with a simple citrus-amandine. Didn't have much choice in the fish department as I was one of the last to present and stores were low by then. I prepared some norweigan salmon á la meuniere, adding a little crushed almond to the flour. Made a gastrique of shallots, orange juice & zest, and almond extract, and mounted it with butter. Garnished with slivered almonds and zest of orange, lemon, and lime. Served this to Chef Gene: I rated ok.

At home I improved on the dish by going from á la meuniere to full-on almond crusted, using fillets of sole, and serving them with wedges of orange and grapefruit. Other stuff I served that night: blackened tuna, and steamed sole fillets with dill cream sauce. Served this to my family: I rated excellent hehehe.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Turning Japanese

Wanting to refresh our palates, and because we had some nice tuna in the fridge we decided to prepare a Japanese dinner.

So. Tuna sashimi. Some simple maki would be nice, I thought. I wanted to make some gunkan-maki (battleship rolls), maybe topped with that tobiko (salmon roe) I still had in the freezer. I was all out of kikkoman though, and nori (dried and pressed sheets of seaweed). Wasabi, too.

Off to the supermarket...

Read the rest of this post...Got up early this morning (early for a Sunday anyway) to cook a batch of pasta to deliver to the music team at VCF. Again drawing only on existing stock I came up with a Tomato & Eggplant Agrodolce. Grilled the veg: tomato to provide the agro (sour), and onion for the dolce (sweet). Poached garlic chips in olive oil, tossed it all together with some spaghetti and a little balsamic vinegar, and topped it all with Parmesan and Romano.

While serving that up I was already discussing dinner with Sarah, and with Mama (via text). Wanting to refresh our palates, and because we had some nice tuna in the fridge we decided to prepare a Japanese dinner.

So. Tuna sashimi. Some simple maki would be nice, I thought. I wanted to make some gunkan-maki (battleship rolls), maybe topped with that tobiko (salmon roe) I still had in the freezer. I was all out of kikkoman though, and nori (dried and pressed sheets of seaweed). Wasabi, too.

Off to Circle-C, our friendly neighborhood mini-mall which houses a Robinson's Supermarket. Smaller & not as well-stocked as nearby Cherry Foodarama, Robinson's nevertheless carries a few items Cherry does not, like dried konbu, (edible kelp for making sushi rice). Also on the menu was kani salad, and vegetable tempura. I had a mind to serve crêpes samurai (sweet crêpes with mango, custard & meringue filling) for dessert, almost as a culinary pun but it's past mango season, and prices are prohibitive (P65-P85 per kg!!). Stubbornly bought some anyway, but they were too sour for dessert. Other stuff on my grocery list: shoyu (kikkoman); imitation-wasabi-in-a-tube; lettuce & cucumbers for the kani salad; veggies for the tempura--okra, onions, green bell pepper (still had carrots in the fridge); fresh ginger root; spinach; oyster mushrooms (still had dried shiitakes in the pantry).

Prep was a quickie: cooked rice, washed, chopped & steamed veggies, reconstituted shiitakes, almost forgot to remove konbu from the rice at the boil (would've made the rice slimy), had Sarah shred the cucumber (she's getting pretty handy with my chef's knife), made the tempura batter, fried the tempura (crusted the mushrooms with sesame seeds for interest), assembled kani salad, sliced the tuna (wished I had a santoku instead of the un-chilled boning knife I was using hehehe!). Ran out of time for the gunkan-maki, rolled regular maki at the table instead. Dinner served!

Half an hour later we were rubbing our full, happy bellies. No space for the nonexistent crepes samurai hehe.


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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Comfort Food: Arroz Caldo & Tokwa't Tokwa

To me this is the epitome of comfort food: Arroz Caldo (chicken porridge), and Tokwa't Tokwa (tofu fried til crisp, topped with onions and served with a sauce of sweet soy, a little vinegar & sugar, and minced onions) Traditionally this would have been Tokwa't Baboy (tofu & pork in a lighter version of the sauce) but we're trying to limit pork consumption in this house...yeah right, see my last post hahaha! Coming home on a stormy night, nothing warms the soul like this pair right here. As a special treat, my sister Sarah had the dishes well underway when I arrived at 6pm. Dinner was ready at 6:30. My sister is a relative novice in the kitchen, but she's coming along fine. The steaming bowl of arroz caldo was really good, with just the right amount of ginger. I went wild with the traditional toppings: garlic chips and spring onions. And a few drops of kalamansi juice, and it was perfect. Oooh not quite: Papa & I, had to have siling labuyo (spur chili). I considered tossing on a few saffron strands but dismissed the thought because I was already hungry.

Fried tofu can go soggy, or tough (parang gomang tsinelas) if not done properly. Sarah managed to get it just perfectly crunchy, and the sauce she made was balanced just right. Way to go, Sarah! :-)

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Poached Pompano with Dill Sauce, and Pork Stew alla Milanese

I didn't start thinking about dinner tonight until pretty late and so it was another round of "let's see what we can whip up with what's in the ref & pantry." So like MacGyver trapped in a garage with six armed terrorists waiting outside, I cracked my knuckles and got to work.

» matchbox-sized Stewing cuts of pork (pang sigang), still frozen
» leftover crudités (carrot & celery)
» various fresh herbs: rosemary,thyme, dill, tarragon
» the tail half of a pompano
» a week-old, half-zested lemon

I started with the pork....

Read the rest of this post...

I didn't start thinking about dinner tonight until pretty late and so it was another round of "let's see what we can whip up with what's in the ref & pantry." So like MacGyver trapped in a garage with six armed terrorists waiting outside, I cracked my knuckles and got to work.

» matchbox-sized Stewing cuts of pork (pang sigang), still frozen
» leftover crudités (carrot & celery)
» various fresh herbs: rosemary,thyme, dill, tarragon
» the tail half of a pompano
» a week-old, half-zested lemon

I started with the pork. I decided I'd cook it the way I would some osso buco. Thawing the pork out was no mean feat. I'm leery about thawing in the microwave and so I did it the hard way under running water. That done I seasoned and the pork pieces and dredged them in flour before searing in butter. When well browned I plunked them along with a handful of celery leaves into a pot of water to start tenderizing. Next, the mirepoix (1 large onion, an equal amount of carrot, a couple of celery ribs, all minced). Softened the vegetables in the same pan I'd seared the pork in, deglazed with about half a cup of white wine, reduced. By this time the pork stock was boiling furiously. Tossed in six big ripe tomatoes, and that brought it down to a simmer. Took the tomatoes out, and had Sarah peel, deseed and chop them up. The tomatoes joined the mirepoix, and (after I removed the celery leaves) so did the pork and the stock. Tossed in a sprig of thyme, a couple of strips of lemon peel, a bay leaf, and more wine. Boiled off the wine, and throttled down to a simmer for a couple of hours. Finished the dish with a little butter, and some incomplete gremolata (minced garlic and lemon zest...I'd run out of parsley)

While all that was going on I'd been making some simple court-bouillon (water, white wine, celery, thyme, peppercorns, bay leaf, some carrot, a quartered onion), and in a tiny saucepan I'd been reducing some white wine & lemon juice with the chopped dill leaves. Strained off the court-bouillon and poached the fish in it just until flaking. Tossed in the rest of the carrot and some cabbage. Finished the dill sauce with a cream reduction, and that was dinner. A pilaf or some risotto would've been nice but the rice was already happily steaming away before I even started thinking about dinner so that was that.

Everybody loved both dishes..Papa was particularly taken with the pork, but wished it was just a tiny bit more lemony. I admitted I'd scrimped a little on the gremolata hehehe.

During dinner I was thinking about dessert but nobody had any space left for it ;-)

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Ratatouille Part 2

Anticipating that it would pique people's curiosity I made some ratatouille & put it on last Sunday's Dine&Jam menu

In the film Ratatouille Remy prepares the humble peasant dish in a special way: whereas traditional ratatouille is a stew, Remy layers and bakes sliced vegetables & finishes it with a sauce. I decided it would be fun to prepare it that way too, and so I did a bit of research. It turns out celebrity chef Thomas Keller had created the recipe especially for the film, and that he called it Confit Biyaldi. His recipe is no secret, and you can find it here.

Being me I couldn't resist tweaking it: I gave the piperade a bit more kick, and opened up the flavor profile a bit with some secret herbs (ok, ok, I used Herbes de Provençe!) I found the cooking time a bit excessive; in just about half an hour I had the vegetables nice and tender. I put everything in the ref overnight for the flavor to bloom, and caramelized a bit under the broiler at serving time. (ratatouille is traditionally served either at room temp or just warm). I stuck with the name ratatouille to reference the film, and for fun I served it with linguine. No, I didn't serve it with alfredo sauce (would've been terrible with the vinaigrette, I think!)

For this recipe fresh herbs are key, and fresh vegetables. Speed is key, too because eggplant oxidizes fast. When Remy was slicing up the vegetables the slices fell neatly into his baking dish. My vegetables weren't cartoons so they didn't cooperate like that. I showed my sister Sarah how to arrange the slices in the dish, and then we proceeded with me slicing, and she arranging. Had her try slicing but I think she found my chef's knife a little overwhelming hehe. The dish turned out well, I think, and it was generally well received by the Diner-Jammers. Too bad the photo didn't turn out well. Just now I saw a spot on TV about how Cibo is now serving ratatouille...hmp! ;-)

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Chicken Dinner Thursday

Wednesday was our 2nd poultry fabrication day in school. Poultry fab being a bit more involved than beef, lamb or pork fab, I wanted to get in some practice before I started to forget what I'd learned. So Thursday I went and bought a whole dressed chicken, a 4-pack of leg-and-thigh quarters, herbs and other sundry ingredients, and planned out a dinner menu for my family. I had Steph come over, and I had Ace bring Margie.

The menu:

  • Steamed Roulade of Chicken Stuffed with Prawn & Asparagus, paired with Shiitake Cream Penne
  • Breaded Suprême of Chicken Stuffed with Kesong Puti, served with Roasted Red Capsicum Cream Sauce
  • Ballotine of Chicken Stuffed with Apples & Cashews, served with Herbed Mashed Potato and Apple Brandy Demiglace

Read the rest of this post...
Wednesday was our 2nd poultry fabrication day in school. Poultry fab being a bit more involved than beef, lamb or pork fab, I wanted to get in some practice before I started to forget what I'd learned. So Thursday I went and bought a whole dressed chicken, a 4-pack of leg-and-thigh quarters, herbs and other sundry ingredients, and planned out a dinner menu for my family. I had Steph come over, and I had Ace bring Margie.

The menu:
Breaded Suprême of Chicken Stuffed with Kesong Puti, served with Roasted Red Capsicum Cream Sauce

Steamed Roulade of Chicken Stuffed with Prawn & Asparagus, paired with Shiitake Cream Penne

Ballotine of Chicken Stuffed with Apples & Cashews, served with Herbed Mashed Potato and Apple Brandy Demiglace

I had a slightly more ambitious menu planned out, but this was what time permitted. I fabricated the chicken into two suprêmes and two ballotines, and I turned two of the leg-and-thigh quarters into ballotines, and pounded out the other two into roulades. I had originally planned for walnuts to go in the apple stuffing, thinking that we still had walnuts in the fridge left over from baking, but I was wrong, we were out. I still had plenty of tarragon left over from Dine&Jam that I planned to put in the vinaigrette for the salad, but I guess it slipped my mind hehe.

JB plating while the family looks hungrily on

Here I am plating one of the roulades. Ace & Margie, Mama & Steph look hungrily on hehe.

JB plating

Steamed Roulade of Chicken Stuffed with Prawn & Asparagus, with Shiitake Creme Penne

Steamed Roulade of Chicken Stuffed with Prawn & Asparagus, with Shiitake Creme Penne.

Ballotine of Chicken Stuffed with Apples & Cashew Nuts, with Apple Brandy Demi Sauce

Ballotine of Chicken Stuffed with Apples & Cashew Nuts, with Apple Brandy Demi Sauce.

Breaded Suprême of Chicken Stuffed with Kesong Puti, with Roasted Red Pepper Creme

Breaded Suprême of Chicken Stuffed with Kesong Puti, with Roasted Red Pepper Creme.

Steph showing off the roulade

Steph showing off the roulade.

BJ & Steph
Steph & I can't wait to chow down on the ballotine.

Ace & Margie

dig in!
Dig in!


more wine, Ace?
More wine, Ace?


Sarah, official photographer for the night.

Ace takaw
Ang takaw ni Ace!


Still room for dessert? No, I did not bake this (I wish!)


Monday, May 28, 2007


Dinner last night was sinigang na pompano sa kamias. Papa came back last week from a Cagayan de Oro-GenSan-Davao business trip, and he brought back a lot of really gorgeous fish. I'd had pompano before but I'd never cooked it myself. I like my sinigang very sour. Gimme lots of onions, and ugh no gabi please! (my apologies if you're a fan of sinigang thick with gabi) Cabbage is ok for prawns, but for fish gimme kangkong. And don't forget the siling haba! Beware, if I cook it there will probably be several sili, and possibly crushed. But not last night. Now of all the different variants of the humble sinigang, sinigang sa bayabas is my least favorite. Sinigang sa sampalok takes middle rank. I've heard of but not tried sinigang sa pakwan. Sinigang sa kamias has always been my favorite.


Slow fade to memories from my childhood in Batangas City where "kalamyas" as it is called there was so abundant we kids used to pick them off the trees and munch on them. The trees were small and no good for climbing, but the leaves lent good cover to toy soldiers. The mushy overripe fruit served well as harmless grenades during mock wars as we ran around the neighborhood. For cooking, kalamyas could be had both fresh and sun-dried. I never see the dried variety anywhere anymore. In fact the fresh ones aren't so readily available here in Manila either. We're fortunate to have access to a nearby tree. I should try sun-drying a few myself when there are more fruit. This time of year there's only ever a handful of runt fruits on the tree, and all of them were picked for last night's sinigang.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Revisiting Asia

While we took a break from Dine&Jam I thought I'd take a break from cooking pasta, too. Steph and I found ourselves eating a lot of asian food. Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Persian, Pinoy. Mama and I revisited some of the recipes we hadn't prepared in a long time. We were reminded we could put this stuff on the menu, too! Here's an asian spread Steph, Sarah and I prepared one December night. We took a few shots while waiting for Mama & Papa to come home and then we tucked in and demolished the spread hehehe.

Thai Bagoong Rice

Bulgogi (Korean beef stew)

Thai Pandan-Wrapped Chicken

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

What's cooking?

I haven't posted in ages! That's not to say that I haven't been cooking. On the contrary, cooking has been keeping me very busy indeed!

I think I'll just start with what's current, and work my way backwards. Whatever.

Dine & Jam 10's just around the corner. I haven't even started thinking about what I'm gonna serve then. The past two Dine & Jams I didn't decide on the menu til I only had two days to go! Pulling that off was no mean feat, as grocery lists and kitchen timetables all hinge on my menu decisions. I need to get a head start this time.

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Dine & Jam by The Regali Kitchen

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to be continued...


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Fettucine with Brandied Apples & Ham, and Garlic Enoki Mushrooms

I got some really good comments on one of the pastas I served recently at Dine & Jam. The great thing is it's a recipe of my own invention (as are many of the Dine & Jam recipes, though definitely not all). When I do use something out of a cookbook I like to tweak it anyway, but it's especially gratifying to have one of your own inventions complimented :D

Fettucine with Brandied Apples and Ham


1 lb (455g) dried fettucine
2 Fuji apples, diced or cut into small wedges
juice of 1 lemon, squeeze onto diced apples to prevent "rusting"
3 cloves garlic, minced or bashed to bits
1 Tbsp butter (or two hehe)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
500g cooked ham, diced
1/4 cup brandy
a small handful of minced parsley
a pinch of dried thyme (if you can get fresh thyme, so much the better)
1 1/2 cup crème fraîche
dash of nutmeg
crushed red pepper flakes
salt & pepper


Cook the pasta for half the time it says on the packet. Drain, butter, and set aside.

In a heavy-based pan large enough to hold the pasta, heat olive oil.
Put in garlic, parsley, thyme, red pepper flakes.
Saute til just before garlic turns color.
Put in the ham. Season with salt & pepper. Cook ham til browned.

In another heavy-based pan, melt butter. Heat til very hot, but do not brown.
Drain the apples. Cook in the butter til they begin to caramelize.
Pour in brandy. Bring to a boil, then simmer 5minutes.
Put the ham back on moderate heat. Put the brandied apples into the ham & mix it up a bit, but not too much (you don't wanna mush up the apples)
Put in the crème fraîche. Lower the heat. When just heated through, turn the fire off. Put in the nutmeg. Toss with the noodles. Check seasoning, top with Parmesan cheese & some extra minced parsley, and dig in.

I meant to make a side dish of garlic enoki mushrooms but I just didn't have time for that anymore so I served the pasta by itself. Enoki mushrooms are tiny little mushrooms that I thought would add great texture to the pasta, and make for an interesting presentation. I'm putting the recipe here but first, some notes on the pasta.

I always half-cook pasta & finish cooking in the sauce. That way they absorb flavor. In any case I'm sure you guys know how to cook pasta al dente. If you follow the timing printed on the packet your pasta'll be overcooked. Pasta-cooking water should always be salted (1 Tbsp/ 1L water). Some people like putting in oil. That prevents noodles from sticking, but also prevents sauce from staying on the noodles. When your noodles are done, drain them immediately but unless you're making lasagna NEVER rinse them under cold water (makes your noodles rubbery) Just butter them lightly and set them aside.

About the brandied apples, I just cooked them in brandy but if I make this dish again I would flambé them. Oh yeah, you don't have to use lemon juice to preserve diced apples while they're on standby. What I actually did was this: Mama happened to be baking something with canned fruit cocktail in it, and so I asked her to save the preserving liquid and I put my diced apples in that.

The whole idea behind this dish is to have the mild sweetness of the apples be there as something interesting--something you wouldn't normally see in a pasta dish--but you don't want this to be a sweet dish. You want the saltiness of the ham to still assert itself. The whole reason behind the red pepper is to veer the diner's senses away from a "this is a dessert" feeling. You don't want the sweetness overpowered either, or else the novelty is gone. You gotta find a good balance.

The first incarnation of this dish (which I did close to a year ago) used cayenne pepper and didn't have any liquor in it. It tasted like a kiddie dish, in spite of the pepper. Preparing for Dine & Jam, I added parsley for more interesting color, and switched from cayenne to dried red pepper flakes for the same reason. Added the thyme to the saute instead of at the end so the ham takes on more flavor, and tried using wine. I love cooking with wine, but for this dish it didn't work. Too sour. As soon as I thought of using brandy instead I knew I had my recipe.

On to the enoki mushrooms...

Garlic Enoki Mushrooms

4 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, bashed to bits
a bit of salt & black pepper
about 200g enoki mushrooms

Heat the oil. Add parsley, garlic, and seasoning. Cook briefly.
Toss in your shrooms. Fry til golden.
Serve hot, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Golden Pasta

I have a catering gig on Friday, Dine&Jam on Sunday, and Papa's birthday party on the 15th so I need to get the creative juices flowing.

I'd been kicking around the idea for this unusual pasta sauce in my head for days. I chose today to try it out and I got so pumped up about it that even though I had some trouble searching for the ingredients that I wanted, nothing could stop me hehehe.

I did have a backup dish that I was also excited about. Indira's comment on the last post had gotten me thinking about doing something en papillote again, so I did a bit of ref raiding. This morning's inventory check turned up -among other things - a few potatoes, and some fresh tarragon in danger of drying out.

Even though I had doubts the two dishes I had in mind would pair well, I just knew they would both make really good eats & so I went ahead and made both of 'em.

After two hours in the kitchen, Sarah & I had our Golden Pasta with Pine Nuts & Dried Apricots, and Tarragon Chicken En Papillote.

Just like I hoped, the pasta looked way funky! I dug into that first, and I had to smile. It turned out just the way I wanted it. Maybe a tad too spicy. Though I'm a nutball for spicy food, I intended this sauce to be on the delicate side. Will bring the spice down a notch next time. The apricots were a stroke of genius, if I may say so myself hehehe. The toasted pine nuts gave it just the crunch & nutty flavor I was shooting for.

Golden Pasta with Pine Nuts & Dried Apricots
Golden Pasta with Pine Nuts & Dried Apricots

Next, the baked bird. Panalo!

En Papillote is just a fancy shmancy french term for "wrapped in paper." You put all your ingredients into a parchment or foil bag & bake it. I'm a big fan of cooking in bags. What I did was parboil some potatoes (well scrubbed so I could leave the skins on, and to conserve water I did the boiling in the same water I was gonna use to cook the pasta). Next I julienned some carrot, sliced up some mushrooms, and seasoned a couple of whole chicken legs. The sauce was orange juice & zest, olive oil, mustard, a nice bit of wine, and of course the fresh tarragon. I divided up into two bags and baked those suckers for half an hour.

Tarragon Chicken En Papillote
Tarragon Chicken En Papillote

P.S. After posting this I woke up in the middle of the night & remembered I had meant to use herbes de Provençe on the chicken, but forgot about it come cooking time! Will save that idea for next time.

P.P.S Hey why are my food shots so blurry?!

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Friday, June 30, 2006

Mushroom fest

I tried out Jamie Oliver's Baked Onions and as he promised they were "smashing, pukka, the absolute dog's kahunas!!" I don't know if I'd be violating copyrights by putting the recipe in here, but the basic idea is you boil some big fat yellow onions, then hollow them out. You take the pulp and mush ‘em up with some cream and your favorite herbs and cheese, and stuff that back into the bulbs. Then you wrap the lot with pancetta if you can get it, or if (like me) you can't then just some nice streaky bacon. You bake these babies, and the onions come out all sweet and cheesy and herby and they just majorly kick butt, man!

Went scouting for mushrooms at the local market & grocery store. No gourmet shops for me. I wanted to know what could be had at short notice & on a budget. What else is there besides the common canned champignon (aka button) mushrooms? Funny fact I learned about champignon mushrooms: Wikipedia says, "while this specific mushroom is sometimes called simply champignon in the English-speaking world, this word means "fungus" in general in French, including all mushrooms, toadstools and even fungal infections." Yummy.

Too bad we don't have porcini mushrooms here. What I found were some fresh oyster mushrooms and some big meaty shiitakes. I also found packets of dried 'shrooms I couldn't quite identify. After soaking 'em I realized they were shiitakes too. I'd occasionally chanced upon some enoki mushrooms but none today. In any case they would've been nice for variety but would probably not have added much flavor as the shiitake was bound to overpower everything else. I roughly chopped up my finds & sautéed them in some butter and plenty of garlic and herbs. Served this up on top of some baked polenta and the beautiful onions.

Herbed Mushrooms on Polenta, and Baked Onions

While the onions and the polenta were baking I wondered what to do with the extra onion + cheese + cream that I couldn't stuff back into the onion bulbs. I had some extra champignon mushrooms, too. I minced and sautéed the ‘shrooms and put them in the cream with some ground beef. Quickie cannelloni filling. The cannelloni just caught the tail end of the other stuff's cooking time, and didn't quite make it to the table as early as I would've liked, but Mama, Papa, Sarah and I still found tummy space to dig into it before the baked onions completely disappeared.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Curry Night

I finally got my curry fix hehehe. Last night was curry night, and for that we had reinforcements. Margie & Steph came over to help us prepare this largely Indian feast. Steph & I made a sambal of mussels, and Aloo Gobi (a fragrant, mildly-spiced dish of cauliflower, potatoes, peas & tomatoes).

Sambal of Mussels, and Aloo Gobi

The veg was a great foil for the truly evil masala curry that Margie and Ace had whipped up. Not everyone can dig wickedly hot curry and so Ace & Margie also made a milder batch as a special consideration. We went cross-continent for the side dishes: good old muttabal, and Ace roasted some of the leftover onions, and there was plenty of cucumber mint raita as our "fire extinguuisher" hehehe. And then there were dried figs and dates for dessert so we started the meal in India, and ended it in North Africa hehe. We were all cross-eyed but happy by the end of it.

Evil Curried Chicken, Muttabal, and Cucumber Mint Raita

There's already talk of doing a Moroccan night next time. That has got to be some of the craziest cuisine ever! Olive oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, cardamom, coriander, turmeric, caraway, saffron, olives with the pits left in, and plenty of chilli. You mist it over with lemon, sometimes a handful of fresh mint, then you toss on some almonds or whatever nuts, and dried dates, sultanas, or just plain old raisins. It's insane, and I love it! Oh, and you gotta have couscous. Maybe I'll do a reprise of my fish fillet and couscous in a bag.


Cooking in a bag

The French call it En Papillote, the Italians call it cartoccio, and it's got to be the wildest (& easiest) cooking methods ever. You basically chuck all your ingredients into a bag & bake it. What this means is that minimal fat, if any is needed since all the ingredients, sealed tightly in the bag, steam in their own juices, mingling the flavors. You get this natural, healthy sauce from cooking your meat or fish in the same bag as your veggies & herbs. It's amazing. The bonus is that there's hardly any washing up after (just toss the used bags into the wastebasket).

Classically the packets are made with parchment paper. You can substitute tin foil, but you'll have to handle it with extra care as foil punctures easily, and you don't want to use foil if you've got acidic mixtures in the food, like tomatoes sprinkled with vinegar, as the foil may react with it. Parchment paper isn't that much more expensive, and you'll find it in the same grocery section as the foil. Go with the'll make you look oh so gourmet hehehe.

You serve each person his own packet on a plate, and they cut it open or you cut it open for them. Watch them ooh and ahh when the amazing aromas come steaming out. You could conceivably make bigger bags for more people but getting the cooking time right might get a little tricksy.

Here's something I did with fish & couscous but really, you can put just about anything in a bag. The key is to have food that's gonna give off some moisture, and to cut up the food into reasonably small pieces so they cook all the way through. Seafood pasta lends itself well to this method, as would sliced meat or chicken on rice or whatever, I should think.

Fish Fillet & Couscous "En Papillote"

  • couscous (How much, you ask? Well I don't know, how much do you wanna eat? The spices here are enough for 6 packets, each containing about a cup and a half cooked couscous)
  • zucchini and carrot, shredded
  • a good-sized onion, chopped
  • 1 lemon, shave or grate the zest off, then slice thinly
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • as many fish fillets as you have people (the spices listed are for roughly 6)
  • as many bay leaves as you have fish fillets
  • chopped or sliced almonds, toasted

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Cut a 10-inch sheet of parchment or foil for each guest, and put a fold down the middle. In a bowl, plunk together the couscous, the broth, the veggies, zest from your lemon, the spices, and half the salt. Feel free to give it a splash of white wine. Stir it around a bit to blend. Divide the mixture among your paper packets (Just spoon it onto the middle). Place the fish on top and sprinkle with the pepper & remaining salt. Top with a lemon slice, a bay leaf, and toss on some almonds. Fold the packet up (making sure it's well sealed), put them on a baking sheet and bake for maybe 15 minutes. Serve with some crunchy salad.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

I am trying to decide what to cook for supper, and I don't want to have to go to the market. This is always a fun challenge, cook with only what you've got handy. Bonus points if it's a new recipe. It's going to be a little tough today though because after several such sessions this past week I've nearly cleaned out the ref. Oh there're still spices galore, and this & that, but hardly any more meat or veggies, fresh or canned.

I'm torn three ways: 1) test a new recipe Italian so I can use it for the next Dine&Jam; 2) whip up some of that curry I've been craving for days; 3) go with that homey potato meat pie I dug up 5minutes ago that I already have all the ingredients for (options 1 & 2 will require me to cheat a little & buy a couple of things from the grocery store). Ah but the Italian is practical, as I do need something new for Dine&Jam, but I really do need a break from Italian cuisine. The curry is calling to me. Cumin: check. Turmeric: check. Coriander: running low after last night's Thai dinner, but check. No yogurt, and no mint. Or lemons. Pakoras would be great, but nothing to fry. I can buy bell peppers easy enough. But again, no yogurt, and no time to make some. Buying it all ready-made is fine, but such a waste. I think I will have to go with the pie (which is starting to sound really good, actually. Ah but a fourth option: I've got plenty to make mexican with, specially with these newly-ripened avocadoes. But no tomatoes for salsa, so scratch that. Pie it is.

Sorry, no photo. I'll post the recipe soon.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Middle-Eastern Coffee-Spiced Chicken

It's always fun to take inventory of the ref & pantry, and cook something up using whatever's already there. This week I cheated a little bit after I'd decided on the menu & stepped out to buy some anise seeds, and some prepared mustard.

After initial scans of the stocks I'd almost decided to go for a mexican menu (tortillas in the freezer, nacho chips in the pantry, plenty of tomatoes for salsa, and newly ripened avocadoes that my folks had brought home from Batangas), but I really wanted to try something new. Then I remembered that I'd been meaning to experiment with using coffee to spice a meat dish. I found some chicken in the freezer, and decided to run with it. I'd been reading some about using coffee in cooking, and I'd been toying with several different approaches to it. At around 5pm I decided I was gonna go for a Middle-Eastern spice treatment.

broiled bird in caffeine
Middle-Eastern Coffee-Spiced Chicken
basically broiled chicken using a coffee & spice basting sauce

Finjan Kirfee
a traditional Arabian drink, it's a tisane made from anise seeds, cloves & other spices, garnished with walnuts

a simple eggplant, garlic & sesame seed paste, same as you'll find at any kebab place

Cucumber & Yogurt salad

Roasted tomato & onion "skewers"

The Muttabal was added as an afterthought, when I realized the main dish lacked accompaniment. Had to send Tim out for eggplant. The coffee posed a problem when we realized we were fresh out of filters for the coffee-maker. Ace & I decided (with much hesitation) that we were just gonna have to live with using extra-strong instant coffee hehehe. Turns out we were fresh out of instant, too, so we bought some from the sari-sari next door.

The progression of aromas as we were preparing the basting sauce was mouth watering, and got us all excited. The coffee lent great color to the broiled chicken. Ace kept a watchful eye on it, basting the pieces every few minutes. While that was happening, I had plenty of time to prepare everything else. The eggplant & other veggies went into the broiler with the chicken. I didn't want to lose the tomato's juices and so we didn't skewer them as is traditional. The eggplant was cooking a little too slowly & so I took it to the stovetop & roasted it pinoy-style a la tortang talong hehehe. Fresh out of sesame seeds for the muttabal [aaargh]. Pine nuts & a little sesame oil did nicely.

I gave some thought to making a rice pilaf, but I figured plain rice would do. I had one leftover Curry Naan from BreadTalk. Unfortunately I didn't have time to make my own naan or pita bread. Ace came up with the brilliant idea of using the flour tortillas in the freezer as a substitute. He fixed it up with some olive oil & curry and they went into the oven with everything else. They turned out a lot lighter than pita or naan would've, of course, but they were pretty good too, and looked nice on the plate.

I made the drink last, and it only took a few minutes.

Another beautiful meal! Too bad I couldn’t take better photos. My food styling & photography both need work hehe. Besides I was much too eager to chow down already! Man oh man, did we ever demolish that dinner spread!


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Penne in Shrimp & Olive Marinara;
Pesto butter on baguette slices;
Triple-Layer Lemon Bars

Arancini: An Italian rice ball made with white wine risotto, and a gooey herbed cheese center. I'd never made risotto's even more mind numbingly slow than I ever imagined! But I should practice patience if I wanna be a better cook. Forgot the thyme, but did think to put some old pesto in. I'd read somewhere that "arancini" literally meant "small oranges" (hence the saffron), but the pesto I put in combined with the saffron to make a sickly green color. Against my better judgement, I skipped the wine & just increased the broth. Even worse, I used boullion cubes (hey I was in a hurry!) but I did also use a nice bouquet garni so all was not lost. Predictably, the broth was too salty, and the resulting risotto was too watery. Forming the balls was difficult. This could be an easy recipe if the risotto is done right. Next time hehe. Well it didn't taste bad.

I had better luck with the quickie shrimp & olive marinara. The olives were delicious! For mopping up the juices I got the baguette slices all dressed up with some pesto butter I slapped together real quick, and that was the meal. After we got all googly eyed after all that richness, Mama's lemon bars were a welcome wake-up shot! Heaven.