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August 30, 2006

A Tart And A Pizza

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Vegetable Tart

From one pizza dough recipe I made a vegetable tart and a feta spinach pizza. I made the dough yesterday, let it sit in the fridge overnight then brought it out of the fridge 3 hours before I shaped them. Homemade dough is far superior to refrigerated ones from the grocery both in taste and texture, they're crunchy AND chewy, just the way I like it.

Vegetable Tart: 1 each julienned red, yellow and orange sweet bell peppers, 1 large seeded tomato and half a vidalia onion, 2 chopped spring onions, 1 smashed garlic clove, halved greek black olives, fresh rosemary, basil and thyme. In 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, saute the onions for 2 minutes or until soft and transparent, then add the garlic and peppers, cook for another 2 minutes, add ¼ teaspoon sea salt. Turn off the heat and add spring onions, tomatoes and herbs, transfer to a plate to cool. Shape the dough, drizzle 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, spread the filling evenly on the dough, top with olives cut side down.

Feta, Olives, and Baby Spinach Pizza

Feta, Olive, and Baby Spinach Pizza: 2 cups fresh baby spinach, blanched and coarsely chopped, 1 cup reduced fat mozzarella, ½ cup crumbled feta, 2 chopped spring onions, halved Greek olives. Drizzle 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil on the shaped dough, spread mozzarella, top with chopped spinach and spring onions, add feta, then arrange olives evenly on top, cut side down.

Bake tart and pizza in a preheated 450°F oven for 15 -18 minutes.

August 29, 2006

Wal-Mart is the devil

It all started with Wal-Mart, the proliferation of dirt cheap consumer goods from toys to clothing to household small electrics and now food. I got so peeved today when I went to the grocery to buy a package of peeled baby carrots. The first bag I picked up was from Guatemala, the second from Costa Rica, and all the other bags came from other countries like China and Belgium but not one bag of peeled baby carrots was grown here in the USA. I looked at other packaged veggies including frozen and they are all imported. Only few are USA grown. I asked the grocery personnel where the fresh vegetables are from, the broccoli and green bell peppers are from Mexico. Just the other day I brought home a package of yellow and orange bell sweet peppers from the Netherlands which I only found out at home. Last week I asked the manager of one grocery chain here in our city why all the Fuji and Gala apples are from Chile and why there aren't any apples from Virginia. There are golden and red delicious from Washington State but that's it, every apple variety is from Chile. It is ridiculous, Virginia is an apple growing state and to find apples from Chile in the middle of summer is just exasperating. I was told by the manager "But, aren't you glad the prices of apples are way cheaper than last year, don't you want to save money?" I told him I don't want cheap and inferior produce, I want fruits and vegetables grown here in my country. It's not the middle of winter so why are these groceries buying produce from abroad? Because they are cheaper to buy and maybe cheaper for consumer but it means they're inferior and more disturbing it means less business for Americans. So why blame Wal-Mart? Because this trend was started by this retail giant by importing really cheap merchandise from China and the trend is spreading fast. The consumers are the real losers here for being forced to buy inferior products. Of course I have the option of driving all the way to the boondocks to buy locally grown produce but that's inconvenient and these merchants are only available during the summer. This is the first summer in almost 15 years that I have not been able to buy Virginia apples from the big grocery chains and I think that's sad. There are some stores near where I live that sell US produce, Wegmans although they also sell Chilean fruits during winter which is understandable AND Costco which sells in bulk and the produce tends to rot before you can completely consume them.

August 28, 2006

Japanese Style Dinner

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Onigiri and Abura-age

I was in the mood for Japanese today and made onigiri and stuffed abura-age (fried soybean pockets). Onigiri is sushi rice individually formed into round or pyramidal shapes. The usual fillings are smoked salmon and pickled young apricot called umeboshi (very salty and taste like soft moist champoy). The sushi rice can also be mixed with chopped black olives and toasted black sesame seeds before shaping. I also pressed sushi rice and filled several canned abura-age, fried and seasoned (soy sauce, sugar and mirin) tofu pockets. I didn't have time to make green veggetable side dish and had the leftover boiled shelled edamame (soy beans) from last night. Very satisfying but so light you have to eat several of these. Japanese food, so tasty with or without fish or meat.

Onigiri and Abura-age

August 25, 2006

Florante Aguilar

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Florante Aguilar

I just received the 2 CDs by a Filipino classical guitar player based in California, Florante Aguilar. I read about him in Market Manila's blog and 3 days later here I am, for the first time in my life, enjoying Filipino songs. The all Filipino song CD is called Tipanan A CELEBRATION OF THE PHILIPPINE GUITAR. It has familiar tunes like Ikaw and Bayan Ko, the folk song Sing Sing (a brilliant interpretation of Atin Cu Pung Singsing) and children's song Sitsiritsit. The other CD is a compilation of suites for 2 guitars, with the music of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and The Police played classically, exactly the kind of music I listen to. Eleanor Rigby played a la Baroque, She's Leaving home in waltz, Purple Haze a la Bartok, these are just a few of the songs in this wonderful CD.

Speaking of Filipino musicians I also have a few CDs by Susie Ibarra, a Filipina born and raised here in the US. She plays drums/percussions and has a group called The Susie Ibarra Trio (drums/violin/piano), their music is categorized as avant jazz. She is very good and got excellent reviews in Amazon.com and several New York papers. One of her CDs is a tribute to the Filipino migrant workers Folkloriko. In one of the songs, she plays the Philippine wooden kulintang. The CD is great and she has become one of my favorite artists.

Unrelated to Filipino music and musicians: the song Bayan Ko reminded me of the EDSA people power rallies and it's just a coincidence that the Washington Post today has on its front page a story on the new means to assemble a protest rally in Manila: cellphone text messaging. The reporter followed one person, a 25 year old male college graduate mobilizing people through texting and concluded it is very effective because a thousand people came to attend the protest without the police's previous knowledge of where and when exactly they will assemble. The article also pointed out that the Philippines is now the texting capital of the world. I myself have a Philippine Globe sim that I use to text my parents and relatives. I got it because my mother is hard of hearing and prefers to text. It is also very cheap (piso) for her to communicate with me, and fast (no operator to deal with), in fact she already ditched her landline and uses her cell most of the time.

August 24, 2006

Siopao and Cuapao

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Siopao 2006
Siopao 2006
cuapao filled with preserved mustard greens, fried pork belly, and peanuts

Finally I found the time to make both siopao and cuapao. In a previous post I said that cuapao has no meat, I was mistaken, it should have bacon, ham or native Filipino tocino, just a little for flavoring. For the siopao I made chicken asado (Chinese-style roast chicken) filling and added sliced salted eggs and Chinese/Vietnamese sausages. The cuapao has chopped mustard greens, fried pork belly chips and peanuts. I don't make these very often as there are so many steps to do: the dough, the meat or veggie filling and slicing salted eggs and Chinese sausages, not to mention the cleaning of numerous cooking and preparation utensils. I could buy siopao from the Philippine grocery but then I won't be able to control the fat and salt contents. After consuming one of each I forget I spent more than 3 hours making them. Yum!

Siopao 2006
Siopao 2006
siopao filled with chicken asado, Chinese sausages, and salted duck eggs

The recipe for the dough is here.
Update including recipes for Chinese pork roast and burong mustasa is here.

August 22, 2006

Sprouted Mung Bean and Sweet Bell Pepper Salad

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You are so fresh

The sprouted mung beans (from an experiment) have grown so lush, about 2 inches tall. I didn't want to throw them nor let them grow as big as the full grown ones. I tasted them first, they're fine, not grassy nor bitter and the stems are crunchy.

Sprouted Mung Beans

I mixed them with sweet yellow and orange bell peppers. I made a Korean style dressing: garlic, spring onions, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, salt and the most important ingredient, Korean sesame seed oil. I love it, it's delicious and very simple to prepare, no blanching required as the leaves are very tender. I think I'll make this salad regularly. I'm also considering sprouting adzuki and soy beans. My SIL suggested soft wheat but found out the calories are 200% more than mung and soy beans but will try it for the taste which she says is nutty.

Cheese, Champagne Grapes, and Nougat Dessert Plate
dessert: Champagne grapes, aged Gouda and Manchego cheeses, homemade pistachio turron

August 16, 2006

Pancit Luglug

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Pancit Luglug
Pancit Luglug

It's not easy making vegetarian pancit luglug but I tried anyway using tofu puffs and just 1 tablespoon of fish sauce for flavoring. I didn't use soy sauce as it will alter the taste of this Filipino dish. With other seasonings, boiled eggs, green onions and calamansi, puede na, it's not bad, I really like it. It's very light I had a large serving. It's a good thing our Philippine grocer sells these frozen calamansi in individual packets, very convenient. I can do without prawns and chicharon but not without calamansi and patis.

Frozen Calamansi

August 14, 2006

Tortang Talong And Salted Eggs/Tomato Salad

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Tortang Talong

I have a few Asian eggplants to make torta using tvp instead of ground beef. First cook the eggplant: pierce eggplant skin all over then grill over stovetop fire until skin is charred, place in a glass container, cover with plastic wrap, set aside to cool. Prepare the vegemeat filling: soak 1/2 cup tvp in 1/2 hot water mixed with 2 TBS kikkoman, set aside. Saute 2 crushed garlic clove and finely chopped half onion in 1 TBS olive oil until onion is soft and cooked. Add tvp and saute until heated through and excess liquid has evaporated. Cool slightly, then add 1 egg. Remove skin from eggplants, then flatten. Beat well 2 - 3 eggs, heat pan, spread 2 TBS beaten egg, put 1 flattened eggplant over egg, spread 3 TBS vegemeat over the eggplant, fry for 2 minutes on medium heat, spread another 2 TBS egg beside the eggplant and carefully flip the eggplant onto the egg, fry for another 1 -2 minutes. Repeat with the rest of the eggplants and vegemeat. You can also make this without meat filling and serve as a side dish.

Tomatoes and Salted Duck Eggs Salad
chilled salad of salted eggs and tomatoes

Tortang Talong
tortang talong with Jufran, don't you just love this vivid red banana ketchap? I do

August 13, 2006

Bibingka

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Bibingka

I made bibingkas because I have some kesong puti (white cheese) and 2 salted eggs, ingredients for topping bibingka. I used rice flour (instead of soaking rice overnight and grinding it in the food processor) and lined the pans in banana leaves for that authentic Filipino flavor. I estimated the proportions and although the rice cakes are yummy, they don't have the same pillow softness of Ferino's. Maybe I should use less liquid, mostly coconut milk, butter and eggs, to make them more cakey. The white cheese, which I love in hot pandesal (buns) for breakfast, is good but they can't compare with the Los Baños kesong puti. I'm going to make putong puti and putong ube next.

August 10, 2006

Italian Torrone

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Torrone

Every Christmas season the local groceries sell 2 kinds of Spanish turrones, Alicante and Jijona. The last 2 years the alicantes were hard as rocks I didn't buy any and bought just a few boxes of jijona. About 7 years ago I made the soft nougat much like the Italian soft torrone. It was not easy to make, it sticks everywhere and I never made the thing again. Recently I found these individually boxed Ferrara torrones, they are sooo good specially the lemon flavor, they're soft and chewy and not so sweet. I think they are very similar to the Montelimar French nougat. Since I'm into ice cream these days I thought I should make turron ice cream but did not want to use up my Ferrara torrones. So I made soft nougat this afternoon using honey in place of corn syrup. I got the recipe online and is surprisingly easy to make, the only thing missing is the thin rice paper which is impossible to get here in the US. I used to buy the German made ones when we were living in HongKong. I will try the edible "rice" paper made from potato starch that are used to decorate cakes. However I found a way to avoid the candies sticking to papers, fingers, etc by rolling them in sweet rice powder, then individually wrapping them in parchment. Yay, I can make turron ice cream tomorrow.

Torrone
my torrone is on the left, I used sliced almonds because it will be easier to eat in ice cream. I cut mine to almost the same size as the torrone, about 1½ x 1 inch.

Torrone
they look and taste the same to me, mmmmm. I can do this regularly using lemon, orange or vanilla flavors, and dried fruits instead of nuts. I'll still buy Ferrara torrones, though.

Montelimar-style nougat recipe is here
Soft chewy Italian pistacio nougat is here
Soft Chocolate Nougat is here

Fabada

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Fabada

A simplified version of the Spanish/Filipino bean stew, Fabada.
  • Soak white beans overnight, drain, fill pot with water to cover beans 1 inch. Bring to a boil, simmer on low heat for 1 hour, add 4 garlic cloves, 1 onion (in chunks), 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 Spanish chorizos or Portuguese chouriço, a big chunk of smoked ham, then simmer another hour. Fish out the sausages and ham, cool slightly, then slice the sausages and cut the ham into small portions. Enjoy.
*I don't put morcilla (blood sausage) because I don't like its metallic taste which no amount of seasoning can mask.

August 9, 2006

DVD Review INSIDE MAN & CAVITE

INSIDE MAN 5 stars
Not your typical bank heist where nothing is what it seems. Worth every second of the 2 hours 9 minutes I spent watching this movie. My only complaint is Denzel Washington, who is in my view a very overrated actor, he IS Denzel in all his movies, only a little better perhaps in Malcom X. His cop partner played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (very good in Dirty Pretty Things and Serenity) was a better actor, too bad he barely said anything, Jodie Foster is fine, her "dishwasher" manner of speaking is not noticeable, Clive Owen is of course superb, and the Pinoy cinematographer (Matthew Labatique) is excellent. Spike Lee did a wonderful job, this movie is a cool and smart thriller without big explosions or annoying car chases. Highly recommended.

CAVITE 4 stars
Also a very smart, different thriller featuring a cellphone. This tells the story of a Filipino American working as a security guard in San Diego who had to go back to the Philippines to attend his father's funeral only to learn as soon as he got out of the airport that his mother and sister are being held hostage by Muslim terrorists. They communicate with him through a cellphone that was put inside his luggage by the terrorist and from then on he had to go to wherever and do whatever the person on the cellphone tells him. It was uncomfortable to watch the people living in the slums in the Philippines but that's reality, they exist. The actor, who co-wrote the script with the guy filming (also the voice of the terrorist), was not supposed to be IN the film because the role was written for a female. They couldn't get a Pinay (who would want to work in slum areas?) to do the job so he rewrote it as a male. He did a good job, although being there and inhaling the stench from the squatter areas doesn't require acting lessons, it will come naturally. This is truly an indie film made with the tiniest of budget and came out to be a one-of-a kind thriller. Highly recommended.

August 7, 2006

Book Reviews

END IN TEARS by Ruth Rendell 5 stars
Murder mystery about surrogate mothers and baby selling scams, the novel also discusses the different British social status and race. I love everything written by this author, has never disappointed me, excellent as usual.

AMERICA'S REPORT CARD: A NOVEL by John McNally 5 stars
A bizarre but hilarious satire/tale of conspiracy regarding America's standardized tests; full of strange, crazy characters; not for fans of G W Bush, religious fanatics, Federal Agents, etc.

Lemon Meringue Ice Cream

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Lemon Meringue Ice Cream

I was googling ice cream flavors last night and saw a recipe for lemon meringue ice cream. It took half a day to prepare, I had to bake the meringues first, then cook the custard which had to be chilled for 2 hours. It's worth all the work, the ice cream is fantastic, I just love the sweet and tart combination. The recipe says the meringue will stay crisp for 2 days, no it will not, after 4 hours in the freezer the meringue bits are soft. So I put a few crumbled meringue on top for that added crunchiness and sweetness.

Mmm...meringue

We're having either Swedish meatballs or Lebanese meat patties tonight so for lunch I had some crab meat topped with taba ng talangka (crab fat from tiny Philippine crabs). The crab meat is canned from Indonesia, already shelled and ready to eat or make into crab cakes, and the crab fat came in a jar from Manila. Plain crab meat is so yummy just with native Filipino vinegar seasoned with salt and fresh or dried chili flakes, sauteed veggies and plain steamed white rice. This canned crabmeat is ideal for people like me who don't like the hard work of cracking and extracting meat from crab shells, all you need is a can opener. An added bonus is that these crabs are tastier than the local blue crabs. In my opinion Filipino, Thai and Indonesian blue crabs taste superior to ours here in Virginia. I was going to make crab cakes but changed my mind as I have not eaten plain crab meat in a long time. I'll just get another can to make into crab cakes.

Crab Lunch

August 4, 2006

Catfish Belly Adobo And Mungbean Soup

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Catfish Belly Adobo

I love catfish adobo and when I see just bellies I always get them. To prepare marinate the bellies for an hour in vinegar, garlic, salt, extra virgin olive oil and kikkoman soy sauce, drain and fry in hot olive oil until brown. Then boil the marinade until thick, and pour over the fried bellies, yum, yum, yum. BoiI the mungbeans with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 2 smashed garlic cloves and 1 chopped onion, add 1 teaspoon sea salt when fully cooked, then add malunggay leaves (horseradish tree) which I get frozen from the Filipino grocery. I drizzle more extra virgin olive oil before serving using only Spanish or Portuguese olive oil as they are more robust than Italian or French.

Tofu and Vegetable Saute
Tofu and Vegetable Saute

I also made a Chinese vegetarian stir fry using canned vegetable mix and flavored gluten for non fish eaters.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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Apple, Fig Jam, and Manchego Sandwich

For my lunch today I made grilled cheese sandwich (for grown ups) with sliced fuji apple, manchego cheese and fig preserves on country rye bread, with tomato slices on the side. I got this idea from the Washington Post food section a while back, can't remember when, my version is butterlesss. I prefer this sandwich just with the apple, fig preserves, and cheese. The rye bread and the combination of sweet , salty and crunchy is just perfect, and an icy bottled water completes this meal, there's no need for dessert (there's no room anyway). Burp.

Apple, Fig Jam, and Manchego Sandwich

You can try other cheeses, I think seriously sharp cheddar, young Edam or Gouda will be good.

August 1, 2006

Nonstop Ice Cream Machine

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Langka Ice Cream

My Cuisinart ice cream maker has been churning nonstop for oh about 3 months now, it must be exhausted. Which means we have been eating ice cream nonstop since. I didn't eat this much ice cream in my life until now. Most ice cream here are overly sweet for me including Ben & Jerry's and several brands have thickening agents. Even Breyers that used to advertise using just milk, sugar and natural flavors and fruits now uses that gum thickening whatever. By making my own ice cream I am able to reduce the fat by half and sugar by 60%. I don't use those horrible tasting sugar substitutes, I just reduce the sugar. It's also great to be able to prepare Pinoy sorbetes. The very first one I made was macapuno, then, let's see, I have made ube, queso (grated cheddar cheese), halo-halo, coffee (topped with mangosteen preserves), mango using Philippine mango puree, sweet corn with coconut milk, and today langka. Please, somebody stop me, this is so addicting! Or, maybe not. Can someone suggest other Pinoy flavors that I may have missed?

Italian Honey Figs And Golden Honeydew Melon

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Figs

These figs are so aptly named, they taste as if they are dipped in honey, really. Thank you Wegmans for making these wonderful fruits available every summer. I have 2 fig trees growing in pots at my back porch, an Italian honey and a black fig, so far they have given me only 4 fruits per tree. I recently read that they need to rest during the winter months inside the house in order to produce more fruits in the summer. I'll do that this year and we'll see if they will be more generous next summer.

Golden Honeydew Melon

A lady was handing out samples at the Wegmans' front door and I took a bite. The flesh is pale yellow and very sweet, indeed, I like it. I was never into honeydew melons, it's just too bland. This golden one caught my attention, it is round in shape rather than oblong and has a very bright yellow skin. I'm taking advantage of all the luscious fruits summer has to offer and purchased a few kiwis which also never appealed to me before, will try them though, if I still don't like them I'll dry them to add to cereals.

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