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September 26, 2006

Thai Green Curry

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Thai Beef Green Curry

Thai cuisine has been a favorite since I tasted my first Pad Thai and Tod Mun Pla (fish cakes) at Flavours and Spices restaurant at Mile Long Shopping center when the place was just a tiny hole in the wall, where you can watch the cook prepare the food you ordered. This was 20 years ago, before they moved to that big place at Greenbelt. (I wonder if they are still in business with Thai restaurants mushrooming in Manila like crazy). My office mates and I would go to Makati from the old Asian Development Bank Headquarters at Roxas Blvd in Pasay City, ignoring the traffic and the mild reprimand of our bosses for getting back late from lunch. In my opinion nothing can match Flavours and Spices (in the Philippines and US) in authenticity and taste except of course, in Thailand where the best Thai food I had was in a very small restaurant in Patpong, yes the red light district Patpong in Bangkok. Last night I made beef and tofu green curry, I think I overcooked the tiny eggplants and my sauce always comes out green/brown because I use the Thai ready made green curry paste which is a little brownish. It does not matter, the curry tastes excellent. I usually prepare Thai curry with lots of sauce to pour over rice. I'll never get tired of this food.

Eggplants

Thai Beef Green Curry
½ pound sliced thin very lean beef
1 brick cubed firm tofu
2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
2 tablespoons fish extract
3 makrut lime leaves, fresh or dried
10 halved Thai tiny green eggplants
1 cup fresh Thai basil (no substitutes)
1 large can coconut milk.
  • If using tougher cut of beef, boil in ½ cup of thin coconut milk for 30 minutes. While boiling, saute curry paste in 1 tablespoon olive oil for 1 minute, add coconut milk, lime leaves, tofu and fish sauce or extract, simmer for 15 minutes, then add the beef, eggplants and half of the basil, simmer for 5 minutes, add the rest of the basil, turn off heat. Dish up and serve with hot steamed jasmine rice.

September 24, 2006

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

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Stuffed Portobello

I didn't know what to do with these gigantic (6 inches) portobello mushrooms that I got from Costco. I used to just saute them in lots of garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and some Knorr seasoning served as a side dish, but this time I wanted a little variation. I read a variety of recipes for stuffed portobello and settled for this one: panko breadcrumbs, bacon, garlic, onions, romano cheese, and butter or olive oil. I sprinkled half a tablespoon of crisply fried chopped bacon on each mushroom before topping with the breadcrumb mixture, this way the flavor of bacon is absorbed more by the mushrooms. They turned out to be a very light, very tasty main dish. I served them with hot Italian bread and good Spanish extra virgin olive oil. I sauteed the really large ones, at almost 8 inches, the usual way, they pair well with bistek tagalog (Filipino style beefsteak).

Stuffed Portobello

Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

We had this flavor of Breyers many many times perhaps 3 years ago when it first came out and then got tired of it. Now that I'm still in an ice cream frenzy I made it last week. I used the store bought dulce de leche spread, it tastes just as good as the home boiled canned sweetened condensed milk and it's even better because of its deep caramel color. I mixed in about 3 tablespoons of the spread while the machine is churning then added swirls in between layers when transferring into the container.

Mwah!

Notice how funny the lower portion (dulce de leche) of this picture looks like lips, ready to MWAH!

September 21, 2006

Chai

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Chai

Although we are coffee drinkers, my pantry is bursting with a variety of teas: English breakfast, Earl Grey, Chinese jasmine both loose and bagged, Korean corn, Japanese green, mango and vanilla flavored black, salabat (ginger) and today I bought Indian tea leaves. I am not a fancy tea drinker, I have always taken English breakfast tea just with cream, no sugar, the jasmine with dim sum and Chinese food but recently have been brewing vanilla and mango flavored to take with Japanese food since I discovered they go well together when we ate at Pauli Moto Asian Bistro (co-owned by Iron Chef Morimoto where by the way food is excellent, if you know which dish to order). I have always wanted to try chai ever since we had over an Indian guy for lunch a few months ago. After lunch I offered coffee which he refused and tea. With the variety of teas I have I thought he would be able to pick one but he again refused and said he only likes chai. He proceeded to lament that since his girlfriend left him he doesn't eat home cooked meals and doesn't get to drink homemade chai anymore, boo hoo. How good could this chai be? Well, apparently he is right, it is extremely good. This afternoon I made a pot of slowly simmered tea leaves with a variety of spices and it could be addicting, specially now that it's getting cold. I nibbled on Pocky sesame seed sticks while sipping this wonderful brew, yummy.

These are the spices I used: cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, black pepper, fresh ginger, and nutmeg. My daughter likes it with a little honey, I prefer ½ tsp of raw sugar in mine and my son who doesn't drink coffee or tea also liked it. An added bonus is the house smells wonderful for hours.

To prepare: measure 1 ½ cups water and ½ cup milk in a stainless steel pan. Spices: 1 inch piece fresh peeled sliced ginger, 6 cloves, 6 whole black peppers, 4 cardamom pods, 1 small cinnamon stick, dash of nutmeg. Crack or pound lightly the cloves, black pepper, cardamom (make sure the seeds inside are cracked) and the cinnamon stick. In the pan add 1 tablespoon Darjeeling blend tea leaves and all the spices. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and slow simmer for 30 minutes. Strain into a teapot, add sugar to taste. Enjoy.

I got this tinned loose Indian tea leaves from the Korean grocery store. It's a bit pricey, although it's a pound of excellent tea leaves, it's worth the money. Don't use the tea bags you find in the grocery, only loose Indian tea blends will make excellent cups of chai.

Black Tea Blend

Indonesian Soto Ayam (Chicken and Noodle Soup)

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Indonesian Soto Ayam

I read about this soup in MarketManila's blog, his description and photos inspired me to make it and I was not disappointed, it is delicious. I have an Indonesian cookbook which I use once in a while to cook meat dishes but have never cooked any of the soup recipes because there are so many ingredients and steps to do. It is tedious if you don't have a domestic helper to do all the chopping and cleaning up. This soup/noodle is different from the Filipino style sotanghon (mung bean noodle) dish, it's spicier of course. You can make it even spicier with the addition of the home made sambal (chili dipping sauce). For the soup I followed my cookbook's recipe but I prefer and used Marketman's sambal recipe. I will definitely make this again in autumn and winter, yes definitely.

Soto Ayam Means Delicious!

September 20, 2006

The Bad Plus

Last night, I went to see THE BAD PLUS concert at Ram's Head Tavern in Annapolis, Maryland with my daughter. This is the second time the two of us heard them live and they have gotten "badder" than ever, really awesome. And David is King (of drums)! Goodness, he was wild and seemed tireless with all those almost violent acrobatic acts he was doing but he can be very gentle when necessary. I did not want to look elsewhere or I might miss one of his antics, haha. They are also very funny when they explain the story/reason behind the titles of their songs. Ethan Iverson (piano) announced they will be recording their new album next week (in England I'm sure), woohoo. Something to look forward to. The venue is intimate and the crowd was very enthusiastic. The best birthday gift to myself.

Also got one of my birthday wishes, a Last Holiday film soundtrack cd, good music, except for one track, The Awful Madeleine Peyroux (lousy copycat, create your own style!, how dare she to imitate one of my music icons, Billie Holiday, hmpph). I tried to listen to it but can't even finish half of it, I get irritated and had to make a copy WITHOUT HER SONG, grrr..... Ah, Nina Simone's Feeling Good and Isaac Hayes' Never Can Say Goodbye, goood music. I'm calm now..
By the way, Last Holiday is one of the best movies I saw this year, no sex, no violence, no swearing, no mindless car chases, excellent soundtrack, funny sweet comedy, Queen Latifah very good. She plays a very shy laid back woman whose passion is gourmet cooking. She prepares food then catalogues them and dreams of having her own restaurant and the man of her dreams... Recommended for everyone.

I was given by a reader two ice cream flavor recommendations, Choc-Nut, a Filipino peanut and chocolate candy, and dulce de leche. I was so excited to try Choc-Nut but our Philgrocer ran out of stock and will have to wait another 2 -3 weeks for their next shipment. I'll try the other flavor, dulce de leche or maybe I'll substitute Reese's Pieces. What to do.

September 19, 2006

Venezuelan Hallaquitas

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Venezuelan Hallaquita

This is a Venezuelan delicacy, hallaquitas or hallacas are usually eaten during the Christmas season. It is like tamale but the meat filling is so much different, it is more like the Filipino/Spanish pastel but encased in corn meal instead of pie shell. Like the Filipinos, Venezuelans also use banana leaves, not corn husk. I was given these bundles maybe 5 years ago around Christmas time by a Venezuelan couple friends. The wife told me they make it only on special occasions. I love it and had made it once, this is just the second time I made them. This delicious treat reminds me of the Philippines, both the banana leaves and the filling.

Venezuelan Hallaquitas
Venezuelan Hallaquita

Meat filling: ½ pound each diced lean beef and boneless skinless chicken breast, 1 small can sliced vienna sausage, 1 cup raisins, ½ cup each diced tomatoes, red bell peppers, potatoes and carrots, 1 diced chorizo, ½ cup each chopped black or green olives and capers, 1 chopped onion, 5 chopped garlic cloves, 1 cup sherry, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Heat olive oil, add onions and garlic, saute for 2 minutes, add meats, saute for 5 minutes, add the rest of the ingredients, simmer for 30 minutes, making sure the stew does not dry out completely. It should have a little bit of sauce. Let cool completely before filling cornmeal.

Cornmeal: Mix 3 ½ cups lukewarm chicken broth, 2 cups of PAN cornmeal (this is the only brand that I use as do the Venezuelans I know in my area), 2 tablespoons olive oil. Mix well.

To assemble: You should have plenty of rectangular banana leaves already cleaned. Tear thin pieces for tying the bundles. Place about 2 -3 tablespoons of cornmeal mixture in the middle of leaves, spread into an oval. Spoon the meat in the middle of the corn, gather leaves towards the center, fold then fold both ends. Take another leaf and repeat, tie loosely at both long ends, each bundle should have 2 leaves to ensure filling and corn do not come out while boiling. Boil a large pot of water, submerge all the bundles and simmer for 20 minutes.

September 15, 2006

Vietnamese-Style Prawns And Fresh Figs Compote

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Vietnamese-style Prawns

The other night we had Vietnamese grilled prawns sprinkled with golden deep fried spring onions and chopped garlic and Thai basil. The dish is served with rice noodles (bihon), shredded romaine and mung bean sprouts and fish sauce (nuoc mam). It's utterly delicious. For tonight I cooked prawns with the same ingredients (I think), fried not grilled and served with rice. I only have a few spring onions so it's not worth heating up oil and the kitchen so I sauted them. I already have deep fried sliced garlic which I crumbled on top. It's really, really good. I will have to buy a LOT of spring onions to deep fry so they're ready for topping any Asian dish.

Fresh Figs Compote

I have a lot of fresh figs this week, it seems I'm the only one eating them. I cut them in half, mixed with calamansi or lemon juice, 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons honey then let them chill in the fridge for 3 hours. I did not want to stew them, I prefer the uncooked method but substituted calamansi for lemons. For one serving, about 5 halves, I added a small squirt of whipped cream on top. The taste of honey/calamansi (honeymansi in the Philippines) is surprisingly a perfect match with the figs and with just a hint of cream it is wonderful. Mmm.

Fresh Figs Compote

September 14, 2006

Spaghetti Hos

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Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

The easiest sauce to make for pasta in my opinion is the alla puttanesca. I don't have to describe what this is as I think everybody knows this style and its origin. I have regularly made this for more than 20 years since I and some co-workers got an impromptu lesson during lunch time from another office worker whose boss was Sicilian. I was going to use those large red/brown olives but couldn't use my olive pitter as the stones are too large and it takes too long to pit them by hand, they also break into uneven pieces so I used the black ones instead.

Unrelated to the above dinner, just want to share this hilarious video with everyone who loves sushi. Incidentally we were supposed to have sushi/Japanese food last night but the sushi place we wanted to go to was closed for no reason and ended up at the Vietnamese place, same thing happened 2 months ago , the same Japanese and Vietnamese places, deja vu all over again? Oh gee I never thought I'll ever use that awful phrase.

Swirl Bread

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Azuki Swirl BreadUbe Swirl Bread

I just had to bake these swirl breads filled with sweet azuki bean paste and ube jam that I read about in a Filipino blog. My version is not so perfect, I haven't baked loaves in more than a year. Hmm, now I'm wondering if the yeast was still good. Both are yummy, however I love anything with sweet red beans and ube whether it's mochi or ice cream so even if these loaves came out rock hard (thankfully they did not) I'd still eat them.


September 13, 2006

Sans Rival Cake

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Sans Rival

My daughter asked for the Filipino sans rival cake for her birthday. I don't make this often as it's unhealthy, eh all cakes are unhealthy. My recipe is from Pat Limjuco Dayrit's cookbook but changed some of the procedure. The cake is pretty easy to make although time consuming, cooking sugar to mix with egg yolk then has to be chilled for an hour before blending with the butter. I also leave the meringue in the oven (turned off) for another 2 hours to crisp properly, then I freeze the finished cake for at least 3 hours. This cake will stay crispy for about 5 days, I keep it in the freezer pre-sliced and ready to enjoy. This cake is of course French in origin (dacquoise). Most probably a rich kid from the Philippines went to France perhaps to study, came home, recreated this cake and named it gateau le sans rival.

Meringue
5 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1½ cups chopped cashew or almonds
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Beat the egg whites until stiff. Add the sugar gradually, continue beating. Fold in nuts and vanilla. Divide mixture into 4 - 5 very thin 9 inch rounds.* Bake in a 350°F oven until golden brown. Turn off oven, leave in the oven for total of 2 hours.**

*I do not bake these in cake pans. Using an 8 or 9 inch cake pan as guide draw 2 rounds with a pencil on a piece of parchment to fit a large cookie sheet without sides. You will need 2 to 3 sheets of parchment. Flip the paper so that pencil mark is facing pan. Using the round shapes divide mixture equally, spread and smooth with an icing spatula.
**After turning the oven off, leave meringue for 1 hour, remove from oven, touch the surface if dry, turn paper meringue side down on a clean surface and carefully peel paper. Turn meringue bottom side up, still on paper return to oven and leave another hour to dry. There, no more sticky meringue and it will turn out super crispy.

Filling
¼ cup water
2/3 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
1 cup butter, room temperature
½ cup chopped nuts
  • Boil water and sugar until it spins a thread. Pour mixture gradually over well beaten egg yolks and continue beating until thick. Transfer to a bowl and chill in the fridge for an hour. Cream butter then add the well chilled egg mixture. Fill layers, sides and top of cake. Sprinkle nuts all over. I freeze mine for 3 hours before slicing and leave leftovers in the freezer.

September 11, 2006

Diced Chicken and Peppers with Salted Black Beans

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Diced Chicken with Sweet Peppers

I'm tired of tofu and seitan so for tonight I made my favorite Chinese stir fry, diced chicken and peppers with salted black beans (tausi in Filipino). This is perhaps the easiest dish to prepare.

Diced Chicken with Sweet Peppers and Salted Black Beans
½ pound boneless skinless white or dark chicken pieces
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 egg white
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons light olive oil
1 each red and green bell pepper, diced
3 tablespoons salted black beans
4 pieces spring onions
½ tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Dice the chicken and place in a bowl. Mix in salt, egg white, and cornstarch, set aside. Heat a wok or a large non-stick pan on high, add the and stir fry chicken for 4 to 5 minutes until slightly colored, transfer to a dish. In the same pan, add the remaining oil and when hot, saute ginger, spring onions, and peppers for 2 minutes, put the chicken back in the wok or pan and stir fry for 1 to 2 minutes, add the black beans and stir fry for another minute. Voila! Healthy, tasty, very easy. Perfect with steamed Japanese short grain rice.
Diced Chicken with Sweet Peppers

September 7, 2006

Stuffed Green Bell Peppers

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Stuffed Green Bell Pepper

Green Bell Peppers

Green bell peppers grown in the US are abundant lately at Wegmans, they are huge and meaty which means it's time to make rellenos (stuffed). To prepare: saute garlic and onions, add half a pound of ground meat and 1 pound of ground beef flavored seitan, 1 cup raisins, and a little soy sauce. Char the peppers on stove burner, let cool, then scrape off the skins, cut in half, throw the innards. Add 2 eggs to the meat filling, stirring well, then spoon them into the bell peppers. Fry meat side down until brown. Serve with rice and Jufran or tomato ketchup.

September 5, 2006

Longsilog for Dinner

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Longsilog Dinner

2 days ago I was looking for something online (I can't remember what it was) when I clicked on a blog about a Filipino restaurant specializing in tapsilog, that's short for tapa, sinangag, itlog, which means seasoned thin sliced beef, garlic fried rice, fried egg. If I translate tapsilog in English it would be beefricegg, nah, it doesn't sound right, it only works with Tagalog, haha. Anyways, the blogger goes to ethnic restaurants around San Diego, eats and writes about the resto and the food. He has written about Vietnamese, Malaysian, Slovakian, Russian, etc. The menu on the wall reminded me of the regular girls-only outings I had with friends when I was working in Manila at ADB. We usually went out on a Friday afternoon after work. Before going to the theater we stopped by the open eateries at Greenbelt (this was in 1985-87) where they served all the silogs: tapa, longaniza (sausages), tocino (Filipino bacon), fried bangus (milkfish), etc. We shared a very large table with strangers, sitting in very long and very narrow bangko (banquette/bench) that seats 12 people. Today I made pork longaniza, origin is Spanish but have a very distinct Filipino taste: sweet, slightly sour, garlicky, yummy. These are usually eaten with salted native vinegar, a salad of diced green mangoes and tomatoes with a little fermented micro-shrimp paste. I didn't realize I ran out of sausage casings but was not willing to postpone making them so I made them hubad (naked). They are delicious, just not so good to look at. Silogs used to be breakfast fare but carinderias (small scale eateries) in Manila started serving them anytime of the day and why not, when it's so Sarap!

Longsilog Dinner

September 4, 2006

Red Swiss Chard Frittata

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Red Swiss Chard Frittata
Red Swiss Chard Frittata

This recipe is supposed to be a winter frittata I'm not sure why. I have a bunch of very fresh red Swiss chard but didn't want to just boil or saute them so I made frittata instead. It has bratwurst, cubed yukon gold potatoes, grated fontina and mozzarella cheese, egg whites and whole eggs, leeks, onions and fresh basil. This combination is a refreshing change from my usual spinach and asparagus frittata, or the Spanish style with chorizo. I love it and most important it IS healthy and tasty. Hmm, maybe the next time I make this I'll use Filipino longganisa for that unique Pinoy taste.


September 1, 2006

Corn Chowder

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Corn Chowder

Chowder at Its Corny Best That's the title of the article for the Vegetarian Corn Chowder recipe by J.M. Hirsch published in this week's Washington Post food section. I recreated the recipe and I agree this is the best corn chowder. It does not have bacon and has whole milk instead of heavy cream resulting in more intense corn flavor. And it's timely that today it's raining the whole day and the temperature is a very nice 60F (16C) outside, the best time to have this end of summer corn chowder.

Ingredients: 7 fresh ear corns, 4 cups whole milk, 2 TBS olive oil, 1 diced large yellow onion, 1 diced large russet potato, 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves, 4 minced garlic cloves, salt and pepper. To prepare: in a large pot over medium-low heat, heat the milk until bubbles just begin to break the surface. Meanwhile cut the corn kernels, reserving the cobs, set the corn kernels aside. When the milk is warm add the cobs and cook for 10 minutes, this will flavor the milk. In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the onions, potatoes and thyme and cook for 8 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for a further 1 minute. Remove the cobs from the milk and discard. Add the potato onion mixture to the milk, increase the heat to medium, then add the corn kernels and cook for 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy.

French Toast

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You're toast!

Yesterday while at the checkout counter at the grocery the in-house baker came carrying a bunch of freshly baked Italian loaves/baguettes and plopped them right in front of me. The aroma and the warmth coming from the bread is irresistible, as if it was whispering to me "take me home". I was there to buy whole milk for the corn chowder I was going to make for dinner tonight and ended up also buying a large bread. I can't help it I love bread, I couldn't care less about carbs. So since it is large I made half of the loaf into French toast for today's breakfast. When my daughter came home yesterday I just finished frying and cooling them to put in the fridge. Of course she had to eat one right away, sprinkled icing sugar, drizzled store bought butterscotch sauce, and topped with Reddi wip whipped cream, it was fantastic. For my breakfast today I did the same minus the icing sugar, yummy. It sounds sinful but it actually is not, a tablespoon of Reddi wip has only half a gram each of saturated fat and sugar/carb, there is no trans fat. I drizzled maybe a TBS of sauce which is not that bad either, a tablespoon also has half a gm of sat fat and 4 grams of carbs.

One Excellent Book and One Lousy Movie

THE BLUE AFTERNOON by William Boyd 5 stars
I wouldn't call this book a mystery, it is more of fantastical adventure, crime, adultery and sort of romance set mostly in the early 1900s Philippines, written in flashbacks. The adventure starts from 1936 California when a 30 something female architect learns she is the daughter of a former surgeon, who is half Scottish, part Spanish and part Filipino, in the Philippines. He convinced her to go to Lisbon to find a woman in his past and during the journey narrated his story to the daughter. The love story is told with a man's perspective, not very common, being retold to the reader by his daughter. The fantastical part is the invention of the first flying machine by a Filipino ilustrado, also a doctor of medicine. The crime is a series of brutal murders which at the end was not resolved, you make your own conclusion, I have but won't tell you. The surgeon had an adulterous affair with an American married to a military man fighting the Filipino insurgents. You may consider the affair a love story, whatever. This is the first novel I have read by this author and I love his writing style. In fact I already reserved at the library his new novel coming out next month, Restless.

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 1 star
A Disney Channel movie about a math/science genius female transfer student from San Diego to Arizona, the reason for the transfer was not explained. It got several 4 and 5 stars at Netflix so I borrowed it. The dvd has an altenative sing along version. It is awful, so many moan inducing moments in the ENTIRE movie. The movie opens with the main characters forced to sing together by their friends in a karaoke teen hangout(?) during the winter school break. The boy, a high school basketball star, and the girl didn't know each other but of course they ended up in the same school, a rip off of the opening in the play/movie Grease. Both actors are mediocre singers and dancers and I cannot understand why they won the lead parts for the high school musical, the main story line. They are also very lousy actors, aarggh. The girl, played by a half Filipina (mother is Chinese/Filipino/Spanish-the usual and father is Irish/native American), I'm sorry to say has very little talent either in singing/dancing as well as acting. Her idea of acting is looking cute and pretty and making terrible facial expressions. Same with the male actor. Double aarrggh. This is what I get for borrowing a DISNEY movie!! I wanted to give it a goose egg rating but I'm feeling generous to the Pinay.

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