March 29, 2009

It's Easy Being Square

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Fudge Brownies
glazed fudge brownies


There are so many choices of baking pans with all sorts of shapes and designs in the baking aisles at chain stores and discount kitchen shops. Last year I got a coated metal with 2-inch squares and a silicone with 1-inch squares. I use them for single serve brownies and cakes. Baking the brownies in these pans eliminates the step of cutting it into squares. They are easier to store and serve, and I like it for portion control. Isn't that cool? The flexible silicone is more versatile as it can be used for the cutest mini-cakes and to freeze embedded liquids to decorate drinks, or for freezing lemon juice or stock.

Fudge Brownies and Lemon Squares
glazed fudge brownies, calamansi cupcake squares

Hip To Be Square is this week's Lasang Pinoy Sundays, a weekly food photography meme, hosted by SpiCes.

March 25, 2009


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seitan biryani

I'm new to Indian food. It's only recently that I started liking this highly seasoned cuisine. I finally got an Indian cookbook after making and loving Chicken Kerala a few months ago. The Lamb Biryani in the book appealed to me right away but I substituted seitan for the lamb because I wanted a meatless dish. I made seitan by mixing vital wheat gluten with water, then cooking the cubed/sliced seitan in water seasoned with soy sauce and chopped onion. For the vegetables I steamed green beans, carrots (purple and regular orange), and skinned baby lima beans. This dish is very yummy and healthy too.

Lamb Biryani
2 pounds boneless lamb leg or shoulder, cut into 1½ inch cubes
3-inch piece of ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons garam masala*
½ teaspoon chilli powder
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
4 green chillis, finely chopped
2/3 cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup chopped mint leaves
2 teaspoons salt
2½ cups basmati rice
4 onions, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup light olive oil
2 ounces melted butter or ghee
1 cup plain thick yogurt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon saffron strands, soaked in ½ cup hot milk
steamed vegetables for topping: sliced carrots, green beans cut into half inch pieces, green peas, cauliflower
  • Mix the lamb cubes in a bowl with the ginger, garlic, garam masala, chilli powder, turmeric, green chilli, coriander, mint, and salt. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Wash the rice in a sieve under cold, running water until the water runs clear. Set aside.
  • Put the sliced onion in a sieve, sprinkle with the salt and leave for 10 minutes to drain of any liquid that oozes out. Rinse and pat dry.
  • Heat oil and butter in a large saucepan, add the onion and fry for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Drain onions, reserve the oil and butter.
  • Transfer the lamb and marinade into a casserole and add the browned onion, 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil and butter, and the yogurt, and cook on low heat, covered, for 40 minutes, or until lamb is tender.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • In a separate saucepan, boil enough water to cover rice. Add the rice to the pan. Return the water to the boil, cook the rice for 5 minutes, then drain well and transfer into a bowl. Mix in 2 tablespoons of the oil and butter, the lemon juice, and a little salt and gently mix. Spread the rice evenly over the meat. Spoon the saffron milk over the rice.
  • Cover tightly with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Serve topped with salted steamed vegetables.
*Garam Masala
from my cookbook THE FOOD OF INDIA a journey for food lovers:

Garam Masala means "warming spice mix". It can be a mixture of whole or ground spices. Recipes are numerous but they are all aromatic, rather than "hot" mixes.

makes 3 tablespoons
8 cardamom pods
2 bay leaves, torn into small pieces
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 two-inch cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
1 teaspoon cloves
  • Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods. Put all the ingredients in a spice grinder or coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder. Store into a small airtight container until needed.
saffron milk and garam masala, ghee
uncooked seitan, steamed vegetables

very colorful and delicious meatless biryani

March 19, 2009

Seriously Citrusy

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Citrus Curds
Meyer lemon curd and lime curd

There's an abundance of assorted citrus fruits at Costco and I couldn't resist their bright sunny spring colors. I haven't stopped buying Cara Cara oranges, got a large bag each of limes and Meyer lemons, and one humongous bag of Jaffa Sweeties, a cross of pomelo and white grapefruit. They are soooo deliciously sweet I want to eat them all day long everyday, the whole year round if possible. These citrus fruits are developed in Israel and just like Cara Cara this is the first time I heard of them. To my dismay when I went back to get another bag they were all gone after only a week in the store.

Jaffa Sweetie, Orange, and Calamansi
Jaffa Sweetie, Cara Cara Orange, Calamansi

Jaffa Sweetie
Jaffa Sweeties, I love you so

Meyer Lemons
Meyer lemons

Meyer Lemon

I have so much limes and lemons there isn't space in the refrigerator to store them. I froze some of the juice in a Wilton silicone baking mold with 1-inch squares for tiny cakes or brownies. Each square holds exactly 1 tablespoon of liquid, perfect for freezing citrus juices for later use. I made some into lime curd and lemon curd, both are utterly yummy, sweet and slightly tart. Next week, I will be busy baking lemon, lime, or calamansi pound cakes.

Lime or Lemon Curd
½ cup butter, diced
1 cup sugar
½ cup lime juice (or Meyer lemon juice)
grated zest of two limes (or Meyer lemons)
4 extra large eggs or 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Put butter, sugar, juice, and zest into a glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Let butter melt, then gradually whisk in the beaten eggs. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened to the consistency of instant pudding, about 15 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, wipe bottom of bowl, and cool for a few minutes. Transfer the curd into a clean jar, cool completely, cover jar, and store in the refrigerator.
  • Spread on buttery biscuits, crumpets, English muffins, crisp Belgian wafers, fruits...
Citrus Curds
great on chewy crunchy toasted English muffins

March 15, 2009


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warm freshly made soymilk: so good

We have been buying soymilk since forever and only recently noticed that most brands have additives such as sugar to mask the "beany" flavor and xanthan gum or carageenan for a creamier texture. Making soymilk was never in my must-make list until I saw and clicked on an ad for soymilk maker. I didn't know these makers are available for soymilk enthusiasts. Searching online for making soy milk without a machine, I found a lot of websites including Martha Stewart teaching how to make soymilk at home.

I happen to have a 32-ounce bag of soy beans sitting in the pantry, I can't remember why I bought it. Maybe it was waiting to be made into milk. After one sip of the still warm delicious plain no-sugar milk, I am convinced homemade soymilk tastes superior to the ones in cartons. The milk has the slight beany taste of silken tofu which is why I love it. I noticed that unlike the store-bought there are no grits at the bottom of my cup and in the jar. The thickness can also be adjusted to individual preference.

Here's a a how-to video

For a little more than a liter of soymilk you will need:
1 cup dried soy beans
a large piece of washed and dried muslin or fine cheesecloth
tall stock pot
2 large bowls
heat-proof spatula
pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon raw sugar, if desired
  • Rinse soybeans, drain, and add water to cover 2 inches over the beans. Soak beans overnight at room temperature. The next day, drain the water, rinse twice, and drain very well. Hull the beans, if preferred. Place half of the beans with double the amount of water in the blender and blend on high for 2 minutes. Transfer into a large bowl. Remove all the foam on top with a small sieve. Repeat with the rest of the beans.
  • Place a sieve on top of another bowl, line with the muslin. Pour the liquid through the muslin and let drip into the bowl. Gather the corners of the muslin and twist the top. Press to extract as much liquid as possible.
  • Boil 1 cup of water in the stockpot, add the extracted liquid, add salt and sugar if using, and over high heat let the mixture come to a boil, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom. Turn down the heat to medium and simmer the milk for 25 minutes. Stir down the foam as it rises until it dies down. Transfer into a clean jar, cover, and refrigerate.
dry soy beans, soaked and hulled beans, simmering soymilk, okara, toasted okara

In making soymilk at home I also learned about okara, the pulp left in the cheesecloth after straining the liquid, which I will use for baking breads; and accidentally soybean skin (yuba). I removed the skin that formed on top of the cooking milk, ate it when it had dried a little, and it tasted exactly like the vegetarian dish we always have at our favorite Chinese restaurant. By boiling the milk and collecting the skin until all the milk is used up, I might be able to recreate my favorite Chinese dish at home. That will be my next project.:-)

Mangga, Suman, At Tsokolate

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Mangga, Suman, At Tsokolate
a yummy Filipino breakfast: suman with chocolate, ripe mango, and frothy hot chocolate

Suman And Mango

There's nothing gloomier than waking up to a sunless rainy Sunday morning. Remembering the store-bought Suman Con Tsokolate in the refrigerator and seeing the bright yellow ripe mangoes on the kitchen counter thankfully brightened up the day. And having frothy hot chocolate with this delicious pair perked me up and made me more cheerful.^__^

Mangga at Suman
glutinous rice cake with chocolate is supremely good with ripe sweet mango

March 8, 2009

Lasang Pinoy Sundays: BREAD-y Or Not

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Bread Pudding
Bread Pudding

I love breads specially sweet ensaimada, brioche, and challah, all very yummy, crusty rustic bread simply dipped in olive oil, and of course my favorite of all, hot pan de sal with lots of butter or filled with cheese pimiento and pancit guisado. I know I shouldn't be eating too much bread because the calories go straight to my arms and hips but I could care less, I can't live without bread.:-)

Sweet Potato Challah Bread Pudding
3 cups milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
6 tablespoons sugar or to taste
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups cubed sweet potato challah, recipe here (or plain challah, pan de sal, brioche, French bread)
1 cup coarsely chopped candied ginger, golden raisins, or dried fruit of your choice
powdered sugar for dusting
  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  • In a medium bowl, beat eggs with sugar until light yellow in color. Add milk, butter, and vanilla extract, mix well.
  • Place half of the bread cubes into a baking dish or individual ramekins. Sprinkle with half of the candied ginger, repeat with the remaining bread cubes and candied ginger. Pour the milk mixture all over, press down so that the custard covers the bread completely. Place the baking dish or ramekins in a large pan. Carefully fill the large pan with hot tap water halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
  • Bake ramekins for 45 minutes, baking dish for 1 hour or until tops is golden brown. Gently press down the middle to check if the custard is fully cooked. Remove from oven, cool slightly before dusting with powdered sugar. The pudding is also good cold.
Lasang Pinoy Sundays hosted by SpiCes is a weekly photography meme. Click on the yellow button to view more BREAD-y Or Not entries.

March 7, 2009

Upcoming Concerts In Washington, D.C.

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Keiko Matsui: March 22, 2009 at 3 PM as a guest performer at the US Air Force Band concert series. Free admission, details here if you live around here or will be in this area that week.

TURANDOT: The Kennedy Center, May 19 - June 4, 2009. My daughter and I have been waiting for this show for almost a year now. We heard that one of the sopranos sharing the role is younger than previous performers who IMHO were too old and scary-looking rather than the beautiful ice princess that a long list of men lost their heads (literally) for.

THE BAD PLUS: March 26, 2009 at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately for us, they will be accompanied by Yoko.....I mean Wendy, so no, we're not going. They are also scheduled to perform without her on March 29, 2009 at Ramshead Tavern in Annapolis, MD but somehow I have lost my enthusiasm for TBP. I also have a bad feeling she will appear there as well. I shudder at the thought of seeing and hearing her. Meh.

March 5, 2009


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oxtail kare-kare

The beautiful bright uncluttered photographs in the KULINARYA cookbook are so inspiring I want to prepare our everyday Filipino dishes looking as clean and appealing. Many delicious Filipino dishes specially the stews are usually not photogenic with their dark sauce. One such dish is Kare-Kare, a meat stew with peanut based sauce, served with an assortment of vegetables and eaten with bagoong alamang (shrimp paste). In restaurants this very flavorful and colorful dish is served in a native terracotta pot but the presentation is somewhat ugly with the meat and vegetables all smothered in sauce. There is nothing wrong with that but I would like to see an easier on the eyes Kare-Kare dished up in a more appetizing way where you can see the contrast of greens, purples, and whites against the orange sauce. I'm glad to learn (from my husband) that a few notable restaurants in the Philippines are now plating better looking and appetizing Filipino dishes.

Preparation of Kare-Kare is a tedious and labor intensive process but I try to make it at least once a year because this is one of our favorite Filipino stews. I use no other meat but oxtail and add loads of greens. To reduce the amount of time and preparation I use extra crunchy peanut butter and glutinous rice powder. Fresh banana blossom is best if you can find it in your Asian grocery, or canned if fresh is not available, just rinse with water to remove some of its acidity before heating.

Banana Blossom
fresh banana blossom

Oxtail Kare-Kare (adapted from KULINARYA)
1½ kilograms oxtail
water to cover meat
2 onions
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
¼ cup glutinous rice
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
3 small eggplants
1 bundle yard-long beans (sitaw)
1 small banana heart (blossom)
4 cloves garlic
¼ cup annatto oil*
¼ cup bagoong alamang (shrimp paste)
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

*Annatto oil: Heat 1 cup oil and ½ cup whole annatto seeds in a skillet. Stir frequently and heat until the oil turns bright orange. Turn off heat and let cool. Strain oil and discard seeds. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

The day before:
  • Wash oxtail very well. Place in a pot with enough water to cover. Boil for 10 minutes and discard the water. Pour in enough water to cover.
  • Peel and quarter the onions. Add to the pot with the salt and whole black peppercorns.
  • Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 90 minutes or until fork tender. Cool in the cooking liquid, cover, and refrigerate to bring the fat to the surface.
On the day:
  • Bring out the oxtail from the refrigerator. Skim the fat and discard. Remove the oxtail and reserve broth.
  • Toast the glutinous rice in a skillet until golden brown. Let cool then pulse in a food processor. Set aside. Pulse the peanuts until creamy. Set aside.
  • Slice the eggplants lengthwise leaving the stem intact. Cut the yard-long beans into 2-inch pieces. Bundle about 8 pieces with a sprig of chive. Or form uncut beans into a wreath.
  • Prepare a bowl of water with 1 tablespoon of salt. Peel the outer layer of the banana blossom until you find its tender part. Cut the blossom lengthwise into 4 pieces. Immediately soak the pieces in water to avoid discoloration.
  • Crush, peel, and finely chop the garlic.
  • Heat the annatto oil in another pot over medium heat. Saute the garlic and shrimp paste. Add the meat and saute for a few minutes then add 4 cups of the broth. Lower flame and simmer until the broth has reduced by half.
  • Add the toasted ground rice, stirring continuously until thick and creamy. Add the peanut paste. Keep stirring. Turn off heat and keep covered.
  • In a separate pot boil the 4 cups water with the teaspoon of salt. Add the yard-long beans and boil until cooked but still firm and green. Remove from water. Add the eggplants and boil until cooked. Remove from water. Add the banana blossom and boil until tender. Remove from water.
When ready to serve
  • Reheat the meat and sauce. Transfer meat and sauce into a serving platter with the meat in the center. Arrange the vegetables around the meat. Serve with sauteed shrimp paste.
I will cook and post one dish from KULINARYA once a week or every two weeks as a "regular" feature in this blog.

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