December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

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Beef Morcon

2 pieces beef round, about ½ inch thick, butterflied
2 tablespoons calamansi or lemon juice
¼ cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon sea salt

Vienna sausages sliced lengthwise in four
Cheddar cheese strips
boiled eggs, sliced in strips
sweet whole pickles preferably very small (cornichons), otherwise cut into strips

stewing liquid
2 16-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
water to cover meat rolls
soy sauce, salt, pepper to taste
  • Mix ingredients and marinate beef overnight in fridge. Drain meat, reserving the marinade. Lay on a large platter, place one set of filling on one long end, roll up, place another set of filling up to just halfway of the meat, roll up completely. Tie with kitchen twine all over, crosswise and lengthwise. 
  • Place in a large pan, add the reserved marinade and all the sauce ingredients, simmer in medium low heat for 2 hours. 
  • Fish out the rolls and let rest. 
  • Remove the bay leaves, adjust seasoning, then puree with an immersion blender or let cool a bit and transfer to a blender, blend in batches. Spoon sauce on a serving platter. 
  • Remove twine, slice morcon, arrange on top of sauce. Serve hot with lots of sauce.
Macaroni Salad

1 pound cooked elbow macaroni
1½ cups mayonnaise
1 16-ounce can pineapple chunks, cut into four
1 fresh red bell pepper, diced
3 Nathan's all beef hot dogs, sliced thin
salt and sugar to taste
  • Mix all ingredients and chill overnight before serving.

New Year's Eve Menu Is Halfway Done

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The macaroni salad is cooling in the fridge and the morcon is already stewing. Oh, yeah, I remember now why I never make morcon: it is so tedious to prepare. It took me almost an hour tying the rolls and maybe used up a hundred yards of kitchen twine! I made the yema balls last night and baked the meringue for the silvanas. I still have to prepare the buttercream though and I'm not sure if I still have the energy.

Philippine Yema Candies

6 egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup sugar
pieces of cellophane to wrap candies
  • In a small saucepan, mix milk and egg yolks. Cook over medium-low heat to a paste, stirring constantly. Form into 1 inch balls. 
  • In a heavy stainless steel pan, caramelize half the sugar. Moving quickly, dip the balls with toothpicks. Remove the candies by gently twisting the toothpick then pull out. Set the candies on a piece of aluminum foil to cool. 
  • If the caramel turns too brown throw it out. Clean the pan, caramelize another ¼ cup of sugar and dip the remaining balls. 
  • You can also roll the yema balls on white sugar, if preferred.
  • Wrap in colored or white cellophane.

I don't use non-stick pan to caramelize sugar to be able to see the color progress of the caramel properly. Once the caramel gets too dark, throw it out and heat up another batch, ½ cup at a time.

December 29, 2006

Son-in-Law Eggs

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I'm not sure why the Thais call this dish son-in-law eggs. hmm. This is one of the simplest but tasty egg dishes to make, the ingredients are few and preparation is so easy. With very fresh tip yuchoy you can have a meatless dinner that's healthy and satisfying.

This recipe is from The Thai Cookbook by Pannipa Dibbayawan and Guy Cox, published in 1988

Son-in-Law Eggs
6 eggs
light olive oil
2 tablespoons fried shallot flakes
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons nam pla (fish extract)
2 tablespoons vinegar or tamarind water (1 teaspoon tamarind paste + 2 tablespoons water)
  • Boil eggs for 8 minutes, cool immediately in cold water. Peel them then cut in half, you can leave the eggs whole but you will need more oil. Cover a big frying pan with 1/3 inch oil, fry the eggs cut side down until brown or slightly blistered but do not overcook. Arrange on a serving dish fried side up. Remove all the oil and throw in the shallot flakes, fry for a second, then remove them. On low heat stir brown sugar, nam pla and vinegar, bring to a boil then pour over the eggs. Sprinkle fried onions evenly on top. Garnish with chopped chilis and serve with steamed rice.
*I fried only the egg yolk side and did not wait until they are golden brown in color as eggs become rubbery when overcooked. I think frying the eggs whole until golden brown will make the dish more visually appealing.

fresh and crunchy steamed tip yuchoy seasoned with sea salt

December 28, 2006

Filipino Style New Year's Menu

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I have been thinking of making round shaped food for New Year's Eve. I grew up with this tradition of eating 12 round food on New Year's Eve, usually 12 grapes, you can't really eat, say 12 apples (or watermelons?) or 12 putos in one sitting. It has something to do do with money (coin), which means the New Year will bring you luck, financially, the next 12 months. This old wives' tale/superstition most probably came from the Chinese, or maybe from the Kastilas (Filipino term for the Spanish-Filipino) or a combination, I don't know. I remember as a child every January 1st I was forced to wear a polka dot dress, silly, I know, but what can you do when you're a child, you have to do what your parents tell you. You can't have a tantrum or you'll be crying the next 365.242199 days.

New Year's Eve Menu:
Beef Morcon (meat roll-up or roulade), recipe here
Filipino style macaroni salad, recipe here
A plateful of puto: white, ube, pandan and Biñan, recipes here
Caramel coated yemas (egg yolk candies), recipe here
Piayas and Silvanas (if I have time)
I will post the finished snacks and sweets on different days as I finish making them.

December 22, 2006

My 2006 Top Fiction Books


I just finished reading my last book for this year, the excellent MEASURING THE WORLD by Daniel Kehlmann, translated from German by Carol Brown Janeway.

Here are my 2006 top 5 fiction books, all earning 5 stars, in no particular order:
  • MEASURING THE WORLD Daniel Kehlmann
  • AMAZING DISGRACE James Hamilton-Paterson
  • THE PALE BLUE EYE Louis Bayard
  • THE BLUE AFTERNOON William Boyd (1995)
I read a total of 25 fiction and 4 non-fiction books this year, oof, that's too much (I need to watch more TV):D

December 21, 2006

Cornish Game Hens Adobo

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I couldn't decide what to prepare for Christmas. Turkey is for Turkey Day so that's out, I was considering roast duck or goose but then I have to either roast a small chicken or cornish game hens for people who don't like duck. I decided on a large chicken to add to the usual ham, queso de bola, etc. Since I already have these very tiny (less than a pound each) Cornish game hens taking up space in my freezer (nope, I did not hunt these myself) I cooked them adobo style using fruity pineapple vinegar and sherry instead of the usual Filipino coconut vinegar, and with just a tablespoon of soy sauce. The result is a sweetish adobo with deep dark brown sauce and is utterly delicious. It reminds me of the quail adobado that we used to order at Mingoy's restaurant in Magallanes. I was really thinking of quail to make into adobado but then the ones I saw in the grocery all look anorexic, literally skin and bones. The cornish game hens are healthier looking and meatier and cute...

Boiled mung beans with garlic chunks, sliced onions, a bay leaf, some sea salt and lots of Spanish extra virgin olive oil is the perfect vegetable soup to serve with the flavorful hens. I don't saute the garlic and onions, I just boil them together and there are no added flavorings.

This seems out of the ordinary. The queen of angsty music and perpetually dour Aimee Mann singing Christmas songs! I can't wait to hear them, one song was co-written by her husband Michael Penn and Jon Brion, woohoo.

December 19, 2006

Quince Marmalade

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I am loving David Lebovitz' cookbook RIPE FOR DESSERT. His quince marmalade looks so good with Spanish Manchego cheese, one of my favorites which I always use for apple and fig grilled cheese sandwich. You will need 3 quinces and half a lemon.

To make: Place in a medium sauce pan 3 cups sugar and 4 cups water, bring to a boil. Quarter, peel and core the quinces then coarsely grate using a metal grater. Add the lemon half and the grated quince to the boiling syrup. Slow cook on medium heat until thick and reddish in color, about 30 minutes or when candy thermometer reads 220. Remove the lemon half and spoon into clear jar. Enjoy.

Celery Root Soup


My daughter has been nagging me to make this soup that I borrowed from my favorite food blog. The soup is really delicious, an excellent alternative to potato or corn chowder. The 2 strips of bacon is just the right amount of flavoring. Perfect with grilled (aged gouda) cheese sandwich.

ugly on the outside, super yummy in the inside

December 18, 2006

Sorbet In Winter


Costco always has something new in their warehouse that will surely make you buy (and become obese if it's food). I went this afternoon for more persimmons (there was none) and saw a table offering low fat, low sugar sorbet. After tasting the really really good ice dessert I noticed the single serving (about less than a C) containers: a very tiny real pineapple shell, a real coconut shell, hollowed out half orange and lemon rinds. The box contains 2 of each flavor : orange mango, lemon, coconut and piña colada. My freezer is full but I just can't resist them, nobody can, I think. As I was leaving the table a large group of women were already oohing and aahing. Costco is the devil!

I already had the orange mango....hmm tomorrow, the coconut, can't wait.

Note on the title: the weather is not so wintry nor Christmas-y the last week or so, specially today, high was 61° F in Ashburn, as high as 72° F in DC, that's hot! I hope it gets colder by Christmas.

December 15, 2006

Been Baking and Frosting The Whole Day


Today is my daughter's office Christmas party, she asked me 2 weeks ago to bake a dozen each of both the vanilla and red velvet cupcakes. Baking 2 half batches of different flavors is time consuming, I kid you not. It took me the whole day including frosting them and putting them on the carrying trays (and I don't get paid for my efforts). Hmm, I should be selling these cupcakes next time. I was worrying that they would get squished or damaged during transport, but then I saw this 3 piece gadget: baking pan, tray, and a cover that has a handle to carry both pan and tray and they all lock in place, very nifty idea. You can easily bring 2 dozens iced cupcakes with ease, without them touching and moving around. I love the person who invented this.

December 12, 2006

Orange Cauliflower


I see a lot of different colored cauliflowers, purple, lime green and orange in many groceries lately. The label on this orange one says it has added nutrients and because I buy produce that looks pretty for posing, this one is a winner. I looked online for a good recipe and found this. I used the juice of one key lime in place of lemon. This dish is delicious! I really really like it. I never imagined combining anchovies with the bland and awful smelling cauliflower but the different flavors blend well perfectly.

homemade Spanish chorizo, orange cauliflower with anchovies, and ube pandesal for dinner

Fuyu Persimmons, Kumquats & Key Limes

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note the 8 point star, similar to caimito, although the consistency is not as snotty

I just discovered these wonderful fruits Fuyu persimmons that I have been reading about and ignoring. I saw them in Bangkok 20 years ago and was told by the hawker not to bother with them, that they are very expensive and don't taste great. He said only the Japanese tourists love them, and I believed him. How can a fruit that looks like a very pale tomato taste good. That's my reason for not trying them for that long. Over a week ago I bought 3 pieces to photograph. One Korean lady told me to leave them on the counter for 5 days to ripen and to eat them when they are very soft but not mushy. Well, the Thai guy was wrong, they are very good when fully ripe and I love them, they're very sweet and the middle section near the seeds (2 or none at all) has the consistency similar to the Philippine caimito or star apple. The fruit is not bland at all, it has a unique taste I guess. I bought a box of 10 pieces today and will wait at least 3 days to enjoy them. I also bought fresh key limes, which is dayap in the Philippines, and kumquats.

I also have been ignoring kumquats because I don't know how to use them in cooking. But they look so pretty, I bought a small quantity to take photographs for my flickr site. The salesperson told me to roll them in my hands until they are soft and they somehow become sweeter and she is absolutely right. You eat the whole fruit skin and all, except the seeds, it's sweet and tart, I also love them and they are so photogenic, too. They can also be candied whole or sliced. I prefer to eat them fresh.

key limes

December 8, 2006

Magnolia Bakery's Red Velvet Cupcakes

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The recipes in this cookbook are not so extraordinary. I think many of the recipes can be found in other American cakes and cookie cookbooks like Better Homes & Garden recipe collections. But I am very satisfied with the red velvet 3 layer cake recipe which I halved and made into cupcakes for my daughter to try if they are good enough to take to her office Christmas party. The recipe is not as simple as the vanilla cupcake recipe and requires a lot of cleaning up afterwards. But then you are rewarded with these very very red, soft and moist delicious cakes. I didn't make the Creamy Vanilla Frosting that's supposed to ice these cakes because I wanted to try this real buttercream icing with powdered egg whites, butter and sugar. This is the best buttercream icing ever, not so sweet, it is very creamy and just perfect.

I ate 2 of these sweeties after posing them, I can't help it, they're so yummy.

Red Velvet Cake with Creamy Vanilla Frosting
From MORE FROM MAGNOLIA cookbook, pages 86 & 87

3 1/3 cups cake flour
¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 ¼ cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons red food coloring
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla exract
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 ½cups butttermilk
1 ½ teaspoons cider vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Grease and lightly flour three 9 x 2-inch cake pans, then line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  • In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside. In a large bowl, on medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.
  • In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts, alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not over beat.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.
  • Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the layers cool in the pans for 1 hour. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
  • When the cake has cooled, spread the frosting between the layers, then ice the top and side of the cake with Creamy Vanilla Frosting.

Creamy Vanilla Frosting
from MORE FROM MAGNOLIA cookbook, page 126

This silky smooth frosting is made by beating together softened butter and sugar with a thick saucelike base. Be sure to follow the recipe directions exactly.

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • In a medium saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk until smooth. Place over medium heat and, stirring constantly, cook until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to bubble, 10 - 15 minutes. Cover with waxed paper placed directly on the surface and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, on medium high speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter for 3 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating continuously for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat well.
  • Add the cooled milk mixture, and continue to beat on medium high speed for 5 minutes, until very smooth and noticeably whiter in color. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes (no less and no longer - set a timer!). Use immediately.

December 4, 2006

Chili With Pink Beans & Chouriços

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Hot and spicy chili with beans is the perfect dish when it's cold outside. My stick-on thermometer at 1 PM today registered a low 28°F and with a slight wind chill it feels like 25°F. It is cold!! And I was thinking of putting the Christmas lights on my front bushes later today. I guess I have to wear a thick jacket and eat lots of chili before going out.

8 ounces dry pink or pinto beans
1 pound chouriços or chorizos, diced
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
4 Thai red chili, chopped fine
1 onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped fine
16 ounces can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 cup beef broth
grated cheese and saltines
  • Soak the beans overnight, simmer until tender, drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  • In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute garlic and onion for 2 minutes, add sausages and saute until sausages are cooked and slightly browned. Add all the spices, cook for 2 minutes, then add all the remaining ingredients except cheese and saltines. Simmer for 1 hour. Adjust seasoning. Serve with grated cheese and saltines.

December 3, 2006

The Washington Post Book World Top 10 List for 2006

None of the fiction books I read this year made it to this year's The Washington Post Book World top 5, one non-fiction did, THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA: A NATURAL HISTORY OF FOUR MEALS by Michael Pollan.

Books I read that are in the 100 best fiction:
RESTLESS William Boyd

I am baffled that THE ACCIDENTAL by Ali Smith is among the list of 100. I think this novel is incredibly awful and one of the worst books in my honest opinion.

Possibly The Worst Books I Have Ever Read In My Entire Life (in no particular order, they are all terrible):
THE FIG EATER Jody Shields

December 1, 2006

Choucroute Garnie


Choucroute garnie for dinner tonight. Just a fancy French name for sauerkraut and meat, this recipe is from my old reliable Betty Crocker cookbook. I make this dish when I only have an hour to cook dinner, it is very easy and simple to prepare and so delicious. Make sure you have plenty of hard rolls to soak up the sauce.

2 rashers bacon, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 chopped onion
16 oz drained sauerkraut
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 pound smoked beef kielbasa, cut into 3 inch pieces and scored
4 smoked porkloin
2 apples, sliced into 8 wedges
2 potatoes, cut into chunks
1 cup chicken broth
6 peppercorns, 2 whole cloves, 1 bay leaf, 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped parsley - put in a piece of cheesecloth and tie with string.
  • In a large pot, fry bacon until brown. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat, add onions and saute until cooked, add sauerkraut and brown sugar. Add the spices and meat, put the potatoes and apples on top. Pour the chicken broth and simmer for 30 minutes.

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