December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!


Have A Happy (And Sweet) New Year!

Fig Charlotte Shooters, Pistachio Sans Rival Cake
Leche Quemada, Spanish Soft Turron and Italian Torrone

Our New Year's Eve 2009 menu is heavy on appetizers and desserts and very little meat.


  • Rye And Pumpernickel Squares: Shrimps and Fried Capers, Black Beluga Lentils With Chives and White Cheese, Shirred Eggs with Caviar
  • Crostini: Sobrasada and Shaved Manchego, Mayonnaise and Shaved Cucumbers
  • Marinated Olives
  • Marinated Bocconcini
Main Course
  • Broccoli Rabe Tossed In Herbed Oil
  • Peppercorn Coated Beef Tenderloin
  • Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

  • Pistachio Sans Rival
  • Fig Charlotte Shooters
  • Leche Quemada
  • Italian Torrones And Spanish Turron
  • Calamansi Cupcakes
  • Oranges in Red Wine
  • Grapes
  • White Sangria
  • Café Brûlot

December 28, 2008

Flan de Naranja

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Have you ever had a baked custard (flan) without milk? Well, I haven't until last week when I made 2 kinds for Christmas dinner, one with the usual fresh whole milk and a second one with clementine orange juice. We bought a large carton of Spanish clementines that are not very sweet, some are slightly bitter. I didn't want to throw them away so I have been juicing them and I peeled, sectioned, and marinated a few pieces in red wine. I will slice and cook the remaining pieces in sugar syrup to garnish cakes. The orange custard is surprisingly very good. Although it is not as creamy and smooth as the milk flan, I love that it is very light, refreshing, and citrus-y. Those who are lactose-intolerant will love this milkless custard. I encourage you to bake one recipe and find out for yourself just how yummy it is.

The recipe is adapted from my cookbook THE FOOD OF SPAIN AND PORTUGAL by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz.

Flan de Naranja
½ to ¾ cup sugar for caramel
6 whole eggs
¼ cup sugar
2 cup fresh clementine or navel orange juice, strained
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
6 small ramekins or 1 large flan mold (llanera)
  • In a stainless steel skillet, heat the sugar over low heat until golden in color and caramelized. Pour equally among the ramekins. Put ramekins into baking pans with sides that are 2 inches high. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, combine eggs and sugar and beat with a fork until smooth. Add the orange juice and mix until well combined. Strain using a fine mesh into another bowl preferably with spout and handle. Stir in orange zest. Pour into the prepared ramekins. Fill the baking pans with hot water halfway up the sides of ramekins.
  • Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until set. Flan will be slightly wiggly, it will firm up when cooled. Cool for 30 minutes on a rack. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours.

December 27, 2008

Vegetable Paella

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One of the dishes I cooked for Christmas is the very yummy Vegetable Paella, the recipe adapted from the cookbook MADE IN SPAIN by the Spanish chef José Andrés whose restaurants are among the highest-rated and more popular here in the Washington D.C. area, most notably Jaleo and the minibar inside Cafe Atlantico. I purchased MADE IN SPAIN, the companion cookbook to his PBS cooking show, a few days before Christmas and bookmarked the Vegetarian Paella right away. I will probably try to cook most of the dishes in this cookbook which look really delicious and seem easy enough to prepare at home. I also love the photography and layout of the book which has one recipe all on one page and the photo on the facing page. It also gives helpful resources for Spanish ingredients and acceptable substitutions if necessary.

Prepare the sofrito early in the day or a day or 2 ahead.

10 ripe plum tomatoes
1½ cups Spanish extra virgin olive oil
4 small Spanish onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sweet pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
3 bay leaves
  • Slice the tomatoes in half. Place a grater over a mixing bowl. Rub the cut surface of the tomatoes over the grater until all the flesh is grated. Discard the skins. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the onions, sugar, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden brown, about 45 minutes. You want the onions to caramelize, if they get too dark, add ½ teaspoon of water to keep them from burning. Stir in the tomato puree, the pimenton, and the bay leaves and cook for another 20 minutes over medium heat. You'll know the sofrito is ready when the tomato has broken down and deepened in color and the oil has separated from the sauce. Discard the bay leaves. Makes 3 cups of sauce.
slow cooked Catalan tomato and onion sauce

Vegetable Paella
¼ cup Spanish extra virgin olive oil
8 baby yellow squash, halved lengthwise
1 cup half-inch eggplant cubes
3 cups cauliflower florets
¼ pound fresh wild mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 ripe plum tomatoes
¼ cup sofrito
1 cup dry white wine
pinch of saffron
3 cups filtered water
1 cup Spanish bomba rice or medium-grain rice
2 ounces fresh or frozen green peas
sea salt to taste, about 1½ teaspoons
2 ounces piquillo peppers, cut into ½ inch strips
  • Heat the oil in a 13-inch paella pan over medium-high heat. Add the squash and brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Add the eggplant and cauliflower and cook for 2 minutes, then add the mushrooms and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the plum tomatoes and the sofrito and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the white wine and let it reduce by half, about 2 minutes.
  • Crumble the saffron into the pan and pour in the water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Let the mixture boil for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the rice and peas until well combined. Reduce the heat to medium high, season to taste with salt, and cook for 4 minutes. Do not stir the rice again, as this can cause it to cook unevenly.
  • After 4 minutes, reduce the heat to low, lay the pepper strips on top of the paella, and cook for another 7 minutes. Remove the paella from the heat, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

delicious vegetable paella, the perfect rice dish to go with a meat-rich Christmas dinner of baked ham and Chicken Relleno (roast boneless chicken filled with highly seasoned ground pork)

December 22, 2008

I'm Dreaming Of A Filipino Christmas...

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...just like the ones I used to know [as a child]....

Where the streets and houses are decorated with brightly lit multi-colored parols (lanterns)....
And children gather every night to sing both Western and Filipino carols from house to house....

Where for 9 consecutive days from December 16 of each year, right before dawn, people go to hear mass and enjoy native snacks and hot tea sold outside the church....

SIMBANG GABI image courtesy of

On Christmas eve people go to midnight mass to celebrate Christ's birth, have either an elaborate or simple meal with their families at home....

And on Christmas Day children wear their brand spanking new clothes, shoes, and/or purses to visit and give respect to their grandparents, relatives, and godparents who in turn give them gifts and new never-used crisp peso bills....

Pagmamano image courtesy of Wacom-Asia Community

Where Christmas has always been and still is [I hope] a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Maligayang Pasko
Merry Christmas
Feliz Navidad
Joyeux Noë
More on Filipino Christmas traditions here.

December 17, 2008

Sweet Potato Rolls

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Sweet potatoes are a new favorite in my house. The past month we have had simply roasted, sprinkled with a little flaked sea salt and topped with créme fraîche, in challah, French fried, and recently in dinner rolls. We just love this root crop that makes everything taste milky sweet. The dinner rolls are super soft and delicious hot with butter or filled with cheese or meat spread. I baked another batch today for my daughter's office Christmas party and will make them again for Christmas and maybe another recipe with ube (purple yam) powder as well.

Sweet Potato Rolls
1 packet instant yeast
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
1 egg, room temperature
½ cup buttermilk or whole milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons butter
extra flour for dusting, optional
  • In a bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix 1 cup flour and yeast, add egg and mashed sweet potatoes and mix on low for 1 minute.
  • In a saucepan heat buttermilk, sugar, salt, and butter. Stir until butter is melted and temperature of mixture reaches 120°F. Pour milk mixture into the mashed sweet potato mixture. Mix on low speed for 1 minute. Stir in 1 cup of the flour and beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add enough flour to make a soft dough. Remove paddle attachment and replace with dough hook. Knead on medium speed until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, brush top of dough with oil , cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  • Remove dough from bowl and transfer onto a clean surface. Knead dough lightly to remove air bubbles. Cut into 18 pieces and shape into ovals or rounds. Place on silpat or lightly greased sheet pan 1 inch apart, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until double in bulk, about 40 minutes.
  • Dust tops of rolls with flour, if desired. Bake rolls in a preheated 400°F oven for approximately 20 minutes.


I'm sending this over to Joelen's Culinary Adventures Tasty Tools Event for December, 2008: Baking Sheets

December 14, 2008

And On The Tree All The Ornaments Glow...

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The National Christmas Tree in Washington D.C., a live 40-foot Colorado blue spruce on the Ellipse, the grassy area near the White House. It is surrounded by 56 smaller decorated trees representing all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia.

and Festival of Lights at the Mormon Temple in Kensington, MD
live Nativity scene

The title of this post is a line from Christmastime, a song from Aimee Mann's Christmas CD, One More Drifter In the Snow.

December 12, 2008

Chicken Adobo Tostado

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After reading about THE ADOBO BOOK over at Marvin's, I was convinced and finally got my copy. I was hesitant in buying this book when I first read it in Market Manila's blog a few years back because of its author. I purchased two of Reynaldo Alejandro's cookbooks, I kept one (taking up much needed space in my cookbook cabinet) and the better of the two I gave to a friend who does not cook very often. I checked and some insane person is selling it for a ridiculous price of $324.95, and another for the more reasonable but still waaay too expensive $34.95. This book costs $5.00 in the Philippines and if you have relatives or friends coming to visit, you can ask them to buy it for you. It is thin and small and won't occupy much space in their luggage. The recipes are from some well-known Filipinos (at least to me they are), a few from the author himself, and some from the relatives of the other author who belongs to a family of restaurant owners in the Philippines. After reading and cooking a few recipes, I can say it is very good because it has some recipes that my own mother had prepared which rarely get mentioned in any other Filipino cookbooks. I give this cookbook a two-thumbs up regardless of the absence of photographs.

One of the recipes that I cooked is Maverick's Adobo Tostado because it is very similar to one of the adobo recipes I make, with wine vinegar or sherry and then deep fried. The recipe is from Marivic Rufino Buenaventura whom I met and worked with briefly at the Philippine Airlines ticketing office over 30 years ago. I was in that office for only two weeks when she was hired answering telephone inquiries. I did not know who she was until she approached me and asked if I have heard rumors about her (I had not at the time). She confided in me that she felt the women in the office were gossiping about her, talking amongst themselves in front of her in their dialect (Cebuano) followed by giggling. I later learned what the rumors were about which followed her wherever she was assigned that went round and round the 2 years she worked at the airline. I did not know her that well because she left after 2 weeks but I do believe that she was and still is a very nice soft-spoken gracious person, and her adobo recipe is delicious. I'm not sure how she got the nickname maverick, though.

I made chicken adobo adapted from her recipe adding ¼ cup of cider vinegar because her recipe has only a cup of wine vinegar and I prefer my adobo a little bit more sour. It also does not specify the cooking time, you have to eyeball and cook it by instinct, how much sauce you want, taste it and adjust accordingly.

Maverick's Adobo Tostado
1 cup olive oil
3 heads garlic, crushed and finely minced
1 kilo pork belly, cubed
1 kilo chicken parts
1 cup wine vinegar or leftover white wine
¼ cup Kikkoman soy sauce
1 - 2 bay leaves
rock salt, to taste
1 tablespoon freshly ground peppercorn
corn oil for deep frying
a bit of Tabasco
  • Fry 2 heads of garlic in olive oil until brown. Set aside garlic.
  • Sauté pork, add chicken. Continue to cook till brown.
  • Add wine vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaves, wine, salt, peppercorn, and the fried garlic. Simmer for hours on low fire. When cooked, drain chicken and pork. Keep sauce separate.
  • Heat oil, add the remaining garlic and deep fry chicken and pork cubes until crispy. Drain and serve in a large platter. Serve sauce in a separate bowl.
Note: the Tabasco does not appear in the recipe. I guess you can sprinkle the cooked adobo before or after frying or maybe add a few drops to the sauce.

December 7, 2008

Sniff Sniff

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the stinky lunch

One lunch we had last week made quite a stink, literally. After having too much turkey, we were ready to move on. I decided to make a light meal of white lasagna and paired it with the leftover uncooked Brussels sprouts. Bad.Idea. The aged Romano cheese in the baked lasagna and the notorious sprouts gave off a combination of an odor so strong that I had to burn scented candles and spray the whole house with Oust in between bites. Pardon me for sounding crude but my daughter dubbed the food combo foot-and-a$$, hahaha.

A lot of websites give advice on how to prevent the unpleasant odor by not over-boiling them. They suggest roasting or pan frying which I did with half of the sprouts. We didn't smell anything then, or maybe the roasted turkey masked the odor of the sprouts. This time I steamed them in a microwave bag which helped retain their bright green color but I suspect was the reason for the smell.

Stinky aside, I loved the lasagna and the steamed, buttered, and salted Brussels sprouts were a revelation, simply delicious! They are sweetish and have just a hint of bitterness which I find strangely appealing. I've had these tiny green stink balls just once almost 20 years ago. I remember them being very pale green, bitter and almost mushy and vowed never to serve them at home. But my daughter asked for them for Thanksgiving this year and I compromised by getting the freshest sprouts. I bought a whole stalk from the grocery which costs about the same as the loose ones. The advantage in buying the whole stalk is there are more of the tiniests (is this a word?) which cook faster and have a sweeter flavor. I am loving this vegetable regardless of the smell.

delicious tiny stink balls

Lasagna Margarita
8 sheets no-cook lasagna, soaked for a few minutes in cold water to soften
16 ounces ricotta cheese, divided into 4 portions
8 ounces farmer's cheese (paneer or queso blanco), diced and divided into 4 portions
2 cups shredded Parmesan or Romano, divided into 4 portions
3 cups white sauce, divided into 5 portions
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pat dry the lasagna sheets on kitchen towels.
  • Ladle one portion of the white sauce on the bottom of an 8-inch square pan. Put 2 sheets of lasagna on top of sauce. Ladle another portion of sauce on top of the lasagna and spread evenly. Sprinkle the cheeses evenly. Repeat with the rest of the lasagna, sauce, and cheeses. Bake until bubbly and golden on top.

December 2, 2008

Lasang Pinoy Sundays: Silog

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pink dogsilog

I love this week's theme, silog, shortened combination of the words for Filipino breakfast fare sinangag (fried rice) and itlog (egg). Any type of silog, which I have previously written about here, is a favorite of Filipinos anywhere in the world they may be. It seems that the silogs have expanded to various meats including hot dogs (Filipinos probably are the only people who eat hot dogs with rice), and dried fish such as danggit and squid. Check out Ces's squidilicious Pusitlog and the rest of the silogs at Ces's blog by clicking on the yellow button. Warning: may cause excessive drooling!:D

runny egg yolk, just the way I like it

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