Thursday, August 30, 2007

Family Lunch at Kusina Salud

Sorry took so long to post this. Hubby and I have been sick and had to take it easy for a few days. All is well now :-)

Last Sunday the family (all 14 of us), drove to Kusina Salud for the family's weekend glutton festival. The drive took a total of 1 1/2 hours and 3 cars.

The place was an instant hit with the first timers in the group. It's a traditional Filipino vacation home of old. Antique narra furniture interspersed with batibot chairs, local antique dolls, figurines, capiz windows, orchids and a wide variety of local knick knacks adorn the charming home. Fountains located in several areas provide soothing sounds while you dine. It's type of home that your lola would probably have if she lived in a province in the 1930's.

For this Sunday, Kusina Salud only offered buffet lunch consisting of Filipino Salad (Cucumbers, Okra, Onions, Kangkong in a choice of bagoong alamang or bagoong balayan sauce), Vegetarian Laing, Monggo with Bulalo, Fried Tuyo, Chicken Inasal and Sisig. For dessert, Saba con yelo and sponge cake with matamis na bao. My favorite was the sisig.

Despite only offering buffet that lunch, the restaurant did make us Kulawo (banana heart) Salad with Calamari in Hollandaise Sauce and Pako Salad (fern salad) upon request. Both were absolute winners. The kulawo particularly is the specialty of the house. I've only had this salad there and nowhere else. If you're in the area, a must try.

We also had a fantastic time taking pictures.

On our way home, we all bought stainless steel pitchers and grill from several stores that line the highway. They're much cheaper than what you would buy in a department store and since it's on the way, we all indulged in a little bit of shopping.

My brother Jacob and I even bought some rambutan, freshly picked from the plantation nearby and some lanzones also from the fruit stands found along the highway. Yum!

Friday, August 24, 2007

An Ambush and Rocky Road Cupcakes

I've been ambushed today! Hubby called me as I was starting to bake my rocky road cupcakes, he, his boss and five (turned out to be around ten or more) of his office mates will drop by the house in one hour. Yikes, talk about pressure! I scramble to make the house presentable and left my rocky road cupcakes to bake later in the afternoon. My dreaded day has finally come, hubby's boss is coming over for some chitchat. I never thought that I would have to get everything organized in one hour! I thought I was going to collapse of stress :-) I have no idea how I cleaned, mopped the floor, washed glasses, organized, taken a bath and blow dried my hair in an hour, but by some miracle I had done it :-)

In my day dreams, I would have welcomed our guests with elegant sandwiches, fancy beverage and served them with a decadent dessert that I baked from scratch. The house will be impeccably clean, filled with flowers and the guests would smell baking cookies in the background (I'm thinking oatmeal and walnut cookies). Instead, hubby robbed me of that fantasy and gave me one hour to have everything ready. Talk about bursting my bubble ;-)

Fortunately I had some pistachios, soda and chocomint cupcakes leftover from my baking experiment the other day. Whew! At least I had something home made to serve them. Our impromptu party was a success nonetheless. The guests seem to like my chocomint cupcakes and I got some compliments on the house. Hubby even called me from work and thanked me for all my efforts. I've demanded to be taken out to dinner later. I ain't cookin' tonight, honey!

After hubby and everyone with him left, I resumed baking my rocky road cupcakes. I used devil's food cake and for the icing, premium dark chocolate ganache with walnuts and mini marshmallows.

Decadent and fun! Let's see what my four year old nephew Jay Jay will say about it. I hope it's "Ninang, the cupcake is delicious!"

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Seafood Sunday

Sunday really is the best day for our family. It is the one day of the week where everyone troop to our favorite 2nd home, LP and stuff ourselves silly. No guilt, no diets and certainly no calorie counting allowed.

My mom prepared a huge seafood buffet. She only planned to make two dishes initially but saw some fresh items in the market that she couldn't resist making.

For this sumptuous feast, my mom made:

Buttered prawns with asparagus tips, the prawns were so fresh and sweet an buttery, everyone had at least ate five large ones each (at least). I think I ate seven pieces. Hubby had probably more.

Mussels in ginger and garlic broth
. This is a staple seafood dish in most Filipino homes. Here's how to make it:

1 head garlic, chopped
1 large white onion, chopped
1 large ginger, julienned
3 kilos mussels, cleaned
3 bunches chili leaves

In a huge stockpot, saute garlic, onions and ginger in oil.
Add the water and let boil.
Drop the cleaned mussels to the pot. As soon as the mussels open, turn off the heat and add the chili leaves.
Serve piping hot.

Another hit with the family is the Kuhol (escargot) in Spicy Coconut Cream sauce. There's a funny story attached to this one. My mom was in the market that morning to buy some mussels (as originally planned), she saw some kuhol being sold in one of the stalls and they were very fresh (aka, alive and jumping up and down in their containers), so she bought some and decided to cook it at our family gathering. Upon coming home, she started preparing the kuhol, they jumped right out of their bag and started crawling all very the kitchen floor. My four year old nephew JayJay managed to catch two of them and decided to keep them as "pets".

The kuhol was a huge hit since we rarely have it and my mom made an excellent dish. It's a little fussy to make, but if you have the time and patience, here's how:

1 kilo kuhol (escargot)
2 mature coconuts, grated OR 1 can coconut milk AND 1 coconut cream
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 thumb-sized ginger, smashed
1 small white onion, finely chopped
Bird's eye chilis
1 bunch kangkong (swamp cabbage)
Salt to taste

To clean the kuhol:
1. Wash them in running water.
2. Soak them in tap water, fully covered for 30 minutes. Drain and repeat 3 more times. (Total of 2 hours soaking time). This is to remove the sand, lodged inside the kuhol.
3. Snip off the "tails" or the pointed eds found the the rear end of the kuhol.
4. Wash the kuhol, one by one under running water.

Now, you're finally ready to cook, here's how.
1. Extract cream from the grated mature coconut by squeezing them between your hands, the firs extraction is the COCONUT CREAM.
2. With the same coconuts, add about 1 cup of water and do a second extraction, this is the COCONUT MILK.
3. In a large wok or medium stockpot, boil onion, garlic and ginger in COCONUT MILK (2nd extraction), when boiling, add the kuhol. Boil for 3 minutes.
4. Add the COCONUT CREAM (1st extraction) and boil for another 2 minutes.
5. Add the kangkong and chilis. Season to taste and boil for another minute or until the kangkong is slightly wilted.
6. Serve hot.

Use a toothpick to fish out the meat from the shell. Enjoy!

For the meat lovers in the group, my mom made her own concoction of beef stew, inspired by an Amish dish that she had when she visited an Amish community in Lancaster. It was such a huge huge hit and would taste even better the following day. Sorry, this recipe is for family only :-)

For dessert, I just baked some vanilla cupcakes with butter cream icing. Oh, icing decoration and piping, it's the downfall of my cupcake career :-)

The kids and adults had a fun time trying out Tita Socky's new foldable bike. Even hubby biked a few blocks around the neighborhood. Upon coming home, he wanted to buy a new bike too :-)

For merienda we had Spanish chorizo, sauteed in olive oil with pan de sal and some scrambled eggs. Heaven in a bun!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Nekkid Recipes

One of the things that I regretted in my life is not living on my own, prior to getting married. I often wondered what it was like living alone, no curfews, no rules and certainly no pesky little brother sharing the bathroom with me :-)

Hubby's off to Shanghai for the week for a business trip. During his trips abroad, I live out my single woman's fantasy of living on my own. One thing that ruins that lovely fantasy is the cooking part, what would a single, fabulous woman make for herself?

This reminded me of Jamie Oliver's Naked Chef philosophy of paring down his recipes to their bare essentials. I take no pleasure in making an elaborate meal (meaning 5 major ingredients or more) when it's only me who will eat it. It's simply easier and more cost effective to just dine out. Although being the only one without a dining companion in a nice restaurant makes me feel a bit conscious (just a tad).

This week, with hubby off to another country, I'll be a bachelorette again! Well, in terms of eating that is.

Here are two recipes that are pared to their barest essentials. They're very simple food made in less than ten minutes, slicing and dicing included. The ingredients are very cheap too!

Pan-grilled Eggplant with Soy-Calamansi Glaze

1-2 Eggplants
1 Part Calamansi juice
2 Parts soy sauce
Pinch of Salt
Olive Oil

1. Toss eggplant in olive oil and salt to coat well.
2. Grill eggplants on a non-stick pan. Pour soy sauce and calamansi to the same pan and let boil for one minute.

Tomato Egg Goo

2 Eggs, slightly beaten and lightly salted
1-2 Tomatoes, chopped
1 Clove garlic, finely chopped
Vegetable Oil
1-2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Teaspoon sugar

1. Mix sauce sauce and sugar in a small bowl. Make sure it has the right balance of saltiness and sweetness.
2. In a non-stick pan, saute garlic and tomatoes in oil until the tomatoes are just wilted.
3. Pour eggs to the pan, scramble and add the soy-sugar mixture.

This would go well with bell peppers too. Just add them together with the tomatoes. I love to eat them with buttered toasts or garlic fried rice.

Nekkid Recipes? Totally!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pink Kitchen, A Benefit Food Festival

Last Saturday, hubby and I met up with Tita Socky and Tita Charo at the Rockwell Tent to attend a charity even for breast cancer. It's called the Pink Kitchen. It was organized by ICanServe and ABS-CBN. Proceeds go to ICanServe, their organization conducts high impact information campaigns for breast cancer awareness, and provides financial assistance for breast cancer patients in treatment. For a donation of P200 per person, one can enter the food festival, a wide array of culinary delights await participants. Some classes on wine (with free wine, I might add) and cooking were also conducted throughout the whole weekend so there's plenty of activities for everyone. Each mealtime (lunch, merienda and dinner) have different sets of dishes made by famous chefs and you get different dishes every time. We spent the whole afternoon in Rockwell mall, shopped and browsed for a while and just went back to the tent for some yummy goodies.

For this culinary adventure, we tried:

Raspberry Chocolate cake and Caribbean Cake (not pictured)

We didn't try the cheesecake (pictured here), since I bake it at home. The cheesecakes look so pretty I couldn't resist taking a picture.

Burmese Soup, a hit with all patrons

And my favorite, Enderun Mesclun salad with edible flowers and red wine vinaigrette.

So many dishes, so little space in my tummy :-(

Buttermilk Pancakes

I am not proud to say that for the past five years of marriage, I have only made pancakes from a box. Lately, whenever I would ask hubby to choose between say, toasts or pancakes for breakfast, he would always choose the former. Frankly, he didn't like any of the instant stuff that I usually buy from the supermarket.

I saw a recipe for buttermilk pancakes scribbled in one of my notebooks, forgot where I copied them from but I was willing to give them a try. It certainly looked easy enough to prepare. Hubby was excited when I told him I was making buttermilk pancakes, from scratch. I felt like Kim Katrall with that cute farmer from a scene in Sex and the City :-)

Buttermilk Pancakes (for 2)

1 Tablespoon melted butter + more for frying and topping
1 Cup buttermilk
1 Egg, slightly beaten
1 Cup, sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
1-2 Tablespoons sugar

1. Sift all dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, combine 1 tablespoon melted butter (slightly cooled), buttermilk and eggs.
3. Pour buttermilk mixture into the dry mixture and stir just to combine or until all the dry ingredients are moist. Batter will be lumpy (and that's OK).
4. Brush some butter on a non-stick pan or griddle pan, if using. Coat the bottom of the pan. If you don't have a heat-proof pastry brush, simply add about a teaspoon of butter to the pan and swirl to coat bottom. (A heat-proof pastry brush works best though).
5. Pour batter on hot pan using a small ladle or a 1/4 cup measuring cup.
6. On medium heat, let pancakes cook on one side. You can tell they are cooked when bubbles hold their shape on the uncooked side. Flip pancakes using a wide spatula. Pancakes cook about 1-2 minutes per side. Brush top of pancakes with more melted butter.

Makes 8 medium-sized pancakes.
Top pancakes with maple syrup or honey and a pad of butter.
Best served with eggs and bacon on the side.

To substitute buttermilk:
1/4 cup buttermilk powder+1 cup water (mixed together) = 1 cup buttermilk
1 Tablespoon vinegar+enough MILK to make 1 cup= 1 cup buttermilk

These pancakes are so light and fluffy, I'll never use instant pancakes again!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Oh Crabs!

Sunday is really my favorite day. Sleep late, easy day and spend the whole day gorging yourself, playing with the kids that sort of thing.

This Sunday was such a day. The family converged again in LP. We had a pretty delicious spread, it was like a fiesta. It's been a few weeks since we've had our Sunday reunions and that's probably why there's more food on the table.

The Philippines has the best crabs in the world. (And yes, I'm being objective) The meat is just so juicy, succulent and sweet. My mom got the a combination of bakla (or gay crabs-meaty with a little fat), male crabs (which is all meat, no fat) and the female crabs, rich in aligue or crab fat. Ah, heaven!

The crabs were purchased alive and cooked in two ways, steamed and cooked in coconut cream with sitaw (pole beans) and squash. Both were equally yummy.

Here's the recipe for the crabs cooked in coconut cream:

4 mature coconuts (niyog), grated
1 thumb-sized ginger, smashed or cut in small strips
3-4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cups hot water
4 large Philippine crabs (alimango)
1 bunch sitaw (pole beans), cut in 2-inch lengths
1 1/2 cups squash, peeled and cubed
Salt to taste

1. With a cheese cloth (or with your fists), squeeze out the cream from the mature coconut (you can ask your vendor to do this for you). The cream will be the first gata (coconut cream). Set aside the cream. Do not throw away the niyog.
2. Add hot water to the shredded niyog, and squeeze out the second time. This is your second gata (coconut milk). Set aside.
3. In a big heavy bottom pan, pour the second gata (coconut milk), ginger, garlic and onions. Bring to a quick boil. Drop the crabs immediately to the boiling liquid. Season with salt. Cook crabs until almost done.
4. Add in the squash. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the sitaw and the first gata.
5. Turn off the heat as soon as it boils.

You can use the canned coconut cream and coconut milk for this if you can't find fresh niyog in your area. However, my mom is pretty insistent that fresh is better.

For the carnivores (that means every single one of us), my mom made her Pork with Cadios beans, very reminiscent of our childhood Sunday luncheons when my lola was still alive. A true definition of comfort food. A family favorite. The meat is so tender and the fat from the pork simply melts in your mouth. Now, this is not the healthiest meal but boy, it sure is delicious. The recipe is idiot proof, if you can't make this, you're hopeless :)

Pork with Cadios Beans

1 kilo fresh pork cubes, preferably with a thick layer of fat :-)
1 pack Cadios beans
2-3 tomatoes, sliced in half
1 large onion, sliced in half

1. Place all ingredients in a huge stock pot, add water to completely immerse all the ingredients. The water should be 2-3 inches above all the ingredients so that it doesn't dry up and burn.
2. Simmer for 2 hours or until the pork fat is slightly "melted".

We also had some fried white pampano. Which is very nice and crispy.

And of course, my contribution, The Bomb! Chocolate cupcakes with ultimate chocolate ice cream inside and chocolate ganache topping. Are you salivating yet?

Ashley can't seem to get enough of the cupcakes.

For merienda, we had turon, plantain bananas sprinkled with sugar, wrapped in lumpia wrapper and quickly friend. Typical pinoy merienda that never disappoints.

After our heavy and satisfying meal, the whole family spent hours glued to the telly, watching local tsismis.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Simple Crepe Cake

I saw a feature of a Crepe Cake by Lady M Cake Boutique in Manhattan on Martha Stewart the other day and I was intrigued with the cake, it certainly is a bit unusual and it looked delicious. Manhattan isn't exactly walking or driving distance from my place, more like a few thousand miles across the ocean. So, I made one myself based on the scant information that they provided on the show. It's a bit time consuming but it's worth it. Here's my simplified version:

Crepe Batter

4 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter, cooled
1/2 stick butter for pan, melted

Mix first 5 ingredients in a blender. Scrape down sides of the blender. Process for another 2 minutes until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before use (5 would be better). Crepe batter can be refrigerated for a maximum of 24 hours.

To cook the crepes:
1. Over medium heat, swipe melted butter (using a heat-proof brush) onto a non-stick pan.
2. Using a small ladle, pour batter and swirl around to coat the bottom of the pan.
3. Cook until the bottom is slightly browned. Flip and cook the other side.
4. Cool on a cooling rack. Don't stack them on top of each other when still hot, they will become watery.

Makes 15 6-inch crepes

For Vanilla Pastry Cream

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large egg yolks
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

In a small saucepan over medium heat, scald milk and cream by bringing it just to a boil. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. About 2 minutes. Add flour and continue mixing until smooth.

Slowly pour the hot milk mixture, one tablespoon at a time into the egg mixture (to temper the eggs, otherwise you'll end up with scrambled eggs). Whisk until smooth and completely free of lumps. 2-3 minutes.

Return mixture to the saucepan, and place over medium heat, bring mixture to a boil whisking constantly and cook for another 2 minutes. Add vanilla then whisk to incorporate and remove from heat immediately.

Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the pastry cream to prevent skin from forming. Make sure there are no air pockets.

Refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble:

Using an off-set spatula, spread vanilla custard cream on a crepe. Top with another crepe and repeat until you use up all the crepes except the very last one on top.

Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top before serving.
If you have a kitchen torch, place regular sugar on top of the crepe and caramelize.

Hubby liked this cake but he requested to have more custard next time :-)

This crepe cake is not too sweet and will be perfect with coffee.

Happy flipping!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Bow Tie Pasta with Grilled Veggies

For dinner tonight, I made this very simple dish. It's easy and quick. Anyone can make it and it's very healthy too.

Bow Tie Pasta with Grilled Veggies

1 Green Bell pepper, cubed
1 Yellow bell pepper, cubed
1 Eggplant, cubed
Basil leaves, torn
3-5 Cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 Onion, chopped
2-3 Anchovy fillets
1 Can crushed tomatoes
1 Tablespoon capers, washed
5 Black olives, sliced into rings
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese
Bow Tie Pasta, cooked per package directions

1. Place bell peppers, eggplant and some torn basil in a medium bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place vegetables in a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake at 350 until skins are slightly blackened. Remove from oven and toss with some more olive oil. Set aside.
2. In a separate pan, saute onions in olive oil until slightly wilted. Add garlic and anchovy fillets and saute for another minute. Do not brown the garlic.
3. Add the crushed tomatoes. Simmer. When bubbly, add capers, olives and the grilled vegetables. Simmer until the vegetables are warmed through. Adjust seasoning. Add torn basil at the last minute of cooking.
4. Add the bow tie pasta to the pan and toss to coat well.
5. Transfer to a serving plate. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese on top.

This recipe would be great with zucchini and Shitake mushrooms too. They weren't available in my neighborhood grocery so I didn't include them in this recipe. It would have made this dish a bit richer.

Don't worry about the anchovy fillets, they won't leave a fishy after taste.
The fillets will melt beautifully in the sauce and will provide just the right hint of saltiness, a mystery ingredient that most people cannot discern.