Party Favorite

May 21, 2012 § 6 Comments

This is not about fancy food fare.  This salad accompanies almost any ‘inihaw” (grilled) dish that might be served during a fiesta or in my case, any gatherings at home.  Easy to put together and never fails to liven up a table of food fare.  I think this dish paved the way to my loving eggplants.

This month’s KCC challenge (hosted by Elizabeth and Dudut) was to feature a regional “Fiesta” specialty of one’s province.  I grew up in Quezon City and fiestas I only came to know (and sometimes attend) when I am a grown up already.  But this refreshing ensalada (salad) is almost always present during parties thrown at home so I think it should count as the family specialty.

Ensaladang Talong

The roasted flavor of the eggplant is the key that gives this dish a hint of the “ihaw” or charred flavor while the sili (chili) gives it a nice kick.

What you need:

  • 2 tbsps. shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 salad tomato, diced
  • 1 small green or red bell pepper
  • 1 green finger chili (siling pangsigang), seed, deveined and chopped
  • 3 eggplants (about 150g. / pc)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground pepper

What you do:

  1. Roast the eggplants directly over an open fire until charred or in the oven.  Allow to cool.  Peel the eggplants and discard stems.
  2. Cut the peeled eggplants into small chunks.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Mix all other ingredients together and drizzle with Coconut Vinaigrette.
  4. Garnish with the remaining portions of the bell peppers and green finger chili.

Coconut Vinaigrette

What you need:

  • 1/8 cup coconut cream
  • 1 gm. ginger, peeled and minced.
  • ½ green finger chili, seed, deveined and chopped
  • 1 tbsp vinegar (I used sukang niyog)
  • salt and pepper to taste

What you do:

  1. Combine coconut cream, ginger, green finger, chili and vinegar in a bowl.  Stir well.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.  Stir well.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Stir again.


February 7, 2012 § 4 Comments

Is it February already?  Boy, what a hectic start of the year.  It’s performance review again at work and I’m in the middle of moving with last-minute touches and changes here and there.  So you can imagine what’s been keeping me busy lately.  Except for the one weekend I was in Laos, I haven’t had much of a weekend since 2012 set in but my new flat is getting to look livable by the day. Not without glitches, I’m afraid.  I hope I am still friends with my contractor-friend when we’re done.  I wanted to move in 2 months ago but… well it didn’t happen.

Another problem came up today.  I could sulk and brood about it but I chose to look at the brighter side.  Today, I purchased the most beautiful and perhaps the most valuable piece of furniture I so far own.  That makes me happy.  And when I’m happy I make Tuna Mushroom Pasta.

Canned tuna never tasted so good.  I passed by the deli before heading home and was even happier to find fresh dill.

This must be God’s way of telling me that everything is not all that bad.  The problem will be solved (hopefully tomorrow) but tonight, we will celebrate.

Tuna Mushroom Pasta

You will need:

  • 1 can tuna in Olive Oil
  • 3-4 shiitake or brown mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ a tablespoon capers, slightly mashed
  • Baby Arugula
  • A dash chili flakes (optional)
  • A few strands fresh dill, (I snip it with a scissor)
  • 200-250 gram pasta of your choice

What you do:

Cook the pasta as the pack directs.  Meanwhile, sauté the capers with a bit of oil from the can, add the mushrooms and sauté for another minute or until the capers starts to crisp.  Stir in the tuna with half of the oil from the can, adding more depending on your preference (I like mine drier).  Add the dill and a bunch of arugula.  Let it simmer until the arugula starts to wilt. Season with chili flakes, salt and freshly cracked pepper.  I chose to have it with pasta, but this dish goes well with pasta, rice, and oatmeal or even on top of sliced baguette.

Everyone knows that the saltiness of the caper and the citrusy burst of fresh dill is perfect complement to tuna.  We added a new dimension as the mushroom lends an earthy flavor, the arugula some tangy zest while the chili boosts all these up.  Go ahead, give it a try and let this simple dish give a bit of happiness today.

Rain Or Shine

November 27, 2011 § 1 Comment

Soup I have moods for.  But if I have to choose, I almost always go for tomato soup.  Chorizo, however, I always have a mood for.   Scanning through Donna Hay’s cookbook, it did not surprise me that I couldn’t move pass the page, not because it has rained the past few days.  This soup I can and will have over and over, rain or shine, for a very long time.  Best of all, it being a 30-minute meal is such a come-on.  With a few pieces of bread, it makes a great lunch or dinner that is fuss-free.  In fact I like it better the next day when all the flavors melds into one hearty soup.

The chorizo adds an incredible depth to the soup, perfectly marrying salty and sour.  The crisp chorizo adds more texture to a soup that has already so much texture – from the tomato chunks, crisp green beans to even the al dente but creamy bite of the chickpeas.  I made it without the green beans.  I just add a few strips before serving and while re-heating to keep the freshness and crispness of the vegetable.

Spicy Tomato-Chorizo Soup

(adapted from “The Instant Cook”, by Donna Hay)

What you need:

  • 4 chorizo sausages, sliced (I use chorizo Pamplona)
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 2 x 400g (14 oz.) cans peeled tomatoes, crushed
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 400g (14 0z.) can chickpeas (garbanzos), drained
  • 200g (7oz.) green beans, trimmed and chopped
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (baby arugula works well too)

What you do:

  1. Place a deep saucepan over high heat.  Add the chorizo, oil and chili and cook for 4 minutes or until the chorizo are crisp.
  2. Remove from the pan and drain on absorbent paper.
  3. Place the tomatoes and stock in the saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil.
  4. Add the chickpeas and beans and cook for 3 minutes.
  5. Stir through the salt, pepper parsley and cooked chorizo and serve.  Serves 4.

Just Can’t Get Enough

November 3, 2011 § 4 Comments

Do you ever order the same dish again and again?  At my gym’s cafe, I’d order a “Spinach Salad” almost every single time and the woman at the counter will give me a smile, already predicting the order.  Not that there’s nothing else that is worth ordering… I simply love this salad to pieces even if in most days, there really isn’t a single leaf of spinach on it.  Sometimes I’d get a plate of mixed greens or a mix of spinach and arugula… so I do get the variety in that sense.  But whatever the greens are, it has become a staple lunch order when I’m at the gym.

It’s really not the greens but what goes with it that I love.  Imagine… sweet caramelized apples and raisins with chunks of blue cheese and bits of bacon.  A winner through and through, don’t you think?  But because I can have that prepared for me once or twice a week, I thought to use this as inspiration instead.  I loosely adapted Donna Hay’s recipe and came up with this terrific salad.  It has the same sweet-savory combination that goes so well with the peppery taste of Arugula but with an added crunch from the walnuts.

Caramelized Apples and Arugula Salad

(adapted from Donna Hay’s The Instant Cook Cookbook)

Blue cheese and the sweet, buttery apple dressing contrasts well together, add in the peppery tang of the Arugula – perfect.  If walnut’s not your thing, almonds are great too.

What You Need:

  • 60 grams (2oz.) butter
  • 3 tablespoon red wine vinegar (apple cider should be good too)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar or 2 tablespoons coco sugar
  • 1 med size apple, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • Rocket (Arugula) leaves
  • Romaine lettuce
  • 25 grams soft blue cheese, cubed

What you do:

  1. Place the butter, vinegar and sugar in a frying pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the apple and walnuts and cook for 4 minutes or until apples are just soft.
  3. Place the leaves on serving plates and top with the apple and walnuts.
  4. Spoon over the pan juices and top with the blue cheese.


A Master Sauce

October 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

XO Sauce that is.  It’s the sauce of all Chinese sauces; I call it a master sauce as it makes any dish extraordinary.  XO Sauce – it sounds opulent and it is but alcohol it has not, not a drop. It’s actually chopped dried seafood, usually scallops, fish and shrimps, cooked with chili, onions, garlic and oil.  Served once upon a time only in gourmet seafood restaurants, a few companies today produce it commercially – I love Lee Kum Kee’s XO Sauce and you can find it in selected high-end supermarkets.

Expensive yes but I love that it is made more available.

It is exquisite on its own but it adds oomph to noodles and pasta dishes, vegetable dishes and even on fried rice.  When I’m famished and feel like something succulent, or if I want to impress but don’t have time, XO Sauce saves the day – never fails.  Any vegetable available should suffice, really.  Here’s a favorite!

Stir Fried Broccoli and Mushroom with XO Sauce

What you need:

  •  200 grams Broccoli florets, rinsed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 100 grams mushrooms (shiitake or brown)
  • 2 tbsp. XO sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. peanut or canola oil

 What you do:

  1. Blanch broccoli in boiling water. Drain.
  2. Stir-fry broccoli in oil.
  3. Add garlic and XO sauce.
  4. Stir well and serve with rice.

Roast Sweet Potatoes

July 28, 2011 § 2 Comments

When I was growing up, I never really paid much attention to sweet potatoes or “camote” as they call it in my part of the world.  An occasional “camote-cue” during recess time in school sums up my bond with this root crop – and only if the “banana-cues” (my all-time comfort food) available are all dried up and yucky.  In recent years though, I’ve developed a deep affection for sweet potatoes that, despite its name, is not related to potatoes at all.

A highly nutritious vegetable, it has become a staple in my kitchen.  I particularly like the orange-colored variety as it has a more distinctive sweet flavor and having more beta-carotene than those with lighter colored flesh added to its appeal.  And as with all kinds of sweet potatoes, it is rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamin C and B6.  How can you not love that?

I’ve always had it as a sweet treat but I recently discovered that its sweetness is a delicious contrast to savory ingredients.  I don’t remember anymore where I came across the idea but my favorite way to make this simple dish is to slice* the sweet potatoes as desired, sprinkle some sea salt, herbs and spices and blend with a bit of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil).  Roast until sweet potatoes are somewhat caramelized or tender.  If I’m in the mood for some heat, I add Paprika or a bit of Cayenne Pepper.

In the photo, I added flat leaf parsley, some rosemary and probably even some fresh thyme — giving it a slightly peppery / minty tang.  Either way I give my 2-thumbs up to this tasty side dish that sometimes suffices as a snack or even a quick meal.

Try it too with cumin, coriander and lemon or lime juice; how about your favorite cheese and bacon?  Or just plain salt and pepper… the possibilities are endless.

*  There is no need to peel but make sure it is scrubbed well to get rid of the soil.

Squash & Figs

April 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Although dried figs are available anytime of the year, there is nothing like the distinct taste and texture of fresh figs.  Such a treat is rare since it does not transport well, and is hard to come by in my part of the world.  Soft and sweet with many seeds, this fruit is great topped with yogurt or eaten as is.  Recently on a trip to the US, I learned that it goes well with savory dishes too.

When I was visiting friends last October, I managed to pack some figs in a plastic container to bring home with me.  It survived and enabled me to whip up this easy recipe the friend I was bunking with made one dinnertime.

This is best with pancetta but unfortunately my local deli didn’t have it at that time.  I settled with some left over farmer’s ham.  Bacon is a good substitute too.

What you need

  • A few pieces of figs, halved
  • 1 cup squash, peeled and cut to 1” cubes
  • ½ cup pancetta, bacon or ham, chopped
  • a few sage leaves, chopped or 1/4 tsp dried sage
  • salt and pepper to taste

What you do

  1. Cook the squash in a little oil.
  2. Add the pancetta/ham.
  3. When the ham is a bit toasty or the pancetta/bacon has rendered its fat, toss in the figs and sage.
  4. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

The result was sweet and savory with different textures from the figs and squash.  Sage, I found out is perfect partners with squash.


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