Archive | make-ahead

Chocolate Babka

If it were not for Downton Abbey, I wouldn’t have known that ironing newsprint sets the ink, leaving one’s hands stain-free. Then again, I have yet to test this method. My last newspaper print subscription ended more than half a decade ago.  J’s mom, on the other hand, still gets her daily Globe and Mail. I kind of miss it and I must admit, I don’t think I’ll mind having stained fingers. I miss reading the papers and holding them in front of me on a table, a guilty pleasure I still do at coffee shops and from my occasional  purchase. They remind me of simpler times.

I remember being six or seven, eagerly awaiting the newspaper and milk delivery guys on summer mornings at my grandparents’ home. My grandmother would usually be found watering the red, pink, yellow and orange daisies along the curved driveway in front of the house. I would sit on, what seemed to me then were, always impeccably-clean mustard-colored stone doorsteps. My grandfather would either be typing away in the office, or busy attending to some concerns in the community (he was the head of a theological seminary then).  The glass jug of freshly pasteurized carabao’s milk from the nearby dairy farm would usually arrive first and I would carry it straight to the kitchen. It’s a dairy treat that’s not just for drinking, but also for eating —  it’s poured over fried or steamed jasmine rice and sprinkled with rock salt, a delicious combination I tell you. As for the newspaper, I would take it to the dining table and everyone would have their piece of it once breakfast was ready. I took the comics section, with Garfield and Dennis the Menace. Breakfast conversations were a mix of chatter about the headlines, politics, crime, sports (oh, how Filipinos love their basketball), and everything and anything that’s going on with us and the community. Oftentimes, my conversational contributions were about my new jokes, new “inventions”, and a rough idea of where my friends and I will go that day, and what food we’re taking for the lunch. There were no table-side electronic gadgets that demanded attention then, so everyone talked and read.

W (J’s mom) shares her newspapers every now and then, when there’s something interesting to read (we don’t live close enough to share papers reguarly), like the 2-page spread of the different FIFA teams and the match schedules. She’ll sometimes bring a newspaper clipping of a recipe she thinks we’ll enjoy and would have otherwise missed, like this chocolate babka. She gave it to us on a Thursday night and after quickly going through it, I decided to make it the next evening. Saturdays being our cleaning days, I go for recipes I can make ahead on Friday nights. This fits the criteria perfectly.

Chocolate Babka

In the morning, all that was left to do were the egg wash and the crumble topping while the oven is preheating.

The scent of chocolate melting between layers of dough makes its way from the kitchen to adjacent rooms after the 30-minute mark. By the time the oven beeps and you’ve been intoxicated by the baking aromas, you’ll meet an impressive-looking golden brown loaf once you open the oven. It really is a stunner.

Sliced Chocolate Babka

However, don’t start calling every one  just yet. It is best to  delay (every)one’s gratification and let it cool for a bit to set the chocolate, or it would be oozing everywhere when you try to slice it. It is truly worth the wait and can melt any morning grumpiness.

If you want to take it one chocolate step further, spread Nutella on a slice. [And know what else this would be good for? French toast.]

The length of the recipe looks daunting, but just take a deep breath and read through it carefully. There’s nothing complicated and with a little bit of patience. you can do it. I’ve included a lot of photos below to guide you through the different processes, which I hope would help.

I like this tradition of passing on recipes, from J’s mom, to us, then to you. This turned out to be a lovely and special breakfast for us, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, too.

If you have any questions, you know where to reach me. :-)

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Posted in baking, bread, breakfast, brunch, chocolate, coffee buddy, make-ahead, snacks8 Comments

Filipino Pan De Sal

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There’s nothing more definitive of my childhood breakfast –and I guess, the same goes for many other Filipinos–than pan de sal. The steam escaping out of the brown paper bag from the freshly baked buns, the crumbs getting all over your fingers,  the hot, tongue-numbing first bite…I missed every bit of it when we moved here. We eventually found out about Aling Mary‘s where we could get them fresh from the oven, which I remember doing twice. Twice.

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Pan de sal and coffee is akin to butter and bread. Inseparable, and you couldn’t go wrong with that combination.

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As the years went on, I slowly learned how to cook and bake, and eventually baked my own bread. I yearned to make pan de sal. I tried making my own half a decade ago, but they didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. At the beginning of this year, I set out to give it another go. After trying many recipes I found, I STILL wasn’t satisfied the least bit. Some tasted like brioche, others were too dry, and they all basically don’t have the right flavor and texture. It was frustrating, there’s no question about that. I experimented a lot. I wasn’t as lucky creating the recipe as I was when I made another Filipino classic, the mocha cake. It took me more than 20 batches of pan de sal and a lot of eating before I was finally happy with it. [Huge thanks to the beau J and the kids for putting up with all the not-so-perfect pan de sal iterations!] Then I’ve had a lot of people outside of family taste it over the course of more than 6 months — both Filipinos and non-Filipinos love them. And then when I thought I arrived at my final recipe, I baked pan de sal almost every week, sometimes even twice a week, because we went through 2 dozen buns so quickly during the school weeks (they make awesome lunch sandwiches).   Continue Reading

Posted in baking, bread, coffee buddy, experiments, featured, Filipino dishes, make-ahead, original Gourmeted recipe, snacks1 Comment

Quick Lunch: Tuna Pineapple Macaroni Salad

Chicken macaroni salad was one of my favorite party side dishes as a child. Back in Manila, it was dotted with raisins, which I’ve grown to dislike through the years. I’ve come to embrace it’s blushing cousin, the dried cranberries, which I simply adore in salads and use as often as I can. I love it with the tuna mac because it adds a touch of sweetness and tartness that complements the tuna and pineapple well.

Tuna Pineapple Macaroni Salad

Tuna is my preferred alternative to chicken in salads for convenience–just drain and voila, you’ll have flavorful protein to add. And thanks to that, you can make this salad in 15 minutes or less, not including the time to wait for the water to boil. To save time, I put the pot of water on maximum heat while I start chopping vegetables to make good on time.

This is a substantial lunch or a good snack to pack for work, but watch out for the tuna smell. The chicken would be less offensive to the olfactory senses for some, for sure. It keeps well in the fridge for up to 3 days if you keep it in the coolest corner, so it’s a good make-ahead dish as well.

I’m making slow and steady progress on the eating-healthier-lunch front, and even smaller steps on blog posting, but I’m getting there. I’m almost ready to make this again for lunch, actually.

I’ve included meat and vegan alternatives in the recipe. Hope you enjoy!

Tuna Pineapple Macaroni Salad

 

 

4.0 from 1 reviews
Tuna Pineapple Macaroni Salad
Recipe type: Salad
Active prep time: 
Cooking/Baking time: 
Total hands-on & cooking/baking time: 
Serves: 4 to 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) elbow macaroni, uncooked
  • salt for boiling pasta and to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 120-gram can tuna, drained of water or oil
  • ¼ cup and 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1½ tablespoon sugar
  • freshly ground pepper
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries (optional)
Instructions
  1. Cook elbow macaroni in salty water according to the package directions for al dente pasta and drain. Transfer pasta into a large bowl and add all the ingredients except for the cranberries. Add salt and pepper as desired. Add cranberries last.
Notes
Meat Alternative: Chopped cooked chicken, especially if you have leftover rotisserie chicken. Vegan Alternative: You use "simulated" chicken meat sauteed with a little bit of chicken bouillon powder or cube to add some flavor. For the mayo, Earth Balance has a "Mindful Mayo" that is dairy free.

Posted in appetizer, make-ahead, nut-free, original Gourmeted recipe, pasta, quick & easy, salads, seafood, snacks4 Comments

Dorie’s Perfection Pound Cake | Look Ma, No Need To Tweak!

March has whizzed by. April is beginning to blur . It has been a very busy springtime.  As I’ve mentioned earlier, we’re organizing Bake For The Quake, an event where  bakers, collaborative sponsors, and the supportive Vancouver community come together to raise funds for Japan. There’s no question it’s almost like a second job to organize a charity bake sale event and I won’t even pretend for a second that we know what we’re doing, but we are doing the best we can. Just a couple of days ago there was a strong aftershock that rocked Japan at 7.1 magnitude on the Richter scale, with a few fatalities. Now more than ever, they need our help. So we continue to work hard for this cause. If you’re able and so inclined, please consider donating directly to our fundraising page (it will automatically go directly to Doctors Without Borders). We would also appreciate your help in spreading the word — you might have a friend or family here in Vancouver. Every tweet, link, and word passed along helps. Ah, and we have printable posters for download that would be perfect for posting at your local cafe spot, restaurant, community centre, school, or local community board — just ask for permission first before putting up. :)

Before these all happened, I signed up for an Introduction To Pottery course at the local Shadbolt Centre for the Arts — what this really means is that my schedule for the next 2 weeks is f*****d a balancing act of fragile porcelain. The first class was 3 nights ago and wow, was it ever a humbling experience to make what resembles like mere child’s play:

It doesn’t help that I was practically brain dead from exhaustion. It was a good 3 hours of fortitude, with my patience being counted to the minute. My classmates were a funny bunch, so that is definitely a plus.

I’m not even sure why I’m sharing these embarrassing items to you, but I’m hoping that in a few weeks time, just like when I started cooking, baking, and taking photos, it will eventually become better. One just have to stick with it long enough to make progress.

So while my pottery skills leave a lot to be desired or emulated, this Pound Cake recipe by Dorie Greenspan, is true to it’s name: it is perfection. No tweaking necessary.

I couldn’t ask for anything more after a long day if I’m looking for a non-alcoholic happy hour. Pound cake + tea = instant relaxation. Its soft crust and moist buttery cake goes well with jam. Or if it’s that kind of day, even vanilla bean and dark chocolate ice cream.

If you’re looking at your calendar and you have a busy week ahead, my best advice would be to make this on a Saturday and keep it for the week to nibble on. It will last at room temperature for 5 to 7 days and even those tight deadlines and running around like a chicken without a head would melt in an instant as soon as you take a bite of this.

DORIE’S PERFECTION POUND CAKE
Adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2006)

A tender buttery cake with a soft crust to banish a stressful day. This delightful cake will keep for up to a week at room temperature and is lovely to eat with jams and even ice cream.  – Joy

Yields: one 9”x5” or 8.5”x4.5” pan

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (or 2 1/4 cups cake flour – creates a more tender crumb)
  • 1 teaspoon baking poder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven at 325°F with the rack positioned at the center of the oven. Grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan or an 8.5″ x4.5″ loaf pan with butter. Place the pan on an insulated baking sheet or 2 stacked baking sheets.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar on high speed in the bowl a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Continue until mixture is pale and fluffy, about a full 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle, and reduce the speed to medium.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 to 2 minutes with each interval. Don’t forget to scrape the sides of the bowl and beater to create a homogenous mixture. Add the vanilla extract.
  5. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until flour is in. This can also be done by hand by folding the flour into the batter with a rubber spatula.
  6. Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and smooth and level the top. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Check if it is browning too rapidly, and tent a foil over it if so. If your pan is 9″x5″, the cake needs to be baked for a total of 70 to 75 minutes. An 8.5″x4.5″ pan of cake would require a total of about 90 minutes.
  7. The cake is done when a thin knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Transfer cake pan onto a cooling rack and let it rest for 30 minutes. Carefully run the back of a bread knife between the cake and the sides of the pan to loosen out the cake before inverting out and propping it right side up directly on the cooling rack. Cool to room temperature before wrapping.

Storage: Wrapped in clear plastic wrap, this cake will keep for 5 to 7 days at room temperature or up to 2 months in the freezer.

Posted in baking, cakes, coffee buddy, dairy, dessert, make-ahead, snacks7 Comments

Lemon Curd and Shortbread Bars

Just a couple of announcements before we get to the golden luscious bars:

Aaaand…back to our regular programming…

Weeks ago I accidentally found some Meyer lemons at the Granville Island Market. I stopped dead in my tracks in disbelief. You’d think I won a mini lottery as my eyes bugged while picking up a bag. A lot of my California friends on Twitter talk so highly of these lemons, making me envy Kristina, who has a Meyer lemon tree in her backyard. I asked my Twitter friends what to do with 5 precious lemons and went with the popular suggestion: Meyer lemon curd. It’s so simple to make (check out Robyn’s method of making curd) that I couldn’t resist. That, and it was discussed like people were talking about liquid gold. To make the long story short: it was spoonfuls of zesty sunshine that I want to eat nonstop. I did manage to wean myself, leaving a little over 1 3/4 cups to freeze for later use.

Fast forward to Monday when I finally had time to think of what to make with them. What could be fitting for my pucker-inducing citrus curd? Then I remembered coming across a recipe Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread in the Tartine cookbook. I used the shortbread part and added oat flour instead of pine nuts — because I have a bazillion bags of oat flour. Don’t ask.

It ended up so incredibly good that I’m getting requests for more shortbread and fruit curd variations.

I love a good crust! The shortbread paired with an equal amount of lemon curd is a marriage of flavors and textures that is sure to be a keeper. Some people prefer thicker “filling”, but for the Meyer lemon curd, equal amounts, is perfect.

These bars are easy to make, so don’t even hesitate to make it. :-)

Get the Lemon Curd & Shortbread Bars recipe

Posted in dessert, make-ahead, snacks, sweets, tarts5 Comments

Neapolitan-Style Pizza Dough Recipe and Some Exciting News

I’ve been participating in, and hosting, snail mail exchanges online since 2001. Last December, we had the Secret Santa Foodie, where everybody got together to spread some holiday cheer. I ‘met’ a lot of new people, including Adrienne Mitra, who owns a travel agency with her husband. What’s so interesting is that they offer fully-customized culinary travel tours. Food and travelwhat’s not to love? It’s impossible to have someone you know at every travel destination, who can point you to to the good eats or the best classes where you can learn to cook the regional fare. Guidebooks can only take you so far and it’s rare to have an unlimited vacation time to figure everything out. That’s where they come in. CITTravel runs through Adrienne’s veins and she loves good food. She is passionate about helping people plan their vacation according to how they want it, and not according to set “packages” (that term makes her cringe). And if there’s one thing I can attest to about Adrienne, she gets things done and she is on top of things — okay, that’s two! After talking and emailing with her, teaming up with them just seemed like an organic thing to do. So I’m very happy to introduce Celebrations International Travel to you guys! Please join us in welcoming them! Check out their site and their blog. You will learn more about them in the coming weeks and months. I’ll be inviting Adrienne to do a guest post about their culinary tours.

This is right up our alley, don’t you think? As the busy travel and vacation season begins, and as some of us scramble to make plans for the rest of the year (ahem, Me!), I can’t wait to find out what they have in store!

———

Now onto the recipe!

Neapolitan PIzza

MMM…pizza! Whether it be for any meal (yes, even breakfast — admit it!), a casual get-together or game night, the beloved pizza is welcome in our homes and in our bellies. Of course, there’s the debate about which is better: deep-dish or thin crust pizza, but we’ll leave that alone. For now, I’ll talk about my kind of pizza: thin, light, and beautifully blistered pizzas. You heard me: blistered. I get excited over the perfect thin crust!

Neapolitan-style pizza

We’ve been to the much-talked about Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, and my love for that pizza is right up there with Itzhak Perlman — that’s a high pedestal. The long line to get into the main restaurant is something I’d rather forget, though.

The following crust is no Pizzeria Bianco, and I can’t say it tastes the same as the A16 restaurant’s pizza (I haven’t eaten there), but one thing is for sure, this dough has earned top place among the pizza dough recipes I’ve tried.

pizza dough

Being at the top means there are also no compromises, especially when it comes to time. The A16 Neapolitan pizza dough takes the most number of days to make: three, realistically. But you can definitely make it in two if you plan ahead after reading the recipe. Raise your hand if you sometimes don’t carefully read the recipe before deciding to make it. Who does that? Hah.

I don’t have more “after” photos because I was busy stretching the pizza, filling it, transferring it to to oven, and preparing the next pie while that cooks for 7 minutes. Whew. I ran a tight ship and by the time I finished rolling out 4 pizzas, I just had enough to eat and hunger beat food porn. Plus, it’s something that can wait to be eaten. It was incredibly satisfying and even with all the work and wait involved, this is worth making again and again!

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Posted in announcements, baking, books and publications, make-ahead, pizza, Uncategorized4 Comments

Julia & Nora Cream Puffs (Profiteroles)

I have had several requests from friends to make cream puffs but kept putting it off (for almost a year!). I procrastinated until I found one more reason to: being featured on the Julie & Julia movie website, quite a compliment to foodies like us. I thought that made perfect sense. Waiting is a good thing, I tell myself…

Julia Child's Pâte à choux

It physically hurt me to take photos and wait patiently before devouring these.

…until I realized that I have been without cream puffs in my life for such a long time, and it all went downhill from there. Sensible eating begone as I questioned why I kept popping one puff after another into my mouth, and at the same time not really thinking about it. Don’t you have those moments? I can’t even tell you how many I’ve eaten, because I don’t know. A few friends were lucky enough to sample these, and God bless them for saving me from making a complete a Puff-woMan of myself (get it, Pac-Man?).

Julia Child's Pâte à choux

The cream filling I made is almost like Bavarian Cream. I can make an excuse that this is "healthier" than deep-fried donuts. A tiny bit? Right?

My history with cream puffs go all the way to when I was a very young child of six or seven. My mother (‘Mama’), once an avid baker, had three specialties: brownies with sticky and nutty tops, fruit tarts and cream puffs. [For all these, she used recipes by Nora Daza, quite possibly the Julia Child of the Philippines.] My mom even got orders for her baked goodies at school. I have vivid memories of our dining room looking like an assembly line of baked goods. Like pets waiting for their treats, us siblings hounded the table for the bowl and spatula leftovers of brownie batter, custard for the tart and the cream for the puffs. I was Mama’s Little Helper: from pressing the tart dough onto the metal molds to evenly placing the fruit pieces on the tarts’ custard, but when it comes to the cream puffs it’s an All-Mom Turf. Nobody messes with my mom’s cream puffs. On weeknights when she baked them for the school, I would finish off my homework early so I watch her as she carefully shaped each little mound of paste with her orange mechanical pastry bag (like this one). The craft fascinated me. The next morning she would be dressed up for work early and already filling the baked puffs (that’s already been glazed with caramel) with cream by the time we woke up to shower and get into our uniforms. Then she would drive us to school and I would be at the backseat with the big responsibility of keeping the army of brownies, tarts, or puffs nested in paper cups on pans from sliding off during the drive. Sometimes I would be allowed to eat one. I can still remember everything like it was yesterday. Come to think of it, a lot of my childhood memories include food.

You’d think that I had been baking since I was young all the way to Gourmeted.com. I didn’t. I’m a late-blooming cook/baker, like Julia, and had no interest whatsoever in anything that has do with the kitchen until my late twenties (I’m turning 31 next week). I have always enjoyed eating, though. :-)

As an homage to my two worlds of the East and West, I made cream puffs ala Julia & Nora. Also, as an homage to my mother, Mother of Cream Puffs (hehe) – it’s my mom’s birthday today!

Happy birthday Mama!

Now onto the recipes…

Julia, in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, described choux pastry/paste or pâte à choux [pronounced paht ah SHOO, literally translates to "cabbage paste" as when made to the original method it resembles the vegetable] as a very, very thick white sauce into which eggs are beaten, which make the paste swell when cooked. It can be used for hors d’oeuvres when mixed with cheese, or for desserts as cream puffs when sweetened with sugar.

Julia Child's Pâte à choux

L-R: Cream Puff, Cream Puff with Blueberries (aka Blueberry Monster), Chocolate Dipped Cream Puff

Julia Child’s Pâte à Choux
Adapted from the book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol 1 by Julia Child, Louisette Berthole, and Simone Beck

Ingredients (makes 36-40 small puffs)

  • 100 grams unbleached all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 large eggs, divided (1 beaten in a small bowl, for egg wash)
  • 3  oz or 6 tbsps butter, cut into pieces; plus extra for greasing the baking sheets
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • Extra butter to grease the baking sheets and 1 egg, beaten,

[Note: Julia suggested adding 1 tsp of sugar and reducing the salt to a pinch for dessert puffs. I opted to use salt as above to contrast with the sweetness of the cream filling.]

Preparation:

1. Boil water, butter and seasonings in a 1.5-quart heavy bottomed saucepan.

2. Remove from the heat and quickly mix the flour in one go. Stir vigorously and blend thoroughly. Continue to stir over med-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes, until the mixture separates from the sides of the pan forming one mass, and it begins to film the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat.

3. Create a well in the middle of the paste and break an egg into it. Stir for a few seconds until the egg is incorporated and continue to add the rest of the eggs in the same manner. The third and fourth eggs will be absorbed more slowly. Mix until smooth.

4. Preheat oven to 425°F with one rack placed on the upper third of the oven and another in the lower third. Prepare two baking sheets by rubbing butter on the baking surface.

5. To create small puffs: You can drop the paste on the baking sheet with a spoon or pipe with pastry bag (with 1/2-inch round tube opening) into mound about an inch in diameter and half an inch high, 2 inches apart. Dip a pastry brush into the egg wash and lightly tap each mound with the side of the brush. Avoid dripping down the puff and the sheet, because that prevents the puff from rising.

6. Place the sheets in the preheated oven, one on each rack, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until they puffs have doubled in size, become gold brown, and are firm and crusty to the touch. Take them out of the oven. Using a sharp knife, pierce the side of each puff to prevent the crusty outside from getting soggy. Return the baking sheets to the now turned off oven, with the door ajar, and leave for 10 minutes. Continue to cool the puffs on a cooling rack.

Freezing unfilled puffs: Wait for the puffs to completely cool before freezing. Just place in ziploc bags. Warm it up in a 425°F oven for 3 to 4 minutes to thaw and crisp before serving. When using a toaster oven for a few pieces, 400°F for a minute or two does the job as well.

Cream Filling
Adapted from Let’s Cook with Nora by Nora Daza

  • 1/3 cup sugar (you can increase to 1/2 cup if you like it really sweet)
  • 1/3 cups all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 eggs yolks from large eggs, placed in a bowl
  • 1 tsp vanilla

1. Combine flour, salt and sugar in a sauce pan. Blend in milk and stir until most of the lumps have dissolved. Using a whisk helps.

2. Cook in medium heat, stirring until it boils. Boil for 10 minutes then remove from heat.

3. In a separate bowl, stir half the heated mixture into the egg yolks. Mix well before adding back to the saucepan. Stir until well blended.

4. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes or until the mixture coats teh back of a spoon.

5. Cook the mixture and add vanilla.

To fill the puff shells: You can slice the puffs horizontally in half and spoon the cream into each, or you can use a pastry bag to puncture and fill each shell.

Dust with confectioner’s sugar, dip in chocolate, add fruits if you like. It’s all up to you!

For those of you who have been put off by the thought of making cream puffs because they are hard to make, don’t be! They’re not. They’re very easy to make, just take it one instruction at a time. Hands-on time for the puffs was probably 15 minutes or 20 minutes tops. You’ll be a pro in no time. :) Enjoy the recipes. Please let me know if you try them.

Posted in appetizer, baking, dairy, dessert, make-ahead, quick & easy28 Comments

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

I like a good challenge and whenever I see those lovely food blogs with results from the Daring Bakers Challenge, I’m in awe and envy. When I finally got around to joining the group, I froze when I saw my first challenge for March 2009: Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi Al Forno). I was expecting to make dessert or bake cakes — something for my insatiable sweet tooth…something easier. But no, it turns out my “initiation” into the Daring Bakers would be a very laborious one. I was as scared as I was decades ago when the swimming instructor asked us to jump into the pool at the 6″ feet mark on our first class. Are you serious? What did I get myself into?!

THIS, dear readers:

YUMMMMMMM. As with life’s big challenges, this challenge has great rewards. This lasagna melts in your mouth. There’s homemade lasagne, and then there’s memorable homemade gourmet lasagne. I could not believe how delicious it was! I can still remember the taste of the ragu, the nice tenderness of homemade pasta, the rich bechamel sauce.

This lasagne marks a few firsts for me:

1) Very first lasagne. You read that right: I’ve never made lasagne in my entire life. It just looked like it was too much work. Yeah, look what I ended up doing! Haha.

2) Bechamel sauce.

3) Handmade pasta and without the aid of a machine, too. Oh, dear, this is a biggie. The whole thing was a workout.

4) Ragu sauce. I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than two hours to make a pasta sauce. No sir.

Woohoo!

Would I make it again? YES! But not without a pasta machine. ;-) The challenge did not require us to buy one, but god, I wish I had. Oh well, that’s done. I can now say that the very first lasagne I made entailed a back-breaking 2-hour manual pasta rolling ordeal. No wonder I put it off for more than a week! I had to muster enough courage and strength to get the ball rolling. Literally. This started out as a dough ball that you flatten with your rolling pin if you do it by hand. It has a gorgeous green color because of the spinach.  I used frozen chopped spinach and this is an egg pasta.

I dried it as cut sheets for 24 hours before cooking. I dared not to take photos of the transformation of our dining room into a pasta drying area with the sheets hanging on freshly cleaned table cloth-covered chairs.

It’s more delicate than store-bought pasta, understandably. I had some tears here and there. It looked very pretty as I assembled the dish. This is how one layer looks like, beginning with the spinach lasagna sheet overlapping each other:

Rich and creamy bechamel sauce:

The MMMMM-inducing ragu sauce:

More bechamel on top of the ragu sauce.

Topped with grated parmigiano reggiano cheese:

And this is the topmost layer of my lasagne, with a generous amount of bechamel and grated parmigiano reggiano cheese:

Our kitchen smelled amazing while it was cooking:

Here, the fruit of my labor:

I started making this 4pm (for the pasta sheets) and we ate this at 11pm the next day. It’s no walk in the park, but I’m glad I did it! WHEW!!!!!!

I will post a PDF recipe tonight. :)

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

Posted in baking, cheese, Daring Bakers, dining, dips and sauces, make-ahead, pasta, vegetables55 Comments

Garlicky Black-Pepper Shrimp and Black-Eyed Peas

People close to me know that I laugh and joke a lot. In fact, I incessantly crack myself up for reasons that only I will understand. Take for example, when we were at Whole Foods I prodded Dan to ask where we could find “black eyed peas” because I couldn’t say it without giggling and thinking about the hip hop group. Hehe. Childishness aside, this black-eyed peas dish got the last laugh because…it was so good! It was flavorful with a bit of punch, and it is hearty enough to be eaten as a meal.

I had not cooked beans in a long time and this marked my first time to use [giggle] black-eyed peas [/giggle] in a dish. I haven’t eaten beans cooked this way either, so I didn’t know what to expect.

I just trusted the recipe — this is new territory for me not only for the unfamiliarity of dish but also because I rarely follow the recipe.

Little did I know that a couple of weeks later, I’d find myself strictly adhering to the bread recipe to get it right. This is how progress starts for someone who has aversion to rigidity and structure.

See? I promptly followed the instruction to cook the shrimp and then add wine.

And mix the bean mixture again.

My self-control on changing the recipe paid off:

It looks like it has curry, but it doesn’t. It just has the perfect touch of spiciness from the red pepper flakes, garlic and black pepper. It will warm and fill you up on a cold night. You can enjoy it warm on its own or with rice, or store in the freezer or refrigerator for later consumption. We noticed that it tasted even better the next day.

This soup is definitely a keeper!

Here’s the recipe: Continue Reading

Posted in make-ahead, soups, vegetables6 Comments

Igado (Filipino Pork Meat and Liver Stew)

Is it really February? Last Monday I thought it was Friday. Time is warped; I could be talking to you from 2010 and I’ll be conscious of the correct year in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… But you do understand what I mean, right? Time zoomed forward.

A couple of weeks ago my ol’ friend visited Vancouver. We go back as far as our Geology freshmen days in 1995. It’s been a good 8 or 9 years since we last saw each other when we were fresh graduates and newly-licensed professionals. Now, we are old(er), relocated in North America, and cook and share recipes. I gave him the recipe for Food For The Gods, and he taught me how to make this Filipino dish called “Igado” (pronounced as ee-ga-DOH, as if you’re saying fa-la-LAH).

Igado is a regional Filipino delicacy with fatty pork loin meat and pork liver cooked with red bell pepper and peas, in a salty-sour sauce. I love this dish but never had the gumption to make it until my friend indulged me with their family’s Ilocano recipe. The Ilocanos are people from the northern part of the Philippines. In my home country, different regions have different traditional dishes with distinct tastes, but there’s one common characteristic about Filipino dishes — they try to make as much use of what’s available from the ingredients. Call it the Third-World Factor, not Fodder For Fear Factor. Take igado, for example, instead of throwing out the skin with fat, it is cubed and fried until crispy; and except for the excess oil, the whole pork loin is used.

Check out the crispy browned fat with skin:

I know it sounds absolutely horrible and will send nutritionists and dietitians screaming out the door, but these are SO good to eat even on their own [disclaimer: Enjoy at your own risk. Don't even think about eating the fried fat if you have heart, high blood, cholesterol or other health-related problems]. It’s used to flavor a lot of dishes, including boiled green mung beans. Eat in moderation, I always say.

Igado is an excellent make-head viand, just like Adobo. It tastes even better the day after, just make sure to keep it cold in the fridge and re-heat before serving. If you’re not into offal, you can skip the liver, but it wouldn’t taste the same. Perhaps you’ve been on the fence about finally trying liver and you’re just waiting for the recipe, consider making this.

Download print-ready PDF recipe for Igado (Filipino Pork Meat and Liver Stew)

The following recipe is not according to my friend’s specifications because he just estimated the amounts in his head when he made it. I took it upon myself, in the spirit of accuracy (whatever excuse I can make to cook this!), to re-create the dish while measuring everything for you and for our future reference. Enjoy! Continue Reading

Posted in Asian dish, Filipino dishes, make-ahead, offal, original Gourmeted recipe22 Comments