Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas to family and friends in timezones later than mine...

...and to those I share timezones with, a belated Christmas greeting to you! :D

Christmas, of course was a busy day and I am a wee bit excited about sharing with you what went on in the kitchen (and dining room!). But I am holding off on that excitement for another blog post. Today, I'm off to the shop to give Murphy (my car) a tuneup. The Holidays, more than just a time for parties and celebrations, is also a time to take care of the other fairly important things that you never seem to have time for.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Rush

Christmas is right around the corner, and once again, our kitchen is bustling with activity. My mother, for one, had been making a lot of sweetened macapuno to satisfy the requests of her colleagues. I, on the other hand, have made hundreds of cupcakes and cookies. It is exhausting but fun. In gift-giving terms, between braving the holiday crowd in malls to shop for gifts and baking cookies for hours, I'd much rather get exhausted doing the latter.

I got some Callebaut chocolate chips from Gourdo's and used these for my cookies. These chips are in the size of mini morsels, smaller than what I normally use. They were very good but I prefer hefty chunks of chocoloate when I bite into my cookie so, for good measure, in addition to the Callebaut chocolate chips, I pressed Nestle Tollhouse semi-sweet chocolate chips on top of each cookie dough mound before baking. Yummy!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Beef from the Mahogany Meat Market, Tagaytay

Mahogany Market is home to purveyors of the popular Batangas beef. We used to buy beef from Tagaytay a lot a long time ago when the Tagaytay meat market was still located along the Aguinaldo highway. They have since moved to Mahogany road (going towards Taal Vista Hotel, when you see a fork in the road with a Petron Gas Station in the middle, take the right lane) leaving behind the dry goods section of the market where you still can buy loads of handicrafts, fruits, sweets, and other delicacies to take home as pasalubong. Somehow we found it too out of the way to go to. This is the first time I've ever visited the place and I have a feeling it won't be my last.

There are carinderias or a series of small canteens, located just across the market. You can order Tawilis (freshwater sardines found only in the Taal Lake) here and some ambulant vendors hawk assorted pasalubong fare like panucha, espasol, kalamay Indang, fresh pinipig, etc. all over the place. But inasmuch as these carinderias are strategically located near a meat market, their specialty, of course, is Bulalo. Bulalo is basically a Filipino Osso Buco. It's a dish made by boiling beef shank for hours on end (quicker when done with a pressure cooker) until the meat becomes tender and the connective tissues of the beef almost gelatinous. Vegetables like potatoes, green beans and cabbage and sometimes corn are thrown in after to complete the dish. This classic Filipino dish is made more special because of the marrow. Buttery in taste and silky in texture, bone marrow from Bulalo is best eaten mixed in piping hot steamed rice soaked in Bulalo soup. (Watch out for heartburns!)
If you're a meatlover, don't forget to take this little detour to Mahogany Market when you're in Tagaytay. The place is just bursting with interesting things to, uh, sink your teeth in to.
Photo credits: Digital Format

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Parmesan Fettucine with Tomato Broccoli and Shrimps

This is a delicious pasta dish that I made for dinner last night. It is oh so easy to make. Great for those nights after a long busy day when you are craving for a hearty yet healthy pasta meal but you feel utterly devoid of enough energy to make one. The key is to have every ingredient prepped- dice the tomatoes (3 pieces), cut the broccoli (1 head), peel, devein, and salt the shrimps (1/4 kilo), and mince the garlic (3 cloves). When all that is ready, a fabulous dinner for 2 (or 3!) is a walk in the park. (Thank heavens for that container of lovely shrimps sitting in the fridge. I just hope my mom wasn't planning anything with it for lunch today.)

Anywho, to make this, get yourself about 200 grams of fettucini, cook it according to the package instructions (don't forget to season your water with salt). San Remo fettucini, what I used here, takes 11 minutes to cook. During the last 3 minutes of boiling, throw in the broccoli florets along with the pasta. I recommend you pace yourself to get the cooking time for the pasta, broccoli, and shrimps in sync.

While the pasta is boiling, saute the garlic in about 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add in the shrimps. Season it with a dash of fresh cracked black pepper and dried basil leaves (Mc Cormick is fine but you can use fresh basil, too, of course). Just when the shrimps are just starting to turn pink, add in the tomatoes. Toss in the cooked pasta and broccoli. Stir until all the ingredients are combined and the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce from the shrimp mixture.

To serve your pasta masterpiece, try to get as much of the pasta onto the plate/s first and sprinkle it generously with grated parmesan cheese. Top the parmesan fettucini with the tomato broccoli and shrimps and top everything off with more grated parmesan, if you wish. Me, I'm wild about grated Parmesan cheese. Just take a good look at the picture. I sprinkle away cheese like a mad man.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Torrone Nurzia: a taste of Italy

Torrone Nurzia
Abruzzo, Italy, to be precise. I've never heard about Sorelle Nurzia Torrone Torrone Nurzia ever until a couple of weeks ago. Writings on the box define it as "soft nougat candy with bittersweet chocolate". I've tasted nougat and bittersweet chocolate, sure. But no amount of words could have prepared me for this "exotic" and rather addicting candy. I shared a couple of chunks of Torrone Nurzia with my beautiful little three-year-old niece. And when I asked her how she liked it, she answered- after a short thoughtful pause- "It's silky". Cute.

The fact that it is addicting did not sit well with me, since Torrone Nurzia is obviously a rare treat in this country. So I decided to do a little research. My search only convinced me that short of taking a trip to Italy, there's a pretty good chance that I may never get my hands on a box of Torrone Nurzia again.

Here's a bit of history on Torrone Nurzia from Italian Cooking & Living-

"Abruzzans have a reputation as good cooks and hearty eaters. It is here that the tradition of la panarda was born-an all-out feast of 30 to 50 courses that lasts for hours, if not all day and all night... Native pastry chefs have given Abruzzo an assortment of signature desserts. Soft chocolate nougat, called torrone nurzia, was invented by Ulisse Nurzia in the 19th century in a small town at the base of the Apennines. Made from hazelnuts, chocolate, honey and almonds, the soft, chewy delicacy gets its irresistible texture from the same secret ingredient as Abruzzo's pasta-pure mountain water-evidenced by the fact that Nurzia was unable to reproduce the popular confection when he traveled north to Milan."
Read the rest of this article, here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Vanilla Cupcakes: a photo album

I am down with some sort of flu and in my boredom, I flipped through the thousand or so pictures I took and saved in my PC. Man, that's a lot. No wonder my PC is bugging. And some are actually pretty nice. Let me just share with you some photos of vanilla cupcakes I've made. It is incredible how a seemingly blank canvas of flavor can inspire imaginative combinations of flavor which kind of makes you realize that vanilla is more complex a flavor than you give it credit for.

Blueberry Cheesecake

Strawberry Cheesecake

Cookie Dough

Chocolate Buttercream

Saturday, October 4, 2008

One Pinoy Family's Lunch Spread

In our family, we enjoy eating out as much as we love preparing our own food. Something that led our friends to quip during one dinner at home, "How can you even want to eat out when you can have all this great cooking at home?"

Clams in Ginger Soup

Pancit Canton (my mother's version)

Grilled Liempo

It's lunch like these, especially in these times where commodities prices are rising, when I ask myself the same question. And I am sure that some of you out there have had that moments in restaurants when you think, "By golly, I make a better version of this at home and it doesn't cost even half of what they're charging me for this." Wink. Wink.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sinigang sa Miso: Blue Marlin Belly

I have written a while back that I love paluto meals at Seaside or Dampa. One of my favorites that I've tried to make at home (preferably with big fresh tiger prawns!) was the buttered shrimps of Shylin. Another one of those meals that we regularly order is the Tuna Belly Sinigang sa Miso. I know that Sinigang sa Miso is traditionally made with fish head (panga). A tradition hardwired in the brains of the paluto waitresses, that I actually have to tell them twice that we want tuna belly and not "panga ng Tuna". But we prefer our sinigang meaty and not bony, one that requires... ah... chewing rather than sucking. Another key ingredient in Sinigang sa Miso that got me all curious is, well, miso. I've looked up this popularly healthy ingredient and Wikipedia says it "is a traditional Japanese food produced by fermenting rice, barley and/or soybeans, with salt and the fungus kōjikin" (click here). Yeap, that's what that gritty sediment is made of- rice, barley and/or soybeans, salt, and fungus...

Blue Marlin Belly Sinigang sa Miso

True to Filipino cooking where you practically just throw your ingredients in a pot to stew, Sinigang sa Miso is not difficult to prepare. For this meal, I've followed the recipe at pinoycook.net save for the obvious substitution of Blue Marlin belly for the fish head. Slurp it from a bowl or soak your hot rice in it, there's nothing like a sour and savory soup like this one to warm you up even in the middle of a raging typhoon.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Celebrations at The French Corner

Yesterday, we celebrated a birthday in the family at The French Corner*. (Thank you for the warm greeting and delicious birthday cake!)

"Happy Birthday Robert!!!"

This excellent restaurant in West Gate Center (Filinvest, Alabang, Muntinlupa City) is my favorite dining place when I feel like celebrating an extra special occasion or simply indulging the food lover in me. The ambiance of the restaurant, marked by beautifully engaging paintings, soothing lighting, tasteful music, and comfortable furniture, is elegant and cozy at the same time. The service is professional yet friendly and flawlessly spot on. And the food, right down to their coffee- quite simply superb. We've enjoyed every meal we've had there. They were always expertly prepared and exquisite in taste and texture and I'm pretty sure everything else in the menu is just as gratifying to the palate. While we wait for our meal, we are served with a bread basket of warm ciabatta and dinner rolls, accompanied with butter or minced bell peppers in olive oil. I munch through those deliciously crunchy slices of ciabatta in seconds. Fortunately, the attentive waiters and waitresses always promptly offer to refill our bread basket. Certainly. Seconds please!

The French Corner (read a related article from manilastandardtoday.com here.) also cater to functions like wedding receptions and I can personally attest that they do it impressively well. The staff was very patient and accommodating regarding the preparations, which came as a blessing to me especially during that point when I was at my wit's end as the wedding date neared (I believe every bride knows what I am talking about...). When we first went there to ask about their wedding packages, The French Corner's representative presented us with a number of set menus to choose from, all seemed delectable and reasonably priced. What I think won us over though is the fact that after sitting down with us over a cup of coffee, The French Corner's representative relayed our ideas and inputs to the Chef, who in turn customized a menu especially for us in a matter of minutes. We were so happy with how the menu turned out and how easy it was to make arrangements with them that we forgot all about our other reception venue options- a hotel, a country club, and another restaurant- and we closed the deal with The French Corner right away. Talk about commitment to customer satisfaction, The French Corner has definitely got it down to an art. When our wedding day arrived, this is what our guests were treated to, a piece of the wedding that they raved about long after it was over (Photo credits to Leah Taas for the following photos):

Baked Tuna and Salmon Roulade
With salad petite
in sesame vinaigrette dressing


Mushroom in Filo Pastry
With creamy yogurt-sesame sauce

Fillet Mignon
In bourguignon sauce
Served with gratin of potato and vegetables


Menu
(Dessert: Trio Chocolate Gateau; Drinks: Iced Tea)

On the big day, we were treated like royalty as the service staff made sure that everything ran smoothly during our special day. As if I haven't given you enough reason to want to hold your own wedding reception here- have I mentioned that no less than culinary genius Chef Billy King prepared the food?


*The French Corner
Creative Continental Cuisine
Lot 102-103 Home Precinct West Gate Center
Filinvest Alabang, Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila
Tel. No. (02)771-2345
Tel./Fax: (02)771-0549

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Easy Caldereta Paella

Being under Spanish Colonial Rule for over 300 years, Spanish influence in Philippine culture can be seen until today, despite the onslaught of modern globalization. It's in our architecture, our religious belief system, in our language, and our cuisine. It was this theme that was running in my brain ever since I saw a travel-documentary show on cable a few days ago and it made me crave for Paella. (Leave it to me to think about food during a history lesson...) Paella has developed a reputation for being a difficult dish to prepare and could get a bit pricey especially when you have them in authentic Spanish restaurants. Think saffron, esteemed to be the most expensive spice known to man.

Undaunted, I checked out a recipe online to make my own Paella at home. Unfortunately, I didn't have a lot of the ingredients on hand. But I did have some stuff in the pantry and ref that I thought would make a decent enough Paella to serve my own purposes. Fortunately, the recipe did well in satisfying my craving. And apparently even those of family members, who went back for seconds.

Easy Caldereta Paella from My Food Notebook

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
chicken pieces wing, thigh, and leg cut in half, and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 pc. cooked porkchop or liempo, sliced (left over grilled porkchop or liempo works fine)
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, sliced in strips (set aside eight strips for garnish)
2-3 chorizo de bilbao, sliced
1 package del Monte caldereta mix
1 tsp. Spanish Paprika
2 1/4 c. water
1/4 k. shrimps
cooked rice (about 6 cups)
1 c. green peas

Procedure:

In a big nonstick pan fry chicken pieces until golden brown. Take out fried chicken pieces from the pan and set aside.

Saute garlic, onion, bell pepper, and chorizo de bilbao. Pour in water and caldereta mix and stir until the caldereta mix is incorporated well in the water. Put in the cooked chicken and pork.

Add in shrimps. When the shrimps turn pink, take them out and set aside.

Add the cooked rice and peas, and season with paprika, stir to make sure the rice is evenly distributed in the pan. There should be a very thin layer of the caldereta sauce on top of the rice so adjust the amount of rice accordingly.

Arrange the cooked shrimps and remaining bell pepper strips on top of the paella. Bring heat to lowest setting to avoid scorching. Cover and let steam until the sauce has simmered away. About 20 minutes.

Serves 6

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Great Goulash

There's something about slow cooking food for a long period of time that appeals to me. Explains why anything braised on the menu would almost instantly catch my attention. My favorite bolognese sauce recipe courtesy of everybody's favorite talk show host, Oprah, takes about three hours to slow cook, and that does not include the prep time, sauteeing, and boiling away of additions of two kinds of liquids. That's why when I came across a Halloween episode of Martha a few days ago where she featured a recipe of Goulash (which she so wittyingly gave the monicker "Ghoulash") I decided that's what I want to have for lunch this Sunday. It took about 2 hours to cook but aside from that it looked very easy to make with only a few ingredients and a very short preptime.

I couldn't find the exact same recipe online but I did find a recipe named "Ghastly Ghoulash" from marthastewart.com. Strangely, it's not the same as the one I saw on TV. I chose to stick to the recipe on TV because it was a lot easier although I did make some changes based on some ideas from the Martha Stewart site, also, I added a few ingredients of my own and I got a gem of a Goulash meal.

Goulash

Ingredients:

Oil for frying
1 k. beef cubes (about 1.5 inches) seasoned with salt and pepper or Cajun seasoning
1 k. white onions, sliced
1/2 bottle McCormick Spanish Paprika
water to cover (Martha used prepared beef stock)
rock salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
dash of Tabasco hot sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
1 small potato, sliced in 1/16 half-moons
1 carrot, cut in 1/4 inch thick matchstick sizes

Cooked fettucini noodles (Martha used Caraway egg noodles)

Procedure:

Season In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, heat oil until very hot. Sear seasoned beef cubes on all sides. Set aside. In the same pot, saute onions. Add seared beef and paprika.

Pour in water, enough to cover the beef and onions. Season with salt, pepper, hot sauce, and sugar. Stir until well combined. Lower heat to a simmer.

Cover and cook for about 1 1/2 hours. Add in the potato and carrot during the last 15 -20 minutes of cooking. Serve with cooked noodles.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

All-Filipino Beef Tapa, just like mother used to make

Beef Tapa is one of my favorite default meals on days when I can't decide what to eat. A lot of restaurants have their own versions of the Beef Tapa in their menus (flashback to Rodic's where they serve the most delightful Beef Tapa shredded to smithereens which brightened my lunch and dinners at the UP Shopping Center during my college years). Hardly the premium or rare food item, it is quite uncanny that some restaurants mark the Beef Tapa off as a specialty and priced it accordingly. A couple of restaurants, like Don Galo's and Tapa King, even go so far as building their entire food repertoire around this lowly meal. But the best Beef Tapa I've ever had in my life is the one my mom makes at home.

She takes a kilo of good beef sirloin and then soaks it for a good 24-hours in a marinade of crushed cloves of garlic (lots of it), crushed ginger (a big chunk of it), ground black pepper, sea salt, soy sauce, vinegar, and calamansi. The marinated beef is then pan-fried in vegetable oil until brown. You won't believe how amazing this smells when cooking. It's one of those smells of home that I will carry for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, my mom, probably much like most great chefs actually, is never a disciple of the exact cooking measurements school of thought, making sharing this recipe of the Beef Tapa quite tricky to do. But I've promised myself to make this my next cooking mission (and perhaps, a follow-up blog entry)- to quantify (or at least make a passable approximation of) the ingredients in my mother's Beef Tapa Recipe.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

UCC Blended Coffee at UCC Cafe Terrace

I usually go to UCC for an extra special coffee fix. I have always been mesmerized by the obsessive-compulsiveness of how they brew their coffee and the luxuriousness of their cafe interiors. Speaking of interiors... It had puzzled me how one UCC shop can look quite different from the next. One UCC shop can sport a darker paneling and furnitures while another is all bright and sunny. Their facades, also vary a lot. This has on odd occasions thrown me off, making me check the signage twice to make sure I am entering a UCC shop and not a completely different establishment altogether. Ah, signage, yet another thing that perplexed me about the UCC shops. I noticed that even the names of the shops are different from one another. I would later find out that there is a connection between the name and the type of cafe experience that a particular shop is meant to give. Take for example, my favorite kind of UCC shop, the UCC Cafe Terrace. The UCC Cafe Terrace is meant to be:
"The café of choice for those who want to enjoy a panoramic view as they take time to relax and reward themselves with premium coffee. The earth and warm colors of its huge glass windows, trellises, ceiling fans, and wooden furnitures and fixtures, all contribute to a classy yet cozy ambiance which renders a more laid-back atmosphere parallel to a country club setting. As the name suggests, provisions for outside seating offer a tranquil respite for our guests to immerse themselves with their environment, may it be a scenic view of lush greenery or the breathtaking sunset at the bay area or the beautiful skyline as night falls."

Talk about attention to detail. Read more about the different cafe concepts of UCC, here.

Call it child-like awe for all things round, shiny, and glassy, or just plain- though all too mature- craving for perfection. I simply love my coffee-time just a little bit more than usual when I have it there.

My personal favorite is the UCC Blended Coffee. At Php129, I think every peso is well worth it. If you're feeling a little more indulgent, try their esteemed Blue Mountain No. 1 Coffee, and just hope against hope that you don't get hooked. Me, I've tried it and I am hanging in there... by a Php399 thread.

Photo credits: www.digitalformat.blogspot.com.
More about UCC at kainpinoy.com and foodtrippings.com.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I made truffles!

I made ganache as frosting for my chocolate cupcakes last Friday. It was a wonderful alternative to chocolate buttercream frosting that's made with confectioner's sugar. I found the ganache to be less sweet and more chocolatey than chocolate buttercream. I also appreciate its silky texture- it kind of makes you want to keep the ganache in your mouth a little longer than you normally would. The dark yet shiny veneer of the ganache gives cupcakes a more elegant look so you may want to give it a try if you prefer a more refined-looking cupcake.

From the ganache I made, I had a little left over. Not wanting good ganache go to waste, I thought about making truffles. So, with my fridge-hardened ganache, I formed little one inch balls using two regular teaspoons and rolled the balls in unsweetened cocoa powder. I put the chocolate truffles back in the ref to let it harden a bit more and then, with a cup of brewed coffee, I proceeded to indulge in my very first hand made truffles. And I must say, they were pretty good. Not bad for an amateur. (While I am writing this, I am thinking about dousing my ganache with some alcohol for my next foray into this truffle-making gig.)

I have enjoyed some commercially-available truffles and I have always considered them an wonderful albeit expensive treat. It's a comforting feeling to know that I can actually make my own whenever I feel like it, and I won't even have to break the bank for it. Life is sweet!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Have Mussels, Will Bake.

Call it personal bias, but I think tahong (mussels) from Bacoor, Cavite are the best ones I've tasted. The great thing about it is that, it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Php30 can already get you a hefty kilo of these delectable shells. My mother however, insists on sourcing tahong from her suki where she gets the best choices at Php50 per kilo. And for good reason. Those mussels are about 3-4 inches in size and with flesh that's juicy, plump, and slightly sweet, filling up at least 3/4 of the shell, you won't help but eat more than your tummy can hold. It is positively delicious straight up boiled or steamed with salt and crushed ginger. Or, for an indulgent treat, make Baked Tahong out of 'em. Try my sister's recipe and I'm sure you'll get as much rave reviews from your guests as much as we do.

Mara's Baked Tahong Recipe

Ingredients:

1 k. mussels
Dash of rock salt
2 inch ginger, crushed

2 red onions, minced
1/4 c Thai basil, minced
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1/2 block grated Magnolia Quickmelt or Ques-O cheese food
Crushed black pepper, according to taste
1/8 tsp salt

1/4 c. Kraft parmesan cheese
1/8 c. crunchy minced garlic
1/8 c. minced flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Procedure:

1. Wash mussels in running water and cut off whiskers. In a big pot, steam mussels with a little water (about 2 cups. We use Sprite or 7 Up instead of water, whenever available.) seasoned with salt and ginger until the shells have just opened. Remove the empty half of the shell. Arrange the retained halves on a baking tray, flesh-side up.

2. Saute onions and basil in 2 tablespoons of the butter until the onions begin to turn translucent. In a bowl, blend cooked onions and basil with the remaining butter. Stir in grated cheese and season with salt and pepper.

3. Top each of the mussels completely with the cheese mixture (about a heaping teaspoon each). Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese (about 1/4 tsp. each), crunchy garlic, and parsley.

4. Bake in a 200 degrees celsius oven for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Japanese Seafood Soup Spaghetti at UCC

UCC's ultra-loaded Japanese Seafood Salad

Apart from their outstanding siphon brewed coffee, UCC also excels in the food department in my notebook. Yes, they do serve food there. Not just the sweet, pastry-types you get in most other coffee shops (although they do have fantastic selection of desserts), but honest to goodness full-blown meals. Not just sandwiches (If you feel do feel like a sandwich though, try the Cliffhanger. Very good.). Not just salads. Not just pastas. But, yes, rice meals, too. Most of the meals in the menu comes in big servings, easily big enough for sharing, so you may want to talk to your server about how big exactly the serving is for a meal before you order.

Check out the Sumiyaki Eel and Mushroom pasta

My current favorite in the menu is Japanese Seafood Soup Spaghetti. You can have it in tomato, white, or curry sauce, but I prefer tomato sauce. Delectable choice shrimps, squid, and fish swimming along with pasta in a rich tomato soup- it's just perfect for a cold and squishy rainy day. It's an uncanny combination, but it really works. It works pretty deliciously, as a matter of fact.

Japanese Seafood Soup Spaghetti

Visit UCC, whether it be Cafe Terrace, Cafe Plaza, Park Cafe, or Vienna Cafe, (More about these trendy cafe concepts in another post.), at The Podium, Ortigas Center; Tomas Morato, Quezon City; Rockwell, Makati; SM Mall of Asia, Pasay; SM The Block, Quezon City; Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; The Paseo Center, Makati; Westgate Center, Alabang; and Connecticut, Greenhills, San Juan.

Like UCC's Yakiniku Rice

Promos. Their newly opened branch, UCC Coffee Cafe Terrace, at the Lobby Level of Trinoma offers free 4 hours valet parking for every single minimum receipt of Php1,000 from July 27, 2008 until December 31, 2008. Also get a 15% discount on all food and drinks until August 31, 2008. Now how's that for a grand opening promo? So be sure to pay them a visit.

Hamburg Curry Rice

Read more about UCC Coffee at Pinoyfood and Food Trip Tayo!.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

US Black & White Chocolate Crunch Muffins at S&R

These are soooo good. If you frequent S&R and you've been seeing these delicious looking muffins that they sell in packs of 4's and 6's but have been hesitating on picking up a pack for one reason or another, let me tell you this: you don't know what you're missing. S&R carries several different flavors of muffins- e.g. chocolate chip, poppyseed- but the Black and White Chocolate Crunch is the only flavor that I've tasted so far. Recalling my previous baking experience with chocolate, I think I can say that these muffins are made with very good chocolate. Its "dome", as its namesake suggests, is crunchy, courtesy, I think, of a drizzling of sugar prior to baking. In addition to the sugar are generous chunks of white chocolate, some of which sink halfway into the muffin batter while it bakes. These makes sweet little surprises as you bite into the muffin.

It is big and dense and yet very moist and at Php184.95, I think it's a very good deal. All this muffin praise is making me hungry and I think I am beginning to sound like an ad commercial. So I'll end here and drown my muffin craving with some more of 'em muffins.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How do you like your Longganisa?

I like mine sweet and salty and a little spicy. I've tried quite a number of longganisa (Philippine chorisos) in my lifetime. Lots of different flavors, sizes, and textures. I am not too good with names, and longganisa names are no exception so I won't even try to list them down here. Anyway. For a time, I liked the sweet ones that oozed with pork fat and made sticky with sugar caramelized during the cooking process. But I outgrew that. More accurately, my metabolism outgrew it. Then I got to try the really salty ones. I didn't quite like those. Except for those itty bitty ones that I had in Platito, which I liked very much, especially with vinegar. I liked the ones from Jollibee that resembled hotdogs in texture rather than the traditional longganisa. I still order them for breakfast every once in a while. I also liked those skinless sweet longganisa that tasted a lot like tocino. Been a long time since I had one of those though. One longganisa that I am currently loving right now are those that my mom gets from the market. She says it's homemade by her suki. Hmmm, a lot of really good foodstuff comes from home. No surprises there. So, like I said- sweet and salty and a little spicy.

To cook the longganisa, we boil some links in about an inch of water for a few minutes in a skillet. We let the water boil away over medium heat. At some point when the water is almost gone, some of the oil from the longganisa will naturally seep out into the pan. Along with the oil is the sugar from the longganisa causing some caramelization. When the water is all gone, and the sugar is beginning to caramelize in the oil, you will have to add a little more oil wherein you will fry the boiled longganisa. Let it fry for a few minutes, taking care not to singe the sugar to avoid bitter longganisa. Serve it with rice (to mop up all the juices from the longganisa) and you have a lipsmacking good longganisa meal. I like this manner of cooking longganisa better because this way I am sure my longganisa is cooked to the core. I hate having to bite into a longganisa only to find out that the inside is still cold. Ngii. Other ways to cook longganisa is by straight frying (no boiling) and grilling. How do you cook your longganisa?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Tribute to our Old Suha Tree

We have a suha (a.k.a. pomelo, pummelo) tree in our backyard. It's been there for at least twenty years. It's a healthy and beautiful tree with its fragrant deeply verdant leaves and narrow spiny trunk and manifold slender branches. It stood out like a muse among the towering coconut trees.

For about the first decade of its life, our suha tree has not borne any fruit. We took care of it, watered it well and used some organic fertilizer on it, but for a long time, it seemed that it just was not interested in producing any fruit. That did not bother us though, we just felt lucky enough that the tree grew and thrived in our backyard at all. See, we live in Cavite. Suha are known to thrive only in certain areas with, perhaps, a particular type of weather or land condition, like Davao or Bulacan, certainly not Cavite. That is why when it did start sprouting flowers and eventually carry fruits to full term, we felt like a miracle has befallen us.

Another strange thing about the tree was that it bore fruit all year round. The crop however produced small, dry, and bland-tasting fruits. It was like that for a few years such that we never quite bothered to eat the fruits. The fruits would later on grow a tad bigger but nothing changed taste-wise. A couple of years ago, somebody had suggested that we bury panocha (raw palm sugar or unground muscovado sugar) around the ground where the suha tree grows because it will allegedly produce sweeter fruits. So we did that. It couldn't hurt, right? With the panocha in the ground, the next batch of crops ripened and, well, nothing changed. Still the same dry, and bland-tasting fruits. We buried a number of panocha after that, nonetheless, until we gave up on the idea.

Until one day, one fruit came out sweet and juicy. We waited for the other fruits to ripen in the tree, and come tasting time, they were all as sweet and juicy as their older sibling. I am not sure if the panocha had anything to do with it, it's been a long time since we buried one after all, but the most amazing thing is that we now have sweet and juicy suha, plentiful and growing in the backyard, all year round.

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