Monday, July 30, 2012

Cheers to the Awesome Food Suppliers of UTT 9.0!


Ultimate Taste Test 9.0 was held in Soderno @ Molito last Sunday, July 29, 2012. The foreboding storm did not seem to faze the crowd as people started to pour in and fill the Soderno tent at 6PM. It certainly did not faze me because I was looking forward to this event ever since I learned about it from Our Awesome Planet a couple of days before.

In this post, I will share some photos that I took of the venue and the booths of the food suppliers that participated in this memorable foodie event. A preview, if you will. I will write more about the food and post more "up close and personal" pictures in another entry.

Php300 pays for entry to the event where I got to sample the specialties of 30 food and beverage suppliers. UTT 9.0 was for the benefit of Batha (Balikathang Thalassemia), a support group of Thalassemia patients which made the event even for special. In addition, I got a newspaper and a choice between beer (San Miguel Lifestyle Brews) or soft drinks (Pepsi products). All in all, I thought it was a very good deal.

Another thing that I really liked about this UTT is how a lot less stressful it turned out to be. Having participated in a couple of UTT's already before, I found this one the most relaxing. Truth be told, I could not stand to stay more than an hour in the other UTT's I had been to for some reason or other. This time, I was able to take my time savoring every sample I could get my hands on.


In this setup, the vendors are located on the al fresco area while the "food critics for a day" get to enjoy the food samples inside the tent, with enough chairs and tables and air-conditioning plus wifi to boot. Most of the 30 suppliers at the event offered more than one product for sampling so there was certainly a lot of food to enjoy. Thank heavens for the tables! Last but not least, I appreciated the fact that cleanliness was maintained all throughout the event, thanks to the hardworking folks who were tasked to keep our tables clear and ready for every wave of food samples.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nuts about See's Candies


Nuts and Chews Chocolate Assortment by See's Candies

I have always been leery of chocolate assortments. While I agree with Forrest Gump's mother about what she said of life being like a box of chocolates. Unlike Forrest, I do not necessarily think it's a positive thing. I happen to like knowing what I'm getting, and I find it quite unpleasant unexpectedly biting into one that I do not like. Cordials, for instance, I am not so fond of them. Fine when I am eating chocolate assortments alone, but what, pray tell, do I do when I am with company?


Sure, most chocolate assortments come with some sort of catalog inside the box telling you what is inside what chocolate. But I feel bad about what gets left. Ah, the chocolate assortment box. It's one tricky proposition.

See's Candies' Nuts and Chews however, is a different matter. "(P)acked with top-quality peanuts, California-grown English walnuts, almonds, chewy Caramel, honey Scotchmallow®, Rum Nougat and more - all coated with milk and dark chocolate,"* this is one chocolate assortment I could pick from with eyes closed and not once regret where my fingers landed. The nuts are insanely crunchy despite being enrobed in chocolate. The caramels are quite extraordinary. I love caramels and Sees' caramels are one of my favorites. And the honey Scotchmallow is positively divine. 

One of my aunts from the US sent us a whopping two-pound box of these fantastic chocolates a couple of days ago. (Unfortunately--or maybe fortunately, when I start thinking about my diet-- I only get to have See's Candies when we have friends or family visiting from the US. While there are several stores outside the US, there is currently none in the Philippines.) And since then, I could not wait to come home from work just so I could claim my daily ration. If only I did not have to share them with the rest of the family...



*Visit the See's Candies' website for more information on See's Nuts and Chews chocolate assortment, here: http://www.sees.com/prod.cfm/Chocolate_Assortments/Nuts_Chews

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Puttering Around Cooks' Exchange


I love getting lost inside Cooks' Exchange. I use the term "lost" figuartively because between the two branches I go to- Glorietta and Powerplant Mall- none is actually what one would consider a big space. Cooks' Exchange shops are rather small, really. But its shelves, every nook and cranny of the shop, is packed to the brim with hard to find baking supplies and other kitchen knickknacks that I lose track of time when I am in there.

Slique cake pan (Php220); Valrhona 70% dark chocolate (Php350);
Valrhona cocoa powder (Php378); and baking cups (Php195)
More often than not, I go to Cooks' Exchange to browse aimlessly, even if I do not really need anything. But I do not recall a time where I walk out of that store without buying anything. The last time I was in Power Plant Mall for instance, on the way to the parking lot five minutes before closing time I sneaked into Cooks' Exchange and ended up buying an 8 x 8 cake pan, red baking cups, a bar of Valrhona chocolate (70% cocoa), and Valrhona cocoa powder.

I don't really know when I will make cupcakes or even brownies. All I know is that if I did, I am ready. Thanks to Cooks' Exhange.

Cooks' Exchange Contact Nos.
  • The Power Plant Mall (lower ground floor): 898-0926
  • Glorietta IV (third level): 816-1633
  • SM Mega Mall (ground floor, building A): 634-4325


Monday, July 9, 2012

Steak and Mushroom Fajitas

Steak and Mushroom Fajitas
Still on the Mexican food streak, I made Steak and Mushroom Fajitas after having made  Shrimp Fajitas recently. I made the steak fajitas with tenderloin steak because that is what I had in the house, but the usual (and more economical) flank steak or skirt steak may also be used for this recipe. This dish requires lean steak, which makes it a healthier way of eating steak I think. You know, as compared to wolfing down a nice big prime rib steak.

As with the Shrimp Fajitas, this version goes well with my home made tortilla and salsaI can already imagine how fabulous this would be for a party. Especially when I am able to round up other traditional sidings for fajitas like guacamole, sour cream, and shredded cheese. For any regular dinner though or when you feel like a heavier meal, this recipe goes just as well with hot steamed white rice. Not traditionally Mexican, I suppose, but it sure hits the spot.

Steak and Mushroom Fajitas

Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb tenderloin steak (butt end of the tenderloin)
1 large onion, peeled and sliced with the grain
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground chili powder
2 tsp dried cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. olive oil
1 can sliced button mushrooms

Procedure
Season tenderloin steak with cumin, chili powder, and cilantro. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Heat oil in pan on medium high. Sear steak for 3 minutes on each side. Place on a plate and let rest for at least 5 minutes. Cut steak into thin slices and arrange on a platter.

Return pan with remaining oil to heat and saute onions and bell peppers for about 5 minutes. Arrange on platter with the steak.

In the same pan, heat 1 teaspoon oil. Saute garlic for a minute. Add sliced mushrooms and saute for five minutes. Arrange on platter with the steak and vegetables.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Making Flour Tortillas at Home


Home-made Flour Tortillas

Until I actually tried to make home made flour tortillas, I would never have believed that it was easy to make. There are a lot of flour tortilla recipes on the web but I chose the one I reproduced below because it required vegetable oil and not lard, and very little of it, too. I also liked how detailed it explained the procedure on how to make the tortillas.

On my first crack at making tortillas though, I rolled out the dough a little too thick and I ended up what looked more like pita than tortilla. So I made it a point to roll the dough out as thin as I could the next time. That did the trick and I got soft flour tortillas all the time ever since.

Homemade Flour Tortilla Recipe

Ingredients
2 cups of white flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vegetable oil
3/4 cup warm water

Directions
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In another bowl combine the warm water and oil.
Add the water/oil mixture to the flour mixture, one tablespoon at a time and mix the dough with a fork. Once the water is mixed in, add another tablespoon of water and repeat the process until all the water is mixed into the dough.

The dough will be sticky.

Fold the dough back onto itself, give a quarter turn and push again with the palms and heels of your hands. Just repeat the process of pressing, folding and turning for about 4 or 5 minutes. Add a dusting of flour when the dough gets sticky.

If the dough sticks to the cutting board while kneading, scrape up the dough and dust the board with a little flour and continue kneading.

Eventually the stickiness will go away and you will have a nice smooth dough.

Place the dough back into the bowl and cover it with a damp towel or damp paper towel. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into golf-ball-size balls by pinching off the dough with your thumb and fore finger. Form each ball into a nice ball shape.

Place the balls on a flat dish making sure they don't touch each other and cover with the damp cloth.

Let the dough rest again for 10 minutes.

Preheat a skillet or cast iron pan on medium high heat. You really can't beat cast iron pans for even heat distribution and their ability to withstand high heat without warping.

Lightly dust your wooden cutting board with flour. Take one of the balls of dough and flatten it out on the cutting board to a 4 inch circle. Rub flour on your rolling pin and begin to roll out the dough starting from the center out. Roll the tortilla until it is 6 or 7 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick.

It's difficult to roll out a perfectly round tortilla so if that is important to you, you can always trim the tortilla with a knife.

x x x

Once you have rolled out the tortilla, place it on a preheated skillet. You don't need to add any oil or butter. Cook the tortilla for about 30 seconds. You will notice brown spots all over your tortilla. Flip it over and cook an additional 30 seconds.

Don't over cook it as you want the tortilla to be nice and soft.

Keep your tortillas warm by covering them in a towel on a plate or in a tortilla warmer.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Little Twist on Salsa


Salsa

My salsa recipe is a creature of availability. It is made with two common (and hence more readily available) Philippine ingredients, calamansi and siling labuyo, which replaces the lime and ancho or jalapeno chiles that are called for in a lot of original Mexican salsa recipes. Siling labuyo is a chili that packs a mean wallop of spiciness so if you are not very tolerant of spice, I would recommend you put in only half of this chili in the salsa if not omit it altogether. The calamansi gives this salsa a unique tang with just a hint of sweetness. It certainly tastes a lot different than lime juice.

Also, I use dried cilantro and parsley because I find that they are easier to store around the house and keeps for a lot longer time than the fresh ones. They rehydrate nicely afterall once they hit the juices from the salsa. But of course when you have the fresh stuff, by all means use them. Overall, these ingredients make for a good bowl of salsa that held its own beside my Shrimp Fajitas.

Salsa

Ingredients
3 ripe tomatoes
1/2 red onion
1 siling labuyo
juice of 2 calamansi
1/2 tsp. dried cilantro
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. chili powder

Directions
Mince tomatoes, onion, and siling labuyo. Combine them in a bowl.
Stir in calamansi juice. Add in cilantro and parsley and mix until evenly dispersed.
Season with salt and chili powder.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Shrimp Fajitas


Shrimp Fajitas
I made Shrimp Fajitas for dinner yesterday. Since I simply could not have fajitas without salsa and flour tortillas, I had to make those, too (from scratch, because I had none of them ready-made in a jar or box stashed somewhere in the house for a rainy day). Individually, the fajitas, salsa, and tortillas are quick and easy to make but making them all together in one fell swoop takes quite a bit of work. (Imagine peeling half a kilo of shrimps!)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Spicy Shrimp & Sun-dried Tomato Pasta


Spicy Shrimp & Sun-dried Tomato Pasta

I admitted to this before: I am a sundried tomato junkie. Oh, and I love pasta just as much. My Spicy Shrimp & Sun-dried Tomato Pasta is another manifestation of my penchant for having these two wonderful ingredients together in one dish. This pasta is spicy and delivers quite a kick-- my kind of meal on rainy days.

The original recipe uses white wine, but when I am cooking for my sister who does not like alcohol in her food partly because she is allergic and partly because she does not like the taste in general (this despite my insistence that the heat from the cooking dissipates the alcohol content to negligible levels), I replace the wine with pasta water. Fortunately, it still tastes great without the booze.

Spicy Shrimp & Sun-dried Tomato Pasta

Ingredients
250 grams uncooked spaghetti
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and sliced
1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
1 tsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried parsley
1/4 kilo shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt
pepper
1/2 cup white wine or pasta water
Parmesan cheese

Directions
Cook spaghetti according to package directions. (If using pasta water, reserve half a cup of the pasta water before draining cooked pasta.)
Season shrimp with salt and pepper.
In a pan over medium heat, saute sun-dried tomatoes and garlic with about a tablespoon of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes. Cook for about two minutes. Add in chili flakes and saute for another minute.
Add shrimp and saute for 3 minutes.
Pour in pasta water or wine into the pan. Then add basil and parsley and let shrimp cook further for five minutes.
Toss in cooked pasta and stir well.
Sprinkle with parmesan cheese before serving.
Serves 3-4.

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