Tuesday, February 16, 2010
A couple of Japanese cucumbers followed me home from the market. They lay in my crisper all slender and green. They seemed to be taunting me, and all other tubby cucumbers out there, with their lean taut bodies. So smug they sat, unblinking, secure in the knowledge of their perfection.
I made short work of them. Oh yes I did. Now they are pickled for me to enjoy at my leisure…their crisp tart deliciousness.
I used to strongly dislike pickles. Once upon a time, when I was just a little girl, and all the pickles I knew of were sweet pickle relish (which I can’t eat to this day) and sad dill pickles that had sat too long on a supermarket shelf. When I started cooking however, I discovered a whole other world of pickles. Pickles that were far afield from the sad specimens of my childhood. Pickles you made yourself with ingredients carefully chosen and infused with all kinds of different flavors. Pickles from all over the world – Japan (I love Japanese pickles!), Slovakia, and right here in my beloved islands.
I don’t have an actual pickle recipe, as I’ve mentioned here. Since my pickles are done in small batches and stored in the refrigerator (as opposed to long-term storage for my non-existent winter) I don’t go through strenuous sterilization procedures. I usually use a base of vinegar, salt, and sugar, then add whatever else, by way of herbs and spices, that suit my present mood. With these Japanese cucumbers I used rice vinegar (delicious for pickles!) and a lot of freshly cracked black pepper (which I love with cucumber pickles). Some salt, some sugar, and a short nap in the fridge to chill, and they are ready! Excellent side for fish or grilled pork, or tucked into a ham sandwich.
Now I love pickles. I still avoid sweet pickle relish and those ages-old jars of dill pickles on the supermarket shelves, but I have embraced the rest of the pickle world with much affection and fervor. Not only are they, I’ve found, delicious, they are also an excellent way to preserve vegetables…if perhaps you have a bit too much on your hands, or if you are simply tired of looking at a couple of skinny cucumbers! ;)
***check out the lovely pickles here! This will be next on my list of pickle recipes to try...
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Several people have asked me about the breakfast dish I prepared during my tv interview on Us Girls (yes, not-so-little old me on tv!). I realize now, in retrospect, that I didn’t really go into full gory detail about the interview, just to say when it was coming out and where. I didn’t think much of that then, but looking back, I suspect I must have been a little shy. It’s one thing to share your photos and thoughts to the whole world on a blog, or even have a photo of your face in a magazine, it’s quite another to have yourself moving and speaking in full Technicolor-vision on a tv screen!
When I got the email requesting for the interview I almost said no – tv? Me? Not likely. But I had been thinking about the premise behind this book lately. Do I say no too often? I don’t think so. In fact, I’d like to think I’m up for anything, and I usually am! But what if that anything just happens to be a something way outside my comfort zone? Will I still grab it with two hands and fly by the seat of my pants as I claim I like to do?
So I found myself with those deep thoughts, looking at an email a lot of people would not have even blinked twice at (whether to say yes or no). And I decided to stop thinking and start doing.
And then I got really nervous and went out and bought a new dress.
See how good stuff happened almost immediately?
Then the shoot came and I had a ball! The staff of Us Girls were professional and thoughtful. The host was just this side of enchanting, and immediately put me at ease. We were shooting for an episode of the show called virtual life which featured people who, in one way or the other, were connected to the tech/cyber world. I also got to touch base with another blogger friend who I hadn’t seen in a long while (who was interviewed before me). During the segment, we talked about my blog, what it’s all about, how I started blogging and what I like about it (a lot!), and I prepared one breakfast dish. They asked for something easy to put together so I chose this yogurt parfait. It makes for a delicious, healthy breakfast that lends itself to many variations (you can use the fruits and preserves you have on hand) and a cinch to whip up...plus it looks nice.
So to those of you who were asking, you can find the method for the yogurt parfait here. Some were also asking what brand granola I use – although I don’t always have time to make my own, I urge you to try making homemade granola. It’s easy and leagues more delicious than anything you can buy in a store (plus you know for sure what goes in it). The recipe I use is here. You can make it ahead of time, store in an airtight container, and use whenever the mood strikes...which will be often, believe you me.
For the original parfait I used this blueberry syrup. For the show, however, I made some quick strawberry jam. Simple, quick jams are something I love to throw together. Let me just say here, before you think I am up to my elbows in fruits and jars and sterilization implements, I usually make small batches of jam...enough for roughly one bottle. I don’t go through the whole boiling of the bottles and sealing and what not either. I’m not storing up for the winter. I make the jam, pour it into a clean jar, and store in the fridge. It’s usually all gone after a week or so. It requires very little time and supervision, and will have you feeling like a proper domestic goddess without breaking a sweat, I promise you. Also, it goes without saying, homemade jam is a whole different world from store-bought in taste, and you have total control of what goes in and how sweet (or not) you want it.
No recipe for this, just a sort of loose method: I clean and weigh my fruits (peel, de-seed, and chop them too if needed depending on the fruit -- before weighing). I then toss the fruit in a non-reactive pot with sugar that weighs a little less. For example, for the Nectarine Plum Jam pictured here I had about 250 grams fruit (chopped and de-seeded weight) and I used about 170-180 grams sugar. Add a squeeze of lemon. Place on the hob and let cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened and setting point is reached. For this amount it will not take too long. When done, pour into a clean jar and cool. Store in the refrigerator.
I test the setting point with the old saucer-in-freezer method: Place a saucer in the freezer while you are making you jam. When your jam looks like it’s thickened, take the saucer out and put a drop of jam on its surface. Now tilt the saucer...if the jam runs down the plate it’s not ready. It should catch and droop slowly...then push the jam lightly with your finger, it should wrinkle a bit.
It’s lovely travelling out of your comfort zone to enjoy the new things that await you there :) Even if you already grab every opportunity by the horns, try something that you typically wouldn’t do. You may be happily surprised! :)
Friday, May 29, 2009
Once again I find myself at the end of the week, rushing to use up all the remnants of my organic veggie basket before my charming organic farmer shows up at my doorstep with my new basket. With every new batch, I promise myself that I will be diligent about using all my vegetables, and find delicious new (or not new, but still delicious) ways to prepare them, after which I will post them here and pat myself on the back.
Some days that is exactly what I do.
Sigh...not this week.
Not last week either, judging from the glum lack of posts here.
I won’t bore you with tales of feeling under-the-weather and mountains-of-work and what such. I’m sure nobody is a stranger to that (and if you are well, lucky you!). As such, I am also sure that there are those of you who likewise fall into that inevitable position of having to make use (or “liquidate” as I like to nerdily refer to it) of the vegetable remainders.
So, instead of letting another silent week pass us by, I decided to share what I sometimes find myself scrambling to do come end of the week (if I haven’t been diligent about using up all my vegetables in new and inventive ways that is).
I usually get half a squash with my basket, and no matter how much I love squash, there is sometimes a straggling portion that remains in the bottom of the crisper by the time the next squash is due. When it’s evident that I am not going to make good use of it, I chop it up, put it on a lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast it until it’s toasty and soft. While it’s roasting I can get on with whatever is keeping me too busy to make a proper squash dish. When it’s done I let it cool then chuck it into a freezer bag, and using my hands, mash the squash through the bag until it is a rough puree. Then I put it to bed in the freezer for some future squash soup!
Another regular specimen I get in my basket is these lovely white cucumbers. They are crunchy and refreshing...especially in the heat we are experiencing now! Although they are fantastic fresh in salads or on fish, I find myself more often than not pickling them. It’s a great way to extend their shelf life (especially if you are getting another batch soon and need to make room) and it becomes a wonderful condiment that complements anything from grills to sandwiches to fried fish! I have no recipe to share on this count, as I usually just throw in whatever appeals to me at that moment (remember, this is usually done on the fly, when very busy, and there is no choice but to use the cucumbers now!). You can use your favourite pickling solution but in a pinch I just mix some vinegar with salt and sugar (by taste) and add whatever herbs or spices I might have on hand (fresh dill, fennel fronds, shallots, chilis, whole peppercorns, dill seed, coriander seed...whatever strikes my fancy!).
The cucumbers aren’t the only things that get pickled. Pickling is a terrific way to take something, put it in suspended animation for a while, then resurrect it at some later date when you have caught your breath. For this batch, I’ve also done it to a small piece of ampalaya (bitter melon) and radish. Pickled radish is something I’ve made before, and for this mix I’ve used much the same pickling solution as I did then. Vinegar and sugar, and lots of black pepper (freshly ground and whole). I also added sliced long green chilis, and some Himalayan pink salt. Before adding the ampalaya to the mix I prep it first as I did here to tone down the bitterness.
Now, bear in mind that I’m not referring to pickling produce by bulk for the winter! That does demand time and work (and certain strict measures of sterilization). What I do is make a small pickling solution (as I’ve described above), place some veggies in it, and store in the fridge for short term usage.
Whew! Now I’ve got some veggies effectively tucked away for future use. The crisper is breathing easy and so am I :)
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
It’s late…I’m tired…but I’m bursting with excitement! In a few hours we will be off to the airport to catch our flight to Zamboanga! Zamboanga is a province (and a city) in our southernmost island group called Mindanao. This is the home of the delectable curacha. It is also the place where C was born and where he took me to propose! We are going to celebrate the fiesta like we did two years ago when C popped the question over a fantastic seafood dinner by the shore. This time we are bringing a bunch of friends with us to share the festivities. Yay! :)
I’m not leaving you all empty handed though. I’ve concocted a little something to house-sit while we are away. It’s spicy and tart so hopefully no one will dare cross her (although she is also a little sweet and aromatic). And while we are off dancing and feasting and exploring, she will be lolling and mellowing in her bath of honey and vinegar…slowly reaching the point of pickle perfection.
Inspired by Johanna’s WTSIM round-up of savory preserves, I am on a preserving/pickling/chutney-ing state of mind. Each entry in this round-up looks temptingly good. I wish I could make them all right now, but unless I grow a couple of extra arms, one pickle will have to do for the moment: Raisin Stuffed Chili Pepper Pickles. Now say that five times fast! The chili peppers are stuffed with raisins and pickled in a mixture of vinegar and honey -- the perfect blend of spicy, sweet, and pickly…yes, me like :)
You can find the original recipe here at Zlamushka’s Spicy Kitchen, another new blog I have discovered and am happily enjoying. C & I love spicy food and peppers in one form or the other are always around. Here’s a link to a chili scale which measures the “heat” of different peppers (with pictures!). I have used jalapeños for this batch. Jalapeños are used often in Mexican cuisine, which just so happens to be one of C’s favorite cuisines ever…so he too is excited about this little experiment. These peppers vary from mild to hot depending on how it is grown. I didn’t taste any of them yet so I wouldn’t know, but based on my burning face (where I must have rubbed it with jalapeño-stained hands) these guys were pretty hot!
In honor of the 2nd anniversary of Weekend Herb Blogging I decided to add another dimension to the pepper pickle by adding some herbs. After consulting with Zlamushka, I decided on sage and thyme (as it would go with the honey aspect of the pickling solution – like a nice honeyed herbal infusion). The thyme, I am proud to say, came from my “garden” of five pots (kaffir lime, thyme, chili pepper, and a “money plant” for good fortune!). I wish I could tell you all how the flavors work together but this needs about three weeks resting time to be ready!
Ok, no more procrastinating…I must get packing! See you all next week and hopefully my pickled peppers with be progressing positively! ;)
Happy 2nd anniversary to WHB!!! Kalyn, from a sworn meat-lovin' gal: You have made a herb-blogger out of me! :)
Update 5/19/2010: I am submitting this post to Tried & Tasted, this round featuring Zlamushka's Spicy Kitchen!
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Some childhood things stay with us all our life, their familiarity and happy memories a source of comfort we are unwilling to relinquish in adulthood. I have a pillow that can attest to this. No pictures though…this is a food blog after all and I wouldn’t want you to lose your lunch. Let me just say that pillows sometimes do not age as gracefully as people do. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we love them less.
But what happens if you discover something in adulthood that you feel should have SO been a part of your childhood? You feel such an affinity with this thing, such certainty that you and it belong together, and such adoration for what you perceive to be but the cutest thing on earth. You balk at being so obsessed with what is, for all intents and purposes, “kid stuff”, but you just can’t resist. So you don’t.
I fell in love with the Moomins from the first time I clapped eyes on them in Finland. Perhaps it’s because of their sweet, shy nature. Maybe because they live in the beautiful forests of Finland. Or because they all go to sleep in the winter. Or because they eat pancakes with berries and drink raspberry juice and have fantastic adventures together. Perhaps it’s because Tove Jansson was a genius whose stories about the Moomins were at the same time whimsical children’s tales and thoughtful reflections on many of life’s truths. I’ve mentioned them before in this post.
I’ve got a little Moomintroll stuff toy who sits at my nightstand, guarding the books there. Every so often I lean over and give him a pat and a little kiss.
So here I am, 30-odd years old today, and playing with imaginary trolls. And people wonder what the secret to eternal youth is. Start with a young heart and a young mind, and your body will follow (well to a certain degree, but still!). Toys help. So do Moomins. Strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff don’t hurt either.
And if that’s a bit of a stretch, how about some delicious rhubarb and ginger jam on toast? This one is from Moominmamma’s own recipe. Yes! I saw her recipe on Pille’s Nami-Nami and swore that if I came upon rhubarb over here (not always the case), I would definitely make it. Well, the stars aligned just for me…I found it and here’s the wonderful jam. The original recipe can be found here. I stuck to it pretty much, just reducing the recipe to the amount of rhubarb I had. Despite not having any “young” rhubarb (I did have young native ginger though…still moist and pink around the edges…gorgeous!), and some anxious to-peel-or-not-to-peel moments, the jam came out brilliant. Well, for me at least. I loved the tartness of the rhubarb and the slight zing of the ginger. And the fact that it’s Moominmamma’s recipe :)
Now I have a tangible, and edible, piece of Moominland in a jar, on the ready for those scoundrel-y days when belief lies just beyond reach, when the zombies of the dreary-everyday seem to be closing in…and when we need to be reminded that another year older does not necessarily mean one less year younger.
Feed your inner child today! :)
Thursday, September 27, 2007
In C’s mom’s kitchen there is a huge basket filled to bursting with all kinds of vinegars, sauces, spreads, pickles, spice oils, and like-minded potions. And that is just on the table…there is still more on the shelves and, for those needing refrigeration, in the fridge. This is how C grew up, surrounded by what he likes to call “pampaganang espesyal”.
Pampaganang Espesyal – How do I translate this? When you refer to a “pampagana” in Filipino cooking/eating, this usually means some sort of condiment or ingredient that that is taken with a dish, complementing it marvelously, as such giving you a sudden burst of raging appetite, making you consume 3X more than you normally would. For example: when you put your favorite hot sauce on pizza…or when you have a really yummy mango pickle (be still my heart!) to go with your curry. You want more curry so you can have more mango pickle. Or is that that you want more mango pickle so you can have more curry? We don’t know. Bottom line is, you can’t stop. Pampagana. And “espesyal”? That is just C trying to Filipino-slangify “special”. Basically “pampaganang espesyal” is a really special something that complements your food so well, and elevates it to new heights, that it gives you eating powers beyond what you dreamed possible.
Some of the best pampagana in my book are those that are home made – things like atsara (a local pickle made with unripe papaya), chutneys, chili mixes like sambal (thank you Nens!), tzaziki with extra think yogurt, fried onions, fruit and veggie pickles…these are some of the things with the power to make me behave like a ravenous beast. And C even more so!
So it was a happy surprise when I saw that Johanna, The Passionate Cook and host of this round of “Waiter! There’s something in my…”, chose Savoury Preserves as this month’s theme. Not only do I get to prepare what has become a favorite pampaganang espesyal, but I also get to look forward to a whole round up that I know will be filled with even more pampaganang espesyal!
And I get to post about what I did with that radish…
Ensaladang Labanos / Radish Salad or Radish Pickle
- 2 radish (about 300 grams total)
- 5-6 small native sibuyas (or shallots)
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 2-3 teaspoons sugar
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Peel the radish and slice widthways into very thin rounds. As thin as you can get them. If you have a mandolin this would a perfect time to use it. If you don’t (like me) then hum to yourself and think happy thoughts and you will be done before you know it. Now do the same thing with the shallots.
- Place the radish slices in a bowl and add shallots, vinegar, sugar, and pepper. Toss to coat and taste for seasoning. Adjust seasoning if needed.
- Press everything into a glass jar*** and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight before consuming.
This is good with grilled meats, fish, or chicken. It’s also great with pan-fried pork chops or fried fish. I like it with adobo, and it will most likely go with any dish with which you would have atsara. For someone who does not really like dill or sweet pickles, I love all other kinds…and this one is no exception. Its sweet, acidic tang, and crunchy texture is scarily addicting, and C and I can finish almost one jar in a sitting. Pampagana!
***I clean my jars in very hot water and let dry upside down on a clean tea towel. I store this in the fridge and it is consumed very quickly.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
I am never one to say no to free food, so I take a bite. Definitely citrus. Even the skin has the distinct taste of citrus rind but…it’s…sweet! I take another, and yet another bite to verify this little observation. Yes, cute little citrus fruit with sweet edible skin! This is my lucky day! But we are in a hurry, so I have to leave the charming man and his delicious fruit. I vow to return though, because even as I am rushing off, there is only one word dancing in my mind, a word that sighed in my head the moment I tasted this fruit and its edible rind: marmalade.
When I get home I hunt for more info on kim kyat but I can’t find any. Hmmm. Searching, searching…little citrus fruit with sweet skin. Could this be a kumquat??? The name certainly sounds similar, and the pictures on the internet certainly look similar. I can’t be sure because I have never seen nor tasted a kumquat before. Yes, just like figs. I was again on the verge of adding another fruit to my stable. Hooray!
So I hurried back another day and got myself a kilo of the kim kyats/kumquats. I let them decorate my dining table for a couple of days (they make a gorgeous centerpiece! just pile them on a white platter or stuff them into a clear glass jar) before finally attempting marmalade for the first time.
I have made jam before, but never marmalade. I seem to have fallen into a jam-making thrall. Honestly, I probably would have gotten to something marmalade-y at some point, but tasting those tiny orange fruits put it on the fast track. To me they just tasted of marmalade, as if it was their life’s wish. So I dutifully complied.
Being totally inexperienced in the marmalade department, I didn’t bother with pips and cheesecloth and whatsuch. I took my 1 kilo of fruit (minus a few that I ate) and boiled them for about an hour, in enough water so they could all float pretty much freely. I then sliced them up and discarded the pips. After which they weighed 550 grams. I tossed them in a pot with 500 grams sugar and heated it slowly until all the sugar melted, and then let it boil until set (used the saucer in the freezer test).
I think I may have overcooked this batch because the resulting marmalade was a tad too sticky, but what an interesting flavor! It was sweeter than most marmalades I’ve tried (I assume because the rind was sweeter) but still had a tiny bite of bitter that makes it a marmalade. I gave a bottle to my mom, who loved it, but said it was a bit too sweet owing to her being a solid, non-sweet, rind’s-the-best-part, marmalade lover. I had some over a calamansi muffin my best friend K brought me back from a trip to Boracay (pictured above). And I’m sure it will be sublime on some warm toast with lots of butter.
Now I have a little stash of preserves and chutneys in my cupboard and like a besotted fool I peep at them randomly to cheer me up :) And they make great hostess gifts!
Monday, December 25, 2006
I haven't been able to join a Lasang Pinoy event for so long...and I miss it. It was one of the the first food blogging events I ever participated in, and the first I ever hosted. This month, I swore to myself, by hook or by crook, I am getting back on the Lasang Pinoy wagon. After all, this is a food blogging event highlighting Filipino food, something I think deserves to be highlighted and something I think more people (including myself) should be encouraged to explore.
This month's theme for Lasang Pinoy is Filipino holiday food gifts and is hosted by Ala Eh! "Wonderful!", I thought, when I heard. I could make my own Christmas gifts, just like I did last year. As crazy schedules and the Christmas hustle and bustle would have it however, I was relegated to buying gifts this year...not that that was such a bad thing as I discovered lots of cool products made by young local graphic designers which I was happy to gift my friends with. But, moving on...
I have been starting to make my own jam and, so far, have been quite pleased with the whole endeavor. But even then, I think I knew where I would end up...with the fruit that I think is the best in the world, a fruit that has been equated with the Philippines, the fruit that my grandmother (and now my father) has been jamming since I was a child. I would end up making mango jam.
I have waxed poetic about mangoes before, and I truly believe they are a little bit of edible heaven. It was only natural that my fixation with jam-making and my love for this fruit would eventually collide. And what a sublime collision it was! After hurriedly conferring with my dad on the proportions, I set to work. I scooped out the meat of the mangoes with a spoon and came up with 570 grams of meat. To this I added 470 grams of sugar. My grandmother uses equal parts mango and sugar, but our mangoes are just so wonderfully sweet I decided that we could do with less of the sugar. I put the this in a heavy-bottomed pot and cooked it for about 45 minutes, stirring frequently.
The result was delicious, and, I think, my best jam attempt so far (ok, it's only my third...but best is best!). It was simply divine! Mango jam is a whole other level of jam for me...almost like a very decadent candy. And it's great with so many things! On toast with melted gruyere, in dressing, with yogurt, in pan de sal with fried kesong puti (local fresh white cheese)...I'm sure you could even do wonders with this in relishes and marinades. And, in fitting with this month's theme for Lasang Pinoy, they would make excellent presents. Just festoon the jars with ribbons, and any odd knick knacks, and you have a little bottle of sweet tropical life to give to the people you love.
This may have come too late for this years round of gift giving, but I guess everyone now knows what they're getting next year!
I hope everyone is experiencing a holiday season full of love and laughter! I wish you all the best...may life hold many sweet surprises for us all! :)
Saturday, December 02, 2006
What is it about jam that has charmed me so? It’s a relatively simple thing. It’s not a Plaisir Sucré, a fabulous dessert by Pierre Hermé requiring many steps and much attention. It’s not a soufflé that calls for skill and confidence. It’s jam. Simple. Sweet. Sticky. Sensational.
Have you ever experienced a moment so perfect you wanted to bottle it up and keep it forever? That, for me, is what jam is to fruits (and even some vegetables!). The perfect snapshot of a seasonal treasure. A way of taking what would have otherwise lost its luster in a week sitting at you countertop, and turning it into a jewel that remains brilliant for months to come. That’s magic. That’s jam.
I have only made jam once before. We have no winter here that requires canning and preserving, so the process was not something I really experienced when I was growing up (except for my grandmother’s & dad's mango jam...which is amazing and will warrant a separate post someday). After my first brush with jam-making however, I was eager to try it again. I browsed through cookbooks and blogs, finding a lot of scrumptious sounding entries on jams of every kind of berry imaginable. Unfortunately, every kind of berry imaginable does not really grow on my shores. As luck would have it though, a blogging moment of gastronomic serendipity led me to a marvelous post from Marketman about his successful attempts at mangosteen jam.
Mmmm…mangosteen. Delicious and tropical, and what’s better, available! Mangosteen is right up there with mangoes in my list of favorite fruits. Their flavor is fantastic! It is described best here and here. Why do I keep looking across oceans for fruits to jam when we have so many gorgeous specimens here? Hmmm…must be something to do with that grass being greener myth...
In any case, I finally attempted it, soon after I saw Marketman’s post, and this is the result. I bought 2 kilos of mangosteens which yielded about 480 grams of fruit. I let this steep for two hours with the same amount of sugar. When the mix turned all liquid-y, I poured it into a heavy bottomed pot and cooked it on medium low, stirring quite often. I cooked it for 60 minutes exactly and what was left filled 2 jars. The texture was perfect. I used the plate-in-freezer test which I think works well and is actually quite fun in my opinion. The color though, as you can see, was a very light blush compared to Marketman’s brilliant burgundy (and compared to the mangosteen jams on the market). I will try cooking it longer next time, although I don’t want to sacrifice any of the texture. Suggestions are welcome! The taste was oh-so-very good and I happily stuck my fingers in the empty pot once it was cool and did a pretty good “pre-clean” ;)