Friday, January 4, 2008

holiday roundup 07

happy new year!
just got back from a 12 day roadtrip to new mexico and arizona. if there is anything i've learned, it's that i will never ever ever trade my tropical christmas to a white christmas. ever.
dan and i left los angeles the day before christmas. we braced ourselves knowing that camping food and backpacker's dehydrated food will comfort us. we never really put the 5 degree weather plus about 40 mph cold (i mean cold) wind in the equation with our tent. oh well, we somehow knew it will be cold, but never thought it will be that cold.
five days before christmas we had a nice christmas dinner with kathy and dyle. uncomplicated food for the holidays that was easy to prep but with the most flavorful impact was my M.O. kathy loved the creamy cauliflower dish, a spinoff from a cauliflower dish the barefoot contessa made one afternoon. of course, i had to make my favorite stuffed mushrooms.
stuffed mushrooms: clean a container of stuffing mushrooms. in a bowl, mix together a package of softened cream cheese, a quarter of sweet onion (minced), a generous handful of chopped walnuts, salt and pepper. stuff the mushrooms. cover the top with a mixture of breadcrumbs, shredded fontina and parmesan and parsley. bake until done.
creamy orzo: cook orzo as directed. on a heated pan with olive oil, saute mushrooms. move to the side of the pan when done. saute red pepper flakes, onions and garlic. add chopped tomatoes. throw in some peas. add a splash of cream. add thyme. simmer. add cooked orzo and a splash of pasta water. season to taste. go ahead and grate some parmesan cheese on top.
ohh... that dessert? check it out at for the details.
i'd say the memory of this dinner kept me warm while eating a really cold tofurky cold cut sandwich with crunchy lettuce (because it was partly frozen) on a 10 mile trail down the grand canyon.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

comfort food

adobo, originally uploaded by organic baker.

a cheap way to go back home and be with my mom is to make a batch of chicken adobo. it sure is not for me, but the process of making it fills my spirit like any comfort food can.

adobo is a staple at my mama nena's lazy susan. at least people from the household can cook it but it never will taste the same. for some reason, it has a personality of its own, and the adobo usually takes it from the hands of its maker.

adobo is adobo because of its 5 main ingredients: vinegar, soy sauce, whole peppercorns, bay leaf and garlic. any permutation with these 5 plus your meat (or veggie, or tofu) is totally acceptable and will give you adobo. anything added to it, let's say coconut cream, will still give you adobo. there is only one rule in making adobo: if the vinegar is added, resist the urge to stir it until its first boil - otherwise the flavors will never meld. don't ask me. ask my mom.

vingar to soy sauce ratio is a matter of personal taste. my mama nena uses a one to one ratio with a ladle and adds water to the saute pan. a one pot wonder. just boil, simmer and you are done.

i personally use a mug to mix my sauce. i thought it was fool proof and i never have to taste it. i always start with vinegar, just about a third of the mug, then add the soy sauce, about until the same level as the top part of the mug's handle (this is how i measure o.k.?) then top it with a little bit of water. pour it to your chicken in a pot (a family pack of chicken on sale does it right). add 5 fingertips full of whole peppercorns, 3 bay leaves (dried of course) and about half a head of garlic, smashed. i squirt in some hoisin sauce just to add a hint of sweetness. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. Then turn off heat.

Transfer the chicken to a colander to drain. Continue to simmer the sauce until slightly thickened. The chicken? Fry it in butter. Nice and golden it will be. After frying your last batch of chicken, gently toast a whole head of smashed garlic, move it to the side of the pan, put all the chicken back then pour the simmering sauce on top. Continue to simmer for about 5 more minutes. Congratulations! You've just made a pot full of garlic and love.

Here's a tip: Transfer the adobo in a bowl. Dump some cooked rice to the pot and scrape all that flavors with the rice. How can you not like that?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

deliver me from mung beans

mungo!, originally uploaded by organic baker.

i must admit i have a love-hate relationship with mung beans.

mung beans - 'munggo' in filipino epitomizes a more than typical filipino dish. it is centered on a very humble ingredient - the mung bean. the technique, very simple (boil and saute) but after that, it's all about what you want to do and add to it.

growing up as a child, i couldn't care less about munggo. it's not my favorite thing in the world, but as constant as the sun shining in the morning, as sure as tito, vic and joey will be there on my tv screen for lunch, the munggo will be at my mama nena's lazy susan on a friday.
munggo and some kind of fish cooked in whatever way mama wants it to be. it was a routine so constant it was munggo in your face.

my 'tita' alice is smart. she was in charge of going to the market daily and on a friday, has the special duty of cooking the munggo. since i had been my mama's kitchen prep girl since the age of 5, my tita alice would make me inspect the mung beans, making sure there were no pebbles or whatnot with it. she'll start with a canful* (a clean, empty can of evaporated milk) of dry mung beans and boil it for about 30 minutes. i must give it to the mung beans. they are the gremlins of the vegetable world. they swell like crazy. they multiply to the nth degree.

after 30 minutes, she'd call me to set aside a bowlful of munggo for us to share. that's usually our secret. at that point, i sooo love munggo! she'd let it cool for a while and would at some point add milk and sugar to the bowl, hide it in the freezer and we'll have it as ice cream for snack! it's the same principle as a red bean ice cream, only that ours is green. hey, it works!

back to the simmering pot. at that point, the thought of my munggo ice cream sitting in the freezer has corrupted my brain so much that i actually would volunteer to chop the onions and tomatoes and smash the garlic. not that tita alice was just sitting around reading the newspaper,she was actually pounding the shrimp's head with a pestle, the juice of which was then added to the simmering pot. talk about flavor! the shrimp's body is added to the garlic, onion and tomatoes on a saute pan. everything then is thrown back to the pot of munggo and bittermelon is added with 'moringa' (malunggay in tagalog)' leaves.

to my mind, my mama's lazy susan is a roulette. the only way i can turn it is to actually get something. so there, fine, i have to give in to the munggo. at this point i try my best to scatter and press it unto my plate, hoping that the munggo will blend in with the plate's design.

(some 25 years later, i actually like the sauteed mung beans and look forward to it every now and then. nope, i dont squeeze shrimp heads, and i use chopped spinach to the pot. nope, i dont make munggo ice cream nor have i had it in a long time. maybe when i see my tita alice again. maybe we'll share a bowl like we used to.)

Monday, December 17, 2007


ramen, originally uploaded by organic baker.

for some reason i'm not so thrilled in making my multi-step meals. one pot wonders are my thing right now, or maybe until the kitchen bug bites me again.
it's the perfect weather for ramen. pasta is also good with this dish, but ramen, to me, brings me childhood happiness and memories.
the most important thing to do is to cook the ramen separately just as you would with pasta. make sure you use a really good stock and fresh veggies and there's no possible way that you can screw this up.
ramen is freedom in a bowl. you can add anything you want and it will be alright.
for this version, i added root vegetables in a pot of simmering stock. i cheated and used swanson's organic vegetable stock (not that it's my favorite brand - it's just that it's the one on sale and my favorite is no where in sight). when the pot is in a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes, i added corn and the mushrooms (white button and shitake) and allowed it to simmer some more for about 5 minutes.
season with soysauce, salt, pepper and togarashi.
laddle the soup in a bowl of cooked ramen noodles. drizzle with sesame oil. add more togarashi! amazingly good and fast!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

tofu tostada

tofu tostada, originally uploaded by organic baker.

(Note: The computer gods stopped smiling at me last month and took away the second laptop for the year. Thanks to the persevering deal and coupon fishing by Dan, we got what we needed - a system that hopefully will work and stay for less that 300 bucks! Now on with the cooking.)

One of the things i truly look forward to during summer is the LA Tofu Festival. It was my mom who originally discovered it from an asian channel commercial and told me that we SHOULD go there. I remember meeting iron chef Morimoto (picture taking, autograph on a spicy mabo tofu box - the works!) the first time we went there i was totally hooked.

Tofu tostada is a meal so simple it's flavors rely only on the freshness of your produce. I used an organic firm tofu for this dish and it made a big impact. The flavors are clean and very fresh. One must remember that tofu is but a blank canvass for flavor - an artist's/chef's dream. While preparing the veggies, i wrapped the block of firm tofu with a kitchen towel and weighed it down by a container of brown rice to expel most of the moisture. In a big bowl, i dumped in chopped onions, tomatoes, cucumbers (inspired by Ralphie's ceviche), about 3 cloves of freshly minced garlic (prepackaged/bottled garlic won't work), juice of 2 limes, a handful of chopped cilantro, seeded and finely chopped jalapeno, salt, pepper and cumin to taste. Cube the tofu and add to the veggies and fold to combine. I'd say leave it alone for about 15 minutes to let the flavors develop.

Serve on top of a tostada shell. Great with tapatio!

Summer happiness on a plate anytime of the year!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

not your ordinary buttered carrots

IMG_0833, originally uploaded by organic baker.

alton brown inspired me to make this carrot side dish for dinner one autumn night. i remember he used ginger ale but unfortunately (or fortunately) i didn't have one. here goes my take on things - and i loved it!

bunch of carrots (with the green top still on) - sliced on a bias
water (no more than a quarter cup)
ginger (as big as your thumb - lightly smashed and sliced)
couple teaspoons of honey
a tablespoon butter
salt and pepper

combine water, honey, ginger and carrots on a saute pan. bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes. uncover and allow most of the liquid to evaporate. add butter, toss the pan until a nice caramel develops. season to taste.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

another shrimp dinner

couscous, originally uploaded by organic baker.

here's my favorite duet: shrimp and couscous.

there's something about shrimp and couscous that just makes me so happy. both can be cooked in 5 minutes and that's that. as much as i love making food, a 5 minute simple yet flavorful meal is simply amazing.

dan seasoned and grilled the shrimp to his liking. he makes great grilled shrimp so let's leave it at that. seasoned with salt, pepper, a little bit of cayenne pepper and olive oil and it's a sure winner.

dump the whole wheat couscous in boiling water, turn off the heat and in 5 minutes, you are fluffing your way to happiness. i seasoned it with a dressing of olive oil, yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, curry, turmeric, cinnamon, salt and pepper. add a handful (each) of diced carrots, onions, dried cranberries, almonds and chopped parsley and it sure was divine.