25 November 2007

Honeycomb Canneloni

Alveolare di Canneloni al Forno
Honeycomb Canneloni Pasta (with title)
There was an article by Mark Bittman in the New York times wherein he argues that it doesn't make sense to barely moisten pasta with a scant amount of sauce. He does make a lot of sense, but I am usually (turncoat!) a member of the pasta contingent, not at all saucy. I don't like being overwhelmed by flavors, and which is how I probably ate more than my fair share of carbohydrates, which is how I got to where I am now, sadly. Well, if you're on team Bittman, I have the perfect pasta dish for you. It's once again (again) from Jamie Oliver's book Cook With Jamie, and this recipe just popped out at me while I was browsing in the store that I had to have the book. It has a beautiful recipe for this mushroom ragù that I will now share with you, with some modifications.
Honeycomb Canneloni
I think we are not an overeating lot at my house. This dish can easily serve 12 or more people here. I dare you to come up with a more gimmicky presentation for canneloni. Granted, it could stand to be more beautiful, but I ran out of sauce to fill it all the way to the top. Why? I forgot to put the carrots in. The result was a very strongly flavored sauce. D'oh. In any case, it looks smashing served in its own pot (a flimsy all-aluminum pot that I bought for P150). Highly recommended. I also made this kind of complex recipe over the span of a few days so I don't overwhelm myself. The freezer saves the day again! (Recipe follows)Honeycomb Canneloni, half-done
Jamie Oliver's Honeycomb Canneloni

Special equipment: ovenproof dish/ casserole 5 inches deep. I used a pan that was 8" in diameter.

  • 400g fresh spinach, washed very well and stems discarded

  • nutmeg for grating

  • olive oil

Roughly chop the spinach into manageable pieces (1-2" or so). In a saucepan, heat a small quantity of olive oil and add the spinach, tossing a few times and leave to wilt. Season with salt, pepper, and a grating of nutmeg. At this point you can leave it to cool, then pack it in a ziplock bag and freeze for a week if desired.
  • a small handful of dried porcini (I used Chinese white pearl mushrooms with good results)

  • 1/4 cup (60mL) olive oil

  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced finely

  • 4 ribs celery, trimmed and diced finely

  • 1 large red onion, peeled and diced finely

  • 1 leek, trimmed and outer leaves discarded, diced finely

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced finely

  • 5 medium Portobello mushrooms, chopped

  • 70 oz (4 lbs 6 oz or 2kg) good-quality canned plum tomatoes, roughly chopped

  • a large bunch fresh basil, leaves picked and stems finely chopped

In a small bowl, add the dried porcini and enough boiling water to cover and leave to soak for 5 minutes. In a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil, carrots, celery, onion, and leek. Cook for 10 minutes, then add the garlic and Portobello mushrooms. Drain the porcini, reserving the liquor, and add the porcini to the pan. Cook for 5 more minutes until all the vegetables are tender. Add the porcini liquor and 1 cup (250mL) water and allow to reduce for about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chopped basil stalks. Season with salt and pepper, then bring to a boil. Simmer for up to 45 minutes or until you have a very thick ragù. Tear in the basil leaves and give it a stir. At this point you can cool the sauce to room temperature and freeze for up to a week; however, upon defrosting you'll have to heat it up until it is actually hot (not just liquid but cold).
  • 1 cup (250g) double cream or heavy cream

  • 1 cup (250g) sour cream

  • 4 anchovy fillets in oil, drained and finely chopped

  • a handful (about 60g) of Parmesan cheese

Stir everything together, then season with salt and pepper as desired. I just added pepper as the anchovies were sufficiently salty.
  • 18 oz (500g) canneloni tubes

  • Parmesan cheese, for grating

  • olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). In your ovenproof pan, add in 1/2 of the white sauce and sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Top with the spinach evenly. Ladle in about half of the mushroom ragù and stand the canneloni tubes in it. Press down on the tubes until the bottom reaches the spinach. Spoon the rest of the ragù over the tubes and smooth it over the holes. Pour over the rest of the white sauce, sprinkle with more grated Parmesan, then drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes until golden and bubbling.

24 November 2007

Lemon Squares and Key Lime Bars

Lemon Squares and Key Lime Bars (with title)
There isn't much of a story to these bars. I saw the lemon bar in Lemon(i)Café in Boracay. I fantasized about it. I made some. I made "Key Lime" Bars for variety. They were excellent. The lemon square recipe is from The Baker's Companion (brought to you by King Arthur flour) with a few adjustments. I have to say that I didn't truly use Key Limes. In fact I may not even have used a Lime. I bought green lemons that my parents assured me were limes. I cut one up and hello, it was all yellow inside. So this recipe was delicious, but not what I had in mind, obviously. For my readers overseas, I hope to GOD you have the appropriate citrus fruits where you are. I cannot keep track of what grows where at any given time (obviously we do not usually think about such things here on the islands, except for some fruits like mangoes, avocados and strawberries).

Lemon Squares (adapted from The Baker's Companion)

  • 1-1/2 cups (175g) all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 cup (30g) confectioner's sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup or 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and chilled

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line an 8"x8", 9"x9", or 7"x11" pan with aluminum foil that is slightly longer than your pan, so you have overhangs to lift the bars out with. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and sugar and whisk to combine. Scatter the butter over the flour mixture and using a pastry blender (what I used), your fingers, or a mixer with the paddle attachment, work in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press the crumbs into the prepared pan, making sure it is roughly an equal thickness throughout (I made the mistake of not paying attention to the sides and corners, so the crust was much thicker there). Bake the crust for 20 minutes or until light brown. Cool on a rack. Don't be concerned if it cracks or is imperfect. Don't turn off the oven.
  • 4 large eggs

  • 1-1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest (from 2 large lemons)

  • 1/2 cup (120mL) lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)

  • 1/4 cup (30g) all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • confectioner's sugar for dusting

In a medium bowl, rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers; it'll turn pale yellow. Beat in the eggs, then the lemon juice. Sift the flour and salt over the surface and stir them in. Pour the topping over the hot crust and continue baking for 25 minutes or until the top appears set (it won't slosh around). Dust with confectioner's sugar before slicing into 16 squares and serving.

Key Lime Bars
  • 5 oz (140g) animal crackers or Marie biscuits

  • 3 tablespoons (38g) packed brown sugar

  • pinch of table salt

  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons or 55g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line an 8"x8" pan with aluminum foil that is slightly longer than your pan, so you have overhangs to lift the bars out with. Place the crackers in a plastic food bag but don't close it; instead twist the top loosely to avoid the crackers falling out. Smash the contents with a rolling pin or similarly heavy object until fine crumbs remain. Whisk in the salt and brown sugar to combine, then toss in the melted butter with a spatula until all the crumbs are moistened. Alternatively, in a food processor, pulse the crackers until fine crumbs remain (10 1-second pulses), then add the sugar and salt and pulse again (10 1-second pulses), then drizzle the butter over and pulse unti evenly moistened (10 1-second pulses). Press the crumbs firmly and evenly into the pan, taking care not to make the sides thicker than the center. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool on a rack. Don't turn off the oven.
  • 2 oz (60g) cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 1 tablespoon grated lime zest, minced

  • pinch of table salt

  • 1 14-oz (400mL) can sweetened condensed milk

  • 1 egg yolk

  • 2 drops green food coloring (optional)

  • 1/2 cup (120mL) fresh Key Lime or lime juice

In a medium bowl, stir the cream cheese, lime zest, and salt together until smooth and creamy. Add the condensed milk and whisk vigorously until no lumps of cream cheese remain. Whisk in the egg yolk and food coloring (if desired). Whisk the lime juice in gently. The mixture will thicken slightly. Pour into the crust and thwack on the counter to even out (use a spatula to reach the corners if needed). Bake until set and the edges start to pull away from the sides, 15-20 minutes. Cool for 2 hours at room temperature, then chill until serving (at least 2 hours). Cut into 16 squares.

22 November 2007

Fresh Greens with Strawberries and Grilled Kesong Puti

Fresh Greens with Strawberries and Grilled Kesong Puti (with title)
Right! So, my Jamie Oliver hiatus did not last long. It didn't help that I caught a glimpse of his newest show while I was in Boracay, Jamie at Home. The idea is that we ought to pay real attention about how we get our food and what's the best way to get them. Planting your own vegetables, or getting them organic, buying free-range eggs, paying attention to how the animals you eat are farmed, and paying attention to what's in season-- all subjects covered on the show. It also has an accompanying book with fantastic photographs by David Loftus, an artist I greatly admire (you may have read about Graeme's influence, Ted Tamburo). Loftus prefers shots that are high-key, with a shallow depth of field, and I try to achieve his natural looks.

Here's the theme song with lyrics (used my own ear, pardon if it's wrong):

My World by Tim Kay
I'll show you what it takes to feed my mind
While you go through reading all my signs

It was a lovely day
When everything was everywhere
And our love came into season

I didn't know you, life's little dreams you pushed aside
Can we take two to see those eyes we love to hide

At night alone in bed
With someone else's head
And our love came into season

Take time to make yourself feel good
And you do whatever you want
'Cause you can now in my world
Making up for losing so much time
'Cause you can now in my world

We want to take a little walk down this route you know
I'm not scared to, 'cause we get back, we can take it real slow

Another lovely day
When everything was everywhere
And our love came into season

Take time and make yourself feel good
And you do whatever you want
'Cause you can now in my world
Making up for losing so much time
'Cause you can now in my world

I'm gonna make you feel all right
I'm gonna make you hold on tight

Hold on tight

Take time to make yourself feel good
And you do whatever you want
'Cause you can now in my world
Making up for losing so much time
'Cause you can now in my world

Granted, Tim Kay kind of looks douche-y here and the video is all sorts of weird, but the song is quite relaxing to listen to (and I hear Tim Kay is actually a nice guy). It pretty much gets me in the mood to roll up my sleeves and start planting my own relatively rare crops, like strawberries, arugula, beans, and some flowers. Till I remember the dumb labor we went through in Plant Physiology class, sterilizing buckets of soil (to remove any pathogen that might kill the plants), making mineral mixes, and waiting forever for flimsy plants to grow. Yikes. So for now, I'm content browsing through numerous groceries for whatever's fresh. And when I saw these local strawberries for cheap at Unimart, I knew exactly what to do with them after watching one of Oliver's shows.
You will need:
  • 200g (8oz) fresh strawberries

  • balsamic vinegar

  • olive oil

  • 100g (3.5oz) kesong puti or any soft cheese, like halloumi or goat's milk cheese

  • a small handful of basil leaves

  • a small handful of mint

  • mixed fresh greens

  • half a lemon's juice

  • a few rashers bacon, speck, or thinly sliced prosciutto, Parma ham, or pancetta-- I dunno, go wild!

Trim and slice the strawberries into halves (quarters for larger ones). In a small bowl, toss them with a generous splash of balsamic vinegar and leave to macerate while you prepare the salad.

In a skillet, fry the bacon (in its own fat if you have a nonstick skillet) over high heat until just lightly browned-- you want it to still be flexible. Set aside. Cut up the cheese into thick slices (I made 4 slices from 100g) and press a basil leaf into the face of each. Set them face-down onto the hot pan you've fried the bacon in. Wait one minute, and the face should be nice and browned and the leaf fixed to it. Flip them over and brown the other side. Set the cheese slices aside.

To the strawberries, add a splash of olive oil and lemon juice. Add the greens and toss to dress them.

To plate it elegantly, arrange the cheese slices on a plate and mound some strawberries in the middle. Tear a few basil and mint leaves on top of the strawberries. Arrange a few greens on top and drape a slice of bacon around the top artfully. Top with some more greens. You can weigh it down with a strawberry if the leaves keep flopping around. Drizzle with some more balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Fresh and easy!

20 November 2007

Boracay Trip (November 2007)

Boracay - Boats in Aklan
(Conversion rates: P43=$1, P96=£1) I've said before that I'm not a "beach-y" person. It's all that sun, sticky, sweaty, sand, and heat that turn me off. Plus, I can't swim and I'm very self-conscious. BUT, it doesn't take a whole lot to make me smile, so even with all those things I dislike, I found myself quite enjoying Boracay (in a wholesome way). The breathtaking atmosphere somehow melted my icy insides. All it took was P6,500 for a round-trip ticket from Manila to Aklan, which took all of 35 minutes on Seair. After that, there's about P90 for various fees and a boat to take you to the island of Boracay. From boarding the plane to stepping on the resort, that's 1.5 hours.
Boracay - me on a boat
That's me on a boat, wearing flip-flops and shorts outdoors, without my contact lenses, without any product on my hair. Super-rare.
Boracay - 2 Seasons
The first hotel we stayed in was The 2 Seasons. It's a relatively new resort and I was extremely impressed by the amenities. In the family rooms, as you'll see in the upper-right corner, a door opens directly into a shallow pool, perfect for kids. The television has Discovery: Travel and Living, so I enjoyed a tiny bit of Jamie at Home. Haha. This is really the kind of hotel you can spend the whole day in just curled up in bed, but of course that's not the point of Boracay. Anyway, they must not have ironed up the kinks in the kitchen, because breakfast took forever to arrive and wasn't even anything spectacular. Family room rate at the time was P13,000 a night. That's four queen-sized beds, so you can bring your spouse, 4 small kids, and both sets of grandparents. There are smaller rooms for less of course.
Boracay - 2 Seasons transition
Here's part of the dining area that transitions into the beach.
Boracay - D'Mall
Here's D'Mall, where you'll find the market, the grocery, various beach-oriented shops if you've forgotten to pack trunks or something, and restaurants of every persuasion. The grocery was weirdly stocked-- imported items that are extremely rare in Manila, like Bird's Custard, canned Spotted Dick, and Marmite. It even has 2 delis for any resident gourmets.
Boracay - Dining set-up
The restaurants nearest the beach transition into it like this, but we'll get to the food later. I imagine this is what those resort towns in Jamaica might be like (the Jamaican influence on the design of the island is very obvious).
Boracay - Fake "Kiss"
Here's a re-imagined "The Kiss" by Klimt at one of the shops. I think it cost P22,000. Why?
Boracay - The Tides
This is just after the reception of The Tides, a resort located within D'Mall. I didn't go in any of the rooms, but it looks good enough...
Boracay - Willy's
Here's Willy's, the second hotel we stayed in. Not as decadent as The 2 Seasons, but as far as hotels named after penises go, it's quite a hoot. Just kidding. It's perfectly fine, but we get a few very short power outages during the day for some unknown reason. I think it taxes the air conditioner.
Boracay - Willy's room rates
Here's Willy's very reasonable rates. Probably a benchmark for the rest of the businesses.
Boracay - Sands at Discovery Shores
Boracay - Sands at Discovery Shores menu
Now time for DA FOOD! This is the Sands Restaurant at Discovery Shores hotel. I'm quite embarrassed so I didn't want to go all-out despite the fact that someone treated us. I ate a crabmeat ravioli in a light tomato broth, which I didn't publish the picture of because food under ambient light looks like shit. But it was very good considering I pigged out at a buffet earlier and didn't want to overeat again.
Boracay - Hawaiian BBQ
Boracay - Hawaiian BBQ menu
We had lunch at Hawaiian Barbeque. The sauce was of course pineapple juice-and ketchup-based, and really good and hearty. The prices are reasonable too.
Boracay - Real Coffee
We had dessert at Real Coffee, a small cafe managed by an American woman. The Calamansi (Philippine lemon) cupcake costs P45. It's a very fragrant butter cake which is deceptively light. Beware, figures.
Boracay - Jonah's shake
All my friends told me I had to drink a fruit smoothie at Jonah's Shakes. The prices are P75 for simple shakes and P90 for more complex ones. This is one of the simple Banana-Chocolate shakes. Yum! A complex one, for example, would be Banana-Chocolate-Peanut.
Boracay - Lemon(i)Cafe
Boracay - Lemon(i)Cafe menu
My brother and I had brunch (without breakfast or lunch) at Lemon(i)Cafe since I was feeling stuffed by eating one meal after another. Consequently, I had a tuna sandwich with egg curry. My first instinct was to have a steak sandwich. They gave me a choice to have it well-done or just seared. Unfortunately my allergies deterred me from eating rare fish, which I bet would have tasted better. I'm not even a fan of tuna, I was just tired of eating meat. Regardless, I still enjoyed the sandwich and my brother obviously enjoyed his big breakfast platter. They have a good-looking dessert tray which we did not dig into. Giant lemon bars! I must make those one of these days.
Boracay - the beach
Sooo.... That is a short summary of my trip in pictures. If you have any more questions about Boracay, don't hesitate to e-mail me, though I'm obviously not an expert. I can ask other people, you know. It was definitely one of those things you had to do when you're in the Philippines, and I don't regret it one bit (thank you, Coppertone sunblock!). And this is coming from a beach-hater.
Boracay - my feet on the beach
My gloriously hairy shins in the water.
I guess every now and then, you have to get something in between your toes.

19 November 2007

Meatball Sandwich and Togarashi Fries

Meatball Sandwich and Togarashi Fries (with title, painterly)
When I was still in undergraduate-level college (positively the Dark Ages), every now and then me and my friends would eat at a hybridized Subway-Baskin Robbins-Mrs. Fields. And because I was not into vegetables or any bit of wholesome food with some variety at the time, I always ordered a Pizza Sub (good heavens) and a double chocolate chip muffin. Utterly delicious, but looking back it was such hackneyed food for a 17-year-old. Imagine this- they took the marinara sauce for the pizza sub from a tray of lovely meatballs, then poured it over salami and American cheese slices. Yum. At the time I had no idea what a meatball sub would be like and like a good cliché, I didn't bother finding out. It wasn't until Joey from Friends always demanded one that I did wonder. And then Subway phased out the Pizza Sub and the Meatball Sub. I didn't eat in one again until years later, when I discovered the joy that was a Spicy Italian BMT and Hot Crab. You can't make the move without embracing veggies first, heh.
Togarashi Fries
Now, I'm still looking to change gender-oriented attitudes towards bloggers and chefs, but a Meatball Sandwich probably wouldn't be the best way to do it. Honestly, all that's missing from me when I eat one is a tool belt and snot on my sleeve (for now, I'm just successful in being a tool). But don't let humble food turn you off. A meatball sandwich needn't necessarily be "hungry-man food" (although you have to admit, next to a Sloppy Joe it fits the bill), but it has enough juicy, tomato-ey goodness to become the ultimate friend-food, next to pizzas. And serve it with some Japanese-themed fries just to screw with tradition some more.
Meatball Sandwich and Togarashi Fries (close-up)
You may also boil the meatballs in the marinara sauce, but I like the crunchy fried outside of the meatballs. If you choose to boil them, bring the meatballs to a boil in the sauce, then simmer covered over low heat for 20 minutes, turning the meatballs often.

Meatball Sandwich. Dead easy.

  • pork sausage mix, using fresh italian sausage and sans mushrooms, as directed here. As it turns out, I made a lot of extra from my last batch of stuffed mushrooms, so I froze them and here we are now!

  • marinara sauce: you can use 1/2 cup from a good brand or make it from scratch as directed here.

  • good crusty loaf: I used foccacia, but feel free to use any non-white bread: ciabatta and sourdough are great.

  • a handful of grated mozzarella cheese

Form the sausage mix into largish golf balls. Heat up some olive oil over high heat and fry the outside of the meatballs until dark brown and crusty. Split each meatball into two in the pan and cook the now-exposed middles through for 2 more minutes.

If using foccacia, cut it into large, thick rectangles. Split the foccacia or ciabatta in the middle. If using sourdough, cut into thick slices. Lay them out in a 400°F (205°C) oven or oven toaster crust-down for a few minutes, just to get the exposed surface toasty and prevent sogginess. Spread a scant spoonful of marinara sauce into the bottoms. Lay out the split, cooked meatballs on top and spoon some more marinara sauce on top. Sprinkle with the mozzarella. Continue to bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Togarashi Fries (adapted from Bon Appetit magazine)
  • 1kg (about 3 large) baking potatoes, scrubbed very well

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon Shichimi Togarashi (available at the Asian foods section, Japanese markets-- try Rustan's; it costs P75)

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Set a rack in the top third of the oven and preheat to 400°F (205°C). Cut the potatoes lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide planks, then cut each plank into 1/2-inch wide strips. Pat the potatoes very dry with paper towels and place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes. Turn the potatoes over using a spatula and toast until tender and brown and crispy around the edges, about 25 minutes more. Remove to a bowl lined with paper towels. Mix the salt, togarashi, and sugar in a bowl, then toss with the chips. Give them a taste and add some more salt if needed.

17 November 2007

Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies (with title)
I'll apologize in advance for appearing to be born from another planet, but I've never had an honest-to-goodness gingerbread cookie before. I had a glazed, slightly spicy cookie before, but it tasted more like a Dunkin Donuts' Choco Honey Dipped, for some reason. Maybe it was. So after years of wondering, I was suddenly in the mood for something I thought maybe both kids and adults would like. Imagine my dismay when I learned that most gingerbread cookies were quite hard and only good for making houses and tree ornaments. I realize they're not exactly the same, but I had a gingersnap made by Fibisco that almost took my diamond-like (in hardness, heh) teeth out. Next! But a gem somehow landed in my lap: a recipe which addressed these problems. Given that I hadn't made dessert in a while (and cookies in an even longer while), it was a Godsend. It even has instructions for when you want thin cookies for ornaments. So happy holiday baking, everyone! Get to it! (Okay, Thanksgiving first for those of you who celebrate.) This is my contribution to Susan of Food Blogga's Eat Christmas Cookies blogging event and Zlamushka's Spicy Kitchen's A Spoonful of Christmas blogging event.
Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
The problem was, there was only one supermarket in Manila that sold molasses. What the?!?! I went to Robinson's, Megamall, Hi-Top, Landmark, and Rustan's (several branches). Only Unimart had both local and imported brands. I chose an imported unsulphured brand (Grandma's Mild), since it's my first time and I wanted to be sure I got the unsulphured variety (the local brand didn't specify). I hear they have tons of wholesale baking supplies at Quiapo, where the fruitcake-mass-producing types get their molasses by the liter. I wasn't sold on that since generic fruitcake is not at all that enticing. (Recipe follows)
The recipe I wrote down here has 3 different methods: first by hand (which is what I used-- what use is having arm muscles, heh), then by stand mixer with paddle, and by food processor. I've also included weight measurements for those so inclined. Enjoy!
Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

  • 3 cups (425g) all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached

  • 3/4 cup (150g) firmly packed dark brown sugar

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1-1/2 sticks (165g) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and slightly softened

  • 3/4 cup (225g) molasses (mild or full/robust, your choice, but I found mild to be quite flavorful as it was)

  • 2 tablespoons whole milk

By hand: In a small bowl, combine the molasses and milk and stir together; set aside. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Add the sugar and whisk to combine thoroughly. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and work it into the flour with a pastry blender (what I used), a fork, two knives, or a rubber spatula until it resembles very fine meal. Drizzle a third of the molasses mixture over the dough and combine with a rubber spatula (what you're doing is essentially moistening the dough). Repeat with half of the remaining molasses, then use it all up. You'll end up with a soft, cohesive dough that looks like coffee ice-cream.

By stand mixer with a paddle attachment: In a small bowl, combine the molasses and milk and stir together; set aside. In the bowl of the mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Mix at low speed until combined (about 30 seconds). Scatter the butter pieces over the top and mix at medium-low speed until it resembles very fine meal (about 90 seconds). Reduce the speed to low and drizzle in the molasses mixture with the mixer running and mix until the dough is moistened thoroughly (about 20 seconds), then increase the speed to medium and mix for 10 seconds more to combine.

By food processor: In a small bowl, combine the molasses and milk and stir together; set aside. Process the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves until combined (about 10 seconds). Scatter the butter pieces over the top and process until it resembles fine meal (about 15 seconds). With the machine running, drizzle in the molasses mixture and process until the dough is evenly moistened and forms a soft mass (about 10 seconds).

Continue here for all methods: Cut out at least 4 parchment rectangles to fit the bottom of your sheet pans. Scrape dough onto a work surface and divide into 2 (I used a scale to be accurate: I divided it into 2-502g masses). Place each dough half onto its own parchment rectangle and cover each with another parchment rectangle. Pat out each with your fingers through the parchment into a rough rectangle, then roll each into an even 1/4-inch thickness sandwiched in between the 2 parchment sheets (one way to get an even thickness is to use magazines of the appropriate thickness on both ends of your rolling pin as a guide-- Bon Appetit is one such magazine). Stack the dough sheets (still intact in their parchment sandwiches) onto a sheet pan and freeze until firm, about 20 minutes, or refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

Place a rack in the upper and lower-middle positions of your oven and preheat to 350°F (177°C). Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper (I just used the ones on my dough sheets, to conserve paper, no problem). Remove a dough sheet from the fridge and peel off the top parchment sheet, gently lay it back on the dough and put another sheet pan on top. Flip the whole set-up over and peel off then discard the other parchment sheet. Using a 3- or 5-inch gingerbread person cutter or a 3-inch cookie cutter, cut out shapes and transfer to the lined sheet pans, leaving 3/4 inch space in between. Bake the cookies for 8 minutes (for 3-inch people, which is what I used), or 8-11 minutes (for 5-inch people or 3-inch cookies), rotating the pans front to back and top to bottom halfway through. You're looking for set centers and for the dough to barely retain an imprint when touched gently with a fingertip. Don't overbake! They will set some more while cooling. Cool the cookies for 2 minutes on the pans then transfer with a wide metal spatula to a cooling rack.

Gather the scraps and repeat the rolling and cutting, chilling the dough again if it's become too soft. I was able to juggle all my rolling and cutting in advance so I can bake them consecutively. The yield is 25 3-inch people, 20 5-inch people, or 30 3-inch cookies. Best if eaten within a week.

For thin, crisp cookies that can be used as ornaments:
Divide the dough into 4 and roll out into an even 1/8-inch thickness. Bake at 325°F (163°C) oven until slightly darkened and firm in the center when pressed, 15-20 minutes for 5-inch gingerbread people.

Royal Icing for Decoration:
  • 1 pasteurized egg white

  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

  • (at least) 1-1/2 cups (165g) confectioner's sugar

Using a mixer with a whisk attachment, beat together the egg white and lemon juice until frothy. Sift in all the confectioner's sugar and beat until smooth. Lift the beaters and if a ribbon takes less than 5 seconds to disappear into the icing's surface or runs down the sides when spread over a cookie's edge, add more sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time. Use immediately. You can use a piping bag with a plain tip or load it into a zip-lock bag and snip off a little bit of the tip. The icing will dry and form a crust overnight. If uncomfortable with using a raw egg white due to health concerns, please consult the internet for recipes using meringue powder.

16 November 2007

My Addiction (Okay, one of them)

Bookshelves - Books
I don't know when it started, but hitting the used bookstore has been more or less a weekly thing for me. Here in the Philippines, we have a few used-book and magazine chains (Booksale, Taurus, Papyvore, Back Issue, Previously Owned Books, Books On Sale Everyday). I actually receive text messages from one of them when a new shipment has come in. I think this is a parallel to those olden days (er... the 90's) when drug dealers had pagers and soon schools started to get paranoid (you probably don't remember that, younguns!). Actually, to call my bookshelves such would be a stretch, because I rarely read books as they are outside my medical textbooks. This is one of my "true" bookshelves (the other books are about Photoshop and Corel Painter). Cookbooks. You can see some of my favorites-- Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé, Cook With Jamie, How To Eat, and The Simple Art of Perfect Baking. I also have a few (ahem) graphic novels, my favorite of which is Goodbye Chunky Rice, which my brother gave me last Christmas. The others are design books, art books (Yoshitaka Amano's work is excellent, do visit an exhibit soon), and a few true books, like the Parables of Peanuts.
Bookshelves - Art
Bookshelves - Misc
My shelves should be called magazineshelves. Because I have entirely too many. Here is a shelf full of magazines on my non-food passions-- digital art and design. There are even some magazines on menswear, which as you may have guessed are mostly obsolete, either by trend or by my own adoption of a personal style.
Bookshelves - Food
And these are my food magazines, which due to their constant multiplication and pulling in and out of shelves I decided to just leave them on a stack next to my bed. Sigh. Anyway, I'm glad they're not lumped together with "Women's Interest" magazines like they are in the UK (or just Lincoln maybe, according to Graeme) because that would piss me off enormously. They're not "Cosmo"s, people!

Short list:

  • Bon Appetit - of course

  • Gourmet - though Bon Appetit edges this magazine out in photographs
  • Chocolatier - America's best dessert magazine
  • Pastry Art and Design - America's best professional pastry magazine
  • Cook's Illustrated - no-fail recipes
  • Martha Stewart Living - the recipes are always suspicious but if you need inspiration for styling anything, you can rarely beat it.
  • Food and Wine - very old issues. I don't read it anymore.
  • Fine Cooking
  • Good Food - published in the UK by BBC
  • Delicious - published in Australia (voted the #1 food magazine-- it's quite good.)
  • Cuisine at Home - what I like about it is that they have a short and long version of the recipe, sort of a summary to look through while cooking
  • Saveur - I just got into reading this magazine. Looks good.
  • Donna Hay - published in Australia by their own Domestic Goddess
  • Food and Travel - two very good things put together!
  • The Baker's Companion - produced by King Arthur Flour
  • Everyday Food - also by Martha Stewart. Recipes are dubious, again.

Design Magazines:

  • Print - my favorite non-food magazine. Lots of inspiration for print material.
  • HOW - good but edged out by Print (weirdly its sister magazine)
  • Creative Review - another stellar magazine from the UK, one of my favorites.
  • Grafik - an extra-large, excellent design magazine
  • Baseline - too large to fit anywhere.
  • Eye - excellent British design magazine with lots of commentary
  • Communication Arts - intelligent articles but too little inspiration for me.
  • CMYK - a showcase of student work in advertising, photography, and illustration
  • Design Graphics - Australian instructional magazine
  • Lino - Australian design magazine
  • I.D. - International Design, NOT the fashion magazine (that's i-D)
  • Digit - British digital design magazine. Comes with a free CD each issue.
  • Icon
  • Design Week
  • Publish RGB

Art Magazines

  • Digital Camera World - lots of fun to leaf through, also plenty of instruction
  • Digital Photo Pro - here is where I quote my good friend Charisse. "Feeling," she'd say (Filipino-speak, as in feeling like a photographer when you're really not.)
  • American Artist
  • The Artist's Magazine - comes with instruction. Yay
  • Artist's Sketchbook
  • Watercolor Magic
  • Art in America (I don't seem to see any non-American art magazines, hmmm)

Computer Magazines

  • Computer Arts and Computer Arts Projects - my favorite instructional magazine for digital design. Lots of inspiration.
  • Photoshop Creative - holds your hand too much throughout the teaching process, but a lot of fun.
  • ImagineFX - digital fantasy painting magazine
  • Corel Painter - a new magazine, looks promising. (Kind of too much like ImagineFX)
  • Photoshop User - official magazine of the NAPP. Best Photoshop magazine out there.
  • Advanced Photoshop - not as good as I thought it would be.
  • Layers (formerly Mac Design, which I also have)

Miscellaneous Magazines

  • Cargo - a defunct menswear magazine
  • Men's Vogue - replaced Cargo.... eh
  • Details
  • Vanity Fair - the best reason to own this magazine is the absolutely stunning photographs inside.

Soooo..... Anybody have a bigger selection? :)

13 November 2007

Eggplant Parmigiana

Melanzane alla Parmigiana
Eggplant Parmigiana (with title)
Warning: this is a bit sappy. But I didn't call this blog "No Special Effects" for no reason-- I have no need to put up an exoskeleton of unfeeling. If you don't love your parents, that's your problem. I'm planning on making my leaving this country (at least temporarily) inevitable. Two of the things causing me to stall are my parents. Worst of all is my dad. He won't admit it but he is extremely sentimental, probably (without judgement here, folks) because he came from the province (Pampanga to be exact), where families are very tightly knit. He can't imagine why someone would ever want to leave the warmth of his home and family, especially someone like me, who honestly speaking is incredibly lucky in the grand lottery of parents and has lived in relative comfort all his life. He won't cry, but the hurt and disappointment shows in his voice, and he makes up a lot of lame reasons why I shouldn't leave. Ever.

Anyway. We were driving home and talking about it semi-passionately and a lot of the usual buzzwords were used-- "change" (I need one), "training", and "opportunity." And of course, I said that I couldn't stay just to keep people happy, and I need to find out what's out there for me. TAKE NOTE I haven't even applied for a license abroad yet. Premature much? Truth is, he didn't need to make up excuses for me to stay-- the love of my family is the best reason to stay, and though I doubt I will become resentful if I ended up training here (I'm quite respectful and obedient), I will always feel stifled. I'm stalling because I value the time we have left together, and that should hold true even if I'm not leaving. "Life isn't permanent," I said, and I hope he knows what I meant. So I cook for my family not only to somehow take me to another place right in my own kitchen, but so they see that I'm not thinking of leaving because I don't love them. Because I don't just cook for anybody, you know.
Eggplants after grilling
In any case, I felt my dad was beginning to feel down about it, so I cheered him up by whipping up an authentic eggplant parmigiana (for the first time, mind you), that only took 5 minutes of active time. It cut both ways, though: now they tell me I can't leave because they'll have to rely on restaurants for great food. What the hell?!?! My family is funny. (Recipe follows)

This recipe is adapted from-- you guessed it-- Jamie's Italy. I swear I'll change influences in the next posts. I've just been having too much of a vegetable blast (sounds like a gross euphemism for gastrointestinal troubles). The grilling process cooks the eggplant without making them slimy and gross. It only serves two so multiply as needed.

  • one large, fat eggplant

  • olive oil

  • a handful (100g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1/4 cup marinara sauce*

  • a few sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves chopped

  • a handful of dried breadcrumbs

Preheat a grill on high until very hot (can't bear to keep your hand hovering over it for 10 seconds). Remove the stem from the eggplant and slice into 1/2-inch thick slices. Brush each slice on both sides very lightly (I stretched just a teaspoon of olive oil for the whole eggplant) with olive oil. Grill the slices until lightly charred, about a minute or so for each side. Set them aside on a tray.

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). In a small ovenproof dish, spread a thin layer of marinara, followed by a thin sprinkling of Parmesan, then one layer of eggplant slices. Repeat building these layers (I was able to make 3 layers), then finish with a little marinara and a good sprinkle of Parmesan. In a small bowl, toss together the breadcrumbs, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, and the chopped oregano until combined and sprinkle over the top of the dish. Bake for 30 minutes until golden and crispy on top.

* If you want to make the tomato sauce from scratch:
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 1 14-oz can of plum tomatoes, roughly chopped

  • salt and fresh-ground pepper

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon wine vinegar

  • small handful fresh basil leaves

In a small saucepan over medium heat, sauté the garlic, onion, and dried oregano in a little olive oil until the onion is soft and the garlic is slightly colored (10 minutes). Stir in the tomatoes and simmer slowly for 15 minutes with the lid on. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the wine vinegar and basil.

Networthing (er, -working)

Here's a short one! I've updated the left column to include:

  1. A license for my photos and my articles. I've heard more than one story of a newspaper plagiarizing food bloggers in the Philippines. Utterly gross.

  2. My Amazon.co(.uk) wishlist. I'm not looking for people to buy me things, but it's just a funny way to get people to know me. By the way, my shoe size is an American 7.5. Just kidding.

  3. My Friendster profile and Multiply site. Just 'cause.

  4. A link to Facebook.

I'm not into spamming people or such so feel free to add me to your network.

12 November 2007

Mussels Spaghetti in a White Wine and Basil Oil Broth

Spaghetti Cozzo in Brodo di Vino Bianco e Basilico Olio
Mussels Spaghetti in a White Wine and Basil Oil Broth (with title)
You will never like every single item on the menu. And even if it looks good on paper, you will have your own taste which may not coincide with the chef's. So in the world of restaurant uncertainty, how do you guarantee with a good degree of consistency between patrons the quality of one? Answer: with the care with which the food is prepared. So there was this one time I ate mussels in a reputedly good restaurant in Tagaytay. I wasn't yet well-versed in preparing mussels so I unknowingly ate the beards, which were present in almost all of them.

FUCK I ATE THESE FREAKING GROSS NYLONY THREADS!!! Byssus threads. Totally nauseating. Now that I've learned how to cook mussels, which are high in protein, low in fat, and I totally love, I don't ever have to live through that again. It's not just the debearded mussels. Check if the shrimp is deveined. You'll enjoy the tenderloin more if you don't have a silvery sheet of fascia running through it. Squid that is meltingly soft tells you they didn't throw it in a pan and leave it there forever. Care for the food equals care for the customers, and that's a good gauge of quality as any. (Recipe follows)
Mortar with basil oil
This recipe is from Cook With Jamie, which will drain you of your saliva flipping through it and best of all, all profits from the book go to the Fifteen foundation.

  • 1kg (2lbs) fresh mussels

  • 1 large handful of fresh basil

  • 2 anchovy fillets, drained

  • juice of 1 lemon

  • 60mL (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil

  • 500g (9oz) spaghetti

  • 200mL (3/4 cup) white wine

  • 2 fresh red chili peppers

You'll get your fresh mussels hopefully in some water. Make sure that they are all shut tight. If there are any ajar, give them a thwack on the counter and they should close right up. If they don't, they are dead and you should discard them since you don't know how long they've been dead and mussels become toxic quickly. Pull out any beards (black strings) emanating from the shells with your fingers (or use a paring knife for leverage) and give them a good rinse just to get any remaining dirt or scum out; I even gave them a scrub. Drain them in a colander.

In a mortar, place the basil leaves with a good pinch of salt and pound into a paste. Add half the lemon juice and all the olive oil and combine.

If available, wear clean latex gloves when handling the chili peppers. If not, just wash your hands extremely well with soap and water afterwards. Chop off the top of the peppers and slice them open. Scrape out the seeds with the tip of the knife and dice each very finely.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add a good pinch of salt and drop in the spaghetti, cooking by the instructions but 1 minute short of al dente. -- BUT --

Four minutes before you reach that point, heat a large saucepan until it is smoking hot. Dump in all the mussels and the white wine, put the lid on, and give it a good shake. Continue to cook for 2 more minutes, shaking 1-2 times more in the process. Open the lid and beware being punched in the face by the strong smell of the sea. Discard any mussels that have failed to open (all in all I threw out about 8 mussels, which is no big deal since 1kg is a lot!). Quickly drain the spaghetti, which should be done by now, and toss in with the mussels and basil oil. Add the rest of the lemon juice to taste, as well as salt and pepper as needed (I just added pepper), and the chopped chili peppers.

07 November 2007

Asparagus and Orange Salad with Gorgonzola

Asparagus and Orange Salad with Gorgonzola (with title)
The world is a completely different place from ten years ago. Well, obviously, but it's even more obvious in the grocery aisles. Previously "rare" produce are now available all throughout the year. It's taking too long, however, for berries of all kinds to make an appearance here (for now, only fresh strawberries, and sporadically at that). Regardless of the dip in quality during the off-season, at least here in the Philippines there is a feeling of perpetual summer, which of course has its disadvantages (it is hot all the freaking time), but if it means having more food choices, then it's best to take advantage.

Speaking of taking advantage, I'll be going on a short trip to Boracay. In other words, the beach. Which I hate (the heat, the sun, the sand... Though I love marine life. And seafood). But I'm not the type to skip ever seeing a place because of my prejudices. In other words, I have to go there at least once in my life! And no, I will not return with anecdotes of debauchery. See you guys on Sunday! (Instructions follow)
I don't think I managed to achieve the full potential of this dish, however. Looking back, I shouldn't have been so timid with the dressing. To balance the fresh flavors of the asparagus and oranges, I should have made a hollandaise and melted the bits of gorgonzola cheese in it. So that's what I suggest you do instead of preparing a weak French dressing like I did.

To roast asparagus: Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Trim the asparagus (bend one spear holding both ends until it breaks at a point of weakness, then cut all other spears at this point). Lay the asparagus in one layer in a baking sheet or roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and fresh-ground black pepper. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes.

To prepare the orange: cut a thick slice off the top and bottom. Place flat on your board and run a knife down the sides under the peel (you'll probably take a little bit of the orange). Make sure you've cut off all the white pith. Lay the orange on its side and slice into thin hexagons.

06 November 2007


Enjoy. Starring: Kat, Karen, and Reg. (Actually I must've made this "comic" 4 years ago. I thought it was time to republish it.)

04 November 2007

Fried Crispy Polenta with Rosemary and Salt

Polenta Fritta Croccante con Rosmarino e Sale
Fried Crispy Polenta with Rosemary and Salt (with title)
Most of my food blogging friends are female. In fact, I don't need to whip up any statistics to say that majority of food bloggers (or bloggers for that matter) are female. Occasionally I will come across the requisite "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Blogging Sisterhood" post and will feel like chopped liver. Not that anyone has ever felt the need to form a "Manly Men of Food Blogging" ring, which is gag-inducing in its own right and a sophisticated dork like me probably still won't fit in. So while I enjoy reading and love all sorts of food blogs (see: the right column), I'm thankful for male bloggers who are unable to speak/understand the divine secret language of sisterhood of the travelling pants. However, I do consider Blood Sugar to be my "brother blog" for many reasons, not the least of which we both speak the language of, well, foul. Haha. So when Graeme wrote a post about lemon and rosemary polenta, I was both amused and freaked out because I'd been staring at the picture in Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Italy for a long time that day, thinking of making it. Psychic vibes, maybe. So after postponing it for a while, I bring you my first attempt at polenta. (Recipe follows)

  • 8-9 oz (about 250g) fine polenta, plus more for dusting

  • 3 pints (750mL) water

  • a handful (about 80g or more) of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • salt and pepper

  • sprigs of fresh rosemary

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil over medium heat then add a good pinch of salt. Add the polenta and whisk to combine. When it starts to boil, it will sputter a bit, so put on the lid partially. When it's thickened more, it will quiet down, so turn the heat to low and stir occasionally until it reaches the consistency of fluffy mashed potatoes. It took only 20 minutes for my polenta, but it can take as long as 45 minutes. If you go too far and the polenta starts looking chunky again, stir in some water (125mL or so) and be careful this time! Stir in the Parmesan and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper (don't be shy, give it a taste). Turn the polenta out into an oiled baking sheet and spread it to a thickness of about 1 inch and leave to cool. Cut or tear into bite-size pieces.

Preheat oil in a deep fryer to 350°F (175°C). Fill a medium bowl with some more polenta and toss the pieces of cooked polenta to coat. Fry the pieces for 4 minutes, adding sprigs of fresh rosemary during the last 20 seconds of cooking. Drain over paper towels and sprinkle with sea salt.

I served mine on the abstract of an old research titled "Effects of Equisetum arvense extracts on the rate of healing of excised wounds among albino mice." For some reason I had photocopied too many of them for a presentation and they're sitting in a scrap paper pile, waiting to be used as grocery lists and such.

03 November 2007

Baby You're Mine

The first artist (musically) I was really interested in as a kid was Polish singer Basia. Atypical, I know. Regardless, it was the late 80's and there were just not a lot that resonated with me (Johnny Hates Jazz? Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark? Madonna? Debbie Gibson?), even if I was in sync with the radio. And I certainly can't explain why I love Basia's music even to this day despite the fact that I find new "Bossa" acts nauseating and affected. I think most of it has to do with her genius writing partner, Peter White. They came out with really good songs (which I knew all the lyrics to despite not knowing what they were at the time), and age has given me only a greater appreciation for them. Especially now that other artists have come up with ghastly covers for "Reward" and "Time and Tide." Yecch.

Click here to listen to a digital recording of me playing "Baby You're Mine." I'm not going to say my playing does justice to it. Notice that I hired my synthetic drummer to do the beat. :) There's not a real piano solo to speak of, because I'm not a jazz pianist (nor a real pianist by any stretch of the imagination), and I don't know how to improv something that sounds good (I could have cheated and layered the track, but I didn't want to pretend to be a better pianist than I am).

Unfortunately I don't have an upload of the original track, nor do I have a Youtube video for it, and I don't want to break copyright laws by providing one. So I give you another "type" song by Basia instead. (Video: "Astrud." Wow, this looks ancient.)