Thursday, June 28, 2007

Marinated Goat Cheese

Just got this recipe from a wonderful mentor and friend...Hubby and I had some with slices of baguette from Ace Bakery and a glass (or two) of Chardonnay. Truly wonderful!

Marinated Chevre
1 clove garlic
1 shallot
1 tsp. peppercorns
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup kalamata olives
1 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 oz. semi-soft goat cheese, cut into 4-8 pieces

Pulse all ingredients except goat cheese in a food processor just until spices are ground and mixture comes together. Pour over goat cheese. Let stand a few hours or overnight.

...inspired by a Bonnie Stern recipe

It's a wrap

Tonight was "Mexican" night, which usually happens when I have 15 minutes to get dinner on the table :-) Sometimes it's rotisserie chicken and several grilled veggies wrapped in tortillas with salsa, sour cream and cheese. But tonight I decided to grill a nice, big, juicy sirloin steak and we had beef "fajitas" instead.

Sirloin Steak:

Rub beef with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, cumin, and Salsa Lizano. Let stand for about 10-15 minutes. Grill, pan fry or "George Foreman" it (which is what I did) to desired doneness. Cool a bit then slice across the grain into strips.


Sauteed mushrooms and onions
Grilled red peppers
Diced tomatoes


Sour cream
Grated cheese
Hot sauce
Spanish rice
Flour tortillas

Instructions: Assemble as you please and enjoy. I guess you could call this our version of "30 minute meals" no?

Friday, June 22, 2007

My Mom's Marvelous Macaroni Salad

Just a little alliteration there :-)

This recipe is inspired by my mom's version but somehow, I can never duplicate that perfect balance of sweet, salty and tangy that made her macaroni salad a favorite of many a gathering.

But this version of mine has been a hit many times too and so tomorrow, for a picnic of 40 people, this will be my contribution.

A word of warning: this recipe will feed an army.

Macaroni Salad

900 grams macaroni, cooked according to package directions

large can (540 ml) of crushed pineapple, drained well

1 bottle (375 ml) sweet pickle relish, drained well

1 bottle pimiento (cooked red peppers bottled in water), chopped/minced

1 large jar (950 ml) Hellman's low fat mayo (or full fat if you so desire)

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt (use less if using regular table salt)

1 tsp. ground pepper

1 whole chicken


1. Boil chicken in salted water, cool, shred (do not include the skin and, obviously, the bones), then set aside.

2. Mix together the mayo, pineapple, pickles, pimiento, salt, sugar and pepper.

3. Let the dressing stand for about half an hour to let the seasoning meld together.

4. Mix together the macaroni, dressing and chicken.

5. Serve well chilled. Tastes better the next day.

A few notes. When you boil the chicken, you can add a quartered onion and a couple of stalks of celery to the boiling water. Don't forget to salt. Salting the cooking water is also very important when cooking the macaroni so you don't end up with tasteless pasta. Don't overcook the macaroni and don't rinse after cooking. There's nothing worse than mushy or watery pasta in a salad. Drain everything well (pasta, pineapple, relish, pimiento) before mixing together. This will prevent your dressing for becoming too runny. And lastly, taste the dressing before mixing in the chicken and macaroni. It's definitely easier to adjust the seasoning before you put in the "solids" and the seasoning will mix in more evenly if you do it before putting the salad all together.

A few other notes not related to the recipe above. When I prep onions, carrots, and celery for other dishes, I always put the small bits and scraps in a ziplock bag which I then stash in the freezer. I'll also freeze the celery leaves and the outer layer of the onion. When I make stock, I then have my aromatics always ready to throw into my stock pot. I also freeze chicken bones from grocery rotisserie chicken and home-cooked roast chicken. It's perfect for making stock and is definitely better than the store bought stock/broth.

Ok, I think that's all for now. Gotta pack for that picnic...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Lemongrass Chicken with Shrimp Paste

It was Thai night tonight and this dish was a resounding success! It doesn't look pretty but it was excellent! In fact, Son #2 wants to bring the leftovers for lunch tomorrow, never mind that the shrimp paste smell might scare off his classmates. :-)

I didn't really use a recipe but just improvised as a I went along. I have a bunch of kaffir lime leaves in the freezer. The leaves freeze extremely well, which works out because you only really need a few leaves at a time. I also freeze ginger slices (usually 5-6 slices in a tiny ziplock bag) so that I always have some on hand. Next time, I'm going to try freezing lemongrass and see whether the flavor holds up.

Lemongrass Chicken with Shrimp Paste

500 grams chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch strips
3 stalks lemongrass, cut into 1 inch pieces (white parts only)
1/2 tsp. chili flakes
6 slices ginger
1 tsp. chopped garlic
3 green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 bunch sitaw (snake/long beans), cut into 2 inch pieces
2 asian eggplants, sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds
3 heaping tsp. bagoong (shrimp paste) -- I used Barrio Fiesta
1/4 cup water
3 tbsp. oyster sauce
2 tbsp. sweet chili sauce
handful of whole thai basil leaves

1. Heat about 2 tbsp. oil in a pan/wok.

2. When oil is very hot, add garlic, ginger, chili flakes, green onions and lemongrass.

3. Saute for about a minute then add chicken pieces. Spread chicken over bottom of pan and don't touch for a minute or two.

4. Add in the beans and eggplant.

5. Put in kaffir lime leaves, oyster sauce and shrimp paste. Saute everything together.

6. Add water and chili sauce. Mix.

7. Cover for a 3-4 minutes to let veggies cook.

8. Remove cover. Add in basil leaves and sesame oil.

9. Stir just until everything comes together.

10. Serve with hot jasmine rice.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

We were also celebrating the first piano recital of the 2 boys, so I thought a very special meal was in order :-)

The steaks were seasoned with Barberian's steak seasoning and seared in a cast iron skillet, 4-6 minutes per side. The lobsters were simply boiled in a huge pot of water for about 15 minutes. The potatoes were baked in the convection oven for about 45 minutes. We had some drawn butter and lemon/lime wedges for the lobster and some sour cream and chives for the potato. To drink, it was a bottle of Cab Merlot.

It was awesome. The lobster fat was so creamy, we groaned with every delectable bite. The steak provided a salty, meaty counterpoint to the richness of the lobster. And to top it all off, we had warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Oh, caloric nirvana!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Penne with Chicken

I have a small herb planter hanging on our fence. Having it inspires me to be more creative about using herbs in cooking. Plus, it's so convenient to have the herbs right outside, ready for picking. And, having an herb garden makes me feel more "Martha Stewart-ish." Right now, I have 3 kinds of basil, italian parsley, chives, thyme, rosemary, and mint.

The picture above showes some italian parsley, globe basil and small leaf basil that I picked for our dinner. I got home late so it had to be a quick one. So I looked at what I had on hand and this is the dish I came up with.

Penne with Chicken

450 grams penne pasta, cooked and drained
2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
steak seasoning
5 strips bacon, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp. chopped garlic
1/2 tsp. chili flakes
200-250 grams sliced mushrooms
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
8-12 grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1-2 cups baby spinach
a handful of parsley and basil, chopped
freshly cracked black pepper
grated cheese for garnish (I had some Manchego so I used that)

1. Cook bacon until crisp. Set aside. Drain most of bacon fat from pan, reserving about 1 tbsp.

2. Season chicken breasts with steak seasoning and pan fry in same pan. This takes about 5 minutes per side. I cook the chicken until the outside is very brown. I find this add so much to the final flavor of the dish.

3. Remove chicken to a cutting board and slice into 1/4 inch pieces. Set aside

4. In the same pan, add olive oil, garlic and chili flakes. Saute until garlic is soft.
5. Add mushrooms, peppers, and tomatoes. Cook til veggies are soft but not mushy.

6. Add in chopped herbs, sliced chicken plus all the juices, and bacon bits. Season with salt and pepper.

7. Add pasta, baby spinach and cheese. Toss until everything comes together. The heat of the pasta will wilt the spinach.

Finished product...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Porkchops bistek-style

I miss calamansi. Bistek is not the same, pancit is incomplete and nilaga with lemon and patis just isn't quite right. But nonetheless, we need to make do with what we have, so here goes.

Bistek (Pork version)

-- I know, I know. Bistek means beef, but I only had porkchops in the fridge.

8 porkchops (about 1/2 inch thick) or 500g thinly sliced beef
1/2 cup dark soy sauce
2 tbsp. kikkoman soy sauce
juice of 1-2 lemons (depends on how sour you like it and how big the lemons are)
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. worcestershire sauce

1 large sweet onion, sliced into rings
2 tbsp. oil

1. Marinate meat in the next 6 ingredients for about an hour then drain well. Set marinade aside.
2. In a pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Cook the onions until lightly caramelized. Set aside.
3. In the same pan, cook porkchops in 2 batches, letting each batch brown well before cooking the next.
4. Once both batches are browned, return meat to pan, add the marinade and simmer for about 15 minutes.
5. Add the onions last and simmer for a few minutes more.
6. Done! Quick and easy :-)

Note: Some soy sauces are saltier than others.
Suggestion: Taste your marinade before putting the meat in. Adjust accordingly.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Beef with Broccoli

Surprisingly, my 2 sons LOVE broccoli. And other cruciferous vegetables too. I've fed them cauliflower, kale, rapini, broccolini, chinese broccoli, broccoflower, bok choy, cabbage, watercress, and even the dreaded brussel sprouts. They will eat them all! In fact, among Son #2's favorite foods is kale. Weird, no?

Stir fried beef with broccoli, because it's a complete meal in itself (with rice of course), is a staple recipe in our household. The thing about today's version is that...

...the hubby cooked it! Yes, my husband, whose culinary skill is limited to frying Spam, actually cooked. Of course I did most of the prep work like slicing the beef. But his first foray into cooking was a resounding success :-) Sa uulitin! Hehe!

Beef with Broccoli

300-400 grams flank steak, sliced across the grain into thin pieces
2 tbsp chinese cooking wine
3 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp pepper

1/2 cup beef broth
4-5 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar

2 heads broccoli, cut into florets

2 tbsp oil
4 slices ginger
1 tsp chopped garlic
3 stalks green onion, chopped into 2 inch pieces

1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tsp water
sesame oil

1. Marinate beef in next 3 ingredients for abour 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, parboil broccoli. We use a microwave broccoli steamer. Make sure not to over cook.
3. Mix the ingredients for the sauce together. Set aside.
4. In a stir fry pan (I use a wok but I let hubby use a non-stick pan--less tricky to work with), heat 2 tbsp oil. When hot, put in garlic, ginger and green onions. Saute for about a minute.
5. Put in beef. Spread around pan to let it caramelize a bit. Don't touch for about a minute then start sauteeing with the aromatics.
6. Once the beef is no longer pink, add broccoli and sauce mixture.
7. When the sauce comes to a boil, add in the cornstarch mixture and cook until the sauce thickens.
8. Add a few drops of sesame oil to finish the dish.

This dish comes together in no time at all. The only thing is that you have to work fast because you're going to be working with high heat. Such is the beauty of stir-fry. It's quick, easy, relatively healthful and delicious. Plus, you can let your husband do it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Korean Beef Stew

One of my favorite food court places is Kimchi, that Korean stall that's been around forever. I remember as a child, my lola would pick me up from school, we'd then pick up my brother and we would all head straight to Greenhills for merienda. Beside Unimart, where all the tiangges now are, there used to be a food court. And Kimchi was one of the stalls. I remember always being torn between the beef stew and the beef bbq. Such were the decisions I had to make in my childhood :-)

After Kimchi, it was a scoop of Coney Island ice cream for dessert. My favorites were New York, New York and Mandarin Orange Royale. My brother would choose between Grape Cordial and Bubble Gum.

I look back now and I can't believe we would eat all of that for an afternoon snack! No wonder we're all "not slim"...

Anyways, I've tried my hand at Korean beef stew several times in the past, but this, I think, is my favorite recipe. The broiling step makes a huge difference.

Korean Beef Stew

1 kilo beef ribs, cut into 2 inch cubes
2 cups water
1 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup dark brown sugar
6 slices ginger
10 cloves garlic
6-8 green onion stalks, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp. sesame oil
sesame seeds, toasted
chili flakes (optional)

In a heavy pot, simmer ribs in the next 7 ingredients until tender. If you're using chili flakes, this would be the time to add it too. This step takes about 2 hours. Just make sure the liquid doesn't all evaporate. If the liquid runs low, just keep adding water so that the pot doesn't dry out.

Once the ribs are tender, take them out, drain well and put them on a baking sheet or broiler pan. Broil for about 5-10 minutes until you get some dry, crisp spots. Flip and broil another 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, reduce the sauce until thick and syrupy. Put the meat back in and simmer for a few minutes more, just until all the meat gets wet again. Drizzle with sesame oil and sesame seeds. Serve with lots of rice, kimchi and blanched bean sprouts drizzled with sesame oil.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Capelin fish

In Manila, one of regular haunts was a Japanese resto in Makati called Izakaya Kikufuji. They had a dish called shishamo -- grilled whole female smelts bursting with roe. It wasn't exactly a cheap dish (I think it was P200 for 5 0r 6 pieces) so having it was a treat.

Apparently, the smelt or capelin fish is caught off the shores of the Canadian east coast. And so here in TO, they are pretty easy to find. I buy the capelin fish in the asian grocery and fry them up. Frying makes the fish delectably crunchy and allows you to eat the entire thing. Head, fins, tail and all. All the fried fish needs is a sprinkling of kosher salt and a tomato-onion-balsamic vinegar salad on the side...

Buttermilk Pancakes

Once you've made pancakes from scratch, you can never go back to using a ready-made mix. The little bit of extra effort is worth it! This pancake recipe produces fluffy, non-cakey pancakes. One recipe makes about 12.

Buttermilk pancakes

2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
3 c. buttermilk
4 tbsp. melted butter

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients, preferably using a whisk. Mix just until ingredients are incorporated. Do not attempt to make the batter look smooth. It will have lumps and that's ok.

Alton Brown says you should count to ten when mixing pancake batter. Once you reach ten, stop. That way the flour doesn't develop its gluten and you won't end up with bread-like pancakes. I take his advice to heart. Alton Brown rocks!

Turbo Chicken

Sometimes simple is best. Take "turbo chicken" for instance. This is our favorite way of cooking chicken. Nothing beats a butterflied chicken, seasoned generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, cooked in a "turbo broiler". I like it with Jufran, worcestershire and sriracha. Hubby uses tabasco instead of sriracha, Son #1 just has Jufran plus worcestershire, and Son #2 eats his with Heinz tomato ketchup.

The final product, a golden brown chicken with perfectly crisp skin, reminds me of Max's Fried Chicken. So good!!!

How to cook: Butterfly chicken, season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Cook in turbo at 200 degrees Celsius, skin side down for 25-30 minutes. Flip over and cook another 20-25 minutes until golden. Trust me, this recipe is foolproof!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Squid ink pasta

Don't you just love the way the redness of the tomatoes contrasts with the dark, inky strands of pasta? A sprinkling of green from the parsley and basil provides just the right accent. So simple, yet so stunning.

Squid Ink Pasta with Shrimp and Tomatoes

1 package of squid ink pasta, cooked as directed

1/2 c olive oil, preferably extra virgin

2 heaping tsp. chopped garlic

3-4 slices of bacon or pancetta, chopped

1/2 tsp. chili flakes

400 g peeled shrimp

16-20 pcs. grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

handful of parsley or basil or a combination of both, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan, heat olive oil and saute pancetta (or bacon) until almost brown. Add in garlic and chili flakes. Saute until garlic is very slightly brown. Put in shrimp and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until shrimp is opaque and tomatoes are slightly wilted but not mushy. Turn off flame. Add chopped parsley and/or basil.

Put drained pasta into pan. Toss with the "sauce" until well-blended.

Ooohh, I think I will submit this for Presto Pasta Nights...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Cornmeal Almond Biscotti

Perfect with a cup of coffee or even as a small mid-afternoon snack on its own, this biscotti was inspired by a Judy Rogers recipe from Zuni cafe.

1 1/4 c. whole almonds
1/2 c. cold butter
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Toast almonds x 10-12 minutes then cool. Meanwhile, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Stir until dough comes together. Mix in almonds until evenly distributed. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment, form dough into 2 "logs" about 4 inches wide and 1 inch thick. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool.

When the biscotti logs are cool enough to handle, slice diagonally into 1/2 inch thich slices. Return to cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Turn slices over and bake another 6-8 minutes.

Many biscotti recipes will say that you must use a serrated knife to slice the cookie. I actually find that with this recipe and the whole nuts (which I LOVE), it's easier to use a very sharp chef's knife. I use a firm, almost chopping motion straight down, rather than a sawing, back and forth motion. I've never had a problem with crumbling using this method.

First attemts: sisig, cupcakes, and pad thai

Wanting to expand my present culinary repertoire, I've been experimenting on new dishes for the past week or so. Some were successful (sisig and cupcakes) and some, well, not so much (pad thai).

I found pigs ears at the chinese grocery 2 weeks ago, which became my inspiration to finally attempt sisig for the first time. So I pressure cooked the ears with whole peppercorns, garlic, onion, salt, a slice of ginger and a couple of bay leaves and chopped them up once they were soft.

Then, I pureed liver in a food processor and proceeded to saute that with onion and chili flakes (subbing for sili). Once the liver was no longer pink, I put in the chopped ears along with some beef broth, knorr, and lots of freshly ground black pepper. I simmered the entire thing until almost dry.

I then heated my cast iron skillet, poured in the entire mixture, topped it with crumbled chicharon and more chopped onion. I served it with more knorr, lemon (how I wish we had calamansi) and tabasco. Yum!!!

After such a yummy meal, I thought...ok, let's bake something. And because cupcakes have been en vogue recently, I decided to try that. I used a vanilla cupcake recipe with vanilla buttercream icing, which I tinted pink. And here's a picture of the final product...

It was ok. Not mind-blowing. But good. I made a second batch using mini cupcake containers and used a recipe for sour cream pound cake topped with 7-minute frosting, which I again tinted pink. It was MUCH better. Son #2's comment: It's really good, mom. But does it always have to be pink?

My third experiment was Pad Thai. I'd had success with yellow curry and green curry before, so I thought, why not? I followed Beth Romualdez's recipe from her cookbook. The boys weren't impressed. :-P

Looked ok to me, and I thought is was passable. But Son #1 and Son #2 didn't. In fact, after "dinner " Son #1 had a ham sandwich on rye and Son #2 had pate on toast. I guess Pad Thai won't be making a come back in our household menu.

Oh well...

Sour Cream Pound Cake

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/8 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. lemon extract or lemon zest

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs. Mix in baking soda with flour. Add flour mixture and sour cream alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the extracts.

At this point you could bake the cake in a 9x5 inch cake pan or in cupcake containers. You could also double the recipe and bake in a tube/bundt pan. For the cake, bake at 350 degrees x 40-45 minutes or 1 hour if doubling the recipe. For cupcakes, bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until cake is very slightly golden on top and a cake tester comes out clean.

This cake freezes extremely well!


I woke up one morning with a hankering for canonigo. The one I used to have in Sugarhouse. Canonigo with mango balls. Mmmm. So I figured, it can't be that hard. Eggs whites and sugar for the meringue plus egg yolks and milk for the custard...and voila!



Dissolve 1 cup of sugar in 1/2 cup of water. Boil until golden in color. Pour into baking container to coat all sides. I used individual custard cups, but a tube or bundt pan would work too.


Beat 8 egg whites with 1/2 cup sugar and 1tsp. baking powder until stiff. Transfer meringue into baking container and bake in a bain marie at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.


Over a double boiler, combine 8 egg yolks, 1 and 1/2 cups of milk, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla. Mix constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

To assemble:

Unmold meringue onto serving dish. Be careful because the caramel may be hot. Pour custard beside or on top of meringue. You may serve mango slices or fresh berries on the side.

Liege waffles

My parents-in-law fell in love and got married in a small chapel in Louvain, Belgium. They often spoke of waffles that were sold in street stands and were eaten as midday snacks. Starbucks in Manila sells these sweet treats as Belgian Pegi Waffles and I loved having them with my coffee back home.

I searched Toronto high and low but alas could not find these slightly crunchy, slightly chewy, slightly sweet, and oh so delicious little morsels of waffle heaven. So, I decided to make my own...

Belgian/Liege Waffles

Batter 1:
4 tsp. instant dry yeast
1/4 cup water
1 cup all purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup warm milk

Batter 2:
8 tbsp. butter, room temp
6 tbsp. all purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tbsp. sugar
3/4 cup pearl sugar

Make batter 1.
1. Dissolve yeast in water, 1 tbsp of flour and sugar.
2. Let stand for 5 minutes.
3. Make well in remaining flour, add in yeast mix, egg and milk.
4. Mix and let rise until double or triple in volume.

Meanwhile, make batter 2.
Mix butter, flour, salt, vanilla, baking powder and sugars.

Mix batter 1 and 2.

Heat Belgian waffle maker until good and hot. I use a Cuisinart 4-waffle Belgian waffle maker (mine is an older model though) and I put about 1/4 cup of batter per square. The waffles come out roundish, which is how they're supposed to look anyway. For my waffle maker, I cook each batch at power number 4 for 4 minutes.

The waffles taste best on the day they're made but keep for a day at room temperature. They may also be frozen and reheated in a toaster.