Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Attempt in Pastry | My first Chocolate Cake

To be honest, pastry (or baking in general) is not my cup of tea. But I am giving myself an opportunity to learn the basics.

First off, I started buying all the needed baking implements, and invested on it like a pro (I bought the non-stick pans instead of the common aluminum pans and it drained my credit card!). The books I bought few months back were good signs that I am now ready to explore this field in culinary. Baking is too foreign to me as I don’t have any idea on how and what to do. Believe me, I started form scratches. Nobody was beside me to give me advises; and I explored the gas oven just like what I did when I first touched my MacBook Air. Good thing my books provided me full-colored photos of the step-by-step procedures that made me feel at home in baking. And of course, my warmest appreciation goes to my landlady who provided me the entire canteen kitchen for my baking experimentations nightly.

And what could be the most fitting recipe to try for baking is of course the chocolate cake. Who doesn’t want a chocolate cake for a first attempt in making cake?

Pasta | Casarecce in Fresh Tomato Sauce

Now that we have prepared the fresh-from-Carbon tomatoes, it is time to make a fresh sauce for our pasta! Minimized using the processed one as you aren’t sure what chemicals are mixed to preserve it.
(Here's how to prep your tomatoes for making fresh tomato sauce)

Let’s just make a simple pasta, and make use some of the stuff you stock in your pantry. And of course, this dish goes a long way if we will use fresh herbs!

Here’s what you need:

A kilo of blanched, peeled, seeded and quartered tomatoes
A few celery stalks, chopped
1 medium red onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste
Black olives, sliced
Sprigs of sweet Italian Basil (I used the Thai basil here since it’s available in my garden)
Freshly-grind peppercorns
Muscovado sugar
Olive oil
6-8 pieces shrimps, deveined (head part set aside)

How To | Prepping up fresh tomato for your pasta sauce

Tomato (Lycopersicom esculentum, or Solanum lycopersicom) is an edible red fruit originated in South America. It is consumed in variety of ways, either cooked, or eaten raw, as a vegetable, in salads, in juices and in sauces. According to, tomatoes contain Lycopene, one of the most powerful antioxidants. Lycopene has been found to prevent prostrate cancer, improve the skin’s ability to protect against harmful UV Rays.

I always have a bias when it comes to tomatoes. I love it when it’s fresh. One early Sunday morning when I visited Carbon Public Market, my attention was glued to the ripe bright red tomatoes displayed along the street. You know it’s freshly picked from the farm because the skin glistens in the morning sun and it is firm when you hold it. I bought a kilo without any hesitation. Aside from it's cheap when you buy at at wet market, who can resist the bright red color that stands out amongst the fresh produce of the day? My mind is playing already what’s the best way to prepare the tomatoes. Pasta!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Flat Bread | Herbed Focaccia

I told myself if I were to bake my first bread, it should be Focaccia. My love for pasta makes me crave for this flatbread. This bread is always a perfect accompaniment for pasta or as a starter.

Focaccia (pronounced as foh-ka-cha) is a flat oven-baked Italian bread, similar in style and texture of pizza but not considered as pizza. It may be topped with your favorite herbs, meats or other ingredients. It is usually seasoned with salt and olive oil.

I have adapted this recipe from my favorite Yummy magazine November 2011 issue as well as from my baking bible book ‘Baking.’ Instead of flour, I used the whole wheat type and add some black olives and fresh rosemary leaves.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Gardening | Two Space Saving “Eco” Garden Ideas

Knowing these two “pwede diay” (can be) ideas leaves us no reason not to make our own herb garden at home. Spotted in Cebu’s metro are these brilliant do-it-yourself gardens that maximizes your space as well as make use of some recyclable materials. You are not just helping our environment but it also cools down your home space and gives you all-year round of fresh pluck-as-you-want herbs and other spices for your cooking!

1. Hang It Container Garden

Take a soda PET bottle, cut it half on middle to divide it into two portions.  Invert upside down the cap side and insert it on the bottom potion. Voila, you already have a makeshift planting container! Make a hole on both the left and the right side, insert a rope and use this to hang anywhere in your home. For drainage, make a hole on the cap, as well as holes on the sides of the bottom portion. All you need is some organic compost and a seedling then you already have your own hanging garden. The good thing with this is, you can easily move it anywhere you want it. Next time, you better think twice before throwing those plastic bottles!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I Love Weekend | Early Market Trip and Salads

Just for the lack of it, I am naming this salad this way.

Yesterday, after a few rounds of jogging with my team mates in Cebu Business Park Phase 3, and a round of Coach Jim Saret’s 4-minute workout plus an additional “50 workout” , I headed to Carbon Public Market to see what’s in store for me that early Saturday morning. This is me, I find going to any public market an exciting travel. I’m very much eager to see fresh produces, and it always awes me. I am a proud son of a farmer, and this I think is the reason why I have a soft spot in my heart for farming and farmers, and for fresh produces.

An Ode to the Magnificent Moringa | Pasta in Kamunggay Pesto

This dish shows again my deep love for anything pasta. This time, the usual pesto is enhance with malunggay leaves, making it more nutritious.  This green paste of crushed fresh basil leaves, pine nuts and oilve oil is more related to the Italians, but we will adapt it and make it our very own Pinoy pasta paste. 

For this twist, we will still use the sweet Italian basil and we will add half the volume of the kamunggay leaves. For me, pesto will never be a pesto without this herb so better use  any amount of basil. Instead of pine nuts, I used cashew nuts, with just the same effect. For purists and wanted to use pine nuts,  you can buy some in any deli shops around the metro.

An Ode to the Magnificent Moringa | Kamunggay Pod Soup

I’d like to start this post with a quote from an online article the

“Other studies have shown that eating malunggay fruits can lead to higher semen count. This is good news for men who are having problems in siring children. They can now count on the malunggay to cork its magic on them.”

Kamunggay fruits can be eaten? It’s a big Y-E-S. Sad to say, I haven’t seen anyone in Cebu's Carbon Public Market selling these fruit pods, but back in our hometown General Santos City, you can see it being sold in anywhere. Why go to public markets if you have those malunggay trees with hard branches already fruiting?
And to eat these pods is almost entirely a different experience, just like eating crabs where you need to crack the shells before you get to taste the sweet spot, but this does not even need a skill: you just have to slide down the fruit starting from the tip going to the other side, extracting only the “meat” part using your front teeth and discarding the “bagasse” or “pulp” just like eating a sugar cane (oh again, it brings back childhood memories, all the fun summer days in the farm!). Well, there is not that much we can eat from these pods, but the soup is actually the star of this dish. Let's cook it and tell me why.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

An Ode to the Magnificent Moringa | Kamunggay Almond Cupcakes

Let’s give your usual cupcakes a healthy twist with the addition of Kamunggay. And to make it more healthy, you can replace  whole eggs with just the egg whites (remove those deadly yolk folks!), the brown sugar with muscovado, and try to reduce its quantity. The recipe here calls for 2 cups sugar but in actual, I baked my cupcakes with 1 and ½ cups sugar. For eggs, I used egg whites of 8 pieces eggs ( I assume egg white is ½ of the entire egg composition, based on gut feel and visual comparison, hahaha, I therefore conclude my being civil engineer is so useful even in baking!)

I haven’t tried replacing canola oil with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I think this will work best since we will use it only for baking and its properties will not be altered that much and will not give a different effect to your end product.  For the vegetables, I used 1:1 ratio of carrots and Kamunggay leaves, or you can also use spinach and squash but please limit the use of at least two vegetables or else you don't want your cupcakes be like utan bisaya, less the soup!

Why Kamunggay is the Wonder Vegetable

I grew up relishing chicken tinola (chicken in ginger and lemongrass soup, with green papaya) that is never complete without these small dark green leaves floating in the soup, sometimes clinging on plates and utensils. Us Cebuanos, the merry mix of vegetables in utan bisaya is made more nutritious with the addition of this leaves, or sometimes in fish soups slightly soured by kamias. These mighty green leaves go well with other vegetables, in different dishes and in different cooking styles. The tree is ubiquitous; you can notice almost all household have at least one tree growing in their backyard. This is our Kamunggay (Malunggay or Moringa Oleifera), very ordinary vegetable known to many but only few has realized its wondrous potential.  What malunggay can do more is unknown to many.

According to Loren Legarda in an article written in Lifestyle section, malunggay is exceptionally good source of provitamin A, Vitamin B and C, minerals (iron in particular) and sulphur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine. The Biotechnology Program Office of Department of Agriculture mentioned in an article written in, malunggay has been found by biochemist and molecular anthropologists to be rich in Vitamins C and A and high density lipoprotein and good cholesterol. It has 4 times the calcium content of milk the reason why most lactating mothers in our country are advised to eat this vegetable. Gram for gram, the leaves contain two times the protein in milk, 3 times the potassium in bananas and four times the vitamin A in carrots. Health nutritionist claims that an ounce of malunggay has the same vitamin content of 7 oranges. An important function of Vitamin C not known to many is its being antioxidant.

The Tale of Two Muffins | Cheezy Ham ‘n Chive Muffins

(Last of the two parts series)

I had a lot of chives from my previous Thai cooking session and it is very impractical and unreasonable if I will just throw it away or let it rot in my cute little fridge in few days. Inspired from the success of my previous kitchen experimentation on making Iba as an alternative to blueberry for that sweet-tart muffin, this time I will be making something savory out of supposedly throw-away herb.

There are a lot of variations to make a muffin. For a savory one, I chose the classic pairing of ham and cheese. The chives in this muffin create a mild garlicky-onion flavor that goes very well with the ham and cheese. If Skyflakes has onion and chives flavored crackers, in my assumption it will do well with the muffin. This herb is best for those who loathes eating  garlic and onions.

The Tale of Two Muffins | Iba Muffins

(First of the two part series)

If the west has this famous sweet-tart blueberry muffins, why don’t we came up with the same muffins filled with sweet-tart Pinoy fruits in season? This is the reason why I thought of something so homegrown, something so unique and new. My adventurous mind came up with this wild idea: why not the lowly IBA (or Kamias in tagalog) for my very first baked muffins!

After office, I bought few ingredients, which are not available in my pantry. On my way home, I passed by our neighbor’s kamias tree whose branches are jutting down the road (you can see this tree growing anywhere!). There were decaying fruits on the ground and I believe no one has ever paid attention to this fruit tree. On the branches were clusters of shiny green fruits; the tree has been bearing fruits profusely. In Cebuano cooking, Iba is used commonly in soups and stews as souring agent. This time, we will use this fruit for baking!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Thai Cooking | Tom Yum Goong

It’s typhoon season once again and nothing beats a cold rainy night than a bowl of a piping hot soup. Of among the many soup we have, Sinigang, be it seafood or meat, occupies a special place in our heart. It has been our national all-time favorite, and each region displays uniqueness in how much level of sourness it can take and what souring agent it uses. The dish is simple and the flavor is straightforward, but it differs in myriad ways on how it is concocted. Sinigang, as Chef Amy Besa said in her book Memories of Philippine Kitchens, is a food that was always ours along with Adobo and Kinilaw, and all the three dishes share the same acid component, which is one of the basic element of Filipino taste.

The Pinoy’s Sinigang is closely related to Thailand’s Tom Yum. I am delighted to know that even we are a long time colony of Spain, Japan and US, we are indeed Asian in our roots and it is evident that we share some recipes with our Asian neighbors. Our Sinigang is basic and simple; the Thai’s Tom Yum is more than that. Imagine a basic sinigang, add herbs and the contrasting flavors of sweet and salty, add some kick of spice. There’s cocomilk to balance out and to temper the flavors, and instead of vegetables, add some mushrooms and fresh herbs.

Interesting Find | Danao's “Hebi Fruit"

Yesterday was Pasigarbo sa Sugbo, another milestone annual event I failed to watch (just like Sinulog) in my five years of stay here in Cebu. Good thing I was able to catch the last day of One Cebu Expo in Cebu International Convention Center this morning. And just like my favorite hangout places (palengke and supermarkets), flea market is the next on the list. Glad I met some owners who tend organic gardens and sells culinary herbs (check my next post), but one thing that amazed me is this fruit displayed in the booth of Danao City.

This is my first encounter with "Hebi." The size is like your average green mangoes, and it tastes like a crossover between a green mango and guava. It does not have the tartness of the mango but it is much enjoyed dipped in rock salt when eaten. It has the same "crunch" as that of freshly picked green mango when eaten. According to the locals who manned the booth, this fruit tree is only found in Danao City. When I asked them if this is used in local culinary, they've mentioned it is used as souring agent for tinuwa (clear fish soup) and inun-unan (paksiw) , and even kinilaw (raw fish salad cooked in vinegar).

Closely looking at the picture, it resembles sineguelas (Spanish Plum). Note the shiny skin and the green lines running from tip to tip that somewhat divides the fruit into quarters. And the sour taste even resembles that of an unripe sineguelas fruit.
I bought two pieces at P5.00 each (that cheap!). At home, I cleaned, skinned and sliced it just like when you are slicing a green mango. The flesh is more of a creamy yellow, with a hard pith at the core, I suspect the seeds (but could not find any that resemble as its seed). The flesh is not as fibrous as that of mango, but the pith has remarkable overgrown strong fibers. I carefully removed the hard inner core and indulge on this new-found fruit.  

This is how the seedling looks like, note the leaves resembles that of a Neem Tree (Azadirachta Indica), pointed and shiny. It grows as big as mango trees.

When the seedling was introduced to me, I suspected I have eaten the fruit back when I was in my hometown in Gensan. The tree has the same leaves as shown in the photo, but the fruits are just my thumb's size, grows in bundles, and does not grow as big as the Hebi Fruit

Quite interesting, hope anyone can tell me what fruit tree is this one. I couldn't find any material related to this posted online.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thai Cooking | Phad Thai

 I am fond of eating anything pasta or noodles. And I love Thai dishes. What would you feel if two of your most loved foods, the one closest to your heart (and stomach) is served to you in one plate? The result is sublime ecstasy, just like a pill that numbs your senses and boosts your state of wellbeing. That is how I described my plateful encounter with that strange “pansit” and I fell in love with it the very first time I ate it.

What I love most about Phad Thai is its “strange” mix of sweet-salty-sour savory flavors I thought would never complement…so complex yet you don’t have to understand it fully to appreciate its taste. I love how that strange flavors tickled my buds, and the playful mix of textures: long-chewy-tender glass noodles, crunchy fresh bean sprouts, soft silken tofu and eggs and the graininess of crushed peanuts. I told myself if I were to cook my first Thai dish, it will be Phad Thai. Sure enough I did. And I am more than happy with my kitchen experimentation: I got the flavors I wanted: fresh, light yet complex, and I can say almost authentic since I have no less than the Thai cook judged my first output.

Phad Thai is considered as Thailand’s national dish, and is known in the world over. It is ubiquitous in Thai’s streetfood scene (how I love to be in Bangkok soon!)

Thai Kitchen Essentials | Eight Pantry and Garden must-haves for Thai Cooking

My love for spices and growing herbs had me easily fell in love with our neighboring country’s cuisine, specifically Thailand. I have tried almost all Asian restaurants in the city and kept coming back, declaring it as my newest comfort food.  I am blessed to have been exposed to Thai cooking, and got to eat Thai dishes at least once a day – thanks to the small community of Thai students living in our apartment and a small canteen that serves authentic Thai dishes (yes, we have a Thai cook!). I have noticed too that through the years the Asian section of Cebu supermarkets kept on improving, giving quite a good space for Thai ingredients.

You can cook your own Thai dishes as long as you know the basic principle of balancing disparate tastes that defines the unique Thai flavor: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and spicy. The ingredients are locally available, aside from few main staples that are only found in that country. The combining of flavors may look complex and ingredients too foreign, but learning these basics will make your next journey to Asian restaurant a bit comforting and familiar.

The following are the essential ingredients used in any Thai cooking:

1.  Lemon Grass, or tanglad in our local dialect. Ever wonder where the local restaurant led by Urbinas got their name? This is the most ubiquitous among all Thai ingredients, being used in soups, stir-fry, salads, and even teas and beverages. The stalks are thinly sliced or chopped and pounded, or sometimes bruised or crushed to release the distinct citrusy aroma. The leaves are used for soups while the stalks are for stews and salads, just like how we use it when we cook our tinuwa, discarding the leaves when serving.

Lemon grass is always available in our local supermarkets. You may find them rolled and bundled. This is also available in my potted garden, making sure I always have a fresh supply of tanglad when needed.

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