Category Archives: Kulinarya Cooking Club

Kulinarya Cooking Club: Maligayang Bati at Manigong Bagong Taon edition

Happy Lunar New Year, folks! Once again, I dropped off the face of the earth, but at least I’m re-emerging to post for this month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club challenge. It would be extra embarrassing if I didn’t participate this time around, too, as Pearl of Sassy Chef and I were the two bloggers hosting this challenge!

The KCC challenge for January that the two of us cooked up was this one:
This month’s theme is a celebration– of good health and of new beginnings!
Words and Nosh’s big 3-0 is this month, so we dreamed up a birthday challenge:
What dish (entree, dessert, drink, merienda, whatever!) do you always request,
or wish you could have, for your birthday?

As a twist, how would you modify the dish to make it more healthy? It’s the new
year, after all, and it’s time to get back on track with good eating habits! You
can make your dish vegetarian/vegan, lower fat, dairy-free, low sugar or however
else you want, so long as it’s a little bit healthier for your body and the
planet!

I had every intention of posting earlier, but alas, since it actually was my birthday last week, I’ve been out and about, with no time to even think about cooking! Finally, though, I got it together and whipped up my own take on rellenong bangus (stuffed milkfish) with sauteed kangkong (water spinach), one of my favorite dishes. Not only is it easy to make, healthy, and delicious, but also pretty enough to serve for a special celebration.

 

Now, you’ll notice first off that the fish I’m using here isn’t bangus at all, nor is the green vegetable kangkong. In keeping with the theme of the month, and with my general outlook on eating and cooking with local, sustainable, and organic ingredients as much as possible, I branched out a bit; I preserved the essence of the Filipino flavors but switched the ingredients up a bit. Moreover, I tried to reduce the oils and sodium as much as possible so the typical post-Filipino meal swelling wouldn’t plague me again!

Between Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and the local farmers market, I was able to source all the ingredients for the meal. Though organic is often synonymous with overpriced, by sticking to in-season ingredients and whole fish (instead of fillets), the total check was <$20 to serve 2 people. [The rice, garlic, patis, and shallots were already in my pantry so that doesn’t count!]. I’d like to think I honored Ilokano frugality by keeping the cost low!

For the fish stuffing, I mixed up the following:

  • 4 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1 shallot (thinly sliced)
  • small handful macadamia nuts (chopped, in lieu of traditional pili nuts)
  • 1-2 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 tbsp. patis (fish sauce)
  • roughly 1/3 cup cherry tomatoes (coursely chopped)

 

Then I simply stuffed it into two dressed rainbow trout, along with halved small Mexican limes (kinda calamansi like, though not exactly the same), cilantro, and some green onions. To the outside of the trout, I squeezed some more lime, sprinkled a little sea salt and pepper, and a very light spray of olive oil spray.

I then baked the fish in a 400 degree oven for 20 mins, to make sure it was all cooked through but not dried out.

[An important aside on the fish: I decided to go with rainbow trout over the other whole fish available at Whole Foods not only because it was the most cheaply priced ($6.99/lb. with these two fish coming in just under one lb.) but because farmed rainbow trout is listed as a “best choice” fish by the Seafood Watch Program. That means that it is the most sustainable choice, that commits less environmental and ecological harm than other species and sources of fish. I strongly recommend that you check out Seafood Watch– they have printable cards and even smartphone apps to help you make better seafood choices when shopping or eating out.]

While the fish was baking, I prepped and cooked the greens, which were actually broccoli rabe and not kangkong. I was actually surprised at how much the rabe reminded me of kangkong in this meal, the flavors went so well with the fish.

For the broccoli rabe, you simply wash and shake out (but not fully dry off)  a large bunch of the rabe, and add to a pan where 3 minced garlic cloves have been sauteed in 1/4 cup of olive oil on med-low heat for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle red pepper flakes, sea salt, and some white pepper to taste and raise heat to med-high. Once temp is up, lower heat to medium and cover pan for about 5 minutes. The rabe should then cook itself down, the excess water from washing helping to steam it a bit. I removed the rabe when it was al dente, but you could cook it down more if you like!

 

It never happens usually, but somehow both the fish and the veggies cooked at the same time, so they were both perfectly hot and ready to serve in half an hour after I started cooking! With some steamed brown rice, it was a perfect way to end my weekend.

Hope you enjoyed my little cooking adventure, peeps! Will try to post again soon, but no promises…

 

Kulinarya Cooking Club: Philippine History Edition

In honor of of August and September being Philippine National Heroes Day and Ninoy Aquino Day, the lovely folks at the Kulinarya Cooking Club dreamed up a patriotically-themed challenge: to create a dish using the colors of the Philippine national flag of red, white, blue and yellow!

I think I pretty much stuck true to theme, though played it the easy way out this month, with my not-so-original take on halo-halo! Halo-halo, which means “mix mix” in Tagalog, is basically shave ice with extra tasty goodness in it. And despite the relative ease it takes to make this, I thought it an especially apt dessert dish to fit the challenge, and not just for the colors of the ingredients I chose to make my halo-halo with.

Like the Philippines itself, there are plenty of different colonial influences in halo-halo: the ice and condensed milk (thanks, Amerikkka, for those innovations); flavored jellies, in this case lychee and almond (Chinese); and the most decadent addition, leche flan (a recipe borrowed from our Spanish colonizers and made even better). Despite all these foreign additions, you’ve still got some wonderful indigenous Filipino fruits and legumes which are my favorite part of the halo-halo– the langka (jackfruit), ube jam (pretend it’s blue, for the challenge’s sake!), sweet red mungo (mung beans), and macapuno (young coconut strings). This mix of flavors is probably the most harmonious collaboration you’ll see between these different forces; sadly, the Philippines today hasn’t benefited economically, socially, or politically from their various “benefactors”, despite the propaganda written to the contrary.

After making the flan, which is the longest part of the process and done the night before, assembling the halo-halo is a snap.

1: Shave the ice. Surprisingly fun when you’ve got a home ice shaver like this one. Way better than the tiny Snoopy sno-cone shaver from my childhood.

2. Choose your toppings. (If I had more time and money, I would’ve prepped fresh ingredients but alas… it will have to wait another day.)

3. Drizzle condensed milk on top and voila! Serve and eat quickly before it all melts!

Enjoyed my little educational cooking demo? Well, if you want more Filipino food history from someone far more educated on this topic than I am, do I have a treat for you! Next Sunday, October 2nd, the food historian Felice Santa Maria and noted chef Claude Tayag will be traveling all the way from the Philippines to San Francisco for a free food demo and lecture at the Filipino American International Book Fair. I will definitely be in attendance, and hope to see y’all there!

Like White on Rice: June Kulinarya Cooking Club challenge

I’m back! After a crazy month and a half (school ending, fellowship writing, ankle cast on and off, and Lasik!), I’ve finally had the chance to begin enjoying my summer and cooking up a storm! Lately, it’s been a mostly liquid diet; after the mister and I came back from a fantastic May trip to New Orleans, where we sampled many amazing cocktails, we’ve been on a bit of a tear trying out new cocktail recipes at home. Still, one can’t be boozed up all the time (right?!), and I’ve been playing around with recipes, figuring out ways to make them healthier, with more organic and sustainable ingredients and so on.

This dish I just made today, however, isn’t any of those things. It’s rich, wasn’t sustainably sourced (remember what I said before, about ethnic groceries and organic food?), but damn if it wasn’t incredibly delicious:

I made this dish for this month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club challenge, which called for “white food.” There are few things I love more than fresh Jasmine rice and coconuts, and so this dish was perfect for it. Borrowing liberally from a recipe I saw a long time ago in The Adobo Book, here was my take on shrimp with sawsawang adobong gata (coconut adobo sauce).

The shrimp itself is super easy to prepare. While the recipe called for charcoal-grilled pandan-wrapped shrimp, necessity and time restrictions led me to simply pan-grilling the shrimp with liberal squirts of lemon (no calamansi either, natch).

For the adobo sauce, I basically got these ingredients

and cooked them all up together. First sauteeing the 5 cloves chopped garlic, small piece crushed luyang dilaw (turmeric), and 1 chopped red onion until translucent; then adding 2 chopped sili labuyo, 1/2 tsp bagoong alamang, 1 tbsp turbinado sugar, and a can of coconut cream (the fatty stuff!) and simmering until thick.

I bought about 1 1/2 lbs of prawns and had enough for two generous servings plus leftovers, so this recipe could serve four for a main entree if you added more side dishes. My tummy’s still full from this lunch, and next time I’m in the mood to bust my diet, this dish will definitely be high on the list!

 

 

(For more “white challenge” recipes from Kulinarya members, visit their websites linked here!)

My ugly duckling: the 2011 Brazo de Mercedes Experiment

Happy Easter, folks! I’m still stuffed from a huge Easter brunch / dinner party, and I hope you ate just as well today. Contrary to my most recent posts, I *do* still love writing about and cooking food, and have joined up with the Kulinarya Cooking Club as an extra motivation to push myself to try new-to-me Filipino food experiments.

This month’s theme, courtesy of Lala, was “decadence” and I immediately knew what I had to try my hand at making: Brazo de Mercedes (translated from Spanish as “Mercedes’s arm”). Don’t worry, there were no body parts involved in the preparation of this decadent dessert, though trying to cook and bake all day on a sprained ankle really was a painful bodily experience.

I didn’t have Brazo de Mercedes very often as a kid– this rich cake, basically a meringue sheet wrapped around yema or an egg custard, was pretty hard to find in the very puti neighborhoods of my youth. When I did come across it, though, I would always have to order it– the fluffy, sticky sweet meringue and the filling which was like a leche flan on steroids was simply too good to resist.

When a friend threw her annual birthday dinner party, and asked us all to bring a food item featuring some kind of citrus, I knew what I had to do: make a Brazo de Mercedes with a twist, adding Meyer lemons to make a filling akin to lemon curd.

Unfortunately, finding Meyer lemons proved to be impossible, but lemons from our home lemon tree and some extra sugar came to the rescue. Everything at first went really well. Our meringue sheet, which dear hubs mixed up in our Kitchenaid, came out beautifully:

And baked up perfectly brown and lovely. Basic meringue recipe (8 egg whites, 1 tsp. cream of tartar, 3/4 cup Caster sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla) on a slightly too-big 12×17 jelly roll plan:

When it came to filling, though, I began to run into some trouble. The “Filipino-American” cookbook I used diverged from the typical Brazo filling, asking for gelatin and whipping cream to be folded into the egg yolk/condensed milk mixture. That, plus the juice from the lemons I added, made this filling soooo runny. Even after cooling down in fridge and waiting for gelatin to set more, it wasn’t doing the trick. My poor Brazo had to be subjected to some plastic surgery to make it to the birthday party intact:

Even if it was a little whole lot uglier than the beautiful Brazos I remember, people still loved it, and I must admit the filling was delish, with the lemon lightening up the yema nicely.

I was going to just brush this sad experiment under the bridge, but then remembered we would have a second chance to make it again– for the Easter brunch we were invited to today. This time around, I turned to the queen of Filipino home cooking: Nora Daza. I followed her instructions to a T, and was feeling much better about this experiment. Sadly, this time too I was destined to have an ugly Brazo de Mercedes. The hubs got a little too over-zealous with the Kitchenaid mixer, and the meringue sheet didn’t rise, and my filling was still too runny, though not as much as before. My poor Brazo was the ugliest desert in the house, but at least she was delicious!

I’m not sure I’ll be trying this recipe again soon– it is a decadent recipe, after all– but if any of you are Brazo de Mercedes pros, please send along your tips! Now that I have these jelly roll plans, I think I want to bring back the old-school Filipino roll cakes of my youth– the mocha roll, buko pandan roll, and DEFINITELY the ube roll. Anyone want to be a taste tester for these upcoming experiments?

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