Friday, June 30, 2006

Recipe: Amaranth and Portabello Fettucine

I didn't take any measurements but I suspect this is a very forgiving recipe. I used green amaranth leaves which taste more like spinach than the purple ones. I'm glad my farm is overrun with 7 foot stalks of amaranth! The leaves are tasty, I'll be trying them in more recipes.

Amaranth leaves, stems removed and cut in about 1-inch pieces
portabello mushrooms, diced
garlic, chopped
Parmesan cheese

Saute mushrooms and garlic in butter. Add amaranth, stir until wilted. Set aside.

In the same pan, add flour and equal amount of butter to make a roux (approximately 1/2 tablespoon each for a sauce serving 2 persons). Slowly add some warmed milk and whisk until thickened. Add amaranth mixture.

Boil fettucine in salted water. Add pasta to creamy amaranth mixture and heat until very hot, mixing constantly. Stir in some cheese. At this point the sauce may get too thick, thin pasta sauce by adding some of the salted water.

*Cooked amaranth leaves contain about 8% protein, 4% carbohydrates and are rich in calcium, iron and vitamins B and C in higher concentrations that spinach. For example, only 47 g of cooked leaves contains 100% of the minimum daily requirement of Vitamin C.

Lasang Pinoy #11: Summertime Coolers & Memories of Summer

Cool drinks are what I love in the summer, especially coconut juice and drinks with coconut milk. A last hoorah for the end of summer...

I first had this drink when I was living in Boracay (yes, I was actually living on this beautiful island beach resort) about 10 years back. Gosh! Has it been that long? I lived in a cottage fronting the white sand beach for two sun-kissed years. I would have this drink in the late afternoons just before the sun begins to set. This is actually a Brazilian drink but uses ingredients easily and commonly used in the Philippines. If I didn't know better I'd think this was a Pinoy creation. I have an ex-boyfriend to thank for this one, he substituted Tanduay rum for cachaca in the original recipe . I think he's still lounging in Boracay...

1 13.5-0z can coconut cream
filtered water
approximately 2 shots Tanduay rum
6 tablespoons muscovado sugar
ice cubes

Shake coconut cream, rum, 1 can of water and sugar in a bottle until sugar dissolves.

Fill shaker with ice cubes and cream mixture.

Pour into glasses and add ice cubes.

This is my entry for Lasang Pinoy #11 which is being hosted by JMom at In My Kitchen.

Bibingka for Breakfast

I came back a few days ago from a one week stay with cousins in Bacolod and brought back a large box full of goodies. In my opinion, Bacolod has some of the best food in the country. On this trip I tried original variations on local dishes. The bibinka from Sweet Greens Garden Cafe on 9th and Lacson Streets was amazing. Made by leaving the dough out to be naturally yeasted and cooked with the addition of makapuno instead of cheese. As I understand it, this bibinka is done the old way before commercial yeast or cheese was available, imparting the bibinka with another flavor dimension I can't quite describe. I placed it in the oven to be heated before eating it for breakfast this morning.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Mixology Monday IV: Apéritif

I know this is a food blog but I couldn't resist joining Mixology Monday, hosted by Jimmy Patrick of Jimmy's Cocktail Hour. Besides, whoever heard of eating without drinking?

The theme for this event is aperitif.

First impressions last longest. The downbeat of the conductor's baton, the first step in a tango, the opening words in a flirtation these initial moves can make or break.

William Grimes of the New York Times couldn’t have said it better when describing the role of the aperitif when entertaining. Although I wouldn't go so far as to say it would make or break your dinner party. It's a pleasant way to start the evening. Your choice of having before dinner drinks sets the tone and mood whether its a casual get-together or a more formal soiree. Serving an aperitif when guests arrive is an invitation to an enjoyably long evening.

To start the evening in a festive mood, my aperitif of choice is Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine that can be served with an assortment of tapas. Cava is made in the tradional way, the same method of making sparkling wine as Champagne. My favorite is the semiseco Oro Rondel Cava. It goes with almost anything you serve - vegetable sticks, strong and mild cheeses, spicy shrimp, parma ham or Chinese dumplings. Cava is also light enough for you to enjoy more than one glass, but don't get carried away there's still dinner to consume.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Amaranth: From the Farm to the Frying Pan

Amaranth plants just sproated everywhere right after a few days of heavy rain, coming from plants I uprooted a few months ago. The variety I'm using has reddish purple and green leaves. I've never tried eating these so I wanted to try it in its simplest form. I adapted a recipe for Sichuan Stir-Fried Amaranth Leaves with Garlic.

Amaranth has a very interesting history and has many food uses as the entire plant is edible, including the stalk. It also has an impressive amount of nutritional value.

Steamed Amaranth Leaves with Garlic
It taste amazingly like alugbati, a native edible vine, whose leaves are also of the same color as the amaranth. It has an intense smoky sweet spinach flavor and can therefore be substituted for any spinach dish.

300 g bunch of fresh amaranth leaves
1 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
salt to tast

Place leaves in a steamer for 2 minutes or until leaves wilt and shrink to about a fourth of its original quantity.

Heat butter, salt and garlic in a saucepan on low heat, just until garlic starts to sizzle and salt dissolves. Garlic should not change color.

You may either remove garlic from the oil or leave it in (I leave it in), then add the steamed amaranth.

*The cooked leaves contain about 8% protein, 4% carbohydrates and are rich in calcium, iron and vitamins B and C in higher concentrations that spinach. For example, only 47 g of cooked leaves contains 100% of the minimum daily requirement of Vitamin C.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Garden Flora and Fauna

Little critters...

After the rains flowers are blooming all over the farm...


lima beans

this flowering vine was growing on the rocks and is less than 1 cm

African marigold (edible)

red amaranth


Friday, June 16, 2006

Recipe: Portugese Kale and Chorizo Soup

A very simple and satisfying soup to make.

2 medium potatoes, diced
1 chorizo, sliced in 1/4-inch thick rounds and halved
4-6 leaves giant kale, cut in 1-2 inch squares
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 vegetable bouillon cube

Cook chorizo in a hot pan until lightly browned. Add potatoes and stir to coat with the fat that has come out of the chorizo. Pour about 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until potatoes are done. Add the kale and boulion cube, continue to simmer for a minute or two.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


The world of natural medicine never fails to amaze me. What amazes me most is that many of these remedies have been around for centuries and they work extremely well without any side-effects. So why aren’t they more popular? Instead we turn to what is now conventional medicine which, in my experience, is not as effective.

My number one cure-all natural medicine that I endorse to anyone that will listen is Bee Propolis, a probiotic syrup. Probiotics, “…refers to foods or supplements containing live beneficial microbes, primarily bacterial strains, that are used to fortify or rebuild our natural gut flora.” I discovered the probiotic supplement Bee Propolis at the Ilog Maria shop in Tagaytay. And am I ever grateful! I take it whenever I feel like I’m coming down with something and when I’ve actually come down with something. But taking it at the onset of a cold or flu is nipping it in the bud. When I’m already sick with a cold I take it every two hours for a day (3-5 days for a flu, much harder to cure if its full blown though) and I’m as good as new.

You don’t have to wait to be sick to take probiotic products or foods. Taking probiotic foods or supplements keeps the intestinal flora healthy which is necessary in keeping or rebuilding a strong immune system and aiding in the digestion process. Fermented foods such as saerkraut, miso, yogurt and soy sauce have these beneficial bacteria.

Another important factor in keeping healthy flora is our diet. Foods rich in fiber feed beneficial bacteria. Intrestingly, the “bad” bacteria feed on simple sugars. We've all heard it before - eat your veggies! Beans and fruits are also rich in fiber.

Try out this recipe for Pithale, an Indian curry dip made with besan (chickpea flour), which is delicious and fiber rich. This is the second time I try out a recipe from blog One Hot Stove. Thanks Nupur!

*100 grams of besan gives you 11 grams of soluble fiber. The average adult needs about 25-30 grams of fiber a day.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Today in 1972 the EPA banned DDT in the USA (oh my, thats a lot of acronyms!). DDT was used as an agricultural pesticide after the second World War. Although its been banned,DDT residue is still found in some foods grown in the U.S. in 2002. It is still used by other countries, especially in the third world.

Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" tells of the dangers of the pesticide DDT and was ultimately responsible for its banning and consequently began environmental movement. DDT was also used as an insecticide against the malaria carrying mosquito. I found this secondary school online module that explains DDT's chemistry and its effects and this fact sheet and evaluation from a University.

Having taken courses in Environmental Studies I know a little about the DDT issue. Carson's book was required reading and it was also taken up in chemistry and ecology classes. But for arguments sake lets take a look at this article and this one which are for the use of DDT.

Definitely, biologists are against DDT because of its impact on bird populations and the resulting chain effect on other species populations. But according to the articles DDT may be applied to the environment in a way that is safe and responsible. The articles fails to tell us how. Mostly, it attacks the suggestion that DDT is a carcinogen and fails to address the issue of environmental damage. I'm inclined to stay on Carson's side, who is herself a chemist, because she explains, in a way anyone can understand, exactly how DDT affects the environment and ultimately us humans.

This document written by Dr. Romeo Quijano, founding Director of PAN (Pesticide Action Network) Philippines, clarifies the issues regarding the use of DDT which has been banned in the Philippines since 1994. He tells us first hand of the dangers to health and his skepticism regarding those touting its use. (Read about Dr. Quijano's plite with the government in 2003).

The good news is that scientists have discovered that waters polluted with DDT can be controlled by the unlikely seeweed which somehow absorbs DDT much like it does other toxins.

Fruits of the Farm

This pretty flower is from my okra plant. I won't be eating this batch of okra, they're being grown for collecting the seed which I will plant the next time around.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Spice Is Right 3: The Perfumed Garden: Rosewater

The day I read about the theme for this month’s The Spice Is Right I had drank a Singaporean beverage made with shaved ice, condensed milk and rosewater. I remember thinking that there has to be a better way to use rosewater syrup. The drink was sickeningly sweet but I could taste the floral essence of the rosewater and I wanted to try using it in another dish. Then here comes the announcement for the new theme of the The Spice Is Right and I new it was in the stars…

Fereni Starch Pudding

This is an adaptation of a recipe I found online and the author says that this may be eaten during Ramadan, a Muslim fast that lasts a month. It is eaten before the main meal of the night to "break the fast". Could this be where the English word and ritual "breakfast" comes from?

I found this lovely white pudding to stiff and would recommend using half the amount of cornstarch called for in the recipe. Otherwise I liked it and will make it again. The bites of cardamom seeds is the perfect addition to the subtle flavors of this dish. I used the clear colored rosewater in this recipe, which is probably why I could use the amount I did. If using the red colored rosewater syrup, adjust the amount keeping in mind that it is much sweeter than the colorless syrup.

2/3 cup cornstarch
2 cups carabao’s milk (or organic cow's milk)
6 whole green cardamom pods, slightly crushed to open the pods
1/2 cup ground almonds
½ cup rosewater or to taste
1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds (I used sliced almonds)
1/4 cup raw honey

Dissolve corn starch in 1 cup of cold milk. Bring remaining milk to boil with cardamom and ground almonds. Then add corn starch mixture and stir continuously with a whisk. Remove from heat when it starts to thicken and add honey and rosewater. Remove cardamom seeds from the mixture. Squeeze out the black seeds from the cardamom pods and mix seeds into pudding. Pour (I spooned mine into a bowl) it into serving dishes. Garnish with slivered almonds and serve warm or cold.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Mastering the Art of French Cuisine

I watched an episode of Martha Stewart's Living last night and one of her guests was Julie Powell author of Julie & Julia. Julie's book chronicles her experiences while cooking every recipe in Louisette Berthole, Simone Beck and Julia Child's classic book Mastering the Art of French Cuisine. Quite a feat and written with humor and wit. Her project was actually first chronicled on her food blog The Julie/Julia Project which she started in August 2002. On the show she cooked a mouthwatering Beef Bourginogne that made me want to go straight to the grocery for ingredients. Only I couldn't because it was late at night. Why can't we have a 24-hour grocery??

Julia Child brought the art of cooking and eating to the American household. Her enthusiasm and dedication to good food has made her an American icon and she is known to every cook worth his salt. On the show, Martha revealed that she too had cooked every recipe on the book and that is how she learned to cook well. I would think anyone who wants to learn how to be a chef would learn by doing what Julie and Martha did in place of going to culinary school.

I own a 1964 edition of Mastering the Art of French Cuisine which belonged to my great-grandmother whom I was named after. My great-grandmother is a cooking legend in my clan and this book was one of two books that she owned (the other was The Joy of Cooking). In her memory and for the benefit of anyone in her family who want to recreate the food, cakes, pastries and preserves she served in her summer house in Baguio or her home in San Rafael, Manila my Aunt recopied all her personal recipes and distributed them to all the family members. The only problem is that most of the recipes have no measurements. She died after her third great-grandchild was born. Me being her first great-grandchild. My favorites were esaymadas, guava paste, strawberry jam, mango jam and food for the gods. I remember summers in Bagiuo when I was very young and she would be doing cross-stich in her living room and I would sneak into the pantry and finish all the guava paste. Her ensaymadas would melt in your mouth. When I tried to make it years later, I realized why it was so delicate and melty, it had tons of butter incorporated with flour, much like a puff pastry except it was moist, cheesy and light at the same time. Incredible!

In memory of these two great women whose culinary skills have had a profound influence on me and to Julie who is destined for cooking greatness I will cook the book's recipe for Fish Quenelles in Normandy Sauce Gratinee. Now, I'm off to the grocery.

Julia Child's kitchen, the wall used to hang her pots and pans was built for her by her husband 40 years ago. Go here to see more of her kitchen which is on display at the Smithsonian.