Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fast Forward to Summer: Watermelon Grand Marnier Granitas

Watermelon balls

Watermelon Grand Marnier Granita

I usually like to cook with the seasons but I found a beautifully ripe watermelon at the market the other day so I decided to make something that reminds me of summer. Watermelon is one of those things that reminds me of Fourth of July picnics and endless summer BBQs. Watermelon is the main ingredient in this Granita. Granita is a type of flavored Italian ice or coarse grained sorbet and does not usually contain alcohol but this one did. I used the creme de la creme of triple secs, Grand Marnier. I found that if you limit the amount of alcohol you add to the flavored liquid, the granita will freeze nicely.

1 cup of pureed fresh watermelon
1-2 tablespoons of extra fine sugar
1 jigger or 1.0 fluid oz of Grand Marnier
1 jigger of Arbor Mist tropical fruits chardonnay or some other fruity chardonnay
1/2 cup of pineapple juice

Mix everything in a glass bowl. Pour into a plastic container with a tight lid. Freeze overnight in the deepest and coldest part of your freezer. Scrape flavored ice with a fork. Refreeze for another 6 hours or so before serving. Scrape ice again with a fork and then serve in margarita or martini glasses. It has a grainier or grittier texture than sorbet because the flavored liquid is frozen and then manually scraped or raked with a fork.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Improvisational Salad of the Day: Iceberg Lettuce, mangoes, Mcintosh apples, and oven dried grape tomatoes.

Sweet Red Mangoes from Brazil

You can take the girl out of the tropics but you can't take tropics out of the girl. I can eat about 10 mangoes in one sitting. I love mangoes in salads too. It has the taste of perpetual summer and my childhood in the Philippines. This salad has another interesting addition --oven dried tomatoes, one of my husband's favorite salad toppings. When grape tomatoes bake in the oven with extra virgin olive oil and good quality coarse sea salt, they get a concentrated tomato flavor and a chewier texture. Yum.

1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and cut into big chunks
2 cups of hand torn iceberg lettuce
1 Macintosh apple cut into 1 inch cubes
Oven dried grape tomatoes, about half a pint
* Cut tomatoes in half
*drizzle with extra virgin olive oil
* liberally season with salt and pepper
*bake for 20 to 30 minutes until they shrivel up.
a couple of sprigs of chopped cilantro for garnish.

Put a handful of lettuce on a plate. Place apple and mango chunks and cilantro on top of the lettuce. Salads look pretty when they are pilled high on a plate. Arrange oven dried tomatoes around the salad. Dress with your favorite lime or lemon based vinaigrette.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Braised Country Style Pork Ribs in Soy, Vinegar and Garlic: Adobo

The word adobo comes from the Spanish infinitive, "adobar" which means to marinate. Abodo is considered the national dish of the Philippines. It's the quintessential Filipino dish. If you pair it with white rice, it's a match made in heaven. This is one of the first dishes every Filipino cook learns how to master. Some Filipinos even have several adobo recipes. My paternal grandmother made one of the best adobo recipes I ever had. She made it with a lot of love and patience. It's pretty foolproof once you learn how to master it. I learned that really good abodo is not something you can rush. The adobo recipe I have grown to love is marinated and then braised in lots of freshly chopped garlic, soy sauce, salt, bay leaves, crushed peppercorns, native palm vinegar and a touch of brown sugar. I don't like repeats so I make this entree once or twice a month. When I crave adobo, I channel my grandmother and try make it really well. I prefer ribs or cut up Boston pork butt for my adobo recipe. I marinate the meat overnight and then cook it for two hours or until most of liquid have reduced down to a savory syrup. My grandmother made her adobo "dry" and this allowed the flavors to concentrate in the meat. If we have leftovers the next day, I like frying or quickly broiling the pork. Adodo always taste better the next day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Philly Cheesesteaks, my way.

A Philly cheesesteak sandwich with a twist.
My version uses a different type of bread. I use Vietnamese baguettes. This type of bread is tradionally used in Bánh or Vietnamese subs. I use this bread because it is delicious and crusty. It stands up to the robust flavors of the beef, onions and peppers and never gets soggy. I use a tender and well marbled cut of beef and char it to perfection. This has no cheez whiz. I use colby jack and provolone, caramelized onions, green peppers and lots of mayo.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Young Coconut or "Buko" Panna Cotta

You might have seen them the last time you went on vacation. You probably even had one. It's the symbol of a holiday on a warm island paradise. What am I talking about? A young green coconut. It's the perfect sustainable cool drink that even comes with its own biodegradable container. All you need is a straw. I grew up with young coconuts or "buko", as Filipinos would call it. Now that I'm older, I still crave the sweet, distinctive flavor of young coconuts. During our trips to Hawaii and the Caribbean, we saw them everywhere. Young coconuts are sold to tourists thirsty for that real tropical experience. Unfortunately, coconut trees don't grow here in the East Coast. I buy them frozen. This is not the desiccated coconut you find in your supermarket. When I eat a young coconut dessert, I am temporarily transported back to the islands. Maybe that's why I like cooking with it.

Young coconut panna cotta is simply a creation of two of my favorite things: panna cotta and young coconuts. It's a perfect marriage of east and west. Panna cotta is one of my favorite Italian desserts. It translates to "cooked cream" in Italian. For this dessert, I combined traditional panna cotta ingredients like cream, sugar and unflavored gelatin with young coconut flesh and water. The coconut juice separates from the cream, creating a terrine. The result is a refreshing new way of eating a beloved classic Italian dessert.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pineapple, White Asparagus and Mushroom Fried Rice

I love all types of fried rice. This one was inspired by some of our favorite Thai restaurants. It's a pineapple fried rice of sorts.
3 cups of cold Jasmine rice
1 cup of white asparagus cut into 1 inch pieces (just the tender non-fibrous part)
1 cup of fresh pineapple cut into chunks(you can also substitute a small can of pineapple chunks)
1 cup of white button mushrooms, sliced thinly
1/4 cup of diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup of diced yellow bell pepper
2 teaspoons of fish sauce
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of yellow curry paste or curry powder
3 tablespoons of peanut or extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of finely chopped shallots
2 cloves of finely minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Using a large non-stick fry pan, saute mushrooms in oil until they start to caramelize. Add the white asparagus, yellow and green peppers and saute 3 minutes. Add the shallots, garlic, turmeric, and yellow curry paste to the pan. Stir fry the ingredients for an additional 3 minutes. Bring your rice to the party and combine and mix with the rest of the ingredients until every grain of rice is mellow yellow. Add fish sauce and brown sugar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Corn, Hominy, Watercress and Sweet Italian Sausage Soup

During the colder months, I make a lot of soups. Luckily, I have lots of chicken stock in our deep freezer. I make my own chicken stock -- about nine or ten quarts at a time. Yes, it requires a lot of time and effort to make your own stock but it's worth it. Soups have that homemade quality to them. Today's soup is corn, hominy, watercress and Italian sausage. Hominy or dried corn is used in some Mexican recipes like Pozole. Hominy has a slightly firm bite to it and adds a great texture to this soup. The watercress leaves' peppery and bitter taste is a nice contrast to the hearty and rich broth.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Shake it up

I made avocado shakes for the family the other night and it was a hit with everyone especially with the little guy. This quick recipe was inspired by our trips to the gorgeous beach of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. They call shakes licuados in Mexico and like many Mexican drinks -- this one had a touch of lime. Lime livens up your taste buds and prevents the avocado from oxidizing and turning brown.

6 -8 cubes of ice
2 ripe Haas avocados
2 cups of whole milk
2-3 tablespoons of sugar
The juice of half a lime.

Blend the avocado meat and the rest of the ingredients in a blender until smooth (for 3-5 minutes depending on what kind of blender you have). Pour into tall glasses and enjoy!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

An American Breakfast with a Portuguese Accent

Today's breakfast was inspired by our travels as well as our trips to local diners. I took what I learned from our favorite breakfast joints to our own kitchen. Our weekend breakfast items all depends my own creative whim that day. The fresh ingredients also play a huge part. The ingredients tell me and inspire to prepare and transform them into something scrumptious. Variety is the spice of life so I make different breakfast foods inspired by different cultures and cuisines. So what is today's breakfast? red bliss home fries, linguica or Portuguese sausage and fried eggs.

Home Fries: The potatoes are peeled, cut and boiled for 20 minutes. I do this the night before to save some time in the morning. When you are ready to make home fries, fry roughly chopped onions until they are slightly caramelized and then set aside. The potatoes are then seasoned with smoked Spanish paprika, onion powder and garlic powder and pan fried with some extra virgin olive oil until you get that nice crispy crust on your potatoes. I add a tablespoon or two of finely chopped green and yellow bell pepper for color.

Linguica or Portuguese sausage: The linguica is beautifully seasoned seasoned with paprika, garlic, onions and salt. The linguica is pan fried until it is slightly charred and fully cooked.

Eggs: I like to make eggs many different ways but today we like our eggs sunny side up. I don't like the runny slimy film on top. The solution: cover the frying pan with a tight lid during the last two minutes of cooking and the steam inside the pan cooks the gently cooks the protein on top.
I always serve breakfast with seasonal fresh fruit.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Shrimp in Tamarind Broth



When I'm craving something savory and sour, I make shrimp simmered in tamarind broth or "Sinigang na Hipon", a traditional Filipino soup. It takes about 15 -20 minutes for me to make this tangy concoction. I make this soup with a pound of large fresh shell-on shrimp. The shells prevent the shrimp from overcooking and becoming tough. I love this soup so much that I made it twice last week. My husband says this reminds him of another favorite soup of ours, Thailand's Tom Yum soup. However, Tom Yum soup is flavored with galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and chilies while this one is flavored with sour green tamarind. My family have used guava, citrus and kamias in place of tamarind. There is no need to extract tamarind pulp because you can buy a tamarind soup mix(or guava soup mix if you prefer it less tangy) in most Asian supermarkets. This is a peel and eat shrimp recipe so put an empty bowl next to your plate for the shrimp shells. In the Philippines, soup is served and eaten throughout the meal. Shrimp in tamarind broth is never the opening act but rather takes center stage at our dining room table.

1 Pound of large shrimp.
1/4 package of tamarind soup mix or a little more if you like it extra tart
4 cups of rice water(reserved water from washing the rice)
1 medium onion sliced into 1/2 inch slivers
3 roughly chopped plum tomatoes
2 cloves of finely chopped fresh garlic
1-2 tablespoons of the best fish sauce you can find.
1-2 cups of broccoli, green beans or long/yard beans cut into bite size pieces.
Freshly cracked pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil

Saute garlic and onions in extra virgin olive oil in a heavy duty pot until they are slightly caramelized. Add tomatoes and saute for five more minutes. Add the rice water, fish sauce and tamarind soup mix and cover the pot with a tight lid. Bring this to a boil. Uncover the pot and add shrimp and veggies. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the shrimp is pink and the veggies are tender-crisp. Season with pepper. Eat with freshly cooked white rice.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Improvisational Salad of the Day: Swiss Chard with Grape Tomatoes

There's a million ways to make a salad. My salad recipes usually depend on the fresh ingredients I have available in my kitchen that day. I also rely on what flavor combinations I think go well together. Fresh young Swiss chard is a good alternative to lettuce, baby spinach or mesclun greens. Swiss chard is considered a dark leafy green vegetable so you know what that means? It's really good for you. It has tons of vitamins(mostly Vitamin K and A). Today's salad is easy to assemble: First, rinse your veggies in cold water. Dry your veggies well (use a salad spinner for your greens if you have one). Combine torn fresh young Swiss chard, grape tomatoes, chopped yellow bell pepper and thinly sliced red onion. Top with your favorite salad dressing or vinaigrette. :-)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Massachusetts Masala

My Chicken Tikka Masala

I like Indian food a lot. The many flavors, tastes and textures in Indian food range from mild and rich like korma to assertive, spicy and savory like tikka masala. I love all kinds of Indian food -- Southern, Northern and even coastal Indian dishes like Xacuti. Authentic Indian food is one of those cuisines I have grown to love and their food appeals to both the vegetarian and carnivore in me. I've dined at more Indian restaurants than I can count . When I really like food I've had at a restaurant or at a friend's house, I try to recreate it at home.

I started making Indian food a few years ago. I experimented with a lot of different types of masalas and curries -- tasting, comparing and contrasting sauces over and over until the flavors were close to the original flavors. The local Indian markets provided a wealth of authentic ingredients I can play with. After countless hours of cooking, I can add Chicken tikka masala, butter chicken, dal makhani and kheer rice pudding to my culinary repertoire. My husband also makes a mean saag paneer with homemade masala. I'm pretty happy with the dishes I can make so far. When I make a big batch of any type of Indian food, I give some of it to my Indian neighbors. I will always be a student of Indian cuisine, learning as I go, because Indian food rocks.

Melt in Your Mouth Beef Marinated in Greek Oregano, Sea Salt and Tellicherry Peppercorns

Last night's dinner: Boneless beef ribs marinated overnight in Greek oregano, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, minced garlic, freshly cracked tellicherry peppercorns and a splash of red wine vinegar. I pan fried the boneless beef ribs on high heat until I got a nice sear on both sides of the meat. We also like this marinated beef on the grill. I served this with a Chinese celery and grape salad and Jasmine rice.