Monday, December 03, 2007

Lori's Top 10 Dessert List

You must check out Lori's, of blog Desert Comes First, list of Top 10 Desserts. Food porn at its best, I almost fainted from the exhilaration! I know it sounds crazy but I assure you I am not exaggerating. I'm throwing caution to the wind this holidays when I get back to Manila and sample this lot of yumminess. I have tried Apt 1B's White Chocolate Cheesecake more than once I have to admit. It cost me. Big time.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Best Chicken Soup

I made this soup for grandpa's dinner last night and it was really good. I'm not really fond of chicken soup, but the addition of white wine in this recipe intrigued me. The ingredients are a perfect combination of vegetables, chicken, flavorings, liquids and cream. The morsels of dumplings created by the combination of flour and broth was a delicious surprise. The addition of cold ready-made broth is the key to creating these meltingly soft morsels. If you want a smooth soup base, then heat the broth and add it hot to the flour mixture using a whip.

Chicken Soup

adapted from the magazine Cuisine At Home

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1/4 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup dry white wine
5-6 cups chicken broth
3 pieces chicken thighs (to make about 1 1/2 cooked shredded chicken)
1/2 cup frozen peas
8 pieces button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup baby carrots
2 tablespoons heavy cream
chopped parsely

Cover the chicken with water and boil for 15 minutes. Cool. Shred, don't worry if it's a little raw at the core, it will cook in the soup. Reserve the broth. I used 1 liter of ready-made chicken broth and added some of the broth from cooking my chicken to the soup.

In a Dutch oven sweat the onion, garlic, celery and herbs in olive oil, butter and about 1 teaspoon salt over medium heat for 5-8 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute.

Add the wine and stir to combine. Add some of the warm broth reserved from cooking the chicken and stir to combine. Add all of the ready-made broth and simmer for 15 minutes or until thickened. Season to taste. The bits of dough formed from adding the broth to the flour makes delicious mini dumplings.

Add chicken, carrots, peas and mushrooms. Finish with cream and parsley. Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sunday Lunch

Another Sunday lunch with gramps, J, T and E. It was a hectic Saturday and I had some studying to do on Sunday so my menu had to be a quick one. I decided on grilled steaks, roasted new potatoes and sauteed mixed green peppers. Dessert couldn't be simpler, Chocolate Wafer Icebox Cake with Raspberry Coulis. Someone should give me a medal.

First thing I did was clean and slice the new potatoes in half. Placed it in a shallow pan and toss with extra-virgin olive oil and fine sea salt. I then roasted it in a preheated 400 degree oven for 40 minutes.

I then seasoned the steaks with salt and grilled it on a cast iron grill placed on top of two burners, heated at medium high heat. While the steaks were grilling on one side I went on to the peppers. I had yellow, red and orange bell peppers sliced thick. This I sauteed in a cast iron pan with extra-virgin olive oil and seasoned with salt. Saute the peppers one color at a time and placed in a bowl when done, continue with the rest of the peppers.

The icebox cake was delicious. Make this the night before. I followed the simple recipe, except I used a non-stick 9-inch springform pan which made it easier to chill in the refrigerator and remove from the pan before serving. The next day, cook some some raspberries in butter and sprinkled with some sugar. The raspberries will melt partially. After about 4 minutes puree the raspberry sauce. Serve it with the wafer cake which I decorated with a few raspberries around its perimeter.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Get-Together with Grandpa

My dear sweet grandfather is here in SF to visit his two grandchildren. This came as a pleasant surprise and I am thoroughly enjoying his company. My cousin J is married with a fifteen year old son and she and her family came for dinner on the second day grandpa was here (he's staying with me). It's funny how my nephew and I ended up doing our homework after dinner. Now that I'm back in school, with one year to go for my degree in Geography, I seem to have common ground with the younger generation. We even have the same sneakers. I may possibly be taking this school thing to far.

The dinner was simple and went well for everybody. I served a simple roast beef with new potatoes and pan roasted brussels sprouts. The roast beef I purchased, already marinated, from Trader Joe's. So I simply placed it in a roasting pan surrounded by red and white new potatoes, drizzled the whole thing with extra-virgin olive oil, seasoned with salt and roasted in a 425 degree oven for 45 minutes. Perfect.

For the brussels sprouts, I blanched the sprouts in boiling water, drained, sliced in half, then sauteed in a pan with lots of butter on medium high heat. The sprouts will caramelize slightly, careful not to burn it.

For dessert I served the most divine Banana, Cherry and White Chocolate Muffins from my book The Domestic Goddess. This is not really a proper dessert, but its ok to live a little don't you think?

Banana, Cherry & White Chocolate Muffin

125 grams (1 stick) butter
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown cane sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas
4 tablespoons sour cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups flour
3 tablespoons dried cherries, chopped
50 grams white chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Melt the butter in saucepan, remove from heat and add the sugar, vanilla and bananas, mashing them with a fork. Stir in the sour cream and the eggs and continue to beat with the fork or a wooden spoon. Add the bicarb and the baking powder, stir well, then add the flour, cherries and chocolate.

When mixture is well blended, divide it into each of the 12 muffin cups lined with cases. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool muffins on a wire rack.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Casual Thank You Dinner

I gave a dinner for my aunt last night to thank her for bringing me my silverware all the way from Manila. I soon realized what a favor that was when I had to bring it back to the apartment. It was heavy. Really heavy. Then, I realized I wouldn't have an assistant to do all the food preparations so I created a simple menu that wouldn't take to long to cook from start to finish, but was still special. I usually serve Cava, as everyone probably knows by now, with some finger food before dinner but not this time because no one in this town drinks. So instead, I served a mild tea at the beginning and end of the dinner. It turned out well I must say.

My four guests included her daughter (my cousin), son-in-law and grandson. I was hoping to cheer them up, in my own way, because they have been going through a rough patch these past couple of months. There are just some years where nothing seems to go right and everything goes wrong. I certainly now how that is. Well, like someone I know said, "The year isn't over yet." So what happens on their way to their car from my apartment after dinner? My nephew skateboards down the road, tripped and cracked his chin open. I got a call at 10:30 pm from his worried mother while they were at the emergency room of the hospital. The doctors weren't able to get all the asphalt out. Nevertheless, he was very brave, not a peep when the doctors injected his open wound with an anesthetic. He got seven stitches and declared, according to his mother, "At least I had a good dinner before this happened." It seems like he will have to be on soup for a couple of weeks. Oh dear. Well, Emilio if it's any consolation, I'll cook you another meal when your ready.

Part of my menu was to make a tart tatin for dessert, which I didn't make because by the time I got home from doing the groceries and making a wrong turn which took me a good hour to find my way back, I didn't have the energy to make dessert. I served ginger snaps and organic "Oreos" with milk instead. The "Oreos" were a hit. I eventually made the tart and so I decided to go ahead and include it in this menu...

Mixed Vegetables

Arugula Salad

Lamb with Garlic Stir-Fry

Steamed Rice

Peach Tart Tatin

Chamomile Tea

Mixed Vegetables

equal amounts:
canned or bottled artichoke hearts, drain and quarter
Kalamata olives, drain
cherry peppers, preserved (from Rainbow grocery) or bottled roasted red peppers, drain and
extra-virgin olive oil

Toss ingredients together. Serve in a bowl with an extra cup for throwing the olive seeds. Place a container of toothpicks next to vegetables.

Arugula Salad

baby arugula and lamb's lettuce
extra-virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
Parmesan cheese, shaved

Toss leaves with oil, then add vinegar. Toss again with Parmesan shavings.

Lamb with Garlic Stir-Fry

450 grams (1 lb) lean lamb steak or fillet
1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil
2 scallions, white part only, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
1 teaspoon Sichuan (can substitute with black pepper) peppercorns, roasted and freshly ground

for the marinade:
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1.5 teasoons cornstarch

  1. Cut the lamb into thin slices and put in a bowl. Mix in all the marinade ingredients and leave for 20 minutes. Drain marinade and set the lamb aside.
  2. Heat a wok or large frying pan until it is very hot. Add the oil and whe it is slighly smoking add the marinated lamb pieces with just a litle of the marinade. Stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the scallions, garlic, ginger and black pepper and stir-fry for 4 minutes. If using Sechuan pepper, sprinkle it on the lamb just before serving.

Peach Tart Tatin

  • I used an award-winning ready-made puff pastry dough
  • It's best to use a cast iron pan
  • I peeled the small-sized peaches and placed them directly in the caramel
  • When cooking the butter and sugar, I found there was to much oil and poured it out, leaving the gooey caramel in the pan
  • make sure peaches are ripe or you'll have too much liquid when the peaches are cooking

Friday, August 24, 2007

Au Revoir Manila

I wasn’t planning on having a despedida, but my sister insisted on doing something the night before I left for San Francisco. So she, my mom and my cousins came over around four in the afternoon. We sat and chatted and ate cheese, parma ham and olives, all washed down with a glass of Cava. Then we went to Japantown and had a fantastic dinner care of my future cousin-in-law Raj. I ordered my standard orders when in a Japanese restaurant… sashimi (salmon, saba and hamachi), miso soup and grilled saba (mackarel). The saba was perfectly cooked which is important because a few seconds more on the grill and you’d have a dry and stringy piece of fish. Raj ordered the lapu lapu (grouper) sashimi with a spicy vinegar dipping sauce, which was excellent. According to Raj, who went to school in Japan, the Japanese tourists always order this dish because its relatively inexpensive in Manila and extremely expensive in Japan. So we ordered another round and soon regretted it after stuffing ourselves with the rest of the dishes we ordered. The uni (sea urchin) was unsually fresh and sweet, not normally my favorite dish, but more than tolerable this time. Everyone else was raving about it.

After dinner we went to an Irish pub called Murphy’s for drinks. The Irish cocktail was really good, I had three! It had Franjelico, hot chocolate and Grand Marnier, topped with whipped cream. Yum! I texted some friends at the last minute and three more people joined us. Two of them were still in a meeting and one had to wake up early for a motocross competition. We had a fun time, especially when Marco showed up after his late night massage.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Rosanne's Birthday

I cooked dinner for 14 last June 5 in honor of my cousin's birthday. We started at 5 pm with large green olives stuffed with feta and flowing Freisinet Cordon Negro Cava. After our light cocktails we went on to dinner, the usual birthday fare was on the menu, but I added an adult twist to each dish. I was going to make a cake but R requested I make her favorite Burnt Butter Cupcakes. After dinner we went to a karaoke bar and my usually shy voice was heard by one and all. Happy birthday Rosanne and many more to come!

Salad Greens with Caramelized Walnuts, Dates & Blue Cheese

Crispy Yogurt Fried Chicken

Conchiegle with Tomato Vodka Sauce
(adapted from Giada De Laurentiis' recipe)

Burnt Butter Cupcakes

Crispy Fried Chicken
The addition of cornstarch makes these very crispy and the yogurt gives the chicken a nice tangy flavor.

18 - 20 pieces of chicken
yogurt, enough to coat all the chicken
2 cups flour + 1/3 cup cornstarch + 2 teaspoons sea salt
peanut or coconut oil, for frying

Marinate chicken in yogurt, overnight, in the refrigerator.

Fill pan about an inch with oil and heat to 325 degrees F.

Place flour mixture in a sealable plastic bag. Shake chicken pieces in the flour mixture, one at a time, and pat to remove excess flour. Fry in hot oil.

Monday, May 21, 2007

It's a Boy! A Baby Shower for Teresa

Six months pregnant and still looking great thanks to her vigorous exercise regiment, Teresa looked radiant and sleepy (carrying that extra weight is no joke) at the same time when she arrived at the shower we gave her last Thursday. My cousins R, K, my sister M and I gave her a shower at my place. I served green tea with jasmine and an Apple Walnut Loaf which was light enough so we could enjoy the evening's dinner. But, that's not all we had in store for the second girl in our brood of seven cousins, six of whom are girls, to have a baby. We also planned a trip to the Nail Spa and dinner at Je Suis Gourmand. It was a fabulously indulgent day for all of us, I for one broke my no-carbs diet and devoured the bread served before dinner even began. The spa was a two hour luxurious pampering of our hands and feet which included reflexology and a bubble bath. Gifts, a spa treatment and dinner... everything a pregnant lady could hope for!

How To Make Green Tea In A Pot
First, boil a kettle of water. Place tea leaves in a strainer. Over the sink, pour some of the boiling hot water over the tea leaves and let it strain. Place the wet tea leaves into a pot or bowl and pour in hot water, let it steep for 3 minutes. Now, strain the tea into the pot your using to serve the tea. Discard the used tea leaves.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

An After-Dinner Dessert Party

My close-friend and cousin H is going back home to Maine this week. I'll certainly miss him! On his last weekend he threw himself a despedida at my apartment. I baked some cupcakes and had planned to bake a tart but found I lacked some of the ingredients. Good thing everyone is on a diet. The Chocolate Cake we bought from the restaurant across the street. It was delicious served warm with a caramel sauce, but the big hit were the cupcakes which were all gone in a matter of minutes.

The party was a lot of fun. I guess sweets and wine make everyone happy because everyone (especially me) was laughing all night long.

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Burnt Butter Cupcakes
(adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess)

White Chocolate & Strawberry Tart

Chocolate Cake
(made by restaurant "Apt 1B" on Sedeno St, Salcedo Vill)

Hardy's Nottage Hill Chardonnay 2005 (Australia)
Valdivieso Malbec 2003 (Chile)

Burnt Butter Cupcakes
Keep this recipe and never lose it.

For the cupcakes:
1 1/4 stick (150 grams) butter
1/2 cup flour
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 1/2 tablespoon muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla exrtact
2-3 tablespoons milk

For the icing:
1 1/4 stick (150 grams) butter
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-3 tablespoons milk (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Melt butter in a small saucepan until it turns a dark golden color. Strain into a bowl or cup to remove sediment. Let the butter solidify at room temperature or, if its to the weather is too hot, in the fridge for about 40 minutes (it should be solid but not hard), then mix thoroughly until smooth.

Put all the cake ingredients, except the milk, in a food processor and blend to a smooth batter. Add the milk and pulse until well combined.

Divide the batter between paper cases set in a 12-cup muffin pan and cook for 15-20 minutes.

For the icing: Melt and solidify the butter the same way you did for the cakes. Place all the icing ingredients, except milk, in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add enough milk to make it spreadable (you may not need to add milk if the consistency is smooth enough). I placed everything, including the milk, into the processor and came out with a very thin consistency. To remedy the situation, I added 4 teaspoons of flour. It turned out just fine.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Roast Fillet of Beef Dinner

This fairly easy dinner served six of us last Saturday night. The only thing that took longer than an hour to prepare was the dessert which needs a day for the tart to chill to the right consistency (this I found out the hard way). Two of the recipes are from other food bloggers, both of which turned out very well. The risotto I made to accompany the beef, I omitted the spicy pangrattato called for in the recipe whose flavor I thought would not compliment the beef. The tart was excellent... the next day. Unfortunately, I served the tart too soon and the consistency and flavor was unable to develop properly. I strongly suggest making the tart a day before you are to serve it, it's well worth it.

My dinner guests were a mix of people half of whom did not know each other beforehand. Ages ranged from 25 to 40 and genders were mixed. It turned out pretty well. Although, the night ended with a set of different guests who came for drinks long after dinner ended.

I served George Duboeuf Beaujolais "Brouilly" to go with this meal. One of my favorite wines.

Sherried Mushroom Soup

Cauliflower Risotto
(from blog The Traveler's Lunchbox)

Roast Fillet of Beef with Blue Cheese Sauce

White Chocolate Tart with Strawberry Jam
(adapted from blog The Flying Apple)

Sherried Wild Mushroom Soup

150 grams butter
2 onions, chopped finely
approximately 300 grams fresh shitake mushrooms, remove stems and roughly chop
approximately 400 grams white mushrooms, remove stems and roughly chop
8 cups chicken stock
salt & pepper
4 oz Sherry

Saute the onions in butter. Add the mushrooms and saute a further 2-3 minutes. Add the stock and simmer until mushrooms are softened. Puree in a blender. Pour back into pan, add Sherry, season to taste, and reheat.

Roast Filet of Beef with Blue Cheese Sauce

2 kilos beef fillet, ends cut (reserve for another recipe) and beef tied
salt & pepper
extra-virgin olive oil

For the sauce:
about 300 grams Danish Blue Cheese
250 ml all-purpose cream

Pat meat dry. Sprinkle beef generously with salt & pepper. Cover lightly with olive oil, spreading evenly.

I used a turbo-broiler to roast the beef... Turn broiler temperature to highest its setting, preheating for 10 minutes. Place beef on rack at the bottom of the broiler and roast for 35 minutes for medium. Let meat rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting.

If using a conventional oven: Preheat oven to 525 degrees F. Arrange meat on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast meat for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 130 to 140 F. for medium-rare. Transfer meat to a cutting board and let rest, loosely covered, for 10 minutes before cutting.

To make the sauce: Place both ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until cheese has melted and sauce is smooth.

White Chocolate Tart with Strawberry Jam

For the shortcrust pastry:
1 cup flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon or more ice cold water

For the filling:
300 g plain (but good quality) white chocolate
3 tbsp of caster sugar
250 g mascarpone
480 - 500 g cottage cheese
approx. 4-5 tbsp of strawberry jam
approx. 750 g ripe strawberries, cut into segments (optional)

In a bain marie gently melt the white chocolate, the mascarpone and the sugar, stirring to prevent any sticking to the bottom of the pan. As soon as the mixture is smooth remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Add the cottage cheese and puree in a blender until smooth. Pour filling into a bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour to chill and thicken slightly. Spread the pastry case with jam and cover with the white chocolate filling. If using strawberries, arrange the strawberry segments on top and sprinkle with icing sugar. Chill the cake for a day/overnight.

For the shortcrust pastry put all ingredients into the food processor and pulse for some seconds until a dough ball has formed, take it out, dust with flour, cover with cling foil and leave to rest in the fridge for half an hour.

Using your fingers, press the dough into a tart pan with a removable bottom, spreading it evenly at the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Mac & Cheese Dinner

Had some friends over for a very simple dinner. This recipe for Mac & Cheese will easily feed 10-12 people. Served my favorite sparkling wine, Freixenet Cava Cordon Negro (brut), to go with our meal...

Green Salad

Macaroni and Cheese
(adapted from Gourmet magazine, Dec. 1999)

Chocolate Pavlova with Strawberries


For bread crumbs:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs or Japanese panko breadcrumbs

For bechamel:

1 teaspoon powdered chipotle chili (or to taste)

1/2 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 tablespoon dry mustard

1 lb macaroni

2 lb extra-sharp Cheddar (preferably white), grated

Make bread crumbs:

Heat butter and oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then cook garlic and bread crumbs, stirring, until crumbs are golden. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt.

Make macaroni:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt butter in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over moderate heat, then add flour and cook, whisking, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk, cream, chipotle chili and mustard and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Strain to remove any lumps. Add sauce to large bowl of cheese and stir until cheese has completely melted.

Cook macaroni in a 6- to 7-quart pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 11 minutes. Drain in a colander and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in white sauce, cheese, and salt to taste.

Fill a large shallow casserole with half of macaroni mixture. Pour half of cheese bechamel on top of first layer. Repeat with another layer of macaroni and cheese bachamel. Sprinkle top with bread crumbs. Bake casseroles in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until bubbly.

Cook's note:

Macaroni and cheese may be made 2 days ahead, put into casserole, cooled completely, and chilled, covered. Do not add bread crumbs until ready to bake. (Baking may take longer than 30 minutes.)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Casual Dinner for 5

I've been eating out more often than usual since H, my good friend and cousin, arrived from the States a month ago and I thought it would be nice to have dinner at home for a change. H was really showing his age and new lifestyle by falling asleep on my bed on the way to use the bathroom. He is a single father of two one-year-old twin boys and despite the two nannies still gets exhausted. I had a good laugh about that while he was sleeping because we had actually planned (his idea) to party all night (his words). Ah well, there's always another time.

My other guest K, also a relative, was good to see after quite some time. Also a new mother, her lifestyle has changed as well (although she claims otherwise). The last time the three of us were together was in San Francisco painting the town red till five in the morning. Wow, things have changed!

Indonesian Fish with Sweet & Sour Sauce
(adapted from Cooking Around the World: Indonesian)

Chicken with 40 Cloves Garlic
(adapted from the Barefoot Contessa)

2 Kinds of Rice

(from Australian Gourmet Traveller: Chocolate)

This was the menu for last night's very casual dinner for five. My sister baked, for the first time, the mini Eclairs, which had a Creme de Cassis cream filling. The fish looked really good in a turmeric almond sauce dotted with cherry tomatoes and green onions, it tasted good too. And if you're a garlic lover like I am then the chicken dish was perfectly seasoned with lots of garlic cloves, some rosemary and white wine. Everything was fairly easy to make and delicious.

I served two kinds of rice - a white and a purple rice from the mountains of Banaue. Purple rice happens to be my favorite and is quite rare. There's only one place I know that sells it in Baguio and even they have a limited supply. The purple rice is grown, harvested and packaged by a cooperative of indigenous Batad women farmers in Banaue's rice terraces. They also grow several other varieties of rice like red, brown and sticky white rice.

Fish with Sweet & Sour Sauce
I doubled the spice paste and sauce ingredients called for in the book and used 2 cups of water instead of 1.5 cups to make the sauce.

serves 4

2 fillets of red snapper (about 1 kilo)
cornstarch for coating
oil for frying
salt & pepper

for the spice paste:
6 garlic cloves
4 lemongrass stems
2-inch fresh langkawas (galangal)
2-inch fresh ginger
1 1/2-inch fresh turmeric or 1 teaspoon ground
1/4 cup ground almonds

for the sauce:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 cups water
4 lime leaves (optional)
1 bunch Tagalog onions, peeled and left whole or 8 shallots, quartered
2 cups cherry tomatoes or 6 tomatoes, quartered
6 scallions, sliced thinly at a diagonal
2 red chilies (optional)

Grind all the ingredients for the spice paste in food processor.

Season the fish fillets with salt & pepper. Lightly coat in cornstarch and fry in hot oil, about 8-9 minutes each side. Drain on paper towels. Place on serving platter.

Leave a little oil from frying in the pan, add the brown sugar, vinegar and water and bring to a boil. Add the lime leaves, Tagalog onions and spice paste, simmer for 1 minute. Add cherry tomatoes and simmer for 3-4 minutes until sauce has thickened. Add scallions and pour sauce over fried fish.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
adapted from Ina Garten's recipe on the Barefoot Contessa

1 whole chicken, cut into parts
40 or more cloves of garlic, unpeeled
fine sea salt
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups white wine
fresh thyme or rosemary leaves
1/4 cup cream - optional

Rub the chicken pieces with salt and set aside while you heat a Dutch oven or large pan on medium heat. Add the butter and oil. When the butter has completely melted, brown the chicken pieces. When all the chicken has been browned, set it aside on a plate. Saute the garlic cloves in the oil remaining in the fry pan until slightly caramelized. Add the chicken and any juices that have accumulated in the plate. Try to get most of the garlic on top of the chicken pieces. Add the wine and thyme. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken and garlic with a sloted spoon to a serving platter. Reduce the remaining sauce to a syrupy consistency, then add the cream. Season to taste. Pour over chicken and garlic.

Chocolate Eclairs with Creme de Cassis Cream
M didn't make the chocolate glaze and instead sprinkled the eclairs with confectioners sugar before serving.

Alternatively, the cream can be flavored with orange or coffee liqueur.

choux pastry:
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 stick butter
90 grams or 6.5 tablespoons flour
2 eggs

300 ml thickened or all-purpose cream
40 grams (1/4 cup) confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon Creme de Cassis

100 grams dark couverture chocolate, chopped
30 grams liquid glucose
2.5 tablespoons thickened or all-purpose cream

Combine sugar, butter and 3/4 teaspoon salt with 185 ml of cold water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, add all the flour at once and, using a wooden spoon, stir vigorously until mixture is smooth, then return mixture to a low heat and stir for 1-2 minutes or until mixture comes away from side of pan. Add eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 15 mm plain nozzle and pipe 4-inch lengths, about an inch apart, on a silicon sheet placed on top of a cookie sheet. Bake at 220 C for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 180 C and bake for another 10 minutes. Turn off oven and cool pastries in oven with door slightly ajar.

For filling: beat cream to soft peaks, add confectioner's sugar and Creme de Cassis and beat until well combined. Cut pastries lengthwise with a serrated knife and fill with cream mixture.

For glaze: combine all in ingredients in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until well combined. Cool for 5 minutes, then spread over top of each eclair.

Place eclairs on a tray and refrigerate for 1 hour or until glaze is set. Unfilled pastries can be made a day ahead and stored in an airtight container. Filled eclairs are best served fresh.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year and a Wonderful 2007!

A Bridal Shower

Weddings are my favorite kind of party. The romantic ambiance, the warmth of relatives you haven't seen in ages, the boisterous children, the flowers, the food, new friends made, the celebration of an important step towards disaster (just kidding!). Whatever happens afterwards, the wedding celebration is one to remember forever. I for one remember my wedding reception of 300 guests. Whether this number seems small or big to you, the party was an intimate one of close friends and family. I have to say it was the best party I ever attended.

My second to the youngest cousin, the only male in our brood of cousins, is about to be married to a sweet and lovely girl. To start of our cousin-in-law relations well, my cousins and I gave her a bridal shower. I was quite surprised when the-bride-to-be called to ask if she could invite ten of her friends! After the initial confusion among the cousins (we had planned a small party), we decided it was a good way to meet her friends before the wedding and told her it would be our pleasure to host them. There were fifteen of us in all, a mix of relatives and friends on both sides. Not all of us made it however, one cousin was stuck abroad because of a legal matters concerning her business, another cousin had to stay home because of pregnancy symptoms. Despite these set backs we went through with the shower and made the best of it. The Cava was flowing, the food delicious and the guests were interesting. The shower's theme is Books, so my cousins and I gave her a gift of three cookbooks which I think will help start her out in becoming a good home cook.

  1. Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver
  2. Ken Holm's Top 100 Stir-Fry Recipes by Ken Holm
  3. 365 Ways to Cook Chicken by Cheryl Sedaker

I made a buffet of cocktail food and two substantial dishes since the party will lapse into dinner time. Lots of cocktail drinks all around and the Christmas decor gave of a festive ambiance to the shower.

Berry Iced Tea

Frozen Margarita


assorted bread

Caramelized Onion Dip with Vegetable Crudites

Pithale (Indian Dip)

Egg & Nori Finger Sandwiches

Bisteeya (Moroccan Chicken Pie)

Vegetarian Burritos

Baked Brie with Dried Fruit & Nuts

Burnt Butter Cupcakes with Sugar Frosting

Egg & Nori Sandwiches
Nori sheets are sheets of seaweed used in Japanese sashimi. You can buy the shredded variety in any Japanese grocery, or use sheets.

hard-boiled eggs, sliced
Japanese mayonnaise
shredded nori
white sandwich bread, crusts removed

Spread a thin layer of mayo on one side of all the pieces of bread. Place a layer of the sliced egg on a slice of bread, top with nori and sandwich with another slice of bread. Cut sandwich in half to make finger sandwiches.

Baked Brie with Dried Fruits & Nuts

1 round of Brie or Camembert
apricots, diced
muscovado or brown sugar

Toss the dried fruit in a bowl then mound on top of cheese round. sprinkle tops with brown sugar. Bake in 350 F oven until sugar caramelizes, about 10-15 minutes. Serve with French bread or crackers.

Burnt-Butter Brown Sugar Cupcakes
from The Domestic Goddess

These cupcakes are unbelievable good. This is the third recipe from Nigella Lawson's bake book that I've tried and all were incredibly successful. Another keeper.

12 bun muffin tray lined with muffin papers

for the cupcakes:
150g butter
125g self-raising flour
60g golden caster sugar
65g light brown sugar (or muscovado)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons milk

for the icing:
150g butter
250-300g golden icing sugar, sieved
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 200c and start burning the butter. Put butter in a small saucepan on medium heat, stirring all the time until it turns a dark golden colour. Take the pan off the heat and pour the butter into a bowl or cup. In other words, this is like clarified butter, but with a smoky note. Let the butter solidify again, so it remains soft for the cupcakes (although the book says not to refrigerate, I did or I would have been waiting for days for the butter to solidify, stir well to soften before adding to the rest of the ingredients).

When the butter is solid, but still soft, put all the cake ingredients except the milk in a food processor and blitz to a smooth batter. As normal, add the milk down the funnel, pulsing sparingly to form a soft, dropping mixture.

Divide between the paper cases, and cook for 15-20 minutes. While the cupcakes are baking, get on with the icing. It's the same procedure for the butter - burn, sieve, solidify - then beat it with half the sieved sugar or enough to make it stiff. Add tablespoons of the milk and the remaining sugar alternately to reach a good consistency, and finally the vanilla.

While the icing's still soft, smear messily over the cooled and waiting cupcakes.