Sunday, July 26, 2009

Osso Bucco

I'm not a big meat eater... however , there are meat dishes that are hard to resist. Like the Osso Bucco. Best when tender and fall-off-the-bone. It's the slow cooking process that allows all the ingredients' flavors meld into one yummy stew.

For me, it's not even the meat that gives me the oomph, but the topping that gives the kick of aroma and flavor that is divine-- called "gremolata".
1 kilo of good quality beef shank. (More meat than bone, ok?)
I find that the most consistent in meat quality is Montana at S&R.
2-3 carrots, finely chopped
2-3 onions, finely chopped
about 3-4 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 big can or a tray of button mushrooms, finely chopped.
(If I find oyster mushrooms in the supermarket chiller, I get them,too)
Optional: 1 c red wine
1 can of dice tomatoes, or stew whole tomatoes
1 can of good quality tomato sauce
Salt and Pepper

Zest, finely chopped from 2 lemons
1 cup of sweet basil leaves, stems removed
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.

This is such an easy dish which for me requires little skill. If you happen to have a slow cooker lying around, you pretty much leave everything to simmer.

If not, here's the typical way: Heat a deep pot with 1/4 c olive oil, saute onions and celery, till onions have become transparent. Add mushrooms and carrots and saute for about 3 minutes more. Then, add the shank. Allow the meat to turn light, then add water until it is submerged. Add red wine and put on high heat till it boils. (While it is optional, I highly suggest you use red wine. When you find that you have leftover wine, don't throw it away. It's also good when cooking fabada) Once boiling, simmer on low, low heat. Let it cook until tender, which is about 1 1/2 to 2 hours later.

By then, add tomato sauce and can diced tomatoes. (If you happen to have the stewed tomatoes, simply mashed them in the pot) Add salt and pepper and simmer until sauce is thick.

In the meantime, get the zest of 2 lemons and finely chop it, likewise with the basil leaves. (After washing the basil leaves, best to remove the excess water with a salad spin dryer. If you don't have, here's a tip: put the leaves in the middle of a tea towel, get the corners together and spin it round and round. Smart,huh?) Likwise, chop the garlic and simply mix all 3 ingredients in a bowl. Put a lid on it, to keep the aroma concentrated. Let it do its magic later.

Serve with steaming rice or top on pasta. While it is hot, sprinkle the gremolata on top and you will immediately smell the sweetness of the basil, alongside the faint, pungent smell of garlic and the fragrant citrusy lemon. Once mixed-- I just enjoy the sauce with my eyes closed.

This dish is all you need. Throw in a first course salad just to get a balance meal.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Healthy Pomelo Salad

Here is a delicious break from typical salads like cesar salad or chef's salad. It is light, juicy and healthy as it does not require oil in its dressing. Serve chilled from the fridge makes it a refreshing course or side dish to grilled chicken, baked fish or anything just as light.

Best of all, it is easy to do-- hardly any technique. What is important though is getting the best ingredients:
Bowl-full of fresh salad greens, mixed lettuce
1/2 to 1 pc pomelo (depending on size), peeled, seeded and segmented
(must be succulent and sweet)
1/2 cup of cashew nuts
Optional: 15-20 pcs of cooked shrimp

Juice of 2-3 lemons
fish sauce or patis

Wash and dry greens (If you love salads, a salad spinner is a must have).
Pomelo picking can be a tricky thing so get from a reliable source. Some pomelos are already dry and bitter. My Mom's advise to me which seems to work most of the time, is to choose pomelos that are still green. That way it is still plump and juicy on the inside. The guarantee of sweetness it seems is based on which farm it came from. Check the label and make sure it's a reliable brand.

Cut the pomelo segments with your fingers and gently arrange them on the greens. I would tuck pieces of of this fruit under the lettuce as well. Top with shrimps although this is purely optional. Shrimp may be boiled or grilled, then cooled before adding to the salad.

Then finish by sprinkling cashew nuts. I would usually add a little more than required :-) Let it chill in the ref.

In the meantime, prepare the dressing in a medium size bowl.
There is no specific measurement here because it's all about the balance of flavors. Add fish sauce and honey to the lemon juice a little at a time and whisk until you get the perfect balance of sourness, saltiness and sweetness. DON'T substitute sugar for honey.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad only when you are about to eat. Toss lightly, then serve.

What I find enjoyable about this salad is when the pomelo bits burst inside your mouth--juicy and sweet, add to that the crunch of the lettuce and the nutty taste of the cashew. Honey gives this dressing its distinct taste. I've had guests who initially found this to be different,but was happily surprised at how good and refreshing it is.
Hope you like it-- enjoy!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Macaroon Cookies my Grandmother made

In the past few months, I have been longing for food that I remember from my youth but have not had them for a loooong time. I recall my favorite "pan de coco" from the Tasterite Bakery at Project 6 Market. It's not the typical coconut and brown sugar filling but it seems like coconut moistened with condensed milk. Thinking about it, makes me want to drive there and buy a dozen!

Another one is my Grandmother's macaroon cookies. She would drop small spoonfuls on squares of wax paper. Her's was chewy and difficult to peel off the paper. But I just loved it so much-- it didn't matter that I was eating the bit of wax paper stubbornly stuck to my morsel!

One afternoon, I decided to give it a shot and make a batch, again, based on taste bud memory.

It's not as chewy, but almost like my childhood. And with silicon mats-- I don't have to chew on wax paper ever again. :-)

3 cups dessicated coconut
1 can or tetrapack of condensed milk (250 ml)
3 eggs
2/3 c butter, melted
2 t vanilla extract
1/2 c flour mixed with 1/2 t baking soda
optional: 1 zest of dayap

Preheat oven to about 275-300 degrees. Beat eggs, add condensed milk, melted butter, vanilla extract and hand mix.(Not much arm action here, don't worry.) Slowly add flour and baking soda mixture. Add zest. Drop spoonfuls and bake for about 10-12 minutes.

For a bit of decoration, top with glazed pili nuts before putting in the oven. (Glazed pili nuts can be bought from the grocery.) I'm not really much of a baker, so I check the cookies in the oven every now and then.

Now, I get to share another bite of my childhood with my own kids :-)

Adobong Bisaya

My husband is an adobo fan--and I mean FAN.

He absolutely loves the adobo I learned from my Batanguena mother which uses soy sauce: fall-off the bone tender, lots of garlic with whole pepper corns and bay leaves. Sauce reduced until thick, with a coating of pork fat.

I also immensely enjoyed a college friend's adobo which she calls adobong bisaya. And I thought, i'd make this one based on taste bud memory. So it's the "mestiza"one, cooked till dry, a mix of tender and crispy bits. Best for breakfast...

heck great for lunch and dinner,too.

Liempo is really the best part but is a killer-- so kasim will do. My version sort of throws caution to the wind. For those who just have to watch their cholesterol, stick to kasim or make it all chicken. (But...where's the fun in that?)
1/2 k liempo cut into big cubes (get the one with the least fat all the same)
1/2 k kasim cut into big cubes
1 kilo chicken cut into pieces
1 to 1/2 cups vinegar
3-4 T salt
1 head garlic finely chopped
2 T whole peppercorn
6-8 bay leaves
2 T oil
1 T annato seeds (achuete) for color
1 c water

Marinade meat and chicken in vinegar, salt,garlic and peppercorn for at least 15 minutes. Drain and set aside the marinade.
In the meantime, put oil in pan and heat the annato seeds. Remove annato seeds.
Put on high heat and use this oil to quickly sear the meat/chicken until the pink flesh turns white. Add the marinade and water,tear the bay leaves, turn to low heat and slow cook adobo till tender.
By the time it is cooked, the liquid would have dried up and the fat from the meat already rendered. Now put on medium-high heat. The oil will now "toast"the garlic to light brown, giving off an aroma that begs for rice!

Keep stirring to avoid burning the garlic. Turn down the heat if you have to, because burnt garlic is bitter.
A little patience and arm power will result in crispy bits on the sides of the meat and skin.

This is the type of adobo that gets better with age. Won't spoil so it's the best to take for picnics and out-of-town trips.
What about you? What's your version of the adobo? I'd love to hear from you.