Monday, August 31, 2009

Caramelized Bananas

In short, "minatamis na saging".
I surmise for many Filipino households, this is quite common. Alongside turon (crunchy, wrapped in rice paper with sugar, jackfruit and deep-fried, maruya (enveloped in batter and panfried) and banana cue; it is a ubiquitous merienda fare.

As a child, I remember adding crushed ice and a little milk. Since we didn't have an ice-shaver, we would put ice cubes in cheesecloth and pound away with a clean hammer. It was one of the many summer treats in my grandmother's house.
Today, I simply enjoy its syrupy goodness with a cup of hot tea.

I got to make a big batch as I was talked into buying 2 "buwig"or bunches-on-a-trunk for peanuts. I also bought 9 kilos of sweet, sweet rambutan freshly picked from the tree with black ants still all over it.

This is one of the things I enjoy in a road trip. The anticipation of the destination and knowing that there will be road-side shopping going home. This was especially exciting as we were on our way to Ugu Bigyan to shop for his beautiful pottery.
Through the years, I've collected his works which grace my dining table and many parts of my home. Plates, bowls, cups, serving dishes,vase, soup tureen, tea pots... so this year my husband and I agreed that what we would like to get are additional statement pieces for our lanai. Apart from pottery, one can simply go there to enjoy breakfast or lunch which showcases tagalog fare. That deserves another blog...

For my version of caramelized bananas, I add a little twist:
20-25 small saging na saba, I think they are called plantains
or about 15 big ones
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c honey
1/2-1 c water
1 t cinnamon

In a deep pan, combine white and brown sugar. Put on medium heat and wait for the sugars to caramelize a bit. Don't leave the stove as burnt sugar is bitter. Add honey and water and stir. (Sometimes I add a little bit of acid like a tablespoon of lemon juice or juice of 1-2 calamansi).
Add the bananas. My mom advised that I put on low heat because this way, what you get is a chewy, "makunat"texture. Stir once in a while to make sure each banana gets coated. After 30 minutes, the sugar will begin to thicken. Sprinkled the cinnamon and gently mix. If you're like me, you may cook it for another 10 to 15 mintues to get a thicker consistency.

Wonderful as is...or serve with vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My Boys' Breakfast

The perfect bacon.
Though it is store bought and presumably easy to prepare, the perfect bacon eluded me for a long, long time. I followed tips but still experimented to see what worked for me. And when I did get it right-- I paired it with my favorite kiddie treat-- french toast! The last thing my son Jam and I have to have with this pair, is a bowl of beans (canned pork and beans).

We have this once in a while as it isn't exactly the most healthy of foods. But hey! Throwing caution to the wind and enjoying a crispy bite of bacon is what's eating is all about!

French toast and pancakes are also the easiest for kids to do and they tend to appreciate what they eat when they get to help in the kitchen once in a while. I used to put pancake mix in a squeeze bottle and my sons would "draw"on the pan. But I digress...

I add a bit of sugar or honey to the french toast for a hint of sweetness as my sons do not particularly like pancake syrup.

This adds to a long list of choices for Sunday Brunch. Our mid-morning time together is more leisurely, peppered with stories, browsing the headlines, blind-items and comic strips. Then it's off to worship service, late lunch and when there is one--a good movie.
The perfect bacon:
1. Get the frozen pack out of the freezer the night before and thaw it in the fridge.
2. While non-stick pans are definitely healthier to use, bacon is best with regular pans-- particularly the thick bottom pans. (thin pans scorch and burn the bacon-not good).
3. Heat the pan thoroughly then lay strips beside each other. Keep on low to medium heat only.
It will begin to render the fat but not enough to crisp the sides. Add a little oil to "help it".
Be patient. Flip the strips to brown the other side.
4. When you pick it up with the tong and it is stiff, place on paper towels to absorb the oil. (that's the attempt to make bacon less sinful :-). A limp bacon is not what you're looking for.

French Toast:
Left over bread is always a good sign to have french toast.
1. Whole wheat bread or raisin bread is always the yummiest for me.
2. For every egg, add 1/3 cup milk (non-fat or soya is what I use. go ahead and use whatever you have in the pantry)
3. 1 T of honey or sugar.
4. Mix thoroughly. Dip bread on both sides.
5. Heat your trust, reliable non-stick pan through. It's ok to brush with a little oil the first time around.

Option 1: Pork and Beans
Option 2: 2 thinly sliced bananas, 1-2 T slivered almonds lightly mixed with 1/2- 3/4 cup of pancake syrup. This is another way ot top your french toast.

Then again, who says you can't have both!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Herbs in my Garden

There is something about growing your own herbs that makes cooking more profound. Does that make any sense to you?

I recall in high school, I would look at the old imported women's magazines, hard-bound and well-preserved by the nuns. I would read the recipes and somehow in my mind I could taste them as they were described. And in as much as then, herbs like dill and basil were not popular nor common in the Philippines, nor have I ever tasted them--I was just imagining how good it could be.

I knew the basics of cooking like frying and sauteing :-) And all because I was hungry saturday mornings. So I began with sardines, fried egg, sauteed corned beef with the prerequisite garlic fried rice. Eventually, I graduated to sweet sour pork, calamares, hotdogs with onions. Then on to baking like marble cake and brownies.
My Father would indulge me by letting me plan and cook the family Noche Buena and media noche which meant a bigger budget for crown roast, lasagne, turkey, galantina, paella and so on.

I used to hate onions, uncooked or undercooked garlic, leeks and ginger (unless I had to take salabat or ginger tea because I kept losing my voice!) Today, i enjoy practically all kinds of veggies and couldn't imagine my tastebuds without sweet basil (mmmm pesto...gremolata...)... lemongrass (ohhh tom yum)... pandan (kaya jam) ...dill (with smoked salmon or with my version of the spanish omellete)... ginger (ginger and green onion leaves sauce...hainanese chicken)...rosemary (heavenly roasted chicken or pork roast)...

As to growing my own herbs-- I've had hits and misses. Meaning, some have died on me before I can enjoy them! So I'm still learning. To date, I have a couple of sweet basil, rosemary, italian organo, a small patch just for pandan and turmeric. We grew lemongrass last year, but they became too grassy in such a small area at our backyard. I'm now trying mint and stevia.

I'm imagining that someday soon I will have a small patch of land somewhere near Tagaytay, so I can grow more that a few pots of herbs. I romanticize the thought of tomato plants for my own consumption... a couple of cocoa trees to make my own "tsokolate tablea"... perhaps a row of magic fruit trees (you know, the one with the small red berry that when you eat, will make any sour fruit taste really sweet for a few minutes.)

It's so clear in the movie in my mind that someday, I get to serve guests tarragon tea after a satisfying meal of grilled rosemary-garlic chicken... roasted vegetable salad...lemon and basil pasta...

I imagine that you will be visiting me someday.