Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tuna Stuffed Surprise

Holy Week is perhaps one of the most look-foward-to event of the year. Families go on vacation and it signals the summer holiday for the kids. My family and I are taking our adventure to Vietnam so there will be interesting recipes to bring home.

In the meantime, here's one that is so close to my heart. It's a great picnic treat because apart from being easy to do-- it's easy to pack and something big and hearty to share.

My son Miggy, (diagnosed with PDD-NOS) and I joined the Century Tuna Culinary Meet years ago and we made it to the Parent-Child Category, sandwich shortlist. When I was putting this recipe together, I was thinking I'll do the cooking, he'll do the assembling and we both do the plating. When we were briefed before the cook-off, we were told that parents were not allowed to assist-- just verbal directions. We can only put the ingredients in place beforehand and supervise. The rest is the child's job-from slicing to cooking to plating--EVERYTHING!

If you're a parent of a child with special needs, you'd understand a feeling of trepidation. But you also have that gut feel that with the right preparation, they can have the same crack as any other child at the competiton.

Miggy and I practised the day before, with timer and all.

On contest day-- Miggy was cool, calm and focused.
The result?--We won First Place!

I can still see the movie in my mind. And how joyous he was--how confidently he answered the tv crew's questions. To anyone who ever doubted children with special needs-- they really ought to give these amazing youth a second look.
  • 1 round country bread (rye usually)
  • 1-2 cans of tuna (your choice of variant. If you like it chunks or flakes in vegetable oil or if you like it spicy like spanish style)
  • 1/4 c coarsely chopped mushrooms (canned, fresh white button or if you're feeling indulgent-portobello)
  • 1 T butter
  • 1/2 c black olives,chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 block grated cheese
  • 4-6 lettuce leaves, preferably romaine
  • salt and pepper to taste

Slice off the top of the country bread--just a thin slice to expose the soft, chewy part. Keep this "bread cover". Then carefully remove the bread inside, and leave the crusty case intact.

Drain the oil from the tuna. Set the oil aside in small bowl. Then cut open, de-seed and grill the green bell pepper, remove the charred skin, slice into strips and marinade in the tuna oil. Set aside.

Saute chopped onions and mushrooms in butter and add tuna. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper to taste. Also set aside.

To assemble sandwich, layer ingredients in this order:

Line bottom of bread case with 2-3 pcs of lettuce, then spread half of the bell pepper strips. Next, spread half of the tuna-mushroom mixture. Sprinkle half of the black olives and half of the grated cheese. Repeat the steps with the remaining ingredients. Make sure that it is evenly spread.

Should there be space left at the top, add the bread bits that were removed earlier to make the layers compact. Top with the bread cover. Wrap in foil and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Serve cold. Carefully slice to reveal the layers of the filling.Optional: you can add slices of boiled egg if you like.

This is healthy and hearty served with steamed veggies like asparagus, tossed in a simple olive oil and lemon dressing, OR slices of cool, crisp, apples to balance the palate.We like to combine red and green apples for color and tartness. It's a wonderful, wonderful contrast to the savoury sandwich.

It's easy to pack when you go on a day trip especially this coming Holy Week. Pack your bags and your picnic baskets. The days of summer are here.

Have a great time!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Colors of Summer

The great thing about summer when it comes to food is the abundance of fruits-- mangoes, watermelon, cantaloupe. Succulent and oh-so-sweet.
Another favorite fruit of mine is... tomato!
Red, ripe, juicy and really cheap! You can buy them as low as P15.00 per kilo!

When we went for grocery one weekend, it was only P17.00! I got really excited and I bought around 4 kilos--much to my husband's surprise. 1 kilo was oven-roasted with olive oil and 2 kilos were stewed, peeled and popped into the freezer for future pasta sauces. The rest were for cooking.

Many,many years ago, I had a client, a vegetarian who had tomato as filling for her sandwich. I said to myself-- "yan lang???!" Then, I just could not fathom the thought of tomato as filling sans the bacon,lettuce and a bit of mayo. Just tomato! Which is usually, neglected and rejected, usually reserved as side dish if not decoration. Why would anybody eat it that plain?
Today, I don't tire of it. On Sunday brunches, I have to have mine grilled. Sliced in half, sprinkled with a little parmesan, or just salt and pepper-- in the toaster oven it goes, till half cooked, the skin wrinkled and easy to peel off. Goes well with rice and viand or newly toasted bread and some other yummy toppings like spanish sardines.

Here is an easy snack pick-me-upper. A jumble of many textures that party in my mouth. Satisfying but not fattening. My summer tomato sandwich:

  • small baguette or slice of french bread. (it can be plain or whole wheat)
  • pesto sauce (about 2-3 spoonfulls)
  • 2 big tomatoes, in thick slices
  • cheese slivers (cheese of your choice. Here I used swiss cheese. I also like emmenthal)

Put tomato slices on a pre-heated teflon pan. Pan grill it till soft. Split open the baguette and toast till crunchy on the outside. A really good french bread or baguette for me is one that is crunchy on the outside, with a bit of chewiness on the inside. Spread it with pesto. Layer with grilled tomatoes and top with slivered cheese.
A no-brainer! It's so easy to do!

Dig in and enjoy the crunchiness of the baguette, paired with the warm, juicy, sweet-yet-with-a-hint-of-sourness-tomato. Add to that the kick of the pesto, fragrant with basil and garlic. This to me is the perfect example of healthy and yet flavorful food. Most of all, it is absolutely enjoyable. I actually close my eyes when I get the first bite.

If you want to share, you can cut the french bread into rounds and turn them into crostinis. Spread with basil, top with grilled tomato and finish off with shaved cheese.

Yellow, red, greed--the colors of summer on my plate :-)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Let's wrap and roll!

Yesterday, I did a "Rachel Ray"... meaning I made dinner that basically uses off-the-shelf ingredients. Fast and convenient AND in 30 minutes.
In the Philippines, there is no particular tex-mex section as you would a japanese section or an oriental section of ingredients. And so, with a little innovation and tweaking, I made my own version. Thankfully we have the likes of McCormick Taco Seasoning so that pretty much removed any thinking of spices to mix.

I have been wanting to experiment on some sorta tex-mex food as my youngest is a Taco Bell fan. And since my boys (hubby and 2 teens) have to have rice, I figured a hearty burrito would do it nicely. Plus, I can hide some greens like lettuce in it so my eldest would have more vegetables in his diet.

What I made was heavily flavored with a little heat so salsa is optional. What could complement this is sour cream if you want some coolness and tartness to balance the meal.

On a summer's evening, we capped dinner with fresh pineapple, one of the many succulent fruits in season. Just get yourself a golden ripe pineapple, peel of the skin and eyes, remove the core and cut into small chunks. Pop it in the refrigerator/freezer. This sweet, tart, icy cold fruit counters the heat of the burrito. And cools you down.
Satisfying and healthy.
  • 1/4 kilo ground sirloin
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pack McCormick Taco Seasoning less 1 tsp, set this aside
  • 1/2 small can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 can of red kidney beans, mashed
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups cooked rice (white, brown or red)
  • 3 T annatto or achuete oil for color (To render color from annatto, put 1/4 c oil in small pan or sauce pan, add 3-4 T annatto/achuete seeds. Put over low heat for about 3-5 minutes. Set extra oil aside for future use like java rice)
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce (Any kind will do.I used green and purple baby oak)
  • 1/2 block cheese, grated
  • 4 pcs large soft flour tortilla
Saute onions and add ground beef. Add taco seasoning and tomato paste. Stir and put on low heat till cooked. Meanwhile mash the beans and set aside.
In a teflon pan, put annatto oil and stir in cooked rice. Add the 1 tsp taco seasoning that was set aside earlier. This gives the rice flavor and binds the tex-mex flavor and feel together. Stir until fragrant and the orange color of the annatto is evenly spread. This deep orang-y flavor also gives it an appetizing, inviting look. Set aside.

Getting it together!
Get your large flour tortilla, and spread about 2 T of mashed red kidney beans on 1/2 side. On this same side, spread about 3 T meat mix on top of the bean.
Again, pile on the rice mix, about a little over 1/2 heaping cup. Pile on the shredded lettuce and sprinkle with grated cheese. You can add more cheese if you want to--it's not a crime :-)
Proceed to roll. It's a hefty roll that you might want to wrap in tin foil and heat in the oven for about 5-10 minutes.
What I did was place the burrito seam side down on the silicon mat and put in the toaster over low heat for no more than 10 minutes. I just wanted my brood to have a warm meal.

So, to put it simply: spread(mashed beans)- spread (meat mixture)- pile (rice)- pile(lettuce)-top( with cheese)-then roll!
This is not only great for a summer's evening. This is also a smart "baon"and picnic idea.

It's summer and my kids are spending more time at home-- so that means I'll be doing more wrap and roll. Watch out for it!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Chicken and Sausage Rice Pot

I enjoy watching the Asian Food Channel, including the shows that go to hawker stalls and out-of-the-way food stalls. Even if I don't understand the language and get by with the english subtitles-it's as if there were times I could almost imagine how the dish tastes like!

There was one such time when I saw a feature (in Malaysia I'm guessing) where the stall is known for its chicken and sausage rice. What caught my attention were the clay pots that were being cooked over wood fire. I see it in Japanese 99 peso stores and have wondered if one can actually cook with it and how. I like the partly glazed and partly rough parts which reminds me of pottery and white "palayok".
Now, I actually had the good excuse to buy and try! I got 2 pieces from the Daisu store one Sunday. I thought to myself, if I were successful I would have multiple servings OR if I were to break one pot, I would still have one left!
The process seemed easy enough and the ingredients are something I often have in my refrigerator. In fact, I have a similar dish months ago. Since it was a feature story, there were no recipes nor measurements which made the experimentation more fun. When I got home, I placed about a cup of water and let it boil. I figured I should "warm it up" so it won't crack when I began to cook. (But that's just me).

Next, I didn't want to slave over hot coals and decided to try on my trusty stove in the meantime. The only effort in this dish was the simple prepping and slicing. No sauteing, no braising. Just the melting of flavors in a pot as the rice gets cooked! How easy is THAT!?!
  • 1 cup of rice, uncooked. Washed and made to sit in water for about 5 minutes before draining
  • 1 T grated ginger, 1-2 cloves grated garlic, pinch of salt
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 c water
  • Chicken fillet, remove skin. About 200-250 gms, salt and pepper to taste (I removed meat from a leg, thigh and breast)
  • 2 chinese sausages, also called chorizong macau

Put the rice in the pot and add water. In a small sauce pan, I warmed the vegetable oil and added the grated ginger and garlic. I gently cooked these so as not to burn them less they become bitter. I added this ginger-garlic-oil mixture to the rice and stirred. Don't forget the pinch of salt to taste.

Cook it as you would regular rice: put on high heat and when it begins to boil, turn down the heat. (When cooking rice we would usually use 1 cup water to 1 cup rice. But I learned that you have to add a little more as I guess water evaporates easily because the clay is porous.)
After a few minutes when there is less water and the rice grains begin to swell, simply put the chicken pieces and the sausage slices on top. Put back the cover and simply wait till the rice is fully cooked. Finally: serve hot, hot,hot!
In the TV show at AFC, the diners poured a thin swirl of sweet soy sauce on top and mixed it up before partaking. I prefer it, as is. The chicken juices and sausage fatty flavor seep into the rice at the bottom. Every spoonful is packed with flavor.
My kids enjoy this dish, and counts it as among their roster of comfort food.
I plan to buy 2 more claypots. So when we have the chance, I'll serve this to friends, with a side dish of blanched veggies like bokchoy or petchay. Add to that fried spring rolls for crunch and contrast, and maybe... stuffed tofu.
What if you don't have this pot? No worries! I think it works just as well with your rice cooker.
Now, how simple is THAT!?!