Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ginisang Kalabasa (Sauteed Squash): Serve With Hot Steamed Rice!

If you’re looking for an easy to prepare and easy to like dish, you can always count on any sautéed vegetable. At the top of my family’s list is: squash. It’s rich in Vitamin A (our parents told us that and it's actually true), and sautéing it requires only the staple ingredients in any humble kitchen, thereby making it very affordable (this recipe is enough for three and barely costs 40 pesos). Not bad, right? It’s also kid-friendly because of its sweetish taste – my son could have two servings of rice with this dish. If you haven’t sautéed anything before, this is ideal for your “initiation” in the sautéing department. You can use the same ingredients and procedure for sautéing Baguio beans and sayote. Happy cooking!


1 segment of squash
3 pieces adobo cut or around ¼ cup pork with some fat (or chicken fillet)
1 cup water
1 clove garlic
½ onion
1 tomato
1 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce

Step 1: Boil the Meat
Pour 1 cup of water into a small pot. Boil over high heat then place the pork slices inside. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the pork doesn't ooze out any blood when pricked with a fork (this is for those who haven't cooked anything other than fried egg - it's the best way for me to gauze the doneness of boiled meat.) Skim off any foam (that's the blood) that floats on the surface.

Step 2: Prepare the Ingredients
Wash the squash and tomatoes. Crush the garlic and peel then cut into three pieces. Peel the onion and slice. Cut off the top of the tomato and slice as well. Scoop out the seeds from the squash and scrape off any soft parts where the seeds used to be. Peel and then slice thinly so that they can cook more quickly. Set aside. When the pork is done, drain and reserve the broth. Cut the pork into small pieces then set aside.

Step 3: Sautee.
Put a tablespoon of oil in a hot pan (use any kind of spoon-it doesn't have to be a set of measuring spoons). Sautee the onions first until they’re limp. At this point they will start to produce that really nice aroma and sizzle. Add the garlic, stir every once in a while to prevent it from burning. It’s burnt when its black and it smells bad. You really would't want this. When this happens, everything will taste bitter and nothing can fix it, as far as I'm concerned. If you don't want to prepare another batch of garlic and onion and wash a pan so you can start over again, then I suggest you make sure that the heat is on medium. On with the sauteeing, you can now add the tomatoes. Stir once in a while as well and cook until these are also limp. Then, toss in the pork. Stir to coat them with the oil that has been flavored with garlic, onion and tomatoes. Season with soy sauce and a pinch of pepper. Stir once more to distribute them then cover with a lid. Allow to heat through - still over medium fire - until the fat is cooked and the pork fat has come out.

Step 4: Cook the Squash.
When pork fat has come out, stir all the ingredients a bit then toss in the squash. Stir to coat it with the oil and cook with the lid on for 3-5 minutes. Then, add the broth where you cooked the meat. Boil. Lower the fire then simmer until the squash is well-cooked. I prefer cooking it until the broth has become thick and turns yellowish. This way it is easy to mash into the rice. Remove from heat and serve with still very hot steamed rice.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

French Toast / Pain Perdu: For A Quick Bibingka Fix

I'd have French toast everyday if not for the high cost of fresh milk and Gardenia bread. This is one of the breakfast fares my four year old loves to prepare with me because the steps are really easy! Picture a toddler sitting on top of the counter or standing on a stool, whisking ingredients and dipping bread slices in a bowl of milk. It makes me just want to squeeze him with a death hug! We love to have our French toast really soaked up in the milk mixture because that way it is moist in the inside even after it has been fried. One trick my son does is he drizzles it with maple syrup AND chocolate syrup. He says that's what Remy (of "Ratatouille" does - combining flavors!). I learned this recipe from Ms. Heny Sison's show "A Taste of Life" several years ago and as she said, it really is a great alternative to bibingka when paired with salted egg and cheese, and served with hot chocolate. Yummy! Chef John has another version that I haven't tried yet but just watching his video blog for his French toast recipe makes me wish I could get it out of the screen and have a bite. Try this one out on your own and include in a breakfast in bed for a loved one on their birthday or your anniversary or just because you want to pamper them for no reason. Works all the time.

¼ cup brown sugar
1 cup fresh milk
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 ½ - 2 Tbsp butter
5 slices sandwich/loaf bread

Toppings (optional):
Salted egg
Powdered sugar

Step 1: Prepare the milk mixture and the egg.

In a bowl, whisk the milk, brown sugar and cinnamon until the sugar has been dissolved. In another bowl, beat the egg until fluffy. Set these aside.

Step 2: Pre-heat the pan.
Heat a non-stick pan over medium fire.

Step 3. Prepare the bread slices.

With clean, dry hands, dunk a bread slice into the milk mixture and let it soak up some of the liquid. Be careful not to tear the bread as you hold it up as it becomes heavy with the mixture. If you're using crusty bread, you can handle these with thongs (like Chef John does) because they're thick enough. Next, coat each with the beaten egg. Set aside in a plate. Repeat with the remaining bread slices.

Step 4: Toast the soaked bread slices.

Melt ½ Tbsp of butter on the hot pan over low heat. Place two pieces of soaked/coated bread beside each other. Cook both sides until they’re golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving dish. Repeat with the remaining slices.

Serve with slices of salted egg and top with grated cheese and powdered sugar.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tinola: Chicken With Ginger and Sili Leaves

This is one of my favorite dishes because not only is it very delicious, it is very comforting and nutritious as well. My mother would prepare this on weekends or rainy days and would make us children sip the broth while it’s still very warm. She also made me cook this on my own when I was in high school. It’s become my son’s favorite, too. Please feel free to use papaya instead of sayote. I just prefer the latter because we don’t have a papaya tree and sayote is a lot cheaper in the market.

4 chicken thighs
1 garlic clove
½ piece onion
1 sayote (or papaya)
1 bundle sili leaves
water, around 2 cups

Step 1: Prepare the chicken slices.
Wash the chicken pieces and drain. Remove the fat and skin if you want to cut on cholesterol. Sprinkle the meat with salt (this will help to bring out the flavor) and set aside.

Step 2: Prepare the other ingredients.
Garlic: Crush with the heel of your palm against the side of the blade of your knife to crack the skin easily. Peel off the skin and cut the garlic into three pieces.

Onion: Peel off the skin and slice the onion.

Ginger: Cut off a ginger as big as your thumb. Wash and peel, then slice into thin but wide pieces. If you have a mortar and pestle (or dikdikan), place
the washed ginger slices in the mortar and pound several times with the pestle to crush it. This helps the juice to come out.

Sayote: Wash and cut off the top from the narrow end. Peel the rest of the sayote, then slice lengthwise into four pieces. Carve out and discard the core using a knife and cut into 1” long pieces.

Sili leaves: Soak in a bowl of salted water for 2 minutes to get rid of worms, if there are any. Rinse the whole bunch, then start picking the leaves, including only the soft stems and some fruits. Discard the tough stems and wash the leaves one more time. Drain and set aside.

Step 3: Cook the tinola
Heat your pot or wok over medium low fire. Pour around two tablespoons of cooking oil and heat for about one minute. Add the onions. Stir once in a while to prevent them from burning. When they’re limp, add the garlic and cook until you can smell its aroma. Don’t burn these because they will cause for the whole dish to taste bitter and no sugar can fix it. Then, add the ginger. As you heat the ginger, it will soak up the oil but it’s perfectly fine because there will be more than enough oil when you cook the chicken. When the ginger has softened a bit, add the chicken pieces and toss to coat with the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Stir, and then cover with a lid. Cook over medium low heat until you see that the oil of the chicken has come out and the meat on both sides has started to become light brown. To prevent the garlic and onions from burning, I spoon them over the chicken while searing the meat. Chicken is cooked if clear fluid oozes out when pricked with a knife or fork.

Add the sayote pieces. Stir, cover, and heat through for two-three minutes. Remove the cover then add just enough water to cover the meat, around two cups. Cover again then boil. Cook over low heat until the sayote is done (you can pierce it with your fork or knife). Add the sili leaves and cook for one minute. Remove from heat then serve while hot. Makes 2- 3 servings.