Discovered at the grocery: Nestle’s yogurt + jelly

Discovered at the grocery: Nestle’s yogurt + jelly

Food shopping can be exciting. Or a total dud. Sometimes, there are so many wonderful things to try and, other times, nothing looks appetizing.

There was a time when grocery shopping meant buying a dozen or so tubs of flavored yogurt. Sam’s favorite was strawberry; Alex’s was mango. Based on a 2008 post, my favorite was buko-nata.

After several months of non-stop yogurt, the girls got tired of the snack. So did I, truth be told. Too much of anything can be cloying. We stopped buying flavored yogurt. I switched to plain yogurt which I used for cooking and making drinks.

In short, when grocery shopping, rarely did I take time to peruse the flavored yogurt section. Until today. I saw tubs of yogurt + jelly and… what the heck, I love yogurt and I love jelly, and those two together ought to be worth a try. I chose buko-pandan and peach-mango. [Read more...] Capellini, tomatoes and ham with basil and garlic sauce

Capellini, tomatoes and ham with basil and garlic sauce

The easiest way to name this dish is to call it pasta with pesto, tomatoes and ham. But that would be misleading. That’s not pesto. That’s a mixture of olive oil, basil, garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper and chili. And that’s not really pesto because pesto — at least, the very traditional recipe — has nuts, cheese, lemon juice and no chili.

Is the sauce similar then to the kind used to make pasta aglio e olio? Similar, yes, but instead of parsley, I used fresh basil.

What accounts for the similarities and differences? Alex was the one who asked me to make this pasta dish. It’s her recipe, really. But when Alex says “pesto”, she does not mean traditional Italian pesto. The girl has some serious issues against nuts. I don’t know why. So, I made Alex-style pesto — no nuts. She said to toss the pasta with her pesto and tomatoes, and that was what I did. But I wanted ham in mine so only my bowl of pasta had ham in it. Alex covered hers with grated cheese.

Note that the cooking time of three minutes indicated in the recipe is for cooking the pasta. I used capellini (angel hair) and it takes only three minutes to cook it. If you use some other pasta shape, the cooking time will vary, naturally. See how to cook al dente pasta like a pro as a guide. [Read more...] Pork braised in balsamic vinegar with buttered vegetables

Pork braised in balsamic vinegar with buttered vegetables

After going on a Parts Unknown marathon last month, I re-read Kitchen Confidential. Toward the end of the book, Anthony Bourdain advices home cooks on how to give dishes a professional look. Metal rings to give plated food height, chiffonaded parsley, etcetera, etcetera.

I thought about that while preparing lunch yesterday. I never really learned to use metal rings properly (I often use them as cookie cutters) but a sprinkling of fresh herbs has become quite a standard at home since we grow herbs in the garden so we have a constant supply. I thought about how height can give plated food a kind of panache so I decided that lunch would be a stack of rice, meat and poached egg surrounded by colorful vegetables in various shapes and textures. This was the result. [Read more...] Pork, sweet potatoes and peas with yogurt and honey sauce

Pork, sweet potatoes and peas with yogurt and honey sauce

Maybe I’ve cooked something like this before. Maybe I’ve posted a recipe for it and it’s in the archive although where and what exactly the title of the post is, I cannot recall at the moment. Maybe.

But meat and vegetables with a sauce made with a mixture of yogurt and honey is a formula worth repeating again and again. The meat and the vegetables don’t have to be the same each time. The meat component can be pork, beef, chicken or lamb; the vegetables can be anything in season. The important thing is to choose ingredients that go well together.

For today’s lunch, I chose pork, sweet potatoes and peas to douse with the yogurt and honey sauce. The pork had been pre-cooked, the last portion of the two large slabs of belly that I simmered together last week. The sweet potatoes are the bright yellow-orange variety. I used frozen sweet peas, the kind you grab from the grocery freezer, and I didn’t even bother thawing them before throwing them into the pan.

In short, this is a very easy dish to cook. If you can cut, measure and toss, you’ll have no problems replicating it. [Read more...] Pan-fried pork with pesto, peppers and tomatoes

Pan-fried pork with pesto, peppers and tomatoes

What’s the best way to get ideas on what to cook everyday? In my case, ninety percent of the time, it’s about what we have in the fridge, the freezer and the pantry. You know… put them together and what have you got? It’s not bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, however, as there is no magic in the kitchen. Even Mrs. Weasley admits as much. I take out what ingredients there are, line them up, contemplate then come up with a game plan.

Where do I get inspiration ten percent of the time? Pinterest, you think? No. Pinterest these days has become a huge advertising board for food corporations. More than eighty percent of the highly-stylized food photos shared there are of baked products. Check them out and see how often certain brands pop up in the ingredients list.

So, no, I don’t go to Pinterest for inspiration. I look at the ingredients I have, type their names into the browser as keywords and search Google images. That’s how I find real food blogs. Blogs of people who really cook with ingredients that make sense. And those are the places where I get genuine inspiration.

Was that how the recipe for this pan-fried pork with pesto, peppers and tomatoes came about? Not really. This was a dish made from leftovers but it was inspired by a salad with pesto dressing and bell peppers in three colors. [Read more...] Gaeng om: Thai herbed pork and vegetables

Gaeng om: Thai herbed pork and vegetables

Gaeng om is a herb-y, spicy and hot pork dish with vegetables. I use “spicy” and “hot” separately because… well, it’s funny how so many people say spicy when they mean hot. Spicy can mean any number of things: zesty, piquant, earthy, pungent and, yes, hot. But “hot” doesn’t encompass all the other spicy flavors so to use the two words interchangeably is simply wrong. I must admit that I made that mistake in the past but I’ve learned so this soup is both spicy and hot. It derives various spicy flavors from the garlic, lemongrass and ginger; it gets its heat from the chilies and the ginger.

Gaeng om is often described as a pork curry soup from northern Thailand. But it isn’t exactly a curry and it’s not a soup either. The Atlantic’s Asia-based contributor Jarrett Wrisley wrote in 2010:

I appreciated this Zen description from my host, A-Nong: “It’s not really a soup and it’s not really a curry… it’s om.” Gaeng om is often eaten in concert with larb or grilled meats as a cleansing herbal tonic.

Culturally speaking, therefore, gaeng om is more akin to the granita which the Italians eat between courses as a palate cleanser rather than soup as a starter course in the Western context.

But we are very rarely culturally correct at home. We ate the gaeng om as a main course — with rice. And it was superb. [Read more...] Deciphering rice varieties

Deciphering rice varieties

Growing up, I knew terms like sinandomeng, wagwag, laon, dinorado and malagkit. Those were the basic classifications of rice, pre-GMO days. A page from the forum of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) website has this information about rice varieties.

Dinorado is native upland rice characterized by its pinkish grain, sweet aroma, and good eating quality. This is exotic rice from Arakan Valley. Price is generally 50% higher than ordinary rice. However, nowadays, quality diminished as the genetic purity of its seed stocks declined.

Sinandomeng is classified as fancy, regular and special. Sinandomeng fancy is a “laon” rice (old rice). Characterized as “maalsa pag niluto at katamtaman ang lambot”. Sinandomeng regular is a combination of special and fancy. This one is “maalsa at malambot pag niluto”. Sinandomeng special is soft and delicious when cooked…

In other words, the traditional classifications were based on the characteristics of each rice variety. And that made a lot of sense. Other classifications were more the concern of the farmer as they pertained to characteristics that affected growth, propagation, yield, how soon the palay could be harvested, etcetera. Insofar as consumers were concerned, all the classification needed was to distinguish the cooking and eating quality of the rice — starchiness, stickiness, fluffiness, aroma, mouthfeel… [Read more...] Ukha-inspired fish and vegetable soup

Ukha-inspired fish and vegetable soup

In the film I Am Love, a young man’s comfort food is his mother’s fish soup. The mother, a Russian who married an Italian and who thereafter “taught myself to be Italian” cooks the soup whenever her son is home and he relays a hankering for it.

The son befriends a chef his age and the chef is occasionally invited to cook for parties at the son’s home. The mother and the chef fall in love and the mother teaches the chef her secret for making ukha, the son’s beloved fish soup. At a dinner party prepared by the chef, he serves ukha and the son puts two and two together.

The story ends in both tragedy and triumph but I won’t write any spoilers. It is, after all, the soup that I want to talk about here. [Read more...]

Sambo Kojin at Eastwood City

Sambo Kojin

Once a year, vegetarian Sam eats seafood. That happens on her birthday bash. This year, it was dinner at Sambo Kojin at Eastwood City. Her choice. She perused the menu, liked the seafood selection so off we went.

Sambo Kojin is a Japanese-Korean restaurant. It offers buffet-style dining where the main feature is the smokeless grill on every table. We feasted. Sam grilled quail eggs, corn, shrimps, and salmon. Off the grill, she had sushi, sashimi and tempura. Us omnivores had a lot of meat in addition to the grilled seafood, sushi, sashimi and tempura.

What was good and what was so-so? [Read more...]