Thursday, March 24, 2016

Very Southwest American Easter


Hey folks! I am just going to post some photos and link to the recipes to it. 

These are from last year's Easter brunch.


 
 



For the Baked Chiles Rellenos, top, far left.

 For the Mexican Red Rice
  
 
Medieval Hot Cross Muffins

Your favorite Cinnamon, Spice or Vanilla muffin recipe
+
add a pinch of dried rosemary, dried sage, pinch of anise seeds 
to the wet ingredients (to soften); Zest of 1 orange or lemon
+
handful of dried currants or sweetened dried cranberries to the batter
+
For the cross: use a pie dough, cut into 1 1/2" strips. Place on top of muffin batter before baking.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

What you should do with those corned beef from your St. Patrick's day stew

Filipino Corned Beef Hash

Don't want Reuben Sandwich the next day after St. Patrick's day? I hear you. Here's a Filipino Corned Beef Hash for breakfast or lunch-even dinner! 

When I was growing up, the corned beef we used were usually the canned, American brand ones. About 10 years after my first (and not last) canned corned beef, some small family-owned grocery stores at the 'wet market' (literally it is wet because it's an open-air supermarket and supposed to be the largest supermarket in Southeast Asia in those days) would sell it in bulk and I mean it looks like the canned corned beef but only as a 5-10 pound block of corned beef. It does not look like anything we buy here in the states at all (as a whole corned beef meat).   

This recipe is eaten with rice. In the Philippines-if it can be eaten with rice, it will be eaten with rice-even hotdogs! Otherwise, if on a diet-skip the rice.

This is a favorite lunchbox food also by students and 9-5 working Filipinos. Contrary to what I said before, this is seldom a farmer or fisherman's brunch food as canned food tends to be pricier when it reaches the barrio (village) mini-stores.

Another Filipino corned beef dish is sauteed with cabbage and swimming in soupy, corned beef broth (just water). And it is eaten with rice (wide grin).  






Ingredients:

2 cups of leftover corned beef from st. Patrick's day, drained off of the Irish spices; chopped in chunks or minced-if not yet macerated.

3 Tablespoons corn oil or coconut oil (or any neutral fat/oil you have)
1 1/2 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed into chunks
1 cup carrots, peeled and cubed (1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2 or however way you want it diced)
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup of frozen peas, thawed
2 pinches of salt
1 teaspoon cracked pepper 
1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
A pinch of msg OR (or) 1 teaspoon of sugar (Omit both altogether-if you want.)

Preheat pan until smoky. Add oil on heated pan followed by chopped garlic. When browned and slightly roasted, add the shallots, cubed potato and carrots. Saute for 2 minutes on high heat then add the corned beef, salt and pepper and frozen peas. Continue sauteing for 2 minutes on high heat then add hot water. Cover and lower heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes. Between simmering, uncover and sprinkle with the msg or sugar (if using) and soy sauce. Cover again and continue simmering for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Enjoy!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

My version of a " Real American Carrot Cake "



The first time I had Carrot Cake was here in the states (Seattle, WA; c. 2002). When I heard of it I thought it's "yuck!". I can already taste the dirt that comes with it, when you pull out a carrot from the ground. You know what I'm saying? 

Back in the Philippines carrots are supposed to be just a vegetable for salads, or as an accompaniment to meat or seafood recipes and rice. It is a savory ingredient there. I (and most poor and middle class working Filipinos) grew up on the regular yellow, white and chocolate cakes with all the variations as to how it is frosted (or back there it's more popularly called "icing") assembled and presented.
 
So if it is yellow cake-it varies with the flavor-either vanilla or butter or both in one. The icing (or frosting) will always have a "butter" or "margarine" base to it. There's also the classic "Seven Minute frosting". I am not sure when they had cream cheese there, but I have never had a cake with a cream cheese-based icing to it in the first 32 years of my life. Let me rephrase it: I don't know "cream cheese" but only when I moved to the states! Chiffon cake is also very popular there as opposed to Angel Food Cake which is liked here more instead. My Ma used to bake dozens and dozens of Chiffon Cakes to sell in an all-boys, Jesuit-run school, where my old bro attended high school. If it's chocolate cake-there's the Black Forest variation of it or the Chocolate Mayonnaise cake-no more, no less. Oh yes before I forget-the Devil's Food cake too. And as to how much cocoa are in it (Double or Triple Chocolate Cake?) No German chocolate cake, no Magic cake, etc. Imported cake mixes from Pillsbury only came popping up in grocery stores in the late 1990s.


There's the Filipino cakes which is still based from the American "quick bread" (with flour, eggs, sugar, some kind of fat/oil and baking powder) and it only differs because of the flavor (like the Purple Sweet Potato Cake [or Ube pron. as ooh-bee] and Pandan Cake [Screwpine leaves] ) but still it is an American-style cake.

Not having heard of Carrot Cake doesn't mean the Motherland is backward on cakes and baking.

Philippines boast of the Mocha (sponge) Cake which really tastes and has the color like mocha-latte coffee compared to the American mocha cake which is more of a chocolate cake (dark). Filipino Mocha Cake is baked either in round layer style or as a roulade (roll cake).

Bakeries in big and small town cities always have the 'Brazo de Mercedes' (Mercedes' Arm) in their display case and it is more of a roulade-with a creamy, tangy kalamansi (pron. as kah-lah-mahn-seeh; Filipino lemons) custard folded by a rich meringue center.

Most Filipinos has had or at least made the "no rival" (at all) Sans Rival Cake (made of huge disks of meringue, ground cashews, custard, etc..) and it is more of a European/French dacquoise rather than a flour-based American cake. Not to mention another dacquoise type of cake, the Concorde Cake. Yeah, it is a Filipino-adopted dessert made famous in the late 60's when it was served by a French pastry chef Gaston LeNotre in the first flight of the ever powerful commercial jet-the Concorde.


One would wonder-who's not familiar of the history of the Philippines-why the same country has more Spanish/French-sounding (and type) desserts? Trust me-Filipino cuisine (and baking) was heavily influenced by our big time colonizers-the Spaniards. And Filipino elites going to France to study in the universite-go figure!

So when I heard of Carrot Cake, I was intrigued at the same time cautious. And me being adventurous with food and tries not to be ignoramus about it in front of the (then newly-married to) hubby (who swears it's his favorite cake!) placed a morsel of it in my mouth and Irene was blown away! It was curiosity and revolting at the same time! My first impression about America when I ate this cake was: "these people had too much time in their hands to create THIS #$%^&*!@ cake!" Of course being me who always keep thoughts like that to herself just did that: kept my thoughts to myself. Until the next carrot cake (and I do not recall the occasion was) came into being in front of me and the next carrot cake and I mean my husband finally knew what makes me tick: because of "that #$%^&*!@ carrot cake!"

And so when I first had carrot cake in my mouth, the memories of eating those Filipino meat and vegetable stews with lots of carrots in it (Menudo, Afritada, Caldereta, etc..) came flooding my brain followed by an aftertaste of this baked-batter thing getting soaked with some kind of spice and sugar. Some crunchy thing as nuts (being the walnuts) and another sweet component which is the raisins. And I mean I feel like I was eating a vegetable stew in cake form smothered with sweetness. It was a really weird experience that my brain says "yes" but my mouth says otherwise.
Overtime I got addicted to this, big time! What gives? It's the carrots themselves, the good stuff like the walnuts and spices. Never mind the 2 cups of granulated sugar and blubber of fat in it (vegetable oil or butter). It's really a complicated love-hate relationship with this cake those first few years. Guess "love" wins! Best carrot cake you'll ever make-I assure you.


I did some research on the history of carrot cake just recently. And when I found out the origin of the regular carrot cake is a "Swiss carrot cake" with almond meal, I thought I'd create an American version using the 3 nuts grown and symbolic of the United Sates: macadamia (of Hawaii), pecans (of the South) and Walnuts (of California). This still has flour though. I bought the nuts in the bulk section of the grocery store; only costs me less than 7 bucks for all the nuts. Note: do not make the pecans and macadamia turn into paste. It should have a meal-like texture to it using a food processor.


If you do not have a cake stand, this recipe can be made into a cupcake or sheet cake.

Ingredients.

Batter:

1/2 cup finely ground pecans (do not turn into paste)
1/2 cup finely ground macadamia nuts (do not turn into paste)
2 cups chopped walnuts, divided to 3.
3 cups finely grated or shredded carrots
1 1/4 cups vegetable or canola oil (3 sticks of butter is fine too)
1/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or cake flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3 extra large or jumbo eggs 
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Frosting:

2 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2 sticks (or 1 cup) salted butter, room temperature
1 t vanilla extract
3 3/4-4 cups (1 lb) powdered sugar
2 t cinnamon, divided
Remaining chopped walnuts

Note: buy a good quality powdered/confectioners sugar. Those store brand kind looks and feels 'goopy'; tried and tested.

Instructions:

Cake.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil and flour OR line with parchment paper 2-9" round cake pans.

2. Whisk eggs, oil, milk, vinegar, vanilla extract, granulated sugar and grated or shredded carrots. Set aside.

3. In another bowl, combine flour, macadamia and pecan meals; baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

4. Pour dry ingredients onto wet ingredients and stir until well combined.

5. Equally pour carrot cake batter onto prepared cake pans and bake for 35 minutes or until bamboo skewer or toothpick (making sure it has been poked towards end of pan) comes out clean. If not, bake for extra few more minutes. Cool completely for at least an hour or more minutes. In between the 3 hours, it should have also cooled on a baking rack while still in the pan. 15 minutes after it came out of the oven.    

6. Refrigerate for 45 minutes before "crumb coating" (It is the base [thin] coating of frosting, to seal in crumbs before refrigerating it again for at least 30 minutes to an hour to finally frost the cake.)

While it chills, prepare the frosting/icing.

1. Using an electric hand mixer or stand-alone mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add vanilla and combine thoroughly, about 10 more seconds.

2. Add powdered sugar to the creamed mixture 1 cup at a time, mixing well in between each cup. Set aside covered in a cool place of your house-at least about 70 degrees F. If you do not have a cooler place in your house-then by all means refrigerate the icing; you will just have to take it out earlier than the cake to thaw and be spreadable. Chilled frosting will drag on your cake and create the crumbs or will even break it apart. 

After 30 minutes, take out the cakes and assemble it; hopefully you have a cake stand.

1. Remove 1 round cake from the pan and carefully remove the parchment paper.

2. Place the cake in the middle of the cake stand; this is your bottom layer. It should be crumb coated immediately before it warms up to avoid the cake to 'loosen up'. Trim the top of it's 'dome' to have a flat cake-using a serrated knife. Otherwise, if it baked perfectly flat, leave it be.

3. Drop at least 3/4 cups of the frosting on the top of the first layer; it serves as the filling-if you decided to make 2 round cakes.

Evenly spread it making sure it does not spill on the sides; reserve at least a quarter inch of space between the frosting and the edge of the cake. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts. Place the 2nd cake on top of the filling and nuts. Lightly press to so that the filling should spread towards the edge but not ooze out. Trim off the dome of the top cake-if it is not flat. If you're not particular about having a flat cake, then leave it as is. Start crumb coating-top and sides using an offset spatula. Again it is a thin coating of frosting just to seal in the crumbs.

4. Place back the cake and frosting in refrigerator to chill more for 30 (or more-if you wish) minutes. Take out the frosting 15 minutes early before the cake.

5. Finish frosting your cake-in any way you want. Just make sure it is evenly coated. You don't want any frosting to waste. Don't forget to sprinkle a light coating of ground cinnamon and the rest of the chopped walnuts on top and sides.

4. Chill again for at least 2 hours to set well. Your knife also come out clean when it is chilled well.

It is an overstatement coming from me-but if you make MY version of this carrot cake-I guarantee you: it's the best you will ever make-and it's for keeps!

Enjoy with milk, coffee or tea!


Thursday, March 3, 2016

The quick and simple "Filipino Bistek".

I don't remember when I first had this dish but I know I wasn't a kid anymore nor a teen. It was in a party and this was one of the dishes being served. I don't recall the celebration or even the hosts. No idea too where it was. I just have the vivid memory that it was some exclusive, private party.
The beef part that is used for this dish has to be cut up 2 inches long and half inch thick after being pounded to tenderize then marinated. It must be the brisket, chuck, flank or plate.

Here, I used "petite top sirloin" beef and there is no tenderizing needed, no slicing to small pieces necessary. With only 7 ingredients including the meat-what makes this exciting is the slight lemon tartness that lingers every time you chew and swallow each bite. I just added the red bell pepper as an afterthought for color but usually onion is the only vegetable with this dish.

Just double the recipe if serving for more than 2 people.


Ingredients:

1 lb beef top sirloin steaks (about two 8 oz)
1 large onion, sliced crosswise into half inch thick.
1/2 cup soy sauce
5 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons cracked peppercorn
1/3 c water
4 T cooking oil of choice. Please do not use olive oil.

Method:

1. Read the recipe
2. Prepare the ingredients.
3. Marinate the steak with the soy sauce, lemon juice, water and cracked peppercorn; 45 minutes.
4. Preheat a large pan until droplets of water roll and evaporate to a steam. Please do not use non-stick.

Sear the Meat:  

5. Add the oil in the hot pan. Here comes the messy part: slowly drop the steaks facing the back of the stove away from you. Sear for 15 seconds each side. You might want to loosely cover it to prevent oil splatter.

6. Set aside the marinating mixture.

7. Remove the meats from the pan and let it rest on a plate for at least a minute. Do not pile the meat; do not touch or poke the meat; do not remove the meat juices.

8. While the meats are resting, pour the marinating mixture in the pan and let it boil to a simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, add back the meats and juices and turn up the heat to high.

9. Immediately place slices of onion on top of the meat and cover.

10. Let it cook for 1 minute and remove from heat. Do NOT uncover until ready to serve.

What else can you eat it with but boiled, white (or brown) RICE. Baked potatoes is great too!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Snacking idea: cheese-pimiento spread with crushed pineapple

Missing a spread that I only get to know back in the motherland. Great for appetizers and finger foods and on buttery crackers too!





Recipe to make one cup: 

2 T pimiento; drained well, finely chopped
1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese (sharp, mild or medium)
1/4 crushed pineapples, drained well
2 T softened but still cold butter
2 T mayonnaise
pinch of salt
1 t honey or sugar

Cream butter, sugar or honey and salt. Add mayo and combine well.
Stir in pimiento, crushed pineapples and shredded cheese.

Taste: it should be sweet, tart, creamy, and a bit savory at the same time. Add any of the ingredients to your own taste.

Chill for 30 mins. to 1 hour.

Spread on your choice of bread but this is actually good with challah-style bread, brioche, any milk or egg bread; Hokkaido and hawaiian bread.

Notes:

1. Double the recipe to make more than 1 cup.
2. Using grated/shredded pepper-jack cheese on this gives it a little attitude.
3. removing the tops and sides of your bread of choice and cutting into bite size will be great for "tea sandwiches".