Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Calamansi Pistachio Muffins

I grew up with calamansi, or calamondin, which is, according to Wikipedia, a hybrid of citrus and kumquat.  We always had calamansi in the kitchen, whether for drinking (juice), or for cooking, or for seasoning on the table.  It has a different taste from lemon or lime, but it is definitely sour.

Anyway, just recently the food garden turned out a bumper crop of calamansi (both regular and variegated) and they were turning yellow fast so I had to figure out a way to use them!  I'd been eying a recipe for calamansi muffins in the book "Bake Me a Cake" and I thought a bumper crop of calamansi that was ripening very fast was a good reason to finally bake a batch! 

Of course, I couldn't help but make a few changes... first of which was to add chopped pistachio nuts!

An accidental "change" is the number of eggs... since I only had 2 pieces of super jumbo eggs, that's what I used, even if the original recipe specified 3 eggs.  I also added some calamansi zest... and I followed my usual method for mixing muffin batter...

How I made these muffins...

1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
zest from 2 large calamansi
2 pieces super jumbo eggs (original recipe called for 3 whole large)
1/3 cup fresh calamansi juice
3/8 cups low fat milk
1/2 cup chopped pistachios

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together; set aside.  Rub calamansi zest with sugar; let stand a few minutes.

Cream butter with sugar; add eggs, calamansi juice and milk.  Add the flour mixture in 3 parts; mix only until just combined.

Spoon into prepared muffin tins (about 22 midi-muffins) and sprinkle chopped pistachios on top (lightly press down so nuts will adhere).  Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

(Note:  a friend of mine suggested that a glaze would take the muffins over the top...)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Perfect Breasts

Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breasts, that is...

Hubby announced that we might be having company for dinner tonight.  I panicked!  There was no time to go to the grocery and I only had skinless, boneless chicken breasts in the freezer.  Aside from that, all I had were salad greens and 3 kinds of fresh mushrooms.

I usually cook chicken breasts with vegetables, quickly sauteing so that the chicken does not dry out.  But this time, I decided to try something different. 

Last Christmas, a friend gave me the e-book copy of The Kitchn Cookbook.  It was there that I discovered the best way to cook chicken breasts on the stove.  An e-friend also referred a page on the site of The Kitchn, pertaining to the same topic.  The same e-friend then told me about the adaptations she made.  I decided to follow her directions ...

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, split into 2 (avoid the overly big ones)
2 cups water
1/8 cup sea salt
1/2 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 pieces (small) bay leaves, crumbled

Dissolve the sea salt in the water; set aside for a while.  Place the chicken breasts in a bowl.  Put in the crushed peppercorns, garlic and bay leaves.  Pour in the salted water; make sure the chicken is fully submerged.  Let stand 15 to 30 minutes; then drain and pat dry.  Pound the chicken breasts (gently) about 1/2-inch thick.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large, shallow frying pan (big enough to fit all the chicken breasts in a single layer).

Pat the chicken dry (again) and place in heated oil (heat on medium-high).  Set the timer for 1 minute, then flip the breasts.  Cover the pan, lower the heat to low then set the timer for 10 minutes.  Let the chicken breasts cook, undisturbed.  (Do not uncover!)

After 10 minutes, shut off the heat/flame.  Let the chicken rest, in the pan still covered, another 10 minutes.  After the 2nd 10 minutes, check the chicken for doneness.

Hubby topped his salad with the chicken (as well as some sauteed mushrooms), and he declared the chicken a winner!     

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pancit Habhab

I have to be honest.  I have not tasted "real" Pancit Habhab.  In fact, I have no idea what it was.  All I know is that we went to the south of the Metropolitan to celebrate F-I-L's birthday; while we were waiting for the rest of the party to arrive, we walked around and found a small food fair.  And in one of the stalls, they were selling baked noodles called Pancit Lucban.  They looked like pancit canton except that they were thinner.

As usual, my curiosity got the better of me and I asked what they were and how they were cooked.

The saleslady said that Pancit Lucban is the type of noodles used to cook Pancit Habhab, which is a noodle dish/street food popular in the Quezon Province.  It is traditionally served on or in banana leaves, with a dash of vinegar or calamansi, and is eaten without spoons or forks.

What?  Seriously?


Apparently, to eat the noodles, you have to lift the banana leaf (with the noodles on it) to your lips and eat!

How is it cooked?

According to the saleslady, just like pancit canton, except that sayote is a crucial ingredient and more water/stock is used.

Oooo-kay.  (Of course I bought some noodles!) 

And here's my Pancit Habhab -

When I recounted to B's lola and a-te how this noodle dish is eaten and what it was called, A-te laughed and said that in Bisaya and/or Cebuano, "habhab" means to eat "like a dog", specifically without using utensils and by putting one's mouth directly to the food!  She proceeded to demonstrate and, indeed, it was the way the saleslady described it!

But, we ate ours with spoons and forks and plates!  Hubby proclaimed the dish a success, although with what as basis I don't know (since I was cooking "blind" and we both have not eaten authentic Pancit Habhab before).  In any case, it was delicious!  And I hope close to the real thing!

How I made mine -

8 thin slices of ginger
100 grams pork liver, sliced into cubes
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium size onion, sliced
200 grams pork belly, sliced into strips
200 grams medium size shrimp
1 to 1-1/2 liters stock or broth
1 to 2 tablespoons patis (fish sauce)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed or ground black pepper
1 small carrot, julienned
100 grams sitsaro (sugar snap peas), stringy ends removed
1 small sayote, julienned
1/4 head of cabbage, shredded
250 grams Pancit Lucban noodles
calamansi juice

In a large wok, sauté ginger then flash-fry the liver.  Transfer to a plate.

In the same wok, sauté onion and garlic until fragrant.  Add pork and shrimp stir fry for a couple of minutes, until the meat sizzles.  Add 1 liter of stock and out in the vegetables and seasonings.  When the mixture boils, put in the noodles.  Cook until the noodles have absorbed the liquid (texture is soft), about 6 to 10 minutes.  If the mixture is too dry, add more water, in 1/2-cup increments.  Adjust seasonings, to taste.

Serve with calamansi or vinegar.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Garlic Chicken and Potatoes

This is a variation of the Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic I made sometime ago.  It came about when someone suggested to me:  (1) add potatoes and make it a 2-in-1 dish, (2) use both peeled and unpeeled garlic, and less of it, and, (3) skip the herbs.

6 large pieces chicken thigh, bone-in and skin on (rinsed then patted dry)

650 to 700 grams potatoes, skin on, scrubbed clean then cubed
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground peppercorns
4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon each sea salt and coarsely ground peppercorns
1 whole head of garlic, unpeeled, cloves separated

Place the potatoes, in a single layer, in a disposable aluminum baking pan (about 8x12-inch).  Pour the melted butter over the potatoes.  Sprinkle the salt, ground peppercorns and minced garlic.  Toss everything together until the potatoes are coated with the melted butter and spices.

Rub calamansi over the chicken.  Rub the salt and pepper mix onto the chicken, and in between the skin and meat.  Arrange over the potatoes.  Scatter the unpeeled cloves of garlic all over.  Bake at 375F for about an hour.

I couldn't believe it but this version was a bigger hit than the one with 40 cloves of garlic.

Apparently, the secret to the dish is to keep the garlic unpeeled.  As the dish is baking, the garlic is transformed into soft mush that's so tasty and delicious!  It's especially good smeared on the chicken!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Road Trip to Pundakit

Getting together with my college buddies is always exciting.  We usually explore the culinary world (and we're perfectly happy doing so) but once in a while, we go on a road trip...

This time around, it was off to pristine beaches...

But we had to ride in smallish boats... 30 minutes to the cove...

If only I wasn't freakishly scared of boats and open waters!  The ever changing colors reflected on the sea water were absolutely hypnotizing... from a light, almost transparent blue, the sea waters morphed into a medium hue, with greenish gold highlights... and as we chugged farther into open seas, the waters turned opaque, into a deep shade of midnight blue, with green grey peaks...

I wish I could have taken photographs while we were on the boat, but my hands gripped the sides of the boat with such intensity that it was impossible!  The view of rocky formations and cliffs in the middle of the seas was fantastic.  And the beach?  Forget Boracay!

But it was not only the beach sites that were breathtaking.  The view beside the road was just as picturesque!  On one side of the highway...

And on the other side...

And because I was preoccupied with (ehem) keeping my sanity, I am adopting some of my dear friend's photos...

Beautiful!  And, the truth is, while I did not relish the boat rides (the way back was worse, because the waters were really choppy!) the wondrous sights was worth it (considering my "phobia"!).  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pork Tapa

Tapa, in the local context, refers to cured (or preserved) meat.  Usually the meat used is beef, but pork and/or chicken may be used.  In our case, since hubby no longer eats beef, we use pork.

When I young, tapa (as well as other similar food items) was banned from my mom's dining table... preservatives were bad (my mom said so).  It's a good thing then that there's a way to make tapa without using salitre or "pink" salt.  Here's how I make mine.

500 grams pork, sliced thinly or in thick strips
1/4 cup light soya sauce
2 to 4 tablespoons calamansi juice or native vinegar
1 head of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 to 1 tablespoon freshly cracked black peppercorns
1 tablespoon canola oil

Mix together soya sauce, calamansi juice, garlic, sugar, cracked peppercorns and oil.  Place the pork in a zip-lock bag and pour the marinade over the pork;  mix well.  Leave in the refrigerator at least 24 hours, preferable 48 hours.

To cook:  Saute about 4 cloves minced garlic in some oil.  For a saucy dish, pour everything into the pan; for a dry tapa, drain the pork before putting in the pan.  Stir fry until the meat is done.

Best served with a fried egg, rice and chopped tomatoes!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Thai-style Garlic Chicken, Barbecued

Yes, I am still into Thai food.

Here's an experiment with chicken!

The recipe came from this book (which I got last Christmas!)

And, as always, I made some changes.

The recipe specified boneless chicken breasts, but I only had thighs (with bone).  And I used way more garlic (love the flavor!), skipped the shallots (didn't have any) and added more fish sauce...

My version:

1 head of garlic, peeled
1 cup packed fresh wansoy, with stems (I omitted the roots)
1/4 cup calamansi juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
4 pieces large chicken thighs

Rinse and dry the chicken thighs.  Place in a shallow dish just big enough to hold the chicken.  Put the garlic, wansoy, calamansi juice, fish sauce and peppercorns in a food processor.  Whiz until the mixture is smooth.  Dump the mixture onto the chicken thighs and rub all over, including between the skin and meat.  Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Grill over hot coals until done!  Serve with sweet chili sauce.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

On the First Day of...


Happy New Year!

We woke up on the first day of the year to a chilly morning and the lovely sound of... silence!  I swear there is nothing more comforting than silence after an explosive night!  A quick look at our street and I was pleasantly surprised to see it relatively clean, with most of the remnants of fireworks and firecrackers swept in small piles.  At 8 in the morning, there was no one outside at all (still sleeping off the effects of the festivities of the previous night, I suppose).

Ironically, though, considering I was the last one to go to bed the night before (everyone woke up right before midnight to witness the festivities), I was the first to be awake.  Force of habit?

Anyway, the first order of the day?  Breakfast, of course!

And what would be the perfect breakfast fare on a cold and chilly morning?  Congee!  It was hot and comforting, and convenient, because I could kill 2 birds with 1 stone by throwing in a whole lot of leftovers!  There was leftover lechon (roast pig) and shrimp from Media Noche, and I found the last piece of abalone mushroom.  There was a bit of chay po (preserved radish) also, initially intended for an omelette.

About a year ago I already made lechon lugaw, although the recipe for that one was not a recipe at all since I threw everything in the pot and did not measure at all.  This particular congee is similar to that one, that is to say, not made from scratch (using uncooked rice) because we also had a lot of cooked rice left over from Media Noche!   But this time, I measured the ingredients!

Here's how to make Lechon Lugaw (Roast Pig Congee):

5 thin slices of ginger
1 small onion, finely minced
about 2 cups chopped up lechon
about 6 to 8 pieces cooked shrimp
1 tablespoon chay po (optional)
1 large abalone mushroom, sliced
5 cups water (or more, depending on preference)
2-1/2 cups cooked rice
salt and pepper, to taste

Saute the ginger and onions until fragrant.  Add the chopped up lechon; stir fry several seconds.  Add the water and bring to a boil.  (At this point I usually add a bit of salt and pepper.)  When the mixture boils, add everything else, including the rice.  Stir every so often, to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Season to taste.  Add more water if desired.

The congee is done when the rice is mushy (I simmered and stirred the pot for about 20 minutes).  Add a splash of sesame oil before serving.

A final note - this is a very forgiving recipe.  It can be made with whatever is in the fridge.  I've made it with leftover roast chicken (lechon manok), leftover beef, leftover fish fillet, all sorts of balls (meat, crab, shrimp and squid), and once with leftover chopsuey (mixed vegetables)!  Even the condiments can vary - salt, soy sauce, fish sauce, whatever floats your boat.  What is important is the proportion of (cooked) rice to the water (or stock).  As a general (albeit personal) rule, I use twice the amount of water to the rice, which results in a medium consistency.  If we feel like having a thinner gruel, I add more water (gradually!).  The 2:1 ratio is by no means absolute, since the consistency also depends on the kind of rice used, because some rice absorb more water.  Simply put, feel free to experiment!