Archive for May, 2009

Happy Mother’s Day!

Meatballs with Roasted Tomatoes and Basil Pesto Penne

Baked Penne with Roasted Tomatoes and Meatballs

They say that you will never completely understand your mother until you become a parent yourself. No wonder my mom and I often have misunderstandings.  Now while I wait until I become a mother, I try my hardest to see things the way my mother does and to be a caring daughter.

I think my mom and I have more in common that I’d like to believe. We both have very strong and independent personalities and as much as possible, would like things done our way. My love for food and cooking is also undeniably from her. And some people say that I look exactly the way she did when she was my age, but taller.

Mom always cooks for us, whether it was Christmas, someone’s birthday or just for Sunday lunch.  She doesn’t like getting caterers because she insists that she can cook better than they do. She sometimes complains that she is tired of cooking but refuses to stop because we know that nothing makes her happier than seeing her children and grand children enjoy her cooking.

Pound Cake that my mom absolutely loved.

Pound Cake that my mom absolutely loved. She's already asking me to make some for her friends.

I may not comprehend how a mother cares for her child but I know how it is to want someone you love to be happy. So for a change, I cooked and prepared our Mother’s Day lunch. The menu consisted of Roasted Chicken, Fettucini Vongole, Baked Penne with Roasted Tomatoes and Meatballs (for my nephew who can’t eat seafood) and Pound Cake for dessert.  When I saw how pleased she was with the meal that I had prepared, I understood why she loved cooking for us.

Fettucini Vongole

Fettucini Vongole with Oyster Mushrooms

So to all the mothers, Happy Mothers Day!

Baked Penne with Meatballs and Roasted Tomatoes

  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 carrot, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 slice of day old bread
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 kilo ground beef
  • 2 cups spaghetti sauce (I use Hunts Parmesan tomato sauce)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 kilo penne pasta
  • 1/2 kilo ripe tomtaoes
  • 1 cup basil pesto
  • 1/2 c. mozarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350˚

Cut tomatoes in half and put on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake in the oven for 3o minutes. Set aside.

Soak bread in milk.

In a bowl, mix ground beef, onions, garlic, carrots and salt and pepper.  Squeeze the milk from the bread and add bread to beef mixture. Combine all ingredients thouroughly.  Roll meatballs about 1 1/2 inches in diamater. Put in a non stick pan, one inch apart.

Pour tomato sauce over meatballs and put in preheated oven.  Bake for 15 minutes or until meatballs are cooked. Set aside.

In a large pyrex, mix basil pesto with penne pasta (click here for basil pesto recipe). Place meatballs on top, alog with the roasted tomatoes. Pour tomato sauce over. Put mozarella cheese and bake in the oven for another 10 munites or until cheese has melted.

Serve warm.

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All About Curry

My mom just got back from a convention in Bangkok and instead of bringing home clothes or shoes from Chatuchak or MBK, she brought with her an assortment of food related items.  The original food enthusiast of the family told me that she purchased a heavy-duty mortar and pestle made of stone (looked like cement to me! LOL!) that caused her to pay for excess baggage. Believe me, this is a very rare occurrence for my frugal mom. She must have really loved that mortar and pestle to pay extra for it. That thing is serious business. It is probably 8” in diameter and could cause serious injury if mishandled. Nothing excites cooks more than hard-core kitchenware!

pounding ingredients for the curry paste in our new mortar and pestle

pounding ingredients for the curry paste in our new mortar and pestle

She also brought back loads of spices such as curry paste, kaffir lime leaves and of course, cook books.  All these reminded her of her spicy meals in Bangkok which led her to crave for some home-made chicken curry. So being the caring daughter that I am (ahem, ahem), I volunteered to prepare her curry-filled dinner.

kaffir lime leaves add a nice aroma to curry dishes

kaffir lime leaves add a nice aroma to curry dishes

I am quite keen on eating spicy food which is why I have grown to love Thai cuisine .  I enjoy the complexity of flavors and how they balance the heat, sweetness and sourness in their dishes. So to really enjoy curry, I suggest making it from scratch and none of that store bought curry powder. ☺

spicy chicken curry. perfect for the rainy weather.

spicy chicken curry. perfect for the cold weather.

Curry Paste

•    1 onion, finely chopped
•    1 stalk lemon grass
•    1 piece, thumb size ginger, peeled
•    1 tbsp. chili paste (I used sambal)
•    2 cloves garlic
•    1 tbsp. coriander seeds
•    1 tbsp. tumeric powder
•    1 tbsp. cumin powder

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or pound away on a mortar and pestle like I did. ☺

bottled thai herbs and spices are a good alternative if you can't get them fresh.

bottled thai herbs and spices are a good alternative if you can't get them fresh.

Chicken Curry

•    curry paste
•    2 tbsp. fish sauce
•    1 can coconut milk
•    2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
•    3-4 kaffir lime leaves
•    1 whole chicken, cleaned and cut
•    2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
•    1 eggplant, chopped
•    ¼ cup water
•    basil leaves (optional)

In a non-stick pan, sauté curry paste and tomatoes until tomatoes are soft.  Add coconut milk and simmer for 2 minutes.  Add in chicken, kaffir lime leaves and potatoes.  Add water and simmer on low heat, uncovered for 10-20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Stir occasionally to prevent chicken from burning. Add fish sauce and eggplant. Mix in basil leaves (optional).

Serve with steamed rice and say “Sawasdee Ka!”

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Silicone Cups and Green Tea Cupcakes

img_5020Either I did something wrong or these silicone baking cups aren’t as good as they claim to be. Silicone cups are supposed to be non-stick but it sure didn’t seem that way when I was trying to remove my cupcakes.  Even after cooling, my cupcakes were so difficult to remove that I had to use a butter knife to help release them from the cups.  Am I supposed to serve the silicone cups like I would with normal paper cups? That doesn’t sound too wise, especially if you bring the cupcakes outside your home because you’ll probably end up misplacing them or finding them in the trash.

Another thing was that I noticed my cupcakes seemed to dry out on the outside and had a slightly hard crust. Although it was still very moist on the inside, I didn’t like that there a bit of a crunch when biting into the cupcakes.

So the verdict is: paper cupcake liners are still better than silicone cups. They keep the cupcakes moist, are easier to remove and are disposable.  Will I give my silicone cups another chance? Maybe, but next time, I’ll probably put paper liners also. These silicone cups are good because you can bake a little more than a dozen and not consume too much space in the oven. You can easily just add another cup on your cookie sheet and not consume that much space. They’re practical that way. I’d probably try them out with a muffin recipe and see if they still stick. And if they do, they might end up as a kitchen décor.

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Now on a more positive note. I have been wanting to make green tea cupcakes and I was finally able to do it with the help of  Elinor Klivans, the author of Cupcakes! which is a wonderful recipe book given by my sister, G.  Added with a little ingenuity and voila –  the fluffiest green tea cupcakes! I used her recipe for a basic yellow cupcake and tweaked it by adding milk with green tea. I made this by steeping three green tea bags in milk. I would have used powdered green tea but I couldn’t find any. Nevertheless, the cupcakes did have the taste of green tea that was not too over powering. This was definitely the silver lining behind today’s dark baking cloud.

green tea cupcakes with buttercream frosting

green tea cupcakes with buttercream frosting

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Parmesan Polenta Fries

I am a huge fan of fries. I can never resist them and can’t just have one. Fries are a comfort food and remind me of my childhood. So if you are like me, you will surely enjoy this recipe for Parmesan polenta fries.

Parmesan Polenta Fries and Garlic Mayo Dip

Parmesan Polenta Fries and Garlic Mayo Dip

This was actually my first time cooking with cornmeal and was not really familiar with the taste. I knew that the texture would be gritty because of the southern American dish, grits that is made from this cornflour. Other than that, I had no knowledge or experience with this ingredient.

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The consistency of the mixture should be thick so that they keep their shape in the heated oven.

I found out that cornmeal by itself tastes very bland. A good amount of seasoning is definitely required to bring out the corn flavor but even then, it still tastes very plain. So to make the dish more interesting and tasty, I decided to add half a cup of Parmesan Cheese to the recipe. That turned out to be a good move since the fries tasted wonderful, along with the flavors of lemon zest and herbs.

it's best to chill your polenta mixture overnight

it's best to chill your polenta mixture overnight

I did make a mistake of leaving the fries in the oven for too long. I did this intentionally to try to make them as crispy as possible but I may have dried them out a bit. These fries should be crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Mine were a tad bit too crunchy. Nonetheless, the flavors were wonderful and still quite addicting. It went quite well with the garlic mayo dip that I paired it with but I imagine that it would also go well with a tomato based dip, salsa or even soup. I will definitely make this recipe again and probably serve it at a dinner party for friends. I’m sure it’ll be a hit. ☺

Parmesan Polenta Fries

  • 1 cup coarse polenta,
  • 1 cup of water,
  • 2 cups of milk,
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup of chopped herb of your choice (I used basil and rosemary)
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 oz. butter (optional)
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese (grated)

img_4993Finely chop herbs and set aside. Get the zest and juice of one lemon. Set aside.

In a saucepan, bring the water and the milk to a boil, add polenta stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and let polenta simmer gently, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir every few minutes to make sure polenta does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Add the herb paste, lemon zest, Parmesan cheese and salt & pepper to taste.

Cover a cookie-sheet with parchment paper. Pour the polenta on to the paper and spread out with a spatula. Let cool down for about 5 minutes, then transfer to the fridge and leave to cool for an hour. (I prefer to let it set overnight)

Preheat your oven to 450ºF.

Place the polenta on a flat surface and cut it in strips, about 1.5 inches (3.81 centimetres) wide. Try to dry and reuse the parchment paper (if possible), or put a new piece of parchment paper on the cookie-sheets.

Place the polenta strips on the sheet and spray with Extra Virgin olive oil.

Bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes or until golden brown, turn once after 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with a little salt & pepper.

Garlic Mayo Dip

  • 1/4 c. japanese mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic glove, minced
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • dash of hot sauce and worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • herbs are optional

Mix all ingredients and serve with fries.

* Click here for the inspiration of this recipe.

Comments (6)

Duhat Season

The rainy season is officially upon us. Although I am a little bummed that beach trips will have to take a back seat for now, the rains have actually been a nice change from the sweltering heat. Who doesn’t enjoy bed weather, right?

a bunch of ripe and unripe duhat

Fruits that contain tannins are known to have medicinal purposes. Duhat is known to help in curing a bad stomach flu.

One fruit that I associate with the rain is duhat (black plum) and this is probably because my love affair with this seasonal fruit occurred when the rains started to come.  I remember feeling quite low that day and was just wandering around the house, trying to keep myself preoccupied.  I stumbled onto our garden and found our duhat tree studded with fruits and decided to harvest all of them. Then it started to rain. It rained so hard it felt like I was in a six-jet shower, but I didn’t mind. There’s something about the rain that feels cathartic and picking fruits from your own backyard that relaxes you. So now, whenever I see that our duhat tree is starting to bear fruit, I get all giddy and excited knowing that I will have the pleasure of gathering them later and be reminded that all will be well.

duhat (black plum) shaped like a tear drop

duhat (black plum) shaped like a tear drop

There are several ways to enjoy this fruit but I particularly like chilling them in the ref and shaking them with some rock salt right before consuming.  The taste is a mixture of sweet , sour and bitter (and saltiness of course, from the salt).  But it also leaves a dry feeling in your mouth which is from the tannins of the fruit. Tannins contain astringent which is what causes one to pucker up when eating unripened fruits or even red wine. Some people don’t like this about duhat but I absolutely love it.

ready to be chilled

ready to be chilled

Now if only they would chill faster…

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