Archive for March, 2010

Mom’s Garden

There is something about my Mom’s garden that is comforting and soothing. We’ve lived in this house for almost 2 decades and I realize now that whenever I feel a sad, I spend time in her garden.  I don’t actually do any gardening and cannot boast that I have a green thumb. My mom and her reliable ‘”assistant” do all the tilling and planting. I just wander with the dogs and cat.

the garden looks pretty at night

Late last year, my mom decided to plant vegetables in her garden again. She first did this when I was in 5th grade. I would come home from school, still in my uniform, and would head straight to the garden to harvest tomatoes and okra with her. Now, our backyard has become a quaint vegetable garden which is great for cooks like me. There’s nothing like using freshly harvested, organic vegetables and herbs for simple dishes.  It’s almost good for the soul.

native tomatoes
musn’t forget the cat.

salad for lunch

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Basil Pesto with Mayo?

The heat has been unbearable and it’s taking every ounce of my will power not to turn the air-con on the moment I get home. I am also running out of summer clothes and am this close to wearing my singlets to work (those things are quite airy).  It’s now wonder the malls are packed because with this Manila sun, free air-conditioning rocks.

The upside of this weather is that I tend to stay in my room longer, watching my favorite cooking shows. The other day, The Barefoot Contessa was featuring recipes for a portable picnic – simple recipes but sure to be crowd-pleasers like, basil pesto pasta, tomato feta salad and this scrumptious looking lemon cake.  My mind went crazy with excitement, trying to think of reasons to invite friends over so I could feed them.  Right now, I’m thinking, carbo-loading party!

Her recipe for basil pesto intrigued me because it involved an ingredient that I would never put in my pesto – mayonnaise! But I know better than to doubt the Barefoot Contessa and her culinary instincts. So without thinking twice, I went ahead and put a large dollop of mayonnaise into my basil pesto and lemme tell you… my basil pesto will never be the same again.  You don’t actually taste it in the pesto because the mayo emulsifies so well with the olive oil that it gives it a richness and a creaminess that you will certainly miss. I do suggest though that you use good mayonnaise such as the Japanese mayo.

Go ahead and try it. You can thank me later 😉

You can find all the recipes from that episode here.


  • 3/4 pound fusilli pasta
  • 3/4 pound bow tie pasta
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups pesto, packaged or see recipe below
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cups good mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1/3 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Cook the fusilli and bow ties separately in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes until each pasta is al dente. Drain and toss into a bowl with the olive oil. Cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice. Add the mayonnaise and puree. Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta and then add the Parmesan, peas, pignolis, salt, and pepper. Mix well, season to taste, and serve at room temperature.


  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves)
  • 5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups good olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Notes: Air is the enemy of pesto. For freezing, pack it in containers with a film of oil or plastic wrap directly on top with the air pressed out.

To clean basil, remove the leaves, swirl them in a bowl of water, and then spin them very dry in a salad spinner. Store them in a closed plastic bag with a slightly damp paper towel. As long as the leaves are dry they will stay green for several days.

* Recipe from

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Kitchen Detox

I don’t like it when people use the word “toxic” in referring to extremely hectic days. I don’t understand why they can’t just use words like busy or frantic, until today. Exhausting and frustrating are just not enough to describe the work day that was. It was so TOXIC that I so desperately needed to DETOX with some alone time one the road, running.

Successful with my run, I got home and craved for a nice, light dinner.  I also found a bit of respite in quietly and slowly assembling my meal.

My version of chicken fajitas

Hoping for a more positive tomorrow.

Chicken Fajitas

For the salsa:

  • 1 can corn kernels
  • 2 small red onions
  • 1/4 of a cabbage chopped
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. lemon or lime
  • salt and pepper
  • flat leaf parsley

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.

For the chicken:

  • 1/4 kilo chicken breast fillet, diced
  • 1 can baked beans, drained
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cayenne

Marinate chicken with spices for a few minutes. On a hot non-stick pan, cook chicken for about 8 minutes. Add beans.

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Bad Ganache. Good Truffles.

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I actually hate and am terrible at making chocololate ganache. I can never get it’s consistency right.  Ganache is meant to be smooth and silky but when I make it, I end up with a large mound of sticky, gooey chocolate.

When life hands you bad ganache, make truffles!

Today, I attempted again and failed miserably. I was staring and poking at the bowl of wasted chocolate when I realized that I could actually make chocolate trufflesWhoopppeeee! It wasn’t a complete waste, after all.

My first attempt at making dark chocolate truffles.

I’d share my ganache recipe with you but the truth is that I don’t follow one. Hmmmm. Maybe that’ll explain the unsuccessful attempts. So here is a ganache recipe from a more reliable source, Ina Garten. 🙂

Spice up your regular chocolate truffles. Add some cayenne and turn them into Hot Chocolate Truffles!

It also happens to be my chocolate-loving niece’s 23rd birthday tomorrow so it’s the perfect time to have lots of chocolate around the house. Happy birthday, Ge!

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