Monday, November 30, 2009

Garlic Bread with Real Garlic Bits

Garlic is probably among the most important ordinary and inexpensive cooking ingredients. It imparts a fantastic taste that varies extensively depending on how it is cooked or prepared. It can provide different flavors from a subtle sweet to a mild piquant to a strong almost overpowering one. From the posts in this blog alone, you can find many diverse uses of garlic in various food preparations where the rather simple garlic assumes a major role in creating a truly tasty dish.

The delicious Gambas Al Ajillo is basically shrimp in lots of garlic. The wonderful Shrimp and Garlic Pizza is surprisingly good with just the two toppings, shrimp and garlic, plus some cheese. The widely popular Garlic Fried Rice of the Philippines is mainly fried leftover rice and garlic and yet sumptuous and very delicious. The Toasted Chili and Garlic is so versatile and particularly impressive as add-on to dips and in making ordinary soupy dishes extra special entrees.

Garlic is a species in the onion family “Alliaceae”. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek and chive. It has a characteristic pungent, spicy flavor that mellows and sweetens considerably with cooking. A bulb of garlic, the most commonly used part of the plant, is divided into numerous fleshy sections called cloves. The leaves, stems and flowers on the head are also edible and are most often consumed while immature and still tender.

In praise of the versatile ingredient, another garlic laden dish will be the feature of this post – Garlic Bread. Garlic bread typically consists of crusty bread topped with garlic and olive oil or as many restaurants now prefer, melted butter. It is often eaten as a simple accompaniment to pasta and other Italian dishes. It is either grilled or broiled until toasted or baked in an oven. A modern variation on the recipe tops the garlic bread with a variety of cheeses, often mozzarella, cheddar or feta.

Typically garlic bread is made from baguette or Italian or French long and narrow loaf. However, other similar types of loaf bread can be used when you don’t have baguette at hand. In fact, I used even ordinary crusty type of bread and it’s also wonderful like this local loaf bread of Sri Lanka.

For the one loaf bread above, the other ingredients needed are 1 head garlic, peeled and minced, 1 stick unsalted butter, to be melted, ½ tsp dried oregano, ½ tsp dried parsley, a pinch of salt and 2 stalks fresh flat leaf parsley. If salted butter is what you have, use it by all means but just adjust the amount of salt.

First, using a sharp bread knife, slice the bread to about ¾ inch thick. If you are using baguette, slice it in half along the entire length. Then cut them into manageable lengths, about 6 to 8 inches. For my loaf, I sliced it in such a way that its slice has an outer part as shown below.

Before proceeding, preheat the oven to 350°F or about 175 °C. Doing this will save you a considerable amount of time in the kitchen. :-)

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter on a very low heat. Lifting and swirling pan as necessary to control the temperature and just melt the butter and not heat it to oil consistency. Turn the heat off and add the minced garlic to the melted butter, stirring lightly. Add inn the oregano, dried parsley and salt and stir to blend. Finally add in the fresh parsley and stir once more.

Arrange the sliced bread cut side up, with the outer part on their backs. Spread the butter-garlic mixture over the sliced bread carefully distributing the garlic and herbs on top. Slather the butter basically soaking the crust. Place the prepared bread on a baking pan and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

Transfer the baking pan to the highest notch closer to the heat and adjust the oven setting to high heat. Broil for further 2 minutes or until the sides or edges of the bread is golden brown and toasted. Be careful not to over broil and burn the bread though. If you want a slightly soft on the inside just shorten the period of broiling.

After broiling, let garlic bread cool for about a minute. Slice diagonally to about inch thick. Transfer in a plate and serve immediately with your favorite pasta dish or soup.

I ate it on its own over a cup of Ceylon tea and it’s also wonderful. But I felt strong cravings for some spaghetti…….whew. Enjoy! c“,)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Adobo Garlic Fried Rice (Sinangag)

Cooking fried rice from leftover rice, especially garlic fried rice, is a regular thing to me back in the Philippines. I enjoy it better than steamed rice and it provides me with my most wonderful everyday meals. Simply pairing it with any fried viand – be it meat, cured meat, sausages, fish, dried fish or smoked fish, and along with a side dish of fried eggs or salted eggs and fresh tomato and it’s already a sumptuous meal for me. Actually, the same goes with my brothers, brothers-in-law, cousins and some sisters who always make requests for such humble meal whenever hungry strikes while we are engaged in some family activities.

Garlic fried rice is probably the most popular fried rice in the Philippines. Actually, when one mention fried rice in the Philippines, it generally refers to garlic fired rice. A simple concoction of mashed leftover day-old rice fried with mashed garlic in a small amount of oil and seasoned with some sea salt. The flavor and aroma of fried garlic is enough to transform the leftover rice into another dish probably more sought than the plain steamed rice.

Using the basic Filipino garlic rice recipe, I experimented a lot to combine some leftover meat dishes and seasonings to further enhance the flavor of the fried rice. I could say I am pretty successful with it because repeat requests became a regular thing and the dish was look forward by most of the family members. So whenever we have family gatherings, expect me to be cooking fried rice after the main feast or celebration, utilizing the leftover rice and leftover meat dishes. And I tell you; sometimes it’s more fun and satisfying.

The most common type of such fried rice I prepare is the adobo-garlic fried rice, with the pork adobo being a regular part of the family food preparation. So to be able to post the fried rice dish, I intentionally kept some adobo from my last post about the second version of my pork adobo.

It’s also a ggod timing for this post that we ran out of Jasmine rice and was forced to buy Pakistan rice. I find Jasmine rice extremely good as steamed but not quite for fried rice. Indian Basmati rice could ha been better but it’s not available from the neighborhood grocery. About a cup or less of the adobo meat is all we need for some 4 cups of day-old rice that I have.

The other ingredients needed are 2 tbsp vegetable oil, 8 gloves garlic, peeled and minced, 2/3 cup of pork adobo, roughly chopped, 1 tbsp seasoning either from Uncle “Knorr” or Auntie “Maggi”, 1 tsp salt or to taste and ½ small carrots, very finely minced.

The cooking procedure is very simple. In a large pan or wok, heat the oil and fry the garlic. When slightly browned, add in the chopped adobo meat and continue frying, until both are aromatic. It will show if the adobo is done good as it will smell good. Add seasoning, followed by the rice and continue frying on high heat stirring regularly. Mix everything properly and continue cooking for some 5 minutes more. Taste and add some salt if necessary.

When the rice is cooked through, add the minced carrots and stir once more. Cook for a minute more while stirring. Then, it’s done.

Transfer in large plate and serve immediately. The aroma of hot adobo-garlic fried rice, like my previous dried fish fried rice, is truly hard to resist. It’s the reason why I seldom cook this now that I’m far from the family and trying very hard to maintain a low-card diet. :-)

We ate the fried rice with sunny side up egg, fried “tuyo” (a popular type of Filipino dried fish, which is my and my daughter’s favorite) and some chopped fresh tomato and my low-card diet was thrown out of the window. :)

Enjoy ……..I did! c”,)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pork Adobo, Pride of Filipino (Ver. 2)

As promised in my Pork Adobo post sometime in July, I will now provide the second version (Ver. 2) of the regarded Philippine national dish that is Adobo. Apart from the many approaches to cooking the dish, say pork adobo, there are also several ways by which it could be finished off, depending on whom the dish will be served. In my case, if it is for my family who love to slather the sauce on their rice, I make it saucy. If it’s for me and some male friends who like it crunchy and dry then the liquid has to be reduced which is called “iga” in the Philippine language. Some even like the sauce to be rich and creamy rather than light and thin. Whatever the preference is, it’s just a matter of final adjustment at the end of the cooking process.

Adobo can be eaten in many ways as well. While of course, the best way is with either steamed rice or better yet, garlic rice (Philippine fried rice), it is also wonderful with “pandesal” (Philippine bread rolls), Chinese steamed bun and even “puto” (Philippine rice cake). I sometimes use them as filling or spread with sliced bread for a tasty adobo sandwich. I have been using it as toppings for my pizza with impressive results (I will be posting it sometime later). Probably we can do more, just a little imagination and the next variation in enjoying our favourite dish is ready for discovery.

The method of cooking Adobo that I will be doing now is the one I’m familiar by heart. It is my everyday adobo which I have been cooking since I started messing up our kitchen. Sometimes I made really delicious ones and sometimes a not-so. The difference is first, in the vinegar, a little less or over will have an obvious disparity in the resulting dish. So familiarization with the many types of vinegar is essential. Next is in the meat cut, for pork, the belly (“liempo”) or loin near the shoulder (“kasim”) with a little fat are best for me.

The fat portion is important; a true lean meat for adobo simply doesn’t work for me. We can cook it yes, but I won’t find the special taste we love about Adobo as served to us our parents and grandparents who keep the fat portion of the meat intact. But of course you can always avoid it for health consideration.

To prepare this version 2 of pork adobo, we shall need about a kilo of pork, cut up to around 1 x 1 inch cube and well drained. The pork cube we usually have here in Sri Lanka does not contain much fat, but we can’t do anything. We have to proceed with our adobo using quite leaner meat. Good for the body but probably inferior in taste. :-(

The other ingredients are 8 gloves garlic, peeled and crushed, 2 pcs bay leaves, 1 tsp whole peppercorn, cracked, 1/3 cup white vinegar (adjust it depending on the type you are using), ½ cup soy sauce, 1 tsp salt or to taste and about 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into serving sizes.

In a large mixing bowl or casserole, place the meat and add all the ingredients except potatoes. Stir to properly combine the meat and the ingredients.

In a large thick casserole or wok put the meat and the marinade and heat on medium flame. Don’t add any water. Let the liquid boil and simmer on low heat. Let the meat render some of its own juice and fat. Give it a gentle stir and simmer on very low heat until the liquid is reduced and meat is just tender. If you have the right heat all along (very low just enough for the water to gurgle), you will not need any water yet.

Add the potatoes and about half cup of water, cover and continue simmering until the potatoes are cooked through.

Remove the casserole from the heat. Using a colander or slotted spoon, separate the meat and potatoes from the sauce. Gather all the garlic pieces and small bits of the meat that remains on the casserole and from the sauce, set aside. Remove the excess oil that will float on the surface of the sauce. Set aside as well for later use.

In a wok, heat about 1 tbsp of the oil collected and fry the garlic pieces and small bits of meat. When it’s sizzling, add the meat and potatoes and fry for about 2 minutes, slightly searing the sides. There will be some meat part that will stick to the pan, don’t worry; we need that to happen for a gorgeous thick sauce. When the meat is seared and smelling really good, return the sauce back. The sauce will soften all the meat bits and drippings stuck in the bottom of the pan. Scrape it and let to combine with the sauce to make a rich slightly creamy consistency. Taste the sauce and adjust the salt level according to your preference.

At this point, adjust the sauce quantity to your liking. Add water if you want a saucy adobo or cook further for a dry-type adobo. Otherwise, transfer to a large plate and serve with the slightly thick sauce. :-)

Hot steaming rice is all you need now. But some chopped tomatoes and salted egg on the side will make the meal even better. It’s so tasty, the Filipino way. :)

Cola drinks? I won’t advise, but yes, it’s amazingly good with it. Enjoy! c“,)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Avocado Shake (Smoothies)

Lately, I have been preparing and enjoying the goodness of fresh fruit shakes or smoothies. I already have 3 posts about the healthy and natural drinks namely, “Guyabano”, Mango-Papaya and Pineapple shakes. Well, it’s mainly because we have an easy access to several kinds of fruits harvested from the farms and backyards of local residents in our area. I’m pretty sure that we can consider the harvest organic and therefore it has the additional benefits health wise. Another reason is that they are really inexpensive and by buying, we are able to help the home growers. Frugality at its noblest form, you may say. :-)

Among the fruits I recently bought are nice avocados. So this time, I want to make avocado shake or smoothie. The drink is probably next to “guyabano” shake in terms of natural vitamins and minerals. Like probably most of us, I learned to like the taste of avocado when I’m already a grown up. Yes, I avoided eating the fruit when I was still young. But it is totally a different scenario now as I even search the fruits whenever I don’t find them from roadside fruit vendors.

The avocado, also known as butter pear or alligator pear and palta or aguacate in Spanish, is a tree native to the Caribbean, Mexico, South America and Central America. It is a commercially valuable crop whose trees and fruit are cultivated in tropical climates throughout the world and some temperate ones like California. Avocado also refers to the fruit, a large berry that contains a large seed of the tree which may be pear-shaped or egg-shaped or spherical and green-skinned fruit that ripens after harvesting. Trees are partially self-pollinating and often are propagated through grafting to maintain a predictable quality and quantity of the fruit.

The fruit has a markedly higher fat content than most other fruit, mostly monounsaturated fat, and as such serves as an important staple in the diet of various groups where access to other fatty foods such as high-fat meats and fish, dairy, etc is limited. A ripe avocado will yield to a gentle pressure when held in the palm of the hand and squeezed. The flesh is deep green near the skin, becoming yellowish nearer the single large, inedible ovoid seed. It is typically greenish yellow to golden yellow when ripe.

Avocado is very popular in vegetarian cuisine, making an excellent substitute for meats in sandwiches and salads because of its high fat content. The fruit is not sweet but fatty, distinctly yet subtly flavored and of smooth, almost creamy texture. It is used as the base for the Mexican dip known as guacamole, as well as a filling for several kinds of sushi, including California rolls. Avocado is popular in chicken dishes and as a spread on toast, served with salt and pepper. Avocado slices are frequently added to hamburgers, “tortas”, hot dogs and carne asada.

In Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam, South India and the Philippines, avocados are frequently used for milk-shakes and occasionally added to ice cream and other desserts. In Brazil, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia, a dessert drink is made with sugar, milk or water and pureed avocado. Here in Sri Lanka, it is a popular dessert once well ripened, flesh is thoroughly mashed with sugar/sugar and milk or treacle which I featured before.

For a single blending good for about 2 tall glasses, the few ingredients you will need are about 2 cups of peeled and sliced avocado, ¼ cup condensed milk, 1 cup cold water and about 1 tray ice cube, about 12 pieces.

To prepare, just put everything into the blender, cover tightly and pulse it several times until the ice cube and fruits are broken down and blended evenly with the other ingredients.

Pulse it a couple of times more until a smooth, rich and creamy consistency is attained. Don’t over blend.

Pour the drinks into tall glasses and serve. It’s refreshingly healthy. Enjoy! c“,)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pangat na Pampano at Talakitok (Pompano and Trevally in Lime Juice and Spices)

“Pangat”, sometimes referred to as “pinangat”, is a Filipino dish made of fish poached in calamondin (“calamansi”) or lemon or in this case, lime juice with ginger and some spices. The dish is common in the Northern and Central part of the Luzon Island in the Philippines. Usually, small fish are used in the dish like pony fish, shad, blue runners, juvenile trevally and pompano to name some.

Pompano refers to any of several marine fishes of the family Carangidae and of the genus “Trachinotus”, of tropical and temperate Pacific and Atlantic waters, having a silvery oblong body with a bluish back. Pompanos are deep-bodied, toothless fishes with small scales, a narrow tail base, and a forked tail. They are usually found along shores in warm waters throughout the world. The Florida, or common, pompano (T. carolinus), considered the tastiest, is a valued commercial food fish and grows to a length of about 45 cm (18 inches) and weight of 1 kg (2 pounds).

Trevally (“talakitok”) also belongs to the “Carangidae” family. They are blue-green dorsally and silvery white on the belly, with a yellowish sheen running along the length of the fish. A small dark blotch often appears on the upper gill cover. Trevally is a priced gamefish and pursuit by many Anglers, like me, all over the world. They are most abundant at depths of about 80 meters and are caught throughout the year. The fighting that will ensue after hooking the fist is one of the toughest and most adrenaline-pumping moments an Angler could experience.

Trevally have medium to soft fillets with low oil content. The flesh is marbled pink with a darker fat line that can be filleted out. They are excellent smoked. For peak eating quality, Trevally should be bled immediately after capture.

For this “pangat” dish, the pompano and trevally I recently bought from the seaside road vendor and featured in my last post Mixed Bag of Fresh Fish, I believe, are perfect. The fish must be scaled, gutted, washed, drained and seasoned with salt. The few other ingredients needed composed of just: 5 pcs lime (calamondin and lemon are excellent too), juice to be extracted and strained, 2 pcs small sized ginger, peeled and mashed, 2 pcs mild chilies, 1 tsp salt or to taste and about ¼ cup water.

“Pangat” is among the quick and easy Filipino fish dishes. It can be cooked in less than 30 minutes including preparation. To cook, place the ginger at the bottom of a thick casserole. Arrange the fish on top of the ginger and pour the lime juice and water. Let the liquid boil under medium heat. Once boiling, uncover for a minute and set the heat to low. Cover and continue poaching until the meat is just cook. Taste and adjust the salt level. Place the chilies on top of the fish and continue simmering until they are cooked through.

Turn off the heat and serve in a medium plate along with the chilies. Discard the ginger and pour the rich and slightly thick liquid that remains on the fish.

This dish should be eaten with steamed rice. Lots of it. Enjoy. c“,)


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