Saturday, April 30, 2011

Orange Cake, Easy and Zesty

I love oranges. I really do! Like “ponkan” (a type of tangerine almost the size and color of an orange), apple and banana, orange is among the regular fruits I eat to curtail off food cravings during late nights when I have to stay awake either writing, blogging, watching movies or browsing the internet. I can consume lots of it just before going to bed and not have the feeling of guilt or being bloated. For this reason, I maintain a good stock of orange (or “ponkan” if available) inside the fridge which I regularly replenish every Saturday.

This practice of keeping a steady stock of orange in our home became very handy one day when I needed and wanted to bake a cake. While I would usually prepare either banana cake or carrot cake during such a time, the absence of banana and carrots from our pantry that day forced me (in a good way) to look at and consider the other ingredients at hand which happen to be orange and apple. I settled for orange and it proved to be a wise decision. The orange cake, unlike chocolate cake, was quite easy to prepare and was also zesty and tasty.

Basically, orange cake is just a common pound cake added with some orange juice and flavored with its zest. Although it can be served without any frosting or just sprinkled with icing sugar, I prefer it with some light frosting simply made by dissolving confectioner’s sugar in some orange juice. It adds zing to the taste and at the same time retains the cake moist for several days. Amazingly, orange can really be used to make a truly exciting cake.

Sweet orange which refers to the citrus variety called “Citrus sinensis” is the most commonly grown tree fruit in the world. While it is reported to have probably originated in Southeast Asia (this makes me wonder how come it is not commercially grown in the Philippines?) and first cultivated in China (2500 BC). Brazil, USA (Florida), India and Mexico are now the top growers of the tree for its delicious fruit, either to be eaten as a whole or to be processed as juice.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chicharon Bituka (Crackling Intestines) for April Kulinarya Challenge

For a person who’s in serious diet, decadence could mean indulging in foods not in line or in total contrast with the diet program. Most often the foods involve are those excessively sweet, heavy on carbohydrates and overly laden with fats and/or calories. Since I am not so much into sweet foods, like banana cake, chocolate cake, carrot cake, no-bake or refrigerated cake, “ube halaya”, “maja blanca” and “minatamis na saging” (no … not really, I just like to make them :)), decadence to me is feasting on salty and oily foods like “crispy pata” (the all-time favorite), “crispy ulo” (unsightly but goodie), “rebosadong taba” (gush, I have to make this again soon) and as recently featured here “chicharon bulaklak” (the ultimate in crisp). The mere thought of these fatty but utterly tasty foods made me slobber and feel seemingly a pound heavier. :-)

In response to this month’s (April 2011) Kulinarya Challenge under the theme DECADENCE (I really like this term, for some reasons it sounds good and feels good), I thought of adding another sinful dish similar to the deep fried meats (or fats) above but this time using the equally challenging intestines of a swine or a bovine. Okay this maybe a bit unusual for non-Filipinos and definitely not for the squeamish as it involves part of the offal or internal organs of an animal used as food. While I usually use such intestines in “dinuguan” or blood stew, this is also good cooked as “chicharon”, either as a viand or side dish in a main meal, as a snack eaten in between meals, or as “pulutan” or bites munched over a bottle of beer.

Unlike the ordinary “chicharon” made from pork rind, I find “chicharon bituka” particularly fatty, salty and if store-bought, excessively seasoned with MSG. That’s on top of the fact that it is made from internal organ which has a high concentration of cholesterol. Thus, I consider it decadent to indulge with. But like most Filipino (and some Filipina too), I would still crave for it whenever I see some or even just hear someone talking about it. It is among the wicked Filipino foods that once you get used to are quite difficult to avoid or remove from the diet …… sort of kicking a vice.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ginisang Alimasag sa Patola at Miswa (Sauteed Blue Crabs with Gourds & Noodles)

It has been a while since I last posted something on the delectable blue crabs or sea crabs or to be precise the blue swimming crabs of Asia known as “alimasag” in the Philippines. While we usually have them for our Saturday seafood dinner, we always cook them steamed, an easy crab recipe which I have already featured here, so there is no special reason for me to do a re-posting. As suggested by a colleague-friend, this weekend it’s different. Instead of just steaming the blue manna crabs, we agreed to sauté them with ridge gourds and wheat flour noodles.

Since I have already provided some information about the blue swimming crabs in my previous posts where I cooked them, steamed, “ginataan” or cooked in coconut milk, “torta” or fried like frittata and a very similar type of preparation sautéed with “sotanghon” or glass noodles, I will just share some background facts about the other two major components of this tasty dish – the ridge gourd and the “miswa” or wheat flour noodles.

Gourd or “patola” as called in the Philippine language belongs to the tropical and subtropical vines comprising the genus “Luffa”. The fruit of at least two species and typically called “luffa” or “loofah” or “lufah” is grown and harvested while still young and tender (before maturity) and eaten as green vegetable. The type I will use here is called ridge gourd and the other type (among the two species) is the smooth or cylindrical variety.

While it can only be cooked and incorporated into various dishes while still young, gourds are also allowed to ripe and dry when then it can be made into the popular plant sponge called “loofah”. It can be obtained after processing where everything but the network of fibers called xylem is removed. It is then marketed and used as bath and kitchen sponges. Due to its inherent natural properties, it is widely patronized as a hand and body scrub.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bagis Recipe Version 2 (Minced Beef Cooked in Calamansi & Chilies)

I have featured this spicy viand before in a version cooked using lime juice and green finger chilies. Since I now have “calamansi” or “calamondin” (Philippine lemon) and “siling labuyo” or bird chili which are the original ingredients in an authentic “bagis” (as usually prepared in the central and northern Luzon areas of the Philippines), I would like to make another version of the dish for posting here. Well in addition, it is also my lame excuse for not being able to immediately come out with fresh ideas on how to cook our minced beef long standing in the fridge. But as it turns out, it is an appetizing excuse indeed. :-)

Minced beef or beef mince, popularly known in the Philippines as ground beef or “giniling na baka”, is a finely chopped beef, usually by a meat grinder or mincer locally known as “gilingan”. Please take note however that the cutting process involves fine chopping or mincing and not grinding. Ground beef is relatively a quick-cooking form of beef which does not require long simmering or boiling to tenderize the meat. It is usually made from leaner, tougher and less desirable beef cuts ……… sometimes from loose or side cuttings of other cuts which could easily be marketed minced.

The popularity of minced beef soars with the popularity of hamburgers where it is the main ingredient. It is also widely use in the preparation of meatloaves, sausages, meat pies, meatballs, tacos, chili, sauces like lasagna and spaghetti Bolognese and many more.

In the Philippines, it is typically cooked into everyday food called “giniling” with minced tomatoes and potatoes, in steamed dumplings like “siomai”, in meatballs like “bola-bola” and “kikiam”, as fillings for pastries like in empanada, turn-over and buns, in meat spring roll called “lumpiang shanghai”, in fresh sausage called “longanisa” and in meatloaf known as “embutido”.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sumang Kamoteng Kahoy A La Fely (Cassava Suman)

It’s the Season of Lent and Holy Week is almost here. Apart from moments of reflections, it is a time for family gathering. Expect to see different varieties of native “kakanin” in most Filipino families’ dining tables. It is part of the significant occasion ……… an important element of the tradition ……… particularly on the aspect of “handaan” or food preparation. Just in time for the season, we are glad that our friend Fely of London is willing to share her most requested native delicacy called “suman” (in the Philippines). In particular, a variety that is made from the starchy tuber called cassava or “kamoteng kahoy” or “balinghoy”.

Honestly, this post makes me really excited. True! I love this native “kakanin”. It’s my top favorite among the various types of “suman”. I used to buy it from elderly ambulant vendors directly coming from the barrios and lining the streets of the Tarlac Public Market every morning selling what seemed to me as their home-made “suman” from backyard-harvested crops. That was a score and 8 years ago when I was still a teenager helping my parents attend to our fruits store. While I find the sticky banana leaves wrapping a little too messy, the tasty cassava filling is such a comfort food that I would buy regularly.

For non-Filipino readers, “suman” is a type of rice cake or pudding originating from the Philippines usually served wrapped in banana or palm leaves. It is typically made from glutinous rice (but also from root crops such as cassava) cooked in coconut milk and often steamed. It is also known as “budbud” in the local dialects in the southern parts of the Philippines. It is among the popular sweet “kakanin” or traditional snacks or “merienda” of the Philippine cuisine.

This snack or dessert dish called “sumang kamoteng kahoy” refers to the finely grated cassava roots, mixed with sugar, sometimes with coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. Preparation follows a pretty simple recipe which I have not realized as such until Fely disclosed her recipes with us. It is really very easy. In fact, I could hardly believe the simple process that I tried it myself first to verify the tenacity prior to this posting. :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sinigang sa Buko (Fish Stewed in Tamarind and Tender Coconut)

This is quite an unusual but exciting “sinigang”, the generic term that refers to highly varied Filipino stew flavored with any of the many types of natural souring agents such as tamarind, camias or “calamansi”. The use of young or tender coconut in the dish, both of its nutritious water and soft white kernel, is utterly innovative and truly promising, culinary speaking that is.

The idea is pretty rational too considering the popularity of “sinigang” and the abundance of coconut tree throughout the whole Philippine archipelago. It pretty satisfies the conditions that would make the seemingly special dish actually a practical alternative still falling within the range of the average (a.k.a. tight) budget of most Filipino family.

This type of “sinigang” was first mentioned to me by a friend who visited Mayon Volcano in the Bicol region where he learned and has actually tried the dish. Apparently, there is a restaurant in the region who wittingly concocted this “sinigang sa buko” recipe (a variation) which eventually gained wide acceptance among its guests and soon became the restaurant’s signature dish. In reality, there is no secret to the recipe, just plain ingenious concept that works. Its major difference from a typical “sinigang” lies only on the usage of tender coconut’s sweet and refreshing water as well as its spongy and milky flesh. That’s all. It’s simple but brilliant.

The restaurant usually uses slices of tasty blue marlin for the dish. But of course, wahoo or seer fish (“tanigue”), trevally (“talakitok”), yellow fin tuna and other fish varieties and even pork or beef are also options. For this preparation however, I intend to use slices of the predatory coral fish called grouper or “lapu-lapu”. No, I’m not trying to cheat here. I would admit that with grouper, my “sinigang” is probably one notch more delicious already but what can I do, in this part of the world (in our area at least), “lapu-lapu” is the much cheaper fish and easier to come by. Seriously! Its price is almost the same as the short mackerel or “alumahan”. :-)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Adobong Manok ni Dong (Chicken Adobo A La Dong)

I believe the popularity of “adobo” has already transcended into the subconscious mind of most Filipinos. I can say this because during times when our group can no longer think of a new viand, we would always settle with an “adobo” dish ……… not really as a forced consensus due to absence of options, but rather a form of immediate resolution that is considered fail-proof and almost always acceptable to all members …… and true to our implied expectations, we would always end up satisfied with the meal …… to a level where there is no trace of backlash or regret. That’s on top of the fact that “adobo”, either pork, chicken or combination thereof, is already a regular dish in our weekly menu.

Simply saying, “adobo” is something our group persistently enjoys during meals and there is no indication that we shall come to the point of getting tired of the dish any day soon. Not with our incessant appetite for the dish and quite even more, not with our colleague Dong, of the pork “adobo” a la Dong, around. :-)

Since we have been eating a lot of “adobong pusit” lately, (not that we are complaining for we really like it) I suggested to Dong to prepare his version of chicken “adobo” or “adobong manok” for posting here. Generally, it is for the interest of recipe sharing and at the same time to serve as a follow up for his first posted recipe of “pork adobo”. In addition, this will somehow support the moniker our group has jointly accorded him as our undisputed master of ‘adobo”, at least within the confine of our kitchen and dining rooms.

Gladly, Dong agreed to do his chicken version of “adobo” for all of us. While we may already have similar recipes in our notes, exploring other variants is always a constructive way of improving our own techniques; openly finding alternatives which could better what we already knew or had for furthering our culinary knowledge in respect of the Filipino dish-cuisine called “adobo”.


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