23 November 2014

Frutti di Mare al Cartoccio (Baked Seafood Pouches)


The best part of this dish is when I snip off the string that ties the pouch. Then a whiff of the incredible scent of the sea and herbs greets me. Just for a few seconds, I close my eyes and enjoy the aroma of the contents of the pouch in front of me. The heat and steam intensifies the flavors that makes me think of only one thing. My, that smells fresh and healthy! I love seafood and if you make me choose between them and meat, I would choose seafood without blinking an eye.

21 November 2014

Binalot: Chicken Pork Adobo and Steamed Rice Wrapped in Banana Leaves


How unique is it to unwrap a big banana leaf and find out that your lunch is inside that package? You call this binalot in the Philippines and it means wrapped in the local language. Lunches were packed in banana leaves years ago then slowly, the styrofoam era took over and replaced these quintessential Filipino lunch packs. You can find almost any classic dish in these binalot packs and one of the popular lunches is adobo. Inside these packs are the meat or fish, accompanied with eggs and tomatoes. They are usually salted duck eggs (itlog na maalat) and they are eaten with fresh tomatoes. Since I cannot find them in Italy, hard boiled eggs are my only option.

20 November 2014

Grilled Tofu with Homemade Plum Sauce


I admit, I am not the biggest fan of tofu. I only eat it in very selected dishes when the other flavors in the dish overpower it. Every time I cook tofu, the topic of going vegetarian ensues between me and my husband. He can, I can't. He wants to, I don't want to. I see that it is an idea that he has been toying with lately and I don't have anything against it. I can easily cook for him but the kids and I will have to stick to our omnivore eating habits for now. I believe that vegetarianism is every individual's choice of diet, not something enforced on them (unless it is for medical reasons). Both kids' favorite food is pasta con ragù or meat sauce and my daughter clams up when she is confronted with anything green on her plate so it is unlikely that they are turning vegetarians for now.

Fajitas with Meat Sauce and Feta


It's never a problem when I have a big leftover of ragù or tomato meat sauce because after having it with pasta, I use it for another meal again which everyone loves too. Those are rare moments when I don't hear any complaints of "again?" because even if it's the same old ragù, the whole thing is completely different. I use the ragù for filling up tortillas along with some feta and other fresh ingredients like tomatoes, lettuce and onions. It is so good that sometimes, I cook the ragù for making these fajitas then what remains goes to the pasta for our next meal.

19 November 2014

Purple Potatoes, Grapefruit and Asparagus Salad


I still remember how desperate I was three years ago in looking for the purple potatoes in Italy. I searched the internet continuously until I found a UK online shop that sells them and ships to Italy. For days, I would visit the site and would almost hit the pay button but stop myself at the very last second because they were ridiculously expensive. I really wanted to have them but the price was seriously holding me back.

18 November 2014

Chickpea, Arugula and Onion Salad


Ho-hum. My legs are buckling, my back is tired and I can't wait for the day to end. There are moments when I feel like this after getting lost in the endless tunnel of household chores and work. When I am alone at home, I look for the quickest way to eat and restrain myself from grabbing a pack of chips (if there is one lying around) before I plop myself down on the couch. In moments like these, I just feel like taking all the shortcuts I can in preparing my meals but without sacrificing the nutrients from the food. That's the time when I search through my cupboards for something quick and easy to prepare. We all have our mainstays in the pantry shelves and in my realm, I always have cans of tuna, corn, tomato puree, beans and chickpeas. So for this dish, I grabbed a can of chickpeas, drained them and poured them on my plate.

17 November 2014

Baked Shoestring-Potato Crusted Fish


I am ALWAYS late for my chores every morning. How can time fly so fast? One minute I am bidding my family goodbye at the front door and the next minute, it's already time to pick up my daughter in school. I usually set my phone's reminder an hour ahead of time so I will be aware that my time is almost up and I can do the last-minute things before going out. One of them is a simple lunch that my daughter would eat. I can only count with my fingers the kinds of food that she willingly eats and sole is one of them.

16 November 2014

Asian Beef and Vegetable Stew in Clear Broth (Filipino Beef Nilaga)


It's been raining buckets and the wind howling outside. And to think the weather forecast for today was sunny. Our potted plants and trees are all down as usual and but I am not as bothered as I was before because I just emptied all my calamansi lemon trees yesterday morning. They are all in a large bowl in the kitchen ready to be squeezed tomorrow for pitchers of Calamansi Juice with Mint that we all love at home. Having calamansi lemons in Italy in the middle of autumn is a novelty because these plants grow in warmer climates like in the Philippines. In fact, it's a part of a lot of Filipino dishes and dipping sauces.

14 November 2014

Slow Cooker Italian Spaghetti Meat Sauce or Ragù


When I am faced with the challenge of making a recipe as skinny as possible, I look at all the fat contents of the recipe and replace them with leaner ingredients. Pork, of course, has to be the first one to be taken away. And it's a predicament for me because it comprises half of the meat in making the ragù or the Italian meat sauce. Then there is the pancetta (like bacon) that gives the ragù a better flavor but no serious health food conscious person would ever think of eating that. 

13 November 2014

Sautèed Red Rice with Peas and Chicken


I had become obsessed with different kinds of rice once, wanting to try the colored ones, so I have some boxes of brown, black, red and regular whites in the pantry. The colored ones have strong nutty flavors and the fragrance pervades the kitchen like a natural nutty-smelling scent of those plugged fragrances. I love scents of cooking in homes because it makes them inviting and and yes, homey. 

In this recipe, I used red rice and I kept the recipe as simple as possible by just combining the Asian-flavored chicken and the peas together with the cooked rice. You can even use leftovers if you want. Just remember to use the white meat to keep it healthy. Red rice contains anthocyanins which are a kind of antioxidant pigment. The nutrients don't stop there because it is also rich in zinc, iron, calcium and vitamin B. So if you are looking for a simple healthy meal of chicken and rice, this one is a good candidate.

10 November 2014

Tagliatelle with Eggplant Cream, Tomatoes and Basil


There are some things about traveling that gives me a wake up call in running to my kitchen as soon as I get back home. When there is a dish that I tried and loved so much that has to be replicated before the flavors completely disappear from my memory. It will never be exactly the same as the original one but at least the the flavors are there and the taste is similar and if I am lucky, almost the same.

08 November 2014

Protein Bean Salad with Tuna and Onions


Yesterday, Italy announced code red on 8 of its 21 regions due to bad weather. As always, Liguria is one of the worst hit. I do feel for the Ligurians because they can't possibly get all the natural calamities that have been passing through the country lately. Tornadoes, mud slides, flooding, storms, gosh, you name it, they got it. I went there twice this summer and my family and I had been extremely lucky to get very good weather.

06 November 2014

Godfather Espresso


The name caught me more than once when I was scanning my new cocktail drinks book. It was kind of amusing to have a Godfather drink and what's even better is that there is a female counterpart with the name (you guessed it!) Godmother. Both drinks are just simple mixtures of amaretto liqueur and Scotch whisky for the Godfather while for the Godmother, vodka replaces the whisky, both on the rocks.

Sautèed Peas with Pancetta and Onions


When I took on the assignment to create different kinds of recipes for Thanksgiving, I was panicky. I love creating recipes. In fact, that's what I actually do. But not having Thanksgiving in Italy, I didn't know how or where to start. Conferring with the editor, I was told to create new ideas for Thanksgiving. Then I thought of the most reliable and fastest way to understand how I was going to start - through Facebook. I asked my North American friends what they usually eat, love to eat, and would love to eat. From there, I started to prepare for my Thanksgiving recipes and I didn't realize that it would actually be fun because it was like I was preparing a whole menu for my own Thanksgiving dinner for my family. 

Tomato-Stuffed Pouches


Did I ever tell you that leftovers make my mind whir more than usual? I have this need to see things in order like in the refrigerator shelves which always need organizing because there is a continuous movement of food going in and out. So an open package of lasagna sheets is something that required my attention and as I took it out, an idea crept into my mind.

05 November 2014

Mini Vegan Pumpkin and Pistachio Pies


While I was in one of my wine classes a few months ago, I found myself sitting beside a woman who was noisily suffering from what our teacher was saying. We were onto food and wine pairing and we were in deep red wines which go well with meat. Apparently, our teacher was a hardcore meat lover and sometimes he gets carried away in describing some popular Italian meat dishes which he obviously loves and my squirming neighbor finds terrible.

Celery Root, Apple and Walnut Salad


What is that strange looking thing in the vegetable rack? My daughter asks me insistently while I was mentally checking if I missed a vegetable or not for the minestrone I was going to prepare. Done with my mental check, I turned to the vegetable she was referring to. That strange looking thing, my dear, is going to end up in our paper bag because I need it for a salad. The big, bulbous celeriac or celery root is delicious when combined with apples and walnuts in a coleslaw. It is a variety of celery that is grown for its edible roots, thus, it tastes similar to the common celery stalks.

04 November 2014

Thanksgiving Turkey Alternative: Italian Stuffed Beef


Sometimes I can't believe how fast time flies. I think my time stopped in September and the next time I looked (I mean really looked) at the calendar, it was already November. I had to tear away two months from the calendar hanging in our stock room. Too many things happened between those months, a cousin-in-law's wedding, passing away of my mother-in-law, birthdays, visiting friends, trips and just the daily grind that keeps me on my toes all the time. Life gives us bad things and good things but in the end, we are always grateful for what we have at present and that is what Thanksgiving Day is for.

The Opening of the 11th Academic Year of ALMA, The International School of Italian Cuisine


The opening of the 11th Academic Year of ALMA happened almost a month ago and I know that I am sort of very late in relaying to you about it. It's my second time to take part in one of their important events and I am genuinely happy about it. After putting myself officially in the hands of Italy more than a decade ago, marrying into a big (and animated) Sicilian family, having my own "little-mes", I have completely embraced the Italian culture and gastronomy. I strive to learn and dedicate myself in nurturing my own kids with what Italian gastronomy is all about but not forgetting the importance of what their other half is too. But this post is not about me. It's about one of the most important culinary schools in Italy that represents the excellence of Italian gastronomy internationally.

03 November 2014

Pineapple and Chicken Fried Rice


Lately, I have been eating more Asian food that I usually do. Part of the reason why is because I had to create a series of Asian recipes. Of course, if they are cooked, then they have to be eaten too. Then the craving for more Asian dishes (even the ones that I am not obliged to cook) just overwhelmed me. My calamansi lemon trees are in full bloom again and when they are like that, I can only think of Asian dishes with dipping sauces. This rice doesn't require a dipping sauce but the meat or fish I eat it with definitely needs it.

02 November 2014

Pancakes with Vanilla Yogurt Ricotta and Strawberry Compote


Rise and shine! We dedicate Sunday mornings to being lazy at home. It is the only day of the week when my kids, husband and I (oh, dog included!) leave our beds quite late. This morning, my husband and I woke up with our two kids squeezing in between us on our bed while our dog was looking for a spot for himself at the foot of my side of the bed. In the end, he settled on resting his head on my side. So that was how a late Sunday morning was for us. How about in your house?

29 October 2014

Steamed Ginger Pepper Fish with Coconut Leek Rice


When someone asked me if the basic diet of Asians is really fish and rice, I thought about what we really eat. It's true that rice is staple like bread is in Europe or potatoes in North America. Fish, well, I think that person was thinking more about Japanese cuisine popularized by sushi and sashimi. Whereas in the Philippines, it's inevitable not to have fish because it has more that 7,000 islands and most of the country is surrounded by water. It's a true seafood lover's paradise.