I wonder if all you have been glued to the news lately like me. Left and right, the world seems overtaken with tragic events. Lately I have been dreading turning on the television in the kitchen while I prepare breakfast for the kids. I tried once but I didn't like staring at the blank screen on the kitchen counter so I turned it on eventually. It was on the local news channel then after hearing the headlines, I quickly changed it to something more pleasant. Peppa Pig and her family was much, much more bearable that morning. If Peppa Pig can make my daughter entertained, then maybe she can work her magic on me too.
22 August 2014
19 August 2014
How many frustrating moments have I had while staying in the pantry? There were moments when I was sure I had a bottle of the ingredient that I needed to use for the dish I was preparing but there's none. There were also moments when I finally gather my courage and put my pantry shelves in order to keep track of what I have because they tend to get lost inside the cupboards. Once, I even made a handwritten list of what I had in there. It was a marvelous job! I had to give myself a big pat on the back for the huge work I did. Fast forward? It didn't happen again and the list was never updated. That sad piece of paper is still hanging on my magnetic board in the pantry just collecting dust but still reminding me everyday that hey, I need to systemize my stuff in the pantry.
18 August 2014
When I am at the farmer's market, I cannot imagine skipping the tomatoes at all. There are more varieties than the regular market stalls and the tomatoes are much uglier (gnarly and all) but you cannot negate the fact that they are much sweeter and taste more like tomatoes that their watery cousins at the supermarkets. The aroma is also much stronger. It's the kind that makes you stop yourself from digging into the bags while still in the car and eat them like an apple while driving. It's just the unbecoming sight of dripping tomato juices that is stopping me from really doing it.
Don't you love it when you are holding a bowl of fresh fruits with different colors and aromas? I do, I really do. It's like it gives me more oxygen. They're beautiful, colorful, fresh and most of all, healthy. The good thing about fruit salads is that you can go with the season with a variety of fruits from whatever part of the world you are in. Gather the fruits that are out at that moment, chop them and dress them with a good, natural syrup like this simple basil syrup that I am sharing with you. Basil thrives in summer months and it tastes good with summer fruits. I love it specially with strawberries. It shows with the number of strawberries-basil recipes I have around here.
17 August 2014
Mango is my favorite fruit in the whole wide world. That's how the child in me would recount the fond memories I have of my childhood. When the adults would ask me when I was a kid about my favorite things, they tend to include the phrase in the whole wide world accompanied with the gesticulating of arms encircling the air for emphasis. Mangoes were my life (and still is if only I can find in Italy the variety of mangoes I love) and I don't think a day passed without having mangoes in my diet. When I was a child, a big basket that carries about twenty five kilos would arrive at home when the older one is almost empty. They are all mature mangoes and when I started eating green (unripe) mangoes with shrimp paste, then my Mom's mango orders doubled because I ate a lot of unripe green mangoes too.
15 August 2014
There's a love and hate relationship with smoked salmon in our house. One day, it's the only food that one kid eats while the other one totally abhors it. Then they wake up and switch sides. Or they both love it at the same or they both don't like it at the same time. At the moment, they are at the "but we don't eat smoked salmon" stage but regardless, I have a pack in the refrigerator just in case they wake up loving it again. They still love salmon but the flavor of the moment is the fresh one that's grilled and a dipping sauce of soy sauce and lemon.
14 August 2014
Next to the Asian mangoes (especially the carabao variety), I think I can say that figs come in next as my second favorite fruit. We have a tree that's growing right beside our garage and since it had been planted too close to the wall, it has a controversial position - to cut down or to keep. True, it can create big damage to the wall but it gives us so much beautiful sweet figs every summer. When summer steps in, I can only think about having fresh, sweet figs from that tree and now is the period. The first two weeks of August is harvest time. This year, the tree is still there and hopefully, it won't ever be cut down as long as it behaves and doesn't damage the garage wall.
Colors play a fundamental role in my salads because the more colors there are, the salad tends to look more appetizing. Do you agree with me on this one? Just look at this orange, green and white combination. My fork will develop life of its own and dive into this beautifully-colored salad dish. And here's another thing - not only are the colors great, its tastes wonderful too because I used some elderflower vinaigrette to dress it. I have a weakness for floral and fruity aromas (like my eternal choice in white wines) like this one. What I really like about this salad is that the flavors are all mild and that they don't compete with each other so they blend quite smoothly.
13 August 2014
Don't expect explosive flavors with this one but do expect clean subtle tastes of fresh ingredients wrapped in one healthy dish. The vegetables are grilled so flavors are quite mild but the bottled grilled peppers and the balsamic vinegar give it a boost. I also garnished it with fresh mint from my garden pots and these little potent leaves gave it quite a fresh minty twist. Can you already imagine how it tastes like?
12 August 2014
There's an endless list of fresh or cooked ingredients we can mix with our salads. Really a lot if you are a keen salad eater. I do prepare more salads in summer than during the other seasons because our bodies need them. We need fresher and lighter food in the really hot days to digest the food easily. But with two kids to feed, salads are not enough to sustain them during summer. BUT there are times when I try to lure them with surprising ingredients to make them interested. It does work with my son because he already eats salads when he's in the right mood and I still need to work on my luring skills with my daughter who runs away from anything green.
11 August 2014
There is something about open faced sandwiches that make me pile them high with food and garnish them to my heart's content. After all, I don't need to squash them with another slice of bread on top. Open faced sandwiches come in different names around Europe like perhaps I can also call these crostini in Italy. But let's leave that one for now and call these delicious sandwiches the French way, tartine.
10 August 2014
When I think of Sicily, I think of the four incredible traditional Sicilian food that rule me completely. Arancini, cannoli, caponata and granita. I can live with those alone while I am there. BUT. But Sicilian cuisine is one of the best and one of my favorites in Italy so it's not that those are the only ones that are good. They are just the tip of the iceberg because there's a whole world of cuisine to appreciate. Being an island of so many cultural influences in its past like the Greeks, Arabs, Spanish and Normans, their cuisine reflects them all. Sicilian food is something to love with its amazing pronounced flavors.
09 August 2014
I love strawberries and when they are in season, I get loads of them. I use them everywhere. I love desserts, breakfasts with them, cakes, chopped and mixed with lingonberry syrup or with limoncello, gelato, and yes, drinks. I usually do smoothies. First thing in the morning, I start making the blender make noises in the kitchen to which the kids react to with shouts of "Mommy, please stop"! I admit, those ice cubes I try to break can become too noisy.
08 August 2014
When I was in a Press Trip once in Liguria, where the basil pesto was born, one of the things that was shown to us was how to make a genuine pesto from scratch. The chef was standing in front of a table with all the ingredients that she was going to use and a big deep marble mortar and pestle. She was going to pound away the sauce for our trofie, the local pasta shape. It was a part of our lunch, a big group of around 20 people and I was thinking what a lot of elbow grease she would be using.
07 August 2014
When the kids see me rolling meatballs in between my palms, I'll be sure to hear them shouting, "Polpettine" (Italian of meatballs)! They love them alright. I really believe that kids and meatballs go well together and I think it's the shape of small balls that get them. Easy target, those little ones. I sometimes make some Chicken, Spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano Balls With Sautéed Tomatoes and my daughter, who refuses to eat her vegetables eat a lot of them. I never tell her that mixed in those chicken balls are healthy spinach!
Chicken, Spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano Balls With Sautéed Tomatoes - See more at: http://www.apronandsneakers.com/2012/11/chicken-spinach-and-parmigiano-reggiano.html#sthash.BrYtSK20.dpuf
06 August 2014
There are some purists who would lift an eyebrow over the use of harissa in a pasta dish. I got a few from my Italian friends over lunch and dinner parties I hosted when I served this for the pasta course. I just give them a polite amount (just to taste) and in the end, the whole pot is emptied for their requests of seconds, even thirds, with their kids joining in. Because even if harissa is a hot chili pepper paste, it is not as spicy as it seems. In fact, I think the combination of garlic, chili and herbs is perfectly orchestrated. They go well with other ingredients in cooking. In Italy, harissa is not so used in cooking because everyone still sticks to the ingredients they know. Leave it to the adventurous, like me.
05 August 2014
I created this frittata in spring when the herb blossoms were in full bloom. They were calling out for attention with their beautiful colors. Maybe I should have just left them where they should be but I had to snip off a few to add to this dish. The flowers are all in their violet tones so putting the this together was like a painting of contrasting colors. Yellow, violet and green - they are practically three of my favorite colors combined. They are vibrant and they exude freshness. Hello nature!
04 August 2014
After dinner in a culinary school the other night, I got into an interesting conversation with Malaysian Chef Mario, one of the chefs who cooked for us that night. We discussed about the similarity of Malaysian and Philippine cuisines and some dishes that are actually almost identical. I had been to Kuala Lumpur years ago and I still remember how much I loved the lunch I had at the hotel's restaurant. I remember that it was chicken and the flavors exploded in my mouth paired with an equally flavorful dish of fried rice. It was close to home, I thought. After a 3-week stay in Africa, an Asian dish reshuffled my palate to familiarity. I was almost home! The taste is almost there.
03 August 2014
|Reggia di Colorno or Ducal Palace of Colorno, the palace where ALMA International School of Italian Cuisine is located.|
If you love food and wine and want to do something about it other than (ahem!) terminate all of them with a long satisfied smile afterwards, what would you do? I used to be the food terminator when I was young, then when nobody was cooking for me anymore, I learned to take myself in front of the stove and oven where I started cooking on my own, learning with patience, through failures, successes and more failures. I always believe that the best way to learn is to make mistakes because from those mistakes, you push yourself up and learn not to go back to what you did wrong.
And I became uncontrollable in the kitchen because in the process, I learned that I actually love cooking, and traveling and photography and lastly, wines. And maybe I will stop here. A spark came out and here I am now, at home, typing this post because there is something that I would like to share with you.
Sole and plaice are the kinds of fish that are easy to find in the shops. They are sold already filleted or sometimes still whole. I get both, just changing the recipes according to what I get. If I get the ones that are whole, I cook them with white wine, some tomatoes, olives, capers, practically what are basic in my kitchen. My Pan Seared Mediterranean Style recipe has never failed me on the table both with my family and guests. Whereas when I get the filleted ones, I go for this other favorite fish recipe at home. Breaded and cooked in the pan until they reach their golden color. If we are in the orange season, then much better, because I pair the breaded fish with orange salad. I usually just drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil, add salt and some zest.