Monthly Archives: December 2004

steamed shrimp with garlic over bean sprouts

husband saw wifey going wacky with the christmas stuff so he volunteered to make this for a weekday dinner, one of our favorite shrimp recipes.
a couple of years after we moved to this hardworking class Boston ‘burb, a Chinese food take out joint opened just down the hill and of course we had to support this business venture. the owner turned out to be husband’s old elementary school friend, and the chef! ooh la la ay ya! he churned out Hong Kong style food (fresh, even things-not-from-the-menu-but-he’ll- cook-for-you-on-special-request kind of dishes: Iron Chef stuff!…ooh maybe i’m just oversentimentalizing…is that a word?).
anyway. we were crestfallen when they had to close shop (matthew said he was exhausted). he had been a lifesaver when our daughter was born, as i slowly recovered from the complicated delivery. we didn’t have to battle the expressway traffic and parking crunch of Boston Chinatown to get great tasting take-out.
some days when husband had to wait for our order, matthew would proffer a steaming bowl of wonton soup, the memory of which makes this tough guy swoon. to this day. Matthew Tam is gone and we have been looking for him. please let me know if you know where he is. this dish is a replica husband came up with, in his desire to rekindle a tastebud memory. it comes pretty darn close…

peel, devein, rinse, and salt a pound of large shrimp.
in 4 tbsps. of vegetable oil saute 6 large cloves of finely minced garlic. add a pinch of salt and cook till pale golden brown. scoop out garlic and let cool.
set shrimp on a heatproof platter that fits over a steamer. pour cooled sauteed garlic over and steam until pink-firm and done (about 4-5 minutes). remove from heat.

in a wok heat 2 tbsps. of peanut or vegetable oil and add a thin slice of ginger. add bag of bean sprouts (about 2 cups) and saute briefly (add thinly sliced scallions if you like). add a drop of sesame oil and salt to taste. spread out bean sprouts into serving platter and pour shrimps and garlic on top.

happy new year!

happy new year!
i am very grateful to have met all of you, dearest friends. i offer you something special, belgian chocolates fr. trader joe’s, please take one before my kittens eat them all.
may 2005 and the new year of the rooster bring us flapping new wings to fly!

tea-smoked duck

husband’s idea to contribute to the clan’s holiday party was 2 tea-smoked ducks…it was fit to serve an emperor: in our family the venerable ancestor, YeYe (grandpa). in our haste to make it to the party on time and to beat a forecast snowstorm i forgot to take pictures of the lacquered shiny finished quacker. sorry! but i will post it very soon (nothing left to take home as we offered it to our hosts, husband’s sister and brother-in-law). we plan to have some for new year’s eve.

begin the day before you plan to serve:

roast 3 tbsps. of black peppercorn with 4 tbsps. of sea or kosher salt until peppercorns are fragrant. let cool. rub all over, inside and out, a 4 lb. fresh duck.
wrap tightly in double layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil and store in refrigerator overnight.

the next morning, wipe away the salt and peppercorns with paper towels.
with the tines of a fork, prick fatty ducky parts (breast, legs), taking care not to pierce the meat.

steam the duck over a rack in a large pan, replenishing with boiling water as needed, for about 45 minutes or until meat thermometer registers 180F.

let the duck rest, cool and air dry for at least 3 hours.

in the bottom of a roasting pan with a tight-fitting lid, arrange double layers of heavy duty foil and spread 3 tbsps. of brown rice, 1 tbsp. of black peppercorns, 3 pieces of dried orange peel, 2 star anise, 3 tbsps. of brown sugar, and about half a cup of oolong and chrysanthemum tea leaves. arrange duck on a rack over the smoking agents, set the lid tightly with a heavy weight on top and set the heat to medium high. begin timing when you hear crackling, for about 15 minutes total smoking time. turn off the burner and let stand 5 minutes. if the duck is not dark enough (like dark brown lacquer) turn burner on and smoke 5 minutes more.

optional: put the duck in a preheated 425F oven for about 15 minutes for crispy skin.
chop into bite size pieces and serve warm or cold.

i thought about putting a colorized picture or a ‘stand-in’ roast duck but i couldn’t do that…could i? that’s cheating right??

WARNING: this is another of those recipes that will make the house “fragrant”. my kittens complained of the strong scent so i promised to find an alternative way, such as using a barbeque grill in the summer, or a single burner just outside on the patio. as long as there’s no nor’easter pounding us with ice as it is right now.

extra special cassava bibingka…

“bibingkang kamoteng kahoy na napakaespesyal”.. tried to teach my sister-in-law to say that. she managed “bibingka” and i said good enough.

this was our dessert contribution, in lieu of a fancy chocolate-orange cheesecake..sigh, there just wasn’t enough time.
when i gave a little loaf size of this to a very nice Filipina friend (double sigh, she moved to N. Carolina) her Italian-American husband called and sang me an operatic aria. he enjoyed it that much. one of husband’s co-workers too claimed it was soothing to her digestive system! at the family party i saw the folks making a beeline to the table when dessert was served…
very easy to make, the ingredients are all readily available in the Asian groceries.
cassava, or yucca, manioc, or mandioca, is a root crop that is peeled and then grated or boiled. my ma planted them in the vacant lot next to our home in Quezon City and the shrubs grew tall: a great place to play “jungle” for us! all about the cassava, a filling starchy snack ingredient in our family’s “merienda” repertoire. my lola (grandma) adored it just plain boiled and salted, and sprinkled with freshly grated coconut meat.

preheat oven to 350F.
line a lasagna-size pyrex dish with cleaned banana leaves (thawed if frozen, rinsed and dried) and butter lightly.

mix together 2 packs of thawed frozen grated cassava, or 4 cups freshly grated , 1 can of evaporated milk, 1 cup of canned cream of coconut (coco lopez or other Spanish brand), 1 can of condensed milk (subtract 6 tbsps. for topping), 1 can of coconut milk (subtract 6 tbsps. for topping), 5 eggs, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1 jar of drained macapuno strings or a pack of thawed frozen shredded young coconut.

pour mixture into prepared pan.
bake until slightly set about 40 minutes. meanwhile prepare topping: 6 tbsps. of coconut milk, 6 tbsps. of condensed milk, and 2 egg yolks (you may add the egg whites to the cassava batter if you like a firmer texture).
increase heat to 400F and pour topping over the pan. bake until topping is brown and bubbly, about 15 to 20 minutes more, watching closely so the topping doesn’t burn. let cool before cutting into bars.

crazy fun all week (and THE tiramisu recipe)

it really was, with a few gratifying breaks in between:

a middle school concert of the band and chorus…so proud of them all, putting in great effort and coming up triumphant. hooray especially for the youngest 5th graders!

a “sweet” preschool show, after making tiny gingerbread houses and thanking the industrious, patient, loving teachers

cookie gifts for us! hehe, cookies i gave, cookies i got in return (these were almost too pretty to eat)

xmas eve dinner –foods that cook themselves, so to speak: steamed lobsters, semi-boneless rib roast, potato-anchovy casserole, Daddy’s quick stir-fry…

and -the long-awaited, once-a-year tiramisu.

the best one i made, so far, so i have to record it for posterity, upon special request of the 3 little kittens…who are demolishing it as we speak.

tiramisu was a famous dessert from the ’80s which i first encountered in NYC’s little Italy just north of busy bustling Chinatown. weekends, my friends and i would meet for dimsum then head on up across Canal St. to one of the cafes for espresso and dessert.

it is a trifle consisting of crisp ladyfingers or dry-ish sponge cake, drowning in coffee syrup with liqueur, and mascarpone-heavy cream-chocolate laden layers.
for our xmas eve dinner I used Kahlua instead of the traditional Marsala and was heavy-handed in pouring it in because! sshh! I wanted the little kittens fast asleep before midnight…

Kahlua and coffee syrup:
in a small bowl stir 2 cups of strong brewed coffee or espresso and 1/4 cup of Kahlua or other coffee liqueur and 1/2 tsp. of vanilla.

for the mascarpone cream layers (based on “The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Desserts,” 1991, edited by Mildred Ying).

beat together:
1 8-oz. container of mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 8-oz.package of cream cheese, room temp.,
1/2 tsp. salt,
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsps. of powdered (confectioners’) sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract,
3 tbsps. more of Kahlua!, and
3 ozs. of grated semi-sweet chocolate.

in a small bowl whip 1 & 1/2 cups of heavy cream until stiff peaks form.
fold cream into cheese/chocolate mixture.

arrange a layer of sponge cake or 12 ozs. of store-bought lady fingers in bottom of glass dish and sprinkle generously with Kahlua and coffee mixture.

spread 1/3 of mascarpone-cream mixture, and repeat 2 layers more.
sprinkle 1 oz. of grated semi-sweet chocolate on top and garnish with dollops of more whipped cream if desired.
chill for at least 2 hours before serving.


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what’s on my (paper) plate?

still baking, a bit frantically now, as kids have volunteered to bring cookies to their respective classroom christmas parties. so it’s cookie making, shopping, wrapping, bagging, delivering/mailing. but. still have to do all the other “stuff” like feeding them, bathing them, doing their laundry…where can i apply for a house elf? do i have to prequalify or something? why can’t i be more like tita Martha?
so we’ve been having a few, ahem, “quick and easy” meals (translation: frozen, microwaveable, take out, creative daddy cuisine and sshhh! McDo.)
i would like to share an easy chicken dish with a little assistance from Mama Sita.

it is just your basic chicken afritada. marinate chicken legs and thighs in knorr or maggi liquid seasoning for at least a half hour. brown in olive oil just until all opaque. pan fry cubed potatoes. saute garlic, onions, tomatoes. put browned chicken into pan with enough water or broth to cover and 2 tbsps. of “caldereta” instant mix (well, i ran out of menudo/afritada mix),2 laurel leaves, and dried or fresh thyme or half a teaspoon of dried “herbs of provence” . add chopped pimientos or roasted red peppers (sold in jars, goya brand for example). bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about 40 minutes or until fork tender. add cubed potatoes, garbanzo beans, and spanish style sausages-chorizos-(tropical,goya, or marca el rey brand) and simmer 5 minutes more.

canned food, yes, but!

i first read about these Portugese smoked sardines from a feature in the Boston Sunday Globe magazine quite a while back. then i actually saw them at the cambridge “trader joe’s” and after 1 can, have gone back for more,more,more. they do not taste “fishy” at all but instead are very subtle, smokey…like our tinapa(smoked baby herring). we’re hooked. it’s perfect with fried garlic rice (sinangag) and fried egg (pritong itlog) like celia k’s…sardinesilog? tinapasilog?

cashew cups

using the same method as my mazarins, these were originally “walnut cups” or “walnut petites.” this is the one husband’s co-workers look for when he brings the tin of cookies from home. this year i could only send one type and i bucked my own tradition by using cashews instead of walnuts, just because i like them.

Cashew Petites? based on a recipe from Gourmet magazine, Dec. 1993

1 stick (1/2 cup)unsalted butter, room temperature
3 ozs. cream cheese, room temp.
1 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 tbsp. melted & cooled butter
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped cashews, roasted unsalted

In the bowl of an electric mixer cream 1 stick of butter with the cream cheese until the mixture is light and fluffy, add the flour and the salt, and beat the mixture until it forms a dough. Form the dough into 2 logs and chill it, wrapped in plastic wrap, for 30 minutes. Slice into disks and press into 36 1/8 cup muffin tins and work the dough evenly onto the bottoms and up the sides of the tins to form 1/8-in. shells.
Preheat the oven to 375F. In a bowl, whisk together the egg, brown sugar, melted butter, and vanilla until the mixture is combined well. Divide the filling among the shells, sprinkle it with the cashews, and bake the cashew cups in the middle of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the crusts are golden. Let the cookies cool in the tins on racks for 10 minutes, remove them from the tins carefully (using the sharp tip of a knife), and let them cool completely in the racks. The cashew cups may be made 2 months in advance and kept frozen in airtight containers.
Makes 36 cookies. Easily doubled.

quick meals for the holiday deadlines

big eye=bisugo?

pritong isda

i explored an Indian market at the next town in search of amchur powder and dried pomegranate seeds for vegetable samosas. roaming up and down the aisles, i found a bin of crisp green HUGE mangoes…and decided to take a gamble and see if they tasted like the elusive piko supersour variety which grow in abundance in Luzon, especially my lola’s home province of Bataan… they weren’t quite the same but after salting and adding some calamansi juice it came pretty close:
green mango salad
shred finely a fresh green, peeled mango (discard seed) in the food processor. set in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle 1 tsp. of salt. let stand for 5 minutes. rinse and drain well and transfer to serving bowl. sprinkle 2 tsps. of your favorite fish sauce (i used Vietnamese), 1 tsp. of calamansi or lemon juice, 1 chopped plum tomato, and garnish with cilantro leaves.(sometimes i also add thinly sliced red onions). my favorite side dish for fried seafood!

slow roasted pork shoulder, lechon-lechonan

gingerbread cookies

based on the Land o’ lakes back of the box…”Twinkling Ginger Stars” recipe.
I was so blase about finding this recipe, I figured I can easily find this on line in the LOL website. Ooops. I almost panicked, and went thru each listed recipe to see if it was the one. My kids had been clamoring for the first of the silly mommy’s traditional cookies….I implored them, can I make something else this year? The three of them all put on their basset hound eyes, “you might as well cancel the christmas..,” said the oldest.
I had to dig thru my piles of recipe cut outs. Whew, must blog it now before I totally lose this along with the rest of my mind…This is exceptionally chewy-crisp, and rich and spicy in a kid-friendly way. If you have kids in your life, this is the cookie to win them over if they need bribing, console them if they’re feeling sunk; the one to make them say “you’re the best mommy ever” and make you feel all pumped up about yourself :)

Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl: 3 cups all purpose flour, 1 & 1/2 tsps. baking soda, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 tsp. cardamom, 1 tsp. ground ginger, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Set aside.

Cream 1 & 1/4 cups sugar, 1 cup (2 sticks) butter at room temp. in large mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy (1 to 2 minutes). Add 1 egg, 1 tbsp. of molasses, 2 tbsps. of dark corn syrup, and 1 tsp. vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients. Beat until well mixed.

Divide dough into thirds. Shape each third into round ball. Flatten to 1/2 inch thickness. Wrap in plastic food wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
Preheat oven to 375F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface, 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with 3 to 4-in cookie cutters and lift gently up into ungreased cookie sheets, about 1 inch apart. (at this point you may add pearl sugar, as we did in photo, or “jimmies” as candy bits are called in Boston.)

Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until set.

Let stand 1 minute. Remove from cookie sheets into wire racks and cool completely. (Sift powdered sugar over cookies-optional.) Makes about 6 dozen cookies. Great for giving away.