Monthly Archives: April 2006

sago’t saba (tapioca pearls and sweet plantains)

in the fervent hope that somehow this cold Arctic air will wisp away and let the warm sunshine through, i made this summery cooler for my children using plantains. i used palm sugar (it has a wonderful maple-sugar-y note) and more water than is usual for the syrup–just adjust to your own liking but it’s usually 1:1 ratio. stir the broken up pieces of palm sugar into the boiling water and stir until dissolved then add the sliced plantain bananas and simmer until tender. serve with prepared tapioca or sago pearls (method here) and crushed ice.

*no comparison to saba bananas but plantains are all i’ve got.

end of the vacation

didn’t do much. the things we did, were great: sleep in late, follow no schedule, be lazy.

we ventured out to some neighboring towns to explore and have some ice cream (although the weather is not conducive to eating anything frozen, the sunshine somehow draws New Englanders out of their habitat and into the local ice cream joints to form long lines and freeze in the wind).

we went up to Revere Beach (just north of Logan Airport) where there is a fine long stretch of sand (which hasn’t been spruced up yet for the beach crowd). there is a landmark roast beef sandwich place there but i was having the fried clam platter–greaseless and crunchy and inside it was squishy yummy…i only wished i’d brought some wasabi and soy for my dip! their tartar sauce is truly wonderful though with crunchy dills and well seasoned mayo.

the rest of the family had the roast beef sandwich, which is well worth the long drive up. me? i’m saving up for that clam plate for the next visit ($17 a pop, but it is a big serving and more than enough for one).

my little one was so thrilled to show me some bleached-white bones (looks like ham and chicken wing hehe)–good work on a cold windy day.

seafood and sausage gumbo

or our interpretation of it, at least.

we are all on vacation albeit a “stay-at-home” type of vacation wherein we do some sorely neglected errands and maintenance (of home and bodies)…not the most exciting but surely restful and relaxing.

we even have time to cook up some time-consuming recipes. (translation: i get to order husband around to do some chopping and slicing for me. hehe.)

husband and i have never been to New Orleans, regretfully so. we were planning a trip, especially after reading the delicious account of fishfish when she attended a conference. until the hurricane. we are hopeful that someday we may still fulfill this dream.
we’ve had seafood gumbo, one of New Orleans’ signature dishes, or at least our interpretation of it, about 5 or 6 times in all our years together. there is also a grocery store near us that sells a luscious take-out (along with New England clam chowder) so we sort of have an idea of how it should taste. so after watching countless food network and create! and pbs cooking shows, here is our favorite version so far (also enhanced by references to several cookbooks and clippings and internet sources).

seafood gumbo

3 tbsps. butter

3 tbsps. flour

1/2 cup green pepper, diced

1/2 cup celery, diced

1 cup onion, minced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup plum tomatoes, diced

2 cups chopped okra

2 tbsps. tomato paste
2 lbs. shrimp, peeled deveined, and seasoned with salt and pepper and a smidgen of cayenne pepper)

4oz.s each of picked over crabmeat, canned or fresh, and shucked oysters–include the liquor

8 cups water ( or stock or clam juice or a combination)

2 tsps. file powder (ground sassafras leaves, good luck looking for this! i found mine at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia)

1 lb. Anodouille sausage, minced and browned in ungreased skillet

more salt and pepper to taste

cooked long grain rice, to serve

make the roux by melting the butter over medium heat. add the flour and whisk constantly until dark reddish brown (like the color of crab fat). add the onions, peppers,celery, and garlic and saute until softened. add the tomatoes and okra
and saute until soft. add the water or stock and tomato paste, stirring.

let it simmer about 30 minutes then add the shrimp (and crabmeat and oysters if using). let simmer 5 minutes. then add the file powder and turn off the heat.

to serve: scoop the rice onto the bowls and pour the gumbo over. garnish with browned Andouille sausage and sliced scallions. (and Frank’s RedHot pepper sauce if you like it! ) (alternatively you may add the spicy sausage along with the seafood if you like the spicy flavor to permeate more into the gumbo).

a precious day off…

and it’s the birthday of the first baby of baby rambutan! seventeen. seventeen. how did that happen?

chocolate espresso cake with latte cream frosting.

preheat oven to 350F. butter and line(w/parchment or wax paper) and butter again an 9 inch springform pan.

have everything at room temperature.

5 ozs. semisweet chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa solids, broken into chunks

1 stick plus 3 tbsps. unsalted butter

6 eggs

1 & 1/4 cups superfine sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup all purpose flour

5 tsps. instant espresso powder

1/4 cup coffee liqueur (Kahlua, Tia Maria)

melt the chocolate and butter over a double boiler (over simmering water, bowl not touching the water, turn off heat when chocolate is almost melted then finish by stirring until completely homogenized).

beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla until triple in volume (use the mixer). sift the flour and espresso over the egg mixture then fold carefully to maintain the volume. pour into prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. cake tester comes out moist, top feels crackly and might sink in the middle).

pour the Kahlua all over the top and let it cool completely on a rack.

latte cream frosting:

over a double boiler, melt 3 ozs. of white chocolate with 1/4 cup of heavy (whipping) cream just until almost melted, then let it melt completely by stirring well. let it cool.
whip 1 & 1/4 cups heavy cream until beater marks form then slowly pour in cooled white chocolate/cream mixture. beat until fluffy.

release the sides of the pan and set the bottom on your serving plate. pour the latte cream frosting all over the top. sift a mixture of cocoa and instant espresso on top, if desired.

(recipe is based on a famous domestic diva‘s book of celebration recipes….i had to tweak the recipe a bit for it to work to my satisfaction.)

scallion pancakes

this is one of the kids’ favorite chinese restaurant takeout items. i thought it would be fun to try and make them at home and these turned out very satisfying: not at all greasy, yet very tasty, though i have to find a gingery dipping sauce recipe for husband and me. our kids devour them as is. (recipe from the food of China, Nina Simonds and Deh-ta Hsiung.)
2 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. oil

3/4 cup boiling water

3 tbsps. roasted sesame oil

1/3 cup finely sliced scallions–green parts only

oil for pan frying

mix the flour and salt together then the oil and boiling water. mix thoroughly to form a dough then knead for 5 minutes (i used the dough hook of the mixer for this). dust ball lightly with flour then cover with cloth and let rest in the mixing bowl for 20 minutes.

form into a log and cut into 24 pieces then roll each piece into a 4 inch disk (on a lightly floured pastry board or cutting board). brush with sesame oil and sprinkle with scallions. roll into a cylinder then roll this into a snail shape. cover and let rest for 20 minutes more.

on a floured surface flatten each snail shape into a flat disk. arrange on a wax paper lined platter.

heat the frying pan and pour just enough oil to coat the pan. pan fry each pancake about 2-3 minutes per side over medium heat. drain into paper towel lined plates and serve at once.

ginatang halo halo

i firmly believe: foodblogging is contagious. there are some days when i know i must purposefully stay away from bloghopping–say when i am hungry and there’s nothing much in the freezer that inspires me to cook. i only end up exasperated and with a growling angry tummy.

other days it’s like taking a walk outside, taking a whiff of the frying garlic from my Spanish neighbors….ahhh! the possibilities. then i zoom off to the supermarket with ideas buzzing in my head.

such was the case when i saw celiaK’s recent post on this sweet coconut milk “soup” which i happened to read on a raw, blustery day and i thought i have to make that! that’s perfect belly warming comfort food!
it takes some doing, collecting the ingredients from this and that Asian store to make the complete compleat ginatan. the procedure is the same as celiak’s except for the following: i used two packs of frozen coconut milk (16 ozs. each, “handaan” brand), i added pandan leaves to the coconut milk-sugar soup, used bottled sweet jackfruit (“langka”), used the large size tapioca (this takes hours and lots of patience to prepare but for my #1son especially, it’s worth the wait), and used ready-made frozen sweet rice balls. i also added a half pack of my precious frozen ube (purple sweet potato).

pandan-infused coconut milk and sugar syrup, with diced sweet potatoes, cubed gabi (taro), sliced plantain bananas, ube chunks, jackfruit, sweet rice balls and tapioca pearls*.

the scent of the pandan and coconut lingers on in the house and it’s quite…comforting.

*i used the large size for its texture and chewiness. use an 8 to 1 ratio of water to pearls. bring the water to a boil and add the pearls, stirring constantly until the water comes up to a boil again (to prevent sticking) then turn down heat to a medium boil for 25 minutes. turn off the heat and let stand, covered tightly, for 45 minutes. test if the centers are still white. bring up to a boil again if not, turn off heat, cover, then let stand, until the centers are translucent. depending on the brand and quality of the pearls this may take a couple of hours.

chunky Brazil nut brownies

thank you for all the greetings! it’s been 4 weeks exactly since the surgery and things are healing well..but at a follow-up the naughty surgeon pressed hard on my palm and i had to let out a shriek which startled him too heehee.

i miss being the fantasy amazona in my mind…i have had to ask husband and the kids to do so many things like open a bottle cap, squeeze the toothpaste tube. there have been many spill disasters: my left hand is like a newly appended robot arm that i can’t control! last week it hit my coffee mug full of hot coffee and spilled all over the kids’ newly cooked breakfast. sorry children…

today i tried my best and it came out well…i baked a little after-school treat, their favorite from Mrs. Fields: chunky Brazil nut brownies. (nuts from the Amazon jungle ha!) it had to be something easy and just using one bowl and one hand mostly. i had a little helper who swiped a lot of the chocolate chips 😉
i never put the crowning touch of melted caramels before because i thought it was too “over the top” but today–well i haven’t baked for the kids in a long time. i drizzled it over… and wow! what a difference.

12 tbsps.(1 &1/2 sticks) melted cooled butter (i melted it in the 9-in square pan as the oven warmed up)

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-processed with alkali)

3/4 cup granulated white sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup white chocolate chips or chunks

1 cup semi sweet or dark or even milk chocolate chunks (i used 70% minimum cocoa solids)

20 caramels, about 5-6 ozs.

1 cup coarsely chopped toasted skinned Brazil nuts *

toast in 350F oven for about 15 minutes–watch closely–and while hot, pour into a clean kitchen towel, cover completely and rub the skins off.

preheat oven to 350F. lightly grease an 8 or 9 inch square pan with butter, line the bottom with foil, then grease again.

using a large mixer bowl, combine butter and cocoa (sift it over the butter if it’s lumpy) and whisk until smooth. add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined, then add the flour and salt. mix until dry ingredients are well incorporated then add the chocolates and nuts.

pour into the prepared pan and smooth over the top. melt 20 caramels (5-6 ozs., i used Kraft brand) with 2 tbps. water in the microwave for about 2 minutes, stir well then pour over the batter, swirling with a sharp tipped knife.

bake for about 25-30 minutes or until sides are set and cake tester comes out moist but not runny. let it cool completely –it will slice better, but can you wait that long???

recipe from Mrs. Fields’ Great American Desserts

restless foodie


lichee (lychee) tea and a new punky tea ball (it locks)

…grabs the “doggie” bag (take home) from dad-in-law’s 82nd birthday banquet.

yes very restless, but the splint is officially off and now i must strengthen my grip by trying to make a punch-you-out fist and exercising with a tiny soft ball.

i made eggplant torta today, hoohah! okay okay husband flipped them for me and noted how oily they were (hey he’s the one who bought the 70% lean ground beef).  one little tomato and onion and it didn’t hurt much to chop them up.

happy Monday to you all…