Category Archives: appetizing nibbles

tamales in winter

i’m going to try and resuscitate this site. wish myself luck. almost a year without a peep from me* and to be honest i haven’t missed it much. we’ve had a kind of rough 2014, ups and downs and downs and downs but we must turn the page and start out new and fresh and look forward to a bright and sparkling year. yey.
today is my babybaobao’s 9th birthday and i’ll be making us a cake and giving him a special toy and treats, but for now i just want to record how i made tamales, Filipino style. we don’t call it tamale in singular form, always it is tamales. though it is similar in name to the Mexican snack made of corn masa and fillings, wrapped in corn husks, it is really more like the Chinese zhong or jong with rice, pork, dried shrimp, etc. wrapped in lotus leaves. i’ve been wanting to make it for so long–a bit of nostalgia for the snack my Ma and i bought from a vendor at a rest stop in Pampanga 4 years ago. the rice and coconut and peanut flavors are really out of this world. mine came out rather nice. but i would still like to go back with my Ma to Pampanga.

just out of the steamer
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spiedini alla Romana: mozzarella skewers in anchovy sauce

cheese-mozzarella skewers w/ anchovy sauce
i knew i had to make these the moment i saw them…i guess this is the definition of love at first sight.
the minute i saw them i knew they were worth trying out. reading the recipe for the first time it looked, ridiculously simple, something unbelievable, too easy, too good to be true, with the promise of bold and daring tastes.

spiedini alla Romana will speak for me. from Mario Batali, Molto Italiano, 2005.

1 loaf day old Italian bread cut into 2-inch thick slices and then in two 2-inch cubes
1 pound fresh buffalo mozzarella, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 & 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
3 large eggs
8 salt-packed anchovies, filleted, rinsed, and chopped in two 1/8 inch pieces
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley

16 short bamboo skewers

thread 3 cubes of bread and 2 cubes of cheese onto each skewer, beginning and ending with bread, and sandwiching the cheese tightly between the bread cubes. set aside.
spiedini alla Romana
in a large deep heavy-bottomed skillet, heat 1 cup of the olive oil over high heat until almost smoking. meanwhile, lightly beat the eggs in a large shallow bowl.

working in batches, dip each skewer in the eggs, turning to coat, then lift out, letting the excess drip off, and add to the oil. cook, turning occasionally, until light golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes.
transfer the skewers to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

in a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil and the anchovies and bring to a boil over low heat, stirring until the anchovies have fallen apart. remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. transfer the spiedini to a platter or individual plates, pour the oil over them, and serve.

chicken liver paté

so why is there a photo of a little nip of Courvoisier, instead of a ramekin of paté? because honestly paté is not so cute to look at. i mean it’s mostly grey with a tinge of pink and flecks of black pepper.
you can use your favorite brandy, i picked Cognac in a little fit of nostalgia: that’s what i’ve been using since i started making paté, when i was maybe 14 years old. yes, it’s true…my Ma had a little fat paperback from a spice company and the paté recipe was one of the few things i could make with ingredients all at home (though i had to sneak into Dad’s stash to get the liquor).

at $1 a pound chicken livers are a not-too-secret chef’s delight. a minimum of fuss to prepare but what a punch it packs! i prefer this version now because it is not too cloyingly rich with its proportion of butter to cream to liver… if you have some good rustic bread, or even a plain sliced white loaf, toast it up and slather on a little or a lot. i like to munch mine with cornichon pickles on the side. a hand-held stick blender makes it all easier, and oddly empowering.

2 tbsps. butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 pound chicken livers, trimmed
2 tbsps. cognac/brandy
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1/4 tsp. dried
1/4 tsp. freshly-ground peppercorn medley or black peppercorn

in skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender and golden, about 10 minutes. stir in garlic and livers and cook until livers are lightly browned but still pink inside, about 5 minutes. stir in cognac, cook 5 minutes. in blender or in food processor with knife blade attached, puree chicken-liver mixture, cream, salt, thyme, and pepper until smooth, stopping blender occasionally and scraping down side with rubber spatula. [or use stick-blender–so much easier!]
spoon mixture into small bowl, cover, and refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to overnight. let stand 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.
serve with toast points, crackers, sliced apples…
er, okay, [sige na nga!]there it is:
chicken liver paté

(based on a recipe from The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, ed. Susan Westmoreland, 2001.)

*if you’re feeling fanciful, you can try this laborious, delicious!, duck and orange terrine!

welcome 2012!

yey, we made it to another year :wizard: . i’ve recovered from all that holiday-ing, and once more my resolution about that is to start out earlier. we’ll just have to wait and see. i always am so full of hope :drunk: .
i’ve been cooking a lot, A LOT! i’ve really renewed vows with my baking and cooking love*, but have just been so pressed for time. the world’s just spinning so much faster. why is that? :fryingpan

our New Year’s eve, we splashed out and made sure the refrigerator, pantry, and table were full and/or laden with our favorites.
we decided on a table full of appetizers and savory snacks, a combination of take-out and home-cooked, among them:
New Year's Eve table
appetizer table with assorted savories and cheese fondue…
not-quite-7 layer dip
not-quite-7 layer dip (black bean, guacamole, sour cream, tomatoes, black olives, pickled jalapeños, topped with cilantro), great with corn tortilla chips.layered dip
honey ham
smile, you’re a honey-baked ham!
orangesoyribs 011
orange-soy glazed ribs
Bon Chon chicken from Boston
Bon Chon chicken…try the sweet soy-garlic and the fiery fearsome hot wings, dare!
and for the desserts,
coconut lemon tea cake
coconut lemon tea cake–not too rich, not too moist, perfect with hot tea,
halayang ube (purple yam pudding)
halayang ube, purple yam pudding, something sweet and sticky to catch good luck for 2012, also year of the fierce Dragon. wait, that means another celebration in a couple of weeks! yey!

*a whole other story, worth its own chapter.
bold means recipes provided on demand upon request!

not-so-instant sisig

the craving just got too intense, too hot to handle.
i even ordered some from the one and only Pinoy restaurant in…my city? the state? the whole of New England?
it would have been good, except that they put a LOT of minced ginger in their otherwise delicious (and reasonably priced) sisig.
it took too long to pull out the finely minced pieces–don’t get me wrong! i like ginger, i love ginger!–just not in my sisig.
so of course, the only recourse, is to make some myself.
i first had mine, sizzling, at Trellis Restaurant–at the site which used to be my Uncle’s house.

there’s so much fun in the search for ingredients. (???) first you have to find a pork head. barring that, you find pork face/snout. the best sisig i had was in California, Ma-made, with fresh roasted lechon and the creamy pork brain mashed in.
impossible? then find some pork belly and ears to provide that unique crunchy chewy “makunat” texture.
i got lucky and found pork snouts. i just supplemented with a meaty pork belly, and the instant sisig packet,
and my fresh calamansi from California, and bottled labuyo juice,
and fresh chopped red onions. roast parboiled chicken livers stand in for the brains….

and the cravings have been satiated.
for now.
now where’s that sizzling platter?

lumpia, fried; and lumpia, fresh–and a bit of wishful thinking

so who isn’t on a health kick these days? you just can’t escape it even if you don’t have any health issues (lucky you *inggit*envy*)–tv and print ads and emails all beseech you to watch your weight, read food labels, work out, eat less, and on and on.
one of my sincere efforts is to avoid cooking deep fried foods.

lumpiang Shanghai with catsup dip

but alas, the allure and the lure of lumpiang Shanghai (meat and shrimp rolls) got the better of me. i justified it by using ground chicken to replace some of the ground pork, and tried to have the rolls not spend too much time in the deep fat fryer (crucial to use, so that you know how hot the oil has gotten).
the star of this blogpost though is The Dip. i was in a hurry to cook and couldn’t find my recipe for the sweet and soy-y dip so i dug out my dog-eared 22-year-old edition of Galing Galing by Nora Daza for a sweet and sour ketchup-y sauce to which i added some fried garlic.

1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water (or chicken stock)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. cooking oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsps. ketchup/catsup
2 tsps. cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp. water

in a glass cup, combine vinegar, sugar, salt and water and mix well.
heat a saucepan and add cooking oil (you can use as little as you need to coat the pan). brown the minced garlic until fragrant. add the vinegar solution and bring up to a gentle boil and then add the cornstarch solution, stirring constantly until thickened.

i added a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper too.

any guilty feelings after imbibing these forbidden deep fried goodies were assuaged by the opposite lumpia variation.
fresh lumpiang sariwa
after having some fresh lumpia in California–traditionally made with heart of coconut, (the inner core of the coconut trunk, which is not available here)–here made with jicama (singkamas) and other vegetables: green beans, carrots, snow pea pods, celery, all precisely julienned…i had a hankering for some more.

if only i could findeureka!i think i’ve found that prefect white crepe i’m longing for, with a bit of a spongey texture in its thinness, just like my Ma used to get fresh from the lumpia-makers of Nepomuceno Market near Kamuning and Cubao…. :detective:

i’ve been having problems with this webhost, and in the time it took just to write this post i’ve managed to trawl the www and try a few recipes for the crepe. this is it, at least for now:
a white and fine textured crepe that doesn’t overwhelm the vegetables with too much egginess.
(based on a recipe from

200 grams all purpose flour
50 grams tapioca starch
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 tbsps. canola oil
525 ml lukewarm water

blend dry ingredients, then add the egg. whisking constantly, add the water in a steady and slow stream. whisk until well blended; use a stick blender if batter is lumpy. cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand in the refrigerator, for at least an hour, up to overnight.
heat up crepe pan to medium hot, lightly oil it, then pour just enough to cover the pan with a thin layer (i used about 1/3 cup for my crepe pan).
when top is set, flip carefully–don’t let it brown, or else it will crack and not drape over the lumpia like a velvet shawl…. :glasses-slip:

fish cakes, Thai-style

shrimp and fish cakes
i must confess, i made these fish cakes specifically so i could enjoy them with this dip.
spicy cucumber and onion dip
it’s very easy and quick to make, especially if you use a food processor to chop up the seafood. otherwise if you’re handy with a knife or mezzaluna, you’ll just end up with a chunkier mix.
my kids don’t like wild lime leaves (from “kaffir” limes) so i just used, sparingly now, but maybe more and more as time goes by to get their tastebuds acculturated, Maesri red curry paste (a mix of garlic, shallots, lemongrass, lime leaves, dried red chili peppers, cumin, coriander, cardamom bay leaves, and sugar and salt).

just mix up ground fish (haddock, scrod, cod or other firm, white-fleshed fish), ground shrimp, 1 beaten egg, chopped scallions, a few drops of fish sauce, freshly ground black pepper, and a teaspoon or so of red curry paste. you can add bread crumbs (i used panko) or not (or a dusting of all-purpose flour instead), and you can add finely sliced dark long beans or green beans for a bit of color and texture (not to mention vegetable goodness!).

heat vegetable oil to a depth of about an inch then gently drop in spoonfuls of fish and shrimp mixture coated with bread crumbs or flour and fry for about 2 minutes per side (depending on the thickness and size).

enjoy with a cucumber and red onion mix steeped in a vinegar, sugar, salt and black pepper dip–with a bit of red chili if you like!
i dissolved 1/2 cup of sugar in 1 cup of white vinegar (or rice vinegar) in a small saucepan, brought up the mixture to a gentle simmer while stirring, then added salt and pepper to taste, before pouring into finely diced cucumber and red onions.
delicious! and gone in a flash…

Yorkshire puddings, with rib roast dinner

it might have something to do with my latest obsession, watching old episodes of The Vicar of Dibley. i just always snubbed this show, being that it dealt with a Vicar. how funny can it be, i thought, dealing with the Church and the bible.
but i saw the Christmas special finale, the one where Geraldine finally found her someone, and it was so irreverently hilariously outrageously funny that i thought i’d track down all the old episodes (it was put down after 10 years on air, circa 1994.)

it might also have something to do with my Anglophilia, according to husband.
he brought home a rib roast for our dinner tonight. i had almost two hours to roast it so i had a moment of Domestic Goddessness and dug out her “Feast” cookbook to make these lovely little gems.
Yorkshire puddings, the traditional accompaniment to the Christmas roast beast, always look so enticing with their puffed up gloriousness that i’ve always been wanting to try.
how much should Yorkshire puds rise?
now, i’ve had quite a bit of a struggle with her recipes, and this one is no exception: i thought it lacking in instruction but since i’d seen an episode with another self-proclaimed Diva (Tita Martha) with A Real Diva, Anne Willan, i was able to make some passable enough for my family to enjoy.
i think it’s got a lot to do with the pan used (i used a jumbo-muffin pan, but it’s said that a twelve-cup one will work, just as well as an 8-inch round cake pan), and will be on the lookout for a popover pan, the kind where the cups are deeper and divided by thin wires. or maybe the oven temperature wasn’t quite hot enough… my kids said it tasted like rich thick crepes. which they like.

substitute melted butter if you haven’t had the time to get drippings from the rib roast.
roast beef drippings to line the muffin pan

4 eggs
1 & 1/3 cups 2% milk (i used half 1 % milk and half heavy cream, because that’s all i had)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 & 2/3 cups flour

preheat oven to 425ºF.
whisk together eggs, milk and salt until combined then let stand at least 15 minutes. whisk in flour then let stand until ready to bake.

pour about a tablespoon or so of roast beef drippings or melted butter into each muffin/popover pan cup. heat in the oven before pouring in the batter.
pudding batter
bake for 15 – 20 minutes until puffed up and browned.
Yorkshire puddings
Yorkshire puddings with peas and gravy
it was certainly a welcome and delicious change from just mashed potatoes and gravy. the puddings when smothered in peas and gravy went very well with the juicy rib roast.

and no, there was no special occasion, unless you count making it to Friday, a special occasion. :drunk:

cheddar cheese fondue; brown butter pound cake

something sweet and something spicy to welcome to the new year.
every new year’s eve it seems now i’ve served fondue to the kids whether they like it or not. i don’t know why i love it so, maybe it’s the crackling little flame under the fondue pot? the interactivity and suspense of keeping your dipper in your fondue fork? but i got another electric one so we can have both cheese and chocolate fondue…i think the three had had enough rich food over Christmas dinners that they sort of groaned when i announced the fondue plans. i said, don’t worry, children, it will be a little bit different.
bread dippers
i chose a cheddar cheese mix with red bell peppers and jalapeno, for dipping with bread & ham cubes, tortilla chips,
fresh and cooked vegetables.
cheddar cheese fondue
i also made spiced beef so that the #1son could opt for tacos–he who seemed reluctant to partake of melted cheese.
as midnight approached i melted the chocolate and chopped up bananas, rinsed the strawberries and cubed the brown butter pound cake.
brown butter pound cake

ahhh! i suddenly remembered my ma’s “bruun cake(?)” that she used to prepare whenever she got a hold of this special canned butter, from Denmark maybe? the method of melting the butter until the milk solids turn dark brown, then freezing to congeal, then mixing with eggs and sugar, and flour, made the butter flavor so deep and profound and caramelly, just perfect with the dripping semisweet/bittersweet chocolates, and for eating for breakfast, this New Year’s Day.
fruit and sweets platter for chocolate fondue

i hope you had a loud and raucous Eve! did you remember to jump at the stroke of midnight?!
a very rosy New Year