Monday, February 22, 2010

Mama's Mussels Soup

My mom makes this mussels soup at least once a month when either her or my dad want sabaw (soup). Normally she stocks up with the frozen green mussels purchased at the Asian market, just in cases. Unfortunately, this was another last minute meal we put together when I was in San Francisco last weekend and sadly, Safeway did not have the frozen kind, so it was off to the freshness. (A bit more expensive, but totally worth it!)

Grocery list:
  • 2lbs black mussels
  • small ginger root, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, quartered
  • bunch of green onions (use only green part, cut in half)
  • salt
The mussels were washed and we tried to get rid of the "beard" part, but then we just gave up and left them on. I sautéed the ginger with the onions for a few minutes in a large pot, then threw in the mussels. According to my mama, ginger is used to reduce the fishy flavor of the mussels. Then, I added enough water to cover the mussels, seasoned with some salt, threw in the green onions and tomatoes, then covered and let simmer.

The mussels opened up on their own. I love all green and red colors in this photo. It's almost Christmas-esque, right?

We had the soup with steamed white rice. AND because Ate B was feeling extra Filipino, we fried some lumpia on the side as well. Trust me, we didn't mind the extra fried food, right LC?

A little FYI: Kristine, Ate B and I totally munched on Hot Cheetos while prepping for this dish. I had to get the large bag cuz Kristine warned me that if we bought the regular bag, she would NOT share! Oh youngest child.

Cheers to Rach and her "El Torito" Shrimp

My friend Rachel tried to mimic this shrimp dish she had once at El Torito Grill in BH. She then tried to recreate this for me again during one of our Friday night dinners. So when I was in San Francisco last weekend, not knowing what to make for dinner for Ate Bernie and Kristine, I made a bold move and attempted to make this dish.

My cousin, Ate Bernie, lives in the Inner Richmond of San Francisco and it almost resembles a mini Chinatown or just Asian grocery stores galore. The ingredients were easy to find and as a bonus, fairly on the cheap side.

Grocery list:
  • 1lb shrimp with head off, but shell on (I like the shell for flavor)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • cilantro
  • garlic
  • a can of black beans
  • a can of diced tomatoes
  • rice
  • 1/2 a lime
Spices list:
  • salt and pepper
  • cumin
  • paprika
  • cayenne pepper
  • garlic powder
  • BBQ sauce
I deveined the shrimp but left the shells on. Marinate these with all the spices on the list, the juice of 1/2 a lime and some cilantro. I used a plastic bag to hold all these ingredients and then refrigerated. Approximately 4tbsp of BBQ sauce was used.

This dish was paired with black beans with the bell peppers and "Spanish" rice.

For the rice, I used Jasmine rice with the diced tomatoes, cilantro and additional water all thrown in the rice cooker. This is probably best made in a pot on the stove. I had to cook it for a bit longer cuz the rice cooker wasn't built to cook rice in a tomato-ey sauce.

The "Spanish" rice needed some additional seasonings when it was finally cooked. It was a bit bland. =/

The bell peppers were diced, along with half the onion. I used a garlic press on 2 cloves and threw these in a pan. This was seasoned with all of the spices above minus the BBQ sauce. Then I removed half of the veggies off the pot and placed them aside. In the pan, I added the black beans and threw in some cilantro.

Mmmm, doesn't this look delicious?!

After the beans were done, I took them off the pot and reused it for the shrimp. I added a bit more crushed garlic before placing the shrimp in the pan for a bit more flavor. Then I placed the shrimp and the rest of the bell pepper medley.

These babies took about 8-10mins to cook.

TA-DAH! Shrimp goodness.

Square plate! This was just a photo opt. I had WAY more than the photo above. In Tagalog, this was masarap. In Kapampangan, this was manyaman. (Translation, both mean "delicious".) Ate B and Kristine were not disappointed.

Salamat (thank you) Rach for the recipe!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Not your typical Filipino breakfast

I had a glorious weekend in San Francisco this past weekend! To my surprise, my sister is doing quite well and she impressed me with her cooking. Like her, breakfast has now become a favorite meal of the day, besides happy hour of course...hehe...(that's another story).

Our beautiful Saturday started off with a run towards the AT&T ball park. (Kristine lives a mere mile or so south of it.) Such a great run! We ended up stopping and stretching our legs at this little place:

What an amazing looking stadium! It's one of my faves. I've witnessed many a games here and I absolutely adore the location and view! We stopped to stretched and just take in the view for a bit before heading to Safeway to gather a few goodies for breakfast.

Sidenote: On our way back we indulged in the sweet sweet sounds of Phoenix, the Wolfgang Amadeus album, with the use of K's ipizzle. I highly recommend this album. Talagang masanting ya! Kapampangan for, "It's really good!" Confession: There may have been some skipping on the way back...hehe

The ingredients for breakfast consisted of toasted sliced bread, asparagus, grape tomatoes, avocado mashed up, bacon and my first Kristine made poached eggs. All I did was slice up bread to toast and then spread the avocado on these babies. The rest was performed by the little Sale. I was so proud. She lightly seared the asparagus with a bit of s&p, then threw in the tomatoes while cooking the bacon. Then at the end, I witnessed the poaching of the eggs. This will completely change the way I eat breakfast at home. I think frying of the eggs over-easy will be a thing of the past! JK, I love love fried eggs (and spam)! I just won't have them as often since poached eggs have entered my life. So anywho, here's the beautifully prepared breakfast that the little one prepared for her Ate (big sister in Tagalog).

Well done Kristine! Muy delicioso!

Best part about poached eggs...the runny yolk...mmm....Who's with me?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lumpia, all by myself!

I am so proud of this most recent accomplishment! Can you tell by the title?

This fried goodness is a staple at Filipino parties. I had this once for a birthday party and people inhaled it, and then got sick from too much of the fried deliciousness. (Well, and the fact that it was paired with copious amounts of alcohol.) Anyways, I have been meaning to create this dish all by myself and so I think the perfect opportunity presented itself for the Super Bowl.

Confession: You could also look at the situation in the way I originally saw it, which was, "I'm screwed. Mom is home in the motherland and I can't bother the Grandma to make it, so I have to make it myself. Bleh!"

Ok, so I only thought that for a second, but the outcome was glorious! Check it...

  • 2lbs ground pork (from the Asian market)
  • 1 pack of wrappers, cut in half (Menlo brand, see below)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 carrots, peeled, then grated
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and grated
  • 3 green onion stems, diced
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tbsp sugar

Lumpia Wrapper - usually has 30 wrappers, ideal for 2lbs of pork to yield 60 lumpia pieces

You don't need to grate the carrots and onions all the way, just as long as you get most of it. I grated them over the ground pork, then added the diced green onions and the eggs.

Mix all the ingredients together. I put gloves on for mixing, it can get pretty mushy. Then I put it in the fridge to harden, sorta. This effect makes it easier for rolling the lumpia because it's not so soggy. While this is in the fridge, you should utilize this time to peel the wrappers apart from each other, after you've cut them in half. I used a kitchen scissor for accuracy. =)

After refrigeration, it's time to wrap. I use a tagnan, or chopping board if you're not Kapampangan, to place my wrapper on top of so as not to get the table dirty. Also have a mini bowl of water and teaspoon handy for measuring the amount of lumpia mix to put on the wrapper and the water for sealing it when you're done.

Take about a teaspoonful of the lumpia mix and place on the lower half of the wrapper.

Make sure you have a little bit of room at the bottom for folding over so you can tighten the roll and push the mix towards the bottom.

It took a while to get the hang of this rolling business, but I perfected my lumpia size to a little bit bigger than the diameter as my index finger. This is normally the size people go for. It should looked like a taquito or rolled taco. Make sure the mix gets to the edges as well, if not, you may need to add more.

When you're almost done rolling, use the water like you're sealing an envelope, and add a bit to the top. The water will keep them sealed and then place seal down on a platter. Line them up like little soldiers on a platter and stick in the freezer. This is important if you're making mass amounts like my mom. They're easier to package when they're all frozen and hard because they're easier to stack.

Look at how tightly packaged these babies are! LOL!

After being frozen overnight, I pulled them out for the Super Bowl festivities! Let them sit out for a bit and pull them apart. Put enough oil in a pan to submerge the lumpias halfway. You don't want to completely submerge them when frying because in my experience, the lumpia gets over saturated with oil and the wrapper splits open. I personally used vegetable oil, but other oils used for frying will do.

I like to place them neatly organized in the pan so they fry evenly. They take approximately 5-7 mins to brown per side on medium heat. Check on them every once in a while to prevent burning.

I cut them in half to make it easier to plate on the platter for the party.

Viola! Fried pork deliciousness!

Eat them by themselves, or dip them in banana ketchup like Jufran or a sweet & sour chili sauce. Normally, I eat them with a side of white rice and banana ketchup. Mangan na! (Kapampangan for, Let's eat now!)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cafe Stella gets an "A"

Last Saturday, I enjoyed brunch with my friend Chris. We met up at the Silverlake junction and after a bit of scoping, landed at Cafe Stella. I have been meaning to check this place out for some time now, but the "stellar" prices always detered me. Fortunately, this time thanks to my indecisive state of mind, Chris wanted to make an appearance despite the pricey-ness.

So putting price on the side, we decided to live it up. This meant that I didn't just order plain water as a beverage, I actually ordered a $5+ soy latte. I don't think I'm a cheapskate when it comes to a good meal, but I was reluctant to spend that much money until I saw this:

Presentation is totally key, so when this pretty, and quite large, cup of latte was placed before me, cinco dolares sorta made it worth it.

There were a few things on the menu that I couldn't decide on, but eventually, I gave into my craving and opted for the eggs benedict. This was a beautifully presented dish, but sadly, it didn't look like very much, so I had to order a side of toast.

Photo of toast not taken...I also forgot to take photos of Chris' bubbly mimosa and his chicken apple sausage dish that included toast and eggs, and I think potatoes. I was a bit jealous he had more foods on his plate than me, but in the end, it didn't matter because I was definitely full and the eggs benedict were so bomb diggity! This dish had thinly sliced criss cut potatoes on the bottom that looked like those from Carl's Jr, but so much better. Then the next layer had crispy bacon, not ham (thank god!), topped with poached eggs and a really light, not too creamy, hollandaise sauce. It was really delicious and I think if there were 3 servings instead of 2, I would not have needed the toast for filler.

Conclusion: Cafe Stella is a great little hidden jem at the Silverlake junction because of its ambiance and flavorful breakfast dishes. It was a bit pricey for my taste given the amount. I suppose my comparison of quantity comes from going to breakfast places where they give an enourmous amount of food that could feed a mini village in the Philippines. I vow to try this place again next time, but for a lunch or dinner outing instead of brunch. I may just be pleasantly surprised the next time, so I'm keeping an open mind. So, despite the price, I'd like to say, "Cafe Stella, you get an 'A' in presentation and taste!" (Even though this was more than what I would normally spend on a breakfast, I was not disappointed.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

What's E-40's favorite cheese?


I had dinner with my friend Rachel one night and instead of cooking, we decided to take a friend of ours' approach and Whole Foods it up. Like always the case, I think our eyes were bigger than our stomachs when we filled up our to-go boxes full of food from the hot bar. Before leaving, we decided it would be nice to have appetizers before our gigantic meals and perused the cheese section.

(Note: I have found it weird that when I first developed my intolerance for lactose, I didn't mind not eating so much dairy products as the Filipino diet that I was accustomed to rarely consisted or any dairy by-products. But, as I befriended more people that expressed strong passion for the glucose and galactose product, I too developed a taste for it.)

Back to the cheese section...

Rach is a pretty big cheese fan, so I entrusted her with the decision of what kind to purchase. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), WF has a plethora cheeses and this proved be quite a dilemma. Insert "behind-the-counter-cheese-guy". He cones to our rescue and we ask him what his favorite cheese is. He then points us to the Gouda on sale...My kind of guy. We are the kind of girls who appreciate sales. He asked us if we wanted to try it first and you don't dare deny free. The flavor was of a slightly salty taste with a bit of bite. This was called, Unie Kaas Robusto. Originally this bad boy was something like $18.99/lb, but today, well, it was only $9.99/lb. So without further adieu, off we went to enjoy our newly purchased cheese, french bread to accompany it, and our hot bar foods. It was the perfect combo to our WF meals and we were both left full and very satisfied.

Fast forward to the next night, I took the rest of the gouda home with me and I may or may not have a problem with laziness or a possible obsession with the cheese.

Here's what my next two nights of dinner consisted of:

Night 1: Gouda - for its deliciousness, salami - for the saltiness, bread - to neutralize the cheese and salami, and tomatoes - for the pure fact of having something of the fruits/veggie family on my plate

For Night 2:

Gouda and an appearance of extra sharp cheddar with salami, then edamame and corn as my "veggie" side dish. (Thanks to your tupperware eats E!)

Moral of the story, put laziness and lack of self control together and Ethel can make a meal with cheese as the main superstar. (But that's not something to strive for, right?)

Finally, I close with a confession...I did manage to have self control and saved a small piece of this gouda to savor until I wrote this post. Unfortunately, I really don't care that I'm lactose intolerant, so I'm eating the gouda without taking a lactaid pill...hehe...Don't worry, no one else is here. =D

p.s. I blame Ate P and Ate B, Kristine, Sandra and Rachel for my love of cheese despite the internal pain it causes...literally!