The Foodblogger's Guide to the Globe

Melissa over at The Traveler's Lunchbox is putting together a list of things to eat before you die...and is calling on all food bloggers to help! Who better then foodbloggers -- real people trawling the world for culinary pleasures -- to put together a list about the very thing that fills their waking (and sleeping!) thoughts? I, for one, enjoyed going through the amazing list that is slowly building up. It's a fantastic reference for foodie adventures...a "guide to the globe" indeed.

Here's my little contribution:

Five Things to Eat Befire You Die

1. Foie Gras - I know, this is in more than one list. But I have to say it. I like it pan seared with some fruit and candied walnuts. Or demi cuit. There is nothing like it taste and texture. It transports.

2. Lapid's Freshly Popped Chicharon with "laman" (meaning the fat), White Plains, Manila, Philippines- To say this is just pork crackling is an understatement. What Pierre Herme is to macarons this place is to crackling. The true testament? I flew in 3 kilos of this stuff for my wedding. And I made time to eat it.

3. Philippine Mangoes - I have to agree 150% with Christine. To say it is a sweet fruit is unfair. It is a tropical island life sugar spun dream. It is decadent afternoons on pristine beaches. It is dripping juicy jewel candy. Yes. All that.

4. Belgian Frites from the streets - No other fries can compare. I like mine with mayo and sate/peanut sauce. Fry perfection.

5. Sushi and Steak Tartare - Ok, a little bit of cheating here as I sneak in two entries in one. What I really mean is raw food. I do love slow cooked stews, but there is something almost ethereal, primal even, about eating something wihtout even cooking standing between you and your meal.

So that's my list! Sigh...I could go on. The hardest part was choosing only five!

Thanks Melissa for allowing me a little mental romp in my food paradise...and for now giving us a great list to refer to when looking for something to eat!

My First Adobo

Yes! Yes! Yes! What for millions of Filipinos is something they can do in their sleep with one hand tied behind their back, is a major rite of passage and coming of age for me. Adobo is something I have never even thought of cooking myself...and with the number of people that do cook it, you never really have to. You can go your whole life just eating other people's adobo. Truth be told though, I was scared to try. Why be scared of what is basically a simple dish touted to be the calling card of Filipino cuisine and loved by almost all? Well, precisely because of that. Practically every Filipino out there has their own favorite they swear by, with a flavor they have loved their whole lives. Could I start from scratch and hazard an amateur attempt this late in the game? Find my way to Adobo nirvana when everyone else seemed to have left the starting gate generations ago? Hmmm...did I not learn to drive at the ripe old age of 29? Better late then never, and there is no time like the present to start my own Adobo tradition in my fledgling family.

So, as with most new dishes I try, I looked through cookbooks, asked my sources, and scanned through the internet. I found a recipe that I liked in Mae's fabulous Rice and Noodles. It was a recipe that looked delicious and at the same time sounded simple and undaunting. And, as with all her entries, was accompanied by a very appetizing picture! You can find her Chicken Adobo recipe here. One of the things I like about it is how she makes you mix all the ingredients for the sauce beforehand in jug, and, as she puts it:

"Stir well. Smell it. Taste it. Remember the smell and more importantly, the taste as this will be the basis of your next adobo adventure."
Enticing words and I was duly enticed! I set about getting all the ingredients together, and as you can see from the photo above, made sure to document the event! Including the "hidden Chichajo" in the pictures as I dorkily love doing.

Now, a fork in the road, chicken or pork adobo? C (who is a bigger adobo eater than me) likes chicken, I (surprise, surprise) like pork. And everyone, including my mother, advises against cooking chicken and pork together in one adobo. Logically because the cooking times differ. But I stubbornly use both and just fish the chicken out earlier, once it is done, and leave the pork to get tender.

So if you and your significant other, like C and I, are like Jack Sprat and his wife, then this may be the adobo for you.

The only things I changed from the original recipe were: adding the pork, nixing the potatoes (I didn't have any at the time), using regular soy sauce instead of light and dark, and cane vinegar (sukang puti) instead of malt vinegar (again, because of availability). I wanted to try reducing the sauce after the pork was done, but I ran out of gas. Thank goodness it was already done! Oh boy...adventures in adobo-making!

As I sat down to my first ever self-made adobo meal I was in heaven! It was definitely not bad for a first attempt, added to the disbelief that "yes, I finally managed it!", made for a very heart and tummy warming meal. And yes, C liked it too! :)

To try next time:
  1. Reducing sauce and re-frying the chicken and/or pork
  2. Shredding chicken and/or pork to make homemade "adobo flakes"
  3. Frying with rice to make adobo fried rice

I've got mail!!!

As soon as the ingenious Meeta of What's For Lunch Honey kick started Blogger Postcards from the World, by sending everyone their secret postcard partners, I found myself excitedly checking my mail slot everyday...waiting and wondering where in the world my postcard was coming from, and from which of the great and interesting bloggers that joined.

Well, the day has finally arrived! I was dancing with anticipation when I saw a bit of the postcard in the shadowy recesses on the mail box. My postcard has winged its way here from Arizona! Sent by the talented Fran of Flavors...thank you Fran! What an awe-inspiring postcard! I have never seen the Grand Canyon, nor have I ever been to Arizona, but I have a friend who used to live there. I would love to see the Grand Canyon different from any kind of landscape I have seen before.

Check out Flavors for some major yummy treats like Tea Glazed Almonds and Chocolate Tart, or, something that particularly caught my eye (intriguing!) -- Green Pekoe Brined Pork Loin!

What I enjoyed the most about this event was: 1. Discovering new places or rediscovering old ones, 2. Discovering new blogs (check out the list!), and 3. Getting postcards (which I love...can't live without email but there is nothing like getting and actual letter or postcard).

Thanks again Fran for the great postcard! And thanks Meeta for hosting!

Dinner Party # 2 place...and new toys to mess around with...all lead, subconsciously or like a bullet train that won't be stopped, to dinner parties. All of a sudden, while you are still feeling your way through your new role as wife and partner (sometimes gingerly and other times with glorious abandon), you are, without warning, by forces both without (well meaning and hungry friends and family) and within (oh you so know you want to preside over a table laden with delicious food saying things like, "it was my pleasure"), thrust into yet another role...that is hostess.

My first dinner party as officially-married-couple was given for C's grandmother before she returned to the States. There is nothing to document this monumental first because, as I was cooking for my new mother-in-law as well as grandmother-in-law, both good cooks in their own right, I was just way too nervous to take pictures. Or even think. Thankfully, everything turned out well and I managed to relax and enjoy the evening. So when dinner party # 2 rolled around I was ready with my camera, poised to document every moment.

Despite the performance anxiety, I actually enjoy orchestrating these dinners and the days leading up to them. Planning excitedly, going over endless menus and recipes, dragging cookbooks to bed and pouring over my choices, writing out my menus on (don't laugh!) special stationary, deciding on the place settings (I mixed and matched different patterns here) & centerpieces (my mom bought me orchids), thinking up of the little details (instead of having salt and pepper shakers, I like to crush red, green, and black pepper with sea salt and serve the mixture in small dishes with tiny silver spoons -- you can see it in the picture above), and my pièce de résistance...a minute-by-minute game plan of the day itself.

For a little pica pica (appetizers), I had Warm Marinated Olives and Grilled Nectarines with Ricotta and Prosciutto. The olives can about because for Dinner Party # 1. We bought marinated olives from a specialty deli which has them laid out temptingly in wooden vats...we scooped them into small platic containers and then merrily had them weighed...only to find out they were mind numbingly expensive. I kid you not...more expensive than all our cheese. So this time I decided to try doing them myself, to very saticfactory results. I used a recipe from the Williams-Sonoma Bride & Groom Cookbook. I used regular olives from the supermarket (although the recipe does call for Picholine, Moroccan, and Nicoise, I was still smarting from my last olive purchase and wasn't about to go into olive debt one more time), just rinse them well and pat them dry. Then toss with orange and lemon zest, fresh thyme, and minced garlic. Right before your guests arrive warm them gently so all the flavors infuse. Very good and a great way to jazz up olives on the cheap.

The idea for the Grilled Nectarines with Ricotta and Prosciutto came from the fabulous J of Kuidaore. Inspiration struck when I read her post on jamón. She prepared a dish of Grilled White Peach with Mascarpone Foam & Jamón Serrano with looked and sounded so good I just had to try it. Due to ingredient availability and lack of J's wondrous foam-making contraption, I made do with grilling nectarines on our brand new contact grill (I heart, I really heart), then dabbing a generous splodge of ricotta on them, and wrapping them in thinly sliced prosciutto. Thank you so much J for the inspiration! This was delicious and a crowd pleaser.

I decided to serve a salad as my mains were quite heavy. This one I got from the Donna Hay magazine issue 23, called Marinated Basil Bocconcini. I followed her recipe for the basil marinade (with anchovies...yum!) to the letter and left the bocconcini to soak ahead of time. The original recipe calls for arugula but I couldn't find any in the places I usually do, so I had to settle for regular curly lettuce. The original also has prosciutto, but since it was already making its presence felt amongst my appetizers I just nixed it here.

The main event was quite a big deal for me as I have never, ever made roast pork before. I have no idea what behooved me to attempt a completely untried and untested dish during a dinner party, but there you have it. I used a recipe from Donna Hay's The New Cook, Roast Pork with Apple Stuffing. I followed it religiously, as it was my first time to make it, only tossing some dried apricots in with the apple and fresh sage stuffing. The pork was very good...tasty and tender (thank you Donna and cooking gods!), however, Donna's roast was crowned by a glorious crackling, and although I was very obedient with her commands, mine (as you can see) yielded nothing of the sort. Why oh why? Did I not rub your rind lovingly with lemon and salt as instructed? Then started you off at 425F for 20 minutes before lowering the temperature? Any help/tips/suggestions would be greatly appreciate as I really liked this dish and do want to make it again but I want my crackling!

As veggie sides for the roast pork, I simply steamed some asparagus and french beans (haricots verts), tossed them (separately) in butter with a generous sprinkling of fleur de sel.

Now, this (below) was actually the dish which I decided to make before the other dishes came about on the menu. It is also the dish, among everything else served here, that I am most familiar with. Fabada is something which a number of people in my family (men and women, maternal and paternal side) cook. Each has their own recipe and I have learned from all. Now I have my own. I believe there is a different recipe for Fabada for every person out there who makes it. It's something I both love to make and love to eat. My way involves days worth of shuttling from store to store for ingredients (I buy my chorizo Bilbao and ham bone in one place, my Morcilla -- if I use it -- in another, my bacon slab in yet another, and so forth) and a long slow cook over a fragrant bubbling pot. It's not the most photogenic dish, but it is really, really good...something that I can truly say is one of my specialties.

Dessert was another old standby, found when I just started exploring food blogs and was enamored (still am!) with Clotilde's adorable blog, Chocolate & Zucchini. The recipe is taken from Je Veux du Chocolat! by Trish Deseine and is called Gâteau au chocolat fondant de Nathalie. It is chocolate perfection if you like your cakes rich, dark, and melty. You can find the recipe here. This is my brother's favorite cake that I make. On another note, I am in love with my dessert plates.

The evening was a roaring success! Everyone was grandmother was amazed that I even mom proud...and everyone else in a blissful state of satiation. Good food and good company...what could be better? :)

Blogger Postcards from the World

One of the amazing things about having this blog is how much I have discovered and learned...much more than I ever expected at the get go. I have found wonderful recipes, gained invaluable kitchen wisdom, but best of all I have met (in person or not) great people. And all of this mostly by chance wanderings down this cyber-highway.

One such chance wandering led me to find Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey? and her genius event called Blogger Postcards from the World. The concept? Very simple. Just buy a postcard, post about it, then mail it off! Meeta gathers all our names together, scrambles them up, and then matches them at random. Now, I love sending, and receiving, postcards, and it was a great way to discover more fellow bloggers, so this was definitely something I wanted to join...It's a good thing I discovered it just days before the deadline! Go over to Meeta's to see who else is joining!

Ok, now for the postcard...what to send, what to send? I know this is probably the most typical postcard you can get from the Philippines, but I love this island (Boracay, pictured above) and it is where I got married :) So a little bit of my country (more than 7000 islands...and this is just one of them!) and a little bit of me (I'm an island girl through and through), all in one postcard, ready to be sent out to my mystery recipient!

Thanks Meeta for hosting such a fun event!