Steamed Maliputo

I try to eat fish (well, seafood in general) as often as I can. Not only because I actually like seafood (contrary to popular belief as I am forever extolling the virtues of pork), and C loves seafood, but also because (and this may be the shallowest reason of all, so please just humor me) I live in a tropical archipelago and I believe it is my solemn duty to live the island life to the fullest…even if I actually live in a little flat in the middle of a quite-polluted and over-crowded city.

So how do I like to inject a little tropical salsa into my stodgy city life? (Oh Jo! It’s not that stodgy and you know it!) By wearing tank tops and flip-flops at every occasion, by using my sarongs as décor, by buying tanning oil in the middle of a busy work week, and by eating seafood to remind myself that “Yes! I am surrounded by fish because I live in a tropical paradise!

I can feel summer starting to sharpen its claws on my back, drawing rivers of sweat instead of blood. Technically, I have upwards of 7,000 islands to which I can escape, basking in the sun and eating juicy ripe mangoes. But, in reality, there is work to be done, budgets to be drawn, and schedules to be managed…so a beach getaway will just have to wait. But until then, I can put on my flip-flops, play some samba on the Ipod, and feast on some fish.

Steamed Maliputo
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion, half sliced and half chopped
  • 2 native tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 lemon, slice the middle portion thinly, use the end portions for zest and juice
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium sized maliputo (or other white-fleshed fish like lapu-lapu, pompano, or maya-maya), gutted and cleaned
  • 2-3 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 teaspoons soy sauce
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • Parchment paper

- Line a bamboo steamer with a square of parchment paper, leaving a bit of an overhang.
- Rub fish with sea salt and cracked black pepper inside the cavity and out. Place on parchment inside the bamboo steamer.
- Mix the garlic, chopped onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lemon zest, and ginger. Stuff what you can of this mixture in the cavity of the fish, along with a couple of the lemon slices. Scatter whatever is left of the mixture around the fish.
- Drizzle fish with the lemon juice, sesame oil and soy sauce. Top with the rest of the lemon and onion slices. Fold in parchment (it doesn’t have to close completely as it will cook in a steamer anyway) and close the steamer.
- Heat water in a wok until it comes to a rapid simmer. Place steamer in the wok (making sure the water does not touch the contents!) and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Serve the fish in the steamer, because one of the chief joys of owning a bamboo steamer (aside from the fact that they are workhorses in the kitchen and are cheap to boot) is the drama of you taking it to the table (oooh!) and whipping off the cover theatrically (aaah!) to reveal the succulent goodness that lies inside.

Malitputo is a catadromous fish that is either similar, or actually is (I’ve seen both views) talakitok (Trevally/Jack). Its white flesh is firm and incredibly flavorful. When steamed it becomes so moist and almost buttery that my eyelids go all a-flutter when I eat it. (I get mine at the Salcedo Market when they have it)

Whether you are in the sun or in the shade, have a happy weekend! :)

Spaghetti with Meatballs

These days there is no limit to what food can become, to the heights (and breadth) that food can reach. You have food that looks like one thing, and tastes like another. You taste old flavors in new forms, and new flavors in old forms. Junk food becomes haute cuisine and the other way around. Instead of stews or braises, you have foam and pearls and flavored air. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against flavored air. It must surely be a step above the air I get outside my window that wafts up fragrantly from the city street below. I definitely applaud chefs that push the culinary envelope, reinventing the way we experience taste and flavor. It’s a whole new world out there, an exciting time to be alive and eating, and I for one, am all for rushing headlong into its newness, its mystique, and the discovery of new gastronomic frontiers.

But sometimes…sometimes. Sometimes, you need food that is like a warm blanket on a chilly night, food that is like a salve on a sore spot, the type of food that makes you feel better when a stupid boy breaks your heart or when the world seems full of thin girls. Forget the apples; comfort me with spaghetti and meatballs.

This is a dish we’ve made in my mother’s house countless times, and I now make in my own home. The recipe for the meatballs is what we have used since time forgotten for burgers, meatballs, even meatloaf. It is a half-breed mince-mix full of extenders…beef-purists look away! But I find that no other meat patty is as tender or as tasty. Of course, you may substitute your own favorite mince mixture.

Spaghetti with Meatballs

For the meatballs

  • 250 grams ground beef
  • 250 grams ground pork
  • ½ cup oats
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon mustard
  • 1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

  • For the Sauce
  • Olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 400-gram cans chopped tomatoes
  • ½ cup white wine (or red, we’re not picky here)
  • Oregano (fresh if available or dried)
  • Thyme (fresh of available or dried)
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

    For the Noodles
  • 500 grams spaghetti noodles, prepared as per package instructions

    - First make the meatballs. Soak the oats in the milk until soft. Then add garlic, onion, egg, mustard, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Add the ground meats to this and knead until just combined (don’t over mix!). Roll into balls of your desired size.
    - Heat some oil in a pan. Fry meatballs until nicely browned, then remove from pan and set aside.
    - In the same pan add a little more olive oil. Sauté garlic and onions until onions are soft and translucent. If your herbs are dried add them now (no measurements here, I just do it by feel. It all depends on how “herby” you want your sauce).
    - As soon as the aroma of the herbs hits your nose, pour in wine and stir.
    - Add chopped tomatoes. If your herbs are fresh add them now. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    - Return meatballs to pan and simmer until sauce reduces slightly.
    - Adjust seasoning if needed.
    - Pour the whole lot over your prepared noodles and serve.
    - Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and dried chili flakes for spice.

    This is perfect in a deep bowl and taken with you into the depths of your sofa on a stormy night when the world just won’t see things your way. It’s also great in large quantities, piled high on huge platters for big and boisterous family lunches when everyone is laughing and giddy. It is also particularly delicious when you’re curled up in your rattiest pyjamas with a really scary suspense novel.

    Whichever way, when I feel like life’s lights are whizzing by a little too quickly, and I get the urge to “sit this one out”, you’ll find me hidden in some quiet spot, wearing my “comfy clothes”, with a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.

  • This is my entry to Presto Pasta Nights, a great new event brought to you by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast. She does a weekly roundup every Friday so we can all have delicious new pasta dishes in time for the weekend. Thanks Ruth!

    Claude Tayag's XO Sauce

    I mentioned before a trip I had taken with an awesome bunch of bloggers and food lovers to pursue culinary delights outside the city. We had so much fun the first time that we planned another food-filled adventure. This time our destination was Pampanga, a region known for its cuisine. After much emailing back and forth, we finally set off, all 20-plus of us ensconced in a mammoth bus we had hired from Gypsysoul’s (and incidentally C’s) company. We were literally like kids on a field trip!

    Our main destination was Claude Tayag’s Bale Dutung for lunch. They prepared a veritable feast! You can see a detailed menu here and here. I really enjoyed the appetizers, especially the crab fat sushi with kamias and the balo-balo (fermented rice) wrapped in mustard greens. Another favorite was the dessert, a small ball each of ube jalaya (purple yam jam) and macapuno (young sweet coconut), and a little square of kamote (yellow yam) resting on a silken blanket of sweetened, reduced carabao’s (domestic water buffalo) milk. So amazingly good and a perfect example of showcasing simple, but quality, ingredients and their naturally fine flavors.

    A very pleasant surprise for me though came during the main course, when I was tearing through a grilled quail (while trying to maintain some level of finesse). They served it with two sauces, both made in-house: a deeply aromatic vinegar and XO chili sauce. Dubbed Xtra Ordinary sauce by its makers, it sure got my number! I was under its spell, piling it on my quail like it was nobody’s business. Thank goodness they sold it there (although they also can be found in groceries) because I was not leaving without a bottle! It’s made with smoked chili peppers, Chinese ham, and dried shrimps (and other secret stuff I’m sure!). It’s one of those condiments that can make you eat five times as much as you normally would. Super powers I tell you.

    As always, when I’ve got a new food product to play around with, my mind races with ways to use it. In truth, it needn’t have raced at all. Because I can put it on practically anything. Even pizza! That being said, there was a dish that had been taking shape in my mind and I decided to put an XO stamp on it. I had seen a “stuffed” trout in Donna Hay Magazine’s issue #30 (ok, last Donna Hay recipe for awhile…I have other cookbooks, I swear!) and I wanted to try something like it. Instead of a stuffed whole fish, you use two fillets and place the filling in the middle, and tie it up with butcher’s string (like a roast). I had been thinking of a caramelized onion stuffing and now I decided to spike it with the XO sauce. I used cobbler fillet instead of trout, and, to put my own personal stamp on it, I wrapped the fish in bacon :)

    XO Onion Stuffed Cobbler
    (inspired by the Almond Trout in Donna Hay Magazine’s issue 30, and by Claude Tayag’s deliciously addicting XO sauce)

    • 2 cobbler or dory fillets (the biggest they have)
    • 6-7 strips of bacon or pancetta
    • 4 medium onions, sliced (for stuffing)
    • 1-2 medium onions, sliced (for pan)
    • 2 teaspoons Claude 9 XO chili sauce
    • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
    • Olive oil

    - Prepare your pan. Scatter the 2 sliced onions in your baking pan and drizzle with olive oil.
    - Prepare your stuffing. Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and toss in the 4 sliced onions. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring so as not to burn them, until wilted. Add XO sauce. Start with 1 teaspoon and work your way up until you like the heat level. Season with cracked black pepper and salt (if needed). Cook until soft, caramelized and golden. Let cool.
    - Lay bacon or pancetta over the onions in your pan. Place one fillet over the bacon/pancetta, squarely in the middle.
    - Spoon caramelized onion mixture (make sure you cool the onion mixture first) on top on the fillet and top with the second fillet.
    - Fold bacon/pancetta over second fillet and wrap tight.
    - Tie the “package” with butcher’s string.
    - Place in a 200C (390F) oven for about 35 minutes or until fish is cooked through and bacon is toasty.

    I love the way this brings both C’s love for fish and my love for bacon together, bound by our common enthusiasm for all things spicy. Wait. Did I just use my relationship with my husband as a rationalization for adding bacon to this dish? No matter…It was good and that’s what counts! The stuffing was fantastic, the spiciness of the XO sauce balanced by the sweetness of the onions. I have to say, in all my excitement over the XO sauce, I may have added more than 2 teaspoons. It was quite spicy…ok by me, but I will definitely add less if I’m making this for guests.

    The XO sauce it taking a breather in the fridge right now. I’m dying to take it out for a spin again. So here are some future uses:
    - In my tuna sandwich
    - In a salad dressing
    - On burgers
    - With dim sum (this is like that chili garlic sauce they serve with dim sum…only better)
    - Drizzled on bangus (milkfish) and baked
    - To flavor my mayo!
    - To make chili chicken like the one I had in Boracay
    - Added to Binagoongan (a Filipino dish of pork in shrimp paste)
    - As a rub for grilled steaks
    - A little bit sauteed with kani and garlic for a great appetizer, served with melba toast
    - To add to my angulas (little eels, typical Spanish appetizer)
    - In a veggie stir-fry
    - With cream cheese

    Ok, I’ll stop now.

    You can read all about the belly-busting time we had in Pampanga here:
    Our Awsome Planet
    Eat Bangus

    Homemade Mayonnaise with Olive Oil

    I am a huge mayonnaise fan. I can eat it with almost anything. It’s one of the first things in my grocery cart and I panic when I am running out. It is what I believe to be the true condiment for french fries. People like me are a dying breed I tell you. There is always a bottle in the cupboard, but when I have time, I like to whip some up from scratch.

    I’m sure this is common knowledge, but let me just reiterate so nobody misses out: No bottle of mayonnaise on your grocery shelf can compare to homemade mayonnaise. I don’t care if it costs a king’s ransom and is made from the oil of a special nut only found on the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro which is only harvested during a full moon.

    My grandmother makes, in my humble opinion, the best mayonnaise. Even as a child I loved its strength and headiness. You see, she used extra virgin olive oil which really lent the mayonnaise a divinely intense flavor, along with a deeper color. It elevated regular sandwiches and tuna spread into sublime versions of their otherwise ordinary selves…not to mention the wonders it could do for a potato salad! It was a condiment worthy of the grandest dishes.

    I have a ton of mayonnaise recipes stashed about, but the one I’m posting here is a variation on a recipe from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book I. I like it because it is simple, and a good basic recipe to have. Instead of using the vegetable oil that the recipe calls for, I used olive oil just as my grandmother does. I also used black pepper instead of white because I actually like the look of the black specks in my mayo.

    I used my food processor for this because I had been wanting to try the “emulsifying disc” attachment. Doesn’t that sound mysteriously dangerous? Like some alien weapon? “Quick! Take cover! It’s launching the emulsifying diiiiiiisc!”

    Mayonnaise with olive oil
    (Adapted from Basic Mayonnaise from
    Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book I)

    • 1 egg
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
    • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
    • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

    - In a blender or food processor, process the egg, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper until well combined.
    - While the motor is running, pour the oil in a slow, thin, steady stream and process until the mixture is thick and creamy (with the emulsifying disc it came together very quickly…not bad at all for its first time out).

    That’s it! You’ve got wonderful, tasty, homemade mayonnaise! Use it with your tuna spread or egg salad for outstanding sandwiches. It makes a great condiment as well for fish dishes…especially fried fish. Blend in some roasted garlic for an awesome aioli. You can also use this as a base for salad dressings. And of course, it is perfect with french fries :)

    Hay Hay It's Donna Day #10: Baked Ricotta Pesto Cakes

    Hooray! It’s Donna Day time again and this round’s theme is cheesecake, chosen by an accomplished cheesecake-maker, Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. Aside from the basic recipe, you can browse her archives for truly amazing cheesecake recipes. And if that wasn’t enough, she posted HHDD reminders for us with absolutely stunning cheesecake photos! Don’t visit on an empty stomach…that’s all I’m going to say!

    I debated on doing a sweet cheesecake, maybe something incorporating local ingredients like mango and candied pili nuts, but there was a savory cheese cake recipe that I had been wanting to try for a while. Coincidentally enough, in keeping with this event’s inspiration, it came from Donna Hay magazine (issue 29). The recipe is for Baked Ricotta Cakes and was part of a beautiful picnic spread. I was actually so taken by the whole spread and it’s very easy-going, kite-flying, kick-back-and-picnic kind of feel. I love picnics!

    As I was putting everything together, admiring the pristine whiteness of the ricotta, I felt like adding another flavor dimension to the cakes. Hmmm…my head pivoted back and forth surveying my small kitchen, my nose in the air sniffing for that missing something. Ah, pesto! I had a bottle of homemade pesto in the fridge and I thought this would be perfect with the cheese.

    Baked Ricotta Pesto Cakes
    (recipe adapted from Baked Ricotta Cakes from Donna Hay magazine, issue 29)
    • 500 grams ricotta cheese
    • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
    • 2-3 tablespoons homemade pesto
    • 2 eggs
    • Sea salt and cracked black pepper
    - Place ricotta, parmesan, and pesto (2 tablespoons) in a bowl and mix to combine. Taste to see if you want to add more pesto. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    - Add eggs and mix well.
    - Spoon mixture into greased muffin cups and bake at 160C (320F) for 40-45 minutes (but check at 30 minutes) or until golden.
    - Cool in pan, and then turn out onto wire rack once cooled.

    Doesn’t it all sound so deliciously simple to make? It is! Just some notes:
    - The original recipe calls for 8 x ½ capacity muffin tins and to bake for 30 minutes. I used a regular muffin tin, filling 10 of the cups, and baked this for 45 minutes. There was no way they could have come out at 30 minutes…still way undercooked. Could both my oven and my oven thermometer be wrong?
    - I could not turn this out of the pan when it was still warm, it was still a tad too jiggly. I turned it out when it was cool and this worked perfectly.
    - The recipe says you can serve this warm or cold. I prefer it room temperature or cold.

    The ricotta cakes in the magazine were served with some marinated teardrop tomatoes. I wanted to make these too (it looked so refreshing and pretty!) but unfortunately I haven’t seen any teardrop tomatoes around here. So a regular tomato salad would have to do. I just sliced a tomato, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil (the best you’ve got) and balsamic vinegar, a sprinkling of fleur de sel and freshly cracked black pepper (be generous!), and I was all set.

    These little cakes are very light with a mousse-y texture. And the pesto was perfect in this, bringing that other flavor dimension that I had hoped for. I used three tablespoons and I thought that was just right. This isn’t really something I would eat solo but they are a great with salads…especially tomato salad (the pesto works there too – completing that illustrious triumvirate of basil, tomato, and cheese). These cakes are a delicious and fresh way to add the cheese component to any salad.

    Thanks Peabody for being a terrific host!

    For Inspiration

    My friend Amy Butler, [] has had her shop open for a while. She has a very inspiring web site and the purses that she has available on her web site are beautiful.

    Glorious! Amy's lush fabrics make me look forward to spring. Though chartreuse and lime green are a couple of my favorite colors, I'm in love with all shades of green these days. I am working on a knit bag in a kelly green. I hope to show it to you soon.

    Is it spring yet?

    Here's a sign that it is spring! This is a sneak peek at my new fabric, Funky Flowers. The line will be available in a few months. I'll keep you posted on the availability. I love all of the colors in this line and it'll be great for little accessories, pillows and bags. I hope that you like it.

    I have really enjoyed the weather this week. It has been in the sixties and the temps may even reach 70 degrees today! The fresh air is really invigorating. I have had a very long March and it isn't even half over. I have finished up a lot of projects this month on the book front and I've started designing new fabric too. I'm dreaming of a holiday already though it won't be Hawaii this year. I think I'd like to go on a road trip down south and stop at every fiber-related shop along the way. Don't tell my travel companions! They've been through enough of that sort of travelling from here to Canada, to Kansas City and down south ro Virginia.

    Cabbage & Jamon Serrano Sauté

    Do you have a brother or a husband, a boyfriend or a girlfriend, who just won’t eat their veggies? Luckily (or not, depending on your stance on “plant-eating”) I have a husband who loves vegetables. Must have them. At every meal. He eats a lot more veggies then I do, and has actually been quite a good influence on me in that department (will just have to wait and see if the athletic department improves any…sigh). I do, however, have a brother that does need a little push when it comes to eating his vegetables. And it was him that first came to mind when I put this together.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I do love veggies myself (and meat…I am an equal opportunity eater: everything has an equal opportunity to get eaten by me). My name may be ChichaJo (Chicharon meaning pork cracklings), but my little profile picture is a bunch of brussel sprouts (my favorite vegetable). Another favorite veggie (I do have many) is cabbage. I have heard much nasty press about cabbage (about brussel sprouts too for that matter), but I never understood why. Cabbage is good! And it gets on famously with bacon! (Aha.)

    So one night, I find myself getting ready to whip up my usual cabbage with bacon sauté (I love heaping the cabbage onto my wok…creating a tall mountain that eventually “wilts”, pressing down with my hands…). Rooting through the fridge and freezer I realize…I don’t have any bacon (how that happened is a mystery)! Ack! What to do? I valiantly (desperately) explored some more, up to my elbows in frozen meats (and other oddities being housed in the deep freeze). Aha! My hand settles on a ziplock bag of jamon Serrano bits. Paydirt!

    Let me explain (although in the planet I sometimes inhabit, a ziplock bag of jamon Serrano bits in the feezer needs no explanation at all). When I make fabada, I use a broth made from ham bone…jamon Serrano bone if I can get it. This makes all the difference in the world. The strong, aged ham flavor this has adds much depth and flavor to your broth. After making the broth, I take the bone and remove all the ham bits and toss them into the fabada. If there is too much bits (you don’t want your fabada to be too salty), I keep them in the freezer until the next fabada.

    I thought this would make an excellent substitute for the bacon, so I happily got on with my sauté. The sauté itself is relatively simple, not even a recipe. I wouldn’t even mention it here except for the amazing effect the jamon bits produced. I sautéed a lot of chopped garlic in some olive oil, then tossed in the jamon Serrano bits. Almost immediately an incredible smell filled my kitchen. The aroma of the jamon was just so great and so heady that you could almost taste it in the air. My knees were actually going weak and I guarantee, every meat-lover in your house (and possibly some of your neighbors if you keep your windows open) will sniff their way into your kitchen.

    This little addition makes the innocent cabbage seem suddenly chest-beatingly savage. I love it.

    Yogurt Cake with Kumquat Marmalade Glaze

    Many years ago, I was assigned to Greece for two months. I remember feeling an almost unbearable thrill when I found out. I had never been to Greece and it was one of the countries I had always dreamed of seeing. Would it be all that I imagined?

    As sure as baklava is sweet, Greece wound its pulsing energy around my heart and I was lost to a country whose magic is both ancient and modern, where you can be rushing down a tiny back alley and then suddenly look up and see temples where ancient gods once worked their wonders, or arenas where philosophers once debated. But aside from all the enchantments Greece threw my way, I was also seduced by something a little more basic: the food.

    I ate Greek food everyday for two months and not once did I ever tire of it. Gyros from my neighborhood rotisserie (the best I have ever tasted), baklava heavy with honey, pita bread with fava, taramosalata, melitzanosalata, and tzaziki, horiatiki salata with huge slabs of feta cheese, lamb youvetsi (my favorite Greek dish), dolmades, grilled octopus, a plethora of marinated olives from the market up the street…and then there was the yogurt. Greek yogurt was a revelation. It was thicker, creamier, and just plain better in ever single way. I ate it everyday, and each day my eyes still closed in ecstasy at my first bite. I had it with fresh peaches or with honey that was filled with pistachios. Still one of my best food memories.

    Leaving Greece the yogurt-withdrawal panic set in…How can I get it? Will I ever have it again? Greek yogurt was not something they sold in Manila. I basically spent the years after Greece on the lookout for this yogurt, hoping that someone somewhere would start selling it, but no such luck. Until one day, I stumbled on a tip that one of our warehouse-style supermarkets was carrying a brand of yogurt that was, though not Greek, better then most available locally. I wasted no time in rushing over and buying myself a bucket. Yes, a bucket. As this was one of those membership type warehouse clubs, they sold most things in bulk. In this case a two-kilo bucket of yogurt. Of course, yogurt-starved that I was, this didn’t faze me in the least. I’ve mentioned this yogurt before here.

    From the time I bought my first bucket, I haven’t turned back. This may not be Greek yogurt, but if there is a better yogurt in this town, I haven’t found it yet, and believe you me, I have been looking. It is thicker and creamier then anything on the market right now. I’ve already clocked in a ton of yogurt breakfasts since I found it and I have used it in cooking as well…all with great results. And now it was time to bake with it.

    I had baked yogurt cakes before but most turn out disappointingly. Armed with the new and improved yogurt I was brimming with excitement to try again. I found many recipes, both in my cookbooks and on the internet, and bookmarked them all. I finally decided to try this recipe which I found on Stel’s yummy blog Baby Rambutan. I was drawn to it for two reasons: it had a marmalade glaze which I thought would be perfect for my kumquat marmalade, and was simple enough to leave fewer dishes for me to wash (a girl has to be practical too!). I followed the recipe as is, except I only used 1 teaspoon lemon zest and no orange zest.

    The cake was soft and moist, with a dense crumb…I was hoping for it to be a bit lighter but it was still delicious. The kumquat marmalade was a perfect complement. There was a spot which was a tad under-baked, although I left it in the oven for a good 55 minutes. As Stel advises, this would be great with coffee. I like that it also makes a good base for many variations. I may try this with some stewed fruits next.

    I am 100% content with my yogurt find, and look forward to using it in even more ways. One day, I’ll return to Greece, and eat Greek yogurt to my heart’s content, but until then, I have something to tide me over.

    Update (4/30/08): I am entering this post to AFAM (A Fruit A Month) hosted this month by Coffee & Vanilla! Thanks Margot for giving my the heads up! :)

    Can't Hang A Quilt There

    I know little ghost artists who like to draw on walls. How can you argue with someone who says "but I used the washable markers?"

    Here's a photo of my livingroom with my brother's photographs. They are awesome! He and his buddy Pete travel, fish and photograph together. They also print the photographs themselves. They're amazing.

    Run out and buy the current issue of Better Homes and Gardens' Quilts & More. My funky little placemats are in there and they used some of my "Paisley Parade" fabric in one of the projects. While you're out there, buy "Quilter's Home" too. Mark had a great little feature on the "Paisley Parade" line. Thanks!

    I went to the NJ quilt show this weekend and had fun. I met up with a friend, Karen [R], who works in the quilting industry with me. She came along with her sister, Linda [L], and friend, Mary Beth [center]. They're very nice ladies who have such an enthusiasm for crafting and quilting. Thanks for hanging out with me!

    I just finished some projects for Leisure Arts and I am soooo stoked about these projects. Can't wait to show you. I'll keep you posted.

    Patani/Lima Beans with Prosciutto

    Do you believe in that baffling occurance they call food bloggers' synchronicity? More and more often, people halfway across the world from each other are reaching for the same things in the market, whipping up the same desserts, trying the same dishes and techniques for the first time...all by coincidence. Strange, mysterious, yet oddly comforting...serendipitous affirmation. What moves us to simultaneously think up of the same dishes or zero in on the same ingredients? Has all this blogging created a gastronomic collective unconscious?

    Well, let's leave that to Carl Jung while I get on with the lima beans, or patani, as it is called here, and my own little bit of synchronicity. Where do I begin? It all started on my honeymoon. In one of the (many) amazing restaurants we visited in Barcelona, I had a plate of lightly sauteed habas (broad beans) with ceps. In Malaga, we had a similar dish of habitas (smaller beans) with bacon. These dishes were simplicity itself, but so flavorful and delicious that they planted themselves firmly in my mind, urging me to replicate them or die craving.

    Back in the tropics, I did cross paths with an interesting bean. I bought a bag and brought it home, but it proved to be the wrong one for my honeymoon bean dish. It did however, prove to be exactly the right one for another bean dish I had been meaning to try, inspired by another trip I had taken. So I post about this other bean dish (which happens to be a dip/spread), and a well-respected and popular local blogger, Marketman, comments on the "serious deja vu in the air" as he had just bought some lima beans in the market and was experimenting with a lima bean spread. What he didn't know at that point though, is that I had also been to the market (different market but same day), and had also grabbed a bag of lima beans, because there were (yes! finally!) the right beans for my honeymoon bean dish!

    Are you still with me? Good, because as complicated as that was, is how simple this dish is to make. And it is absolutely delicious! I wanted to replicate the habitas with bacon that I had in Malaga. After some tips from Marketman, here's what I did: Blanch the lima beans in boiling water and peel. Heat some olive oil in a pan and gently sautee some prosciutto. Toss in the beans, sprinkle with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, and sautee briefly. That's it! If you want you can drizzle some of your best extra virgin olive oil on top before serving. This makes an excellent side dish, or even a light meal. You can also use it to top a salad. I'm planning to toss the leftovers with some penne tomorrow. I'll try the lima beans with mushrooms next!

    I wonder if there's someone out there making the same thing...gotta love these "happy accidents" :)

    Ful Mudamas

    On a visit to one of my favorite spice shops, I spotted a bunch of interesting looking dried beans. Not one to pass on a chance of trying new legumes (I love them in all forms – soups, stews, dips, salads…), I bought myself a small portion on which to experiment. Off I went, as merrily as Jack with his newly acquired bag of magic beans, imagining how I was going to use them.

    Before deciding where these beans would be best suited, I had to see what they tasted like, right? So I stuck them in a pot, boiled them until soft, and gingerly popped one in my mouth. Mmmm….the taste was familiar, pulling at my memory gently but insistently. I knew then what these beans were destined for…fuul (Ful Mudamas).

    I first tried this Egyptian fava bean dip/spread on my trip to Egypt. Hailed as the national breakfast of Egypt, it was an immediate favorite and I had it several times while I was there. The recipe I used was from Megwoo of the fantastic (and close to my bacon-loving heart) blog I heart Bacon. She left a comment on my post about my first meal in Egypt (which included fuul) and a link to a recipe for fuul. I liked the sound of it because, among all the recipes that I found, it had the most spices in it. Yes, trust a non-professional cook like me to ignore quantities and chemistry, and base decisions on reasons like, “It has the most stuff in it!

    Turns out, despite my greedy, spice-grubbing mind, I didn’t have all the spices to complete the recipe (for shame Joey!). What I did have though was baharat that I had bought on my trip to Egypt. A baharat is an Arabic spice blend (the word baharat actually means “spices” in Arabic) in the same manner as masala in India. There are many different types of baharat depending on its country of origin. You can find these used in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan, and countries in the northern part of Africa. There is also a Saudi baharat, a Kuwaiti baharat, and a Yemeni baharat. You can also find Turkish and even Tunisian baharat. Traditionally, baharat, even if from the same place, would differ from purveyor to purveyor, or household to household. This aromatic blend usually includes spices like black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, and coriander. Between countries you can have additions of saffron, loumi (ground lime), nutmeg, cardamom, dried rose petals, allspice, ginger, caraway seeds, and turmeric. Doesn’t it all sound so amazing? Like some sort of delicious potion for enchantment?

    As both fuul and my baharat are from Egypt, I felt fully justified in substituting all the spices in the recipe for a tablespoon-full of the baharat. Everything else remained the same except I didn’t add the potato (you can find the full recipe here). One bite of this was a whiff of my Egyptian adventure…the smells of the spice markets, careening wildly through traffic, my first sight of the pyramids, cruising lazily down the Nile. It was bursting with both flavor and memories. It came out a bit too dry though and I am thinking of adding a little more tomato and oil next time, or maybe some tahini (sesame paste), which I have seen included in other recipes.

    I have another bag of fava beans waiting to be used so this will soon be getting a second run…perhaps I can plan a little reunion for my fearless Egypt-partners…
    Until then...happy weekend! :)