Sunday Brunch Meme: Tapsilog

What happened to all my breakfast posts? This blog is called 80 Breakfasts after all. I started with some, and continued with others, but after too short a while they petered off into lunches and dinners, and even desserts. Holidays and big events came and went, and not a breakfast in sight. Did I stop eating breakfast? Did I suddenly have another favorite meal?

No, I still love breakfast. And yes, I still have them. But (sigh) this girl has gotten a bit weary of working late into the night to have the energy to make breakfast before C goes off to work. Yeah, I know, tut-tut and all that.

I, however, hate to wallow in melancholy…not matter how seductive and tempting it can sometimes be. So thank goodness for Rosa and her fantastic Sunday Brunch Meme…just the kick in the tush I needed!

Now, there are a myriad of wonderful things I can think of having for brunch, things involving smoked salmon and champagne, eggs benedict and mounds of pancakes. Instead, I decided to make something, well, something more Filipino. When it comes to Filipino food I am just a guppy in a sea of dolphins. Everyone swimming faster and better than me. A situation I have been trying to rectify. So what better place to start than breakfast…ok, brunch but let’s not quibble.

This is a very typical “-silog” type breakfast called tapsilog. What it is, is tapa (cured meat), sinangag (fried rice), and itlog (egg). Filipinos are breakfast fiends! We know how to make sure our bellies are filled before starting a busy day. And that means rice. There is a ton of different versions of this…just change the first syllable. Substitute the tapa with tocino (cured pork that’s kinda sweet) and you have tosilog, use longganisa (local sausage) and you have longsilog, and so on and so forth. Check the Lasang Pinoy round I hosted for a slew of Filipino breakfasts (and you will see just how popular the "-silogs" are).

This breakfast makes a wonderful Sunday brunch (we had it last Sunday), especially if you have been out dancing the night before. Truth be told, this will more likely appear on our Sunday brunch table than a bunch of breakfasts sweets because C is not much for sweets (I must have mentioned this before…). Although sweets will make their appearance during the week, after C has left for the office, hehehe :)

The tapa I used here is not the usual beef tapa, but tapang baboy damo (wild boar tapa). A gift from the mum-in-law again (thank you mum-in-law!) :) It was extremely tasty and had a stronger flavor than regular pork. As is customary, we doused the meat with my homemade vinegar mix that has pieces if sili (bird’s eye chili…what you see in the photo), ginger, garlic, and pepper steeping in it. I don’t have tapa without it.

Rosa, I owe you a big thank you for getting something close to a breakfast post back on the program. Once again, my head is filling up with all sorts of breakfast ideas. Is the return of breakfast posts on 80 Breakfasts imminent? No promises! (A new alarm clock might be a good first step though…)

Bakies Day

Why are cookies called cookies when you don’t cook them? (You bake them…)
Why indeed?

And that’s how Bakies Day started. One logical question, one clever young girl, and two best friends. I've already mentioned my best friend K and her witty daughter Z (my godchild!) before. The three of us decided to dedicate a day to these yummy treats we now like to refer to as bakies. It’s also a time when we get to hang together in the kitchen, have Z sharpen her baking skills (watch out Mrs. Fields!), pig out on bakies, and just be girls together.

We got together just this Saturday at my place for a two-types-of-bakies marathon. We have been using our old, beat up copy of the Mrs. Fields Cookie Book, which was given to me when I was a kid myself. The whole book is dusty with flour, stained with butter marks and cocoa splodges, and sugar crystals are permanently lodged between its pages. I know there are loads of chocolate chip cookie recipes out there, each claiming to be the “best” or the “ultimate”, but her Blue Ribbon Chocolate Chip Cookies have never failed me. Plus they are easy to whip up and great to do with kids.

The second batch we made is a favorite of all three of us – Jessica’s Marshmallow Clouds. I still remember the first time I made these when I was a kid, and discovered what happens when marshmallows are baked inside a chocolate cookie. Let’s just say it was one of those childhood breakthrough food moments. The cookie (bakie!) itself is chocolate with chocolate chips, the dough wrapped around a bunch of mini marshmallows. As the cookie (bakie!) bakes, the marshmallows melt inside, creating a gooey sweet center. It is so good…and incredibly sticky! Once the melted marshmallow escapes and gets on your hands it’s like Peter Parker discovering his web…strings of white everywhere…disconcerting but also thrilling! Plus, unlike Spidey’s, you can actually eat this web :)

We start by assembling all our ingredients together and then plunging head on, laughing and doing our best with my limited amount of bowls and counter space. Z measures out the flour and sugar, and mixes everything in a big glass bowl. We watch my KitchenAid (a wedding gift from K) deftly cream butter and sugar. I take pictures while K and Z assume crazy poses. We are surrounded by the sweet smell of bakies baking, which we try to blow into all corners of my flat. While the bakies are cooling on wire racks, I brew some coffee for K and I. Finally we all sit down and get to the important task of taste-testing our bakies. They are delicious, and we can pat each other on the back for a job well done, happily chewing and chatting the afternoon away.

And as far as afternoons go, this is one of my favorite ways to spend one! Thanks K and Z for another great Bakies Day! :)

If you are interested in any of the two recipes mentioned, please email me (my email address is in the sidebar) and I’ll be happy to share :)

Orecchiette with Pesto and Peas

Orecchiette…my absolute favorite pasta shape. Meaning little ears in Italian (ear is orecchio), they catch sauce and filling like a dream. The slightly domed shape traps the sauce and bits, while the uneven texture makes it easy for sauce to cling to its surface. They are thinner in the middle, and thicker towards the rim, giving it an interesting feel when you chew. They even have this way of looking rustic and homemade, even if you’ve just bought it at the store. For me, orecchiette is perfection in a pasta shape.

I keep a bunch of different pastas in our pantry. You never know what noodle will suit the sauce of the moment, or even what "pasta-shape-mood" you’ll be in (yes, there is such a thing…I swear it!). But no matter how big, or small, the stash is, there is always a pack of orecchiette waiting.

And when I made a small batch of pesto, I knew it was the perfect time for it to come out and play.

Since C is not exactly a pesto-loving creature, I’ve made this recipe (if you can call it a recipe, it really is far too simple) for one. If you have a partner who doesn’t like pesto you will appreciate this. Besides, sometimes a girl needs some solo internet-surfing time with just a warm bowl of pesto pasta for company :)

Orecchiette with Pesto and Peas
  • 80 grams orecchiette
  • 2 tablespoons pesto (approximate, depends on your taste)
  • 1/3 cup green peas

- Cook pasta as per package directions in a saucepan of generously salted water.
- When pasta is cooked, drain and place in a bowl.
- While pasta is hot, toss with pesto and peas.
- Top with freshly grated parmesan if desired (I just ate it as is).
- Serves one.

Ok, that really was too simple to be called a recipe. The dish itself is sublime in its simplicity. Pesto and peas go so well together…a symphony in green. I'll maybe try adding some ricotta next time I make this, but I really like it as is. I love having this in a deep bowl, spoon in one hand, eyes glued to the screen, catching up on what all of you have been doing. And may I just reiterate one more time, orecchiette it the perfect pasta for this dish (and for so many others).

O-re-cchie-tte! I even love the way it sounds…saying it makes me feel like a fabulous Italian woman. Try it. We could all use a little “fabulous Italian woman” in us…unless you already are a fabulous Italian woman. In which case…lucky you! Happy weekend to all fabulous women out there…Italian or no…and that means all of us! :)

I am submitting this to Ruth's Presto Pasta Nights...I hope I made it! Check out the delicious pasta dishes from all 16 round ups (so far) at Once Upon A Feast.

Wild Food #2: Gotu Kola Pesto


Bron Marshall invites all of us to take a walk on the wild side, food-wise, with Wild Food, an exciting new food blogging event. I would have wanted to join the first round but I had difficulty luring an edible reptile into my kitchen, so I waited to see what the second round would bring. Well, the time has come and the theme is…Wild Weeds!

Hah! Weeds, or herbs, are much easier to catch then reptiles so I put on my hunting cap and went out into the wild world to see if I could capture some. Ok, truth be told I went to our city’s weekend market and bought some from the very nice man at my favorite herb stall. I thought of descending on his stall in my Lara Croft Herb-Raider outfit, but I didn’t want to scare off his other customers.

The herb I’m using for this entry, although I am not quite sure exactly how wild it is, is Gotu Kola, also known as: Asiatic Pennywort, Antanan, Pegaga, Kula kud, Brahmi (in Sanskrit, meaning the energy of Brahma), Creeping Saxifrage, and (my favorite) Blood Stopping Grass. It grows in wet places like marshlands, swamps, and paddy fields. That sounds pretty wild right?

Now, don’t think I went out and got some ordinary creeping swamp-dweller. Gotu Kola has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for hundreds of years! It is known to improve memory (it’s a favorite of elephants!) and prevent ageing. It has also been used in treating leprosy and tuberculosis, as well as relieving the pain of rheumatism and arthritis. It has been called many things through the ages, such as: brain food, memory herb, the finest of all herb tonics, a pharmacy in one herb, and the elixir of life. In ancient China, it was a main ingredient in a medicinal blend called “fo ti tieng”, a mixture that was called the fountain of youth.

And to think the first time I discovered it (visiting a farm in Tagaytay) I just thought it was a cute salad green.

Gotu Kola is used in Sri Lankan cuisine, most often as a condiment to rice and curry. It can also be brewed into a tea. I have been tossing it into my salad all this time, but for this event I decided to do something different and made it into a pesto.

Gotu Kola Pesto
  • 1/2 cup Gotu Kola leaves, remove all stems
  • 1/2 clove garlic (unless you like it really garlicky like I do, in which case use one whole clove)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 heaping tablespoon pine nuts
  • 1/8 cup olive oil

- Place Gotu Kola, garlic, parmesan, and pine nuts the tall container that comes with your immersion blender, and process while slowly adding in the oil. Alternately, you can do this in a food processor.
- This will make enough pesto for one use, or two if you really want to stretch it.

I hardly ever make big batches of pesto nowadays because it’s not really C’s thing, and I can’t be counted on to finish a bottle by myself before it turns iffy. It’s better to have pesto fresh anyways. I had no idea what to expect of this Gotu Kola pesto. The leaves themselves are a bit sour with a slightly bitter kick, but I have tasted young leaves which are actually sweet in the beginning before ending in a spicy note. That’s why it’s great to mix in salads as it really adds dimension and character. The pesto was surprisingly delicate in flavor with the herbs characteristic astringency nicely muted. I can imagine this would make a great pasta dish…maybe with some peas. Or maybe toasted on some pan de sal (popular local bun) with some kesong puti (local fresh white cheese) Mmm…

You can learn more about Gotu Kola here, here, here, and here.

A legendary saying about Gotu Kola goes like this: “Two leaves a day, keeps old age away”. I used half a cup of leaves here (a lot more than just two leaves). That’s one serving, maybe two. You do the math. Wild.

Chili Chicken

I’ve already mentioned how I like nicking recipes (or recipe ideas) off restaurant menus…especially when one of their dishes is a favorite and I want to be able to have it any time I please. I’ve also mentioned a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Boracay where we like to eat when we’re on-the-cheap.

The restaurant is Smoke and the dish is Chili Chicken…and finally, after some testing and tweaking, I’ve come up with a close enough version!

I have tried before but the results were never close enough to satisfy, so the last time we were in Boracay I made it a point to have it and dissect it a little bit more. You see, unlike the menus at swankier places, Smoke’s mimeographed take-out sheet does not have extravagant descriptions of their dishes…more’s the pity for recipe-filchers like me.

But I was not to be deterred! Savoring and examining each bite, I did not stop until I felt I had its secret.

And because I like you, I’ll share it…

Chili Chicken
(Thanks Smoke for the inspiration!)

  • 1-2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons canola oil (or any vegetable oil with no strong flavor)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1-inch stub of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, lower portion only, finely chopped
  • 2 pieces sili labuyo (bird’s eye chili), cut in half (You can use other chilis as well, or vary the amount depending on how much heat you want. I cut them in half because it releases the heat just enough, and you can easily spot them in the dish so there are no “accidents”)
  • 2 tablespoons bagoong (shrimp paste)
  • 3 chicken breast fillets, pounded and cut into cubes
  • Sesame seeds

- Heat vegetable oil and sesame oil in a wok or kawali (or any old pan). Add the garlic, shallots, ginger, lemongrass, and sili/chili and sauté until shallots soften.
- Add bagoong and sauté for a minute or so.
- Add chicken and fry until cooked through.
- Add sesame seeds, toss a few times, and take off the heat. (I didn’t do this part – next time!)
- Serves 2-3

I didn’t add sesame seeds because I didn’t have any. The original does and I will definitely be adding them the next time I make this. I think cilantro, although not in the original, would make an excellent garnish as well, chopped and sprinkled on top or even whole leaves stirred in at the end of cooking. This is delicious piled on top of steaming rice, just the way Smoke serves it.

I have no idea if this is anywhere near the restaurant’s actual recipe, but it tastes close enough for me. I think a big factor in getting the taste exactly the same would be the bagoong. Unless I find out what kind/brand they use (that will happen on another trip, don’t you worry) there will always be a slight difference in taste. Of course, the upside is that you can use your own favorite bagoong and it will taste even better! There is also the possibility that they don’t use bagoong at all and instead use some sort of small shrimp-fry thing. Hmmm…looks like a quest for another beach-trip! :)

C’s Scallop Arrabiata with Bacon

Although I spend many of my waking (and non-waking) hours thinking of food, even if I love creating menus in my mind, though it is I who subscribes to food magazines and spends hours poring over cookbooks…I am not the only one in this house that dictates the dishes.

Albeit I am the one who is usually hogging our stove, or muttering things like “What if we use white wine instead of vinegar in the adobo?” while he desperately tries to watch Entourage, C definitely has his niches in the kitchen. He makes all the sinigang (Filipino tamarind-based soup) dishes (and really good ones at that) and does all the steaks, and if there is a grill around I don’t even try to meddle, I just enjoy the results. He also contributes his fair share of ideas when it comes to putting together new dishes (if something is going to be his dinner, he will want a say for sure…dessert, he is just not that into).

This is one dish for which credit goes to C. We were lying in bed and I was pondering (out loud) over what to do with the small local scallops I had bought in the market. He mulls this over a bit and declares, “We should use it in pasta…that spicy tomato sauce…Arrabiata...with scallops!” Mmmm! Not bad...sounds good actually! I started going over what I would need, when suddenly he turns to me again with a sly look and adds, “With bacon!” This man sure knows the way to my heart.

C’s Scallop Arrabiata with Bacon
  • 200 grams pasta (we used fettucini)
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 50 grams bacon, diced
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • 1 400-gram can chopped tomatoes
  • 150 grams scallops
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

    (you can substitute fresh herbs for the dried, just increase the quantity and add later)

- Cook pasta as per package directions in a saucepan of generously salted water. Drain and set aside.
- In another saucepan, heat olive oil, then sauté onion and garlic until onion is soft.
- Add bacon, chili flakes, and all the dried herbs. Sauté until bacon is cooked.
- Add tomato and thyme (if your oregano is fresh, add it in at this point), stir, and let simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes to get the flavors blended.
- Check on your sauce, and add salt and pepper to taste. Toss in the scallops, cover, and cook for about 3 minutes or until just cooked. Do not overcook (they will turn to rubber)!
- Add parsley (if you are using fresh basil, add it in at this point), cooked noodles, and toss to combine.
- Serves 2.

This is another dish that is a happy mix of all the elements we like: seafood (C), bacon (me), and heat (both of us). I used small local scallops, not the big imported ones that you see in fancy restaurants. The big ones are much more expensive, and are better off being seared and served with a treatment where the spotlight is totally on them. No need to break the bank for this dish.

C’s quite proud of this meal, and rightfully so. I can say with all certainty that this was one of his better ideas (along with insisting we buy those water bottles in Barcelona)…one that will be repeated for many meals to come :)

This is my entry to Presto Pasta Nights, a food blogging event created 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.

To all Filipinos out there: Happy Independence Day!!!

Arugula and Apple Salad


Such is the culinary world these days that you can get recipes in more places than ever before. Aside from cookbooks and magazines, there’s everybody’s darling, the internet. Then, there is another source of recipes that always yields its share of gems for me…and that’s restaurant menus. Ok, maybe they don’t actually have recipes on there, but they do have ideas (from professional chefs no less!) which eventually can become recipes. Recipe potentials if you will. Haven’t you ever craved for that favorite dish from your favorite restaurant but didn’t feel like eating out? Or, have you ever been so captivated by a description on a menu, then have the actual dish fall short of its golden promise?

My solution: Take some notes, build up your patience and perseverance, and start experimenting. There are treasures waiting -- not to be discovered, because they are on the menu for everyone to see -- but to be cleverly nicked and enjoyed wherever, whenever, and however you want.

This dish was inspired by a salad at a friend’s restaurant. Just reading the description, I knew this salad was for me: an arugula salad, with apple, walnuts, and gorgonzola. Arugula is by far my favorite salad green. I love its strong peppery taste and assertive personality. I even like the way it smells. When I imagined it, I pictured juicy grated apple weighing down a mound of arugula, though I wasn’t about to tell the chef to whip out his box grater ahora mismo during a busy dinner service. So when I got home, I made it myself instead.

Arugula and Apple Salad
(Thank you Chelsea for the inspiration!)

  • 2-3 bunches of arugula (depends on your purveyor)
  • 1 small green apple
  • 2 heaping tablespoon pistachios
  • ¼ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

For the dressing (depends how much dressing you like, so I just put the ratios):

  • 1 part balsamic vinegar
  • 3 parts extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

- Make your dressing: place balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a jar (this is one of the reasons I never toss out old jam jars…they make perfect vinaigrette makers), add salt and pepper to taste, screw the cap on tight, and shake it like you mean it! Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Remove the roots from the arugula (if your’s has them), then rinse and dry leaves. Pile on a plate or bowl.
- Using the big holes on a box grater, grate apple (no need to peel) directly onto the arugula (that way the juices get in there too…which will ultimately blend with your vinaigrette).
- Scatter pistachios and gorgonzola on top of grated apple.
- Give your dressing one last, fierce shake and drizzle over the salad.

I found some nice young/baby arugula at the market, so I used that. I also substituted pistachios for the walnuts (I was going for an all green ensemble). It came out exactly as I dreamed it would on that fateful day when I spied its tempting description on a restaurant menu. Each component complements the other perfectly: the arugula’s peppery bite tempered by the sweetness of the apple, complemented by the nuttiness of the pistachios and pungency of the gorgonzola, all tied together by a simple balsamic vinaigrette. Sweet and savory success!

Take home more than just a doggie bag on your next dinner out! :)

back to school This is my entry to this week's round of Weekend Herb Blogging. You can learn more about arugula here. Aside from salads, you can turn this tasty leaf into pesto, stuff it in sandwiches, add it to a pasta, and even to a quick (very quick) stir-fry and serve it as a side for steaks. This event was started by the fantastic Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen and is hosted this week by Ulrike from Kuchenlatein.

I think, therefore I blog

Do you have those days when you wish you could just stay under the covers and disappear for a bit? Preferably with your secret chocolate stash? Days when there is no time to cook. Sometimes even no time to eat. You know what helps?

Getting good news!

I am thrilled and oh-so-flattered that I have been nominated for the Thinking Blogger Award by Veron of Veronica’s Test Kitchen. More so because she is a blogger I much admire, whose culinary adventures I love to read! If you go through her detailed notes there is no way you can flub a recipe.

Now it’s my turn to nominate 5 bloggers that make me think. Here they are in no order whatsoever:

Mae of Rice and NoodlesOk, Veron I know you nominated her, but I want to as well! :) I have been a big fan of Mae’s ever since I stumbled across her blog. The photography and food styling always inspire me. Her recipes never fail to attract me, and the ones I’ve tried have not disappointed. It was her recipe that pushed me to try my hand at that ubiquitous Filipino dish -- adobo. To think I’m the one here, and she’s all the way in the UK!

Christine of Ramblings from a Gypsy Soul – Christine has been a great, close friend for years! So what does a blog of someone I already know so well make me think of? More then I could have ever known. Through Christine’s blog, I see so many more brilliant facets of an already sparkling personality. Her entertaining and honest travelogues make me long to jump on a plane (with her in tow!)!

Angelika of The Flying Apple – From the very first post I read, I knew we shared the same views on life and its joys. With her enchanting stories and buoyant attitude, Angelika has always pointed me to the sunnier side of the street. There isn’t a crummy day that a visit to Angelika’s cannot cure for me. It’s wonderful to know that some of us still believe in “magic” :)

Marketman of Market Manila – Not only was his one of the first blogs I ever read, but he is responsible for pushing me to discover my local markets, instructing me on local produce, and cluing me in on local provedores. His in-depth posts on the origin of certain Filipino dishes always get me thinking…and craving!

Pille of Nami Nami – I enjoy all Pille’s posts, but my favorites are always the ones that have to do with her home – Estonia – whether it be an Estonian dish or her stories of mushroom and berry picking (ok, Pille, I know you are probably a wee bit tired of hearing me go on about your mushroom stories, sorry! I only wish I was there!). I have actually been to Estonia once and Pille has got me seriously thinking about returning.

To the above-mentioned bloggers, thank you for making me think! If you’d like to pass on the honor (which would of course be great!) please post the five bloggers that make you think. If you were already nominated, then I heartily second it! :)