Sunday, January 29, 2006

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Xavier School greets you "Gong Xi Fa Cai".

The most common Chinese ways of saying Happy New Year is Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin)
Gong Xi is congratulations or respectfully wishing one joy. Fa Cai is to become rich or to make money. Thus, Gong Xi Fa Cai means wishing you to be prosperous in the coming year.

For our Chinese New Year Celebration, our community opted for a simpler menu. I prepared a steamed fish fillet dish, roasted oriental chicken and mixed chinese greens for our main course. Someone from the neighborhood sent us "Cha Misua" or fried noodles, so that became one extra course. I prepared the soup the way my grandma used to prepare it --a simple chicken broth with winter melon, fishballs and pork tendon. For dessert, we have preserved lychees with almond gelatin.

Here's a very simple dish that can make your Chinese New Year meal a real treat.

Steamed Grouper with Ginger Sauce

1 kg fillet of fish (grouper or any substitute)
100 gms. dried shitake mushrooms; soaked and drained
slices of chinese ham
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp sugar
2 - 3 stalks of leeks
ginger; thinly slice
4 tbsp corn oil

  1. Thinly slice the fillet of fish and shitake mushrooms
  2. In a baking dish, arrange slices of fish fillet, shitake mushrooms and chinese ham alternately.
  3. Thinly slice the leeks and put it on top of the fish fillet layer. Set aside.
  4. Heat oil in a pan. Saute the ginger until it becomes golden brown.
  5. Add the soy sauce and sugar. (You may increase or decrease the amount of soy sauce and sugar depending on how much you like your sauce to have that sweet-salty taste). Bring it to a boil then set aside.
  6. Pour the ginger soy sauce over the fish. Cover with foil.
  7. Steam for about 15 minutes.
  8. Serving suggestion: On a plate, arrange a layer of steamed fish fillet, ham and mushrooms. Garnish with thin slices of leeks. Pour ginger sauce around the fish layer.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Holy Desserts

A Jesuit I lived with during my studies liked to create special desserts for a particular Jesuit saint's feastday. He used store-bought pastries or cakes and available items in the pantry such as food coloring, toothpicks, birthday candles, and ready-made icing. Below are two samples of his work.

A raspberry pie for the feast of St. Paul Miki and companions, who were martyred in Nagasaki in 1597. Feastday: February 6. Take note of the fake blood and toothpick spear.

A butter cake with chocolate icing reworked to celebrate the 429th death anniversary of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, the patron saint of religious brothers. Feastday: October 30. The figure of St. Alphonsus opening a door is a reminder of his job as porter at the Jesuit college in Majorca, Spain, which he carried out with great dedication and charity for 46 years.

My friend had also created an arm-shaped cake to commemorate the feast of St. Francis Xavier, patron of missionaries. Feastday: December 3. The cake imitates the relic of Xavier's right hand displayed in the Jesuit Church of the Gesu in Rome. This relic represents the thousands of baptisms administered by Xavier during his ministry across Asia. Unfortunately, my friend used green food coloring for the cake, making my other housemates uneasy about partaking of Xavier's edible arm.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Open House

It is customary for Jesuit Communities to have an open house. Once a week or depending on the house's custom, a Jesuit community usually prepares a special meal and "opens the house" for Jesuits from other communities to have a good time of bonding and fellowship.

This reminds each Jesuit that they are "a communitas ad dispersionem but also a koinonia -- a sharing of goods and life..." and that "each member of every Jesuit community is ever mindful of what St. Ignatius says about love, that it consists in sharing what one has, what one is, with those one loves." (cf GC32 [28])

Personally, i find "open houses" and community meals in general very helpful in sustaining my vocation. This is where I get to know the lighter side of the Jesuits. This is where I find how human the Society of Jesus is. And that is why during our open house (Saturdays), I always try to preapare something special for my fellow Jesuits. It is my little way of saying "thank you" for making the Society of Jesus a compagnia for me.

Here's a simple recipe that I served last Saturday. (I was inspired to create this when passionate eater asked me about using Tilapia as substitute for my lemoned sea bass recipe). Pardon the picture, I'm still a beginner in this area (used a cell phone cam—yaiks).

Tilapia Crisp with Mango-Orange Salsa

3 Large sized Tilapia; filleted
2 cups Corn Flakes; slightly crushed
1-2 eggs; beaten
2 large Philippine Mangoes; cubed
3 - 4 pcs Kalamansi (or Lemon)

1/2 cup Fresh Orange Juice
1 large onion; chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
2 - 3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel. Drizzle with kalamansi or lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Coat the fish with flour. Soak it in egg then roll it in the slightly crushed corn flakes. Set aside.
3. Heat oil in a medium frying pan. Fry the fish until golden brown. The corn flakes will give your tilapia fillet an extra crisp. Set aside.
4. Sauté and caramelize onion in olive oil. Add in mango cubes. Pour orange juice and dry white wine then simmer (Cornstrach may be added for a more syrupy consistency)
5. Serving suggestion: On a plate, place fried tilapia on top of steamed or grilled vegetables (asparagus tips or for that familiar Filipino look, try eggplant). Pour in Mango-Orange sauce around the plate. Garnish with fresh tomatoes, poppy seeds and orange zest.

Makes 6 servings.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Quick and Tasty Gourmet, the Jesuit Way

I had lived in a small international Jesuit community when I was in special studies. We all had to take turns to cook dinner. A lot of community bonding happened in our kitchen as we helped rescue one another from various cooking disasters. Because we had books to read, papers to write, and classes to attend, we could not afford to spend more than two hours to prepare and cook a meal. The dishes that became popular in our community were those that were tasty, used readily available ingredients, and took minimal time and effort to prepare and cook. I would like to share two of our favorite dishes.

1-2-3-4 Chicken

1 pound of chicken legs or thighs (skinless)
2 tablespoons vinegar (regular or rice)
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons soy sauce

Calculate ingredients by estimating half a pound of chicken per serving and multiply the amount of vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce by the number of pounds of chicken required

Bring the last three ingredients to a boil in a sauce pan. Put in the chicken and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook chicken for about 45 minutes until almost done. Turn once during cooking.

When chicken is cooked, turn off heat and keep covered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Reheat, serve warm or at room temperature.

If you want you can remove the chicken and thicken sauce a bit with some corn starch.

Serve with lots of rice to soak up the juice.

Baked Salmon

Salmon fillets
packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix

Coat generously top of salmon fillets with mayonnaise
Sprinkle Lipton Onion Soup Mix on top of coated fillets.
Coat a baking dish with olive oil and lay the fillets, coated side up in the dish.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake for 20 minutes or until salmon can be flaked by a fork.
Serve with some lemon, if desired.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Herbed Rack of Lamb

(continued from A Jesuit Christmas Meal)

1/8 cup fresh oregano ; finely chopped
1/8 cup fresh rosemary; finely chopped
1/8 cup fresh thyme; finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C + 2 T olive oil
6 T Dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste
2 rack of lamb (about 800 gms per rack; french cut)

1 – 2 cups of dry red wine

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450° F.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl except red wine. Mix well.
  3. Season lamb rack with salt and pepper.
  4. In a large skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil until just below smoking. Sear rack of lamb for about 3-4 minutes per side.
  5. Remove lamb from skillet and place in an oiled roasting pan. Gently pat the mustard and herb mixture over the top, underside and sides of rack, leaving bones exposed. . Set aside to marinate.
  6. Cook for about 20 minutes. Remove from the roasting pan and set aside.
  7. Save dripping from the roasting pan and remove excess oil. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine lamb drippings and wine. Simmer until wine is reduced to a syrupy consistency.
  8. Serving suggestion:
    Slice rack in between bones. Serve one to two pieces on a plate with portabella risotto. Pour in red win sauce on top of lamb. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

This recipe served 12 community members.