Sunday, April 23, 2006

Iron Chef on my Mind

One thing that really encouraged me in pursuing my "food inventions" is the fact that I have my fellow Jesuits who are brave enough to try my concoctions. They are honest enough to give me their constructive feedback if they find the food lacking in taste, zest, or kick. But honestly, the feeling is always like joining a food contest like Iron Chef and waiting for the panel of judges to give their thumbs up or thumbs down sign. Fortunately,here in my community, the Jesuits have been very generous in giving me the thumbs-up sign. As an added bonus, they even help me out in designing the food presentation!

Some weeks ago, Frs. Totet Banaynal and Earl Barredo visited our community through the invitation of the incoming House Minister Fr. Guy Guibeleondo. I took the opportunity to prepare something "special" for our guest; in other words, another opportunity for a "food test."

The idea that first came to my mind was a tossed salad with asian dressing. However, while inspecting our cupboard, i found some leftover black wheat noodles. And so the magic question popped up -- "What if I use this in my salad?" It was quite challenging because I don't know how to incorporate it in my salad. Ah, but I remembered one of the episodes of
"The Iron Chef" where Roksaburo Michiba (Iron Chef Japanese) used cold noodles in highlighting his dish. "Well, let's see what will come out, " I told myself.

After 30 minutes or so (for one dish--I'm definitely not qualified for any food fight!) what came out was a cross between a yaki-soba and a tossed salad. Hahaha. I could almost hear a dubbed voice over:

- "Fukui-san!"
- "Yes, go ahead."
- "What our challenger Jhaw is doing right now is creating some kind of deconstructed yaki soba, putting some of his noodles in a bowl of marinade. But wait, he's also doing that to his vegetables... what kind of dish do you think is this Fukui-san?
- "Mmmm, Sounds weird! Shinichiro-san, can you please find out from Jhaw what is he actually doing?"
- "Fukui-san! we asked our challenger Jhaw, and he said he's not also sure what he's doing either!"

For a while, i was tempted to ask our house cook to prepare another set of dish like the usual pancit (stir fried noodles). However, my vow of poverty reminded me that I have to use my resources wisely. And so, I continued with the dish. After adding some more ingredients, I finally came up with more or less presentable dish. The taste wasn't bad either (at least for me).

The salad was served. I waited for the verdict. Well, I was really surprised that our two guests and the rest of the Jesuit community actually liked what I served! The two guests plus Fr. Guy instantly became my panel:

--"Oh this one's good, I can actually taste the wasabi!"
--"Mixing Chinese and Japanese is something different..."
--"I like the noodles...and they're not stir fried..."


After the dinner, I firmly resolved to make the salad again. Here's an attempt to recreate the salad:

I combined shreds of rommaine lettuce, carrots, onion and cucumber. I tossed the veggies in a bowl and drizzled it with dressing which is combination of soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and honey (I used 1 teaspoonful of each). This my black wheat noodles. I cook it as I usually cook a pasta, but i made a little twist here. I cooked it in green tea. The aroma of green tea is great! After around 5-7 minutes, I drained the water and let it cool by putting some ice. Meanwhile, I prepared the marinade for the noodles. I used the same marinade from my vegetables, but I added around two tablespoons of kalamansi juice (philippine lemon), 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce, and a little wasabi paste. I tossed the noodles with the marinade. Marinated it for about 5 minutes, then I drained the extra liquid.

I assembled the noodles on a plate. Topped the veggies and added some shredded kani sticks (crab meat). The mango slices are last minute addition. It can work both as a garnish, but I think it will also lend a different character to the salad. ( I'm thinking of how it worked well with california maki).

I don't have a name yet for this recipe. Any suggestions?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Salubong

One of the Easter practices unique to the Philippines and other countries influenced by Spanish conquistadores is the celebration of the salubong. The word salubong refers to the act of meeting someone who is arriving. As the word connotes, the celebration is a reenactment of the first meeting of Christ and his mother, Mary.

This is not written in the Bible, but the Filipinos' natural affinity to their mothers tell them that if there is someone to whom Christ will show himself first after his resurrection, it must be to his mother who loved him so much. This explanation is quite reasonable. St. Ignatius himself seems to have the same logic in his Spiritual Exercises (SpEx) when he higlighted this event by making it first among the contemplations of the Fourth week of the Exercises. He writes, "rising again, he appeared in body and soul to his Blessed Mother" (SpEx [219]). He explained that, "Although this is not stated in Scripture, still it is considered as understood by the statement that he appeared to many others." (SpEx [299]).

Participating therefore in the salubong, is an actual contemplation of the consoling effect of Christ's Resurrection. And it is true, the grace that people get from this celebration is nothing but exuding joy - perhaps sharing the same joy that Mary had experienced when Christ appeared to him. In this celebration, one feels and experiences that Jesus is indeed alive and he is in our midst!

"The celebration starts at dawn just before sunrise, with two different processions that start at different points. The first one consists of the icon of the risen Christ carried by men while the second consist of the Blessed Virgin Mary (covered with a black veil to denote her mourning) carried by women.

Precisely at first light of sunrise, the two processions meet at the church courtyard from different routes. At the center of the courtyard, the icon of Jesus is faced with the icon of Mary under a canopy (Pallo). At this point, the ceremony of the meeting begins with the choir singing alleluias as Mary approaches Jesus. Under the canopy, an angel descends on top of the head of Mary and lifts the black veil from her, exposing a happy mother who is seeing her son.

Uproar of Jubilations is heard from the crowd and confetti fills the air and the choirs would hail the Risen Christ and sing songs of joy. Then the ‘Dawn Mass’ is said to the crowd at the courtyard. At the end of the mass, various activities, like a fiesta begins, to celebrate the victory of our resurrection." (read more...)

If there is one dish that really deserves to be in every Filipino Easter fiesta, it must be the Lumpiang Ubod (Coconut Spring Rolls). The main ingredient is taken from coconut shoots, which lends itself to the easter theme of new life and freshness. The following recipe that I will share here is not original to me, however, be rest assured that I tried to incorporate my own ideas like including buko (young coconut) as one of the main ingredient, and using rice as starch for the spring roll wrapper. The measurements and instructions are still sketchy-- i find some of the steps in making this dish better shown than written.


Lumpiang Ubod w/ Buko

INGREDIENTS
For the filling
2 - 3 tbsp. cooking oil
50 gms. cooked chiken breast
50 gms. cooked shrimps (small size; sliced)
1/2 cup julienned carrots
1/2 cup julienned young coconut meat
1/2 cup julienned coconut shoots
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tsp. minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

For the wrapper / crepe
3 tbsp rice (soaked in 1/4 cup water overnight and then ground)
1 medium sized egg
1/4 cup of water

PROCEDURE
For the filling:
1. Saute garlic until golden brown.
2. Add in coconut shoots and carrots. Saute for about 2 minutes.
3. Add the chicken and shrimp.
4. Add the chicken stock and simmer for another 3 minutes.
5. The young coconut may be added during the last minute of simmering.
6. Drain extra liquid and transfer to a bowl. Reserve the liquid for the sauce.

For the spring roll wrapper:

1. Combine water and ground rice in a food processor. Blend well.
2. Blend in the egg. You may add a little parsley or celery for color and extra flavor.
3. Put you medium sized non-stick pan on low heat.
3. Put an amount of crepe mixture into medium sized non stick pan just enough to cover the
area.
4. Cook the mixture as you cook an ordinary crepe or pan cake.

For the sauce:
1. Mix 2 -3 tablespoons of flour to 1/4 cup of water.
2. Add in the extra liquid drained from the filling.
3. Simmer over medium heat until the mixture thickens.
4. You may add some fresh minced garlic and parsley.

Assembly:
1. You may put a leaf of lettuce on top of the crepe.
2. You may also put some ground peanuts with a little sugar on the crepe (this is practiced in my hometown)
3. Put two tablespoons of filling on top of your crepe, assemble it 3 - 4 inches long.
4. Gently but tightly roll the crepe. Using a sushi roller might help yield a good roll. Another way is to put the crepe on top of wax paper, and roll the wax paper as you roll a news paper on your hands.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Case of Strawberry Vinaigrette



With the curious inquiry of Passionate Eater , I decided to run a test of how celery could add a flavor to the vinaigrette. I still have some strawberries I bought fresh from Baguio, so tried my own recipe sans the celery. The result is the same sweet-sour taste with the acidity higlighted by the cane vinegar. The fruity sweetness however seems to be lacking, even with an added amount of honey. I didn't want it to taste "purely strawberry" or else my vinaigrette will be mistaken as a fruitshake. So I've decided to compare it with my original recipe. I took a sample and then I added a stalk of celery to the rest of the mixture.

The celery acted as a good complement for the taste. I've made a taste test with our two lady cooks. Both of them agreed that the "celery powered" vinaigrette tastes better - " the taste is more full and vibrant than the other one," Manang Linda commented.

So here's a picture of a salad I made just today for my community. This is a combination of greens, pine nuts, prunes, straberries and shreds of manchego cheese drizzled with olive oil. I'm just lucky that I've found a strawberry wine in our refrigirator so I've completed an all strawberry theme for this:

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Villa! Villa!

No More Pencils, No More Books, No More Teacher's Dirty Looks! As students from various schools jump with joy to celebrate the end of another gruelling schoolyear, Jesuits in the Philippines also have every reason to drop their books and pencils. Summer is indeed much awaited by Jesuits who are simply in need of a break from their various apostolic ministries. Last March 27 to April 2, Jesuits from all over the Philippines went up the country's summer capital and spent a week of rest and recreation there. It's Villa Time!

As always, the food was great. Each supper offered particular cuisine namely Filipino Barrio Fiesta, Italian, Chinese, American and Japanese. To top it all, cocktails and drinks were served after every dinner specially prepared by our resident Jesuit Philosopher/Theologian/Medical Doctor and Bartender!!!

The festive mood of the house lured the Jesuit Gourmet in me to whip up some salad dressings for the community. Here are three of the easy-to-prepare fruit based salad dressing concoctions that I served during our villa. Try the taste of these three refreshing summer coolers in your salad.

Strawberry Vinaigrette

1/2 cup fresh strawberries; sliced
1/2 cup cane vinegar (or apple cider)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 stalk celery (medium size)
4 - 5 tbsps honey (or brown sugar)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor/blender. Blend ingredients until pureed. Pour dressing over your favorite greens and enjoy. (picture taken from http://www.christinespies.com)

Mulberry- Balsamic Dressing

1/2 cup mulberries
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup dry red wine
4 - 5 tbsps honey
3 clove garlic
1 tsp rosemary leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Combine wine, balsamic vinegar, honey and mulberries on a food processor. Blend well until the mulberry and garlic is pureed. In a sauce pan over medium heat, boil the mulberry -balsamic mixture. Add in rosemary leaves. Season witha dash of salt and pepper. Reduce the mixture to half its volume or until a syrupy consistency is attained. Set aside and let it cool down. Add in the olive oil and mix well (or put in a container and shake well). This will be a refreshing dressing for your green salad. This also goes well with focaccia bread as dipping sauce. (picture taken from http://www.ornamentaltree.co.uk)

Mango Pesto

2 pcs ripe mangoes (Philippine variety)
3 - 4 tbsps chopped sweet basil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 - 4 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Slice mangoes into half and discard the seed. Scrape off the mango flesh from the peel.

In a food processor, combine all ingredients and puree. season with salt and pepper. You may add more olive oil depending on your own preference. Serve as usual. I have not tried this yet, but it seems this salad dressing can also be used as pasta sauce. Combine this with heavy cream and bring to a boil over medium heat. Looks like this will go well your fettuccini served with pork or lamb medallion. (Picture taken from http://jadedafrica.dekarabaw.com)