In Someone Else’s Kitchen, 3 of 4

Mixed Mushrooms, Watercress, and Pine Nuts was the vegetable dish for the night.

The original recipe had cashews instead of pine nuts.  But I knew our host had a history of gout and I knew that nuts were on the no-eat list due to its effect of heightening uric acid so I substituted pine nuts.

Except that (I didn’t know) mushrooms were high in uric acid too.  Sigh…

About 500 grams mixed fresh mushrooms (shitake, button, and oyster)
about 300 grams fresh watercress
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
crushed garlic
soy sauce

Clean the mushrooms, cut into more manageable pieces if needed.  Toss in about a tablespoon of soy sauce; marinate for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile crush about 10 cloves of garlic in a mortar with a pestle.  (The beauty of someone else’s kitchen is that I get to use stuff I don’t have in my kitchen.  And learn something new!  Like how pounding garlic in a mortar with a pestle is so much more satisfying that a knife and a chopping board!)

Then, trim the watercress of tough stems and ends.  Rinse and pat dry.

Heat some oil in a pan.  Sauté the crushed garlic until soft and fragrant.  Add the mushrooms; stir fry several seconds.  Add the watercress and a splash of soy sauce (add as desired but be mindful not to make the dish too salty).

Cook until the vegetables are soft but still crunchy.  There will be a lot of liquid.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the watercress and mushrooms to a serving dish (my watercress shrunk and got hidden under all the mushrooms), then scatter pine nuts over the top.

(Our gracious host enjoyed this dish the most, he said.  Even with my faux pas, and his rising levels of uric acid.)

 

 

 

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

There are many recipes for homemade vanilla extract.  Basically, there are 3 ingredients – vanilla beans, vodka (or brandy, rum, bourbon, as long as it is at least 80 proof), and TIME.

The most important ingredient in the recipe is – TIME.

How I made mine?

I started in 2014.  December.

With 1 liter of vodka and 14 Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans.

I split the beans and scraped the seeds out.  I placed all the seeds and pods into the bottle of vodka, capped the bottle, and then wrapped the bottle in brown paper.  The bottle got named and tagged then into a cool cupboard it went… where it stayed for 3 years.

I opened it today and took a whiff.

Heavenly.

Mmmmmm….

 

Roast Chicken over Scalloped Potatoes

My little electric oven is such a treasure!  While my gas-fired baby oven is my ultimate favorite (after all I have been baking with it for more than 3 decades – so now you know how old I must be!), my little electric is really more convenient since there’s usually just 4 or 5 of us.  It is just a bit larger than a toaster oven (but yes, it is a fully functioning oven, with rotisserie too!). The largest sized pan that can fit in it is a 9-inch square and even that is a bit pushing it.

Still, it is absolutely perfect for half a batch of cake, 6 cupcakes, a regular brownie or a dozen cookies or so. And for meals? It is just right! A whole chicken with the rotisserie function (but no, a turkey or a super jumbo chicken won’t fit) or half a chicken in a baking pan.

Take this roast chicken meal… quick and easy, and best of all, tasty!

6 pieces chicken legs, cleaned and patted dry
salt and pepper, to taste

5 to 6 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced very thinly
1/2 cup shredded mixed cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan mix)
butter
1/4 cup 35% whipping cream
3/4 cup milk
salt and pepper, to taste

Make slits on the chicken legs.  Rub the chicken legs with salt and pepper (I like using sea salt), place some between the skin and meat as well.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 375F.

Butter a baking dish (mine is about 6 by 8 inches.  Arrange half the sliced potatoes in the pan, sprinkle the shredded cheese all over.  Top with the remaining half of potatoes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Pour the cream and milk over the potatoes.

Arrange the chicken legs over the potatoes.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until the chicken is done, at 165/170F internal temperature.  Let rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

 

 

In Someone Else’s Kitchen

We had a lovely vacation (read as hubby had a couple of meetings but the kid and I relaxed and enjoyed the cool air!) and our generous host fed us scrumptious meals.  Of course I had to reciprocate!

(Flashback to some 3 decades ago, when I cooked paella for 20 people in someone else’s kitchen!!!)

It is not easy cooking (meddling???) in someone else’s kitchen, mainly because I have no idea where anything is!  But what is quite nice about the kitchen of someone who likes to cook is that the kitchen would definitely have the basic tools and then some.  Since friend G had an oven, I gladly made use of it.

My menu consisted of 4 parts – protein, carbohydrate, healthy (veggie) and something sweet.

For the protein, I thought roasted salmon was perfect!  And again my favorite recipe comes from Mark Bittman.  With a bit of a twist, though.  The online version of the recipe is slightly different from the book version –

First, I used half butter and half olive oil, which I seasoned with pink salt and freshly cracked peppercorns… and about 1/2 tablespoon of dried dill seeds.  Off in the oven it went until the butter melted and stopped fizzing.

I then placed 4 pieces of salmon fillet slabs, about 220 to 250 grams each, skin side up, into the pan and back to the oven it went and stayed for about 5 to 7 minutes.  The fillets got flipped to get the skin side down.  And then I sprinkled some more pink salt and crushed peppercorns over the top.  It went back into the oven for another 5 to 6 minutes, just until it was done.

 

Salmon Roasted in Butter and Dill

When I think of experimenting in the kitchen, I browse and peruse my cookbook collection. One of the first books I reach for is Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”.

It is there that I found a super easy and very tasty recipe for salmon.

I used half butter and half olive oil, and fresh dill, following the secondary instructions for ‘Salmon Roasted with Herbs’.

The recipe can be found online – http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/04/mark-bittmans-roasted-salmon-with-butter.html

Scallops and Mushrooms on Yellow and Red Peppers

This dish is a hubby-wifey compromise.  Hubby loves bell peppers and I love scallops and mushrooms.  The bonus is that it cooks up in a few minutes!

300 grams shelled Chinese scallops

1 large yellow bell pepper
1 large red bell pepper

200 grams white Shimenji mushrooms

1 large thumb-sized ginger, smashed and chopped (skin off)
sea salt
oyster sauce
shao xing wine

Clean the Chinese scallops with some sea salt and rinse; drain fully.  Marinate in 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce.  (personally I use the lower limit and adjust later.  this is because various brands have slight nuances in saltiness etc.)

Clean and dry the bell peppers.  Remove the top and seeds, then slice into squarish or diamond-shaped pieces.  (meanwhile, start heating the wok with about 1 tablespoon of peanut oil (or canola oil).

Cut the ends of the mushrooms; rinse and dry them.

When the wok and oil is (very) hot, put in the bell peppers and stir fry a few seconds.  Sprinkle in a large pinch of sea salt.  Stir the peppers around, and remove from the pan using a slotted spoon to a serving dish.

In the same pan, sauté half the ginger then add the mushrooms.  Add 1 teaspoon of oyster sauce and stir fry several seconds.  After a couple of minutes add the rest of the ginger and the Chinese scallops.  Splash some shao xing wine (about 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoon/s) and stir fry until the scallops are just about done (about a minute or two, depending on the size of the scallops, bigger ones take a bit longer to cook).  Adjust seasonings as desired.  Do not overcook the scallops otherwise they will be tough.

Using a slotted spoon, place the scallops and mushrooms over the bell peppers.

Reduce the liquid in the wok to about half (as preferred) then pour over the dish.  Serve immediately.

 

Paksiw na Pata

Paksiw is basically a stew with vinegar as the main “spice” or seasoning. Pata is pork leg. So Paksiw na Pata is pork leg braised in a vinegar stewing liquid.

I have a go-to Paksiw na Baboy (Chinese-style) recipe that was my late father’s second favorite dish (after adobo, or so I have been told) but after a friend extolled her super-easy paksiw na pata recipe, I decided to try it. She had me at “It’s a dump-everything-recipe!”.

The secret, she says, is to find, not pork leg per se, but pork leg slices that are about 1 -inch thick, and that have been already trimmed of most of its fat and yes, virtually no skin on them. She even recommended to me her favorite meat shop that prepares such pork leg slices! There is even no need to cut the pork leg into serving pieces because, as she says, the pressure cooker does it for you! And no need to parboil too!

She graciously gave me permission to print her recipe.

3 large pieces pork leg slices, already trimmed and cleaned
(about 1 kilo total)

3/4 cup sukang sasa (native vinegar)
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
a large pinch of sea salt (may be omitted, if desired)
3 pieces bay leaves
about 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon smashed peppercorns (not ground pepper)
1 whole bulb of garlic, smashed
about 3/4 to 1 cup water
a handful of banana blossoms, knotted (softened in water if necessary)

And just as she says, simply rinse the pork leg pieces and place them in the pressure cooker (I have a small one that’s just perfect for a kilo or so of meat).

Dump the sukang sasa, soy sauces, brown sugar, salt, bay leaves, oregano, peppercorns, and garlic into the pot. Add just enough of the water to barely cover the pork.

Pressure cook about 30 to 40 minutes (start the timer after the cooker starts “whistling”). I cooked mine for 40 minutes because we like really soft meat. Wait for the pressure to be released before opening the pot. Add the banana blossoms and simmer uncovered another 5 to 10 minutes (the sauce should thicken slightly)

Adjust the seasonings as desired.

(Easy peasy yummy!)

Oh, a note about the vinegar – sukang sasa is a local Filipino vinegar fermented  from nipa palm, also known as sukang paombong.  If unavailable, regular cane vinegar may be used but reduce the amount by half or a third, because it may be too strong.  Use your personal judgment to adjust the sourness of the dish.

 

Adobong Manok at Atay

Chicken and Liver Adobo

My family prefers the pork variety of adobo to the chicken variety. But hubby and B’s lola like liver; and liver cooked adobo-style is especially tasty for them. So, since the other family members do not particularly care for liver, I mix in chicken so that everyone can eat! Win-win, right?

My recipe for Chicken and Liver Adobo is a bit different from our favorite pork adobo, although the basics are similar – adobo is adobo after all.

500 grams boneless, skinless chicken thighs
300 grams chicken liver (remove any other attached organs)
5 to 6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons sukang puti
1/2 cup chicken stock or plain water, or more as needed
Bay leaf

First thing to do is to mix the adobo sauce together – soy sauce, vinegar and half of the smashed garlic. Let it sit for a minutes while the chicken and liver are being cleaned. I remove the white fatty, slimy thingies from the chicken and slice each piece in half to form chunky pieces. Clean the liver as well and remove any slime, and other non-liver parts.

Marinate the liver in about 2 tablespoons of the adobo sauce, and the chicken in the remainder of the sauce. Do not marinate together in the same bowl.

Meanwhile, heat some canola oil in a pan. Flash fry the liver but do not cook all the way through. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add oil in the pan, if needed. Sauté the garlic until fragrant. Add the peppercorns. Add the chicken pieces (don’t pour in the marinade yet). Stir fry a couple of minutes, until the surface of the chicken is lightly browned. Pour in the rest of the marinade and the chicken stock; add the bay leaf as well. Simmer about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked just about through.

Pour in the liver and simmer several seconds more or until the liver is just cooked. It is crucial not to over-cook the liver.

This is the saucy, soupy kind of adobo. For the other kind – the oily kind, take the chicken (and liver if desired) out of the sauce/soup and sauté for a few minutes in hot oil, adding adobo sauce if necessary. And that’s it!

Now, I have beed asked a few times why I flash fry the liver first and add it again later. Honestly I don’t know the reason. All I know is, that has been the way it has been done in the family. I will admit, however, that at one time I was feeling lazy and skipped the flash frying of the liver and just dumped it toward the end of the cooking. It just was not the same… so even if I was feeing lazy, I didn’t skip the flash frying… instead I would skip the pre-marinating part! 🙂

4 Cheese Frittata

I have always been a fan of eggs.  Even when it had a bad rep (in the 90s and early  2000s) I always had an egg (sometimes even 2) for breakfast.  In fact, one my fondest memories is of me and my brother J, vying to be first to use the frying pan for breakfast.  We would have 2 eggs each, cooked sunny side up.  But while I liked mine with a soft white and a less runny yolk, my brother liked crispy-edged whites with runny yolks.  In either case, we placed our respective eggs on top of a (huge, as it seemed then) mound of rice after which we heaped tomato ketchup on top and mixed everything into a red, messy, gooey breakfast!

To this day, I still eat an egg with my breakfast.  It is mostly the same soft-edged white with a cooked yolk, with a sprinkling of fresh ground pink salt and black pepper.  Once in a while though, I vary the manner of cooking of the egg.  This is one of my favorite variations… hubby is a fan as well.

1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced

100 grams lean ground pork
1 pinch each sea salt, ground black pepper and Italian spice

4 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 pinch each of sea salt, ground pepper and Italian spice

1 medium tomato, cleaned and sliced
a handful of kangkong leaves, cleaned and torn into bits

2 tablespoons grated parmesan
2 slices sandwich cheese (the melty kind)
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella

The very thing I do (after preparing all the ingredients) is to preheat the oven, and preheat a 6 or 7-inch cast iron pan.  The one I have is not a frying pan per se, but what is referred to as an eared pan.  Instead of a long handle on one side, the pan has 2 “ears” or handles, much like a casserole.  I use an eared cast iron pan because it is one that fits in my tiny electric oven.

Anyway, as both the oven and pan is heating up, I prepare everything…. mix the spices and the ground pork, then beat the eggs and the spices together…

As soon as the cast iron pan is hot, I sauté the onions and garlic, followed by the ground pork.  When the meat has given up most of its liquid, pour in the beaten eggs.  Stir lightly so that the egg goes underneath.  Scatter the sliced tomatoes and torn leaves, press down slightly.

Sprinkle with the grated parmesan.  Top with the sandwich cheese.  Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheese on top.

Place the pan in the preheated 375*F oven and bake about 18 minutes, until the egg is fully cooked and the top is lightly browned.

Serve and enjoy hot!

 

Braised Chicken with Chestnuts and Mushrooms

Once in a while I cook for my mom and when I do, I always try to make the dish no-salt-added.  Why?  Because she developed hypertension early (in her late 30s I think) and since then she has tried to reduce her salt intake.  So her taste buds (and ours, too because she cooked reduced salt for everyone!) favors the blander side of food.

When I cook of course I use soy sauce and other condiments to flavor the dish, but if the dish is for my mom, I would never add table salt or sea salt, or fish sauce.  Of course it goes without saying, we don’t use MSG.

It is not easy to please my mom, but somewhere along the way, I stopped trying.  I just send over the dish and if she has no complaints, then it’s good news to me!

Braised Chicken with Chestnuts and Mushrooms, no salt added.

400 grams boneless, skinless chicken wings
12 pieces dried shitake mushroom, rehydrated, reserve soaking liquid
100 grams cooked chestnuts
4 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
about 8 thin slices of ginger, cut into thin matchsticks
5 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 pieces star anise
1 piece cinnamon stick
1 to 2 pieces dried chili
3 stalks leeks, sliced diagonally, white and green parts separated
boiled eggs, optional

Rinse the chicken thighs and remove the fatty membranes.  Slice each into 2 or 3 chunks.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes in the mixture of soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, 2 tablespoons of mushroom soaking liquid, half the ginger, half the garlic, star anise, and cinnamon stick.

Saute the remaining garlic and ginger, onion, dried chili, and white part of the leeks.  Add the chicken and marinade.   Add the mushrooms and chestnuts.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  If the mixture seems too dry, add reserved mushroom liquid by tablespoons.  Simmer for about 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.  Add the boiled eggs in the last 3 to 5 minutes, if using.  Thicken with cornstarch slurry.  Garnish with the green part of the leeks.  Serve immediately.

The secret to the dish is the very flavorful mushroom soaking liquid!