Creamy Tuna Spread

(#39 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

This came about after hubby made a request for a tuna hand pie.  Confession time, though, this is not the first time I tried to make a tuna pie that hubby will like… so far, my attempts have been… ho hum at best.

But, this one, hubby is very happy about.

My usual tuna spread for sandwiches has the usual ingredients – tuna, minced onion, pickle relish, salt and pepper, and of course, mayonnaise.   But that was good for a sandwich but not as a pie filling… pie filling should be thicker I guess and, as hubby says, must have a cheesy component…

Well, in experimenting, I decided that I was not so fond of the raw onion taste so the first change I did was to cook the onions with the tuna.  Then, because hubby is not so fond of pickle relish, I did away with it.  Then, he wanted cheese, so he got cheese – I used some quick-melt (which I added to the onion and tuna cooking on the stove).  I had some grated carrot, so that went in too… for salt I used celery salt… and of course, mayonnaise!!!

Saute some minced onion (about 2 tablespoons) and 2 small cans of tuna (drained of course)… smash the tuna so no large pieces remain.  Add about 1/2 cup of shredded quick-melt cheese and cook just until the cheese is melted.  Then, let the mixture cool to room temperature.  when the tuna mixture is no longer hot, mix with 1 to 2 tablespoons grated carrots and about 1 cup of mayonnaise (use more mayonnaise if you want a creamier spread).  Season to taste with celery salt and pepper (take it easy on the salt, though because the cheese has a bit of saltiness already).

A final note – since hubby likes spicy food, I actually halved the tuna (and in effect the recipe) and added a ton (figuratively) of chili flakes for his share.

I used some puff pastry to make tuna hand pies with his half of spicy tuna spread…


Good Friday Spaghetti

(#26 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine) 

Fasting and abstinence are common religious traditions during Lent but we’re not so strict about such traditions except for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  On those days, I only cook for 1 main meal and no meats.

For almost 20 years, it had been our personal family tradition to have some form of spaghetti on Good Friday… and always with fish and/or seafood.  In more luxurious times, we used shrimp.  In austere times it was sardines…

This year it was sardines.

The recipe I used throughout is the one my mom dictated to me almost 4 decades ago… except for this one, I used a ready-made spaghetti mix, specifically DM Italian Spaghetti sauce…

Saute minced garlic and onions.  Add sardines (packed in oil and drained) and the ready-to-use spaghetti sauce; mix gently to avoid crushing the sardines.  Add a fistful of Parmesan and season to taste.  And then it’s done.



Feeding a Crowd 3

For my third and last secret for feeding a crowd… short-cuts (!) or pre-made mixes.

A long time ago, someone told me that a cook or chef did not use short-cuts and (quite) foolishly I believed it. I had (previously) thought that it was an embarrassment to a self-respecting homemaker or serious cook to use ready mixes and pre-made mixes.

But I was wrong.

While I do like making things from scratch (yogurt, cheese, butter… and all those other stuff), there is not shame in using so-called short-cuts. In fact, I have realized that those short-cuts are, at times, lifesavers! If I had to have dinner on the table in 30 minutes, pre-mixes are heaven-sent!

Same holds true when feeding a crowd.

For this last week I am making mixed fishballs in red curry.

It is fast and easy… worry-free and foolproof, too!

8 50g pack of McCormick red curry pre-mix
8 cups of stock or plain water
8 cups coconut cream
300 to 500 grams long beans, cut into 1-inch pieces (optional)
5 packs of fishballs (pack contained 20 pieces)
5 packs of fish kikiam (pack contained 10 pieces)
5 packs of fish cakes, sliced into quarters (pack contained 10 pieces)
salt and pepper, to taste, if using
basil leaves for garnish, optional

Saute ginger and onions until fragrant. Put in the red curry pre-mix, water/stock, and coconut cream. When the pot starts boiling, add the long bean pieces. Let simmer until beans are half-cooked. Add the various fish balls, etc. Let simmer until beans are cooked and the balls are floating. Season to taste, as desired. Garnish with basil leaves, if using.

Spicy Bangus Spread

I had been looking for a spread using bottled bangus and found this recipe for Bangus Pate.  Although it was not right on the dot, I used the recipe as a springboard…

1 bottled spicy bangus, drained and mashed
1/3 to 1/2 cup cream cheese
1/3 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper, to taste
fresh lemon juice, to taste
reserved oil from bangus bottle, for thinning
chopped spring onions, for garnish

mix everything together, that’s it!!!

Parmesan-crusted Sole

There were nice sole fillets in the market and I could not resist buying some. We usually just sauté fish fillets but I thought of using oven this particular time…

I don’t remember exactly which book I found the recipe from but it is definitely one of the ones in our library.  I copied it hurriedly in my small notebook but forgot to write the source…

about 500 grams sole fillets, cleaned and patted dry

1-1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1-3/4 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 tablespoons mayonnaise
fresh juice from 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
parsley flakes

Preheat oven to 375F.

Arrange the fillets in a baking dish; set aside.  Mix together – breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, butter, mayonnaise, lemon juice and seasonings.  Lightly spread over arranged fillets.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes then switch to broil; broil 3 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.

Serve immediately.


Spicy Tuyo Linguini

When I was young, tuyo was preserved by being salted and then dried under the sun.  We would dip it in vinegar with chopped garlic and use it as viand for rice, especially in the morning.

It was good eats, except that to cook it, it was fried and the smell it exuded was… let’s just say the whole neighborhood definitely knew someone was eating tuyo.

Since then I’ve learned that the English name for tuyo is herring.  And these days, it is available as gourmet food, preserved in olive oil.  It was ready straight from the bottle, which I definitely liked!  No more telling smell!!!

Recently though, I discovered that the gourmet bottled tuyo could be made into gourmet pasta!  And it was so easy!

I first saw the recipe by Jamie Oliver (which is easy enough as it is) and I actually made it his way once before, using the dried tuyo.  But a friend told me of an easier way!

Basically, 1 bottle of tuyo in olive oil is good for 500grams of spaghetti.  Saute garlic in some olive oil; then throw in some chopped tomatoes, a handful of chopped .  Dump the contents of the whole bottle into the pan and when heated through, add the cooked pasta.

Squeeze some lemon juice over the top just before serving!

Steamed Fish ala Lucille

Because it is Holy Week…

As well as for BFF, because of the steamed fish discussion we had last Saturday afternoon!

whole white fish, about 500 grams, cleaned*
about 1/2 teaspoon sea salt**
2 tablespoons tausi, rinsed and mashed, OR 4-6 pieces dried black mushrooms, rehydrated, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of sugar, optional
splash of sesame oil***
splash of Shaoxing wine (or cooking rice wine)***
ground white (or black pepper)
1 tablespoon oil
1-inch knob (thumb-sized) ginger, sliced into thin matchstick size

1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 to 1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon light soya sauce
ginger strips
1 piece labuyo, cut into largish pieces, optional
handful of wansoy

1 scallion, sliced thinly, diagonally

Rinse the fish and pat dry (use paper towels).  Make 2 to 3 diagonal slits on the body of the fish.  Rub salt on the fish; put a little inside the cavity also (through the opening on the side of the head).

Meanwhile, start the steamer and let the water boil at a gentle simmer.

Combine mashed beans OR diced mushrooms, minced garlic and sugar, if using, and sesame oil, wine pepper and a pinch of salt.  Rub the mixture on both sides of the fish; stuff some in the fish cavity also.

Place some ginger on the steaming plate.  Place the fish on top of the ginger.  Place some ginger on the top side of the fish, as well as in the cavity.

Steam the fish for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together the ingredients for the sauce; set aside while waiting for the 8 minutes to finish. Remove any liquid from the plate (drain gently).

Pour sauce over the fish and return to the steamer. Steam another 2 minutes, or until fish is done. Do not over-cook the fish.

Garnish with sliced scallions before serving.


*I like using a fish called Kingfish, basically a red tilapia. But any white fish (lapulapu, tilapia, pompano, etc.) will do. Fish fillets will also work, but steaming time will be a bit less.

**Adjust the salt based on personal taste.

***Adjust the “splash” to personal taste.



Creamy Smoked Salmon Capellini

Hubby had a dinner appointment so I was on my own. The little girl and lola had their own thing going so I was really on my own…

As always when I am eating by myself, I don’t bother to cook. Sometimes I don’t bother to eat – call me lazy but it seems to me that cooking then washing and cleaning up after doesn’t seem to be worth the bother if I am the only one eating…

This time though, as I rifled through the fridge for something (I was thinking fruit actually), I saw several containers of leftovers – a 50ml container of smoked salmon (left over from hubby’s dinner the night before), a 500ml container of capellini and parsley (left over from our dinner 2 nights before), ricotta cheese tub with a fourth of ricotta left in it, sour cream tub with about 1/4 cup left, a small pat of butter (left over from chocolate chip cookie cake the week before), several pieces of shimenji mushrooms (I don’t even know WHY there’s leftover mushrooms!!!), fresh milk (not really that fresh since it’s been in the fridge at least 4 days!) and 2 pieces shriveled calamansi…

What a merry bunch of leftovers!

At first I thought of making leftover omelette – a favorite of ours and perfect for using any and all kinds of leftovers, except maybe the pasta….

So then it hit me… why not make leftover pasta instead?

Who would’ve thought that the leftovers in the fridge would make an elegant meal for one, especially paired with Chardonney, yep, leftover from last Christmas! (Thanks to our friend who gave it to us for Christmas!)

So here is the no-recipe recipe for my (lonely, but seriously change the ‘n’ to ‘v’) dinner for one –

1. Sauté some sliced onions in olive oil and (leftover) butter until the onions are softened.

2. Add the (leftover) mushrooms and stir-fry several seconds.

3. Add the (leftover) smoked salmon and mix to break the pieces apart.

4. Add the (leftover) sour cream and (leftover) ricotta cheese. Thin the mixture with (leftover) milk.

5. Add the (leftover) capellini; mix gently to coat the pasta with the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Cook over low-medium heat just until everything is heated through. Transfer to your (lonely) dinner plate.

7. Sprinkle a drop or two of (not fresh, since they’re a bit shriveled) calamansi. Garnish with (leftover) parsley (and Parmesan – just about the ingredient that is NOT left over from anything). Pair with (leftover) Chardonnay. Sit and enjoy.

8. Post the dish online and revel when hubby’s jaw drops because you had a lovely dinner while he had ordinary food at his meeting!


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.