The Newbie Cook
- 16,580 forkfuls since 16.Oct.10
Making everything for the first time
When I was a kid, I thought that “adding more color to your diet” meant buying a bag of skittles or m&m’s. Now I know that this is what it really means:
Ginataang kalabasa is a Filipino dish that has always been a favorite since childhood. There are different variations — my mom made it with yardlong beans and shrimp. For this recipe, I’m using 96% extra lean ground beef. Hubby is not a fan of lean ground beef because he said it lacked flavor. He likes the regular everyday 80% lean. Personally, the fat content scares me and I’m tired of draining the beef while cooking. With extra lean, I don’t have to drain it.
Since this dish is very flavorful, I don’t think my husband would be complaining about blandness.
There is one must-have ingredient in this dish: the glorious bagoong alamang. My mom’s province, Pangasinan, is famous for having some of the best tasting alamang on earth. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to that goodness so I resorted to second best: jarred bagoong. There are no close Asian stores with this so I bought it online from Amazon. The jarred version isn’t as pungent either, which is a good thing since I live with an American husband who was completely traumatized with the smell of danggit.
(Ugh, super dry skin. That’s what happens when I wash my hands every single step while cooking.)
Filipinos also love coconut milk aka gata in Tagalog. We have tons of food that start with “ginataang,” which means that whatever it is has been stewed in coconut milk. Like our lovely Jersey butternut squash.
Luckily for me, my husband likes Filipino food so I don’t have to argue about having variety in our daily menu.
I served this with white rice and sautéed spinach and garlic. See recipe after the jump.
Sorry for the lack of dialogue. It’s 2:45 am, I’m feeling guilty for not posting a lot, and I’m tired from work and school. I also have my 8 am gym workout to look forward too. Ugh.
At least I have meatballs that cheer me up. 🙂
Kaldereta-style beef stew. This is a native Filipino dish that is usually served on special occasions. Or on a nice day when Mom is feeling generous enough to cook a dish that takes hours to make.
My husband, C, joined a Filipino Food group on Facebook. He would look at pics and recipes and try to read the names. (He sounds so cute and funny but I love it because he’s determined to learn. Or at least learn the names of foods.) I am not well-versed when it comes to cooking my native country’s dishes. I know, it’s a disgrace and there is no excuse for it. 😛 It’s just that my Mom, Dad and all my friends cook Filipino food so well. My (now ex) roommate, Jaja, is the world champion on kaldereta. So I decided to concentrate on Italian food. Now I regret not being as keen on learning to cook pagkaing Pinoy (Filipino food).
It took me more than two stressful hours to make it.
Kaldereta should be rich, hearty, and comforting. The sauce should be creamy, the beef must be tender. And, most of all, kaldereta should be flavorful. Perfect for a cold, January night.
Basti, our white long-haired chi, has a very bad habit. Whenever we cook, he always thinks that he’s getting fed. So he whimpers and begs… loudly. You’ll be surprised how loud a three-pound chihuahua can sound when he’s upset. We’re still in the process of correcting him and teaching him that dog food is for dogs and human food is for humans only. It’s not as if they have bad food — I buy big bags of organic Grade A dog food for them. Our older dogs still get excited when I cook but at least they don’t beg.
One of the dishes that can drive Basti nuts is stuffed pepper. We have a couple of big bell plants in our little garden and I had to think of creative ways to use them. I started with the most basic one: a soft bell stuffed with a blend of meat, rice and herbs.
I made three versions: the Classic American, the Asian, and the Asian-American.
The Classic American is mainly beef and rice enhanced with sage and parsley and is baked on a bed of Italian tomato sauce.
The Asian-American is similar to the above but with slight differences. Like adding cayenne, substituting Worcestershire with oyster sauce, and using plain crushed tomatoes instead of sauce.
The Asian is quite different. Pork is used instead of beef and rice is served on the side. Among other things.
See the recipes after the jump.
This is one of my favorite dishes simply because it is sooooo yummy and simple. Mom makes it really well and it’s my brother, Jiko, who appreciates it the most. Whenever I’m at home in the Philippines, Mom would always cook a huge pot of it. After we eat lunch, all the girls (me, Mom and little Sofia) would leave and go to the mall. By the time we’ve returned, Jiko would already be back from school and there would be barely a serving left of the Cuban rice.
I made a couple of revisions to Ms. Garcia’s recipe. I added tomato sauce and changed the peas to carrots — the way my Mom does it. Why? Because I like carrots better than peas and you should always have your Omega 3.
Remember the pasta recipe where I used IKEA meatballs? Chris kind of made fun of me because I didn’t know how to make my own meatballs considering that they were (allegedly) easy to make. Dad told me that he wanted spaghetti but he was too sleepy and lazy to cook. (Don’t let this statement mislead you, Dad cooks way more often than I do.) Considering that I had a couple of hours before he wakes up, I decided to try making meatballs from scratch.
The first thing I thought was: “$h1*, I don’t have breadcrumbs! ” Google saved me again and informed me that oats would be a healthier substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs.
For the sauce, I used a variation of Bitch&Bake’s Three Ingredient Tomato Sauce. I wondered if butter is considered unhealthy but when I thought of worse alternatives like hydrogenated oil, lard, and vegetable oil, I happily dropped in the little block of butter.
This is also the first time for me to eat romano cheese with pasta, at least at home and not in a restaurant. There are evil canisters of romano alternatives in the supermarket, which try to convince the buyers that they’re cheap and just as good. Until you notice that there’s a tub of perfectly genuine shredded romano (but made with cow’s milk not ewe’s) beside it that is ironically cheaper than the fake version. *rofl*
My verdict: For a first time effort, it’s not bad at all. I thought it was reeeaally yummy but then I’m horribly biased. Sure, it could probably be better but this isn’t exactly a perfect-product-after-100-tries blog.
Until recently, I didn’t know that the ribbon-shaped pasta is called farfalle. Apparently, the word is from the Italian farfalla, which means “butterfly”. I used to skip recipes with fancy-sounding names since I figured that if I can’t pronounce it, then I probably can’t cook it. At least now, I no longer feel ignorant in case someone mentions farfalle. Hah.
Have you ever opened your fridge and asked for inspiration because you have absolutely no idea what you want to cook today? That’s what I did when I got home from work.
A while back, I picked up a pack of Swedish meatballs from IKEA – the same kind they serve in that cute cafe of theirs (I only go there for the salmon). There was still 1/3 of the pack in the fridge so I decided to use it. Then I remembered Tita Dina’s creamy carbonara from two weeks back so I grabbed the can of Nestle cream that I was originally saving for something else.
I tried to imagine the kind of basic sauce that I like. There’s the token butter and tomatoes. But what I really focused on was the flavor. In this case, lots of garlic, onions and black pepper equaled yummy. This means sautéing the chopped onion and garlic until the onion is translucent and faintly brown and the edges of the garlic pieces are crisp. The butter is also integral. Don’t you DARE skip the butter! If you’re on a diet, go graze on the front lawn as this isn’t the recipe for you.
I’m a mushroom addict so I added that as well. They’ll go nicely with the meatballs.
Please don’t judge the pictures. 🙂 Apartment #1’s kitchen lighting is awful and unless I cook at broad daylight and open all doors and windows, everything I shoot will end up looking like I cooked them while moonlighting at a seedy bar.
A special note on the black pepper: The packaged powder labeled pre-ground black pepper is not black pepper. Ok, maybe 30% of it actually is. But if you love your taste buds and the rest of your family’s, then please don’t subject yourselves to that unrecognizable stuff. Buy a pepper mill and fill it with real black peppercorns. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just functional. If you’re already in IKEA buying the meatballs, you may as well pick up their cheap but serviceable 365+ spice mill ($6.99).
So how was the farfalle? (I’m still practicing saying it so I can impress the waiter next time.) It’s pretty good. 🙂 Now excuse me, I’m just going to do the dishes while you read the recipe.