The Newbie Cook
- 16,766 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.
This was inspired by Subway’s flatizza. Besides, someone has to use the pita bread that we have sitting in the fridge after I got over my fish taco phase.
My husband loves this dish. He asks me to make it often and I’m happy to oblige because it’s (1) easy, (2) quick, and (3) quite healthy even with the cheese. I do try to cut down on the cheese by putting much less on “my half” of the pizza. This has almost all of my favorite vegetables, which makes me very happy. 🙂
You can modify this recipe according to your preference — change the vegetables or add some meats like ham, pepperoni or crispy bacon bits.
I do need to mention the pizza stone. I bought this for baking bread but I also noticed that this pita pizza is a lot crispier and better if I use the stone over a regular pan. But the stone is not a must have, a regular pan is fine.
It’s fruit and vegetable season here in South Jersey. Juicy blueberries, succulent strawberries and ripe, red tomatoes are everywhere. Last weekend, I went to a local farmer’s market with my friends Tracy, Robin and Wayne. I stocked up on veggies that I didn’t grow in my garden.
There was so much good stuff everywhere and I was tempted to buy a little bit of everything. But, alas! There are only two people in my household and we can only eat so much. Although I did buy a dozen corn, which I shared with my in-laws.
One of the must-buys on my list were Jersey tomatoes. My husband grew up in an Italian household with a traditional Noni that made sauce from scratch. Every summer, she would buy large baskets of tomatoes, peel them, and cook gallons of spaghetti sauce. From dawn to dusk almost everyday, the sauce would be simmering on the stove. I can only imagine how good their house smelled like.
Unfortunately, Noni is no longer alive and Chris is not in possession of the family recipe because it was only passed to the girls. Therefore, I had to be creative and make my sauce recipes myself. Some of them are based on others’ recipes while some are made up by yours truly — like the one below.
This particular sauce is fresh, chunky, and light. It only takes around 4 hours to cook this. After all, I work all day and go to school so I don’t have the time Noni had.
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. 🙂
Chris planted some garlic and got excited when he learned that garlic scapes were edible. So I did the practical thing: made pesto.
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.
I have never made eggplant parmigiana before. But I suppose you already know that because *points up* of the name of this blog. My husband grew up with a grumpy Nonna that cooked consistently perfect Italian food.
So I am more than a little anxious.
Thank God there’s Mario Batali, Food Network, and a surplus of cherry tomatoes from the garden. And, last but not the least, Francesco Rinaldi Three Cheese pasta sauce because it is okay to take shortcuts if you’re dying of hunger and have less than an hour to cook. (*&^%#! I sound like a f*&%#@g ad.) For pre-made pasta sauce, FR is quite good but it will need some jazzing up. My recipe for red pasta sauce from scratch takes forever to simmer just to get the flavor right.
This is not exactly a super-traditional eggplant parmigiana. I may have based it on a famous chef’s recipe but I can’t resist butchering things up and adding stuff according to what I like. For instance, I used wheat flour instead of breadcrumbs. And then I baked the eggplants instead of frying them. (Batali recommended baking as well but the more common method is frying.) Plus I added a touch of ground beef. The latter is not required but I needed a little protein to put some meat in my husband’s bones and it did enhance the flavor of the sauce. If you want a vegetarian dish, just skip the meat entirely.
Here are my stacks before baking.
… and after.
I have a bad habit of forgetting to taste my cooking before serving so I handed Chris his plate before I filled mine. The first thing I heard was “Yum!” I suppose it is safe to say that I passed.
Personally, I do not think the photos of my stacks look as appetizing as they do in real life. But with regards to taste… it was ever so slightly crispy on the outside, very soft inside, and heartwarmingly savory as a whole. This is definitely comfort food and is best served with a side of spaghetti or linguine.
I made this last night and, to my surprise, it was pretty good for an extremely simple meal that that is thrown together in a hurry. I used similar herbs to the ones I used for my blackened trout recipe since it really worked out well.
Like the salmon recipe where I used store-bought teriyaki, I also used commercial barbecue sauce for this one. Not only is it handy but I really, really like Hunt’s Hickory and Brown Sugar Barbecue sauce. I also use it whenever I want to make no-stress baby back ribs. (Mostly because it’s so easy to ask Chris to do the marinating.) But, for this recipe, you can use any barbecue sauce of your choice whether it’s homemade or store-bought.
I served this one with shrimp with dill as an appetizer and a side of sliced eggplant — sauteed in a tiny amount of extra virgin olive oil — and chopped fresh tomatoes. While the ribs were baking, I prepared and chilled the appetizer and cooked the eggplant. It took around an hour to prepare and cook the whole meal.
Check out the recipe 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.