The Newbie Cook
- 16,971 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.
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.
It was a very warm early spring day when Chris suggested going to Red Bank Battlefield Park for a picnic. After the last four months of winter, a picnic would be a welcome treat and I instantly started packing food for lunch.
It would’ve been so easy to make a few sandwiches and stuff them in a bag along with a couple bottles of juice, but no… I just had to go ahead and cook my planned menu for the day. Besides, I’ve been thinking of chicken adobo for weeks now and I firmly believe in satisfying one’s cravings as soon as possible. Filipinos are used to toting lots of utensils, plates and tupperwares containing viands and rice; we don’t mind the hassle of added weight and cleaning up after as long as we could eat our precious rice meals. Chris raised his brows when he saw the big paper bag stuffed near to bursting.
“What’s in that?”
“Umm… adobo. And rice. And other things.”
Since he has never had adobo before, Chris couldn’t wait to try some since I spent the last week going on and on about my mom’s version of adobo. There was a funny moment when the plates were set on the picnic table and he was digging through the bag, looking for a knife.
“Sorry. I just brought a spoon and fork for you,” I laughed. “I forgot you’re not Filipino.”
Most Pinoy foods have relatively tender or thinly sliced meat because we use just a spoon and fork for eating. For us, a spoon is not only a utensil for soup, we also need it to scoop up the rice along with the viand. Chris valiantly tried to eat with the spoon but, after a few minutes of watching him struggle without his usual knife, I took pity on him and quickly cut up the chicken into bite-sized chunks.
“My mom used to do this for me when I was a baby.”
You should’ve seen the look he gave me. 😀
Luckily, he liked the adobo and here he is all full and satisfied afterwards. There were no leftovers.
This is my first attempt to cook adobo so I was pleasantly surprised when I realized how easy it is. There are a just few ingredients, all of which are common items in a Pinoy kitchen.
I marinated the chicken for one full day so the meat soaked up the flavor. Most Pinoys cook potatoes along with this but I’m not crazy about that so I added hard-boiled chicken eggs to go along with the chicken slices. Because it is so flavorful, adobo has to be eaten with plain white rice to neutralize the saltiness and bring out the yumminess of the dish.
Miki Garcia’s recipe follows after the jump.
The members of this little household were craving for seafood. After a few days of eating Italian, we both wanted something Asian. Something Pinoy.
I’m a little nervous about cooking any Asian dish, especially Filipino. For one, both my parents are very good cooks and I grew up eating yummy homemade Pinoy food. I would be so disappointed with myself if I can’t make something up to their standards and I probably wouldn’t eat it. Cooking Italian is relatively easy — everything goes well with risotto or pasta. But most Filipino foods have to be made with specific ingredients and the process is not always simple.
Motivated to continue my project, we flipped through Miki Garcia’s cookbook, argued which one looked yummiest, until we finally settled for paella. I tried making Kapampangan paella before (bringhe) but it was not so successful (understatement of the year *rollseyes*). I was determined to stick to the recipe this time so I wouldn’t mess up the dish especially since seafood isn’t exactly cheap.
The local fresh seafood shop, John’s Seafood, closes on Tuesdays. Isn’t it weird? Family businesses closing on Sundays are pretty common but Tuesday is unusual for me. Luckily, yesterday was a Friday so we were able to procure the three most important ingredients for paella: mussels, shrimp and squid. Unfortunately, they did not have the small, pinkish squid that Filipinos often use so I had to settle for the bigger, peeled, white ones.
Since paella is a dish that is usually served on special occasions, I always had the impression that it must be difficult to make. Imagine my surprise when I found out that it is relatively easy to cook paella. I can’t wait to make it for my family when we see each other again this April.
I had it with a glass of White Merlot wine and Chris stuck to his precious Yuengling. Miki’s recipe is shown below after the jump. I halved the recipe but followed all of her instructions except for adding the olives. Enjoy!
Last night, C suggested seafood. “Let’s do something with the cod.” I’ve eaten cod a few times but I’ve never tried cooking it. I tried looking for an appropriate recipe in The Filipino Cookbook and I found one in minutes.
Technically, a whole lapu-lapu — red grouper fish — should be used for authentic escabeche. But according to Ms. Garcia, alternatives like red snapper, cod, carp and bass could be used. Talking about the dish eventually led to this discussion:
Me: Lapu-lapu is also the name of one of our heros. He killed Magellan.
C: Ferdinand Magellan? Do you know how famous that guy is?!
Me: Um… yeah. (doh!) Everybody does.
C: I didn’t know he died in the Philippines.
Me: He did. They refused to bow to Spain and pay tribute so LL killed Magellan with a bolo and pestle.
Chris thinks it happened a lot like this: (see 1:40 onwards)
I could just imagine Magellan arriving all cocky and rudely interrupting Lapu-lapu who’s making dinner. Next thing you know someone yells “Pay tribute to WHO!? F*** YOU!” just before Ferdie gets brained with a pestle. Hero or not, I bet Lapu-lapu’s wife made him buy a new one.
Of course, that’s what not really happened but I like my version more than the official one.
Back to food. It’s the first time for me to make sweet and sour fish so I was worried that it would fail big time. Making Chris eat Filipino food is an experience. He’s still traumatized about that time when I made him eat dinuguan (pork blood stew) and now he thinks I’m going to feed him random innards when I say “Pinoy food.”
Cod is a very light, creamy fish that easily absorbs flavor. But it could just as easily fall apart if overcooked. Luckily, my escabeche was not bad at all.
Note: Red text means I changed or used a substitute for an ingredient.