The Newbie Cook
- 17,896 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.
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.
Clearly, we’re still on our seafood streak. We bought a couple of fresh swordfish steaks and I tried Jamie Oliver’s recipe for lemony fish.
It is my first time to cook swordfish and I was curious about the extremely simple recipe. Without counting the salt and pepper, the dish only has 6 ingredients.
We just got five herb plants and they’re all sitting on the kitchen’s window sill. Let me tell you, fresh kicks dry herbs in the pills. The chopped mint and oregano smelled so good and had a light but distinct flavor. Buying packs of fresh herbs every time I need them is so impractical since they’re expensive and most of them go bad before I get to use them all. Having plants is a more economical alternative — snip only what you need — plus it’s healthy to have plants indoors. I have to suggest this to my mom.
I followed the recipe to the letter but used slightly less olive oil. I also think that any uncooked fish aside from sushi is icky so I took his advise and cooked it for 3-4 minutes per side.
Chris got the biggest steak since he ate it alone with wine. I chose the smaller portion, added half a cup of hot, steamed rice, and a fresh cubed tomato tossed with Thai sauteed shrimp fry and garlic chili. Mmmm…
See Jamie’s recipe after the jump.
I will never forget Tita Edith’s potato soup. She brought some at work last year and I loved it so much that I ate a lot of it. I wanted to replicate the recipe but failed miserably the first time I tried. When C got sick, I thought it was about time to try making this comfort dish again.
One essential tool needed is an immersion blender to get that smooth perfect texture. But if you want a chunkier version of the soup, you can just use a regular masher.
This recipe is very versatile. You can add any vegetables you like. Most use celery but since C hates it, I chose broccoli and carrots. Any type of precooked meat (ham, cold cuts, etc.) can also be used.
The soup can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated. For some reason, it tasted even better the day after.
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.
I think it’s disgraceful that the small pack of Chinese noodles (or what my mother would call pancit canton) cost me $3.50 in Shop Rite. That’s more than three to four times the cost of perfectly good noodles in the Philippines. *grumbles*
The local grocery also had a very limited supply of Asian food stuff. The only Pinoy thing there was adobo seasoning. I mean, who the hell uses powder seasoning for adobo when one could make a perfectly wonderful dish with perfectly ordinary ingredients. Maybe I can ask Danielle if there is a nearby Asian store that at least has bagoong or alamang to keep me satisfied for the next few years.
I was craving for noodles so I naturally visited my Asian food guru, Jaden from Steamy Kitchen. I didn’t have lots of the fancy stuff needed for the recipe so I had to improvise and make something that is edible. If I need to convert my husband to becoming an Asian food-lover then I need ammunition.
Thankfully, there were no leftovers. Yay!
Yes, I’m back. Again. So what happened? Relocating, wedding, honeymoons (yes that’s more than one), and adjusting to married life. We’re still working on the last one and I have a feeling we will continue to do so for the next 100 years.
Thankfully, living with Dad got me used to cooking for two people. Some cook for an army and are often stuck with copious amounts of leftovers. In my (not so humble) opinion, leftovers are okay only for one additional meal. No one wants to eat the same leftovers three or four times in a row.
This is a simple meal that is rich in both protein and vegetables so one can have a healthy serving of each plus a touch of dairy and good carbs.
My dear husband thinks that the eggs and veggies in the pan look like a face or titties. I agreed with the first and violently reacted to the second. Seriously. Titties. Men.
I did say that I will try a different recipe for salmon. After my previous try, I decided that I didn’t want to just sear the salmon. It was tasty but I didn’t like the slightly uncooked center; because I seared it for less than the recommended time, I had to cut and reheat it just so I can eat it. Because salmon is an oilier fish compared to the white stuff that I’m used to eating, I baked it this time.
If the previous recipe was sweet, then this one was slightly spicy. I’ve always liked onions and I was attracted to the recipe when I first encountered it. So I made it simpler and easier to cook for those who don’t have a lot of time to prepare.
Served it with your side dish of choice. I don’t really like salads because I prefer my vegetables cooked so I served the salmon with a bowl of zucchini rice. Recipe after the jump.
This marks two firsts for me: cooking salmon and pan searing. I didn’t even know what pan searing meant until I was in my twenties. *facepalms*
I bought a nice Norwegian salmon fillet and I was determined to eat it soon. I didn’t want to ruin it so I tried to look for a recipe that could be a base for what I had in mind.
This is one of the days when I wish I have wine. But this is a non-alcoholic country so we just have to make do with non-alcoholic alternatives and all I had in the fridge was sparkling grape juice. Oh well.
I learned quite a bit from this first effort. If you’re finicky about not eating raw fish but don’t like to eat dried tasteless fish meat, then cut the fillet in two before searing. Some recipes recommend searing for two minutes on each side but I found that it isn’t enough so it’s better to do it a bit longer.
I served the fish with a side of pasta in tomato and egg.
Was the dish bad? Not at all! I liked it. But I would love to try changing it a bit and experimenting more so I can get the hang of cooking salmon. Recipe after the jump.