Jul 29, 2008

Chopping an Onion

Many people do not like cooking not because of the cooking part per se, but because of the rigors of preparations cooking entails. There's defrosting, washing, peeling, slicing, dicing, chopping, marinating, measuring, and so on. So it is important to have techniques that will simplify or quicken some of these steps.

One of the basic preparations needed for cooking is chopping an onion. Onion is part of all sautes, and is part of some marinades, sawsawans (dipping sauces), and even savory breads. Here's how to do chopping easy and fast, courtesy of RealAge:

Jul 18, 2008

Don't Eat This Fish!

I was checking my stats at Statcounter, checked referring links and one thing led to another and I got to this page, warning against eating River Cobbler, which I featured in one of my posts (Cajun River Cobbler).

Apparently in France, Vietnamese River Cobbler has gained popularity and acceptance because of its texture, flavor and price.

However, the article warns against consuming Vietnamese River Cobbler or Pangas, claiming, among others:

1. That Pangas is grown in the Mekong River of Vietnam, one of the most polluted in Asia, teeming with industrial and other wastes.

2. That it is frozen in contaminated water, and

3. It is injected with hormones derived from urine.

I am wary about the article, not knowing who wrote it, if it is really true and if there aren't any hidden agendas for it. Yet I feel compelled to share it with you as I featured River Cobbler in one of my posts and might have unintentionally exposed you to the supposed dangers of eating this fish.

Looking back, my husband and a few family members including myself have eaten substantial quantities of this fish on several, separate occasions but (luckily) nothing untoward happened to us.

As I said in my post, I found and bought the fish at the South Supermarket in Alabang. I don't know if they know of the origins of this fish or if they know of the issues surrounding it. Personally I am not inclined to buy or eat it again after reading the article. Better safe than sorry!

Jul 17, 2008

Lumpiang Shanghai ni Sis. Puring

My lola (Mama to me, Sis. Puring/Matandang Maganda/Mommy Pureza to everyone else) is largely responsible for igniting my passion for cooking. She is the family's original kitchenmaid -- she loves toiling in the kitchen and would cook for every possible reason or excuse. Even at a time when fastfood is the norm and catering is convenience, Mama would insist to cook everything for a family party. When she was younger, she even made desserts like Minatamis na Macapuno and Halayang Ube, on top of making 4-5 main courses!

One dish that's a staple in her party menu (and a frequent potluck party request to her) is this Lumpiang Shanghai. I used to sit and watch her mince the recados and then mix them all up. Then I'd wrap them for her on the eve of each party, enjoying our talks about anything under the sun. Now that she's based in NZ, I heard her Lumpiang Shanghai's been gracing many a Filipino family's dinner parties and is still the hit it was back here.


What's In It?

1/2 kg. pork pigue, ground finely
1 large onion, peeled and minced
1 small singkamas (turnip/jicama), peeled and minced
1 small carrot, peeled and minced
7-8 stalks kinchay (chinese parsley), washed and chopped finely
1 t salt
1 t ground black pepper
50 pcs. lumpia wrapper (small)
2 c cooking oil

Sealer: 2 t cornstarch dissolved in 1.5 t water

Kitchen Conjugations:

To make the filling: Combine all but the last two ingredients in a bowl. Set aside to let flavors meld.

Meantime, separate lumpia wrappers into individual pieces. Allow as little exposure to the air as possible to keep the wrappers from hardening and getting brittle. (Pile on a plate and cover with a slightly moist towel.)

To assemble lumpia: Lay one lumpia wrapper on a plate. Spoon one teaspoonful of the lumpia filing onto the center near the bottom edge of the wrapper. Fold this edge over the filling, then follow with both the right and left edges of the wrapper. Roll the lumpia and seal using the cornstarch mixture. Repeat until all the mixture has been wrapped and rolled.

Heat cooking oil in a deep pan or small wok over medium fire. (Oil should be hot but NOT smoking.) Deep fry the lumpia (about 6-7 pieces per batch) until golden brown and crisp.

Serve with sweet chili sauce or as is, Great with steamed rice, for cocktails or appetizer.

Jul 16, 2008

Bangus Steak / Bangus Bistek

While pregnant with Mika bangus (milkfish) was one of the things I always craved. I had it inihaw, sinigang, prito and of course, Filipino bistek style.

Many people I know do not like eating bangus because it's so fussy to eat, having lots of bones to pick. But did you know that for a small charge (P20.00) you can have your suki fish vendor debone your bangus? And of course boneless bangus is available in supermarkets, some of them already marinated/seasoned, some of them in fillets (belly and back). For this recipe I used back fillets bought from the South Supermarket. People say I am strange for liking the flesh better than the (more flavorful) belly, but hey, to each his own! :P


What's In It?
1 pack SeaKing Bangus Back Fillets, about 450g.
1/2 t salt
1 c cooking oil
1/3 c soy sauce
1/8 c calamansi juice (squeezed from 6-8 med.-sized calamansi)
1 1/2 c water
3-4 T sugar (I prefer brown/washed)
1 med. onion, peeled and sliced into rings
6 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
1 t ground black peppercorns

Kitchen Conjugations:
Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry bangus fillets until golden brown and a little crisp.

While waiting for bangus to fry, in another pan or wok, saute onions and garlic for 2 minutes or until onions become soft and translucent. Remove some of the onions from pan and set aside to use as garnish later.

Stir in sugar, peppercorns, soy sauce and water. Let boil and simmer for one minute. Pour in calamansi juice but DO NOT stir until after the mixture boils. Simmer for 3 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. (You may want it to be on the sweeter or more sour side.) Remove from heat and set aside.

Arrange cooked bangus in a semi-deep dish and pour soy sauce-calamansi mixture. Garnish with the onion rings and serve with hot, steaming rice.


Substitution notes:
1) You can always use bone-in bangus, bangus belly and other fish for this recipe. Tanigue, alumahan work just as well.
2) No fresh calamansi? Use 1/2 teaspoon Knorr Sinigang sa Calamansi mix. :)

Jul 15, 2008

Wine and Cheese

What's better than eating?

Eating and drinking.

What's better than eating and drinking?

Eating and drinking and chatting with friends.

Our good friend Mama Norms came for a visit one Sunday bearing this tray of cold cuts and cheese. All Mike had to do was whip out the wine and there we had it -- eating and drinking and chatting. (Although I wasn't drinking wine, but green tea. ) This was waaay before I got pregnant.

Now with work, two school-age boys and a 3-month old breastfed baby, I wonder when I can have an afternoon as leisurely as this again?

Jul 4, 2008

Inside Kitchen Conjugations

This afternoon while we were snacking at Cheesecake Etc., Food Magazine (or so I overheard) was doing a photoshoot of the --whatelse -- cheesecakes. As I pointed this out to my hubby, I said, "Yung ginagawa ko, ginagawa din nila," insinuating that staging and taking pictures of food is a normal thing. He said something like, "Dapat ganu'n din ang camera mo," insinuating how underhanded my Optio A10 was compared to the digital SLR the fotog was using, with a tripod to boot.

I said, "Di ko naman kayang bumili ng ganun," to which he replied, "Ibibili kita."
Sweet. :)

Anyway, the ongoing photo shoot got me thinking about how different food blogging is to food magazine writing.

Magazines are armed with editors, writers, researchers, photographers, the kitchen crew and the publication staff. Foodbloggers usually (I for one) do all the work -- the research, the shopping (for ingredients), the cooking/testing, food styling, taking of pictures, writing, editing and publishing.

Magazines have budgets for testing and re-testing and have assistants documenting and testing measurements and procedures. One-(wo)man foodblogging teams do it all in one-go (with little or nothing to spare for retesting), with measurements done by approximations (a sandok of this, a handful of that, a pinch of this, a dash or so of that). And so as I write the recipes for my posts I have to go over what I put in and what I did in my head and try to come up with the nearest approximations in terms of standard quantities. Thankfully so far no one has commented nor complained that their cooking from my recipes has come out salty or tasteless or inedible. :)

Magazines have the luxury of food styling and the ability to use even non-edible chemicals for the sake of making the food picture-pretty. My products need to be edible, palate-pleasing AND picture-pretty. Magazines have the luxury of long photo shoots; while I've held up countless lunches and dinners (at home and outside) taking shots of the food for my foodblog, I don't take longer than two minutes and sometimes settle for a not-so-pretty picture in the interest of feeding my already hungry family.

And because it's a one-woman team behind Kitchen Conjugations, life sometimes gets in the way and posts come far in between. (As is the case now.) And the biggest difference? You get the recipes (sometimes with a dash of humor and entertainment) virtually free. The cheapest food mag costs P50.00 I think.

So why do I keep at it? Gee, I don't know. Perhaps the need to share and connect? The need to glorify my creative spirit? Or just plain KSP? Hahaha.