Monthly Archives: October 2009

XOCOLAT!

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Did somebody once say that chocolate is cheaper than therapy and you don’t need an appointment?

 

 

Indeed, there is really something about chocolates that eases up the stress, discomforts and other aches of the daily grind.

 

 

It’s rich, creamy and heaven-perfect. It reminds me of the old adage, “In heaven, chocolates have no calories and are served as the main course”.

 

It was during one hot choco break when a life-changing eureka moment would happen between two friends, Pinky Ortiz and Valerie Lopez, while they sipped away what they thought was the best-tasting version of their favorite drink.

The setting was at Christian Escriba in lovely Barcelona, Spain. Friends Pinky and Val, enamoured by the great-tasting dark beverage they sampled, thought of  bringing home their experience back to the country. They struck a partnership with two more friends, Trish Malvar and Rina Avecilla, in 2004 to establish Xocolat, a chocolate-inspired restaurant that would soon be an important player in the highly-competitive restaurant scene of Manila.

In an interview with FOODIE at their Katipunan Ave. branch, Pinky intimated to us the inspiration behind Xocolat. “A journey to Barcelona (Spain) brought us to the doorstep of this curious pasteleria in Las Ramblas. It served the creamiest and yummiest cup of hot chocolate. That little cup of heaven is the blueprint of our legendary ‘taza de Xocolat’”.

 

Now considered a breakthrough in the local restaurant environment dominated by conservative-palated Pinoys, Xocolat is able to pull off  a menu that includes savory dishes with drizzles of chocolate! But who’s complaining? I can eat a pillowcase that’s chocolate coated!

The owners of Xocolat definitely get a kick out of seeing their loyal clients enjoying every bite and sip of their delights. They excitedly spoke about the “high” they get when a customer goes for seconds, and thirds, of that thick, dark and rich drink!

Pinky also shared with us their future dreams. “We see Xocolat as being recognized as a homegrown chocolate bar that that can compete with the global giants.” She adds that Xocolat’s vision is to someday dabble into more ambitious plans like setting up a Xocolat village, factory or a museum.

Pinky shared with FOODIE that, to date, they are still hurdling with the fact that coffee is still the default stress relaxant in the metro. “We are entering a coffee-dominated arena; so, we need to start creating a sustainable chocolate-drinking market,” she adds.

There is strong evidence that they will soon achieve their vision. The four branches that they’ve established so far have been enjoying continued patronage from a rather discriminating clientele. Who can say no to chocolates, anyway?

After all, it has been written somewhere that “On the eighth day, God created chocolates.”

Off to heaven now.

 

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If I win the lotto, I’m gonna buy an hacienda!

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Say Cheese!

Foodie drives all the way down south to experience the lethal combination of good food and nature tripping.

WE started clicking away with our cameras the moment we stepped down from the van.

Why, the place, Hacienda Macalauan in in Laguna, was every inch captivating and oozing with charm.

We were greeted by a refreshing breakfast of mozzarella sticks, a pitcher of chilled freshly-squeezed dalandan juice and their very own yogurt of different flavors, all locally grown.

Then we proceeded to check out the cow barn where fresh milk is sourced from.

We walked over to the main plant where they make all the cheeses that go to the market. Definitely some milk and cheese 101 for the FOODIE team.

Witnessing first hand how commercial milk and cheeses are processed, a dairy 101 of sorts for the FOODIE team, was one of the major highlights of the tour–and that alone, made the three-hour trip well worth it.

We scoured the Hacienda some more and caught a majestic view of the place. The luscious landscape with the steady gurgling of the water stream nearby just blew us away.

 Milk and cheese plus a nice nature tripping experience equaled some good memories of the hacienda. Moo!

I’ve made up my mind, if ever I win the lotto someday, I’m gonna buy out this Hacienda:)

Baked Hoisin Ribs

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Hoisin sauce  is the equivalent of America’s barbeque sauce in Chinese cooking. Its acceptably sweet and sometimes pungent characteristics make it a favorite ingredient in a lot of Asian dishes. Hoisin is powered by a number of spices specifically some fermented soy, garlic, vinegar, and usually chilis and sweetener.

Today, I baked some ribs with some hoisin marinade. I loved how the hoisin coated the fall-off-the-bones ribs quite perfectly. Ahh, this one is delightfully one of the best hoisin dishes you should try and sample.

Okay, you will need to pressure cook your ribs before you bake it. I prefer tenderizing meats first before I submit them into the oven. I want to be able to control the smokiness, degree of caramelization of the sugar in the sauce and the doneness of the meat. You don’t want to burn your marinade and the meat way before the meat gets done!

Anyway, my 1/2 kilo sliced pork ribs (the part you use for lechon kawali) went to the pressure cooker. Pressure cooked it for 25 minutes. Remember, the timing for the pressure cooker ONLY begins when the whistle begins to make noise NOT when you seal the lid.

When done, remove meat from water, season with salt and pepper  and generously lather and baste with hoisin sauce. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Meantime, preheat oven to 400 c. Bake for 25 minutes. Serve hot!

 

Fish and Oysters

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Parmsan-crusted lapu-lapu fillet with garlic-mayo dip

Parmesan-crusted lapu-lapu fillet with garlic-mayo dip

 Wet markets have always awed me. The sight of freshly-delivered fishes jumping in ‘balde’ -fresh water majorly amuses me. The seafoods and veggies– fresh and obviously spelling quality never fail to get my attention.

A few days ago, my mom rang me up to ask what I wanted from Farmer’s Market. Almost instantly and instinctly, I pleaded for fish and oysters. Ahh, who needs to go outside the city for some fresh catch? It’s right in Cubao!

And so, the moment I got hold of them, the cooking began. The lunch ‘project’? Some parmesan-crusted lapu-lapu fillets!

 

Ready to be deep fried

Ready to be deep fried

I sliced two whole fillets of lapu-lapu (finger size) and seasoned them with salt and pepper. 

In a bowl, I beat 1 egg and mixed in a tablespoon of flour to make a batter.

Dipped the fish fingers one by one onto the batter then coated them with Japanese breadcrumbs mixture (1 and 1/2 cup Japanese breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and  1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper and mixed everything together. Then I was ready to deep fry.

Ahh, how I devoured the crunchy crust and moist flesh inside!

 The fish went with some garlic-mayo dip. I mixed 1/2 cup mayo with 3 cloves of minced garlic and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, seasoned with salt and pepper too!

Hot from the oven!The second dish was made up of creamy cheese and oysters. Ahh, this was the bomb. I boiled 1 and 1/2 kilos of oysters until shells opened. Them I arranged the oysters on a baking plate, then topped each with a pinch of garlic, 1/4 teaspoon butter and 1 spoonfull of quick-melting cheese. Baked for 15-20 minutes at 275 c. Now, how easy was that?
Don’t forget to squeeze in some swig of lemon before eating!
Baked cheesy oysters

Baked cheesy oysters

 

 

 

 

 

Tuna Pesto Wrap

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I saw a pack of tortillas sitting on a lonely shelf at Rustan’s yesterday when Jake and I did the grocery. I just knew I had to grab it for some warm, comforting  and delish “blank-blank” wrap, well, I impulsively got it without any exact intent as to what I wanted to do with it.

A lightbulb moment happened today and I was able to fill in the  “blank blank”. I felt like making some tuna pesto combo that I randomly teamed up with some great cheddar cheese and crunchy lettuce plus a number of spices.

Sarap!

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Okay, how to do it:

2 cans tuna (solid in brine or hot and spicy)

1 cup mayo

2 tbsps mustard

3 tbsps pesto (store bought or try this)

1 medium-sized onion, minced

1/4 cup cucumber, chopped

1/4 cup celery, chopped (optional)

2 pcs romaine lettuce leaves

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

salt and pepper to taste

6 pcs tortillas

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1. Drain tuna from all the liquid. To take off the ‘lansa’ factor, soak tuna chunks in 3 cups drinking water and drain.

2. Mix tuna, onion, cucumber, celery, mayo, cheese and mustard together. Season with salt and pepper.

3. On a piece of a heated/grilled tortilla bread, put lettuce and tuna spread and put some pesto on top. Fold two sides of tortilla towards the center. Serve while pita is warm.

NOTE: Tortillas can be heated through a teflon pan or a griller. Heating time should only be a minute or less to maintain its softness.

Beef With Mushroom Gravy Sauce

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The last few weeks saw me mostly biting on Chicken. I planned to cut the pattern and  decided to whip up some beef dish that used my fave part, top sirloin.

Top sirloin should be the tender part as opposed to the bottom sirloin. And equally yummy was the gravy that went with the beef. I love, love, love homemade gravy. It’s got all the beefy goodness that makes gravies the most sought-after sauce next to ketchup.

Believe it or not, this dish is one of the easiest dishes to make. Easy, yeah, EASY as in E-A-S-Y!!!

Okay, the ingredients: 1/2 kilo top sirloin, 1 minced onion, 4 cloves of chopped garlic, salt and pepper.

For the gravy, you will need: 1/2 cup butter, 2 cups beef stock, 3 tbsps flour and 1 big can of sliced button mushrooms.

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Okay how to do it:

Saute onion and garlic. Add beef, season with salt and pepper to taste and cover with water. Add water as needed until meat is very tender. And I mean T-E-N-D-E-R!

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Okay, this is the deal with sirloin. It’s very tender if you stir fry it for a few minutes but it gets hard and rubbery when you let it fry and simmer a bit longer than a few minutes.

But hey…

If you let it cook some more, as in for another hour, it will soften again with doneness a guarantee. That I like as opposed to cooking it a bit rare. I like the beef staying on for quite sometime in the pan to make the sauce truly beefy!

Okay, once th beef is done, take out the meat leaving juices and oil still in the pan. Reduce oil when there’s too much to avoid curdling. Some remaining 1/4 cup of oil won’t hurt.

Using the same pan, mix in butter, 1 cup beef stock and flour. Mix flour well until sauce is free of lumps. Add more flour in case you want your sauce thicker.

Stir constantly until sauce is thick enough for you. Be sure to thoroughly scrape all beef residues stuck on the pan. The wealth of flavor is there!

Slowly pour in the remaining stock. Adjust consistency according to your preference by adding or minimizing pouring of beef stock.

Finally, throw back beef onto the pan. Mix in chopped mushrooms. Simmer for five more minutes. Serve hot.

Hoisin Balls

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Very recently, I discovered how to make meatballs that are consitently tender and  juicy even long after you’ve cooked and stored them in the ref for reheating.  Culinary purists might just crucify me for this unconventional method but hey, anything to eat good food, right?

Traditionally, meatballs are either deep or stir fried before they are mixed in with certain sauces and are left to simmer some more. While it yields a slightly crunchy texture in the outside and soft in the inside, it easily stiffens in a matter of minutes making it dry, hard and not too pleasurable to eat anymore.

Okay fine, there are other factors that make these balls “hard” (ex. too much egg, too much flour, etc.) But I discovered, it’s really the manner of cooking that makes it so.

Okay, what did I do recently? I made some Hoisin Chicken Balls. The meatballs, obviously, were the rockstars of this dish. I used half a kilo of ground chicken meat, seasoned it with salt and pepper, 1 minced onion, 4 cloves of minced garlic and mixed in 4 tablespoons of flour and mixed all ingredients together.

THERE. No egg, no crumbled bread, no too much flour. You just need the chicken meat and the potential burst of its juices with the aide of some basic spices. I  formed them into balls. Size? Your choice. Wanted mine mini’s so I balled them up this way:

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Then I boiled water and boiled the balls! Wee! Boiled them for about fifteen minutes. Drained and set aside.

The balls came out tender, juicy and very meaty.

In a separate pan, I put about 1/4 cup oil, sauted 1 large chopped onion and about 1/2 cup hoisin sauce. Then threw in the meatballs in the pan until all balls were well coated. THERE. Shockingly easy, right? Okay, the secret is out. The taste and texture of the balls were consistent from the moment it got cooked upto the next meal when I needed to reheat them. Yay!

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