Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sunflower Seeds Pesto with Penne

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Pesto sauce has been on my mind lately ever since I realized that basil leaves are very cheap in our local grocery stores here in the city. One problem is the lack of walnuts or even more importantly, pine nuts, a crucial ingredient in making pesto. As an alternative, I looked around for recipes of pesto sauces using sunflower seeds and I was surprised that it was actually not a far off idea. Thus, I decided to go ahead and give it a go to use up all of my basil leaves. I also splurged a bit and used part of the required olive oil and compensated with white truffle oil. The resulting pasta dish is quite a simple dish yet tasty and might I add, healthy.

Sunflower Seeds Pesto with Penne

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
2 cups basil leaves
2 tbsp roasted sunflower
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup Pecorino Romano,
1/4 cup extra virgin olive
1/4 cup white truffle oil
1 lb dried penne
salt and pepper

1. Cook penne as per
    packet instructions.

2. In a mortar, grind the basil leaves with a pinch of salt. Process with 
    the pestle until ground coarsely. You may have to do this in batches.

3. Add the garlic and sunflower seeds and process with the pestle. Add
    the olive oil gradually until a paste is formed.

4. Add the grated cheese and process into the mix. Cover with clingfilm
    until the pasta is cooked to al dente.

5. Once the pasta is ready, drain and toss with the pesto paste. Add the
    truffle oil and check the seasoning with salt and pepper.

6. Top with more grated cheese if desired and drizzle with more truffle
    oil before serving.

Simple Bread Pudding

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
My cousin requested that I make bread pudding using the extra white bread she bought for cheap as a snack for the kids at home. Given my usual rich recipes for bread pudding, I decided to create a simple version which will be good enough to eat and serve for special occasions but with minimal effort. I had to search a fairly basic recipe of bread pudding and change it around to suit my needs. An addition that will work well with my nephew are semisweet chocolate chips. The pudding is baked in a baine marie so it cooks a bit longer but the texture you get is velvety and smooth, almost like a flan. 

Simple Bread Pudding

4 cups white bread, diced
1 14-oz condensed milk
2 12-oz evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 eggs
1/4 cup margarine, melted and cooled

1. Preheat oven at 300°F and line a 9x13 baking pan with aluminum foil. 

2. In a large bowl, mix the milks with the eggs, cinnamon, and vanilla. 

3. Add the cubed bread into the milk mixture and stir. Add the chocolate 
    chips and melted margarine and stir until just mixed. 

4. Pour the pudding into the prepared pan and bake in a water bath for 
    an hour. 

5. Serve the pudding warm topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Thai Chicken with Basil Leaves

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This is a chicken dish I concocted out of necessity again. I had a bunch of basil leaves and as much as I would like to make pesto sauce, there is nowhere for me to get walnuts moreso pine nuts. There is a sunflower version of the pesto sauce so I might actually give that one a go later this week. This dish I found uses basil leaves with chicken marinated in an Asian sauce. The dish is quite simple so I'm not hesitant to give it a try. I'm a bit worried about the use of red chiles being a Thai dish so I'm using some sweet peppers instead. It uses a good amount of basil leaves so make sure you have enough. I also ended up cooking it a bit longer so it is more of a braised dish than stir fried. It was still good, healthy and quick.

Thai Chicken with Basil - Adapted*

1-2 lbs chicken breasts, skinned and diced into 1-inch cubes
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp water
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
2 sweet peppers, julienned
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cup basil leaves

1. In a bowl, marinate the chicken in the soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and
    water. Set aside for 30 minutes.

2. Heat a wok or a large pan and saute the garlic and onions. Season with salt
    and pepper. Add the sweet peppers and cook for another minute.

3. Add the chicken pieces and cook until browned and almost done. Pour the
    marinade sauce and cook until thickened. Add a cup of the basil leaves
    and stir well.

4. Serve and garnish with the remaining basil leaves.

*Thai Chicken and Basil recipe, Food and Wine.

Beef Pares

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I'm very excited to make this dish since this is one of my favorites when I was a student in college. Considered a street food in Manila, we did not care and even drove to our favorite Pares House eating alongside jeepney and tricycle drivers just to have our fix of this delicious beef dish. A typical Manilena food, I was unfamiliar with it but in a flash fell in love with it too after my first bite. One other good thing about it is how cheap it was which was a good thing. Even after transitioning from college student to College Instructor, we still came back to our Pares House whenever we had the chance. Good and cheap eats were our weakness back then and come to think of it, it still applies today. 

The dish is usually cooked for hours and hours using cheaper cuts of beef. As you may notice with Filipino dishes, the cheaper cuts are always cooked in one way or another to avoid waste. In the case of my pares however, I'm using a relatively tough but leaner cut of beef, the brisket. Since it will undergo a slow cooking process (or in this case, a short one in a pressure cooker), this cut of beef is the perfect choice. It has just the right amount of fat to not render the dish overly unhealthy but rather, just perfect on both nutrition and taste. 

One word of warning, however. The dish uses star anise which has a licorice flavor to it in addition to being highly aromatic. So be forewarned that your house may smell of this spice for a few days, something a good airing of your kitchen can take care of in a flash. Also, serve this dish a bit on the soupy side and sprinkle with roasted garlic and a sprinkling of green onions over a bed of hot steamed rice. I'm salivating already!

Beef Pares

2-3 lbs beef brisket, diced in 1-inch cubes
1 onion diced
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp ginger, minced finely
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
6-8 cup beef broth
4 pieces star anise
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup roasted garlic
5-6 green onions, diced
salt and pepper

1. In a deep pot, heat the oil at medium heat and add the ginger, garlic and 
    onions. Season with salt and pepper and saute until softened for about 2 

2. Add the beef and season with salt and pepper. Cook until slightly browned 
    before adding the soy sauce and oyster sauce. Stir and mix and cook for 
    another 2-3 minutes. 

3. Add the broth and bring the pot to a boil. Once boiling, add the sugar and 
    star anise and lower the heat to medium low. Simmer for about 2 hours 
    until the beef is very tender. Keep adding water if necessary.

4. If using a pressure cooker, cook for about 30-40 minutes and check if the 
    beef is tender. Add more water if necessary.

5. Check for flavor and serve hot with a sprinkling of roasted garlic and diced 
    green onions.

Carribean Pork Casserole

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Pork is the order for the day. On my Dad's big day last weekend, I made a chicken dish for him so another meat dish was in order. Given that I had very little time to prepare both dishes, I opted for a pork casserole dish since it will cook faster and I don't have to stress too much about having to bring the whole pot on the beach where we were heading for the day. Since my boxes finally came, I was able to sift through the chaos that is my strewn about personal effects, and found a good recipe on one of my cookbooks. I had to make a few slight changes since being a casserole dish, it means that the final part of the cooking process is done in the oven. I opted to cook it on the stove top to save me the trouble of having to deal with both a stove and an oven. All in all, the dish was delicious.

Carribean Pork Casserole - Adapted*

2-3 lbs pork butt, cubed
3 tbsp ginger, peeled and minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large red or green bell pepper, large dice
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 16-oz can pineapple chunks, with the juice
3 cups broth
4 tbsp vegetable oil
4 green onions, cut in two-inch lengths

1. In a large pot, heat the oil at medium heat. Fry the sweet potatoes on all
    sides without cooking them completely. Drain on paper towels and set

2. Fry the pork in the same pot until all sides are browned. Set aside.

3. Add the ginger and the thyme on the same pot and cook for two minutes.
    Return the pork into the pot and mix well. Add the cinnamon, paprika,
    and nutmeg. Mix well.

4. Add the soy and Worcesteshire sauces and season with salt and pepper.
    Add the broth and bring to a boil.

5. Cover the pot and lower the heat to medium low and simmer the pork for
    30 minutes.

6. Add the sweet potatoes and the pineapple juice and cook uncovered until
    the sweet potatoes are cooked through. Add water if necessary. There
    should be enough sauce to coat both the meat and the vegetables.

7. Add the peppers and pineapple chunks and cook until the peppers are
    tender but still crisp. Check for flavor and add the green onions just
    before serving.

*Westmoreland, Susan: Editor, Good Housekeeping Step-by-Step Main Dishes, Hearst Books, New York:1997.  

My Mother's Chicken Macaroni Salad

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I have been trying to think of something to cook lately and one dish that came to mind is chicken macaroni salad. When we had a family gathering last weekend, my cousins made all the food and although the food they made was good, I'm very partial to how my Mom made macaroni salad. My thought process however was craving chicken macaroni salad. What's interesting is that when my Mom made chicken macaroni salad, it is essentially her regular macaroni salad with the addition of flaked cooked chicken. My Mom's regular macaroni salad has fruit cocktail added to sweeten this carbohydrate-loaded dessert and she found no reason to change it when the chicken version became the sensation in the late 80s.

Every Christmas, we make two kinds of dessert salads. The one that is totally required is the Buko Fruit Salad (Young Coconut Fruit Salad) which is my Dad's favorite. Any changes to this dish was made to make it less sweet which actually works well for our family who has a history of diabetes. The second salad is the macaroni salad and as I got older, chicken macaroni salad although these two have been trading places depending on our mood or budget that particular year.

As I tried to compare recipes online for chicken macaroni salad, it seems that majority only use canned pineapples. However, every thought (or maybe my conscience) in me is pushing for my Mom's version and that is what I'm presenting here. If the thought of fruit cocktail in a savory salad dish freaks you out, feel free to change it out with more canned pineapples. I have also upped the nutrient factor by the addition of celery and carrots which is a new concept for some of our family recipe.

My Mother's Chicken Macaroni Salad

2 lbs elbow macaroni, cooked as directed
2 30-oz can fruit cocktail, drained
1 30-oz can pineapple slices,drained
1 cup raisins, sultanas or golden raisins
1 cup carrots, finely diced
1 cup celery, finely diced
1/3 cup white onion, finely minced
3 cups mayonnaise
2 cups heavy cream
1 can condensed milk
1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
4 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
2 cup cheddar cheese, finely diced
4 cups flaked cooked chicken ( 2 lbs uncooked chicken breast)
onion, quartered
2 bay leaves
2 celery stalks, sliced into 2-inch lengths
1 carrot, sliced in half

1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook the chicken in enough water to
    totally submerge them. Add the bay leaves, the quartered onion, and
    sliced carrots and celery and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil
    and cook until the chicken is fully cooked. Make sure you season it well.

2. Once the chicken is cooked, let cool and flake into smaller pieces
    discarding the bones and skin. Set aside.

3. Cook the macaroni as per packet instructions. Once al dente, drain and
    rinse with water. Set aside in a large bowl until slightly cooled.

4. Add the fruit cocktail, pineapple, chopped onions, carrots and celery,
    sweet pickle relish and raisins. Toss lightly.

5. Add the lemon juice, mayonnaise, heavy cream and condensed milk and
    mix until the macaroni is fully dressed.

6. Add the chicken, and cheese and toss until just mixed. Check for flavor
    and adjust with salt and pepper. Cool in the fridge until ready to serve.

Lumpia Liit (Small Spring Roll)

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Yet again, another lumpia or spring roll recipe and this one is the simplest version there ever was. I'm not sure about the name but since this is an adapted recipe, who am I to question it? Served to an International crowd in Paris is the description for this little delight. As it is, this is one tasty dish and that is all that matters to me. 

I've made a few changes to the recipe not because there was anything wrong with it but because of allergy issues. I've replaced the ground shrimp with ground pork which originally is in a 50:50 ratio. Water chestnuts can also be easily replaced with jicama or "singkamas" in the local dialect, although most grocery stores in the US now carry canned water chestnuts. Just keep one thing in mind: you want these to be bite-sized so grab the smallest lumpia wrapper or if you are using a frozen spring roll, cut in half. 

Lumpia Liit (Small Spring Roll) - Adapted*

2 lbs ground pork
4 cups jicama, grated
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
salt and pepper
20-30 spring roll wrappers, small

1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Add just enough salt until the flavor 
    is right. Season with pepper. 

2. Take a tablespoon of the filling and wrap in the spring roll wrappers. Seal 
    the edges with water. Make sure to keep them as small as possible.

3. Heat the oil at medium heat in a deep pan. Fry the rolls until golden 
    brown. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

*Chikiamco, Norma: Editor, The Best of Food Magazine, ABS-CBN Publishing, Inc., Quezon City, 2002. 

Chicken Osso Bucco Style

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Osso Bucco is an Italian dish that have eluded me for quite some time. The cut of veal needed for this dish is either unavailable or pretty expensive. Not a good combination in my books. I had to settle for something more affordable and equally delicious which is the chicken version. The authentic Osso Bucco uses the classic Milanese method of first braising the meat with aromatic vegetables and picking them up later with a last-minute sprinkling of lemon zest, parsley and garlic. In this version, chicken is used which not only saves you time but also holds the flavor quite well. The dish reminds me a bit of another classic Italian dish, the Chicken Cacciatore. 

Chicken Osso Buco Style

2-3 lbs chicken pieces
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 medium carrots, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
3 tbsp olive oil
1 16-oz pureed tomato, canned
1 cup chicken broth
Basil leaves and lemon zest, for garnish

1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Fry the chicken pieces until 
    browned. Season with salt. Set aside.

2. Add the celery, carrots, garlic and onions in the same pan and cook until 
    softened. Season with salt and pepper. 

3. Add the herbs and cook for a minute. Add the tomato puree and the broth
    and bring to a boil.

4. Return the chicken pieces and lower the heat to medium low and cook to 
    a simmer for 30 minutes. 

5. When chicken is done, check for flavor and garnish with a sprinkling of the 
    lemon zest and pieces of basil leaves.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Kadios, Baboy and Langka

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Kadios (pigeon pea), Baboy (pork) and Langka (jackfruit) or KBL is a well-loved Ilonggo dish and is one of the staples of our summer Sunday dinners growing up. When my grandmother on my Mom's side was in her 70s, she tilled the land next to our house and every summer, pigeon pea is one of her crops due to the fact that this pea variety is commonly grown in her hometown of Miag-ao (the same place where I now work). As one of the younger grandkids, we get the honor to harvest the pods and shuck the peas out of their pods. This was a fun activity and by the end of the afternoon, your fingers have already turned purple as well as your tongues from sneaking a few morsels of the fresh peas every now and then. 

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The peas are smallish in size and range from a mottled purple/green mosaic to a deep purple black color. The ripe ones are the darkest in color which also means the stew you make from it turns a dark purple. The most common combination for the stew is how it obtained its now infamous name. The pork used to make this stew is of the unhealthy variety. The more fat, the better. Of course, you can go a bit healthier but bear in mind that most of the flavor comes from the fatty pieces of pork so you have two choices: first is to use a couple of fatty pieces of pork which you can later remove when you are ready to serve. A second option is to use bone in meat to add more flavor to the broth. 

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKtchen blogs
The third component is probably the hardest one to find in the US. Kadios by themselves are hard to find but black beans make a good substitute. Jackfruit on the other hand is a do or die component of the dish. When I was still living in the US in the city of Atlanta, canned young jackfruit were sold in oriental stores for about $1.50. Take note that ripe jackfruit are also sold in bottles as strands of the now yellow-colored ripe jackfruit flesh. However, you don't want these ripe flesh for this dish. You want the unripe fruit because when young, the flesh has a firm texture and is great for stews and can be cooked as a vegetable. When ripe, the bland flavor of the flesh have turned very sweet and are best eaten as a fruit or made into a marmalade. Personally, I like to eat the ripe fruit straight from the tree which you can easily tell when ripe from the pungent odor that emanates from it. To keep the bugs out, the fruit is wrapped in a sack and allowed to grow to its full size until mature. 

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I have been craving for this dish ever since I visited California back in 2006. I was informed they had kadios in their Filipino stores. Unfortunately, they always disappear from the shelves so I went home empty handed that time. Having issues with gout lately made me forsake this dish in the realms of "How I wish I can eat that" category except that my Dad especially asked for it this weekend. Since the peas were out of season in our city, I had to settle for dried ones so a cup of dried pigeon peas when cooked in water gave about 4 cups of perfectly cooked peas. I also had the first batch of cooking liquid discarded to get rid of all the uric acid to ensure that my gout does not flare up after eating this dish. As you can see, I cooked the stew the old fashioned way that would make my Mom proud. 

Kadios, Baboy and Langka

3 lbs pork pieces, with skin, bones and fat on
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 stalk lemongrass, tied in a bundle
2 lbs young jackfruit, sliced
1 cup dried kadios, cooked
8-10 cups beef broth
4 tbsp fish sauce (optional)
salt and pepper
3 tbsp vegetable oil

1. Cook the pigeon peas in a large pot with enough water over medium heat 
    until soft when pressed between the fingers. Add more water whenever 
    necessary. Set aside. 

2. In another large pot, heat the oil and saute the garlic and onion until 
    softened. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the pork and saute until slightly browned. Season with salt and pepper.
    Add the lemon grass and mix in with the meat.

4. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 
    40 minutes. 

5. Check for flavor and season with the fish sauce if using or salt. Add the 
    cooked pigeon peas with the cooking liquid and simmer for another 30 

6. Add the jackfruit and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Check for 
    flavor and serve with steamed rice.