Monday, August 29, 2011

Kimchi Stew - Perfect for Rainy Days

Kimchi Stew.  The words alone can warm me up and fire up my salivary glands to overdrive.

A Korean lady who owns a grocery taught me this recipe.  It's a good thing I did not quite understand her - I mixed up her versions of Kimchi Soup AND Miso Soup and came up with spectacular results.  When I was telling her what I did, she was shaking her head - apparently I committed some sort of Korean Culinary boo-boo.

I continued making this mistake of adding miso paste to kimchi stew, since I liked the taste. Eventually, I found recipes on the net that make use of this combination, along with other flavorings such as chili powder for added fire, soy sauce, onions, and sesame oil.

I keep mine simple, and you can glean the ingredients from the picture above.

Kimchi, plus some kimchi juice from the jar, chopped to bite size portions
Wakame (dried Japanese seaweed)
Miso paste (about a heaping teaspoon per serving)
Soba noodles

That's basically it.  I make it in a Korean cooking vessel which I bought very cheaply.  It needs to be placed on a trivet, since it's quite unstable over my gas range.

Basically boil everything and you're done!  I sometimes break an egg during the last few minutes of simmering the stew.  Another one of my not-much-cooking recipes.

It's amazing how cuisines go together at one point as our lives intersect with that of other cultures.  One thing I learned from an Italian chef is to add a dab of butter after reheating left over spaghetti with sauce - it adds an element of richness and makes everything taste fresh.

I found exactly the same tip in this soup, in this version!  I must try that.

And the post that started my craving for Kimchi Soup - thank you, Shinshine!


Lodge Cast Iron Trivet, and other Lodge Cast Iron Pans
     - Living Well, Podium, Ortigas, Manila

Friday, August 19, 2011

Quick Pasta

There are times when I crave for something savory, something fast, and something that does not include a lot of prep work.  Well, this pasta dish is far from being the perfect solution - it calls for leftovers in the fridge.  I usually have a pot of pasta sauce, ready for tossing into noodles when the line-up for dinner is not in keeping with my food preferences.

Tuna cooked in tomato sauce is a favorite.  But after the third reincarnation, it does tend to get a tad bit old.

For this version, I freshened it up a bit with cherry tomatoes and lots of basil.

Heat up olive oil in a pan, drop the cherry tomatoes to soften them, and squash them to release the juice.  Better yet, cut them into two - pressing on them might release a shot of wayward hot tomato sauce.  Add leftover sauce, and a handful of chopped fresh basil.  In the absence of leftover sauce, a packet of Del Monte spaghetti sauce will do in a pinch - the flavors are already balanced and does not need much tweaking.  I also added a generous splash of white wine.

It helps if you have basil ready for harvesting in the garden.  The parent plant has self-sown already, and these are the second generation plants.  

Again, I always have a container of cooked spaghetti noodles - I make sure there are plenty of leftovers, separate from the sauce, so I can make the exact dish that I want for that day, be it plain pesto, Aglio y Olio, or red sauce.

Drop the noodles, cover to heat it all up and blend the flavors - and serve.  Definitely does not taste like leftovers.

*** Note:  No pasta?  no problem.   This is just as good served over hot rice.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Excelling in the Little Things...

I'm reminded that the most significant things sometimes do not come in broad sweeps and grand gestures.  In my line of work, I meet a varied group of people with different complaints.  I sometimes get surprised to get feedback on what people valued most.  Not for the what seems to me as the most significant - the dramatic saves, the successful resuscitation.

No, not those...

It's in the little things that I thought were trivial.  Those were apparently what matters to people.  They tell me that they appreciate it if someone takes time to listen to them.  It comforts and reassures them.  Occasionally, they say that one's presence is enough to make them feel better.

And I feel guilty since during those moments, from head up, I look pleasant, agreeable, smiling.  Underneath the table, my hands are clenched and I am tying my writing pad into knots.

Little things, not grand gestures.

Like Madame Valentina Lisitsa.  This is her fourth encore.  After playing Rachmaninoff powerhouse pieces, she settles down and starts playing the first bars of Fur Elise.  The audience is amused, and a wave of soft laughter spreads.  This, after all, is a piece played by five-year-olds at piano recitals.  She continues playing, her fingers lightly caressing the keys while the audience sits in rapt silence.  After her performance, appreciative applause rings out.

It takes an artist to make something simple sound profound and meaningful - and this is exactly what she did.

Brava, Ms. Lisitsa!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Invertebrate Anatomy

We used to have courses like that back in pre-med.  It involves studying snails, slugs, and other lower life forms - not the most fascinating topic in the world.

However, I encounter it with much more interest nowadays.  

One of my more worthwhile impulse buys was an order for ornamental aquarium shrimps.  Yup, that's right, you can buy pretty much anything you want on the net nowadays.

And these babies are quite...  industrious.  They've multiplied to hundreds in my ponds, fishbowls, and basins.  At 40 pesos per shrimp, they probably are the world's most expensive bagoong (fermented shrimp paste).

A side note:  Bagoong is a Filipino condiment with cousins in China, Thailand, Burma, and Indonesia.  It's a heady, pungent, briny, umami-filled (I should add "stinky") ingredient that is much beloved in this part of Asia.

Well, these shrimps are fastidious cleaners.  I dump my algae-encrusted plants in there, and viola, just like the Jacques, the cleaner shrimp in "Finding Nemo," by the next day, the plants are spotless and pristine.

They're fun critters - one of my best investments ever!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


The seeds of Bixa orellana is commonly used as a food coloring in Asian cuisine.  It's more popularly known as Achuete (Atsuete) or Annato seeds.

Marketmanila, my favorite food blog, has entries on Atchuete in the following links:

... As an ingredient in Pancit Luglug

... and in Kare-kare (Oxtail Stew in Peanut Sauce) as well.

However, people were surprised to see it in some of the flower arrangements my mom brings to the shop.  And why not - the seedpods are a vibrant color of red. It adds an interesting texture and a splash of color.

It goes well with orchid blooms and variegated foliage.

... and as an added benefit, long after the orchids have dried up, you can still put the dried seeds of the Achuete to good use, in Annato Oil.  Apparently it's commonly used in Carribean cuisine.  Recipe here:

"Achiote Oil"

And where to use it?

Deeny blogs about an interesting recipe for Chicken and Yellow Rice.  The picture on her page is positively mouthwatering.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fun Things to Do with Odds and Ends in the Refrigerator

I've written a previous entry on how easy it is to create a fresh-tasting Salad with miscellaneous items in the refrigerator over here.  

Sometimes, when I'm at the dining table already and something needs jazzing up - I turn to an array of flavor boosters.  Favorites, of course, are olives, capers... Filipino pickles (achara).  Spices and spicy food - small fiery chilies, kimchi.  I also make my own flavored vinegars, usually with my favorite herb - basil, of course.  

Recently, we've taken to dicing more raw mangoes that we can finish in a meal - so off it goes in a covered bowl, with a sprinkling of sugar and salt.  The mangoes eventually lends some of its juices to make a very flavorful pickling solution.

Here are the mangoes, added to various odds and ends in the ref.

With Broccoli and Dragon Fruit:

... and with tomatoes, basil, and fried dried anchovies.  

These are welcome additions to my pared-down diet - it adds a lot of volume and flavor to my meal - hence filling me up without adding a lot of calories.

Makes a most satisfying crunch, too!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Update on Basil Cuttings

I haven't done much gardening lately, on account of a little health snag.  Most of my green work happened inside the house.  These are the cuttings that I left out to root 5 days ago.

Bringing Fresh Herbs in the Kitchen

Some of the cuttings have good root development already.  These are ready to be potted up soon.  I don't let it stay too long in water - it's a sterile medium with no nutrients whatsoever, and eventually, the cuttings lose a bit of their vigor of kept too long in water.

I have observed that basil grown from cuttings don't grow up as robust as seed-grown plants.  It's still a good way to propagate a particular variety, though  - and I can always harvest the dried seeds when these cuttings mature and eventually produce flowers.

Basil is something I must have perennially - and I'm thankful that we are in an area where spring is eternal.  Ok, a bit of an exaggeration - but we can grow these things year-round, even in scorching summer - and that's good enough for me.

Quick and Easy Dinner - Tuna, Tomato, and Basil Sandwich

I came home late last night, and I wanted something fast, easy, and, well, mildly nutritious.  Times like these call for Tuna Sandwich.  Since I make the spread myself, I control how much mayo I put in.  I also change up the flavors once in a while - it might contain a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, or, a particular favorite of mine - sun-dried tomato pesto.

For this sandwich, I piled it up high with slices of tomatoes, and a generous amount of chopped basil.  It would have been nice to sear this on a cast-iron pan - but I was too hungry, and it's just as good eaten over plain un-toasted white bread.

I didn't bother with other added flavors this time - this trio - tuna/tomato/basil - is perfect as it is.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Wake-up Videos

There are times when I don't want to wake up to the sounds of Death Metal.  I'd rather be eased gently into the day.

And this is what I listen to, when I don't want to be jarred awake.

Janet Jackson's Runaway:
The girl has skillz.  She can sing and do that amazing choreography at the same time. At best, I can only hum tunelessly while tapping my foot. This song never gets old.

Now, if I am not sure if I want to get up or go back to sleep, I listen to this:
The Waters of March, by Elis Regina and Tom Jobim. And suddenly, I couldn't care less about whatever bugs me at the moment.

"These are waters of March closing the summer;  it's the promise of life in your heart."

I have no idea what it means, but it sounds really deep, and it is most definitely reassuring.

Good day everyone!

And Happy Father's Day, Papa!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sleepy Time Videos on YouTube

When sleep does not fall gently, like a gossamer veil across conscious thought, and instead, I am reduced to tossing and turning and itching to log on to eBay again ... I turn to YouTube.

There are a number of good videos out there;  some are from beloved classics - gems from long ago that have not lost their luster.

A favorite of mine is Clair de Lune.  It is unobtrusive - it weaves and out of your senses as you drift off to slumberland.  It flows, caressing your tired mind and allows you to let go of whatever bothers you at the moment.

David Oistrakh does Clair de Lune beautifully.  Not achingly sentimental and not too showy.  I like it when artists perform this as a gentle lullaby.

Now, if you want a lush video to go with that, this is a deleted scene from Disney's Fantasia.  It's a pity this wasn't included in the final cut.  Perhaps Disney thought the kids will be bored at this type of artistry.  Still, it's quite enchanting.

and finally, lest anyone gets Clairdelunitis, let's have a spot of Yoyo Ma's "The Swan".  It's a perfect continuation of the mood evoked by Clair de Lune.

Well, it's too early in the day to say this ... but good night y'all!