27 January 2008

Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin, Coriander and Chili

Roasted Cauliflower (with title)
Now I present a recipe that is friendly in so many ways. First of all, it's a total no-brainer. Toss and heat. Second, it tastes unbelievably good (and not just "for the amount of work you put into it"-- it is really addictive). Third, it's nutritionally but not calorically dense. "Win-win-win," as Michael Scott might say. Eating a half-kilogram head of raw cauliflower (though I don't recommend that, as you deserve better) comes down to consuming only about 8% of your total carbohydrate requirements for the day, half your dietary fiber requirement, none of the fat, and close to 400% of your Vitamin C requirement (though it's too bad some of it gets cooked away). Bottom line- it's all good for you. Though you will not eat that much cauliflower by sharing this dish, I almost did finish it all by myself, were I not eating something else on the side.

I recommend this a "hundred-million percent" (is it obvious I've been following American Idol?) as the perfect substitute for roasted potatoes or fries in any such application. In fact, fuck the word "substitute," this dish deserves to be a superstar. (A "Vegetable Idol"? Okay, I'm losing it.) I've merged two recipes from the new Bon Appetit and Cook With Jamie, a truly bad-ass book. In a good way. I did away with the parcooking, almonds, milk, mash, etc. but you may certainly do your own research on how you want to approach it-- it's a very forgiving recipe. I also wanted to make inch-thick "cauliflower steaks" (showing a beautiful lacy pattern of cauliflower), but the inflorescence of the bunch I got was not very friendly and it fell apart anyway. It does lend itself well to a pretty yellow-and-white sparse composition, but feel free to use orange, green, or purple varieties, none of which exist here in Manila.

Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin, Coriander and Chili

  • 500g head (18-oz) of cauliflower, washed, green leaves removed and cut into florets (half-florets if you want extra crunch)

  • sea salt

  • olive oil (add a knob of butter that has been melted for serious flavor, but I wanted to keep it wholesome)

  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (or 2 dried chilis)

  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds

  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Make sure the cauliflower is completely dry by patting it in between paper towels. In a sheet pan or roasting pan, toss the florets with a good glug of olive oil. In a mortar, bash the spices with a pinch of salt. Sprinkle over the florets evenly and toss well. Make sure they are laid out in a single layer on the pan. Roast in the top rack of the oven for 20 minutes, then give them a good toss to ensure even cooking, and roast for 10 minutes more or until the edges are brown and crunchy. Serve immediately.

26 January 2008

Disappointment, Disinterest, and an Isko Meme

I'm trying to devise a way to answer tags without hearing a groan so massive that the ground will be scattered with fossils that unearthed themselves. First, a site recommendation: Spamusement, now possibly defunct, but still crammed with hundreds of cartoons based on the subject lines of Spam. I remembered it because I still get the occasional spam from the girl who's disappointed I've never replied regarding her naked pictures or how to prolong my sexual performance. As if I needed to! (That can be interpreted in many ways.)

Here's one I made up from the subject line "How many women have you disappointed lately?" I realize it's a little trite, and partly weird because pretty much everyone, male or female, would not pass up the opportunity for free shoes. But, mmmm..... Pik-nik. (Kidding. I find Pik-nik a little too greasy.)

Calvin doesn't realize that those who look interested are more likely to be grilled about the subject. Oh well, at least in college.

Speaking of college (SMOOTH SEGUE, MARK), Dr. Claire of Chronicles from the Middle of Nowhere tagged me for this meme about my life in the University of the Philippines. The supposed center for subversion. A good four years of undergraduate study, probably the best I've spent so far.

  1. Student number? 98-09490

  2. College? College of Arts and Sciences, Diliman. College of Medicine, Manila.

  3. Ano ang course mo? (What did you Major in?) BS Biology. Doctor of Medicine.

  4. Nag-shift ka ba o na-kick out? (Did you shift majors/Courses or were you kicked out of your College)? No, I hate complications like that

  5. Saan ka kumuha ng UPCAT? (Where did you take your entrance examination?) Math building

  6. Favorite GE subject? (General Education classes) Oh, gross. Philosophy? Communications? Social Science? Probably those three equally, though I still didn't like them that much.

  7. Favorite PE? Ice skating

  8. Saan ka nag-aabang ng hot guys/girls sa UP? (Where do you hang out to check out the hot babes/dudes?) I didn't do this. Really really.

  9. Favorite profs? (Favorite Professors?) Prof. Roderos, for Genetics

  10. Pinaka-ayaw na GE subject (least favorite General Education class)? "Science Technology and Society - a completely useless waste of time" (Dr. Claire) AMEN!

  11. Kumuha ka ba ng Saturday classes? (Did you sign up for Saturday classes?) I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have, but I have the vague memory of going to school on Saturday.

  12. Nakapag-field trip ka ba? (Did you join any field Trips?) Mt. Sto Tomas, Baguio for Pteridology, Taal Volcano for Ecology, The Arboretum for Ecology, Subic Bay for Ecology (fun fun fun), The Manila Seedling Bank for the Taxonomy of Flowering Plants, I Forgot the Name of That Island for Invertebrate Taxonomy.

  13. Naging CS ka na ba or US sa UP? (Were you ever a College Scholar and or a University Scholar) Yes, yes

  14. Ano ang Org/Frat/Soro mo? (What Organization/Fraternity/Sorority were you a member of?) UP Association of Biology Majors

  15. Dorm, Boarding house, o Bahay? (Did you stay at a dorm, boarding house or did you live at home during college? ) House, it was relatively near anyway.

  16. Kung walang UPCAT test at malaya kang nakapili ng kurso mo sa UP, ano yun? (If you had your way, what was your dream course/major?) Still Biology, for super sure

  17. Sino ang pinaka-una mong nakilala sa UP? (Who did you first meet at UP?) I'm not sure, but it was probably Kristelle Galimba or JC Alcazaren, whom I still torment to this day.

  18. First play na napanood mo sa UP? (First play you watched in UP) I don't think I ever did. Not a theater person.

  19. Saan ka madalas mag-lunch? (Where did you usually eat lunch?) Take-away at CASAA, eat inside the Institute of Biology. Though we spent a lot of the first three years eating out... McDonald's, Dimsum and Dumplings, or Subway, among others.

  20. Masaya ba sa UP? (Was it fun in UP?) Of course

  21. Nakasama ka na ba sa rally? (Did you ever get to go to a rally?) EDSA 2

  22. Ilang beses ka bumoto sa Student Council? (How many times did you vote for Student Council elections?) Probably never!

  23. Pinangarap mo rin bang mag-laude nung freshman ka? (Did you ever aspire to graduate with honors when you were a freshman?) Sure.

  24. Kung di ka UP, anong school ka? (If you didn't go to UP, what school would you have gone?) University of Santo Tomas, or Ateneo

23 January 2008

Maple-Glazed Pumpkin and Blue Cheese Pizza

Pizza di Zucca Smaltato con Acero e Formaggi Erborinati
Maple-Glazed Pumpkin and Blue Cheese Pizza (with title)
Hullo everyone! It's blogging-event time once again for me. I'm glad the awesome Joey of 80 Breakfasts is hosting this month's Hay Hay Its Donna Day event all about pizzas. I've always wanted to make one, and this goes beyond my fascination with mixing martial arts with cooking. Of course, it's part of the perfection that is Italian cuisine, which after I've made my own pasta, should be a natural progression. Speaking of martial arts and cooking:

That's Mui from Shaolin Soccer, making steamed buns. That is just brilliant, but I've become too sedentary to engage in Kung Fu. Not to mention that I am SO BAD AT TOSSING (comment away, British friends) during my graduation from medical school that when we tossed our mortarboards at the end, mine landed twenty rows behind me (okay, just three, but that's still abysmal). Which is also why I gave up on tennis, since the initial toss at the start of the serve tends to never make it to the racquet. A shame, since I thought I was okay at returning. I ended up not tossing this one either, despite my plans to catch in on video, since the dough was so tacky that I knew it would stick to itself in the air and land in my hands (if ever) as an amorphous clump. Well, misshapen dough or no, the flavors combined in this vegetarian pizza are just so surprisingly elegant that this was the pizza (among the three I made) that I decided to submit. The sweet, spicy pumpkin with the briny, boozy blue cheese and peppery arugula (rocket) is just an exquisite combination.
Close-up of Maple-Glazed Pumpkin and Blue Cheese Pizza
Chatting with Graeme a few nights ago I expressed a little dismay (okay, a lot) over how "same-y" my food photos have been getting (oh, my God... I'm turning into Tyra Banks... I only have one pho-to in my hands). It seems I get a little comfortable with taking the path of least resistance, so I decided to change it up. For now. I'm just toying with the possibilities; I think the style in the main photo is a little too soft and forlorn for me.

Joey posted a great recipe on her site (and actually the proportions are very good). My own background in research prompted me to go snooping around for weight proportions, since I wanted to be consistent for when I would repeat the recipe (and repeat it I will). I was lucky enough to find Tipo 0 flour (special Italian pizza flour) at Rustan's grocery, a kilo for only PhP78 ($1.75). I was aiming for New York-style pizza (pillowy on the rim and very thin and sagging in the center), but I didn't research enough and I was very cumbersome stretching the dough, hence the very thick (but still very delicious) rim. In the future, I'll roll it out, then finish stretching it by hand. You could knead it 15 minutes in a KitchenAid or use a food processor, but I have neither and that's what the gym is for.

New York-style Pizza Dough (from Dr. Lehman's formula, good for 3 12-inch pizzas)

  • Unbleached all-purpose or Tipo 0 Flour (100%): 630 g 22.2 oz

  • Hot tap water (63%): 370 g 14 oz

  • Instant dry yeast (I used SAF-instant from Cook's exchange) (.35%): 2.2 g 0.08 oz 3/4 tsp 1/4 tbsp

  • Salt (1.5%): 9.44 g 0.33 oz 1-2/3 tsp 1/2 tbsp

  • Olive Oil, preferably virgin (1%): 6.3 g 0.22 oz 1-1/2 tsp 1/2 tbsp

  • Sugar (1%): 6.3 g 0.22 oz 1-1/2 tsp 1/2 tbsp

Whisk together the flour and yeast in a bowl. Mound the flour on your clean counter and make a well in the center. Do it Mui-style as above. Pour the rest of the ingredients into a well in the center and use a fork to gradually but quickly combine the walls of the well with the liquid, until you've formed a thick porridge-like mass. By the time you've incorporated most of it, the fork will be too cumbersome, so lightly flour both hands (or use one floured hand and a bench scraper in the other as I did) and start kneading the mass, incorporating the rest of the flour (the final dough temperature must be 85-95°F or 30-35°C). The motion is to fold the mass in half towards you, then push everything away. Rotate 90° and repeat for 15 minutes. The dough will be slightly sticky but supple and not at all shaggy. Divide it into 3 balls (each weighing 350g or 12.3oz) and tuck the sides under it to form a taut ball. Place each in its own small bowl that has been greased with olive oil and roll the ball around in the bowl to grease the exterior of the ball. Cover each with a tea towel and place in the refrigerator (if you have bowls that stack high, good for you) for at least 8 hours or up to 3 days. If you want, you can freeze the risen dough for a month but give it an overnight thaw in the fridge before using. Leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes before stretching, but don't stretch this dough until you have all the toppings on hand.

You can get real maple syrup, grade A and B, from Healthy Options, a health food store. The price? PhP540 ($13.17) for 8oz. Ouch.

Maple-Glazed Pumpkin and Blue Cheese Pizza (adapted from delicious magazine, May 2007)
  • 1 pizza dough ball from above recipe

  • 450g Japanese pumpkin

  • 1 tsp each chili flakes and freshly ground cumin seeds

  • 60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil

  • 60mL (1/4 cup) pure maple syrup

  • 100g freshly grated mozzarella

  • 100g mild blue cheese, crumbled (I used Bleu d'Auvergne, PhP133 or $3.24 per 100g from Santi's delicatessen-- it is the cheapest blue cheese there)

  • 100g rocket (arugula) leaves (I used Herbana farms organic arugula-- beautiful-- from the Salcedo Village Weekend Market, 6 bunches for PhP60 or $1.45, thanks to a tip from Joey herself)

  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Take the dough ball out of the fridge. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Cut the pumpkin into 1.5cm-thick slices and seed them (I peeled them too). In a sheet pan, toss the slices with the chili flakes, cumin, olive oil, maple syrup, and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, and roast on the top rack for 20 minutes, then turn and roast for another 10 minutes. Collect and reserve the roasting juice.

Place a pizza stone in your oven and preheat to 260°C (500°F).

Stretch the pizza dough to a 12-inch round on a well-floured pizza peel or rimless cookie sheet pan (you may also use cornmeal). You are looking for a very thin dough with a slightly raised rim, but if it windowpanes such that you can read print through it, take care as it might tear-- be gentle and patient. Scatter with mozzarella. Place on the pizza stone for 6 minutes, then retrieve it and scatter the pumpkin slices and blue cheese on top. Return to the oven for 3 minutes. Scatter with arugula. Drizzle the roasting juices over the pizzas before serving.

20 January 2008

Cabinetmaker's Cake

Gâteau Ébéniste
Ébéniste (with title)
Not many of my friends know (or have guessed) this about me, but I seriously enjoy going to the hardware shop. I don't know if it's genetic but my dad is kind of a contractor and it's always a regular stop whenever we're in the area. I do like perusing hundreds of electrical and audio/video adapters, just to see what can happen if you connect an ipod to a computer and to a karaoke microphone. But the latest trip has been significant for reasons of food. Since I bought Bruce Healy and Paul Bugat's The Art of the Cake, I've wanted to make the Ébéniste ("Cabinetmaker"), because is looks like the perfect marriage of elegant and over-the-top, which I realize is a paradox. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it harkens to the '70s, when faux-wood finishes were all the rage. Plus, no one in the internet world has posted about it before, which is as good a reason as any to make one (of course, the best reason is that it is my brother's birthday, and you gotta have cake, diet or no). I needed a wood-graining tool (PhP270 or $6.45 at ACE Hardware), which needs a little practice, but is a lot of fun to use. While I was at it, I bought a butane torch (PhP500 or $12) for future use.
The verdict? It not only looks elegant, but tastes elegant too. Not too sweet (though the calories are there, folks), and looks amazing. Totally worth all the trouble I went through tempering that damn chocolate (see story in previous post). I am outlining the recipe below, with a few steps altered based on my research and for economical purposes.

Ébéniste adapted from Bruce Healy and Paul Bugat's The Art of the Cake

Chocolate Génoise Sheet

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

  • 125g (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar

  • 85g (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour

  • 5g (1-1/2 teaspoons) potato starch (I used cornstarch)

  • 25g (1/4 cup) Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I used Valrhona)

  • 15g (1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, melted

Prepare a 12x16 inch sheet pan: grease the pan, line with parchment (specially cut to go neatly up the sides of the sheet pan), and grease the parchment. I used baking spray (indispensable at this rate), but you can use melted clarified butter. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Sift the flour, starch, and cocoa over a piece of wax paper. Combine the eggs, egg yolk, and sugar in a stainless steel mixing bowl, breaking all the yolks. Beat until smooth. Set over a pan filled with simmering water (I just used hot tap water-- an easier job if the eggs are already at room temperature) and beat until warm (40°C or 100°F), frothy, and it no longer feel grainy when rubbed between the your fingers. Take off the hot water and beat at high speed until tripled in volume, thick, pale, and falls in very slowly dissolving ribbons when the beater is lifted. Sprinkle about a third of the flour mixture on top and gently but thoroughly fold it in until incorporated. Repeat twice more until all the flour is used up. Take a cup of the batter and fold it into the melted butter, then return the melted butter mixture to the batter and fold it in until thoroughly combined. Scoop into the prepared pan and smooth with a large spatula so that it is uniformly 3/8 inch thick. Bake until the top is firm but not crusty, about 6 to 10 minutes. Slide the baked genoise onto a cooling rack until only slightly warm, then place another rack on top and flip over. Remove the parchment and replace it sticky side-up, put the first rack back on and flip the genoise right-side up. Remove the second cooling rack and allow the cake to cool completely. Use the cake the same day as it is prepared.

Ganache Clichy
  • 145g (5.1 oz)bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

  • 120g (1/2 cup) heavy cream

Bring the cream to a boil in the microwave or in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Pour over the chocolate and stir gently until all the chocolate is melted. Once cool, this can be covered and refrigerated for 1 week or frozen for 3 months. However, bring it back to room temperature before using.

Coffee Buttercream - this recipe is particularly nice because it doesn't mess with sugar syrups, is perfectly safe for all as it has no raw egg yolks, and won't curdle as there is no water in it.
  • 3 large egg yolks

  • 19g (0.7oz) espresso beans

  • 90g (6 tablespoons) milk + additional just in case

  • 112 g (1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar

  • 225g (2 sticks or 1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

In a mortar and pestle, crush the beans until you are left with big fragments, taking care not to grind them to dust (work in small batches to avoid this). Bring the milk to a boil in the microwave or in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Take off the heat and place the espresso fragments in the milk to steep for 10 minutes. Strain into another bowl pressing on the beans to extract as much milk as possible, and add enough milk to the resulting liquid to make 67g (1/4 cup), as the beans might absorb a lot of the milk. Clean out the strainer for later. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until well-combined and pale. Drizzle in a quarter of the milk, whisking madly all the while, then pour in the rest of the milk and whisk together. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, and boil for a minute. Strain into a large bowl. Beat the custard until light and cool. With the mixer on high speed, beat in the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, into the custard until light and voluminous. This can now be used right away, or covered in the refrigerator for a week or frozen for a month. Bring back to room temperature before using, and beat until it regains its light texture.

Heavy Syrup
  • 115g (1 cup + 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar

  • 70g (1/3 cup) water

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the two ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat, swirling the pan to dissolve all the sugar. Once it boils, take off the heat. Once cool, this syrup can be stored in the refrigerator.

Writing Chocolate
  • 30g (1 ounce) unsweetened chocolate, melted

  • 30mL (2 tablespoons) heavy syrup, heated to lukewarm

Stir in the heavy syrup a little at a time into the chocolate. Halfway through adding the heavy syrup, the chocolate might become grainy and seize, but keep adding the rest of the 2 tablespoons and it will become satiny again.

Coffee Syrup
  • 90mL (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) double-strength brewed espresso

  • 90mL (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) heavy syrup

Mix the two together in a small bowl until well-combined.
Ébéniste Process
Making the wood-grain coat:
You're going to assemble this cake upside-down. You will need a sheet of (clean!) clear polyester or acetate slightly larger than half of the génoise sheet (an A4 size was perfect for the job). On a sheet pan large enough to accommodate the acetate sheet, dab a little bit of the writing chocolate under the corners of the acetate to hold it in place onto the sheet pan. Spread the rest of the writing chocolate in a thin and even layer over the acetate. Using the wood-grain tool, drag it from top to bottom (short side to short side), rocking the tool while dragging, to create a realistic heartwood effect. Go crazy. If you mess up, you can scrape up the writing chocolate, spread it on again, and start again. Leave in the refrigerator to set.

115g (4oz) European white chocolate

(Special thanks to Kerry Beal's demo on how to temper chocolate. I've taken a lot of precautions here to avoid errant drops of water-- you do not want a single drop in your chocolate-- and to make it as painless as possible). Prepare a large shallow pan filled with cold water (melt an ice cube in tap water if you want to get it just right), a hair dryer, a dry instant-read or chocolate thermometer and a dry rubber spatula. In the microwave at LOW power (using a pyrex measuring cup) or in a double boiler set over barely simmering water (using a very large heatproof bowl), melt the white chocolate, stirring every now and then, until you see only small chunks remaining. Give it a stir with the spatula to melt the chocolate with the residual heat of the container. Try not to exceed 45°C (113°F). Dip the bottom of the pyrex cup/bowl in the cold water to bring the chocolate's temperature to a range of 25-26.5°C (77-80°F). If the chocolate's temperature is too high, smoosh it up the sides of the bowl (being careful not to let any water touch it, of course) and very quickly amass it towards the center again. Don't rush the cooling because if it drops below 25°C, you'll have to melt the chocolate again. Once it's at the right temperature, take it off the cold water, wiping the bottom of the pyrex cup/bowl with a tea towel so there's no stray water drops around. Smoosh the chocolate up the sides of the bowl and quickly (in just one one-second pass) blast it with hot air from the hair dryer, then amass the chocolate towards the center. Check the temperature-- it should be in the range of 29-30°C (84-86°F). If it's not in this range, smoosh it again and blast it with hot air one more time. It took me two blasts of hot air to get the temperature right. Don't be too generous with the hot air, because if the temperature exceeds 30°C, you'll have to melt the chocolate and start over.

Pour the tempered white chocolate over the wood-grained writing chocolate, then quickly use a large offset spatula to spread it in a thin and even layer. I found that in my tropical climate, that writing chocolate melts very quickly, so it got smeared a little bit while I was spreading the white chocolate. However, it was serendipitous as it gave the white chocolate an occasional light-brown tint, making it look more like wood. In any case, try to spread in the direction of the wood grain so it's not too messed up. Let it cool at room temperature until set but not brittle.

Measure the génoise sheet (remember him?) and cut it crosswise into two equal rectangles.

On the set chocolate, spread a third of the soft coffee buttercream (113g or 2/3 cup) in an even layer. Place a rectangle of génoise on top, spongy-side up, and brush with half of the coffee syrup.

Load the remaining coffee buttercream and the ganache into a medium pastry bag each fitted with a 3/8 inch (1cm) plain decorating tip. Pipe two ropes of coffee buttercream crosswise in the center of the cake side-by-side. Pipe two ropes each of ganache on both sides of the coffee buttercream. Repeat in alternating flavors (every 2 ropes) until you have reached the edges of the cake.

Brush the spongy side of the second génoise rectangle with the remaining coffee syrup and place it spongy side-down on the buttercream and ganache ropes. Place a sheet pan on top and lean into it lightly and evenly to compress the cake and to make it level.

Cut a piece of foil matt board (cake boards are thick and ugly) so that it is 1 inch smaller in both dimensions than the genoise rectangles. Place it on top of the cake. Place a sheet pan on top. Flip the whole set-up over quickly, then remove the original sheet pan (where you placed the acetate originally) carefully, making sure the acetate is still stuck to the chocolate. Refrigerate the cake, acetate and all, for at least an hour.

Carefully peel the acetate from the white chocolate. If you have tempered it properly, you should have no problems removing the acetate. Using a long, sharp, wavy-edged bread knife dipped in boiling water and dried, cut through the whole cake on each of the sides so that the sides are flat and the stripes of buttercream and ganache are showing. Wipe the blade of the knife clean and reheat it with boiling water (and dry of course) in between each cut.


18 January 2008


So I was busy just a few minutes ago constructing a cake. It required tempered white chocolate, but just as I got the chocolate to the right temperature, the water under the bowl splashes and a drop of water enters the chocolate, seizing it and destroying it completely. I thought I'd be able to save it by remelting it, but when I got it to temperature again, water splashed into it AGAIN, so I thought I could save it by carefully throwing out the wet portion, but it was too late and it seized again. So right now, I am really tired and will try again in a few hours when I've screamed as loud as I can into a pillow. Kidding. I'm just sullen now, the same feeling I get when you perform heart compressions on a patient who coded but after 30 minutes of pumping his chest, he still dies. Of course, the latter is ten million times worse. But I still don't want to see chocolate for, oh, a few hours. Whereas if the patient does live, then it all suddenly becomes worth it.

Tori Amos playing iieee, one of my favorite songs from her From the Choirgirl Hotel album. Followed by Raspberry Swirl, another great song. Sorry the sound's so muddy.

The last time I screamed into a pillow? Was when I was working hard on retouching a giant antique photo, filling in all the tiny rips and spots of decay. OF COURSE, the power goes out (my brother for some reason switched the AVR off) and OF COURSE, I didn't save it one bit. He was very apologetic and I didn't get mad, I just said blankly, "I just need to... lie down..." AARGHHHHHHH (into a pillow)

So part of the therapy is sharing some random weirdness I snapped with my camera phone.

This is from my favorite second-hand bookstore, Booksale. Amidst all the cookbooks, you will of course find the "Great American Deserts." My gestalt impression of the title was just as dumb as the sorter's, so I excitedly flipped through it and wondered why I was looking at huge pictures of sand.

Classiest. Brand of paint stripper. EVER.

Purified water distributors are a big deal in the Philippines. So how do you stand out? By paying tribute to 19th-century England.

This is an old picture I snapped of the men's room at the Operating Room men's locker. Ladies, if you haven't been in one, men's rooms are nasty. I won't go into detail, but if there's no custodian standing by 24/7, pretty much anything gross you can think of related to going to the bathroom, you will find. I've been (very quickly) in the Ladies' Room at University, and wow, there was a vendor inside selling feminine things and a lounge. Not that a vendor can stand ten minutes surrounded by the stench of a men's room. For your information, "maraming bakla" means "lots of gay guys" and "badings" means "gays." And the drawing on the bottom left corner is apparently a muscular surgeon being pleasured by a woman. Also for your information, not all male doctors on the can become completely juvenile when given a permanent marker.

16 January 2008

American Potato Salad

American Potato Salad (with title)
You might think I'm not the type corny enough to sing "Summer Nights," (er, from Grease, young friends) you'd be wrong. All I need is someone to harmonize with and a whole bunch of friends to sing the "Tell me more, tell me more" part. I don't even need alcohol to pull through. Ahem. Anyway, this meal is a few months old. But don't worry, we ate it that day. I haven't been feeling putting it up because I am such a photography idiot and for some reason, the potato salad, which I should have focused and found a way to present well, doesn't look like the star in this picture. I was probably not thinking very clearly that day. So, I didn't have the appetite to post the picture until now, when food posts are very scarce due to my self-imposed diet. Don't worry, though: my brother's birthday is on Monday and I have planned a cake that has not made its way into the interwebs yet. Ooh! I'm so excited! A net-virgin cake! (Actually, there is only one mention of it on the internet, and it's on a review of the book I took it from. There's not even a picture.) Thanks for sticking around, though. Sadly for my diet, checking out my blog's statistics? The desserts are the most-visited items on my blog (except for the Honeycomb Canneloni-- and how could it not, frankly-- but even that's not on top). The only way this can work out for me is if my desserts magically have no fat and sugar in them. But, dear reader, I want to be sure each recipe I post at least tastes good, har har.

This is from a pleasant Sunday lunch I prepared last November. There is really nothing like a hotdog (er, Schublig) stuffed with cheese and wrapped with bacon, balanced with a refreshingly tart potato salad. My mom says it is the best potato salad she's ever tasted (I agree). The secret? Positive thinking! No, it's celery.

American Potato Salad

  • 2 pounds (900g, or 3-4 medium) russet (baking, starchy) potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes

  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar (I used cider vinegar-- it's all we had but it's milder)

  • 1 medium celery rib, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1 small red onion, minced

  • 3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish

  • 1/2 cup (75g) mayonnaise

  • 2 tablespoons prepared mustard or 3/4 teaspoon powdered (dry) mustard (preferred)

  • 3/4 teaspoon celery seed

  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • optional: 2 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes

In a large saucepan, cover the potato cubes with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon salt, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender (about 8 minutes). Drain them and toss gently in a large bowl with vinegar; let stand 20 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together the remaining ingredients (except the eggs, if using) in a small bowl. Toss the potatoes (and eggs) in the dressing gently using a rubber spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled (about 1 hour). Can be covered and refrigerated for up to a day.

13 January 2008

Start To End

I just recently got an MP3 player and while organizing it, it got me thinking about how many albums out there are really worth listening to from start to finish. I mean, there are albums out there that were admittedly put together in 2 weeks (Beyoncé's B'Day, for example), and many more debut albums that took years to write, filtering out the bad songs, and making sure every detail is perfect. But even after the artist's carefully planned out his album, you'll find that there is usually at least one dud. The age of MP3 players has only made skipping whole albums easier. I still have some songs that have not been played once (I must just have the album for completeness' sake). So, dear readers: in your opinion, what albums are enjoyable from start to finish? Or could have only one forgivable dud? No "Greatest Hits" albums please! Here's my list:

  1. Hopes and Fears by Keane: this is one of those debut albums that took years to put together. Although one particular song, "Untitled 1", is skippable to me, it actually still ends up in the "favorites" list of some fans.

  2. From the Choirgirl Hotel by Tori Amos: touted by many critics as her most accessible album, this is the one where Tori unveils her "plugged" sound, obviously grungier and angrier in the wake of her recent miscarriage, but no less musically complex. I do love the twinkly sound of her piano in her debut "Little Earthquakes", but I can't argue with just how well this album is put together. The one dud: "Hotel."

  3. The Beautiful Letdown by Switchfoot: This is their first album under the Columbia label, and I have to say the execs did an excellent job, even including a redone "Dare You To Move" from their previous album. This album is message-wise, the perfect mix of introspection and social consciousness that colors their previous and succeeding albums, respectively. I do skip, ironically, the track "Beautiful Letdown", but listening to it recently I realized it's still a good track, just slowed down in the beginning by weird drums.

  4. Time and Tide by Basia: this is the first album I listened to from start to finish over and over again and memorized all the lyrics, and yes, it is a jazz album. It just simply stood the test of time for me. I guess the second album would be Wilson Philips's self-titled debut, but I don't have it anymore and I have no idea if many of the songs still resonate in me.

  5. Final Fantasy Songbook Mahoroba by Nobuo Uematsu: when I'm studying, I can't have music with lyrics as the words distract me. FFSM is mostly an instrumental album, with some tracks in Japanese. I don't care. It's so brilliantly arranged, with various influences for many tracks (Japanese, Celtic, Spanish) that I just have to admire it.

  6. Black Holes and Revelations by Muse: I don't even remember what made me get this album in the first place. And "Supermassive Black Hole" was awfully overplayed, but I'm always a sucker for classically-influenced arrangements and this extremely heavy album-slash-laser light show only falters on one track: "Soldier's Poem."

There are some more contenders, but they've not yet been elevated to the status of "unskippable" or maybe just have too many "so-so" tracks.

11 January 2008

Maya Gold

Maya Gold (with title)
Remember when I said (uh, just two days ago) that I would no longer be eating desserts not made by myself? The problem with that is, if you're a home baker with a desire to learn, if you want to lose any weight, your stint is pretty much over. Also, this blog would instantly die (well, I could still make non-desserts, but let's face it, desserts are mad fun: food of artists). The solution is to torture myself with the ambition to make entremets. Or not just an entremet, but a plated dessert. It will take me literally days to make one, is plenty of work, and pushes all your culinary skills to the limit while learning more.
Maya Gold with a bite through it
The entremet is an orange crème brûlée with dark chocolate orange mousse, fudge brownie base, and enrobed in chocolate mirroire glacage. The decorations are candied orange peel and caramel doodads (not a technical term). It's not an original concept, I was inspired by the Amore of the Bizu Patisserie. However, I've never tasted that entremet and this is my original interpretation, construction, and recipe. So it's not quite, but almost a "signature" dessert, I guess. What's most important, though, is that it tastes smashing. The depth of the brownie, the lightness of the crème brûlée, and the character of the orange chocolate mousse work together splendidly. I didn't show my parents the plating of the dessert, they just got the regular glazed entremet. If they saw it, they might become fearful for my future, hahaha (oh, don't take that seriously). Just because you're a good doctor doesn't mean you can let your artistic soul just die! Speaking of which, I just received a new commission to make another Obstetrics and Gynecology poster, which I'm both excited and scared about, as usual.
Organic Orange Chocolates
Because milk chocolate orange gets such a bad rap, I used organic dark chocolate with orange (bought at Healthy Options, THE health food store in the Philippines) for a sophisticated flavor, making this the most expensive dessert I've produced. Here we have the pleasant and lower-priced Newman's Own Organic Sweet Dark Orange and the more expensive but totally worth it Green and Black's Organic Maya Gold, which is the inspiration and namesake of my dessert. The Maya Gold, and I'm not being a chocolate snob or inciting a UK-vs-US choco-battle here, is superior in every way except price-- mouth feel, depth, and flavor. The spices are all secret, but I'll wager there's pepper, cinnamon, and cloves in there. However, the Newman's Own chocolate is still very good, and while not as interesting flavor-wise, is still a quality choice. Ready? Let's go make entremets!
Maya Gold making process
This dessert can be constructed in an entremet ring, but since the inspiration was "Maya Gold," there's no better shape than pyramidal, so I used silicon molds (about 3" demisphere and 3" flat-topped pyramid), sold for P700 ($17 or £7, at Robinson's Manila and SM Makati).

Orange Crème Brûlée (adapted from Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking)

  • 750g (3 cups) heavy cream

  • 100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar

  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 tablespoon chopped orange zest

  • 6 large egg yolks, chilled

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F).Stir the cream, sugar, vanilla, and orange zest in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and bring to a simmer. Let it rest for 15 minutes. During that time, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together 6 egg yolks. Once the cream has rested, drizzle it in slowly into the yolks, whisking all the while, and once half a cup has gone in, you can add it more liberally, still whisking the whole time. Whisk until well-blended. Strain into a pitcher. Divide among the 12 silicon containers (if you want to serve it as is, just use 6 ramekins)-- they should leave enough space for the brownie and mousse, so you only want each one filled to 2/3 or 3/4 of the capacity. Place the containers in a large roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with boiling water going to 2/3 of the height of the silicon container. Be careful that water doesn't enter the custard, especially as you place it in the oven. Bake for about 25 minutes-- that's the time you should start checking it, at least-- until the center is jiggly but not sloshy. If it's not yet done, just check again at 5 minute intervals. Take it out of the oven, taking care not to get the custards wet. Let them cool, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze in their containers.

Dark Chocolate Orange Mousse
  • 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin

  • 1 teaspoon water

  • 100g (3.5oz) dark chocolate with orange oil, broken into small pieces

  • 33g (2 tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon) heavy cream

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 5g (3/4 tablespoon- GET A SCALE) granulated sugar

  • 150g (1-1/4 cup) heavy cream

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl and set aside. In the microwave or a very small saucepan, bring the 33g cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Stir until all the chocolate has melted and set aside. In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water (not touching the bottom of the bowl), whisk together the egg yolk and sugar until no longer grainy. Add the softened gelatin and whisk until well-blended and smooth. Take the bowl off the heat and whisk in the chocolate ganache and 150g cream until well-blended. Do not store in the refrigerator because it will set-- continue assembling the dessert instead. This mousse can also be eaten on its own.

Fudge Brownies (adapted from King Arthur's The Baker's Companion)
  • 225g (1 cup or 2 sticks) unsalted butter

  • 425g (2 cups packed) brown sugar

  • 65g (3/4 cup) Dutch-process cocoa

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • 4 large eggs

  • 170g (1-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Grease, line with parchment, and grease again a 9x13" pan. In a microwave-safe bowl or saucepan over very low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Stir in the cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla. Cool until you can comfortably test it with your finger (it should feel like comfortably hot bath water). Whisk in the eggs madly until smooth, then add the flour, stirring until smooth. Spoon into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester or knife poked in the middle shows only moist crumbs. Cool for 15 minutes on a rack, then pull out the brownies with the parchment in one piece and let cool completely.

Chocolate Glacage: follow the recipe here.

Take the crème brûlées out of the freezer and pipe or spoon a thin layer of mousse on the surface. Don't be lazy as I was and just put a dollop in the center; the seam will show. You really have to make sure it reaches the edges. Using a round biscuit cutter (for demispheres) or a knife (for pyramids), cut the brownie into 2.5" rounds or 2.25" squares-- the measurement doesn't matter as long as it is not flush with the sides of the mold. Use the remaining mousse to completely fill the mold and swipe a spatula over the top to level it. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze a few hours until firm-- it can be frozen for a week, away from strong odors.
Unmolded Maya Golds
Pop the prepared entremets out of the molds and set on a cooling rack or dipping tray over a sheet pan. Allow any frost to thaw, about 15-30 minutes. To save on glacage, I elevated the cooling rack and placed a small bowl on the bottom for recycling.
Maya Gold glazing set-up
Working quickly, pour the glacage over the top of each. It's advisable to glaze them at least twice for a smoother finish:
Once vs. Twice Glazed Maya Golds
Leave in the refrigerator until serving time.

Candied Orange Peel (adapted from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé)
  • 3 medium-sized oranges

  • 2 cups (500mL) water

  • 1 cup (200g) sugar

  • 2 tablespoons (30g) freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 5 black peppercorns, bruised

  • 1 piece star anise

Put a large pot of water (not the quantity specified here, that is to be used later) to a boil. Cut off a thin slice off the bottom and top of the oranges and cut off wide bands of peel about 1 inch across, making sure that a sliver of fruit is included in the peel as you cut it off. Toss in the boiling water and boil for two minutes, then remove from the water with a slotted spoon into a colander and rinse under cold running water for 2 minutes, then repeat the boiling and cooling process twice more. Set aside. Place the remaiing ingredients (water, sugar, and all) into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the peel and adjust the heat to very low so the syrup simmers gently. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1-1/2 hours. Remove the casserole from heat, and with the cover still on, allow to macerate overnight. The next day, pour into a canning jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. It can also be dried on a rack and coated in sugar.

To make the caramel, I have to confess there is no recipe-- I just "winged it." I placed half a cup of sugar and a quarter cup of water into a medium saucepan and let it boil until it reaches a deep amber color, then plunged the bottom in cold water to stop cooking. When the syrup cools enough to run from a spoon in a thread (if it drips, it's too hot), take the loaded spoon and create all sorts of designs on a nonstick sheet pan or parchment paper and allow to cool. I used "jewel" shapes and swirls to keep in theme.

09 January 2008

Capellini with Artichokes, Lima Beans, Peas, and Bacon

Capellini con Carciofi, Fagioli Lima, Piselli, e Bacon
Capellini with Artichokes, Lima Beans, Peas, and Bacon (with title)
Apologies for the less-than-appetizing shot of the food. After I served this at my party last December 15, Genie has been asking me to post the recipe already, but I couldn't take a picture at that moment as it was night. So I took a picture of leftovers. Naturally, even with some styling, you cannot remedy the disarray after you've crammed it into a microwaveable container.

Another thing I have to apologize for is the fact that I haven't posted in a while. Have I burned out? I assure you not. But you know that feeling people get when they've only been driving for a few weeks and they either run over a puppy or nail someone's side mirror? That's sort of what cooking (and especially making desserts) has been like for me for the past few weeks. You see, when I graduated from medical school and started studying, I gained 4 pounds in 6 months (May to October). I was thinking that it was natural to gain a little weight when you're studying and stressed out, but since I went to Boracay and ate all the Christmas crap that people have been giving us, I gained an additional 5 pounds in 2 months. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. I appreciate all the food gifts given to our family and they taste great and all, but I really don't want another dessert gift. Not only does it inhibit kitchen creativity, but I am usually the one pressured to finish them, hence the weight gain. So: no more finishing other people's food. I am eating half my usual portions. I am running 30 minutes a day. No more desserts I didn't make myself. Maybe I can work my way to an even lighter weight than before med school! Wishful thinking. Well, if ever I am, this fresh, vegetable-and-fiber-rich, low-fat pasta should help me along.

This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit (May 2005). This pasta has great spring flavors, very fresh and light. I only wish I had better-quality beans and my friends came, uh, on time. The beans were weirdly starchy and of course, the pasta was not cooked exactly the way I wanted since it had to be reheated. Grr. Substitute fresh ingredients where you can.

  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) artichoke hearts

  • 300g (10 oz) frozen peeled fava beans or baby lima beans, thawed

  • 50mL (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil

  • 3 large white onions, chopped

  • 120g (4 oz) bacon, pancetta, or guanciale, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

  • 120mL (1/2 cup) dry white wine

  • 300g (10 oz) frozen petite peas

  • 450g (1 lb) spaghetti or angel-hair spaghetti (capellini)

  • 2 handfuls (50g) freshly grayed Pecorino Romano cheese, plus additional for serving

Thinly slice artichoke hearts crosswise. Heat oil in an extra-large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and bacon. Sauté until the onions are soft and the bacon crisps slightly. Stir in the crushed red pepper. Add the sliced artichokes and wine. Allow to reduce for 2 minutes. Add the fava beans, peas, and 1/2 cup water. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the vegetable mixture and pecorino romano; toss to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with additional cheese on the side.

02 January 2008

Peach and Prosecco Ice

Ghiaccio di Pesca e Prosecco
Peach and Prosecco Ice (with title)
Happy New Year to all! A few years ago, I wrote a short essay about new year predictions that I unfortunately lost when my computer got destroyed. In a nutshell, I expressed my dismay over so-called seers that predicted the following year (must have been 2001 or 2002) would be a difficult one for most, and suicide would be at an all-time high. It seems that five years is not enough for people to learn their lesson: a hot topic on the news shows just before the year ends is the new crop of predictions. Those born on the year of the Rat will somehow gain a lot of charisma, but beware as you will become more prone to cheating on your partner. I wasn't giving my 100% attention, but that's just an example of the crap we might accidentally listen to. I'm sorry, but we're not going to be able to help being unkind to one another. Give in to your destiny! Do your friend a favor and fulfill his by pushing him over the ledge. Spiritual poison, is what it is.
Two Hams
Two hams I prepared on new year-- one is glaxed with pineapple and brown sugar, the other with Hoisin sauce and Sichuan peppercorns.
I realize that the line "we'll take a cup o' kindness yet for auld lang syne" refers to drinking beer with old friends and really has little to do with kindness. But I do hope that people take to heart an alternate meaning-- I hope people will resolve to be good to themselves and to one another this year. Don't mind if you don't get your due or if people can be unkind to you-- it's a slippery slope to succumbing to your "fate."

Okay, back to business. People think that I don't drink, and that's true to some extent. I'm quite a lightweight (not that my limits have ever been tried or I've ever vomited/ acted foolishly due to alcohol). I choose very carefully the instances in which I'm going to drink anything at all, and only if the spirit of my choosing is available. It's really frustrating when friends get all patronizing and tell me, "Oh, it tastes good. Trust me. You won't feel a thing. Blah blah blah." I know what it tastes like, thank you very much. I did go through high school. Somehow it's hard to believe that anyone would make a choice not to drink especially being male at my age, but that's how I roll. Sparkling white wine and new year's eve is another matter, though. And when you serve it with a small scoop of this peach and prosecco ice, it just gently melts into the chilly wine, giving a mellow peach taste that ends with a nice icy slush of peach with an elegant kick.

I adapted this recipe from Bon Appetit magazine (May 2005). It's inspired by the Bellini (peach nectar and Prosecco, made famous at Harry's Bar in Venice). It's also great in between courses, apparently. Or just on its own as a dessert.

Peach and Prosecco Ice
There are two elements in this ice that inhibits crystallization: the alcohol content and the sugar content. Allow two days for it to firm, so it stays pleasantly spherical. Also, make sure your white wine used for topping is well-chilled, or it won't be pretty.

  • 1 1-lb (450g) bag of frozen peaches, thawed and juices preserved, OR 1 29-oz (830g) can of peaches in heavy syrup, drained and syrup reserved

  • 1 cup (240mL) chilled Prosecco or other sparkling white wine

  • 1/4 cup (60mL) orange juice

If using thawed frozen peaches:
  • 3/4 cup (75g) sugar

  • 1/2 cup (120mL) hot water

Stir the water and sugar together (if using peaches in heavy syrup, take 3/4 cup or 190g of the syrup instead) and add the orange juice. In a blender or food processor, process the peaches and any reserved juice until smooth, then gradually pour in the sugar syrup with the machine running. Process until smooth. Add the Prosecco and process until just blended. Transfer to a freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze.

To serve the way illustrated above, place a scoop in a flute and top with chilled Prosecco or other sparkling white wine. Serve immediately.