29 May 2008


Hi everyone, I'm sorry I forgot to tell most of you guys that I have a very important licensing exam (US Medical Licensure), and it's TOMORROW! My employment as a foreign medical graduate absolutely depends on a performance that is better than most Americans', so I can't neglect my studies. After tomorrow, the second step of my exam is on August 15, so there's a bit of time to dilly-dally and cook before I start studying like a maniac again.

So, here's the schedule:

  1. Before 9AM - mass, light breakfast (so I don't go to the bathroom too often)

  2. 9AM-5PM - The TEST!

  3. Vomit

  4. Heavy, luxurious dinner (or a McBurger, whatever)

  5. Sleep like I've never slept before

  6. Morning gym session to burn off my nervous munching during studying

  7. MARKET! And hope for great seafood and fresh fruits and vegetables that are exciting

  8. Ogle all your delicious new entries over the past 2 weeks. Which now number over a hundred in my RSS feed.

Now the question is: how do I reawaken this blog with something exciting?!

18 May 2008


Spanish Bread
Hispanis (with title)
I had a little time to burn on Facebook a few months ago which led me to answering a "Likeness" quiz. The point is, you rank a bunch of things in a certain category and it'll calculate how closely your answers are with your friends'. One such quiz I answered was a "Seven Deadly Sins" one. After a little deliberation about what should come up on top (hmmm), I clicked on "Gluttony." It made sense. And it's not just a matter of liking food and flavor.
Empty Bag of 150 Fun Size Candy Bars
You see, for some reason, we had this giant bag of 150 Candy Bars, which contained an assortment of all the flavors you see above. It was finished in a matter of a few weeks, which really shouldn't have been the case. It was just me and my dad eating it! Out of the blue you decide you're in the mood for something sweet, and you snatch one (my personal favorites are Reese's, plain milk chocolate, M&M's, and Snickers), and before you know it you're eating 3-4 candy bars a day. Not good. It's for this reason that I implore everyone I know to not give me candy bars, so at least the temptation's not there.

During the time we had to go to the province to develop community health programs, our well-meaning adviser would buy around 30 pieces of mini "Spanish Bread" for everyone to eat. I don't know what I was thinking, but once the brown paper bag got passed to me, it stopped moving and I was eating around 10 or so of them. Another instance: it was somebody's birthday and one of her friends got a 9" chocolate mousse cake and a set of plastic forks for everyone to eat during class (there were 160 of us-- no one would notice). Again, the cake stopped at my seat and before you know it, I ate a whole third of the cake. Same goes for a big bag of Kettle Popcorn, a box of custard-filled rolls, etc. Obviously I had (have?) some sort of sick addiction, and worst of all, gluttony deprives others. I'm working on it. Coincidentally, I just had a visit to the dentist today and there were no cavities, thank heavens (oi, can you beat that? 26 years, not a single cavity!), but I ought to watch it before George Harrison's warning comes true.
Hispanis (inside)
This is the object of my obsession, "Spanish Bread." There's really nothing to it-- it's a chewy butter-and-milk bread filled with butter and brown sugar, and is a staple of any panaderia. But it really is addictive. I've changed the recipe from the original for optimum sweetness. (I really wanted to include pictures of a trip to a local panaderia, but there was none nearby that really reminded me of my childhood-- so that's pending for now.)

Spanish Bread
I made a rookie mistake and placed the dough overnight in the fridge for rising. Naturally, since the dough has butter, it solidified. So I had to thaw it until room temperature, but I think in the end the pores suffered. The original recipe also had bread crumbs in the filling-- an unnecessary extender for home bakers, since all it accomplished was blunting the taste of the filling.

  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast

  • 60mL (1/4 cup) warm water

  • 120g (1/2 cup) whole milk

  • 112g (1 stick or 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted

  • 67g (1/3 cup) sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 420g (3 cups) all purpose flour (reserve an additional 70g or 1/2 cup)

  • 55g (1/2 stick or 4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

  • 100g (1/2 cup packed) brown sugar

  • 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour

  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

  • Dry bread crumbs for sprinkling (about 35g or 1/4 cup at the most)

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the milk, the 112g melted butter, sugar, eggs, and salt. Add the yeast and mix well. Add the flour and mix with a strong spoon until it forms a stiff dough. Dump into a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth. It will still be a bit sticky. You can use some of the reserved flour if the dough is still too wet-- just dust your hands with a little of the flour and throw some on the surface you're kneading on, you don't want to add too much flour (don't feel pressured to use up the 70g). Alternatively, all the kneading can be done on a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, but I don't have one. Place into a greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth until doubled in bulk.

In the meantime, prepare the filling by combining the brown sugar, 1/2 tbsp flour, and baking powder in a small bowl. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Lightly grease a sheet pan. Gently punch down the dough and divide into 16 portions. Roll out each into a thin circle about as big as your palm. Brush the top of each with some of the 1/2 stick melted butter and sprinkle liberally with the filling. Roll each up and place it seam-side down on the prepared sheet pan. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and leave to proof for one hour. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes and serve warm.

09 May 2008

California Maki

California Maki (with title)
This is my entry to the 9th edition of The Blog Rounds, hosted by Pinay MegaMom.

I transferred schools in between elementary and high school. Words can't even begin to express the sheer terror I experienced at the thought of being a new student in a prestigious private school, not to mention being almost one or two years younger than the rest of the class, most of whom have known each other for years. I was eleven then, and if you think I'm a dork now, just imagine what it must have been like for me at the cusp of puberty. Yeaahh... It's not a pretty sight. (To paint a picture: me, shorter, with bushy hair, giant eyeglasses, twiggier, and smelling of biscuits.)

It's not just about appearances, either: for some reason, there'd been a disjunction between school curricula, so Math class was talking about Venn diagrams as if they were picking up where they left off. I've never even heard of one. I remember one question on the first ever quiz: "Why is it important to learn about _____?" My answer? "Because it's included in the test?" Was my mom ever furious when she saw the corrected quiz with red marks all over. My Math teacher wrote: "No. Sorry!" (This was 14 years ago! Talk about traumatic!)

It's not just about the academics, either: my classmates' personalities were so big, some frightening, that I could feel myself just fading away. I don't think there was anything particularly interesting about myself. I deferred to their louder voices and larger presences. I was nothing like them. I wouldn't even know where to start. What have I done? What am I even doing here?!

I received a note asking me to see the guidance counselor. Fuck. Why don't I just pierce my tongue and get it over with? (This is retconning-- I didn't swear as a child and I certainly didn't know anything about self-mutilation. But the essence was the same.) I thought, wow. I've officially become a problem to someone else. I entered the room and it was Bro. James P. Dunne, a Jesuit brother who'd been a part of the school for probably decades by then, but could never shake his Irish-American-ness. He suffered from Multiple Sclerosis, and as a result had to walk with a cane. He'd become bloated, his face slightly molten, his smile, wide and insane-looking.

He told me to relax, and handed me a piece of paper written by my Science teacher. It said:

  • Always forgetful
  • Keeps giving excuses
Asshole, I thought. (More retconning from me.) Of course, I could have given more excuses on why my heart didn't seem to be into putting any effort, but I was so tired. I was just quiet. He gave me another piece of paper. It just had a number scrawled on it.

"Do you know what that number is?"
"No, what does it mean?" I asked back.
"That's your ranking on the entrance exam," he answered. Honestly, it could have been any number from 1 to 500, and his message to me would be the same. I have the potential to become anything I want, if I had the will to do so. But more importantly, it showed me that no one should make you feel undeserving of your place in the world. You deserve to occupy the space that you're in.

I didn't magically become cooler after that. I was still dorky old me. I was still lonely, but time after time, I'd talk to Bro. Dunne after class about music (he loved Jazz- of course-- sorry I didn't take to "Ain't Misbehavin'", though), my fears, my dreams, my hopes for the future. He even encouraged my painting by asking me to do a few works (sadly, they're all gone now). Every day, I would sit beside him at mass, helping him to stand from the pew, and when the time for the greeting of peace came, he'd always give me a hug. Even if I always struggled with being accepted by my class, he always made me feel that just being me was okay in his book.

Anyway, he died four years ago, while I was in medical school. In his last years when his debilitation got worse, he got what he always told me he dreamed of-- a motorized cart! I heard he had a lot of fun on it. I think he'd have been really proud on how resilient I turned out to be. I found my place in the world.

What does California Maki have to do with any of this? He always used to make me laugh when he vehemently claimed that the school cafeteria could actually whip up decent sushi. I would become visibly grossed out by the prospect of being served sashimi by the same place that prepares ____ in brown sauce day after day after day. But he absolutely swore by it. I never took him up on his dare.

California Maki
I've found out that California Maki refers to any roll with avocado in it. But here in the Philippines, it has always been known as a false crab and mango roll. I'm not sure what led to the substitution of buttery avocado for sweet mango, but I think it has something to do with mangoes being absolutely awesome. Anyway, I put too much rice on it, so it's a little fatter than I would have liked and the rice:main ingredient ratio is really bad. Anyway, it's my absolutely first roll. I'm sure I'll do much better next time.

Edit: I made them again and this time I fixed the quantities. Yay!

For each nori sheet, which makes 8 rolls:
  • 160g (3/4 cup) cooked sushi rice

  • 2 full-length imitation crabsticks (about 9 inches long)

  • few 1/4" slivers of mango

  • few 1/4" sticks of cucumber (I wasn't able to put this in as I'm a lazy shopper)

  • 2 teaspoons flying fish or shrimp roe (tobiko or ebiko) (I wasn't able to put this in as they were out of stock)

  • kewpie mayonnaise

On the sushi mat, place the nori shiny side-down with the long side in front of you. Spread the rice on the sheet as evenly as possible, leaving 2cm (3/4") of nori on the far end free of rice. On the center of the rice, spread the fish roe evenly, then place the crabstick, then the mango and cucumber, so the slivers extend from end to end. Keeping the middle and index fingers on the filling so it doesn't burst out, roll the mat with your thumbs, then compress and finish rolling. Press on the ends of the finished whole roll, then cut off the ends to neaten, then cut into 8 equal pieces.

It'll probably be easier to understand the rolling process from this site. Place a dollop of mayonnaise on top of each cut roll and serve with soy sauce and wasabi.

01 May 2008

Banana Parfait

Banana Parfait (with title)
There was a recent invitation on the Blog Rounds for Filipino doctors to cite why they choose to practice in the Philippines. I obviously didn't participate, because that's not my plan for the moment: I didn't want to appear like a giant hypocrite. While I love my country and I love my home, there's still so much my young heart hasn't seen and experienced yet. One of the reasons I cook so many non-Filipino dishes is for that unique experience. In between, it's always Filipino food (and you will see some here someday, I promise). I originally meant to plate this dessert and call it "Paradise": Banana Parfait Napoleon with Chocolate Sauce. The tourism industry of this country, after all, likes to showcase this country as an inexpensive Shangri-La. However, a few things came to mind over the past few weeks.
One Window
That's the view outside my window. I described it to Ann once as butt-fugly. For some reason, city planners don't care (I don't live in a gated community, unlike many of my well-to-do friends) and my residential area is constantly infiltrated by noisy warehouses and factories. Admittedly I took that a few minutes before rain, but it's not much better with the sun up. There's an actual drum where they incinerate plastic and the fumes saturate the poor air, and worst of all, a stupid bulldozer that just runs forever-- half of it in reverse-- making those loud, awful BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! noises to warn people a hundred miles away to steer clear. I wear earplugs (thank you, Walgreens) so I can study somewhat in peace. At midnight, stupid delivery trucks come in and spread pollution, and stupid drunken construction workers bang on the gate of the warehouse (probably where they sleep, as it's far from their home) to let them in, waking us all up.
Another Window
This is the other side of the house, my brother's view, which is not the street-side. I think that's an avocado tree (so much for my 17 units of Botany). Despite the rusty galvanized rooftops, the green just makes it much better. Amazing how "paradise" can change in a matter of meters.
Banana Parfait (FAIL!)
This is the second failure of "Paradise." I originally adapted this recipe from Grand Finales, where a Banana Snickers Parfait Napoleon was adorned by a majestic puff pastry decoration. I got a little playful and a lot stupid, making a way-too-large and too-heavy decoration that more or less destroyed the whole thing. Why is that bird pecking at a giant stone with a booger on it? I don't know. Does it have retinoblastoma? Why is it lying down with its wings spread? Seriously, is that coagulated blood on the side? It was seriously a WTF moment:

that you go so far on one end of the frustration spectrum and end up on the other side, laughing it off. Never again. I unmolded the others and poured the ganache on one side. Much better. I told Jen that it must be a sign from God for me to get with the program and study already. My cooking will improve when I can focus on it.

But it was still a little too creamy for me. I think my body is now actively craving healthy food and, if you will believe me, healthier desserts (or at least cake, and not something made almost entirely of fat, like a parfait). I recorded a minimum weight of 134.5 pounds twice already, which is a good way from the max of 140 pounds I weighed a few months back. Yay for me.

Banana Parfait
335g (12oz, about 3-4 large) ripe bananas
1 teaspoon lemon juice
15mL (1 tablespoon) dark rum
200g (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) heavy cream, chilled
42g (1/2 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Purée the bananas, lemon juice, and dark rum together. In another bowl, whip together the cream, sugar, and vanilla until it holds soft peaks. Gently fold the banana mixture into the cream, taking care not to deflate the foam too much. Distribute among 6 molds (I used plastic cups) and freeze. To unmold, dip the mold up to just below the level of the parfait in hot tap water for 5 seconds, then turn over onto the serving plate. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

The chocolate ganache is just an equal weight of boiled cream and chopped bittersweet chocolate, but milk chocolate would also be great with bananas.