I'm sure many of you are starting to get sick of my usual boo-hooing on your blogs-- "That looks wonderful! Too bad we don't have raspberries/ rhubarb/ fleur de sel/ celeriac/ apricots here!" Actually that list would be longer if I had included things that were available, but really rare or prohibitively expensive. Case in point: US artichokes just made their way into the supermarkets here, each one 5-6 inches in diameter and about $9.22 each. Clean-up on aisle 4, someone just barfed forever and ever. Guess I will have to settle for canned ones. Another one of those expensive things is buffalo/fresh mozzarella, which would probably be about $4.50 at the popular delicatessen for a few tiny balls you can snort with a thin pipe.
Imagine my delight when I saw locally-produced fresh water buffalo mozzarella (3 2-inch balls for about $3.25) at Market! Market!. I didn't exactly know what I'd make when I bought them, but I had to check out the quality. Verdict: the smell threw me off a bit (ah, so this is what real cheese is like), but the texture, color, and taste is absolutely dreamily creamy. Not gray/yellow, rubbery, and salty. Now, if only I had good, ripe tomatoes to go with them. The cherry tomatoes I used for this salad are typically prematurely-picked, sour-ish balls of disappointment (note to farmers: WAIT TILL RIPE, SERIOUSLY). But my friends did enjoy the salad a lot (right, Genie and Vany? Anton?). The picture above is not of Market! Market!, but I thought I'd continue with part 2 of Wow! Philippines with my trip to the posh Salcedo Village Saturday Farmer's Market.
Taking a cue from Jen's pictures of Boulder County's Farmers Market, I decided to show you guys our version, right in the middle of the financial district of Makati (you might see Joey of 80 Breakfasts if you look hard enough). What we lack in artisan cheeses, we make up for in attendance. Take a gander at the crowd! I am talking SHEETS of people, weaving around each other the whole day. Foodies, foodie wannabes, and food-lovers who hate the term "foodie" (me!)-- they all come here. There were also some people armed with DSLRs, which made me kind of cringe with my lowly PS in hand. For some reason, I can't get over the embarrassment of getting in some vendor's face and taking a picture of their stuff, especially if I'm not buying. It's not like eye-rolls will kill me. But I feel like I'm disrupting business.
One of two seafood stalls, where you can regularly procure lobsters. The other one has frozen seafood. This was a big let-down, as the seafood was DEAD and not on ice. Yuck. Get a clue, fishmongers. I'm surprised people actually buy from this stall. The other one had the promise of frozen Monkfish, which I'd been looking for forever, but they said they hadn't caught any for a long time now, which made me depressed.
Organic vegetables... (good, if ordinary, selection-- but at least the quality is nice)
... and fruits. From the back: apples, tangerines, avocados, lemons, custard apples, mandarin oranges, santol ("wild mangosteen"), rambutans, mangosteens, lansones (Lansium domesticum). From the picture above: bananas, melons, pineapples, durians, what look like yams, and tamarind.
There's a staggering array of prepared food available (uh, I bought a samosa, hah) from several cuisines (notably Spanish, Persian, Indian, Vietnamese, Singaporean, Thai, French), but of course the spread for Filipino food is most interesting. Quick run-down: Menudo (pork and liver, carrots and potatoes in tomato sauce), Ampalaya (bitter melon), Monggo (mung beans), Pork Adobo (pork stewed in garlic), Tokwa't Baboy (tofu and pork), Bopis (pig heart and lungs in tomatoes), Pork Giniling (ground pork with carrots and potatoes), Tortilla (ground pork cake in eggs-- hey, a pattern), Talong with Pork Bagoong (Eggplant stuffed with pork and shrimp paste), Ginataang Kalabasa (squash in coconut milk).
Plus: Baked Tahong (Mussels), Papaitan (some bitter stew I haven't tried), Laing (taro leaves in coconut milk), Adobong Kangkong (Water Spinach cooked in garlic), Sinigang sa Miso (sour soup with miso base), Bicol Express (pork and chilies in coconut milk), Tortang Talong (battered eggplant), Pinakbet (squash and string beans in shrimp paste), and Ukoy (vegetable fritters).
Skewered pork, fish, and squid, ready for the grill (er, again).
I dare any other Farmer's Market to produce a whole cow roasting on a spit!
... Or a young pig, for that matter (but that's a lot easier).
French food corner. I didn't try the guy's macarons.
One of two (!!) creperies in the area. Also littered around are about 3 or 4 scooperies. Dessert-wise I wasn't too interested in the offerings-- some sugar-free and homemade stuff here and there. Not that they weren't great, but making my own desserts is a snap, plus I can blog about it.
As usual, there are the locally-produced crafts. There's so much more I didn't take a picture of, such as the plant nursery (I bought dill, rosemary, and oregano) and the dairy stall (where you can get all the water buffalo products you could ever want).
Insalata Caprese from Jamie's Italy
Wow. This barely needs a recipe. But Jamie has an interesting way of making Caprese salad that may appeal to some of you.
Roughly chop the basil and pound with a good pinch of salt in a pestle and mortar. As I didn't want to make too dark a dressing, I opted to very finely mince the basil. Add a splash of oil and stir.
Tear the mozzarella onto a large serving plate. Chop the tomatoes roughly and dress in a bowl with the spring onion, some olive oil, herb vinegar, and salt and pepper. Place the tomatoes in and around the mozzarella and drizzle the dressing over. Sprinkle with some more basil leaves (I used oregano here) and serve.
This is my entry to Weekend Wokking, this month hosted by DP of Blazing Hot Wok. Do check out the round-up in a few days!
28 July 2008
22 July 2008
Please don't take the subtitle to mean that I consider myself to be a one-Michelin-starred chef. It's just that I was influenced to make this poached plum tart from browsing Gordon Ramsay's "Recipes from a Three-Star Chef", which has that inscription on the protective box. I doubt a star counts when you give it to yourself. But if I were to put down my actual star status, it would be No-Star Chef (and not even a chef), and if it just read "Chef" above my tart, you might think I'm talking about Lenny Henry's kitchen comedy. And if I were entirely honest about my non-chefness, it would read No-Star Nothing, or just nothing, and I'd have no subtitle.
But I will give myself one star for at least this piece of news: I passed the first step of my US Medical Licensure Exam! And not a bad score at that. I figured anyone who would care whether I passed or failed would be reading this blog. I just told my parents (left it to them to tell the family), and one friend, and one Internet friend. It's hard to gauge if your own friends might think you're a blowhard for being so excited about passing an exam they passed weeks or months ago (I'm the last among my friends to take the exam). Apparently there are people you'd give a kidney for, and somehow you still don't know whether they actually care about tiny details of your life. So I'm just putting it out here in the slight chance that you were worried about me.
Now, back to the tart: you might be wondering what I'm doing just browsing a cookbook/coffee-table book when I could just buy it and get it over with instead of coming back to the same dog-eared copy each time you visit the bookstore (er, I'm just kidding, I do handle it with care. It's still quite pristine). You see, for a giant cookbook, 3-Star Chef only has slightly more than 30 recipes, showcasing the exquisite taste of truffles, ceps, lamb, foie gras (I'm guessing), gold, and Fabergé egg omelets. It does have about 10 dessert recipes that look divine, but I've enough problems getting my own basic plated desserts off the ground here. That, and it costs at least P2800 ($62).
Here are a list of things I want that cost much, much less than that:
1. A cast-iron skillet P1050 ($23)
2. A tiny stovetop espresso maker P1700 ($38)
3. Digital instant-read thermometer with probe P1400 ($31)
4. Francois Payard's "Chocolate Epiphany" P1400 ($31)
5. Pichet Ong's "The Sweet Spot" P1200 ($27)
6. A microplane grater P700 ($16)
7. Petite dessert rings P415 each ($9.20)
And for a few hundred more:
1. Guitar Hero Les Paul Wireless Controller P3200 ($71)
2. Ben Sherman sweater ($73)
I'm not really a big-purchase guy. I like slowly eroding my savings away with small purchases like CDs, DVDs, ingredients, and old magazines. It looks like the most reasonable and probably useful thing I want up there is the skillet, though I'll be busy and away for a while in the future, so it's not so wise to buy it now. The reason I'm not so good with following up buying big-ticket items like that damned sweater is that half the time I'm thinking, "I can buy 3 cast iron skillets at these prices!" At least it keeps me from getting broke.
Besides, I've already ripped off the decorating techniques of Ramsay's pastry chef:
I didn't use this top view when I posted about my vacherin because the chocolate design became flaccid after 15 seconds of the summer heat.
Deeba tagged me to name a few songs that were currently stuck in my head in a good way (because: look at Ashlee Simpson's new video. Or not. Don't say I didn't warn you).
A Bad Dream by Keane - anti-war song. The faux guitar solo (it's a distorted Yamaha CP-60) at the end is reminiscent of Lauryn Hill's Ex-Factor, which can't be a bad thing.
Get Back by The Beatles - I realize it's slightly appropriate because it's about immigration (not that I'm immigrating, but it's kind of tangential). But it is a really catchy song.
Under Attack by ABBA - I'll admit I watched Mamma Mia! and it was okay. I actually like ABBA music, but mostly the non-hits. The layering of the vocals in the chorus is simple but it's damn catchy. By the way, this wasn't in the movie.
Knights of Cydonia by Muse - I heard this was supposed to represent the Four Horsemen, which is a tad creepy now that I think about it, but as long as we're talking about layering: listen to the overlapping guitar and keyboards. In the VERSES, no less. Muse's signature undulating chords are insane.
Crazy on You by Heart - I read that this song was written under the influence of mushrooms. I wonder how it ended up making sense. Nancy Wilson's opening acoustic solo is jaw-droppingly good.
Original Sin by Elton John - just a beautiful song about your first love. It makes me kind of starry-eyed and sad.
Yesterdays by Switchfoot - I was planning to use this song in a future post. If you don't feel anything after listening to the lyrics, you're a robot.
Poached Plum Frangipane Tart
The concept for this I derived from Recipes from a 3-Star Chef but I got the corresponding recipes for the crust and the frangipane from Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson's Tartine. The creme anglaise is from Flo Braker's Simple Art of Perfect Baking-- I used it because it doesn't call for any cream. The sauce is supposed to be plum sauce made from sieved poached plums in syrup, but I ran out of plums because I'm not made of money so I used just the syrup. Obviously it turned out too sweet, so we just skipped it for the rest of the servings. I barely had enough for a big 9" tart and a single tartelette. I'm glad because the photo of the big tart looks freakily neon-- I didn't stage the photo shoot well enough.
Flaky Tart Dough
Stir together the salt and water and maintain very cold. I made this dough by hand, but the principles are the same when making in a heavy-duty food processor. Put the flour in a mixing bowl and scatter the butter over. Work the butter into the flour with a pastry blender until it forms large crumbs and some pieces of butter remain the size of peas. Add in the salt water and combine with a fork until the dough comes together into a rough ball. Shape into a disk 1 inch thick and wrap in cling film and chill for at least 2 hours.
Ideally you should be working in a very cold kitchen but I "developed" a method for lining a tart pan with a removable bottom very easily (actually it's from necessity-- the heat was making the dough too greasy, and you definitely don't want that to happen if you want a flaky crust). Grease the ring and bottom of a 9" tart pan. Working quickly, roll out the disk of dough from the center out in all directions (to ensure an even crust) over the removable bottom only until the dough circle is 1-1/2 inch larger than the removable bottom. Carefully lift the entire set-up (bottom and dough) and plop it onto the tart ring. Neatly and without stretching, drape the dough against the sides of the tart ring and roll the rolling pin over the edge to get rid of the excess. Chill the shell for at least an hour.
Coincidentally this is also Ramsay's recipe.
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and salt until creamy, then add the sugar and almond meal and mix well to combine. Add the brandy and egg and mix well. Keep covered with cling film in the fridge until ready to use.
In a pot, combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the plum wedges and poach for about 5 minutes. Leave to cool and store in the fridge. The longer you let them sit in the syrup, the redder they will become.
Set a rack in the middle third of the oven and preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Fill the chilled tart shell with an even layer of frangipane and bake until the crust is golden and the filling is set (a knife should come out clean), about 45 minutes. Let it cool to room temperature. Drain and arrange the poached plum wedges on top in a decorative pattern. Chill until serving time. Remove from the fridge 10 minutes before serving.
17 July 2008
A few weeks ago I just received my copy of the new E4TV (UK) hit sitcom The Inbetweeners. I realize now that I found the series highly enjoyable not because of any innovative comedy (though it is quite funny with a few clunkers-- not bad for the current state of TV), but because I found that I actually began to care about what happens to the characters. And that's because I could relate to the main character, Will.
Will is forced to go to a comprehensive school for sixth form (what I imagine to be the British equivalent of junior high school), but unfortunately, he's a "posh twat." For his own sanity, he sticks around 3 other guys who are not really geeks, but are not so cool to be unattainable, either. Like a cheesy commercial jingle that sticks in your head, Will works his way into the lives of his new friends, and you can actually see the evolution of their friendship from when they just tolerated Will to be nice up until the point where they realize that with Will's help, they've all grown up a little.
It was a little bit like that for me moving from high school (where I was stuck with 42 other desperados for 4 years) to college. Only four of us from my high school class wanted to be doctors, and we ended up all taking BS Biology as our premed (though one was sidetracked). So that is the story of how I got stuck with 2 guys with whom I shared nothing in common. What made me particularly freaked was that I was an outsider in my high school class for the most part and the other two could already bond over quoting lines from Jerry Maguire and memorizing dumb Third Eye Blind song lyrics.
But the worst part was the word. I'm sure your dialect has one-- chief, dude, brav, bra, bro, jefe, pare, tol-- the list goes on and on. If you've been reading for a while you'll know how awkward it is for me to actually say these things. I'm not a guy's guy for the most part. I was the resident nerd among the three of us and I was foolish to think that I could pretend to be someone else, even for a little while.
"Quit using that word. ("Quan"), that's my word!" I remember one of them using that quote from Jerry Maguire on me. Felt like a hot knife in my sternum. Even now that we're stuck together, it seems like I was stuck with the loosest of adhesives, a Post-It. Much like Will (but without his determination), I felt just tolerated but not accepted.
Upset, I told one of my close (female) friends about it, but she advised me to stick with the program. She thought it was pretty amazing how we balanced each other out and that friendship is more than these superficialities. Now, after 10 years of not compromising who I am, I see the friendship we had much more clearly.
What sticks out in my mind most (amid the countless hours spent hanging out with them at home, in my friend's pick-up truck, thinking up stupid knock-knock jokes and cursing awful teachers) is Reserved Corps Military Training, which was mandatory for two years in all male college students. I was nowhere near physically fit to carry that accursed M1 Garan rifle and mindless marching and (ugh) push-ups, but somehow, having these two around really lifted my spirits and allowed me to pull it off. I think they could tell that it was a time I really needed support, and it was automatic for them. I wasn't just tolerated-- I was (still am?) really a part of something. And I like to think we helped each other grow a lot too in the process.
There's nothing that screams "friend" food to me more than pizza, and incidentally I served this to a group of friends, one of them among the friends I mentioned above. The other one is working as an Ophthalmology resident.
(Dear people in my life: I won't stop till I've associated a food item with every single one of you. Ha ha ha.)
Barbecue Chicken Pizza
I quite like sweet sauces, so Barbecue Chicken Pizza is a no-brainer. Next time, though, in proportion to the smallish crusts I usually make, I'd cut up the chicken smaller as well. Use a great barbecue sauce that's not too sweet-- pairing it up with pizza dough will magnify this. Go for a deep, smoky one instead.
Pizza dough recipe is here.
In a large skillet, saute the chicken cubes in the olive oil over medium heat until just cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Park the cooked chicken in a bowl and toss in the 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce and set aside in the fridge.
Place a baking stone at the oven floor and preheat the oven to 260°C (500°F) for at least 15 minutes. Stretch out two pizza dough balls to make 10-12 inch rounds. Spread each of the rounds with a quarter-cup of the barbecue sauce each and sprinkle each with the shredded cheeses. Distribute the chicken cubes and the onion over each round. Slip the pizza into the oven and bake until the crust is golden, about 10 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and dress with the cilantro.
09 July 2008
Risotto ai Cavolfiori
I got the subtitle of this post after I just watched a rerun of Sex and the City. Samantha asks her friends if she has a pattern in the relationships she seeks. Carrie answers, "In mathematics, randomness is considered a pattern." Samantha comes back with, "Well, I'm what they call a prime number." Which kind of sounds witty except it doesn't really make any sense or fit in the context of the conversation except that it just barely has something to do with math. But dumb as it is, you kind of have to applaud Samantha for having that much self-esteem. Just recently I've been trying to get in touch with a few former consultants and thinking about the interview process for medical residency. I've been interviewed to enter schools before, but the odds were pretty good and I knew exactly what they were looking for. As I think about my interactions with the physicians, I scour my brain for every single particle of positive qualities I have. It is exhausting. I didn't whip out an index card and make a self-affirmation list, but just typing out the words on my computer made me blush. I'm not used to it.
I mean, if in an interview, someone would ask me, "What do you think is your greatest weakness?" I'm pretty sure my weakness would be saying what my actual weakness is. I fear that many interviewers actually enjoy hearing bullshit answers like "I work too hard." "I don't know when to stop giving." Okay. Would you take such a person seriously? "My weakness is eczema." How about that? Would you hire that guy?
I've burned a lot of calories, pacing around my room thinking of what kind of an impression I would make. The interviews are not for 4 months or so! Maybe I need that self-affirmation index card. "Mark, you can cook all sorts of yummy things." Yeah, own it! Ha ha ha.
I thought I would pretty much nail this risotto the first time (I wanted to know the classic way of doing it before doing the "cheats"), all I needed was patience. The problem was, it was about 35°C in the kitchen and standing around in front of a stove for 15 minutes seemed a little self-punishing. What made it worse is I had the flame on maybe too low and I ended up stirring the damn risotto for 30 minutes. On the plus side, it was fantastic, creamy, and delicious. My next attempt was not so fortunate (I'll publish that some other time).
Some various YAYs! first:
a. I have four scanners here at home, one is working, one is shit, one is broken, and one is missing an adapter (it was my favorite one too, sigh-- I bought it when I was in college and it was already awesome, cheap, and FAST. The company doesn't make them anymore-- they've been acquired by Benq).
b. I just received payment for my work as a designer for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The posters have already gone public, yay! (will show it in the future ;) )
c. My grandfather (mother's side) was a professor of art at the University of Santo Tomas. He was an awesome painter (a realist), photographer, and sculptor.
d. My brother's XBOX 360 just got the 3 Red Lights of Death-- brought it in for repairs. Fucking Microsoft.
e. We just encountered an aftershock of magnitude 5.3 on the Richter scale here, but apparently I didn't feel it. Huh.
f. I just responded to a panic call of "Is there a doctor here?" today. The old adrenalin kicking in. Man passed out, but there was no damage, thank heavens.
a. My favorite superhero is Shadowcat. Because she's intelligent and her passive powers force her to kick actual ass. My least favorite is... I dunno. Hawkeye? He looks lame.
b. My favorite superhero movie is X2: X-Men United. It's got some really good points and the parallelism it draws to the prejudices plaguing the world today is quite poignant. (If only problems could be solved as easily.) Plus, it's got Mystique kicking ass in it. Spider-Man 2 is a close second. My least favorite is Batman forever, because it is so campy and not in a good way.
c. I guess right now my desired superpower would be telekinesis because it has the added bonus of enabling me to fly, in addition to kicking random ass. But really, even Hawkeye's would do.
Cauliflower Risotto from Jamie's Italy
In a food processor, process the bread with the anchovies, oil from the can, and chilies (you could also just minced them together on a chopping board as I did). Heat a frying pan, add a splash of olive oil and fry the flavored breadcrumbs until golden brown; set aside.
In a large pot, add the stock and the cauliflower florets. Chop the tender inner part of the cauliflower stalk finely. Meanhile, in a large skillet, add the olive oil and dollop of butter over very low heat, then the onion, garlic, celery, and cauliflower stalk and cook very slowly for about 15 minutes without coloring. Once the vegetables are soft, add the rice and turn up the heat. Keep stirring the rice and after a minute it will appear translucent. Add the white wine and keep stirring. Once it has cooked into the rice, add the stock ladle by ladle, stirring and massaging the rice grains, until you've added about half the stock. You can then begin to add the cauliflower florets with the stock, crushing the florets as you proceed. The whole process will take at least 15 minutes. Taste the rice to see if it's cooked-- if it isn't, add stock (boiling water if you've run out of stock, which I did) until the rice is soft but still al dente. Add salt and pepper to taste. Take off the heat and stir in the 75g butter, grated Parmesan, and parsley. Put the lid on and leave for two minutes, then serve with the anchovy pangrattato and some more Parmesan on top.
07 July 2008
A man and his son were in a car crash. The father died, but the son was critically injured and rushed to hospital. When he reached the operating table, the doctor on duty looked at him and said "I can't operate on him, he's my son." How can this be?
I remember this "riddle" was a tiny detail in the The Office Special. Tim was asking Gareth the question and Gareth simply could not get it. If you still don't get it, boy, are you in trouble!
Since one of you already used the Salt-and-Pepa song, I've been relegated to using Color Me Badd. Thank you so much. Anyway, I thought this topic would be interesting, challenging, and would provide us all-- male and female-- with plenty of insights. It's not easy to talk about. The corollary to doctors being seen as more than (less than?) human is that female doctors are expected to swallow whatever bolus of shit society (medical or otherwise) throws at them. Male doctors are not exempt from their own pressures. It's not a weakness to acknowledge that these problems exist. It's more important to show our colleagues and future generations of physicians that yes, it can be done. It should be done. And here's the things we should stop doing. Here are the entries in order of submission:
- Dr. Em makes us ponder on how much demureness has infected the clinics and how it can harm our patients and sensible practice. She gives us great tips on how to overcome it.
- Dr. J.A. relates to us her struggles as the only female resident in the male-dominated field of Radiology. Her professionalism through it all is simply inspiring.
- Dr. Joey explores the difference between the perceived difficulty of being a mother and a doctor and the reality. The solution is as clear as figuring out the answer to the riddle above, if you can figure out how a problem works both ways.
- Dr. Megamom wonders why the inequity in medical student admission exists as it contradicts some observations on society. Somehow actual skill and talent is overlooked and it all becomes a matter of uteri!
- Dr. Prudence offers introspection as a solution to the pervasive gender biases in medical specialties. The question is, are these stereotypes pervasive simply because they are self-actualizing?
- Dr. Remo explores the root of the problem of gender insensitivity in male-dominated specialties and offers interesting solutions.
- Dr. Che wisely discusses how gender sensitivity is not the same as gender blindness, which is a slippery slope when you discuss equality.
- Dr. Ness gives us a few vignettes as evidence of gender inequality in medicine, and I found myself snickering at them. However, what's scary is that these seem to be completely sensible to some!
- Dr. Gigi also knows more than a bit about being a woman in a man's world. How does she handle it? Well, her colleagues all have one particular soft spot! Kidding. Read on to find out how.
- Dr. Manggy shares five anecdotes about gender issues in medicine and how his own over-analytical view of things makes what is unnoticeable to some colorful in his eyes.
- Dr. Meloinks notes the discrepancy between women's lib and reality, and the advances we make in medicine while retaining other traditions.
It was truly a pleasure reading your entries and I'm glad we got this out in the open. Maybe the next time we hear the following in the operating room:
"Hija, do you have a boyfriend?"
"You're retracting like a girl!"
We can shake ourselves the notion that it's just normal to say these things and think to ourselves (or out loud, if you dare), "WTF?"
I'm going to comment on the posts I haven't yet-- today has been an exhausting day. Thanks.
at 12:16 PM