Thursday, July 14, 2011

O' Sonho- Wishing I Was Somewhere Else

Once had dinner at the Portuguese restaurant, Osonho, in Eastwood.
I don't know much about Portugal, except that it's in the Iberian Peninsula and that Ferdinand Magellan, the explorer who stumbled upon the Philippines was originally from there but sailed the world to discover lands for Spain.

I had always wished to go to Spain for a culinary tour but it never crossed my mind to go to Portugal. As I don't have an idea of the cuisine of this country south of Spain, eating at O'Sonho would give me a preview of the culinary treats that await me, if my dreams do come true.

The restaurant promises Portuguese fusion cuisine. The word "fusion" should have been my cue to book a table at the next door "Kitchen Cookbook". Restaurants that brag about 'fusion' cuisine usually end up with experimental meals that leave the taste buds unfulfilled. But I am getting ahead of myself.

As a meat eater, I had expected, that due to its proximity to Spain, the meat dishes would not only be an excellent source of protein but also a source of gustatory joy.

For tira gosto (appetizer), I had the sizzling Chourico Sisig. the  hot and crispy meat almost jumping out of the hot metal plate. 
Part pork bits and part sausage (also made of pork bits), it was swimming in bubbling oil and had a good amount of chopped onions and red chili on top. It was disappointingly bland, though. Only the seasoning and the calamansi (native Calamondin) could be tasted aside from the heat of the chili.

Dinner was the enticingly described Todos Paella De Carne, an all-meat Paella with a "heavenly mix of bacon, beef, chicken, lamb and chourico-carefully spiced and specially cooked to satisfy the most demanding meat craving."

I was reminded that the wait for the Paella was  30 minutes. And wait I did,  sipping  the refreshing Peppermint Iced Tea.
I guess, the wait just heightened my expectation. After all the menu did say "Allow 30 minutes for paella perfection." 
It looked perfect. The saffron colored rice topped with an assortment meats was plated in a paellera, a flat round pan with two handles. Traditionally, the Paella would be eaten straight from the pan. But since I was trying to look urbanized, I ate the dish on a plate. With a knife and fork.
The meat portions were generous but the spices were not. The lamb was a little tough and the bacon lacked the saltiness common in preserved meats. 
I did not get to finish the Paella because the serving was good for three persons. The unfinished portion, I took home in a doggy bag, along with sad memories of dining in a restaurant that was full of promise. I guess, Portugal will have to wait, until another restaurant redeems it in my eyes and taste buds.


Found this book at Book Sale today. Looks interesting and the review at sounds promising.

"Picture a magical, sugar-fueled road trip with Willy Wonka behind the wheel and David Sedaris riding shotgun, complete with chocolate-stained roadmaps and the colorful confetti of spent candy wrappers flying in your cocoa powder dust. If you can imagine such a manic journey--better yet, if you can imagine being a hungry hitchhiker who's swept through America's forgotten candy meccas: Philadelphia (Peanut Chews), Sioux City (Twin Bing), Nashville (Goo Goo Cluster), Boise (Idaho Spud) and beyond--then Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, Steve Almond's impossible-to-put down portrait of regional candy makers and the author's own obsession with all-things sweet, would be your Fodor's guide to this gonzo tour."

I'll tell you if this is one happy sugar-fueled ride.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On the Table Tonight: Nilagang Baka

Soup on rainy days is comforting. Tonight, I shared this Nilagang Baka with A. and another good friend, E. It is a whole meal in itself but is best served with rice and a dipping sauce of patis and calamansi.
1 kg. Beef shank with marrow
1 cup carrots, unevenly chopped into small bite-sized pieces
2 red onions, chopped
1 bunch celery, use only the leaves and the thinner stalks, finely chopped
1 stalk leek, chopped
6 pieces Japanese Sweet Corn, cut into half
1 head cabbage, quartered
1 beef cube
salt and pepper to taste

Put the beef, carrots, onion, celery and leeks into a deep pot. Immerse in water. Let it boil in high heat for about one hour. After the first hour, add the beef cube.  Put the heat down to medium and let the soup simmer for at least 2 hours. Check on the beef if it is tender enough for you. Add water, salt and pepper as needed. When the beef is tender enough, add the corn and let it simmer until the corn cooks. When the corn is tender, turn off the heat and add the cabbage. Serve hot with rice.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Kitchen is My Oasis and Chili Con Carne Salad With Three-Cheese Sauce

Whenever I'm stressed, I find myself in the kitchen.

Some people get stressed with cooking. For me, it's the other way around. There's something zen about peeling garlic, chopping tomatoes and trying to stop tears from falling as the stench of the onion I am mincing slowly wafts up my nostrils and turning the my tear duct switch on.

I guess, having to force myself to focus on my fingers from being bloodied by the knife or  stirring the soup so it doesn't boil over helps clear the mind and provide  mental and emotional therapy from the stresses of daily life.  My kitchen is small and as you can see has a lot of clutter. But it is amidst the clutter and chaos of cooking that I find myself when I need peace.

The kitchen is my oasis.

Having said that, here's my latest stress-busting recipe which I developed after sharing taco salad with some workmates after an exciting day at work.The following week, I made a batch and shared it with the mates.


For the salad-
1 head ice lettuce,  washed, dried and shredded (use a ceramic knife if possible)
2 boxes of nacho chips
6 pc fresh ripe tomatoes, diced and soaked in mango juice for 30 mins, then drained
1 pc big onion, soaked in pineapple juice  for 30 mins. then drained

For the Three-Cheese sauce-
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 1/2 cups fresh milk
3/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Edam cheese (Queso de Bola)

For the Chili Con Carne-
1 pack red kidney beans (about 200 g), soaked overnight and drained
2 tbsps vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 head garlic, finely minced
500 g  ground round beef
1 can whole tomatoes (500 grams)
4 pieces bottled hot cherry or jalapeno peppers, finely chopped (add or decrease, based on your preference)
1 small pack tomato paste
1/2  tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/2  tsp Spanish Paprika
1/2 tsp dried ground oregano
1/4 tsp All spice 
1/4 tsp dried cloves
1 small bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
dash cayenne pepper, or to taste1 tablespoon chili powder


Soak the beans overnight in water. Rinse and drain right before cooking. Place in a large pan and add 2-3 cups of water. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour, or until tender. Drain.

In a large pan or wok, sautee the onion, garlic and beef in oil. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste peppers and spices. Cover and let it simmer for 1 hour. Uncover and add the beans and let it simmer until the sauce reaches a thick. Remember to stir so the bottom doesn't burn.



Melt the  butter by placing it on a ceramic bowl placed on top of a hot water basin.  Remove from heat. Stir in flour and seasonings. Gradually add the milk and stir until until well mixed. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Slowly add the cheese and stir until smooth and well blended.

Heat the nachos as instructed in the pack. Place on a platter. 
Add a layer of the shredded lettuce.
 Sprinkle with the tomatoes and onions.

Ladle in a hefty amount of the Chili Con Carne.

Pour Three-Cheese Sauce. Serve and enjoy.

Mochi with Fresh Strawberries

Was lucky enough to taste this dark chocolate mochi ball with fresh strawberry filling made by hand at Dezato, a small cozy cafe near E. Rodriguezrun by sisters Ingrid and Maria.

My name is Mike and I am a Mochi addict.

Friendships and soups- the simpler, the better

Was recently served this soup at a friend's house: fish stock and ready-to-cook shrimp, crab and squid balls. Uncomplicated, as many friendships should be, too.

The amazing 'Modernist Cuisine' of Nathan Myhrvold

Here's another interesting TED Talk presentation by Nathan Mhyrvold who wrote "Modernist Cuisine". At first, I thought here's another take at fusion recipes that would end up as being "pautot" or pretty food that's pretty unpalatable. however, after seeing his Ted talk, this is obviously not the case. Rather, this is kitchen geekness at its finest.
Click on the picture to go to the book's Facebook page
What he did was the equivalent of poking through meat as it is being grilled and opening a bottle of pickles being pasteurized. He basically cut things in half, cooked through them to see what happens to food as it is being cooked.
The guy is a polymath who used to work with Microsoft and in 1999, put his energy into different interests like archeology, photogrpahy and world barbecue championships. It's not surprising then that the cookbook is a documented journey to the inner sanctums of gastronomy.

Watch out for the popcorn and the gelatin videos... and wish me luck in getting a copy of the 6th edition that has washable pages.
Click on the photo to watch the TED Talks video