First feast

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Now it can be told: my days whizz by when I’m in the kitchen. I mean, I could kind of remember the sun hitting my face when I opened my eyes and I found myself on the early morning flight back home. Then…everything was a blur. There were good snippets of course: hosting a dinner for my friends, two charity events with the same people, Christmas lunch, and the micro-feast we had this morning. In between these events I was cooking up a storm, making sure time was blurred. In a few days I’ll be back in Manila and I hope I can make the most of the borrowed time.

A neighbor died today, January 1st. I’d like to believe he died a happy 79-year old man. “Life is too short”, his wife told us when we visited. Amen. We might as well enjoy the ride.

In the thick of things I found myself hitting the stress button more than once this morning when a few things didn’t go my way. But all was well, and I still couldn’t believe I put together almost all of what was on the table. Yay me.

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The spread:

Now I would consider this paella pretty fancy – with the arborio and saffron. But I still crave the one my Mama Eng usually makes with regular rice and malagkit/sticky rice, with that nice color that only cheap atsuete can give! Recipe here. For two years now we’ve had paella for New Year. Not too shabby!
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Chicken Galantina
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homemade ham – recipe here
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The ribs look glorious if I do say so myself.

Not all the meals I’ll have this year will be grand (I might even skip a meal or two). But I intend to enjoy this year in the company of good people and even better conversations. Let’s put ourselves out there! Happy New Year everyone. 🙂

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Feast (An East Meets West Barbeque)

2011 has been one big blur for me. I have become a lot of things this year. A student, a graduate, a nurse, a teacher (while I was waiting for the nurse exam results).

Things just happened so fast that there’s this slight worry if I’m not at the right pace in my life right now. So I might say I’ve also become one big question mark right now.

I’m really one big ball of emotions right now. The semester is about to end and I can’t really see a light at the end of the tunnel just yet. I teach part time and I don’t know if I’ll be back next semester. Yet, I have also become emotionally distant at the thought of being a nurse. So it’s not as if I’m being forcefully tugged at two divergent directions; the problem is I’m not really moving. Yeah, that really puts it in perspective.

But one thing is for sure, cooking tugs me at a direction I’m willing to go to. Whereas the thought of an uncertain future makes me stuck at one point, there’s a certainty in the kitchen, well, for me that is.

OK, enough of that. Even if life brings us to certain lows, we can almost always find a reason to stop for a while, sit down, and eat an extremely hearty meal and celebrate whatever glorious moment we’ve been given. And everything tastes so much better with barbecue sauce.

Speaking of which, I’ve always wanted to make a barbeque mix. One of my major goals in life is to create a line of barbecue sauces. And I think I just found sauce # 1. It’s not the traditional ketchup-y barbecue sauce. Sure, the ketchup is there but the soy sauce adds another depth of flavor to it. When I first tasted it I thought I screwed up and went straight to China when I was aiming for Texas. But really, it’s China and Texas = Chexas or…Tina. Chexas it is. Plus on the side we have buttered mushrooms and peas. Really really Chexas.

I was amazed that cumin is actually the little star of the barbecue. I’ve browsed a lot of barbecue recipes that needed cumin. It can overpower the senses in large amounts, but the perfect balance adds that smoky earthy aroma that hit the nail on the coffin…or grill…or oven.

Oven “Barbecued” Baby Back Ribs with Buttered Mushrooms and Peas

(serves 4 – 6)

for 1 1/2 kg pork baby back ribs

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon cracked pepper
  • a dash of cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried basil leaves
  • 2 tsp paprika
  1. Mix the seasoning ingredients together and rub all over the meat. Place in the refrigerator and leave overnight.
  2. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 190 C. Place in a roasting pan with a rack. Cover the pan with tin foil and place in the oven.
  3. Cook for about an hour. After an hour, remove the tin foil and brush with the sauce. You may want to remove the pan from the oven to brush the meat evenly.
  4. Return it to the oven covered with foil and bake for another 45 minutes.
  5. Then brush it with the sauce for the second time and return to the oven, this time without the foil.
  6.  Bake for another 15 – 20 minutes or until there is no more blood from the bones.
  7. When done, remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Slice into individual pieces or serve whole with the sauce and buttered mushrooms and peas. Enjoy!!!

for the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium sized red bell pepper, cleaned and sliced into strips
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups tomato ketchup
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
  1. Heat olive oil in a small saucepan and toast the garlic. Add the bell peppers and fry for a minute.
  2. While the pan is over low heat, add the remaining ingredients except the cornstarch in water. Stirring frequently until everything is incorporated well. Allow to cook for one – two minutes.
  3. Add the cornstarch slurry and mix well. Allow to cook and reduce until thick.
for the buttered mushrooms and peas
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1 large can button mushrooms (sorry, threw the can away and didn’t get the amount – whole, pieces and stems or sliced, it’s your call), drained.
  • 1 pack frozen green peas
  • a dash of salt and pepper
  1. Melt butter in a pan. Add the garlic and allow to toast.
  2. Add the mushrooms and fry for a few minutes.
  3. Add the peas and cook for another minute or two or until peas are tender. season with salt and pepper and serve warm with the sauce.