Roasted Garlic and Tomato Risotto

I’d like to believe I’ve come a long way since my first botched attempt at risotto. If there’s one nugget of wisdom cooking school has given me (actually I’ve learned so much in three months!), it’s how to cook risotto the right way. It’s actually a simple process, albeit a little meticulous. Tasting the rice via random sampling to make sure everything is cooked al dente is essential. But it can be done. I don’t think I’ll botch it ever again.
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I never realized we had a box of arborio sitting in the pantry here at home until we used the exact same stuff in school for our kitchen lab. Hey, everything was in Italian and I was too lazy to google a translation so I never attempted to use the stuff. I’ve been known to buy and keep a lot of useless stuff, or things that I only use once. Fortunately, that isn’t the case with the arborio.
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I hit two birds with one stone today. Roasted tomatoes are a treat: sweet and tart and definitely great. I had it with pasta once and it was a home run. Today I had it with risotto and of course, another home run. Roasted garlic and tomatoes add a nice depth of flavor to the risotto, and finishing it off with parmesan is the icing on the proverbial cake. This plate of risotto will accompany a savory meat dish (preferably beef) pretty well but today I just had it as it is and I’m not complaining. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, especially when I’m given a plate of something as good as this. I had it with ice-cold coconut water, and oh man, that worked for me. It really works.
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Roasted Garlic and Tomato Risotto (serves 2)

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 2 – 4 cups warm chicken stock
  • half an onion, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the tomatoes and garlic
  • 1 garlic bulb, top part sliced open
  • 5 tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh basil, chopped, for garnishing
  1. Preheat oven to 180 C/ 350 F. Arrange the garlic bulb and tomatoes in a pan (optional: with a silicone mat). Drizzle generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Place it in the oven and allow to bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour, or until tomatoes are shriveled at the sides and the garlic has softened. When done, remove from the oven.
  3. Remove the garlic from their skins and mash with a fork. Reserve around three pieces of roasted tomato for garnish if desired.
  4. In a pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and allow to sweat. Add the rice and mix well to coat everything with the oil.
  5. Add the stock one ladle (around one cup) at a time. Allow the rice to partially absorb the liquid before adding in the next ladle. Stir everything together with a rubber spatula. Repeat the process until the rice is cooked to desired doneness (al dente).
  6. Add the garlic and tomatoes. Mash the tomatoes and mix everything together. Add the parmesan. Stir and season with salt and pepper. The risotto must still be creamy.
  7. When done, remove from heat and top with more parmesan, the roasted tomatoes and the chopped basil. Serve warm. Enjoy!
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A Shot of Espresso

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Ever since I realized that coffee makes my palms sweat even more than the usual, I tried to stay away from it as much as possible. A matcha latte (sadly, exorbitantly priced) from a coffee shop would do the trick any time. But strangely enough I’ve been having daydreams about affogato, a coffee-based drink that simply involves the marriage of really good vanilla ice cream and Italian espresso. The taste of which would probably be (because I’ve never tried it before) pure bliss.

It’s a shame that I didn’t get to my have my share affogato, but I did get to understand more about espresso as the base element, thanks to the great people of Segafredo Zanetti Espresso.

The company with Italian roots has branched out all over the world through coffee shops, machines, plantations and roasting plants. They pride themselves by being a “fully integrated coffee company” – the meticulous coffee-making process from bean to cup is 100% theirs.  That is a feat in itself because a stamp of authenticity means nothing is watered down and compromised. With a mission to “spread the taste, the culture and preparation method of the true Italian Espresso”, these people mean business and yes, take their coffee very seriously.
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these remind of me of printer ink cartridges

Bloggers and some people from different online publications were treated to a presentation about the company and their products.

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Ms. Xenia Germino, the operations manager, together with (from L-R): Andrea Borghesan, export manager and Ilija Naumovski, grand chef barista

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And true to form, the food from the cafe needs to be given a special mention:
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this pizza was really tasty. I’ll definitely come back for another slice. or two

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As a cafe, they can serve up rocking finger food. The best of the best would have to be the deconstructed lasagna (pictured above, deceptively like a fat lumpia). Dipping it into the rich tomato sauce is a home run for lasagnas all over the world. I kid you not, it’s really good.

Tessa Prieto-Valdes, social butterfly and wearer of many hats (literally and figuratively) was a special guest. She can’t stop gushing about how good the espresso was. True enough, their signature blend is thick just how espresso should be. It was strong and had a kick, but the bitterness was not off-putting.
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My friend, who is not (and probably will never be) a coffee drinker was impressed. My other friend, who has the love for coffee in her veins, was blown away. The realization that espresso isn’t your run-of-the-mill coffee hits you with every shot.
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Afterwards we were treated to an espresso-making demonstration, done by Slovenian master, Ilija Naumovski, the grand chef barista for Asian operations. Baristas can geek out over this because he’s kind of a big deal.
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thickening/foaming the milk

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This and that:
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How did I pass up the chance to have slice of this? Next time. Next time.

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If and when I’m in Bonifacio Global City, I’ll definitely stop by to get to know the espresso shop a bit more: more pizzas, cakes and hopefully an affogato if the fates allow it. Like any other coffee shop, the feel is definitely casual, with free WiFi to boot. Naturally their name isn’t the first to pop up when you think of a popular coffee shop, but the fact is, this little coffee shop has branches all over the world, and carries with it the promise of an authentic Italian espresso experience. It’s a good enough reason to stop and give it try.

Segafredo Zanetti Café

G/F Net Plaza Building, 31st Street

E. Square Zone, Crescent Parkwest

Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

The funny thing is most of us invited to the event got lost on the way. My sage advice would be to just look for the JPMorgan building. The cafe is located at the ground floor.

Meat and Malunggay Frittata

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At around 7:00 am you can still find me in bed, probably snoring, probably aware that people have woken up already, but most of the time, I don’t have a care in the world. That’s me at 7:00 am. Since my departure from school, being a student and teaching, that has been my routine. I just love sleep.

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Breakfast begins at 9:00 am, that is, if I’m actually in the mood to cook myself something decent. The people in the house are long gone, and I’m left to my own devices. Sometimes, I just wait to have my first meal of the day during lunch at my grandparents’ house, which is just next door.

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But I have my moments too. Moments where I just focus, zone in, get a pan ready, grab things from the fridge and cook. I think I may be on to something here with “one-pan” wonders. Yesterday it was pork with tomatoes for lunch, and today…breakfast/brunch was a really great frittata.

A frittata is just like an omelet, only studded with meat and vegetables, and usually finished off in the oven. You might even throw a pie crust here and there. I remember eating an amazing breakfast buffet at the hotel where we stayed in Hong Kong. There was an “egg station” where all you had to do was point at the fillings you wanted with your eggs, and the chef will make a frittata out of it. There was no oven work involved, and with his small spatula, he masterfully flipped the egg in the equally small pan to cook everything perfectly. It was a damn good frittata.

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And this one? I’d like to believe it’s just as good – probably even better. I had this idea of adding malunggay or moringa leaves to the frittata from a recipe that I read in one of our food magazines lying around. Malunggay, in the Philippines, is usually added to soups, like chicken tinola, to impart an earthy taste that goes perfectly with the ginger in the soup. Strangely enough, when I’m trying to describe malunggay’s taste, the thought of ginger comes to mind.
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It’s crazy overwhelming how nutritious malunggay is. It makes perfect sense to have it for breakfast because the leaves have quadruple the calcium content of regular milk, among other nutrients. We’re lucky enough to have a small tree growing just outside our fence, so all I had to do was grab a bunch.

What’s great about this recipe is that this can easily be a blank canvas. You can replace the chorizo and the meatballs with whatever deli products you might have lying around, keeping in mind that bacon makes everything better (haha). But seriously, don’t skip the malunggay.

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Chorizo, Meatball and Malunggay Frittata (serves 4 – 6)

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • malunggay leaves (I used 2 small stalks)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 – 8 meatballs, quartered (or your choice of deli)
  • 3 – 4 chorizos, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces (or you choice of deli)
  • 1/8 cup frozen green pease (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 160 C.
  2. Remove the malunggay leaves from the stems and wash under running water.

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    Make sure you remove the leaves from the stem

  3. Crack the eggs into a bowl. Add the milk. Beat until everything is incorporated well. Season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes.
  4. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the chorizo and fry until lightly brown and fat renders.
  5. Add the meatballs and green peas. Stir to incorporate everything together.
  6. Pour the egg-milk mixture onto the pan. Sprinkle with the malunggay leaves.
  7. When the edges of the omelet have begun to set, remove from heat and place it in the oven. Allow to cook for 10 – 13 minutes, or until the frittata has set all the way through.

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    The edges have begun to set

  8. Remove from the oven (use an oven mit, the pan handle may be hot) and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta

It wasn’t until I was about to step into the threshold of high school that I understood the meaning of clarity. Literal clarity.
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I didn’t have any epiphany that defined and changed the course of my life. What I did have was extremely poor vision. Looking back, I had no idea how I survived grade school with eyes that didn’t work properly. The earliest memory that I had where I began to experience problems was in first grade. Meaning, I went through my whole school-aged life with inconvenience. I was ashamed to tell anybody that there was something wrong because I thought it was inconceivable that a kid has to wear glasses. Glasses are for old people, I told myself.

But after years of struggle, when my parents, among other people, noticed my “squinting” (what I did to see clearer), I finally sought medical attention. It was there in the doctor’s clinic that my mom and I finally knew the real state of my vision. I was 12 years old, and my eyes had a grade of 600 – 700. My mom was in shock.
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Flash forward nine years later, and here I am, (a patron of contact lenses) fresh from my optometrist appointment. Apparently my eyesight isn’t getting any better, seeing as it’s now 850. But I learned to live with it. I actually enjoy watching people’s reactions when I tell them the grade of my shoddy eyesight. That I’ve found a way around my problem, found humor in it and moved on is something of an accomplishment.
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There’s also always a way to serve up a really simple and delicious dessert. After making panna cotta for a while now, I’ve realized that because of its simplicity, it has become my go-to dish to serve after a filling meal. Even more impressive is its simple presentation – I used little glass tea cups as the mold. Pretty darn fancy.

The name sounds fancy, but it’s just a mixture of egg and cream, held together by unflavored gelatin. There’s nothing complicated about that at all.
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Sure, it takes a while for the cream to set, but the end result is really worth it. Spoonful after spoonful of smooth, rich velvety custard hits the spot.

The aftermath of Valentines day left me with one last cup of panna cotta, which only differs from the first recipe I posted in that this one has chocolate in it. I really like the taste of dark chocolate, so this dish left me wanting more. But I know better, so a cup of moderate happiness works for me.
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Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta (serves 3 – 4)

  • 1 cup all-purpose cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 – 5 tablespoons dark chocolate powder (I used Hershey’s)
  • 2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin powder
  • 4 tablespoons hot milk (I just zapped mine in the microwave for a minute and ten seconds)
  1. In a saucepan, combine all-purpose cream, milk, chocolate and white sugar. Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved and there are little to no more clumps of chocolate.
  2. Increase heat slightly and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Whisk gelatin powder in hot milk until dissolved. (Some recipes say to let the gelatin ‘bloom’ in the liquid by leaving it for a few minutes. I didn’t do this but I might as well next time)
  4. Stir in gelatin mixture to cream mixture; blend well. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer/sieve and into a bowl to remove the large of clumps of chocolate and gelatin.
  5. Divide mixture into 3 ramekins/4 little tea cups. Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
  6. To serve, either invert molds onto serving plates or serve as is. Serve cold. Enjoy!

Focaccia

Now I understand.
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There’s really nothing like the taste of freshly baked homemade bread. Your friendly neighborhood corner bakery is always there to supply you with all kinds of bread, but no, baking your own bread, though time consuming and tedious, is a achievement all on its own. It’s something special. Really special. Remind me to bake bread more often and be my own bakery. Well, someday.
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I made focaccia today. I was inspired by Beti’s (of Beti Vanilla) attempt at focaccia. It looked so great that I had to try it for myself. I wasn’t disappointed. It has no eggs, it’s crusty and dense. I’d like to believe that it can be likened to a blank canvas. It’s that kind of bread. You can go crazy and stud it with dried fruits or fresh herbs. Well, I didn’t go crazy with mine. I gently peppered it with dried rosemary to give it that rustic, “I could just lounge all day and munch on it” taste.
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It was a good thing that I didn’t go crazy. A few days ago, at the airport while waiting for my flight, I was perusing the stalls for pasalubong (something to give to the people at home), and luckily I gave Rajah Manila (Filipino delicacies) a chance. They happened to sell The Fruit Garden jams and I took home small jars of their mango-ginger and mango-lavender. An even, generous spread of the mango-ginger on warm focacia is a match made in heaven. After taking photos of the finished product, I rewarded myself with just that – a warm piece of happiness.
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It’s not really focaccia itself that I’m putting on a pedestal, rather it’s the experience of making freshly baked bread. It’s something else. Words can’t entirely capture the feeling. Just do it and you’ll understand.
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Cheers to a happy day (!)

Focaccia (makes 2 large buns; adapted from Beti Vanilla)

  • 2 1/2 c. of flour
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 c. warm water
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast
  1. In a large bowl mix 1 cup of flour, sugar, yeast, salt and rosemary. Add olive oil and warm water.Photobucket
  2. Beat on medium speed using a hand mixer with the dough hook attachment (or a stand mixer if you have one) for about 3 minutes stirring enough remaining flour until the dough is soft.Photobucket
  3. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes until smooth, adding more flour if necessary.Photobucket
  4. Place dough in a medium bowl greased with olive oil. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for an hour.PhotobucketPhotobucket
  5. When it rises deflate the dough and divide it in two shaping each half like a giant cookie. Put it in a prepared pan, add some olive oil on top and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise for the second time. Preheat oven to 400 F/200C
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  6. Using your fingers, make small holes on the surface of the dough and drizzle some more olive oil, brushing it gently.Photobucket
  7. Bake them at 400°F/200 C for about 15 minutes – 20 minutes (do not over-bake) until light golden brown. Serve with jam or spread of choice. Enjoy!

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I was supposed to post this yesterday but the internet connection was prohibitive. Standby for my contribution to the food blogging community’s Chinese New Year celebration!

Orange Panna Cotta

When I published my year-end review for 2011, a few of my readers encouraged me to post more recipes for dessert because well, it is kinda part of a well-balanced meal. One of them actually told me I should make how-to youtube videos. That’s a bit farfetched, but thanks anyway for the suggestion. 

When I was thinking of my first dessert post for the year I only had one word in mind: easy.
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I’ve tried slaving over a few desserts last year, most of them not fit for “publication”. So what I really wanted for 2012 is most definitely a change of pace, in more ways than one.

Nothing screams ‘easy’ like a good serving of panna cotta. It’s really a revelation. Sure, it has a fancy name, but it’s simply milk, cream, sugar + the magic ingredient: gelatin.
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I could go on and on and on about how this dessert didn’t stress me at all, how really good this was, but if I’m really going for ‘a change of pace’, then this time I’m not going to be verbose about it. You have to make this panna cotta. It’s really easy and you can (and should) tweak it to your preference. Tapioca pearls perhaps?

Is it healthy? I’m not sure about that (It has, uhm, oranges?). But it is really really really good. I managed to wolf down a few spoonfuls before I had enough. It’s not too sweet, not extremely fruity, but it’s still a dense, filling and refreshing way to cap off a heavy meal (Which I had; *cough*porkbelly*cough).
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And strangely enough on the first few days of 2012, I find myself limiting my rice intake (cue collective gasp from Peru to Zimbabwe). Less rice (on most occasions! I’m still a rice with ‘ulam’ purist) means more room to enjoy viands, so I’m enjoying this change of pace indeed.
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Orange Panna Cotta (serves 4 – 5; adapted from yummy.ph)

  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cup all-purpose cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin powder
  • 4 tablespoons hot milk (I just zapped mine in the microwave for a minute and ten seconds)
  • orange wedges to garnish
  1. In a saucepan, combine orange zest with all-purpose cream, milk, and white sugar. Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Increase heat slightly and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Whisk gelatin powder in hot milk until dissolved. (Some recipes say to let the gelatin ‘bloom’ in the liquid by leaving it for a few minutes. I didn’t do this but I might as well next time)
  4. Stir in gelatin mixture to cream mixture; blend well.
  5. Pour mixture into 3 ramekins. Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
  6. To serve, either invert molds onto serving plates or serve as is. Top with orange wedges. Serve immediately.

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