Eggplant Parmigiana with Beef Bolognese

This version is using the Asian eggplant variety. They are more tender and takes shorter time to cook. Assuming that you already have the sauce ready, this literally takes half an hour to prepare. In this version, I used my own beef bolognese instead of the usual marinara sauce. On the side, is pasta with kale.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pieces  Japanese Ichiban eggplant
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese
  • Bolognese sauce
  • Pasta 
  • Kale, cut in pieces

Preparations.

  • Heat the water for the pasta. The kale needs 15 minutes to cook so if the pasta of your choice takes 10 minutes to cook al dente, put the kale in the boiling salted water 5 minutes earlier, then add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is cooked al dente following the box instruction. 
  • Cut the eggplant in half. Slice each piece into four without cutting though the end, opening the slices like a fan. Sprinkle the pieces with salt and pepper. Note that it is not necessary to salt the eggplants to remove the water and some bitterness as usually done with the big Italian variety. 
  • In a pan, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil, fry the eggplant, opening the slices like a fan. Set aside.
  • Turn on the the oven to broil. Set a rack about 6 inches from the top.
  • To assemble, using a Pyrex dish or metal pan, spread about ½ cup of sauce on the bottom, arrange the eggplant pieces. Top with some sauce, slices of mozzarella cheese and grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Put under the broiler for 10 minutes until the cheese melts. 

Plate with the pasta-kale and some sauce.  
   
  

     
Buon appetito!

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DIM-SUM

Last Friday was my turn to host the neighbors’ monthly get-together.  Inspired by the Chinese New Year celebrated this year on January 31, I decided to make it a dim-sum night.  These are the items I prepared.

Beef Sio-mai on spinach wrap

Beef Siomai on spinach wrap

Ingredients:

  • ½ lb ground sirloin, I purchased the pack with the lowest fat content
  • ¼ cup chopped water chestnuts
  • ¼ cup chopped bamboo shoots
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 t sesame seed oil
  • 1 T rice wine
  • 1 t sugar
  • ¼ cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 25 pieces spinach wonton wrapper.  The package suggests to use this type of wrapper to make vegetable dumplings, but I thought it would add some color and I decided to use green peas to complement the  spinach wrap.

Mix all the ingredients and refrigerate for an hour to overnight to meld the flavors.

Chicken and Shrimp Siomai

Chicken and Shrimp Siomai

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup boneless chicken breast, chopped
  • ¼ c chopped water chestnuts
  • ¼ c Chinese black mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1 T rice wine
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T sesame seed oil
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • ½ t pepper
  • 15 pieces shrimps, shell and slice in the middle to remove the black vein
  • 25 Siomai wrapper

Mix all the ingredients, except the shrimps and refrigerate for an hour to overnight to meld the flavors.

Wrap the siomai using 1 T of chicken top with half the shrimp. Make a circle using the index finger and the thumb. Put the siomai on the hole and lightly grab the ends to make the siomai pockets.

Chicken Siopao

Chicken Siopao

I have posted the recipe for Chicken Siopao. For this occasion, I just made them smaller, about 2 inches diameter.

Turkey Dumpling

Dumpling with Turkey

This is actually called Peking Kuo-Tieh Dumplings.

Dough Skin:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cup boiling water
  • 5 T cold water

Sift flour in a bowl, mix in the boiling water. Leave for 5 minutes, then add the cold water. Transfer into a mixer or knead manually until it forms a soft ball.

Filling:

  • ½ lb ground turkey
  • 1 T chopped  fresh ginger
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup chopped bamboo shoots
  • 1 T rice wine

Cut the dough into round the size of a pecan nut. Using a rolling-pin, flatten each and put 1 T of filling.  Make pleats on one side of the round and pinch on the other side to form the dumpling. This process really takes time but it is worth it.

Boil water in a pot. Drop the dumplings into the boiling water few pieces at a time. The dumpling will first sink into the bottom of the pan and then rise to the top when cooked. Scoop out each floating dumpling and set aside. Spray some oil to prevent from sticking to each other. Store in the refrigerator. This can be done the day before.

On the day of the party, fry the dumplings in a hot pan with little oil to prevent it from sticking to the pan. This takes about 3 minutes on each side.

IMG_1963

IMG_1962

Chicken Skewers With Philippine Inasal Flavor

Chicken Skewers With Philippine Inasal Flavor

Ingredients:

  • 2  lbs boneless and skinless chicken thighs, If you buy the ones with bones, simply cut around the bones. Cut in bite-size squares.

Marinade overnight in:

  • ¼ c vinegar
  • 1 whole clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 inch fresh turmeric, finely chopped or 2  t turmeric powder if fresh is not available
  • ½ cup chopped lemongrass
  • 2 T salt

On the day of the party, put 3 or 4 pieces in small bamboo skewers.  With little oil to prevent sticking, cook the sticks in a pan for 5 minutes each side. Start with a really hot pan.

Egg Noodle Salad with Sesame Dressing

Egg Noodle Salad with Sesame Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb egg noodles. udon noodles will work too
  • 4 pieces scallions, the white part only, slice lengthwise
  • 3 pieces of kirby cucumbers, or Persian cucumbers, or equivalent measure of English cucumbers
  • 1 sweet red pepper, slice into strips
  • 1 cup carrots, cut in sticks
  • Dressing: 2 t sesame  oil; 1 T peanut oil, 1 T peanut butter, 2 T rice vinegar, 1 T miso, pepper to taste .

Boil water in a pot and cook the noodles according to package directions.  Rinse and drain when done.

Make the dressing and toss everything. Serve immediately or keep cool in the refrigerator.

Siopao with Sweet Red Beans and Sweetened Coconut Filling

Siopao with Sweet Red Beans and Sweetened Coconut Filling

Ingredients:

  • 1 can sweet red beans. I cooked mine using dried azuki beans, sweetened with little sugar
  • 1 cup  Philippine sweet coconut or macapuno, optional

Use the same dough as for siopao. Put 1 T filling inside and steam for 10 minutes.

Egg Custard Tart

Egg Custard Tart

Custard:

  • 1 ½ c hot water
  • ½ c sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t white vinegar
  • Dissolve sugar in hot water. Allow to cool and add the remaining ingredients. Strain and set aside.

Pastry:

  •  1 ½ c all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 stick, plus 2 T cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t vanilla
  • Combine flour and sugar. Cut in the butter until it resembles coarse meal. Combine the egg and vanilla and add to the flour mixture. Transfer into a floured surface and knead for 1 minute.
  • Divide the dough into 18 or 20 pieces and press into 2 ½: tart pans. Since I don’t own the small  tart pans, I used the mini muffin pan.
  • Stir the custard mixture and pour into each tart. Bake in pre-heated 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Can be served hot or cold.

I offered different sauces to go with the dim-sums.

  • Soy-Vinegar.  ¼ cup soy sauce,  3 T rice vinegar, ½ t black pepper, finely sliced 1 scallion. Mix together. This is good for the dumplings. For variation, instead of scallions use, 1 T finely diced fresh ginger.
  • Hoisin-Sesame:  3 T hoisin sauce, 1 t sesame oil. Mix. This is good on Chicken Siopao.
  • Worcestershire: Also good used in the chicken siopao.

For drinks I served lychee juice,  jasmine tea and chilled sake.

Making each dumpling requires patience.  It’s been my habit to turn the TV on while I work in the kitchen. This time I tuned in to Netflix for my favorite old movies. I figured since I already saw the movies several times,  there is no need to pay attention much to the dialogues while making the dumplings.

Dim-sum night was a hit. My friend Isabel said to me, ‘this is over the top, you know I can’t match this’,  while her Italian husband said, ‘I am serving pizza on my turn!’.

To that I responded, ‘I would like that since I have been saying that the day I meet a pizza I like, is the day I become a true Floridian’.

Because right now, when it comes to food,  my heart still belongs to New York!

By the way, I completed the preparation of these good morsels while two of my favorite old movies played on the TV: School Ties and Last Holiday.  It provides me with the proper rhythm. Try it, it’s fun.

Steamed Sweet Rice Wrapped in Banana Leaves (Suman sa Lihiya)

I grew a banana plant in a huge pot indoors in New York just so I can have banana leaves to use in some of the Filipino dishes I cook but mostly for staging Philippine desserts I make.  The availability of fresh banana leaves here in Florida thrills me to no end and we now have banana trees planted on the ground.

This is usually made with white glutinous rice which turns green from the lye water. As a healthier option, we mostly eat whole grains like brown, red and black rice for quite sometime now. It so happened that a friend gave us some black glutinous rice from the Philippines so I decided to make this using black rice. Well the rice is not really black, it was actually a beautiful deep purple color when cooked.

Rice. This recipe makes 6-twin pieces.

  • 2 cups glutinous rice, also called sweet rice
  • 1 t lye water
  • banana leaves cut in about 10 inches, for a total of  12 pieces. Frozen banana leaves are also available in Asian food stores.
  • kitchen twine

Prepare the rice:

  • Put the rice in a bowl and cover  with water. Let it soak overnight.
  • Drain the water and add the lye water and mix.
  • Meanwhile prepare the banana wraps. On a clean sink, plug the drain, run the hot water to soak the banana leaves. This makes the leaves pliable and not break in the wrapping process. Cut the leaves into about 10 inches in length.

Wrap the rice:

  • Take 2 pieces of leaves, position the bottom piece with the horizontal grain or sideways and the second piece with the grain on the opposite direction. I just realized that I should have taken a picture of this process to illustrate. Hopefully the description can be followed. The idea is the grain of the two pieces of leaves should be in opposite direction so that the wrap will not open in the cooking process.
  • put 1/4 cup of rice in the middle of the leaf. Take both ends and fold to make about 2 inches wide tamale-like wrap. Then fold and tuck the two ends under. Set aside and make  the second piece. Take both wrapped pieces, with the folded ends facing each other, tie each end with kitchen twine. The tie should not be tight but securely knotted.
  • Repeat to do the rest. This should make 6-twin packs.

To cook:

  • In a pan, stand the wrapped rice and cover with water. Cover and boil.
  • The black rice variety  takes twice the time to cook than the white variety.
  • This can also be cooked in a pressure cooker and since I did not use a pressure cooker, it took 2 hours of boiling. The wraps will expand as the rice is cooked.

To serve, top with the following:

  • Freshly grated coconut meat
  • Sugar
  • Toasted sesame seeds

Immerse suman in water to boil.

Serve with freshly grated coconut, toasted sesame seeds and brown sugar.

Rice Vermicelli with Chicken and Vegetables (Pancit Bihon Guisado)

I am glad that my husband’s eldest sister  lives in the same town. When we first moved here  she showed us places to shop for Asian foods. We now shop at FoodTown, an ethnic food superstore very much like the International Foods we go to in New York. In addition to fresh tropical produce, fresh fish and meats, there are endless supplies of pantry foods from the  Caribbean, India and above all multiple isles to delight any Southeast Asian cook from China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines. There is an isle lined up with noodles made from rice, beans, sweet potatoes, various types of starches and flours, with eggs, without eggs, white, yellow, brown, flat, round, fine, thin, thick, straight or curly. In Filipino cooking, they are all called  pancit with a qualifying description, sort of like a second name,  derived from either what it is made of or how it is cooked, mostly from how it is cooked.

I believe  the Chinese introduced the noodles to the rest of the world.  This dish is the simplest and most common Philippine noodle version. Simply called Pancit Bihon, bihon being Tagalog for  rice sticks, it is also referred to as Pancit Bihon Guisado, guisado being Tagalog (derived from Spanish) for sautéed. It is rice sticks sautéed with any type of meat or shrimps and vegetables. To give the noodles a bit of color,  soy sauce or annatto extract is added. Usually the proportion of noodles to vegetables is about 3-to-1 but to cut down on carb, I like to increase the vegetable proportion to as much as 50-50. My only problem with cooking pancit is I find it very difficult to cook just a little of it, making this an ideal dish for company.

Pancit Bihon

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 package thin rice vermicelli
  • 1  chicken breast, cut into thin strips
  • 2 c shredded cabbage
  • 1 c french cut green beans
  • 1 carrot, cut in slices or sticks
  • 1/2 lb snow peas
  • 1 onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • lemon for serving
  • 1 c no-salt chicken broth
  • 1 t annatto powder or 1/4 c soy sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 T vegetable oil

Saute the meat and vegetables. Filipino sautéed dishes always starts with the browning of garlic in oil.

  • In a big pan or wok, heat 3 T oil, slightly  brown the garlic, add the onions and the meat. Cover and cook until the chicken is no longer pink and thoroughly cooked.
  • Add the vegetables except the scallions and lemon. Season with salt and pepper . Cover until the vegetables are wilted but not soft.
  • If using the same pan for the noodles, remove the meat-vegetables mix and set aside.
  • Put the chicken broth on the pan, add the choice of color: annatto or soy sauce, start with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper and 1 T vegetable oil. Bring to boil.
  • Add the dry noodle and keep stirring to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the broth is absorbed by the noodles, test for doneness like pasta. Normally, the noodles are soaked  in cold water first but like my pasta, I like my noodles al dente so I skip the soaking.
  • Add the vegetables back to the pan. Mix the veggies into the noodles.  Taste and adjust salt if necessary.
  • Transfer to a serving dish and top with the sliced scallions.
  • Filipinos like topping their pancit with sliced hard-boiled eggs we also like to eat it with a squeeze of citrus like the calamundin or lemon.

Pancit is always present in any Filipino birthday celebration. We believe that the long noodles symbolize long life so don’t even think of cutting the noodles to put into your mouth!

Whole Wheat Penne with Shrimp Limoncello

Purple sweet potato, Hawaiian taro, Philippine purple yam, lavender, macadamia nuts, key lime, Meyer lemon, limoncello and dark chocolate. As the song goes, these are my favorite things, to cook with that is, but not necessarily in that order. I am always on the lookout for recipes using my favorite ingredients and I am also always trying different ways to use them.

I am happy that I started this blog,  as it inspires me to record what I have been cooking and crafting. I don’t plan family menus. I don’t measure ingredients except when it involves baking. Hence it was very difficult for me to teach my daughter how to cook. With the blog, I am now conscious of measurements. Most of the dishes I make at home depends on what we have in stock and chances are, the dish will not be repeated again, at least not exactly the same. I like to wing it, so to speak. As I was about to finish cooking this, I thought that since the dish has citrus flavor, maybe a shot of limoncello will accentuate the citrus flavor even more, so I reached for my Italian Limoncello stash. Back in the Philippines, I had eaten shrimps cooked unwashed  and alive just moments after they were caught from the family fish farm, the salt came from the sea water  and the shrimp was just naturally sweet. The limoncello added a subtle sweetness to the shrimps.  I was pleasantly surprised and I remember  the sweetness of fresh shrimps back home.

These are what I used.

  • 1 lb head-on shrimps. Remove the shell, leaving the head-fat on and the last tail segment. Slit the back and de-vein. It is convenient to use the supermarket shelled shrimps but it will not produce the reddish sauce from the shrimp fat.
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 c parsley, chopped.
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lime and 1 lemon, squeeze to produce 1/2 cup
  •  1/2 c pasta water
  • 1/2 c limoncello
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 box whole wheat penne

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions.

  • Heat a pan. Add the oil and garlic. Saute the garlic until lightly browned.
  • Keeping the heat on high, add the mushrooms, shrimps  and parsley, reserve some for serving. Stir until the shrimps are slightly pink.
  • Add the citrus, pasta water and limoncello. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove the shrimps to avoid over-cooking.
  • Add the cooked pasta, stir and let it absorb some of the liquid.  Serve immediately topping with some parsley.

This is an easy and quick summer pasta.

Chicken Sauterne with Whole Wheat Pasta

We spend everyday at the pool swimming laps for an hour from eleven o’clock until the sun totally covers the lap side of our huge clubhouse resort-like pool. Without a waterproof watch, this is how we can tell that it is already noon.  And we go home famished all the time. This means lunch is always hurried and consists of whatever I can find in the refrigerator. Today, I was craving for pasta but since Rey and I are both very hungry, I needed something really quick. OK, there’s chicken breast. I saw olives, capers and mushrooms in the refrigerator. I was thinking either chicken Marsala or chicken piccata.  With the ingredients I gathered, I think I am about to come up with a cross between the Marsala and the piccata, except that I should use  the opened bottle of sauterne in the refrigerator instead of opening a new bottle of Marsala or white wine. So why not? Chicken Sauterne. I am sure someone somewhere has a version of Chicken Sauterne. Here’s mine.

You will need:

  • 1 chicken breast split into 2. Slice each half breast making 3 slits but not cut through. Marinate with the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tsp salt and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, slice
  • 1/2 c mushrooms, slice
  • 2 T capers
  • 1/2 c green olives, slice
  • 1  T fresh oregano or 1 t dried
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c sauterne
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 lb thin whole wheat spaghetti

Boil water and cook the pasta as directed.

Cook the chicken:

  • Heat the olive oil in a pan.
  • Add the  chicken, reserve the lemon marinade
  • Brown both sides of the chicken.  Remove from the pan.
  • Add the garlic and saute until clear. Add the mushrooms, olives and capers.
  • Return the chicken to the pan.
  • Pour the sauterne and the lemon marinade. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked.

Arrange the chicken on top of the pasta. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.

We didn’t have to wait very long to eat, this was done in half an hour.

Mangiamo! (Though the only Italian about this dish is the pasta.)