The Taste of Home

My first taste of spring was optimistic, to put it lightly.  I was welcomed by Blizzard Jonas, and while my husband was slaving around shovelling snow, I was jumping in them.  Spring, though, looked exactly how I pictured it:  a true rebirth.  Everything that was dull and grey suddenly became bright and green, full of life and bloom.  So that only meant one thing:  it was time to fire up the grill.

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I meant it when I said that I miss my father’s cooking.  A part of me always struggles to bring that to the table, whenever I cook for our family or for a gathering.  In a way, I’m making sure that my father was not forgotten, and he was always known for being a good cook.  He’s a mechanic by the way, like my husband, but when he starts working in the kitchen, he will blow you away.

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My father always loved to grill… and I never liked it.  I found it difficult tempering the fire (especially back in my country where we do it in coals), it was too hot to keep cooking (since our normal day temperature was at least 95ºF), the food either cooked too fast or too slow, and you always ended up smelling like smoke.  But grilling was my father’s forte.

Imagine my joy when I heard from family members that my husband’s grilled pork belly tasted so closely to my father’s.  Since moving here, I requested for that pork belly every other month or so, and he would make it the same way, and it would taste the same way.  And it would always be perfect.

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Each time there’d be a gathering here, I try to volunteer his cooking.  Most of the time though, they’d request for it, just like when people requested my father to grill.  I feel blessed and fortunate to have the past, the present and the future all existing in the person I chose to spend my life with.

I truly am living the dream.

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One of the things that I genuinely miss in this life is my father's cooking. For those who met him, they would say that #sirboy's cooking was warm, savory and inviting. It tasted like you're cared for and loved. When he passed, that was one of my first thoughts: I will never taste my father's cooking ever again. Then, this man came along. I'd like to believe it's a confirmation that I truly am meant to be with him. His grilled dishes never fail to make me think of my Tatay, especially his liempo. And it makes sense too, that my husband would be the one person I'd leave my home for, only for him to bring back to me — laid perfectly on my table, hot and seared to perfection — the meals that would make me feel like I never left. I love you, Allan. #carlallan #love #blessmyheart #foodforthought

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RECIPE: Tuna Pate and Cream Cheese

Here’s the thing with travelling intercontinental constantly:  money runs out.  Hahaha.  You can only imagine the gap I have to augment after all the traveling.  Don’t get me wrong; I love seeing my Le Beau!  He’s my perfect compliment and each destination is more romantic than the next.  But let’s admit it — it can get expensive.  Until we solve the distance problem, I have to be more frugal and more conscientious about my spending.  And that means limiting the out of home food purchase.  I am now looking into packing lunch and snacks for work.

Which brings me to my next recipe.  I first made Jenni Epperson’s Century Tuna Caviar Pie a couple of years back and I remember it being so divine.  Recreating it is something else, since I have to make do with whatever is on the fridge.  But I think I got the the bare necessities in stock:

Spring onions, lemon, 1 8oz. cream cheese block, black pitted olives

Spring onions, lemon, 1 8oz. cream cheese block, black pitted olives

2 cans of tuna

2 cans of tuna

Let’s get started shall we?  Grab a bowl and toss in the cream cheese and chopped spring onions.

Cream cheese in a bowl

Here’s the thing:  you might need a hand mixer.  For me, I just folded and whipped the contents until well blended.  Set aside.

Grab your trusty food processor and toss in the drained tuna and about 2 tbsp of olives.  Then squeeze half a lemon in it.  Start pulsing.

Tuna olives in processor

You want to get a paste-like consistency.  You may have to pulse longer than usual.  Jenni tossed in a pinch of pink salt, but for me this mixture is just fine.

Tuna processed

With this, you will need a small round container.  Layer the cream cheese and the tuna mixture evenly.

Tuna cheese layered

Layered tuna

(That photo is grayer than usual lol, excuse me)

Store it in the fridge and it’s ready to go when you are.  This is a perfect match for crostinis, toasted garlic bread, bread sticks and maybe some fiber crackers.  If I know my mom, she’ll spread this over warm toast.  If you want to serve this right away, you can also use a springform pan.  Just freeze it for a couple of hours so it takes form and you can serve it right away.

Tuna caviar pie

I stored them on two separate containers, because knowing my mom she might want to bring one to the office and that would leave nothing for me.  Haha.

This should take about 15 minutes to make.  It’s quite simple too.  Jenni’s recipe also involved capers, so if you have those, just add a tablespoon in the processor too.

Here’s to hoping this lasts me a good three days of snacks.  Let me know if you try this out!  I would love to see your outcome. <3

Happy eating!

RECIPE: “Roast” Beef

One of my missions when I went to New Jersey for a visit was to be able to recreate the dishes my parents were famous in my family for. It may seem so simple, but really it’s not. Our NJ family has had this recipe for years! They were just too um, busy to execute them. So naturally, with my visit, they requested that I teach them how to make those dishes. One of those was “roast” beef.

This recipe was originally from Tita Pinky, whose love for cuisine only grows through the years.  With ovens that are stuffed with Tupperware and microwaveable containers and a deep-seated desire for boldly flavored meat, you can easily spot where the need for this recipe came about.

There are air quotes on “roast” because we don’t really roast it; it takes far longer to do that. It’s a stove-top dish that is sure to hit the right spot for all carnivores in the family. Oh and it comes with really good mushroom gravy too.

To be honest, I am quite hesitant to share this recipe.  A part of me remains selfish and would like to keep things that relate to my father.  But then, I don’t think he would have liked that.

I would like to apologize in advance the lack of while cooking and actual photos of ingredients for this recipe.  When I made this, everything was happening all at the same time — laundry, baby sitting, basement movie dates — that I didn’t have the time to take pictures in between.  No worries, I’ll do my best to describe each step as precisely as possible.

Here’s what you’ll need:

– Around 2lb. US Beef Chuck Roast.  We got ours at A&P for $5.99/lb.

– A whole onion and a whole head of garlic

– Worcestershire sauce.  I am very partial to the Lea & Perrins brand.

– Soy sauce.  I used Less Sodium Kikkoman Soy Sauce for this recipe.

– Half a stick of butter

– 1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup

– Mushrooms, sliced and washed

– About 3 tbsp of your choice of brandy (though this is always optional)

 

The first thing you need to do is prep the beef, the onion and the garlic.  Wash the beef and pat dry.  And grab a bowl to soak the beef in; you’ll have to marinate it for some time.  Half of the garlic, you pound and rub on the beef; throw it in the bowl.  The other half, you mince and set aside.  Then mince the onion too, rub it on the beef and throw it in the bowl as well.  Grab some sea salt and rub it on the beef.

Next, grab the two sauces.  Here’s the thing:  there is no exact measurement for the sauces.  It really does depend on your liking, or as long as the beef gets coated with the sauce.  What we usually do is to add equal parts of Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce.

Get dirty; you’ll have to mix all of the contents in the bowl with your hands to make sure the beef is well coated.  Cover with cling wrap and let it marinate for about 2 hours.  (If you’re adding brandy, mix it in as well.  The brandy adds to the boldness of the flavor.  For those concerned about serving the dish to kids, no worries because the brandy usually gets cooked off in the process, but you may also choose to not add this in as well.)

Next, grab a frying pan and heat it up, as in slightly smoking hot.  Take the beef out and sear all sides, as if sealing the marinate in the middle.  Be careful to not cook it too much though, but do not ever skip this step.  Searing the beef makes your dish cut-able for presentation purposes.

After searing, grab a pot big enough to fit your beef in.  Then, toss in the pot the mixture the beef marinated in.  If the remaining amount is too small, just add equal parts of Worcestershire and soy sauces.  In my experience, an additional 2 tbsps would do.  Then add water, just enough to cover 2/3 of the beef.  Bring up the heat to medium and boil for 45-60 minutes or until tender.

In the middle of boiling, flip the beef.  I did this at the 20 minute mark.  It would also give you a chance to pinch the meat and season some more, if you wish.  You will notice that the beef is close to being cooked when you can visibly see that fat separating from the marinate mixture.  When cooked to your desired doneness, turn off the heat and take the beef out.  DO NOT THROW AWAY THE MARINATE.

Now, let’s make the mushroom gravy.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and stir fry the garlic until slightly brown.  Mix in the mushrooms until brown.  Then, mix in about 3/4 cup of the marinate.  Stir slowly as it simmers.  When it does, mix in the cream of mushroom soup.  Stir until well blended.  Serve over the beef or on the side.  Or both.

The thing with the mushroom gravy though is, because of the cream of mushroom, it tends to expire easily.  Sometimes, we would skip the cream of mushroom and just add 1 tbsp of cornstarch mixed in water instead to get the same consistency.  Without the cream of mushroom, it would definitely last longer.

Don’t worry about making so much of the gravy.  I swear it’s really good.  My niece used it over her rice.  Hahaha.  It also goes well with meatballs and pork chop.

You can serve the “roast” beef with garlic potatoes or steamed rice.  Because we’re severely Filipino, we went with rice.

There you have it!  The recipe of ages, at least in my opinion.  Hopefully when we make it next time, I can post and show pictures.

Let me know how this goes for you.