Lemon and Pepper Chicken

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If there was a battle between lemons and calamansi (the small native Philippine lime), I’d be rooting for the lemon. My friends think it’s strange that I don’t like calamansi, considering that I’m Filipino. Sometimes when we’re eating out, and we would be given tiny saucers so we can make our own dip out of soy sauce, vinegar and calamansi, they would grab my pieces without hesitation. What’s exactly my beef with this little defenseless humble lime? Well, I would always rationalize that this ‘loathing’ doesn’t have any rationalization. I just don’t like it. But maybe, if I need to give concrete insight, maybe the calamansi’s citrus scent doesn’t appeal to me, the way the fresh clean lemon scent does.

The lemon’s scent and acidity lend themselves well with chicken. I decided to make this on the fly because people were coming over (another story altogether, sorry if I’m being evasive!), and I was supposed to serve this to them, but the chicken ended up wrapped in foil for  them to take home. The first batch ended up pretty dry but still flavorful, probably because I left them too long in the oven. As soon as the chicken hits the one hour mark, that’s when my paranoia sinks in, because I still want the chicken to be moist. I think I achieved it with the second batch (the ones pictured), because it tasted just the way I imagined it to be  - the fresh tartness of the lemon absorbed by the meat, with delicate, paper-thin skin, and yes, it’s flavorful down to the bones.

But of course if you’re a calamansi purist, I see no reason why you can’t use it instead of the lemons. But if you do have lemons lying around, well, you know what to do.

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Lemon and Pepper Chicken (serves 6 – 8)

  • chicken leg and thigh, 6 pieces each
  • juice of 3 lemons
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • a generous dash of freshly cracked black pepper, around 2 -3 tablespoons
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons salt (or more, to taste)
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the chicken. Add in the chicken and marinate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.
  2. When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 200 C. Arrange the chicken pieces in a baking pan, preferably with a rack, with the bottom of the pan lined with foil to catch the drippings.
  3. Place the pan in the oven and bake for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. flipping halfway. Bake until chicken’s skin is golden brown and the meat is done.
  4. When done, remove from oven and serve warm. Enjoy!

Fried Bananas/Prito Saging

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Sometimes when I’d hop on over to the kitchen next door, at my grandparent’s house, I’d see a bunch of bananas on the table, and I know it could become one of two things: sareala or prito saging. Sareala is bananas stewed in coconut milk and muscovado sugar, while prito/frito saging literally means fried bananas. Today was all about the fried bananas.

They make a great all-day snack that’s really simple to prepare and really really addictive. I asked them what’s the banana that’s ideal for frying, they usual say, ‘Gardava‘, and would be quick to add, ‘not Saba‘. But it is peculiar to know that when you google ‘Saba Banana’, top sites would tell you that the Saba banana is also called ‘Cardaba’. Yes, it’s confusing. Photos of the Saba banana would show you a banana that is slightly angular, almost square-ish, and I can swear that the bananas used didn’t resemble the photo. Now as I’m typing this I realize how much of a dufus I am because I didn’t even think of photographing the banana in question. Nice one, Gio.

Anyway, don’t fret. If you’re lucky enough to have an abundance of fruit stands around your neighborhood, I’m sure the people manning it can help you out. But if the varieties are scarce, it’s reasonable to experiment. Who knows? You might stumble into your own little gold mine (of fried golden bananas).
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Some recipes (and mothers, grandmothers, aunts) tell you to coat the bananas in flour, while some say just dump it in the hot oil right away. If the bananas are overripe and mushy, then it should be coated with flour to help preserve the structure. But if the bananas have peaked and ripened perfectly, then dump it in sans the flour. You’d want this kind of fried banana more – well, I would. They don’t mush too much even when they’re already golden brown. Sinking your teeth into it is a treat because if it’s perfectly cooked, then it’s going to melt in your mouth.

And slathering each piece with butter and sugar? Don’t get me started.
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Prito Saging (serves 6 – 8)

This doesn’t even have a proper procedure.

  • 1 banana bunch, peeled, then sliced in half or quartered
  • enough oil for frying
  • butter and sugar, to serve
  1. In a pan/pot, heat enough oil to fry the bananas completely. Fry a few bananas at a time until golden brown. You may need to work in batches. If it’s possible, don’t use tongs to handle the bananas – use a spatula or slotted spoon.
  2. When done, remove from pan and place it on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
  3. Serve with butter and sugar on the side. Enjoy!

Roasted Tomatoes

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Have you ever tasted something so amazing, that it left you speechless? One bite, and all you could think of, all you could say is, “delicious”?

I know this might sound like I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. I don’t even want to elaborate on this too much. I made roasted tomatoes, and it tasted amazing.
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It’s crazy how something so inexpensive, homey and rustic, can be transformed into nuggets of pure pleasure. Once again, I’m not exaggerating. The process is incredibly simple – slice tomatoes in half, drizzle it with olive oil, and generously sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Absolutely no pretensions. Just leave it in the oven for a little over an hour, and true to form, the end product is more than the sum of its parts.
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One bite from these little shriveled nuggets will make anyone a believer. Can something be incredibly sweet and tart at the same time? Yes. These roasted tomatoes are just that. Biting into the pieces is a sensory overload – the tomatoes have dried and caramelized perfectly, leaving a sweet, subtle exterior. Emphasis on the caramel. Chewing on the morsels releases its full flavor – the bright, refreshing, zesty tang that marries, and also tempers the saccharine taste perfectly.

The flavor of the tomatoes speaks highly of its versatility – I can imagine doing a lot with it. My only regret? I didn’t make a larger batch. But since the market is a stone’s throw away from our house, tomorrow then.
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And I’ll let the pictures do the talking
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Roasted Tomatoes

  • 8 – 10 medium-sized tomatoes (Start with this batch and make more if you want. Trust me, you’ll want to)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or a silicone mat.
  2. Slice the tomatoes in half, lengthwise. Arrange the tomatoes on the sheet.
  3. Generously drizzle it with olive oil, but don’t go overboard. You may pour the olive oil onto a tablespoon first then drizzle it over the tomatoes.
  4. Evenly sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours, or until tomatoes have crinkled but is still partially moist.
  6. When done, remove from oven. Use as desired or place it in a clean bowl and drizzle it with more olive oil, cover it with cling wrap and store it in the refrigerator. Use when ready.

Pork with Tomatoes

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I’m a sucker for one-pot/one-pan wonders. This is probably the first one-pan meal I’ve posted, and it’s strange, considering that this is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. I’ve been consuming this for years now. When my love affair with this dish started, I haven’t the slightest idea. Before I started really cooking, my Mama Eng would cook this like no other person can, for lunch, dinner, sometimes even both.

It may seem extremely counterintuitive but when I was 10 kilograms heavier during my teens, I used to go home after a great game of badminton with a large bowl of pork with tomatoes and a steaming plate of rice waiting for me. Yes, that scenario made so much sense. Really.

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This doesn’t have a fancy name. This isn’t even a fancy dish. Comfort food isn’t even supposed to be fancy. It’s simply a basic combination of pork and tomatoes, stir-fried together to make an incredibly satisfying dish. I just really love a simple, easy lunch that doesn’t involve a lot of technique. Don’t get me wrong, I have a list of “complicated” dishes that I hope to accomplish gradually.

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But because I’m me, I appreciate quiet breathing spaces along the way, where one pan is all I need to feel good. Oh, of course, a good siesta won’t hurt as well.

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Pork with Tomatoes (serves 4)

  • 1 1/2 kg pork shoulder or belly, cubed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1 whole garlic bulb, minced
  • 1 large white onion, sliced
  • 6 – 7 medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons soy sauce/liquid seasoning (I used Maggi Savor)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  1. In a large pan/wok, add pork cubes and water. Generously sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Over medium heat, allow to simmer and bring to a boil. Cover and allow to cook for 10 – 15 minutes or until pork is tender. Add more water is necessary if pork is still not tender.
  3. When the pork is cooked and the liquid evaporates completely, the pork’s fat will render. Toast the pork in its own fat, stirring frequently until lightly browned, around 3 minutes.
  4. Push the pork to the side of the pan and add the garlic and onions into the cleared space. Toast the garlic and onions for 30 seconds. Afterwards, stir to incorporate it with the pork.
  5. Add the tomatoes, soy sauce/liquid seasoning, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix everything together and cook until tomatoes soften and go limp.
  6. When done, remove from heat and serve with rice. Enjoy!