Tinapa, Tomato and Truffle Linguine

I know, I know, sue me for fading into relative obscurity every now and then. It hasn’t been easy, you know, lounging and purging myself of all worldly pleasures before I dive into my internship. Yes, that was the plan – give myself a month to addle around, before all focus shifts to making sure that I survive this career. (Which reminds me! A year ago today, I wrote this, and it has made all the difference. I’m amazed)

But apparently the universe has its own time-table, and a string of events made my vacation drag on a longer than I intended it to be. Jad happened, among other things. You might be wondering how I’m holding up. It’s been more than a month now. It still hurts, my friends and I are still reeling from what happened. But we find ways to move along, which, I think, is vastly different from moving on. Life waits for no one.

So, I’m in a celebratory mood right now. For almost a year now I’ve been religiously going to the gym, and it has paid off. When I started I was at 21% body fat, a little over the normal for me. Then it went down to 17%, and just this morning after a session with my trainer I’m at 14%!

I’ve always struggled with my weight. I didn’t feel good and I didn’t like how I looked. Things got better in college, but it was still a battle of fluctuations.

It was only last year that I decided to hit the gym and keep the weight off. That was the initial goal, but it eventually evolved from a mission of pure vanity to simply self-improvement. It’s about feeling good by feeling strong, surpassing old goals and creating new ones and always challenging yourself. That mindset isn’t too farfetched, and is actually pretty helpful considering the industry I want to dive right into.

And I choose to celebrate this little victory by making really good pasta. Yes. Yes. Yes.
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It has all the good stuff: linguine, shiitake and button mushrooms, olive oil, garlic and onions, dried tomatoes, a little bit of pesto, smoked tinapa/milkfish. For absolutely good measure, a nice little glug of truffle oil.

I had that for lunch and it was a tasty little thing. What you have before you is not much, and that’s because I ate most of it already. I was too eager to dig right in.
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Tinapa, Tomato and Truffle Linguine

serves 2

  • 80 – 90 grams linguine
  • 1 piece smoked fish/tinapa, flaked
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup button mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ cup sundried tomatoes (sold in a jar with oil)
  • 2 tablespoons of oil from the bottled sundried tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon pesto
  • half a garlic bulb, peeled and minced
  • 1 red onion, peeled and sliced
  • olive oil, as needed

In a medium sized pot, boil pasta in salty water according to package instructions, reserve around 1/8 cup of the starchy water.

In the same pot, add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pot. Add the oil from the tomatoes. When it’s hot enough, add the garlic and onions and saute until fragrant. Add the tinapa, tomatoes and pesto. Season according to taste. Mix well and add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are tender. Add the pasta water and the pasta. Mix everything together and transfer to a plate. Drizzle with parmesan cheese and truffle oil. Serve and enjoy!

Coming home to Mom and Tina’s

An evening visit to Mom and Tina’s bakery cafe last week left me wondering why I haven’t heard of and visited them sooner. It took me almost six months and their nearest outlet is a short tricycle ride away.
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What is endearing about the cafe is how they put a premium on detail. The interiors from the plump sofas to the wooden accents remind you of home, or a little cottage in the middle of the woods sans the cannibal witch…take your pick. The ambiance, now that Christmas is just around the corner, is incredibly festive and comforting. I feel that it’s part of the attraction and it works spendidly.
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You go there to soak up as much positive juju there is, and of course, to taste the food which is actually really good. It’s the blissful marriage of form and food that makes Mom and Tina’s a winner.
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The rolls that went with my delicious pasta all’Amatriciana (homemade fettucine with bacon and black olive sauce) were crusty on the outside and light and airy on the inside…in other words, it was the perfect foil.
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Their selections are diverse, which compels you to come back and eat with gusto once again.
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Never leave the place with trying the mini sans rival. Their pint-sized version of the real thing doesn’t scrimp on flavor with its luscious butter cream and nut filling between layers of chewy meringue. It could be a meal in itself given its calorie count, but if you’re like me…I ain’t countin.
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It has only been a week and my recent visit just last Sunday where I ordered their filling bacon and spinach quiche really affirmed that this is a place I’ll frequent. The beauty of it is that sometimes time stands still. It has the kind of laid-back, “I could read a book here all day” vibe you look for when you want to feel like you’re home because the semblance is there.

In a way, when you’re at Mom and Tina’s, you’re essentially coming home.

Mom and Tina’s Bakery Cafe

FRDC Building
106 E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave.
(C-5), Pasig City
Tel: 914-0833 or 571-1541
 
G/F Unit 14
Tropical Palms Condominum
Dela Rosa St. cor. Perea St.,
Legaspi Village, Makati City
Tel: 840-4299 or 894-3598
 
2nd floor,
Regis Center,
Katipunan Ave.,
Quezon City
Tel: 990-2875 or 990-2815
 
58 Sgt. Esguerra Ave.,
South Triangle,
Quezon City
Tel: 332-3080 or 332-3589

Filipino-style Spaghetti

Filipinos love their spaghetti sweet. That kind of preparation is as “pinoy” as adobo. Growing up, I would watch in awe as grandma would take out her large wok, and arrange the ingredients for the spaghetti on the table: lots of tomato sauce, ground pork or beef, hotdogs (it had to be Tender Juicy!) and the condensed milk. Yes, our household believes that the key to a great sweet spaghetti lies in the condensed milk. Let’s not forget the cheese. Lots of it. I actually thought that spaghetti is always prepared this way. Jollibee underscored it even more. But then as time and experience chipped a few notions away, I began to appreciate just how diverse pasta could be.

Lately my birthdays would always mean that paella would be the center of attention (aside from myself.ha!). But a younger me would be happy to see two or three pyrex dishes filled with spaghetti, generously topped with cheese. Even if pasta comes in various shapes, presentations and flavors…sweet spaghetti hits the spot because it tugs at the heartstrings.
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Just this afternoon, after my routine of taking a few photographs of the dish I made, I sat on the floor with a plate of my version of the good stuff grandma makes. There was something missing – the cheese perhaps. But that didn’t matter when I finished all of it. And the package of pasta says it was supposed to serve four. Let’s just pretend I’m not aware of that tiny detail.

It’s sweet, it’s savory, it’s a little fragment of home….it’s the spaghetti we all know and love.
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Filipino Style Spaghetti (serves 3 – 4)

The name alone couldn’t contain just how diverse the ingredients and methods Pinoys employ to make their sweet spaghetti. Just because it’s supposed to be sweet doesn’t mean you should go overboard. It has to have the balance of sweet and savory. I used smoked longganisa instead of ground pork, and coconut sugar as a “friendlier” sweetener.

  • half a bulb of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium-sized white onion, sliced
  • 175 grams pasta noodles, cooked according to package instructions
  • 1/4 cup salty, starchy water used to cook the pasta
  • 250 grams tomato sauce
  • 142 grams vienna sausage (I use Libby’s), drained and sliced
  • 411 grams canned diced tomatoes, with the liquid reserved.
  • 5 – 7 pieces sweet longganisa, sliced into bite sized pieces.
  • 3 – 5 tablespoons coconut sugar (or use brown sugar)
  • dried thyme, salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and saute until onions start to sweat and garlic is fragrant.
  2. Add the longganisa and cook until the fat renders and it is starting to brown.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes together with the liquid. Add the tomato sauce and simmer until the sauce has reduced and has thickened. Add the vienna sausage.
  4. Mix in the sugar, season with salt, pepper and thyme.
  5. When the sauce has reduced, add the starchy water and raise the heat to high. Add in the pasta and mix well. Serve immediately and top with grated cheese (optional)

Chorizo and Roasted Tomato Pasta

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I’ve had my fair share of pasta problems. Usually, when I was starting out, the comments would be along the lines of, “It tastes good, but the pasta’s undercooked/overcooked/mushy”, or the other way around, “The pasta’s cooked perfectly, but I don’t taste anything else”. Take note, I’ve never made my own pasta from scratch before, since I don’t have the ingredients, and the equipment is exorbitantly priced.
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I take comfort in knowing that there’s always a canister of ready-to-cook pasta noodles resting inside the pantry. So far my pasta streak has been pretty good. But of course, I’m looking forward to the day I might be able to press my own pasta noodles.

Coming from a family whose conceptual definition of pasta is a chunky, saucy spaghetti, it’s a challenge getting them to try anything that digresses from their mental image. I’ve haven’t really made major breakthroughs with them yet. One time, when my uncle suggested that my vegetarian tomato pasta would taste better with condensed milk, my ego was torn in half. My mom, however, is my biggest supporter and a fan of my garlic and sardines pasta, so I usually give everything to her.
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But of course, when I saw my 12-year old cousin, who has known fried chicken and Jollibee spaghetti all his life,  devour his plate of my pasta, I had a feeling I was on to something.

Like I said, the roasted tomatoes I made are incredibly versatile. One classic preparation that I’ve always wanted to try is to add it to pasta. And the rest was history. The chorizos that I used were the plump, sweet, smoky variety, so it imparted a rich taste to the pasta oil. The tomatoes were the icing on the cake.
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Imagine yourself swirling your fork to pickup the noodles, stabbing little chunks of juicy chorizo and a piece of roasted tomato, and putting it in your mouth, slurping the pasta – the sweet flavors of chorizo and basil, the acidity of the tomato, dancing and exploding in your mouth.  Does it feel good? Are you drooling right now? I thought so.
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Chorizo and Roasted Tomato Pasta (serves 3 – 4)

If you noticed, there isn’t a lot of precise measurement involved. Just put it all together, and have fun dancing with generosity and restraint. 

  • 100 – 150 grams angel hair pasta
  • 6 – 8 pieces sweet smoky chorizo, sliced
  • roasted tomatoes
  • a few pieces of fresh basil leaves
  • around 1/4 cup olive oil, or more if desired
  • salt and pepper
  1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water before draining. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  2. In a pan, over medium heat, cook and brown the chorizo until the fat renders. Season with salt and pepper. And the olive oil, tomatoes and the basil leaves. Allow to cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Add the reserved pasta water, then add the pasta. Mix well to coat the pasta with the seasoned oil. Add more olive oil if desired. Cook for 1 more minute, or until the water evaporates, it’s no longer soggy and the pasta has taken the sauce well.
  4. Remove from heat and serve warm. Enjoy!

My Weekend

This weekend I was supposed to be really really productive. I told myself I would bake my first cake on Saturday, then make palabok on Sunday (today). And here I am with no recipe to blog about.

Last night was also rough for me; I was tinkering with different theme options for my blog (the one thing i hate about wordpress.com (not self-hosted) is that free customization is difficult, blogspot is more flexible) so if you stumbled upon an uglier version of my blog last night, well that was me playing God/cosmetic surgeon. The funny thing was, at the end of it all, I ended up with the layout that I started this blog on! But I did somehow manage to delete the items from my sidebar so that’s something I have to construct again.

But I did go to the Tzu Chi One Mega Fair today. The local chapter organizes this annual one day event that gathers all kinds of merchandise under one roof. A portion of the profits, I believe, go to their charity. There were food and garment stalls, a dog show and a very emaciated Angry Birds mascot. So you can figure out what I was particularly interested in, and it wasn’t the mascot.
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I was a nice surprise that local under-the-radar dessert businesses did set up shop.
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Of particular interest is this squash cake from Emy’s Kitchen. It’s not really a cake. It’s more of squash puree probably baked/steamed in a mold. It tastes like squash (go figure), but it has the texture of a really solid bread pudding. Plus it’s studded with meat and shrimp on top, so it’s like you’re already eating lunch. This was interesting and really filling.

In other news, remember the shrimp gambas that I made a few posts back? Well opening the fridge yesterday I saw there was still a bowl that had all the shrimp heads + one piece of shrimp. Now instead of giving it to our dog, I decided to use it for the pasta dish I made for lunch!
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It’s incredibly simple: cook a handful of pasta (good for two) according to package instructions then make the sauce. Just melt a small square of butter (around 1/8th cup) in a pan. Add minced garlic and onions and red chili flakes. Then I added around 3 tablespoons of bottled pesto and a tablespoon of the same chili garlic sauce I used for my szechuan eggplant. Then add the leftover gambas. For good measure I added a few spoonfuls of the starchy pasta water so the sauce can adhere to the noodles well. Drain the pasta and toss in the pan and that’s it. It had all the right amounts of garlicy and pesto-y savoriness and heat. Really great lunch.
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 So I guess my weekend wasn’t as unproductive as I thought it was. 
 
Yellow Daisies Desserts – for the candy canes
contact: (63)9163720021
 
Emy’s Little Kitchen – tablea, cupcakes and squash cake
contact: Emy Gamboa @ (062) 955-3114 or (63) 933-6942-386
 
Ju D’s Products Philippines – for the cookies (the Tzu Chi people probably sourced these)
50 Greenmeadows Avenue, Quezon City, Philippines 
contact: (632) 633 – 1188 or email them @ jud_fruitcakes@yahoo.com
 
update: after a few hours I tried Ju D’s Ginger and Dark Choco cookies. WOW, it tastes great! you have to try it! 

Lazy Afternoons and Pasta

Today feels like the morning after that really sweet party and it’s back to reality for me. Don’t you hate that feeling? – Well if you actually understood what I just wrote. People who visited us over the weekend have finally left, and here I am alone at home after what seems to be my longest weekend in a while.

I have a pile of papers to check, a lesson to plan and other miscellaneous things I need to get done. And if you know me pretty well, I’m a procrastinator and I usually wait until the 11th hour to finish everything. Well, if you haven’t caught on yet, I’m a part time teacher in my alma mater, teaching English to wide eyed college students. I can’t believe that a few months ago, I was that college student who didn’t really give two cents to what the teacher’s blabbering about infront. Now that I’ve come full circle, I can totally relate to my students, so I don’t blame them if they’re sometimes(?) uninterested. But still, I’m enjoying the time given to me so I’m not complaining that much to have me consider quitting.

Where was I? Oh yeah, procrastination. Instead of me devoting the afternoon checking papers, here I am writing about my afternoon meal. Remember the sausages my mom brought home from Manila? Well, it turns out they’re pretty tasty when paired with pasta! Honestly my cooking range isn’t really that diverse. At the moment I’m limiting myself to the quick pasta, fried fish here and there. So I’m really dead set on widening my repertoire. But for this lazy afternoon, I’m pretty comfortable being…well, lazy. It’s still tasty pasta. Definitely a winner.

Ilocos Longanisa Pasta

serves 1 – 2

175 grams spaghetti, uncooked

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, sliced

7 pieces Ilocos longanisa, roughly 150 – 200 grams

200 grams tomato sauce

1/2 tbsp Basil

a dash of salt and pepper

Parmesan cheese

1. Heat water to a rolling boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions.

2. When the pasta is halfway done, heat a pan and add the oil. Add the garlic and lightly toast it. After a minute, add the onions and allow it to sweat and go limp.

3. Add the longanisa/sausage and cook until slightly brown and the fat renders nicely.

4. Add the basil, tomato sauce and season with a dash of salt and pepper.

5. Get a tablespoon of the starchy water and add the the meat

6. When the pasta is al dente, drain and add it to the meat sauce. Allow the sauce to coat the noodles well.

7. Remove from heat and add parmesan cheese. Mix well. Serve hot and enjoy!

And yes, while I was cooking and taking pictures of the dish, Junior Masterchef was on. Dang those kids are amazing.

Garlic and Sardines Pasta (comfort food)

What is it about comfort food that hits the spot in so many ways? Well, it is supposed to give you that sense of security, that warm fuzzy feeling of being right at home, no matter where you are. That’s what drives me crazy about food – good food almost always brings with it a good emotion. I like cooking food that makes me feel fuzzy all over. Yeah I know, corny, but pfftt to you, I’m on a roll.

I came home from a busy day at work and I found myself not even bothering to change into comfier clothes – I just opened my pantry, looked around and did a mental inventory of the ingredients I needed and I started prepping for my dish of the moment – Sardines Pasta. I’m partial to the Spanish style variety,  with that perfect blend of meaty fish, succulent oil plus the perfect amount of heat. The tomato sauce variety, I don’t really care for.

Like I said, it’s fairly simple, sometimes I’m even tempted to just dump it over cooked pasta and let the magic just melt in my mouth. Yeah you can that too if you’re lazy as me on a perfectly rainy day, but I like mine GARLICKY, and so I cook A LOT OF minced garlic in the sardine oil first, to impart that “Holy Mother I’m salivating” feel. Once that amazing garlic smell wafts around the kitchen, I add the sardines, with each piece roughly sliced into three smaller pieces.

I don’t know if it was Rachael Ray or Giada who introduced me to the idea of adding a little of the starchy liquid used to boil pasta into the sardines mix – but man, it works like a charm. After adding the pasta (drained of course) into the mix and letting the components get to know each other, there’s always that film of oil that coats each noodle perfectly.

Tasting it is a whole different story – well, more like an epic. There’s the perfect blend of salty meaty crumbled sardines + the oil coated pasta + the right amount of heat that just makes my knees go weak. My mom insists I add cheese to the pasta, and I can’t say I disagree with her but I like mine really aglio olio. But what the heck it tastes good just the same.

You can never really go wrong with perfectly toasted garlic. For real. That’s why I love being Filipino. We put A LOT OF garlic into pretty much anything.

I’m really not much of a food stylist. Consider this…pretty rustic, just the way comfort food should be. And consider me…rationalizing. But seriously, it is comfort food!