Thursday, March 20, 2014

Vegetarian in 30 minutes -- Farfalle with broccoli and sun dried tomatoes

After a year of swinging between being a pescetarian and a lacto-ovo vegetarian, I am trying to go back to the latter once again.  It's actually easy since I can whip up a quick vegetarian meal in just 30 minutes (do I sound like I'm auditioning to take over Rachel Ray?).

This Sunday dinner, I had a craving for pasta -- thankfully there was broccoli in the fridge and a box on farfalle in the pantry.  Next to penne, farfalle or bow tie pasta is my favourite kind.

For this dish, I checked what else was available in the vegetable bin and came up with pine nuts, sun dried tomatoes and left over grated parmigiano reggiano.  I chopped up lots of garlic and found a small tub of an award winning herb salt that a friend had brought back from her travels.

Here's how to make this very simple pasta dish.
Cook the broccoli with the farfalle, a few minutes before you remove the pasta from the stove.

Drain the pasta and the broccoli well and reserve a cup of the pasta liquid for later.

To keep the broccoli fresh and crisp and green, plunge pasta and broccoli together in a bowl with water and plenty of ice.

As you're cooling the pasta down, sauté garlic in olive oil and butter then add the pine nuts.

When garlic is slightly browned, add the sun dried tomatoes.  Then sprinkle with the herb salt.

After draining the pasta and broccoli from its ice cold bath,  mix in the pan and stir till pasta and vegetables are evenly coated.  Add a bit of the reserved pasta liquid to keep the farfalle from sticking. Use half of the grated cheese and keep the rest for table use.

It's a delicious, light and easy vegetarian meal.  All in just under 30 minutes!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Inutak and Vanilla Ice Cream -- perfect summer merienda!

You'd think that they would have given such a  delectable dessert a better name.  
Inutak (in english, utak means brains hence the addition of the prefix in- translated literally means brained)  has its origins from Pateros and Taguig.  It is a native kakanin made of finely textured ground malagkit (sticky glutinous rice) liberally cooked with generous amounts of gata or fresh coconut cream.

My Pateros friend Adel  introduced me to this ambrosial dessert many years ago, when I visited her at home.  She told me it is called inutak because that's what it looks like.  Since it is baked until a golden brown crust forms on top, it does somehow look like brains ... this is what your brain would look like after you ate a lot of inutak!
 It used to be harder to source this delicacy  (I'd always have to drop broad hints to get Adel to bring me some)  but now, thanks to a few entrepreneurial ladies, it has come into the mainstream and can be found in most malls and markets.  

People say that it is best eaten hot but Adel taught me that eating inutak with vanilla ice cream is the classic and traditional way -- and that is how I have enjoyed it ever since.

 I found a vendor from Pateros at my AANI week-end market who had inutak over the week-end.
Vanilla ice cream with soft, melt in your mouth inutak creaminess, so decadently good!
Just the perfect thing to have on a  warm Sunday afternoon.
Thank you Adel for introducing me to this (along with abnoy and penoy) ... this post is for you!

AANI -- the grand daddy of the week-end markets

Before Salcedo Market, before Legaspi,  the Lung Center and the Centris markets, there was AANI -- or the Agri Aqua Network Inc Week-end Market.  This market has seen quite a number of venue changes from Magallanes in the 1990s to FTI (Food Terminal Inc) to the TESDA compound and back to FTI again.  I've been going to this market for many many years,  and now, it's a lot closer to home.

The market opens bright and early on Saturdays and Sundays.  By 7:00 a.m. the parking lot is full.  Since the market is open till 1:00 p.m,  regulars like us know that the best and freshest buys are to be had early in the morning.  And yes, around closing time on Sunday, when vendors are packing up and looking to get rid of the last pieces at very good prices.

There's something for everyone at AANI -- from cute bunnies and poor ghastly multi colored, dyed chicks ...

To puppy dogs in cages...

There is quite an expansive  dry goods section at the front of the market.  

Where everything is sold from clothing to bags to shoes to DVDs...

And yes, quite a number of used household items.  There are a number of stalls selling Japan surplus goods too.

I enjoy checking out the wide variety of plants.   There are both fruit bearing trees, gumamelas, bouganvilleas, roses, sampaguitas, jasmine and rosal ... you name it, you can find it here.
There are also herbs and even cut flowers.

Many of the vendors at AANI come from places like Batangas, Laguna, Pampanga, and even Baguio to sell their fresh produce.

You can find many kinds of fruits in season at AANI.  This is where I get my annual pajo fix from a suki who comes all the way from Batangas.

Sea food is fresh and varieties are extensive.  While the Seafood Market in Baclaran has better quality, AANI will do, in a pinch.

 There are even live fish for sale.

Not to mention whatever cut of pork, beef or chicken you may want.

If you have a hankering for longganisang Lucban or Vigan, or from Alaminos, Pangasinan for that matter, this lady sells different kinds of longganisa from all over.

My particular favourites are the kakanin and kalamay vendors.  I can never go without buying suman, puto, biko, kutsinta ... you name it, they have it here in AANI.

Another suki, who hails from Bulacan, always sets aside kesong puti and putong pulo for me every week.

Here's another of my favourite vendors -- Tita Norma or Tita Norms as the sign says, hails from Sorsogon and sells authentic Bicolano home cooking.

I love her laing which has the right spicy kick plus her pinangat and all her other gata infused dishes.

 Tita Norms always makes sure to add a little bit more when I buy -- that is what a good suki is for!

 One of the best bibingka I have tried can be found at the AANI Market.  Glenn's Bibingka is light, fluffy,  moist and  good value for money.  The puto bungbong is another best seller and so is their batchoy.  Here's a tip, if you're planning to take some bibingka home  -- when you get to the market, go straight to Glenn's to place your order and pick it up when you're done shopping.
The queues can get to be quite long particularly on Saturday mornings.

Aside from Tita Norms, there are quite a number of other vendors who sell cooked food -- to take home or eat right there.   

 Fancy some lechon?  You can get it chopped and ready to eat or packed in a plastic  container to go.

There are outdoor grilling stations where the ubiquitous BBQ, chicken inasal, inihaw na panga ng tuna, inihaw na bangus, etc. are cooked -- everything is fresh, hot and delicious.

Since moving to its more permanent and bigger space last year, AANI has added a tented area where tables and chairs have been set up.  Buy your cooked food or order from the ihawan and they'll bring it to your table.  It's always a lively, loud, friendly scene with families and friends coming together for     lechon kawali, pork barbecue, sisig and other frighteningly high-cholesterol food so early in the morning.

There are quite a number of cyclists who reward themselves after a week-end ride with 
a pig out at AANI.

In between bingeing, how about some fresh buko juice to somehow cleanse the system?

The  crowds are heaviest at mid morning -- literally and figuratively.  Not a vacant chair or table to be had -- everyone's chowing down and enjoying the AANI week-end experience.  
See you next Saturday!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Great Pizza at Gino's Brick Oven Pizza, Katipunan

I had heard about Gino's at Katipunan and asked my students about it -- surprisingly even if it was just a stone's throw away from the Ateneo, quite a number had never heard of it.  The few who had tried it said it was worth a stop over before I headed home after class.

Gino's is on the second floor of this building across Miriam University,  look for the Mercury Drugstore on the ground floor.  It's a bright, cheerful place, with basic tables and chairs but with a shiny wooden floor.  These wooden floors spell the difference for me -- the owners obviously care enough to make a better impression.  Connected to Gino's is Cello's Doughnuts -- most likely owned by the same group.  

The first time I tried Gino's I ordered 3 pizzas to take home.  The waiter recommended the SMEGG,
with their own homemade sausage, mushrooms, gouda cream and eggs.  It was still slightly warm when I got home --  despite  the C5 traffic.  Gino's brick oven makes for a softer, thin crust which makes lifting each slice difficult -- best solution is to fold each slice and eat it like that.

This is Gino's mushroom pizza -- their best seller and I heartily agree.  It reminded me of Mozza's mushroom pizza but with a lot less mushrooms.  I liked the fact that this pizza used cream as a base instead of the usual tomato sauce.  Aside from mushrooms and garlic, you can also taste a lot of the mozzarella and a hint of bleu cheese.  My favourite!

Gino's Margherita pizza is also one of their bestsellers.  Tomato sauce, mozzarella and crumbled kesong puti with a sprinkling of chopped basil -- simple and very tasty.

Two weeks later, I was back at Gino's this time with friends.  For starters, we ordered the Burratta, (in Italian, it means "buttered")  a huge pocket of mozzarella and cream that was a bit rich for my taste.   Drizzled with EVOO  and a bit of freshly ground black pepper which somehow,  cut through a bit of the cheesy creaminess.
My friends are carnivores so we also ordered a side of speck or smoked prosciutto.

This is called the Bomb and yes -- it's an explosion of pizza goodness! Onions caramelized in balsamic vinegar added a sweetish tangy taste -- plus mozzarella, bleu cheese and mushrooms... yes, I agree -- it's appropriately named.

I didn't taste this but my meat loving friends did -- the buffalo chicken pizza looked spicy hot but was quite mild.   Gino's tried and true combination of mozzarella and bleu cheese plus tomato sauce and chopped chicken  is a flavour that buffalo chicken wing lovers will definitely recognise and enjoy.

Here are my pizza loving carnivorous friends ... please don't judge us by the number of pizzas we ate!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

An Early Breakfast at Manila Bake

For the past 13 years, I have been teaching Saturday classes at the Ateneo de Manila -- every second semester finds me traversing the length of C5,  all the way from Paranaque to Katipunan.  I  leave the house early to avoid any traffic and am always on the look out for  new places that serve good hot coffee and a bite to eat.  

I first discovered Manila Bake last year --  it's on the right side of Katipunan in the Blue Ridge area,  coming from C5, going towards Ateneo.  Since there are quite a number of bigger eating establishments near it -- it's sandwiched between a McDonalds and  Banapple, don't rush past as you may miss it altogether.  There's just enough parking space for two or three cars.

While Manila Bake may seem small outside, the interiors are spacious and well laid out.
It looks like a contemporary and modern bake shop with  a homey, friendly appeal.
There are quite a number of food items for sale -- aside from the breads and pastries, there are bottled jams, pickles, dried fish, muscovado sugar and even batirols for your tsokolate eh and coffee presses for your daily brew.

The cakes and tarts are nicely presented in the glass chiller.  Their chocolate cake, which comes in  mini  and regular sizes, is moist and has that old style home baked taste.

There are a number of breads for sale but my particular favourite is their sourdough bonete.  At just P5 each, these delightfully crusty rounds are perfect when warmed and eaten with butter and jam.

Manila Bake also serves simple meals for breakfast, light lunches and merienda.   I have only been here at breakfast time, so I haven't had time to try the other specialties.

There are a few tables set out for diners.  The chairs are done in an old style rattan weave, in cool blue and white colours.  The floors are wood and give off a warm and  cozy feel.
Since I'm  an early bird, I always have the place to myself.  I sit in the corner and enjoy the peace and quiet -- and the smells of bread, freshly baking.

This is my  usual breakfast at Manila Bake.  Called the "Bread Basket", you get three of the divine sourdough bonete plus an assortment of other breads like pandesal and sesame rolls.  My order comes with thick slices of kesong puti, a small jar of their very own coco jam plus two perfectly cooked eggs -- made just the way I like it.  All these plus a cup of steaming hot coffee are just what I need to kickstart my Saturday morning.