Over the weekend, hubby and I had a sudden craving for salmon. Read somewhere that if you had fits like this, it’s actually your body’s way of telling you what it needs. In our case, it must be fish oils. It seems the 1000mg of omega-3 supplement we take isn’t enough or our bodies just like food names with more letters than we pronounce, like broccoli or Worcestershire sauce.
So with that as a good excuse to go fish-crazy, we headed to Cold Storage and got our half a pound of salmon fillet and a few condiments I remembered from one recipe I downloaded from the Internet called Baked Salmon Dijon. It’s so easy to do and tasty too, I highly recommend it to fish-lovers who’d like a simple, restaurant-style salmon dish in just half an hour.
You’ll need: 1 cup light or fat-free sour cream, 2 tsps dried dill weed, 3 tbsps scallions, 2 tsps lemon juice, 2 tbsps Dijon mustard, salmon fillet, garlic powder and black pepper.
Make the dressing by mixing the first 5 ingredients in a bowl then set aside. Place salmon fillet (skin side down) on a baking pan brushed with a little olive oil. Cover salmon with garlic powder and pepper and spread the dressing all over it. Pop in a pre-heated oven (200C) and bake for 20 minutes. Serve with corn and carrots, unsalted chips, or potatoes.
If you’re bored with your dinner guests and would like them to leave, the polite way to do it is to offer them coffee. I forget where I heard that from but that’s supposedly the cue for the guests to leave after taking their last sip. But if you want them to stay and chat for longer, serve them coffee jelly. It’s an easy dessert that you can let your guests have fun with and make on their own. Just do the coffee jelly cubes ahead of time.
What you’ll need: Jello or Alsa packet, instant coffee, sugar, chilled Nestle all- purpose cream in a tetra pack, Hershey’s chocolate syrup, vanilla ice cream, and cherries if you like.
To make coffee jelly cubes, mix a few tablespoons of coffee and sugar in a bowl of water (depends on how much it says on the Jello pack). It should taste stronger than your usual cuppa. Pour in the powder, boil, chill to set then cut into cubes.
Spoon into serving cups. Squeeze Hershey’s chocolate syrup over the coffee jelly cubes, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, squeeze Nestle cream around the ice cream. Then, sprinkle half a teaspoon instant coffee powder on it and top with a cherry.
A little trick which works on chilled (but not rock-solid) Nestle cream: cut 2 small triangles at the tip of the pack (where you’ve got the dotted lines with the scissors) then squeeze out the cream like you would an icing pipe.
I’ve always associated the dish with painstaking, tedious preparation and that kept me from trying to cook it myself. It seems too big for a tiny kitchen and too much of a task for one person. Thankfully, it’s the era of short cuts and substitutions. A bottle of peanut butter can take the place of pounded peanuts, toasted rice and achuete (annatto) seeds. So let me share with you my version that’s still full-flavored but done in half the time. The longest part of the cooking process is pre-boiling the meat (preferably oxtail, as tripe needs more cleaning, boiling and brushing to take out the stinky smell). If you plan to have the dish ready for lunch, you can do that bit in the evening or about 3 hours before hubby remembers he’s hungry.
And now for the recipe, good for 2-3 meals for 2 homesick people:
Cook about 6 oxtail cuts, for at least an hour or until the meat is fork tender. Remove part of the broth, and just leave some liquid about the same level as the meat.
Saute lots of onion and garlic in oil. Add the sliced eggplants, string beans (and banana hearts, if you have). Let them cook for a few minutes then transfer all into the pot of oxtail and broth. Add peanut butter (about a little jar of Skippy) and stir. Pop in 1 beef cube and simmer for 15 minutes. This is also a good time to add in your leafy greens.
While that’s simmering away, saute shrimp paste in garlic and chilli peppers, then set aside. Be sure that steamed rice is ready by the time you finish cooking. Waiting for it is torture if your olfactory nerves are already eating up the scents of bagoong and kare-kare.
It’s always hard to think of what to cook for dinner on a Monday night but the fifteen minute walk home was helpful. After mentally going through my mom’s repertoire of easy-to-cook dishes and what I had in the fridge and cupboard, I was torn between chicken soup and pasta. What tipped the balance was the super-salty bacon I’ve been trying to ignore. So with a side trip to the grocery for some parmesan cheese, I headed home to make quick and painless carbonara. It goes a little something like this:
Cut the bacon strips into little square pieces then put them in a hot pan and let the fat melt. Sautee onion and garlic in the bacon oil. When the bacon squares have browned, mix in cooked spaghetti. Then sprinkle with lots of grated parmesan and a dash of pepper. Finally, pour in a cup of low-fat milk, mix it well with the pasta then turn off the heat. If there seems to be too much milk in the pan, let it stand for a while to let the noodles absorb it. Other than that, it’s good to go.
Crabs are really easy to cook. The hardest part is waiting for them to take their last breath so you can clean them up. Experts advice to toss fresh crabs in the freezer and let them succumb to hypothermia or pour extremely hot water over them. Both seem cruel and would probably have the Society Against Cruelty to Crustaceans, if there were such, up in arms. But there is no easy way to let them go quietly into the night. So go pour that scalding water and just avoid their beady eyes staring at you. Freaky, yes, but very effective. Once their legs start falling off, you can scrub them clean without fearing their revenge.
Now that they’re all mud-free, you can either use Sprite, 7-Up or white wine to cook them in instead of water. This will make the meat even sweeter. If you can, try inserting a garlic clove into the shell so the meat is infused with the flavor. Or you could just add lots of garlic into the liquid and a generous sprinkle of ground pepper. This dish goes well with a lemon butter sauce you can dip into or pour over the crabs after you’ve cracked them open.
On a slow Monday like this, my work mode is easily interrupted by thoughts of Adobo. What Pinoy kitchen caper will be complete without this delicious dish? In fact, my little kitchen here has seen many Adobo days in the last 18 months. Although I did stop cooking the stuff for about 2 months when my recipe started becoming too salty for Mike’s and my own taste. Must be taste bud fatigue. It was devastating! How can I not be able to cook it properly? Anyhow, I cannot go on living without the dish. So mustering enough courage, I vowed to conquer my salty Adobo demons and doused the flames of self-doubt with a cup of water. Yes. Apparently, that’s all it takes to dilute the saltiness whilst maintaining enough liquid to simmer without burning. Silly me.
Pork Adobo with Common Sense
- 1/2 kilo pork belly (liempo), inch-thick cuts
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 4tbsps. vinegar
- loads of chopped garlic
- bay leaves
- ground pepper
- a cup of water
Mix all ingredients (except water) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes. Add water, turn heat medium to low and then simmer for 30minutes or until meat is tender. Turn up the flame, add a little cooking oil to let the fat melt and make the meat slightly toasted. Serve with atchara (shredded papaya chutney).
What do you do on a cold and rainy Saturday? Raid the grocery for beef short ribs or beef shanks for Nilagang Baka (Beef Broth Soup)!
Alas there were no ribs nor shank so I ended up with rib eye steak. I was looking for a cut with some of the fat still intact (we Pinoys love our cholesterol) but here they trim off everything! So anyway, the rib eye cuts weren’t bad. In fact they still made good Crusty Garlic Pepper Beef. Yes, there is a second dish you can make from the beef you used in your beef soup and it goes a little something like this:
CRUSTY GARLIC PEPPER BEEF
- (ideally) beef short ribs (that were boiled in onions and leeks or whatever your Nilagang Baka broth base is)
- lots of ground black pepper
- lots of garlic powder
Scoop out the ribs from the broth and drain. Rub with a generous amount of garlic powder and pepper. Sprinkle with a bit of salt. Then bake in oven at 240ºF for 1o to 15 minutes or until you get that brown crust. Serve with a nice hot bowl of beef soup and rice.
Mike and I had this (rib-eye variation) for lunch, dinner, and lunch the next day. Talk about bingeing on beef. Of course by dinner time, our tummies just had room for a light japanese supper of salmon sashimi and shrimp sushi with roe and mayo. (This last one you could do yourself. Just grab a few of those shrimp sushi, top with roe and japanese mayo.) I love weekends!