Sunday, March 20, 2011

KCC Challenge: Pinakbet

This month's KCC challenge is brought to us by Erika @ The Ivory Hut, and to embrace the beginning of Spring, this month's theme is: Vegetables.


This was a bit of a tough one for me. Growing, up I was quite the picky eater. On our trips to the Philippines, one of the first things my mom would have to do would be to buy cereal and milk for me and my brother for breakfast. When going to a Chinese restaurant, I would ONLY eat egg drop soup. I didn't like veggies. I didn't like to try new things.


All of the Filipino dishes that I've grown up loving were either meat, sweet, or starch-based... so I had to consult my mom for this challenge. She threw a couple of ideas in the air... but the one that stuck out most was Pinakbet. Pinakbet is a dish that originates from my mom's hometown in Ilocos Norte. It's a melange of vegetables; tomatoes, onions, bitter melon, okra, green beans, all cooked with garlic, ginger, and bagoong (shrimp paste) until shriveled. It's one of my mom's staple recipes... a dish that she either cooks, or brings home from the Filipino store.


I never wanted to try it because of one ingredient; bitter melon. It is a vegetable that even makes my dad, one of the most adventurous eaters I know, cringe. So if he didn't like it, how could I, a picky 10-or-so year old, have had even the slightest urge to try it?

Ampalayá / Bitter Melon

Now that I'm much older, I'm quite the opposite. I would much rather spend the time to make really delicious scrambled eggs for breakfast than pour myself a bowl of Lucky Charms. When going to a Chinese restaurant, I won't even waste my time on egg drop soup... I go directly for the Peking Duck (or something just as yummy). And I love veggies. I love to try new things.

Haricots Verts

So this is kind of my ode to how I've changed. It's a dish I've grown up with, but never ate. It's always been around, and now I am finally old enough to appreciate it... and it just so happens (as my mom just told me) that it was my Lolo's favorite dish.



2 tablespoons vegetable oil
250g pork belly, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon of ginger, minced
3 coeur de boeuf tomatoes (beefsteak tomatoes), diced
2 tablespoons shrimp paste
3/4 cup boiling water
1 ampalayá, or bitter melon, seeds removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
8 okra, tops and bottoms cut off, and cut into bite-sized pieces
150g haricots verts (green beans), tips removed
1 eggplant, diced
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large heavy-bottom pot, heat oil over medium-high heat and fry the pork until browned. Once browned, remove the pork and set aside.

In the same pot, saute garlic, onion, ginger and tomatoes until softened, about 10 minutes.

In a small saucepan, boil water and add shrimp paste. Stir until dissolved.

Add the pork back into the pot of tomatoes, onions and garlic, and add the shrimp paste/water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add in the rest of the vegetables and cook until the vegetables are done, about 15 minutes.

Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with plain rice. Serves 4-6.

Kulinarya Cooking Club Members:

Kath –
Trisha –
Trissa –
Olive –
Caroline –
Ninette –
Asha –
Malou –
Cherrie –
Acdee –
Valerie –
Sheryl –
Divina –
Anna –
Dahlia –
Joy –
Maribel –
Jen –
Pia –
Malaka –
Mimi –
Erika –
Kat –
Lala –
Selfie –
Connie Veneracion -
Oggi -
Katrina -
Rochelle Ryan -
Marica –
Diona –
Rowena -
Theodore –
Gianna –
Mireille –
Marishka –
Annapet –
Boyet –
Adora –
Yaz –
Marvin –

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tart Tuesday: Goat Cheese, Zucchini, and Roasted Red Pepper Tart

I am going to cheat a bit today... because for one, I am on a pretty big work deadline, and two, I'm still recovering from last weekend. 

Last Thursday, my friend from FSU, Vishan, who is now studying painting at West Dean in England, came down for a long weekend in Paris. We both have been on similar journeys this past year, and we've been keeping up with each others' progress of adapting to life in a new country. It was really comforting to finally have someone from back home who understands my issues with cold weather, and even though there's not really a language barrier between the US and England... I learned there were a lot of things in Vishan's case, that just don't translate.

Luckily for us, it was a beautiful weekend (with the exception of a slight drizzle), and we made sure to take full advantage. There are so many things I want to blog about, but I am actually going to start at the end and work backwards... You'll see why. 

So, should we start with Sunday morning then? Ugh, it was not a pretty sight. The night before, I let my FSU side run wild... and ended up face-in-a-plastic-bag in a cab on the way back to our apartment. Where did it all start? Well, Saturday morning we got up bright and early and headed to the market across the street from my apartment. I wanted to show Vishan what a real, local, French outdoor market looked like.

We strolled past each stand at least twice, all the while the vendors greeting us with a cheerful, "Bonjour monsieur-dame!" Artichokes and strawberries were making their seasonal debut, and I could literally feel Spring in the air. We walked past the rotisserie stand, where chickens and rabbits were ever so slowly turning on the spit... their delicious fat and juices melting into the vats of onions and potatoes below. I took a deep breath in, my eyes rolled into the back of my head and I said to him, "This is why I love France."

It was already a gorgeous day, so what better than to do as the French so love to do, and picnic in the park? We bought an entire lapin roti (rotisserie rabbit), some bread, cheese, and grape leaves, and made our way to Montmartre. 

Sacre Coeur

We parked ourselves on a bench in front of the Sacre Coeur, and spread out our market goodies. 

A Beautiful Day in Montmartre

Market Cantal

The rotisserie rabbit was absolutely to die for... the skin as crackly and crispy as lechon, the fat - glistening and rich like duck fat (aka liquid gold), and the meat was as tender as a perfectly roasted chicken. A perfect trifecta. I don't know why anyone would be afraid to eat rabbit. I know, I know, it's like eating Thumper or Bugs Bunny, but seriously people, this was amazing. 

Cuisse de Lapin... So Delicious

We made quite a little spectacle of ourselves - going all Andrew Zimmern on the rabbit - eating the liver, kidneys, lungs, and heart... all which were so graciously left inside the animal while it roasted. 

Ripping out the Heart

 Rabbit Heart

 A Hesitant Bite

Channeling Andrew Zimmern

Rabbit lung, by the way... not so tasty. It's not so much the flavor, but the texture that made Vishan make this face:

Rabbit Lung

Rabbit Lung - Not So Tasty

People were literally staring at us like we were freaks, especially since Vishan was pretty dressed up to be gnawing away at a rabbit carcass.

Gnawing on Rabbit Carcass

After we finished devouring our kill catch purchase, we walked around Montmartre, went back to the Musée Guimet (another blog post), and ultimately landed at one of my favorite pâtisseries, Gérard Mulot

Gérard Mulot Red Fruit Mousse with Pistachio Macaron Tops

Tasting Gérard Mulot's Pastries

Red Fruit Mousse with Pistachio Macaron Tops

They by far have some of the most gorgeous pastries I've ever seen... and they taste just as amazing.

Gérard Mulot Mousse au Chocolat

The BEST Mousse au Chocolat. EVER.

With no room inside to sit, we took the pastries back to the apartment to enjoy them in peace, while I whipped up this tasty little tart:

Goat Cheese, Roasted Garlic, Zucchini and Roasted Red Pepper Tart

So see, I am cheating a bit... it's not a tartine, and I didn't exactly eat it today, but hey - it was yummy, and I wanted to share!

*P.S. - It all went downhill from there... lots of wine... lots and lots of wine.

Goat Cheese, Zucchini, and Roasted Red Pepper Tart

1 pâte feuilletée or puff pastry (I used a pre-made & pre-rolled dough to make it easier on myself)
200g fresh goat's cheese
2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence
4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
2 medium-sized zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices.
1 small red bell pepper
1 egg
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Remove the core and seeds from the red bell pepper and cut in half length-wise.

Place the two halves of the red bell pepper on a baking sheet, skin-side up, under the broiler until the skin begins to char, about 10-15 minutes. 

Once the skin has turned black, take them out of the oven, place in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap for about 10-15 minutes. 

Once cooled, peel the skin off of the peppers (do not rinse) and slice into 1/4 inch strips. Set aside.

*You can do up to this part a day or so in advance.

 Preheat oven to 400°Fahrenheit (200°Celsius).

On a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, arrange the zucchini slices in a single layer. Drizzle olive oil, salt, and pepper over the zucchini and toss with your hands to coat. Re-arrange into a single layer and add the unpeeled garlic cloves to the baking sheet. 

Roast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, just to allow the garlic to begin to soften. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. 

*Do not turn off the oven.

Remove the garlic from the peel and chop into a fine mince.

In a bowl, mix the goat's cheese, Herbes de Provence, and roasted garlic until thoroughly combined. Salt and pepper to taste.

On a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper, place the puff pastry in the center of the pan. Spread goat cheese mixture in a thin layer, leaving about an inch border around the edges.

Arrange the zucchini slices on top of the goat cheese mixture, and fold the edges of the puff pastry over top of the zucchini. Arrange the slices of roasted red pepper on top of the zucchini.

In a bowl, whisk one egg with a little bit of water, and brush it over the top of the puff pastry. This will give the pastry a nice brown color when it bakes. 

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mardi Gras Aftermath

Sometimes I completely forget about national/religious/worldwide holidays here. Not just like, "Oh, I didn't know today was a French holiday," but more like, "Oh, I forgot today was St. Patrick's Day." I'll plan to go shopping one random Tuesday or Wednesday, all the shops will be closed, and I'll have no clue why. Most of the time I just figure it's some French cultural thing; I swear some shops only open when they feel like it. I guess that's what happens when you don't work in an office anymore... or have a calendar.

So, if it wasn't for social media, I would have completely forgotten that yesterday was Mardi Gras. Well, maybe not. I set out to test the Madelines from Blé Sucré - said to be The Best Madelines in Paris by none other than David Lebovitz. Quentin and I were going to play hacky sack afterward, so I figured I could be bad and have a little treat before. They were pretty tasty, but apparently not the best Madelines that Quentin has ever had... so I guess I'll have to keep trying them until I find the best. I will take one for the team and make that sacrifice.

In the park right across from the bakery were a group of kids covered in white powder and dancing and laughing in clouds of white smoke. We thought they were theater kids practicing for a play, but as we made our way from the bakery to the park to play hacky sack, we noticed more and more kids covered head-to-toe in the same white powder.

Mardi Gras Attack

Out of nowhere, a group of kids sprinted past us and completely blasted an unsuspecting group of teens with bags of flour and handfuls of eggs. Apparently it's a tradition here in Paris on Mardi Gras for the kids to run around throwing flour and eggs on each other, as a symbol of enjoying the last moments of what is about to be sacrificed for Lent.

Mardi Gras Aftermath

Mardi Gras Aftermath

Mardi Gras Aftermath

Mardi Gras Aftermath

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Open de France de Footbag

Last week was the 12eme (12th) Open de France de Footbag. A pretty unfamiliar sport to most, "footbag", or "net" (as the guys sometimes call it), is basically the combination of hackysack and volleyball. You play the game using only your feet, with a harder version of a hacky sac and a badminton-sized net. Teams of one-on-one or two-on-two, the rules are similar to volleyball; you can only hit the ball once per turn, and you have three turns to get it over the net. They serve, set, and spike, just like in volleyball, only with their feet. It's a pretty entertaining sport to watch... guys jumping and twisting mid air, and falling to the ground with a thud. 

Open de France de Footbag

Open de France de Footbag

Open de France de Footbag

Open de France de Footbag

Although a rather small group of players, people from all over the world came to take part in the competition. We hosted 5 Polish guys (yes, 5 guys fit in our Paris apartment!), and there were also players from Switzerland, Canada, and even as far as Venezuela!

This year, the Open was hosted by team RNH (Rien N'est Hacky), which is the team Quentin plays for. Quentin starred in the teaser video that the RNH team made for this year's Open. For those of you who know Quentin, watch closely for the "angry face" close-ups. Yep, Quentin is the only guy that is not included in them. He told me they said it was because he didn't look mean enough. I guess that's a good trait though, right?

This was Quentin's first year in the tournament, so being a newbie, he didn't make it all the way to the finals. I had planned to go every day of the tournament, but I got sick and only managed to make it to the finals day. So I missed seeing Quentin or our friend Jules play (sorry guys), but I did get some great shots of the semi-finals and finals games.

Open de France de Footbag

Open de France de Footbag

Open de France de Footbag 

Open de France de Footbag

Open de France de Footbag

Open de France de Footbag

Open de France de Footbag

Open de France de Footbag

I apologize to all the players in advance; I was battling a fever and massive head cold, so most of these photos are only of a few people/games. 

Open de France de Footbag

Open de France de Footbag

Open de France de Footbag