WHEN MY mother finally promoted the barely-ten-year-old me from pulling on her apron strings to standing on a stool, leant over a heavy-bottom skillet steaming with a sauté, I thought that all I was getting was a free facial and impish bragging rights that the kid in me had his way. Little did I know that it would ignite in me a culinary passion so fervent it pierces through my collective consciousness to reveal itself every chance it gets.
Like most everybody, I believe to have grown up having the best “anything” ever, coming from our home kitchen – adobo (meat or vegetable braised in vinegar and soy sauce), nilaga (usually, pork ribs soup), sinigang (meat or fish in a soup soured with tamarind fruit), tinola (chicken in ginger-flavored broth with green papaya and chili tops ), pancit (fried noodles), kare–kare (oxtail stew in a sauce thickened with ground peanuts and glutinous rice), and just about everything else.
These are the flavors of my childhood. These are the tastes that transport me back to being that kid in the kitchen.
In time, I’ve learned how to cook. And with that came the confidence in my skills. At restaurant dinners, I’ve started to find amusement in figuring out the key ingredients that go into a dish, and how it is prepared. Mastering the basic techniques, eventually I’ve become more experimental, bold in whipping up something on a whim – sometimes, something not even entirely Filipino.
One of my relatively recent bursts of culinary inspiration is my now-signature Honey–Calamansi Dressing that I use on my Australian Baby Wild Arugula Salad with sliced Green New Zealand Granny Smith Apple and Green Argentinian Pear, topped with shaved Parmesan Cheese and served with pan-grilled honey-glazed Prawns on the side.
That’s quite a mouthful to say every single time I get asked. So it has become imperative to name this salad. I call it “The BrenDarryl,” in honor of my close friends Brenda and Darryl, who enthusiastically appreciated this creation when I first made it for them for dinner. In the restaurant in my head, it is the star salad, sharing stellar billing with other name-droppables “Caesar” and “Nicoise.”
The response to The BrenDarryl has been so overwhelming – almost enough to push a mere mortal to delusions of culinary grandeur – that I’ve decided to share the recipe here. You’ll be surprised how simple it is. What makes it so irresistibly scrumptious? The answer is likewise so simple, trite, and undeniably suffused with cliché – love. (If you’re cringing, you should’ve been warned with the mention of “cliché! “)
Cook with love in your heart. See, there’s a reason Wolfgang Puck always tells us to “Live! Laugh! Love!”
The BrenDarryl, my Australian Baby Wild Arugula Salad with sliced Green New Zealand Granny Smith Apple and Green Argentinian Pear, topped with shaved Parmesan Cheese and served with pan-grilled honey-glazed Prawns on the side, all drizzled with my now-signature Honey–Calamansi Dressing.
For the dressing you will need
¼ cup Bertolli® Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ cup Lune de Miel® 100% Pure Honey (I use either plain “Fruity & Floral” or “Orange Blossom”)
3 tablespoons Calamansi Juice (or the juice from 7 of these “little limes”)
A pinch of Morton® Coarse Kosher Salt
A fresh crack of McCormick® Black Peppercorn
All that you need for my now-signature Honey–Calamansi Dressing.
The star of my wonderful dressing!
All the ingredients for the perfect “The BrenDarryl!”
For the salad you will need
Hussey & Co.® Wild Rocket (Baby Arugula, kept in the refrigerator until needed to be served)
Yummy™ Green New Zealand Granny Smith Apple
Gaucho® Green Argentina Packham’s Pear
Millel® Parmesan Cheese (Shaved, not Grated!)
Prawns (Shelled, deveined, with the tails left intact, five per serving)
Green with envy – apples and pears!
Lune de Miel 100% Pure & Natural Honey in Orange Blossom
Whisk the extra virgin olive oil, honey, and calamansi juice well in a large bowl, until almost emulsified. Season with the kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Set aside.
Peel the apple and pear and slice thinly. To prevent oxidation, toss the sliced fruit in a little dressing. Cover with cling wrap and set aside in the refrigerator.
Marinate the prawns in a little dressing for about 10 minutes, at most. Grill on a non-stick (grill) pan. Once they curl, turn over and allow only 30 more seconds to cook. Remove immediately from the heat.
Begin assembling the salad by tossing the wild rocket (baby arugula) with just enough dressing to “stain” the leaves but not weigh them down. It is best to use a large salad or mixing bowl for this purpose.
On a plate, spoon a loose handful of the wild rocket (baby arugula) and on top, generously sprinkle shaved parmesan cheese. On the side, scoop slices of the apple and pear. Finish with five of the pan-grilled prawns. Optionally, extra dressing may be drizzled on top. Voila! The BrenDarryl is ready to be served.
The pots and pans are ready! When I last made The BrenDarryl, I also made my Angel Hair Pomodoro while Brenda delighted us with her signature Bruschetta.
The pasta water is boiling in the pot on the left while the sauce is simmering in the one on the left. As a rule of thumb, I heat the grill pan while I prepare the prawns.
The lightly marinated prawns are now ready to hit the heat!
The prawns are now done!
Brenda calls these perfectly pan-grilled prawns.
This is how little dressing I use in staining the wild rocket (baby arugula) as I prepare the salad for serving.
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